Saturday, April 30, 2016

April Showers

Is it just me, or was yesterday March? I had a lot going on this April, so I'm glad I have about 30 seconds of video to remember a few moments of it.

Pop Painting

Fukurou - Camilla d'Errico
Pop Painting: Inspiration and Techniques from the Pop Surrealism Art Phenomenon by Camilla d'Errico
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Sum it up in a sentence (or two): Filled with marvelous sketches, illustrations, and paintings, this "how-to" plus "you can do it!" guide could be a stunning addition to any art lover's collection or a quirky and fun coffee table book for an amateur art appreciator.

First thoughts: This book was as much self-esteem and motivation boost as it was tips and tricks on painting techniques, which made it accessible for this weekend artist.

Favorite quote: "Being imaginative is being open to interpretations and exploring and expressing ideas and emotions in ways that challenge the ordinary and present them in extraordinary ways." -p14

Art 101: Go with your gut; don't wait for inspiration. Seek out interesting things. Experiment! Do what works for you. Art evolves.

Life 101: Same as above. Be Yourself-->Do Your Thing!

Recommended for: artists, art appreciators, anyone attracted to color and unspoken emotions, those who value process over product, but can enjoy a quality-crafted product as well.

Final thoughts: d'Errico paints some beautiful pieces. The technical stuff was less helpful for me, but I always enjoy hearing about an artist's process and you can't go wrong looking at glossy pics of gorgeous, dreamy art.

Editor's Note: I received a copy of Pop Painting from Blogging for Books in exchange for an honest review.

View all my reviews

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Blue Boy

Blue BoyBlue Boy by Rakesh Satyal
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Sum it up in a sentence: The story of only child Kiran as he figures out who he is - son of immigrants, vibrant artist, smart child. Kiran doesn't fit in with the other Indian children, but neither does he fit in with the kids at his school - and maybe none of that matters if he is the god he believes he is.

First thoughts: This book has so much description - I could picture everything in each scene, down to the feelings in the air and on people's faces. It took me a bit to get used to the completeness and I had to reread the first few pages to absorb all of it.

Favorite character: Kiran is a character, for sure. How likable is he though? I wasn't sure how much to trust him. He's pretty judgmental and gets away with a lot that I never would have growing up.

Favorite quote: "The sky will soon lighten as it always does, and there is no more hopeful moment than that: when time is tomorrow but still carries a strain of today, when we're wiser and reborn all at once." -p244

Comparison thoughts: I can't help but find similarities to Jhumpa Lahiri (attention to detail and character development) and The Absolutely True Story of a Part-Time Indian (fun honesty and youthful perspective).

Final thoughts: Hmmm. Interesting. Playful, yet reverent. I learned about Hinduism through the lens of an Indian boy, and now I want to learn more from others.

