Friday, October 31, 2014

Scary Movies 2014

This October's collection of scary movies includes a classic, a new release, and a few recent randoms. While I truly enjoy a good scare, I'm excited to get back to watching "normal" things in November (up first, Obvious Child)! I'm sure I'll share a costume picture eventually...everyone have fun/be safe tonight!

Apartment 143

The trailer makes this movie seem both scarier and better quality that what it is in real life. A family starts experiencing disturbing things in their home after the death of the wife/mother. They move and all seems okay until things start happening again: doors close on their own, lights go out, things move around--so the family has a team of paranormal investigators come and check things out. The movie is made up of the collected footage from this investigation, so we get a lot of plot through interviews rather than through action. Yes, it has some good scares/freak outs, but the story just isn't there.


Here's a movie with a story. And a clearly haunted mirror. Kaylie is ready to put her past behind her, and invites her younger brother, Tim, to help her "destroy" the mirror that destroyed their family. With creepy visuals and unsettling flashbacks, Oculus weaves a tale of past and present that left me thinking about it days later.

Dead Silence

What I learned from Dead Silence is dolls are creepy and pregnant women aren't safe. This movie brought the gore along with plenty of suspenseful scenes. I like how it all tied up at the end, and while it did make me jump more than once, it wasn't so scary once the credits rolled and I turned my lights back on.


What I learned from Annabelle is dolls are creepy and pregnant women...wait a second. Yep, another haunted doll movie. This one does it better--scarier--with better acting and a more cohesive story.

The Shining

This one's been on my scary movie bucket list for a while (especially after reading the book last year), so I'm glad I finally saw it. It's definitely as suspenseful as everyone says it is! The Shining is a classic for good reason--it had Jesus and me researching background info and theories and googling facts about the making of the film.

Extras: last year's scary movie list and a scary sequel.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

More Thoughts on Serial...

I haven't listened to today's episode yet (saving it!), but what I forgot to say yesterday is: I'm not a podcast/radio person, so it's kind of cool that I'm enjoying something so out of my norm. I know I'm not a podcast/radio person because I'm not an auditory learner. I learn by sight and by doing. Listening (active listening) is really hard for me.

Because of my slow auditory processing, I started Serial with hesitation. In fact, I almost didn't make it through the first episode. I laid on my bed while listening, but zoned out. To be fair, the first episode is longer than any of the others have been, but I still found it hard to concentrate on the show and not get lost in my own thoughts. I had to pause, get a glass of water, walk around a bit, and come back (I was listening on my computer because I hadn't figured out how to get it on my phone). Then I started rearranging my room while I listened. Magic. I'm sure the subject--namely, murder--helped to keep my attention, and without a doubt Sarah Koening knows how to craft a story, but slowly I got into the drama until I found myself stopping what I was doing to listen closer.

Back to podcasts: they're in a sort of "golden age" according to this article. It's true--I've heard about Serial from close friends, bloggers I admire, and now I keep seeing it featured in articles. One blogger in particular also has her own podcast, the only other one I've listened to besides random episodes of This American Life. I'm hoping Serial can work as listening practice for me and maybe I'll ease into a few more podcasts some day. This list from The Atlantic gives me a pretty good place to start.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014


Today was a Hump Day for the books. I haven't watched TV on a weeknight since the summer, but tonight all I want to do is let someone else do the entertaining while I turn my brain off. Game 7 is turning out to be just what I need, but I'd also welcome a new episode of Serial if one were to show up early.

Serial is the newest podcast from the folks at WBEZ Chicago (the same folks responsible for This American Life). It tells "one nonfiction story, week by week, over the course of a season." Its inaugural story is about a murder that occurred 15 years ago in Baltimore. New episodes come out Thursday mornings, so I'm eagerly awaiting tomorrow's segment. And cheering for the Royals.

