Saturday, February 28, 2015

Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore

Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour BookstoreMr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Sum it up in a sentence (or two): Clay has a new job as the night clerk at a 24-hour bookstore, but Mr. Penumbra doesn't just sell books.

First thoughts: What a weird, weird story. I was over halfway through before I (sort of) figured out the main conflict, but it was such a wonderful, strange tale to read that I didn't really care. As I learned more and more I was less and less on board with the reality of the story, but as the narrator says, "people believe weirder things than this."

Bibliophile thoughts: You can't go wrong with a book about books, but luckily this one is a lot more than that. Technology, the power of machines, progress, and religions/cults (both of the spiritual and corporate type) all play a part in this story.

Favorite quotes:
"You know, I'm really starting to think the whole world is just a patchwork quilt of crazy little cults, all with their own secret spaces, their own records, their own rules." -Clay, p 253

"You will hold this book in your hands, and learn all the things I learned, right along with me: ...All the secrets in the world worth knowing are hiding in plain sight." - p 288

Favorite characters: I didn't hate anyone, but Clay, Neel, Penumbra, Mat, and Ashley stood out the most as likeable people. I wasn't sold on Kat.

Final thoughts: Google was essentially one of the main characters in this new world meets old world tale, which felt normal, but also jarring. I know the internet has everything, but I'd like the characters in my books to not take advantage of that. The ending was solid, though - I liked getting glimpses into characters' futures while still being able to imagine most of it myself.

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Friday, February 27, 2015

Friday Night Poem

If I've learned one thing in February, it's that I'm glad it's not Poetry Month. Sure, it starts out with promise - you've got Valentine's Day excitement and inspiration for love poems, but it goes downhill after that until you're left with gray grossness. Or a blank page, and the worry that this is just a waste of time for both you as a writer and any would-be readers.

Then you fill that blank page with words, put it out into the universe, and trust that any honest practice is never a waste.

In February:

Will you be my Valentine?
These four weeks don't have anything on me.
This is probably the last big snow of the winter.
Let's go ice skating!
It hurts to go outside.
These blues might last forever.
How can four weeks take so long?

The sky, after it snows:
A blue that lasts forever.
A sun, oblivious to the vacation it's on.
There can't possibly be more snow up there.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Kingsman: The Secret Service

If you go into Kingsman thinking it's going to be a peppy, James Bond for the younger crowd type of movie, you'll either be pleasantly surprised that it's a bit more or appalled that it's a lot more. Yes, Kingsman does poke fun at James Bond and other spy movie tropes (think James Bond + Spy Kids + Austin Powers), but it also does its own thing.

The Kingsmen have recently lost one of their own, and need a replacement. Enter young Eggsy and about nine other hopefuls, who go through "the most dangerous job interview" of their lives. The movie takes us through the various challenges the candidates face, while also showing us another developing plot: missing celebrities, a wealthy philanthropist's gift to humanity, and a nefarious plot to cleanse the world's population. When the two stories meet head on, it's almost too late, but Eggsy, Merlin, and Galahad have a plan.

A brilliant soundtrack and a delightful cast filled with both veterans and rookies round out this fun adventure of a movie. The theater where Jesus and I saw it wasn't very full, but everyone laughed out loud through the whole viewing. An advisory for the weak-stomached and tender-eared: Kingsman features colorful language and even more colorful violence. Not for the faint of heart or those with conservative senses of humor. I personally found the language true to the events and the violence more shocking/silly/obnoxious than gory, but I know not everyone will agree with me!

Monday, February 23, 2015

What I Know About...Getting (and Staying) in a Good Mood

Welcome to Farch, loyal readers. Farch is that ugly and gray time of the year between February and March when you're sick of winter, but it's not spring yet. (Maybe that happened way back in December for some of you?) In Farch, the novelty of snow has long worn off and now everything just looks dirty. If you can't hop on a plane and recharge somewhere tropical, you've gotta have a Good Mood Plan.