View all my reviews

Monday, April 18, 2016

50 Things About Me

In honor of my 50th post this year, here are 50 things about me. In no particular order:
  1. I hate/love alliteration.
  2. I'm slow at technology, but give me some time with a gadget and I can (usually/always) figure it out.
  3. Wishing people happy birthday tires me out. It's always someone's birthday. (So don't feel offended if I don't send you a personal greeting on your day.)
  4. I think I feel that way because I'm pretty nonchalant about my own birthday. It's in the summer, so most of my childhood birthdays were spent alone/with siblings/parents after work. 
  5. I judge books by their covers.
  6. I'm a proud lefty, despite doing nothing special to be one.
  7. A walk always does me good, but if it's crappy outside it's impossible to believe that.
  8. Tacos make me happy. 
  9. I go into my own head a lot. And get lost/stuck there. It's awesome some days, but inconvenient a lot of the time.
  10. I hope to be a lifelong reader...that's the only thing that makes my to-read list not overwhelming, considering:
  11. I plan on living past 100. I've always believed that I would.
  12. When I was little, my "When I grow up..." was to work in the same office that my mom did and to wear nice clothes to work. I did not have a specific career in mind, and to this day I don't know what I want to be when I grow up.
  13. Other options as I got older: gardener, director of an orphanage, taxi driver, pediatrician, teacher, bank teller, anything where I got to use a computer, a morning person, professional book reader, writer...I had/have varied tastes.
  14. I love snacks and routinely make meals out of them.
  15. I've hidden notes in library books, especially ones that meant a lot to me while I read.
  16. My siblings are my best friends.
  17. I've always wanted to have kids, but it wasn't until I started dating Jesus that I wanted to be someone's mom.
  18. I studied abroad in Rome because I read Eat, Pray, Love the week before study abroad applications were due...before that the plan was to go to London. I'm forever grateful to Elizabeth Gilbert for sending me to Italy instead of England!
  19. I always think things are going to take twice as long as they really do, so I give myself obnoxious amounts of time to do them. This is why I'm always early, especially when I go somewhere for the first time.
  20. Sometimes I feel nothing during really sad times. Other times I watch an animated film and sob.
  21. My biggest pet peeve is when people think they are above the law, especially with minor traffic violations (think: using the right lane even if it's not a lane). I don't know why, but those things irritate me way more than they should.
  22. I've never seen Titanic the whole way through. Same with The Notebook.
  23. I like things to be just so before I start a project, which is why I tend to consider myself a perfectionist procrastinator - things get put off because "I'm not ready," or "It's not ready," not because I don't want to do them.
  24. Because of #23, I've taken deliberate steps to jump in to things without worrying about the outcome or if I've planned things out enough. I started small: freewrite journaling, art projects just for fun, low stakes work projects - and have worked my way up to bigger things that I usually hold back on: interior decorating projects, writing projects, even this blog is a way for me to "just do it" without making sure all parts are perfect first.
  25. I drink more water now than I ever have before in my life and it is amazing.
  26. My favorite not-guilty pleasure purchase: plants.
  27. April Ludgate-Dwyer would be one of my best friends, if either of us believed in that sort of thing.
  28. 27 is the first age where people were genuinely shocked to hear that that's how old I was. At 26 it was, "Oh, you look younger than that." At 27, "You're HOW OLD?!??!?!?!" What a difference a year makes, I guess.
  29. I'm the best at not showering.
  30. I love a good routine almost as much as I love making changes. (I am large, I contain multitudes.)
  31. If I randomly selected an item from my closet, odds are it would be a) blue and/or b) striped or plaid.
  32. While I still need to read Marie Kondo's The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, I've done a lot of cleaning and getting rid of "things" this year. I prefer to collect places and people.
  33. That being said, I love collecting things as well. It comes from my strength as an intellect - I love collections, including tangible and intangible ones. This also explains my reading habits - I don't read to hone any specific theory, but to add tidbits of knowledge to my collection.
  34. I have blue eyes, which is a thing my boyfriend now knows (after 4 years of dating). He thought they were green and/or that they changed colors depending on who knows what. My mood perhaps?
  35. My first favorite band was Hanson. They were soon upstaged by Coldplay.
  36. I have a sweet tooth, but when I'm hungry I prefer something salty first.
  37. I used to dye my hair consistently - all colors. I stopped right after college, until I started again and stopped again. Right now it's its "original" color, but I have a feeling that might change soon...
  38. I have two tattoos and two ideas for new ones.
  39. I love maps. I am my father's daughter.
  40. I tend to be a rule-follower, and I rarely got in trouble in school, which made it easy to get away with not following the rules when I didn't believe in them. Rebelling for me was (is?) less overt acting out and more calm refusal to listen to authority.
  41. I'm a member of the Clean Plate Club - I (generally) only eat when I'm hungry, so you better believe I'm eating everything I serve myself.
  42. I don't nap, but when I's a 4 hour affair.
  43. I believe Experiences > Things
  44. When I'm stressed, I clean. When I'm restless, I clean. When the sun is shining and I have salsa music playing, I clean.
  45. I'm not physically flexible, but mentally I'm an Olympic gymnast.
  46. I enjoy planning for events as much as the event itself. It could be a vacation, a party, or a Sunday drive - thinking about it brings me the same amount of joy as being there in the moment.
  47. I'm frugal to a fault. If I can thrift it, DIY it, or go without it, I will. This allows me to "splurge" on things like ticket to Puerto Rico - remember, Experiences > Things!
  48. I kill at making lists - to do lists, packing lists, life fits in with being a collector and an organizer.
  49. My favorite grown up dish to make is salsa chicken with all the fixings.
  50. My favorite I have no energy to cook dish is pasta with a little olive oil, Parmesan, and salt & pepper.