If you haven't heard of Serial, or if you have and you haven't started listening yet, here's episode one (all episodes can also be found on the website,

Monday, October 27, 2014

The Mondays

Today greeted me with a strong case of the Mondays. I couldn't want to do anything. Here's what Did and Did Not help along the way.


Sunshine & 74 degree weather.
Listening to the most recent episode of Serial.
The practice of doing just one thing at a time. Then the next. And the next.
Knowing I had leftovers at home for dinner and wouldn't have to cook anything.
Pulling out my blog calendar and planning out November.
Part of a Seroogy's Mint Meltaway.


74 degree weather & my layered fall outfit.
Still being sore from this weekend's 5K.
Bear & Packer losses.
Getting spit on by some old guy at Whole Foods.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Sunday Night Survey: 5K Edition

What a weekend! Glorious weather, a visit from my parents, pre-Halloween fun, a 5K, lots of food and laughs...I had it all these past few days. I'm so happy October turned into such a lively and activity-filled month.
Making: friends on the 5K course. (It helps when people recognize your costume.)
Smelling: someone's toots at the thrift store. (I got out of there pretty quick.)
Cooking: lasagna after a weekend of gastronomic adventures.
Eating: a fried chicken sandwich, a spicy skillet, thin crust pizza, chocolate, pastries, chips, lo mein...
Drinking: a few sips from my free race beer before confirming my distaste for beer.

Introducing: my parents to Jesus's family.
Running: 3.1 miles in my Fionna costume.
Walking: less than I ran during the 5K. Success! 
Cheering: on the young girl dressed as Frida Khalo who really didn't want to finish the 5K. (She went on to win the costume contest.)
Putting: my butt into gear for the final stretch of the race. (And beating Jesus by one second!)
Watching: The Shining.
Getting: the final touches for my Scully costume.
Buying: a tapioca/watermelon/kiwi smoothie.
Missing: my parents already...these weekends go by too fast.
Reading: Fun Home by Alison Bechdel.
Writing: book reviews and movie reviews.
Listening to: Serial. Who knew I would like a podcast so much?
Wanting: to run another 5K someday.
Needing: a recovery period first.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

The Night Circus

The Night CircusThe Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

First thoughts: YES! This was so fun to read. The first few chapters were confusing until I got the hang of the changing dates and locations. Once I got to know the characters and their stories the book picked up and I was off on a magical journey. I loved the little nugget-like chapters.

Favorite characters: Bailey, for being the most relatable. Mr. Barris and his architecture were cool. I loved the descriptions of Friedrick's clocks.

I'm interested to see how this translates to film. There's so much to be done with the visuals. Reading this also made me want to go to the circus (which I then did).

Where I read: in bed, on the couch, way too late into the night, all morning while I should have been getting ready for work...

Recommended for: circus/magic lovers, lovers of a story, dreamers, fantasy seekers, people who need a literary escape.

Favorite quotes:
"I have seen a great many things that I might once have considered impossible, or unbelievable. I find I no longer have clearly defined parameters for such matters. I choose to do my work to the best of my own abilities, and leave others to their own." -Mr. Barris

"You're not destined or chosen. I wish I could tell you that you were if that would make it easier, but it's not true. You're in the right place in the right time, and you care enough to do what needs to be done. Sometimes that's enough." -Celia Bowen

Final thoughts: I know I'm late to this party, but party on!!

View all my reviews

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Why I Enjoy Every Book I Read

If you are a follower of this blog in any capacity, you've probably noticed that I enjoy reading. A lot of writerly types do. (And should!) Most weeks (usually Saturdays), I post a review of a book I recently read (imported from my Goodreads reviews, which is a great site for me to keep track of books I've read/want to read). More often than not these are positive reviews, which could convince a reader that I'm too nice and not a trustworthy (read: honest) reviewer. How can I like so many books? Why are the bad eggs so few and far between? I assure you there is a logical explanation for this.