I really needed this plan today. (I won't go describe why, as I think everyone has mood issues on Mondays in late February.) Even if I don't always follow my own rules, I know:
  1. Keep On The Sunny Side. No, really - literally walk on the brightest side of the street. You need all the sunshine you can get, even if it's extremely filtered through thick clouds.
  2. Fake It 'Til You Make It. Pretend to be in a good mood until it feels like you are in a good mood. Smile at people. Make conversation with cashiers. Whistle. Our bodies/brains are easily tricked. (Other people might not believe you, but you're doing this for you, not them.)
  3. Heighten Your Senses. When the outside world is gray/dead/frozen, bring color into your home and wardrobe, cook fabulous meals, light candles, turn up the music, and make sure you have your softest Snuggie on hand.
  4. Treat Yo'Self. Similarly, when vacations aren't an option, make sure there's something fun in your life during this time of year. It might be something that plays to one of your senses, a little window shopping, a day trip, or even planning a far flung vacation for when it does become an option.
I wanted to add more tips to this list, but anything else I'd suggest is just a different way of saying what I already said. There's no magic phrase to take away the winter gray, so we just gotta do what we can until Spring (which on the calendar is in 20ish days, but in real life is in more like 2 months). Sigh.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Sunday Night Survey: Dinners and Birthdays and Oscars, Oh My!

What a busy late February weekend! That's the only way to survive these frigid and dark days, my friends - stay busy. My fingers are still a little frozen as I type this; Jesus and I just got home from getting 25-cent wings with friends, where we caught up on our lives, tried new brews, and watched the first part of the Oscars. Now we're home, warming up and enjoying the second half of Neil Patrick Harris's wit.

Drinking: a cherry cider. Yum!
Eating: wings, birthday goodies, take out, chocolate, and cheese.
Planning: our next Community Night.
Solving: a murder mystery...on a boat!
Entertaining: ourselves with a tangent on thimble collections.
Reading: The Book Thief by Markus Zusak.
Checking: out a friend's apartment - which looks like Snow White's cottage, so adorable (so jealous).
Wondering: how my boyfriend is so goofy and so serious at the same time.
Making: the most of February blues.
Dreaming: of warmer days. And warmer nights. (Real feel of -6...not where it's at.)

Saturday, February 21, 2015

The Signature of All Things

The Signature of All ThingsThe Signature of All Things by Elizabeth Gilbert
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Sum it up in a sentence (or two): This is the story of a life - Alma Whittaker's life. And oh, what a life it is.

First thoughts: I wasn't chomping at the bit to read this book at first, but once I started, I was absorbed in Alma's world. I kept marveling at the attention to detail and all the fun little bits I learned about botany, sea travel, and history. Then I got completely lost in the story, wondering how I could doubt Elizabeth Gilbert. I am amazed at her talent. Even when the story seemed to "settle" a bit, something always happened to shake it up. I had to remind myself that even though The Signature of All Things is set in the 1800s, it was written in 2014 - no stale, rambling tale here.

Favorite characters: Alma, Rhetta, Hanneke, Prudence...there were a lot of strong women in this book.

Favorites quotes:
"This was simply not enough hours. This left far too many remaining hours free, and free hours were dangerous. Free hours created too much opportunity for examining the disappointments she was meant to be grinding under her boot heel." p 159

"There is only so long that a person can keep her enthusiasm locked away with in her heart before she longs to share it with a fellow soul." p 201-202

"I do have a dreadful love for understanding." Alma, p 239

"Well, we all fall prey to nonsense at times, child, and sometimes we are fool enough even to love it." Hanneke, p 290

"People could be many things, apparently, and all at once." p 305

"She would awaken, catch her breath, and immediately begin writing again." p 446

Final thoughts: Oh my goodness! What a perfect book. I couldn't have asked for more - the characters, the details, the story, the pace...this was a fantastic read. It was rich, compelling, amazing. I would actually read this book again. If I was in college I would hope I could write a paper on it. Thank you, Elizabeth Gilbert!

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Friday, February 20, 2015

A Part-Time Vegan's Favorite Vegan Places

Welcome to the first Friday of Lent! Many of you are probably having fish tonight, which somehow crept into the Church's definition of "not meat" (here's the history of that). This restaurant round-up is for you guys, and for any full-time vegetarians/vegans out there. And you know what, this one is for the carnivores, too. Just because you do eat meat doesn't mean you have to at every meal, and I challenge anyone who scoffs at vegan cuisine to try any of the places listed below.

I personally consider myself an eater, above all things. I eat meat, but not a lot. Vegetables are my jam. I haven't had dairy milk in several years, but I'll be damned if I stop eating real cheese. When I eat out at vegan places, it's not because I don't think animals should be eaten or because I don't like the taste of meat. It's because, just like chicken or beef or pork, sometimes seitan is what's for dinner. When I eat out, I like to choose places that serve something I wouldn't normally make, and my vegan repertoire in the kitchen isn't very developed.