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Cravings: Recipes for All the Food You Want to Eat

Cravings: Recipes for What You Want to EatCravings: Recipes for What You Want to Eat by Chrissy Teigen
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Sum it up in a sentence (or two): Chrissy Teigen shares her favorite recipes and a little bit of what it's like to be a model who is married to John Legend. (Spoiler: it's pretty awesome.)

First thoughts: The subtitle says it all: I want to make everything in this gorgeous cookbook.

Favorite quote: "Let's face it, I do have to make every bite count, so if I'm gonna drag that fork to my mouth hole, it better taste crazy delicious." -p11

Favorite recipes: I'm sure you'll be seeing my variations of so many of these, but the early standouts for me-

Dump and Done Ramen Salad
Chrissy's Mac and Cheese
I Can't Believe it's Not Gardetto's
Chicken Lettuce Wraps
Artichoke, Spinach, and Buffalo Chicken Dip
Armadillo Cheesy Garlic Bread

Wait, did you say model?: Chrissy knows who she is, and she toes the line between "I don't care what I eat as long as it tastes good/I can eat whatever I want and never gain weight" and "I would gain 100 pounds eating all this stuff so I don't eat it at all" - she talks a lot about caring for her friends and family through food. Food is her "second language," and her love language. She indulges. She says it herself: "I wanted to be honest in this book about the kinds of food I love, the kinds of food I crave. I just have to find ways to make those cravings work with my day job." As we all do.

Recommended for: chefs, eaters, families, party throwers, brunch warriors, late-night snackers, and food lovers.

Final thoughts: This cookbook is gonna stick with me for a while. I'm excited to work my way through it and treat my loved ones with hearty meals and interesting snacks.

View all my reviews

Friday, April 15, 2016


[Inspired by this.]

It's not the staying awake that
wears me out, but the not sleeping.
The reason I swore off naps for so long,
to save my zzz for bedtime.
Today I let my eyelids win the battle,
and with music playing and sunshine streaming in
I "caught up" on two nights of wondering
what that noise was and how I got to be
where I found myself, a guest in a familiar place.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Overnight Oats (Oats in a Jar)

The fad of putting foods in jars seems silly at first (why not use Tupperware?), but it's been a staying one in my kitchen. For one, I know the jar is totally sealed. And since I use jars of all the same size, I have built-in portion control when packing a lunch. True, I usually have to pack a separate bowl along with the jar for actual eating, but that means my desk lunches feel more legitimate.

One of my tried and true jar recipes is Overnight Oats, in which oats and milk "cook" in the fridge overnight to create a sort of oatmeal pudding. I promise it's better than it sounds. These breakfast/mid-morning snack oats are packed with good things, and they can be customized to your heart's content. Here's my basic recipe with a few add-ins.

1 clean glass jar (or another container with a lid)
3/4 - 1 cup oats (I use old fashioned)
3/4 - 1 cup milk (I use almond or cashew or coconut)
1 tbsp chia seeds

The important part is to add enough milk to cover the oats so they have liquid to soak up, then fill the jar the rest of the way with whatever you'd like. A few fun combos:

frozen fruit + spoonful of peanut butter + honey/maple syrup
frozen fruit + nuts (add these in right before eating so they don't get soggy)
frozen fruit + cinnamon + maple syrup
spoonful of peanut butter + cocoa powder to taste + honey + banana (again, add in right before eating)

Experiment to see what you like best, then prep a few on Sunday night to have for the week - my Mondays (and Tuesdays) generally go a lot better when I have some brain food on hand!

Saturday, April 9, 2016

Good Omens

Good Omens: The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, WitchGood Omens: The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch by Terry Pratchett
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Sum it up in a sentence (or two): The Apocalypse is due in under a week, but neither the demon Crowley or the angel Aziraphale are ready to say goodbye to life on Earth.