Four Reasons Why I Like Everything I Read:
  1. I read what I like. First and foremost, I don't start books I'm not interested in reading. I don't care how many other people enjoyed it; if I read summaries/reviews and I can't convince myself to try, I don't. There are way way WAY too many books for me to waste time on something that doesn't suit me. This right here is the biggest reason why I rarely write "bad" reviews. Can't write them if I don't read them. Example: Fifty Shades of Gray, etc. I feel no shame in not giving these books even a chance at a review.
  2. I test read. Once I decide I am interested in a book, I give it the 50-100 page test: I read at least 50 pages and usually no more than 100 before giving up or going full throttle. If I'm not impressed after that, I quit. Just like that. Again--there are SO MANY other books out there, so why waste time on something I'm not into? I know that many readers feel like they've "invested" time into books and don't want that time to go to "waste," but here's the thing: hating the book for the first half AND the second half doesn't save you any "invested" just makes you hate the whole book and wastes a lot of time. You can always try reading that book later on in life--sometimes you need to wait for the right season in your life for certain books. I don't review books that I haven't finished (besides putting them on a Did Not Finish list on Goodreads, so if you want a taste of what I'm not into at this moment, check that out), so again we've cut down potential "bad" reviews. Example: Steve Jobs. I even read past 100 pages for this one because I was so sure it couldn't be as boring as it was. Spoiler alert: it's boring for someone not enamored with Apple in any way.
  3. I look for the good. If a book has passed both the initial interest and 50-page test and I finish it, there's a good chance it's because I legitimately liked it--but beyond that, I'm a silver lining type, so even if it was a rough read, I'll find something redeeming about the book. A character I liked, a concept that's intriguing, the pace, the cover design, the nugget of truth buried somewhere inside: all reasons for me to give a positive (though still honest) review. Example: Divergent, etc. I hated parts of these books, but they take a few hours to finish and they're set in Chicago.
  4. I take a step back. If a book passes the initial interest and 50-page test and I can find little to no silver linings, I might not like it. And STILL: it's a published book by a person who took time to write it. Just because it's not the right book for me doesn't mean someone else won't enjoy it, or maybe I'm just not reading it at the right point in my life.  Example: Ready Player One. This book wasn't written for me, but I can understand why others might enjoy it.
If, despite all tests and rose colored glasses, I truly don't like a book, then you'll know. There are books that I finish because I'm positive they can't end as badly as they're progressing. When they do end badly, I feel tricked. (Example: A Disorder Peculiar to the Country. So much promise, so little follow through.) I try not to get to that point, so I do what I can to read books I enjoy and books that make me feel, think, and want to write my own things.

I know there are arguments for reading "challenging" books that aren't necessarily enjoyable, but I don't believe challenging and entertaining are mutually exclusive. I'm also not a literature professor, (paid) book critic, or an editor, so I can read whatever I please. (If you made it this far, what I'm trying to say is: it just pleases me to read.) 

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

X-Men: Days of Future Past

We left our X-Men in 1962, after they intervened in the Cuban missile crisis. Fast forward to "the future" and 1973, and you have the setting(s) for the most recent X-Men installment, Days of Future Past. In the future, mutants have come under attack by Sentinels (robots built to annihilate mutants). A small group of surviving X-Men sends Wolverine back to 1973, when Mystique killed the mastermind behind the Sentinels (which only sped up their production and added to their mutant-killing efficiency, as Mystique was caught and her DNA was extracted for scientific use).

Wolverine's mission (and the bulk of the movie's action) is convincing Mystique not to go through with the assassination, in the hopes that the Sentinel program won't progress. There are, of course, several other things to take care of for that to happen and what seems like a straightforward plan gets a few snags along the way. Professor X--Charles Xavier--is holed up in his defunct institute while he staves off paralysis with the help of a serum that also dulls his telepathic powers. Magneto is imprisoned below the Pentagon. Mystique is as headstrong and unwilling to listen to logic as ever. Wolverine has his work cut out for him.

Luckily, as the viewer, all you have to do is sit back and watch him/them work. Which I suggest doing, preferably with some popcorn.