Also, considering I'm dating someone who is also in a relationship with protein (generally meat-based), I've been to a lot of vegan places in Chicago and I can speak to a meat-eater's experience at these places. Jesus and I both like trying new things, and we always leave these places with full and happy bellies. Vegan doesn't mean pasta or salads to us - it means a night out at one of our favorite restaurants, no label needed.

The Chicago Diner
Good For: low key dinner dates, high energy brunches, people-watching, (non) milkshakes.
Ambiance: their Halsted location looks and feels like a classic diner, while Logan Square feels very...Logan Square (think reclaimed wood and naked light bulbs).
Notes: when I think vegan food in Chicago, I think The Chicago Diner. They've been around since 1983, so they know what they're doing with their non-meat ingredients. Both locations feature the same great service and food. Their menu is huge, so EVERYONE should be able to find something here.

Ground Control
Good For: Valentine's Day, getting off the beaten path, dinner and drinks.
Ambiance: intimate, close seating in a small-ish space (though I hear they have outdoor seating in the summers).
Notes: having only been here on a holiday, I can't say what Ground Control is like on a normal night. When we went it was busy, but we didn't feel rushed while eating. Our server was great at explaining the menu. I had the Po Boy, which was super good/filling.

Kitchen 17
Good For: Birthdays, exploring new neighborhoods, meeting unique Chicagoans.
Ambiance: bright, cozy, and casual deli/sandwich shop/bakery feel.
Notes: the owner/chef/waiter/busboy (seriously, this guy does everything) is amazing. He made Jesus and I feel very welcome in the small space, made sure we had whatever we needed, and answered any questions we had. I loved being able to support this local business and only wish it was closer to me so I could go more often! BYOB.

Native Foods Cafe
Good For: quick food, lunch, a change from the usual.
Ambiance: trendy/upscale fast food, but better for you.
Notes: yes, Native Foods is a chain, but for vegan amateurs on a budget, it does the job. Service is quick and friendly, menu options are varied yet comfortable, and the prices are right. Plus, if you have the Native Foods loyalty card you get freebies throughout the year and can build up points for credit.

On My To Try List
I'm pretty pleased with the vegan options near me, but I would like to someday make it up to Delicious Cafe in North Center. I'm thinking on a sunny day, when I can bike there and sip some coffee while enjoying a dairy-free pastry. Sigh...spring, where are you?

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Returning to Dust

I'm not quite sure how to put this year's Ash Wednesday thoughts into words. Right now my brain is foggy (from not enough and too much sleep, from negative temperatures, from all the running around it does daily and nightly), so I'm mostly thinking in images and phrases. (One of the images might be a glass of wine.) Anyways, here goes:

At the risk of making Lent (a season for giving up self-centered actions) all about me, I'm doing some introspective meditation in the next 46 days. Self-reflection is something I do often, but it never hurts to make it intentional. It also doesn't hurt to have a guide, which is why I plan on using She Reads Truth to focus my devotional energies. Today's reading and accompanying article couldn't have hit closer to feelings I've had during this time of quiet and solitude that is Lent (and the slow/gray trudging along of winter).

I'm also feeling the sentiments in this piece, which basically reminds me I'm not and won't ever be the most successful or most popular person in the world, but that's okay. Good even. Because I, Rachel, am not defined by my successes, or how well-liked I am, or my possessions. I am defined by myself: I am a human, worthy of love.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

"More of Me to Love" Tuesday

I hope you all got your fill of sweets and treats today. I was lucky enough to have plenty of leftover Valentine's Day candy plus a few more homemade goods at my disposal. (I also had the sort of day that begged for an abundance of food consumption. Tuesdays, man. They're the worst.)

Today I want to share the recipes for two of my Fat Tuesday treats, the classic brownie and a no-bake cookie. I followed the recipes pretty close to the letter (so I'm basically just copy/pasting from the two sites that I'll link you to), but I still think these desserts deserve their own space on As The Romans Do. I know I'll be making both again, maybe even during Lent. I'm not giving up chocolate (or cocoa powder, which is where all the chocolate comes from in both recipes).

Cocoa Powder Brownies

I've seen this exact recipe on several sites, but Alice Medrich is the original creator of these chewy brownies. No need for baking chocolate--which means the fat comes just from the butter and the sugar just from the sugar.