First thoughts: this collaboration between Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett is magical, fun, and clever. In the beginning I wasn't sure where the story was going, but I didn't care. This book is filled with gorgeous phrases, intriguing characters, and witty dialogue.

Favorite quotes:

"He'd been an angel once. He hadn't meant to Fall. He'd just hung around with the wrong people." -p20

"It may help to understand human affairs to be clear that most of the great triumphs and tragedies of history are caused, not by people being fundamentally good or fundamentally bad, but by people being fundamentally people." -p26

"the really important thing was to be yourself, just as hard as you could." -p89

"The world was bright and strange and he was in the middle of it." -p150

Recommended for: lovers of the supernatural and the all-natural, fans of Gaiman or Pratchett, readers of all ages, people who are religious, or spiritual, or curious, mischief makers, hedonists.

Final thoughts: good and evil aren't in opposition; they're different parts of the same thing. We need both. Gaiman and Pratchett say it better. Read this book.

View all my reviews

Friday, April 8, 2016

Friday Night Links 28

I hope you enjoyed the first week of Poetry Month, inconsistent weather and all. I've been partaking in a lot of visual poetry by collaging and creating new bulletin board designs at school. I'm also perusing a few poetry books that usually act as decoration on my bookshelves. Need a few more ideas for how to celebrate this April? Read on.

Happy 20th Anniversary, Poetry Month!

Much like Instagram, Twitter is full of poets of its own. I'm enjoying a few by Brian Bilston and following #NPRpoetry for 140-character tidbits.

Another way social media is great for poetry: a crowd-sourced poem facilitated by the poet laureate of the United States.

Basically, poetry is everywhere (and everyone is a poet): Bill Murray's poetry is featured in this month's issue of O.

Poetry Matters: it's all in the numbers.

Thursday, April 7, 2016


In a race against time, FBI agent Brody (Carrie-Anne Moss) has a bomb threat, a suspect, and an effective yet unorthodox interrogator who goes simply by H (Samuel L. Jackson). Brody and H have three days to draw out the location of three nuclear bombs from Yusuf (Michael Sheen) before several major cities are brought down by their explosions. Yusuf isn't willing to divulge that information until certain demands are met.

This movie, while six years old, touches on relevant topics. It's a movie that falls into typical patterns, then upsets those patterns to keep the audience wondering who to relate to and who to side with. Jesus and I watched it with his family and we followed our viewing with a lengthy discussion of rights, wrongs, and personal boundaries in relation to our morals and the law.

How far would you go to get what you wanted if you were Yusuf, a Muslim who feels oppressed by the American government and is upset by the senseless deaths it causes daily? Or H, a man with everything to lose and nothing holding him back from finding out the truth? Or Brody, the lead on an interrogation that could end in millions of senseless deaths and years of political fallout? Would you do the unthinkable?

I recommend watching this when you have both the time and emotional capacity to debrief with someone afterwards!

Monday, April 4, 2016

My Favorite Insta-Poets

This poetry month, I hope to inform you about poetry in general, share a few poems themselves, and introduce you to some new poets (or remind you of old favorites!). Today I'm going super modern with poets on social media.

Poetry and poets are everywhere - in our favorite songs, in the books we read, in the margins of notebooks, and on graffitied bathroom stalls and brick walls. Recently I started following several poets on my favorite social media platform, Instagram. These "Insta-Poets" share short poems, images ripe for descriptive verse, and pieces of their lives via carefully chosen words. Check them out and be entertained, inspired, and grateful for platforms that allow human connections in such a simple way.

Carson Patrick Bowie (carson.patrick.bowie)
"Anything you've got to say
will only tell me who you are,
I already know me."

KK Meade (kk.meade)
"Don't leave an inch
of me untouched--
and if you think that
strictly means skin,
well then, you don't
know much about love."

Marisa Crane (marisa_crane)
"i'll know that
i'm finally happy
the day that i invite
the demons knocking
at my door to come in
and sit down for tea
while i take a seat
nearby and smile
at how old and
tired they all look."

R. M. Drake (rmdrk)
"So keep looking my love, something soon
will find you and something soon will speak to you
and it will not be too late.