Monday, October 20, 2014

An Alice Survey

Instead of recapping my whole weekend in this survey, I'm going to focus on yesterday afternoon. Jesus and I went to an interactive adaptation of Alice in Wonderland, called just Alice. It was set not only in the Neo-Futurarium theater space, but also throughout the Andersonville neighborhood and in several local businesses.

Waiting: for our lobotomized White Rabbit to take us on our journey.
Playing: the part of Alice along with about ten other audience members.
Noticing: all the little details throughout our experience: chalk drawings, Tweedle-Dee and Tweedle-Dum, masked actors, unmasked but strangely dressed actors, treats, and tea were everywhere we turned.
Growing: far too big for some spaces.
Following: the White Rabbit down the rabbit hole and through quite an adventure.
Shrinking: down to sub-normal height.
Agreeing: with the Dodos.
Disagreeing: with the Dodos.
Trusting: the White Rabbit despite warnings to do the contrary.
Smiling: at the antics of characters on the streets.
Listening: to the story of a very strange dream in an even stranger store.
Walking: down the sidewalk and
Keeping: an eye out for curious things.
Eating: a lollipop.
Dancing: in a tavern because why not?
Watching: chapter six as it played in the back of a van and I sat in a child's chair in an alleyway.
Drinking: tea under the table.
Playing: rock/paper/scissors with the Queen.
Wondering: how we came up on an extra Alice and what she carried in her suitcase.
Realizing: it was tons and tons of bouncy balls as her suitcase fell open and they went rolling and bouncing down the sidewalk.
Helping: her pick them up and watching her disappear again.
Trying: to learn a math lesson from the Mock Turtle.
Being: interrupted by songs and dances and silly lessons.
Singing: along with made up songs.
Standing: on trial for crimes we didn't remember committing.
Learning: arbitrary rules.
Hoping: it wasn't off with our heads.
Hearing: a spoken poem.
Closing: our eyes for the finale.
Opening: our eyes to see scattered playing cards in place of the people who we were sure stood in front of us.
Making: it back to the theater alive, awake, and Alice no longer.

Sometimes you're Alice, sometimes you're the Cheshire Cat.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

We the Animals

We the AnimalsWe the Animals by Justin Torres
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Just as I was putting the finishing touches on a post explaining why I seem to like every book I read, this nugget of a story came into my life. While it wasn't awful, I only finished it because it was so short and I was sure the ending would validate the rest of the story. (It didn't.) Regardless, here's proof that I don't like everything I read, an exception that proves my rules, which I plan on posting later this week.

First & last thoughts: This book was happy sad. A fast, concentrated read of related vignettes ending in a longer (stranger) vignette.

Read: in bed on a Saturday morning.

Recommended for: I really don't know. Definitely not me.

View all my reviews

Friday, October 17, 2014

Friday Night Links 6

This week was like a weird time warp for me. My boss was on a business trip, so I stayed at work a few nights, playing the live-in nanny. The live-in nanny is always on call, even when she has most of the day to herself, so weeks like these leave me feeling out of sorts until I can come home and use my own shower and sleep in my own bed. Today I was back to my comfortable reality: sleeping in, making myself breakfast, riding my bike to and from work, and hanging out in Target for far longer than I planned. I'm feeling much better, and ready for the weekend--a belated birthday dinner tonight and volunteering at Ringside for Mercy's Sake (for my third time!).

Since Boss's Day was yesterday and Sweetest Day is tomorrow, here are some sweet bossy links. (Unrelated: sweet and bossy is how I would describe my childhood self.)


Boss Lessons from a musician.

Chicago's sweet history shows why it was the Candy Capital of the World.

How to feel like a boss.

Sweetest Day used to be October's candy-centric holiday.

10 things this blogger has learned on her way to becoming her own boss.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

X-Men: First Class

The latest movie in the X-Men franchise, X-Men: Days of Future Past comes out on DVD today, so I'll be reviewing that soon. First, here's what I thought of it's prequel, X-Men: First Class, which I saw in theaters back in the summer of 2011 and re-watched earlier this year. The fact that I watched it twice says a lot about this origin story.