10 tbsp (1 1/4 sticks) unsalted butter at room temperature (or sub coconut oil)
1 1/4 c sugar
3/4 c plus 2 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp vanilla
2 eggs
1/2 c flour

Preheat oven to 325 and grease or line an 8 x 8 inch baking pan.
Fill a skillet (about halfway) with water and set to simmer.
Combine butter, sugar, cocoa, and salt in a medium heatproof bowl, then put the bowl in the simmering water.
Stir mixture until fully combined and smooth. It should be hot to the touch.
Set aside mixture and let cool until just warm, then stir in the vanilla and eggs (one at a time).
When batter is well-blended (it will look shiny), add flour and stir until you can't see it anymore.
Beat "vigorously" for 40 more strokes using just a wooden spoon or rubber spatula.
Spread into pan - batter will be thick and you'll have to actually spread it out.
Bake until a toothpick emerges slightly moist, 20-25 minutes.
Let cool before cutting. Makes 16 or 25 squares. Or one giant square.

Chocolate Peanut Butter Energy Bites

This snack/dessert is a little more diet-friendly, but still plenty sweet. It makes a great road trip snack, or a gift for the protein lover in your life. I found this recipe on Gimme Some Oven, where Ali has shared several varieties of energy bites.

1 c oats
2/3 c coconut flakes (She specifies toasted and unsweetened, but I'm lazy and could only find sweetened, so that's what I used.)
1/2 c peanut butter (or almond butter)
1/2 c ground flax seed
1/3 c honey (or sub agave)
1/4 c cocoa powder
1 tbsp chia seeds
1 tsp vanilla

Combine all ingredients in a large bowl until fully mixed.
Refrigerate for about half an hour (makes it easier to form into balls later).
Roll into tablespoon-sized balls (use your hands and/or a tablespoon).
If you happen to have leftovers, store in an airtight container.

Can every Tuesday be Fat Tuesday? It sure beats my normal #tuesdaybluesday.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

The Book of Life

The Book of Life (All Souls Trilogy, #3)The Book of Life by Deborah Harkness
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Sum it up in a sentence (or two): the final book in the All Souls Trilogy takes Matthew and Diana back to the present time to complete their search for a mysterious book that might hold the secrets to the history of vampires, witches, daemons, and humans.

First thoughts: This book crept up my to-read list - it was on the New Fiction shelf at the library and I couldn't help myself. I was curious as to how the trilogy ends, and I also wanted to read it before I forgot what happened in the second book. That being said, I wasn't disappointed. I'm pretty sure The Book of Life is my favorite installment in the series.

Favorite characters: I've discussed my hesitations with liking Matthew (as a character in general and as a love interest for Diana), but I think I mostly got past that in The Book of Life, especially after seeing his interactions with Jack and Marcus. Fernando (vampire), Phoebe (human), and Sarah (witch) were the characters I was most excited to see on the page.

Another character note: Who is Chris (Diana's "best friend")? Did we hear about him in earlier books? Why don't I remember him if he truly is Diana's best friend?

Book lover for life: my favorite chapters were set in the library or the lab and had to do with research or the titular Book itself. Figures.

Favorite quote: "If you truly love someone, you will cherish what they despise most about themselves." -Fernando, p 388 (I'm not sure if I agree, but it's a nice sentiment.)

Final thoughts: This book has a happy ending, but it doesn't arrive there without a few struggles and hardships along the way. I think The Book of Life is more enjoyable that the first two books in the series because it focuses more on a book and a whole family of characters rather than Matthew and Diana's relationship. I've come to love so many of the other characters that there were plenty of other stories for me to focus on.

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Friday, February 13, 2015

Friday Night (Afternoon) Links 14

I'm SO glad today is Friday. This has been a long, anxious, anticipatory week filled with a few ups and downs, but I made it! And now I'm officially starting my weekend. Jesus and I drive to Colby tonight for a wedding tomorrow, and I'm excited to spend Valentine's Day with my boo and my parents. (Who says that? But it's totally parents were my first Valentines after all.)

In honor of Friday the 13th, here are a few things that are a positive (maybe even lucky) force in my life right now:

Committing (and re-committing) to this writing practice, morning or night, always leaves me feeling lighter, at peace, and more complete.

Thinking about things like kids do is a great way to open your mind. It helps a lot if you have a boyfriend who refuses to grow up.

The job search is mind-numbing and can feel hopeless. This video helps.

It's nice to know other people have fuzzy dreams ("bits and pieces of what a life might look like"). I always have fun making mine real little by little.