Because it's never too late."

Tyler Knott Gregson (tylerknott)
"I know you'll find me
in every life we shall live.
I was made for you."

Amanda Torroni (amandatorroni)
"Maybe love doesn't make a grand entrance.
Maybe it's not an arrow through the heart, or a
knockout punch. Maybe love sneaks in. The
arrow barely grazes the skin. The gloves come
off. Maybe when love shows up, it does so
imperceptibly, with hands like seasons. You
don't know how or why everything's changed,
but there's no denying you've been touched."

Andy M (andymwrites)
"because she
just wants
to be loved,
she has to
live open
to pain.
that/s the
thing about
tender hearts;
they bruise
so easily--
but they love
so much more."

Michael Xavier (michael_xavier_writer)
"There is much
less evil in
the world than
you think -

You see, most
people aren't
against you -
They're just
for themselves."

Nikita Gill (nikita_gill)
"Seven billion people, and some of us have just had
the best day of their lives. Today may have been
the very worst day of yours. But take solace and
celebrate this simple fact. It wasn't your best day
today, but it is on its way, because we all get lucky
in turn."

Rio Jones (riojones7)
"We know each other
without ever talking
the way the sun
has known the moon."

Tony Ciampa (emolabs)
"On some days I dream of
mansions other days, a home
for two
Oh I dream of what I don't have
so much less when I'm with you"

Sunday, April 3, 2016

Garfield Park Conservatory

Sometimes you need a little green.
A Sunday drive, sunglasses on,
get out of the house kind of day.
With only a few hours and a suggested donation,
you've got yourself some laid-back excitement
that matches the self-care atmosphere
you've worked so hard cultivate.
Savor it, like the stew simmering now on the stove,
a hearty finish to an early spring weekend.

Saturday, April 2, 2016

Let's Pretend This Never Happened

Let's Pretend This Never Happened: A Mostly True MemoirLet's Pretend This Never Happened: A Mostly True Memoir by Jenny  Lawson
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Sum it up in a sentence (or two): Jenny Lawson, "The Bloggess," details stories from her childhood and adulthood in her signature voice (over the top & riddled with tangents).

First thoughts: WE GET IT, YOUR FAMILY IS WEIRD. Lawson lays this sentiment on thick, and honestly I think she overestimates her family's weirdness in relation to other families - everyone thinks their family is the strangest. Yes, hers is up there, but rural Texas sounds a lot like rural Wisconsin and I wasn't as shocked as I think she expected her readers to be by her stories of a childhood filled with roadkill, animal carcasses, weird pets, and strange family routines. I think if she had just stuck to telling the story instead of telling me how weird and strange and random and unique her family was I'd be more entertained and less annoyed.

Favorite quote: " are defined not by life's important moments, but by your reaction to them....there is joy in embracing - rather than running screaming from - the utter absurdity of life." (from the Dedication/Epilogue)

Blog thoughts: I need to remember that I rarely like blogs-turned-books OR memoirs of people who aren't Elizabeth Gilbert. Even if this one was made up of new material, I just didn't really care about Lawson. I also haven't been able to get into her blog, though, so maybe this one's on me.

Final thoughts: If you are a dedicated fan of The Bloggess, read away. I ended up skimming the final stories and her clarifications got to be too much for me. I'm all for letting your freak flag fly, but you don't need to outright say that's what you're doing - just do it.

View all my reviews

Friday, April 1, 2016

Introduction to Poetry (Month)

It's April 1, fools, and this was fittingly the poem of the day over at Enjoy it, and look forward to a month of poetry-inspired posts from yours truly.

Introduction to Poetry
by Billy Collins

I ask them to take a poem   
and hold it up to the light   
like a color slide

or press an ear against its hive.

I say drop a mouse into a poem   
and watch him probe his way out,

or walk inside the poem’s room   
and feel the walls for a light switch.

I want them to waterski   
across the surface of a poem
waving at the author’s name on the shore.

But all they want to do
is tie the poem to a chair with rope   
and torture a confession out of it.

They begin beating it with a hose   
to find out what it really means.