First Class is not only a prequel to Days of Future Past, but is also set before any of the original X-Men movies, in 1962/during the Cuban Missile Crisis. Well, first it takes us back to 1944 and both Nazi-occupied Poland and the kitchen of a Westchester County mansion, where we meet Erik Lensherr, Charles Xavier, and Raven Darkholme as their pre-X-Men/Brotherhood of Mutants selves. (That's Magneto, Professor X, and Mystique for those of you, like me, who are unfamiliar with this world.)

These three eventually join up (back in 1962) and learn that there are kind of a lot of people--mutants--like them, with powers ranging from control of the elements to flight to strength to telepathy. A non-mutant (muggle?) and supportive CIA agent gets them government sponsorship with the idea that they will recruit like-minded mutants to help diffuse the missile crisis, which (surprise surprise) was started by another (evil) mutant with his own gang of genetically-advanced pals.

As far as origin stories go, this one has it all: peppy montages filled with familiar X-Men franchise characters and Rocky-style training, the USSR, clever foreshadowing, thinly veiled commentary on intolerance and prejudice, and Kevin Bacon.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Stuffed Acorn Squash

Acorn squash will always be my first squash. Spaghetti squash might turn out to be my favorite, and butternut is super easy/versatile, but acorn is where I'm learning the culinary ropes of winter gourds. Last year I sliced up the acorn squash I picked up randomly at aldi, topped each slice with butter and brown sugar, and roasted it to creamy perfection. This year, I'm starting off with something more savory than sweet: stuffed squash. I leaned on Martha Stewart for the basics, but played around a bit with textures and flavors.

Here's her take (with my substitutions/additions in parenthesis):

    • 2 acorn squash, halved crosswise and seeded (I only used one, but still used about 1 c rice)
    • Salt and pepper
    • 3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
    • 1/2 pound cremini or button mushrooms, trimmed and diced small (I used white)
    • 1 medium yellow onion, diced small
    • (1 carrot, peeled and diced)
    • 3/4 teaspoon dried thyme
    • 1 cup long-grain white rice (I used a rice pilaf mix)
    • 2 cups vegetable or chicken broth
    • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan

    • Preheat oven to 450 degrees. On a rimmed baking sheet, season cut sides of squash with salt and pepper, drizzle with 1 tablespoon oil, and turn cut sides down. Cover sheet tightly with foil and roast until tender, about 35 minutes.

    • Meanwhile, in a medium straight-sided skillet, heat remaining 2 tablespoons oil over medium-high. Add mushrooms, onion, and thyme; season with salt and pepper. Saute until mushrooms are golden, 8 minutes. Add rice and broth and bring to a boil; cover and reduce heat to low. Cook until liquid is absorbed, 20 minutes. (I used a regular pot and just added in my veggies--carrots, mushrooms, onion--to cook along with the pilaf.)

    • Remove squash from oven and heat broiler. Carefully scoop out 2 to 3 tablespoons flesh from each squash half and stir into rice; season with salt and pepper. Divide rice mixture among squash halves, sprinkle with Parmesan, and broil until melted, 2 minutes. (I had plenty of rice pilaf to spare, so these were not only stuffed, but overflowing acorn squash. Still super tasty.)

  • Can be scooped out and served in one dish, or enjoyed straight from the squash bowls!

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Sunday Night Survey: The Marathon Edition

While I was not one of the 45,000 who ran 26.2 miles today, I was among those who watched. I'll never understand why running a marathon is so exciting to so many people, but if they're happy, I'm happy. And a lot of people were super happy. Like they had SMILES on their faces as they rounded the corner and headed into mile 15, where I stood. SMILES. (Along with a few tears and a lot of grimaces and sweat-wiping and snot-blowing.) Baffling.