Yes, I compulsively save Elizabeth Gilbert links. She has the best, most real advice. So of course she rounds out my list of positivity with a reflection on how to get the life you want.

Baking: always a positive force.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Guardians of the Galaxy

Marvel's Guardians of the Galaxy is a superhero movie for people who don't want to be or rarely feel like superheroes. Some of you may not want a merry band of misfits (including a tree and a raccoon) guarding the galaxy, but give Star-Lord, Gamora, Drax, Groot, and Rocket a chance. They might surprise you with their skills, and they'll definitely give you a few laughs along the way.

I for one was entertained the whole way through Guardians of the Galaxy, even if I can't really give a good summary as to what the plot was. It involves an ancient relic with a lot of power, a few evil people who want it, and the good guys protecting it without really knowing what it does, but don't expect an explanation for all the intergalactic locations this movie is set in, or a detailed history of how Star Lord/Peter Quill adapts to his life off Earth. You just have to enjoy the story for what it is and what it gives you.

Even if it's not your thing, the soundtrack is pretty sweet.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

What I Know About...Biking vs Driving vs Public Transportation

While Quinn visits Bailey in South America, I'm taking care of his car. Having a car of my own (for two weeks) is a novelty for me and I'm learning all about the differences in how I transport myself places. I grew up in a very car-centric area (aka, the country), but transportation in the city is a whole different ball game.

I know...
  1. There is no 100% stress-free way to commute when you are an anxious person in general, except maybe walking when it's viable.
    1. Biking is the most laid back since I have control over most travel stressors (timing, traffic, parking) and the physical exertion gives me a nice outlet, but there's still weather and safety to think about.
    2. Driving provides an alternative when the weather is too cold/slushy for biking, but (especially post-blizzard), parking can pose a problem.
    3. Riding public transportation similarly helps when the roads aren't bikeable, and I don't have to worry about being alert or finding parking, but I do have to put my faith in public transit schedules.
  2. I stay in better shape when I bike. For a girl who doesn't belong to a gym, 45 minutes of biking a day does wonders.
  3. I get out of the house more with a car (at least more than what's normal in February). I can do multiple errands in one trip. I can drive to the suburbs to get out of the city. I can meet my boyfriend across the city after work without it taking an hour.
  4. I read more when I take CTA. About an hour more each day, depending on how interesting other bus/train riders are.
In conclusion:
  1. Biking is the cheapest and most versatile way to commute.
  2. Driving is the most comfortable and the least smelly way to commute.
  3. Public transportation is the most city slicker least predictable way to commute.

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Sunday Night Survey: Grammy Edition

It's Grammy night! If all goes as planned, I'll have dinner ready in about an hour and I'll be able to settle in for a night of live (on TV) music interspersed with awards every now and then. Join me back here at 7 to read all about it!

7:00 pm: LL Cool J is on TV...that can only mean one thing! #grammytime (Or NCIS: LA, I guess).

7:04 pm: The crowd doesn't look to be too impressed (there was a little girl cringing and a dude with absolutely no emotion on his face), but I think AC/DC is crushing it up there.

7:05 pm: Devil horns appeared! And at least Katy Perry, Blake Shelton, and Lady Gaga are having a good time.

7:08 pm: "devilishly good" - Oh LL, I hope this is just the beginning of tonight's puns. Also, 23 performances!?

7:10 pm: Taylor's gonna only Taylor can. It's true, I think the losers in this category are gonna be okay. My guess is Sam Smith or Iggy....and the Grammy goes to: Sam Smith. :) This makes me happy. I just bought his CD and I can't wait to listen to it from front to back on my road trip coming up next weekend. "I won a Grammy! Thank you." - Sam Smith, perfect acceptance speech.

7:16 pm: I love Anna Kendrick. That's all.

7:17 pm: Very cool earpiece bling, Ariana Grande. Loving that clear piano, too. I wish I knew how to do dramatic eye liner. Her face at the end! I love when performers reveal true feelings/show their age (which for Ariana is 21

7:22 pm: The best/most interesting part of the Grammys, for me, is all the random duets/trios/group performances. Jessie J and Sir Tom Jones are a good match. Jessie J's dress, not so much.

7:23 pm: More cuts to John Legend and Chrissy Teigan, please!

7:25 pm: Best Pop Solo Performance...what a stacked category. All of these songs were played heavy on the radio. Pharrell young (he's 41). That suit isn't my favorite. It looks like it was made from old car seats. I miss the hats.