No running for me, but I still kept busy this weekend:

Making: the most of a sunny weekend.
Smelling: crepes at the Wicker Park Farmers Market.
Cooking: stuffed acorn squash with help from Martha Stewart.
Eating: at home to save money for upcoming birthday dinners.
Drinking: a Bloody Shandy at Dunlay's on the Square.
Watching: a marathoner jog over to his two granddaughters and kiss each one on the head before continuing his race.

Crying: after witnessing such a sweet moment.
Cheering: on thousands of runners, especially my friend Megan and the many Mercy Home Heroes.
Walking: home from my marathon spot. (I guess I was inspired?)
Witnessing: the aftermath of one car accident and one bike accident on my way. Be careful, people on roads!
Putting: things into perspective.
Getting: a hair cut for the first time since January.
Buying: Aldi's Halloween Wine.
Spending: quality time with others and myself.
Wondering: where I can find a nice pair of Scully glasses.
Missing: my boyfriend and my brother, who had a bro weekend together in Madison.

Shopping: for furniture I neither need nor have room for.
Ordering: prints of my summer pictures for albums.
Reading: Xenocide by Orson Scott Card.
Writing: a to blog list, a to do list, and a wish list.
Playing: more Duolingo vocab games to retain my Spanish.
Listening to: my neighbors's 2 am off key sing-a-long and drum circle.
Wanting: time to s l o w down.
Needing: discipline.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

The Ten-Year Nap

The Ten-Year NapThe Ten-Year Nap by Meg Wolitzer
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

First thoughts: The pacing takes some getting used to. Having long chapters punctuated by shorter vignettes confused me until I got the rhythm of it. Finishing felt like waking up from a long nap.

Where I read: in bed and on my couch.

Recommended for: readers who enjoy a slow burn, parents, women, people who feel like they've put their lives on hold after having children.

I resonated with most all of the 40-something women/mothers:
Amy-in her head a lot and some of her jokes fail because of that...other people don't always follow her inner monologue/trail of thought.
Jill-really good at school, likes constant feedback, finds it hard to translate that into the real world.
Roberta-has great connections to her world, but isn't sure that she's found her passion yet.

Favorite quote (because it describes this book so well): "Like most people, he'd somehow recently lost his patience for the slow unraveling that took place in novels, the need for the reader to wait in order to find out what happened in the end." (Amy, p 232)

Final thoughts: reaffirmed my appreciation for Meg Wolitzer and the in-depth character study.

View all my reviews

Friday, October 10, 2014

Friday Night Links 5

I wanted to collect spooky links all month and share them with you on Halloween, but then you'd miss out on being scared for all of October, with Halloween as the capstone to the creepiness. Let me get you up to date on your hauntings.

First, October's schedule of scary movies--you'll never miss out (at least if you have cable)!

Why do people believe in ghosts?

These photos prove that fear is universal. And funny.

In case you've ever wondered why clowns are scary.

Some of the world's creepiest places.

And for Chicagoans: sign up now for the Pumpkins in the Park 5K on October 25!

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Mirrors & Lamps

Yesterday at work, I picked up a mirror and a lamp for an interior decorating project. (Since I just saw Oculus this weekend, I'm pretty sure the mirror is haunted, but that's another story.) Then, last night I started reading Girl in Need of a Tourniquet: Memoir of a Borderline Personality and came upon this line:  "I resisted change. My resistance limited the memoir to mirror rather than lamp."

Interesting. Sometimes I wonder if what I'm doing here (on my blog, in my journal, through the constant monologue in my head) is just a whole bunch of mirrors. I can reflect myself over and over and over (accurately or distorted--as if I were looking into a funhouse mirror). I can write the same story a million times. I don't know if that's necessarily a bad thing, but I hope someday I can write a lamp instead. At least for variety's sake.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Apple Crumb Muffins

I'm not ready for pumpkin-flavored things just yet (and don't get me started on "pumpkin spice" flavors), but I am feeling all about the apples right now. Besides the walnut apple maple granola, throwing together a traditional apple crisp is fairly simple and results in the perfect late night snack or breakfast. If you want to spend a little more time in the kitchen, though, I recommend muffins. I made some last weekend for a get together at Jesus's brother's house. The recipe is straightforward, but the crumb topping takes these muffins to another level. They're like a glamorous comfort food.

Apple Crumb Muffins (I skipped the glaze as to appear more diabetes-friendly, but it sounds amazing) by Sally of Sally's Baking Addiction

Crumb topping (I had leftovers, so I'll be making an apple crisp soon!):
1/3 c brown sugar
1 tbsp granulated sugar
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 c unsalted butter, melted
2/3 c flour

1/2 c unsalted butter, softenened
1/2 c brown sugar
1/4 c granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1/2 c yogurt (I used greek, but any plain yogurt or sour cream will work)
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 3/4 c flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 c milk
1 1/2 c diced apples (I used 1 1/2 large gala apples & I didn't peel mine)

1 c powdered sugar
3 tbsp heavy cream or milk
1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Make the crumb topping by combining all ingredients except flour in a medium bowl. Once mixed, stir in the flour until thick and crumbly. Set aside.

Preheat oven to 425. Spray muffin pan with nonstick spray or line with muffin cups...or do what I did, which is use foil-lined muffin cups on a baking sheet. (Just be careful with how full you fill your cups!)
In a medium bowl, beat butter on high speed until smooth and creamy (1 minute).
Add sugars and beat on high until creamed (2 minutes).
Add eggs, yogurt, and vanilla and beat on medium for about a minute until ingredients mix, then on high until everything is a uniform consistency.
In a large bowl, combine flour, soda, powder, cinnamon, and salt.
Pour wet ingredients into dry and slowly mix with a rubber scraper.
Add milk and stir until just combined.
Fold in apples.
Spoon batter into muffin tin. I had enough for about 14-15 regular muffins.
Press crumb topping into the tops of each muffin.
Bake at 425 for five minutes, then drop the oven temperature to 350 for 15-17 more minutes.

Make the glaze by whisking together all ingredients and drizzling over warm muffins.

Enjoy immediately or the next day!

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Speaker for the Dead

Speaker for the Dead (The Ender Quintet, #2)Speaker for the Dead by Orson Scott Card
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

First thoughts: Wow. I wish this could be a movie (Orson Scott Card has explicitly stated it won't/can't be). The dialogue/philosophy are great and there are some spot on one-liners. True, not a lot of action (way less than Ender's Game for sure), but plenty of drama/thinking/gorgeous and exotic scenes. Some parts remind me of The Sparrow, one of my all-time favorites. All-in-all, a thought-provoking look at how we approach foreign/strange/other cultures.

Where I read: in bed, on a plane, on the couch, wherever I could.

Favorite character(s): Ender, because of his wisdom. I also appreciated the many active and engaged women in the story.

Recommended for: sci-fi buffs, philosophers, people with prejudices, thinkers, humanitarians, politicians, and those who've read other books in the Ender Series.

Favorite quote(s):

"Humankind almost never forgives true greatness." -Dom Cristao

"The tribe is whatever we believe it is." -Human

"As long as you keep getting born, it's alright to die sometimes." -Ender

View all my reviews

Friday, October 3, 2014

Friday Night Links 4

We live in a pretty cool world. I know you know that, and I know I know that, but sometimes we need reminding. So. Here are some reminders:

Would you wait for your walk signal if this dancing traffic light was at your intersection? More importantly, would you dance?

This bike lock would not have helped my situation in August, BUT it's still pretty cool.

It's craigslist, but just for art. Because art doesn't have to be fancy schmancy to be legit.

The tiny home movement meets extreme environmentalism meets deliberate living: cool!

It's nice when science backs up something you've known for a while.

Happy Friday!