7:33 pm: Miranda Lambert...this song isn't really about a red wagon is it? Loving your leather. And how hard this song is rocking for being country.

7:37 pm: Best Pop Vocal Album goes to: Sam Smith again! What a great suit.

7:44 pm: Kanye West looks like he just rolled out of bed. That performance was just meh.

7:48 pm: "That's a dope ass uniform though." Jesus, about the Minotaurs? (Bulls?) performing with Madonna.

7:52 pm: This song is called "Lift Me Up"...I'm waiting for her to start flying on the stage. She has a safety harness on.

7:53 pm: Aaaaand there it is.

7:54 pm: Beck wins Best Rock Album. A whole bunch of meh.

8:03 pm: Best R & B Performance: I'm pretty sure Beyonce has to win. She looks amazing. It's nice of her to thank God, but I'm pretty sure he doesn't care about the Grammys (I feel the same way about athletes who thank God)...

8:05 pm: The moment of shock when you realize that's John Mayer playing the pink guitar. Dang, he looks good. Ed Sheeran, not my type, but I LOVE this song.

8:10 pm: Ed Sheeran + ELO, good match.

8:15 pm: And now, half of The Voice judges. I really like Adam Levine's blue-faced watch. Gwen Stefani's dress looks too big for her. "This song kinds sucks." - Jesus

8:25 pm: That's an awesome guitar, Hozier. He looks like Josh Groban had a baby with the dude from The Darkness. (or Weird Al and Kenny G, Jesus says.)

8:28 pm: Could Annie Lennox be any cooler? She looks great.

8:31 pm: I hate Meghan Trainor and Nick Jonas together, visually. Their outfits are hurting my eyes.

8:34 pm: I'm excited for this version of Happy. And it's not disappointing. Hans Zimmer should remake everything. Pharrell made his shoes by stepping in glue, then glitter.

8:44-8:52 pm: I'm not sure what to say about all of this. I'm happy and sad about it.

8:58 pm: If you strip away all the glitz and glimmer, Lady Gaga is just a very solid performer. That being said, I love her hair.

9:03 pm: Do you think it's as fun to be a harpist as it looks? Usher is ushering Stevie to the stage.

9:13 pm: What is with the sunglasses.

9:19 pm: What is with the skinny jeans.

9:21 pm: I really like this song ("FourFiveSeconds"). Rihanna is wearing a lot of clothes. That blazer is coming off at some point, I'm sure. Maybe not. Huh.

9:30 pm: I'm sure not everyone loves Taylor's dress, but I'm digging it. The color and the cut.

9:33 pm: Oh Sam. Mary's not bad either.

9:35 pm: EVERYONE IS FRIENDS WITH EVERYBODY. That can't be real, right?

9:36 pm: This is how we feel about Jaunes (the outfits mostly).

9:39 pm: Albums, books, and black lives. They matter, people. I really don't know how Beck won Best Album...are any of his songs even on the radio? He looks as shocked as everyone else...and it looks like Kanye agrees!! That was great.

9:53 pm: Sia + Kristen Wiig + Maddie = brilliant.

9:54 pm: Tonight is Sam's night.

10:02 pm: Can we just have Chris Martin? I'll pass on Beck, winner or not.

10:07 pm: Record of the Year, not to be confused with Album of the Year. Best reaction goes to Sia - she's like hell, yeah I don't have to go on stage! Sam, meanwhile, is like I am SO glad I got dumped.

10:17 pm: What is this boring stuff. C'mon, people, we're over three hours already. Performances and funny acceptance speeches only!

10:18 pm: Never mind, it's memorial time. Oof.

10:27 pm: Finally. The show is over after Beyonce, right? "I am tired. I am weak." - she said it best.

10:32 pm: Okay, I'll stay awake for John Legend and Common. There was a lot of gospel influence tonight, right?

10:40 pm: Um, I guess that's all? Solid ending.

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Not That Kind of Girl

Not That Kind of Girl: A Young Woman Tells You What She's Not That Kind of Girl: A Young Woman Tells You What She's "Learned" by Lena Dunham
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Sum it up in a sentence (or two): Lena Dunham's memoir detailing "What She's Learned."

First thoughts: I was hesitant to read this because I have a sort of love-hate relationship with Dunham. She, of course, doesn't know this. It stems from my frustrations with the nepotism and upper middle class white people problems of Girls, but I wanted to give Dunham, the writer, a chance, even if I'm not thrilled with Dunham, the TV show writer/producer/director/actress.

Favorite quotes:
"But that's also how I felt in high school, sure that my people were from elsewhere and going elsewhere and that they would recognize me when they saw me. They would like me enough that it wouldn't matter if I liked myself. They would see the good in me so that I could, too." p xiii

    "There is nothing gutsier to me that a person announcing that their story is one that deserves to be told, especially if that person is a woman. As hard as we have worked and as far as we have come, there are still so many forces conspiring to tell women that our concerns are petty, our opinions aren't needed, that we lack the gravitas necessary for our stories to matter. That personal writing by women is no more than an exercise in vanity and that we should appreciate this new world for women, sit down, and shut up.
    But I want to tell my stories and, more than that, I have to in order to stay sane." p xvi

Recommended for: me. As I read, I realized that a lot of Dunham's experiences resonated with my own. Even though I can hardly relate to her upbringing, childhood, life, or relationships, somehow we still share similar feelings about all of these things in general.

Further recommendations: women and the people who love them, writers, daughters, mothers.

Final thoughts: Not That Kind of Girl makes me want to write more and better. That's a good thing. I'm cautiously excited for whatever Dunham does next. I'm still not watching Girls.

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Friday, February 6, 2015

It's a Thai (Review)

For tonight's roundup of restaurant reviews, I'm pulling together all my favorite Thai places in Chicago (so far). I always always order Pad Thai, so this is less a review of Thai places and more a review of who does Pad Thai best...sorry not sorry. I like ordering things that I can't/won't/don't make in my own kitchen, and I have yet to learn how to make Pad Thai, plus Thai is an anniversary tradition for Jesus and me, so it has a special place in my heart (and stomach).

Blue Sprout
Good For: first anniversaries and pre-concert dinner (it's right next to Congress Theater and when Jesus and I ate there, we were seated next to Matt & Kim).
Ambiance: an intimate space with clean lines and close seating.
Notes: get the Crab Rangoon!

Anong Thai
Good For: second anniversaries and takeout. This is the closest Thai place to me, so I consider myself a regular.
Ambiance: casual, but still intimate.
Notes: BYOB.

Thai Bowl
Good For: pretending you're in college again.
Ambiance: casual. I went in the summer and they had the front windows all open, so it felt like an open air/sidewalk restaurant.
Notes: I've only been to the Lincoln Park location, but from what I know portions are huge at both. The "Thai Bowl Ice" is good!

Thai Village
Good For: takeout, dine in, delivery, getting your Pad Thai fix.
Ambiance: casual...I've only had it delivered, so really casual for me.
Notes: I believe Thai Village is BYOB, although they might have gotten a liquor license since I've been.

Polygon Cafe
Good For: dates, trying out new restaurants in new neighborhoods.
Ambiance: upscale casual. We came for lunch on a Sunday and it was pretty quiet.
Notes: the Pad Thai is amazing! And our waitress was extremely nice. BYOB.

Duck Walk
Good For: reuniting with high school besties, PAD THAI! (I'm not kidding, it's all I order.)
Ambiance: classy, but don't be ashamed to finish two bottles of wine with dinner (shared, obv).
Notes: BYOB.

On My To Try List
Thai Thank You
Thai Lagoon
Pho Thai Cuisine
...I'm game for pretty much any hole in the wall with "Thai" in its name.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015


I've been feeling my age lately.
That is, I've been feeling young: restless, stuck, inexperienced, excited, and juvenile.
And I've also been feeling old: settled, worn out, stale, confident and senile.

That's a lot of (contradicting) feelings, but they're all living inside me this week. Today especially (on my half birthday, which is a thing that's important to kids with summer birthdays, as that's when you get your birthday cupcake at school). While I'm still in my mid-twenties, it's not hard to imagine being 27, 28, 35. Then again, I can also imagine with great clarity how I felt at 22 - because it doesn't feel like that was very long ago.

The author of this article shares a few of my thoughts, especially when she writes,
26 is a strange age that simultaneously feels older than you expected, but still refreshingly, hopefully, thrillingly young. It’s possibly the one age where the expression “youth is wasted on the young” holds no authority; we are undeniably, wildly young, but we’ve been young for long enough to know how valuable it is to be so. We have more respect for our youth because, while we aren’t there yet, we can see that it will be done one day. I mean, weren’t we just 19? (Jessica Blankenship, "What Happens When You Turn 26")
And on that note, I'd like to reclaim my youth - or at least the good parts. Yes, age is coming, but for right now I'm a baby-faced 26-year old who knows a thing or two but wouldn't mind learning some more. If you need me, I'll be reveling in free time and a general lack of responsibility (read: children). It's good to be young.