Thursday, October 2, 2014

The Pretty One

Let me be (one of) the first to say: Zoe Kazan is brilliant. I loved Ruby Sparks, which Kazan starred in, wrote, and produced. I really want to see What If, her newest collaboration with Daniel Radcliffe. For now, I'll settle for The Pretty One--a dark comedy featuring Kazan as twin sisters Laurel and Audrey.

Any similarities to The Parent Trap stop at the singular redhead playing twin sisters--The Pretty One focuses on the differences between two identical humans and what it takes to become more like yourself. Kazan's comedic timing is spot on as she transforms from awkward, unsure of herself Laurel to elegant and on top of it Audrey and back again. And Jake Johnson as Basel? Perfect.

Audrey comes home, where Laurel lives with their dad, to celebrate her and Laurel's birthday. A car accident which results in short term amnesia allows Laurel to first believe she is Audrey, then to actually live Audrey's life. While it's funny watching Laurel/Audrey struggle to understand her new life--re-learning how to be a real estate agent, gauging her feelings for her "boyfriend," trying to maintain friendships--it's also painful and tragic. I cheered when she "got" something about being Audrey while at the same time mourning the fact that the most "Laurel" parts of her were missing.

Tears were shed before I reached the happy ending of this dramedy--and even in the happiness I knew there'd be more tears for the characters in their futures. This type of movie doesn't appeal to everyone, but (I've said it before) I like when there's a little discomfort at the end of a story. Life is like that sometimes.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Moment to Moment

[I was going to post a movie review yesterday, but something else--these thoughts--came up. Reviews can wait. Also, I'm still processing some of these thoughts, but I think the most important part is to get words outside of my brain so they can exist in the open air. Bear with me while I process online/in public. That's the boiled-down and historically-accurate essence of a blog.]

So. Today is October and I hate October. Not October itself, and not even what it stands for--I've come to appreciate Halloween, I enjoy scary movies, and I've added quite a few squash recipes to my repertoire. I guess what I hate is shorter days that feel longer, a slimy gray fog that seeps into every nook and cranny of my psyche, and (if I'm being truly honest) that ubiquitous pink.

I'm trying something new-ish this October (well, this week for steps) in order to put off that seasonal cloud: doing one thing at a time. It's not revolutionary. It's not even an original idea--I found it here. I started playing this "game" on Monday--one where I do the one thing I'm doing as best as I can, then I do the next and the next. I'm not always winning at this game, but I'm playing. And I've found (so far) that when you do the things you do, you feel pretty good. Even when it was just sweeping the floor or brushing my hair--I swept the crap out of that floor and brushed my hair like I was Rapunzel herself.

Mindfulness won't necessarily vanquish seasonal depression, but it will hopefully keep me mentally aware enough that I can continue on with my life without letting the fog take over. As I reach my third year in this apartment, at my job, and with my boyfriend (a lot of things happened in the fall of 2011!), I'm realizing that my current living situation is the first one post-high school that's lasted longer than a year (or a semester). Since 2006, I haven't existed in one place without going through some sort of transition every few months.

I've come to embrace transitions as periods where I can shake things up a bit, do a little mental housecleaning, and feel like I'm improving myself--even if all I'm really doing is sweeping my "stuff" under the proverbial rug. After three years with no natural transition, I'm finding that it's gotten a little crowded under said rug. What I mean is: I'm not used to sitting with this stuff.

My first inclination was/is to pretend it doesn't exist. I'm awesome at denial. If that doesn't work, I'll force a transition by rearranging a room, signing up for a fitness challenge, joining a writing-centric blog community, or jumping from one experience high to the next. None of these things are bad in and of themselves, but when the excitement wears off, I enter robot mode until I can find something new. Not this year. I hope that by making my neuroses public, I'll hold myself more accountable for them.

I'm not going to let stuff get in the way of my stuff.
I'm not going to pretend my stuff doesn't affect those around me.
I AM going to look at my stuff, live with my stuff, and deal with my stuff.

Thanks for reading as I figure out what my life is!