Monday, February 2, 2015

SB49: Winners and Losers

There were some clear winners and losers last night--and I'm not just talking about the football teams. Shall we break it down? We shall.


Celebrities. So many celebrities starred in commercials this year. More than usual, I'd say. And they basically all won--they made fun of themselves, they sold the product, and they entertained.

  • Lindsey Lohan and "Walter White/Sorta Greg" for Esurance. Funny, appropriate, memorable.
  • Amy Purdy for Camry. She's just an amazing person.
  • Katie Couric and Bryant Gumbel for BMW. great use of history to make a point.
  • Pierce Brosnan for Kia. Once 007, always 007.
  • The Brady Bunch, Danny Trejo, and Steve Buscemi for Snickers. Again, funny, appropriate, and memorable.
  • Kim Kardashian, Chelsea Handler, and Sarah Silverman for T-Mobile. Fit them, fit the company, fit the audience.
  • Mindy Kaling and Matt Damon for Nationwide. I mean, c'mon.
  • Brett Favre & others for I always love when Favre comes out of retirement.
Movie Trailers. I think I speak for all of us when I say we have some great movie viewing ahead of us: Tomorrowland, Pitch Perfect 2, Furious 7, Jurassic World, Minions, Terminator, and Ted 2 gave us even more winners.
  • George Cooney!
  • The Packers! (Maybe they didn't make it to the Super Bowl, but they were there in spirit)
  • Extreme Car Maneuvers!
  • Dinosaurs!
  • Minions!
  • Arnold!
  • Tom Brady? His cameo in the Ted 2 trailer was my favorite thing he did last night.
The Earth/America/Land/Sea. There were a lot of nature-themed ads, all reminding us of the planet/country we share. Maybe not the funniest, but it's always nice when a company uses a platform for good.

Speaking of using a platform for good...girls. We run the world. And doing things #likeagirl is neither good nor bad, just how we do things. Thanks, Always.

Avocados. They'd be my first draft pick, too.

Dancing Sharks/Giant Felines. They, along with Missy Elliott, clearly stole the halftime show.


Kids. Yes, there's something to be said for using a platform for good. But is morbidity and shock the way to do it? I can't imagine how awful that commercial was to watch for parents who have lost children to accidents.

Toenail fungus. This ad was just as annoying as the Mucinex ones we get the rest of the year.

Beer and Doritos. Remember when these commercials were funny? Huh, me neither now that I think of it.

Dads (and men in general). A lot of commercials came strong with the daddy issues, and none of them showed dads in a great light and/or were confusing. Dudes also got dumped on in Fiat's Viagra commercial.

The Seattle Seahawks. Yeah, they lost this game big time.

I know I didn't see all the commercials--which ones did I miss? Any other highs or lows?

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Sunday Night Survey: East v West Edition

I'm throwing my loyalties to the west tonight--even though I'd rather the Packers be repping the NFC, I'd also rather know they got beat by winners. Besides, the Seahawks have rad uniforms. And they're not the Patriots. Check back this week for my thoughts on tonight's commercials. Until then, here's how my night (and my weekend) went.
Cleaning: for the first time in a long time...I can see my bedroom floor again!
Thanking: Brooke for going grocery shopping before today's storm hit.
Finishing: The Book of Life by Deborah Harkness. It's the final book in the All Souls Trilogy and I think my favorite installment of the series.
Practicing: a new recipe that just might become a staple in my life.
Snuggling: in piles of blankets on the couch.
Watching: my neighbors shovel themselves out of their parking spots.
Appreciating: the Seahawks's intro song, "Bittersweet Symphony."
Paying: minimal attention to the actual game.
Saving: my attention for the commercials, which haven't disappointed (good or bad).
Playing: Katy Perry Bingo during her Halftime Show. Winning spaces: Fireworks, A Girl on Fire dress from "Hunger Games," and Entirely Black Wardrobe.
Making: build-your-own tacos for dinner.
Eating: enough tacos and chips and guac to keep me warm all night.
Crossing: my fingers for a snow day tomorrow...(I think it worked!)

Go Hawks, Stay Warm, & Happy February!