Sunday, July 31, 2016


Gotta be honest here - my One Seconds for July were spotty at best. There was a lot of variety in my schedules, plus an increase in biking. Most weekdays were spent trying to not sweat (aka, staying inside) and most weekends I was traveling or standing up in a wedding or celebrating someone's birthday (and sometimes two of those at a time). All that to say: this video is a lot shorter than it should be, and I'm recommitting for August.

Saturday, July 30, 2016

Stories: All-New Tales

Stories: All-New TalesStories: All-New Tales by Neil Gaiman
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A collection of short stories filled with magic realism, edited by Neil Gaiman and Al Sarrantonio.

First thoughts: Whew! I finally committed to finishing this collection instead of dipping into it whenever I was between books. It's hard reading books you own when the library keeps sending others your way. This is definitely a collection I'll be keeping on my bookshelf for rereads and future bedtime stories.

Favorite quotes:

"We wanted to read stories that used a lightning flash of magic as a way of showing us something we have already seen a thousand times as if we have never seen it before." -Gaiman, p1

"The joy of fiction, for some of us, is the joy of the imagination, set free from the world..." -Gaiman, p3

Favorite stories: "Catch and Release" is just the right amount of creepy. "Weights and Measures" is sad and tender. "Unwell" is both silly and strange. "A Life in Fictions" reminds me of Ruby Sparks. "The Therapist" gave me more creeps. "Human Intelligences" gives us a different telling of Santa Claus.

Recommended for: If you're into short stories with strange and mind-stretching plots, this collection is for you. It's perfect for group read alouds and solo reading.

Final thoughts: I mean, Neil Gaiman folks.

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Friday, July 29, 2016

Friday Night Links 32

I've been spending almost zero time in the kitchen this month, thanks to the heat, but that doesn't mean I can't read about food from the comfort of anywhere directly in front of all the fans.

The economy of (fast) food is fascinating.

One of my coworkers asked me if I eat "healthy" and I said no, but mostly because I don't like the word healthy. I just eat food. Even so, I do tend to follow these rules.

It's never too late to learn a few (or 57) cooking tips.

I haven't had biscuits inna minute. I'm thinking I'll be pushing this vegan recipe to the top of my to try list once I can turn on my oven again.

Reducing waste is one area of the food world I need to improve in. I'm just not a hoarder of anything, especially food scraps (and to be honest, I don't have enough room to save things in my freezer). At least I'm pretty good at eating leftovers and turning bits and pieces of things into complete meals.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

As the Puerto Ricans Do: Viejo San Juan

Are y'all ready for an overload of PR pics and stories? I can't believe Jesus and I have been home for almost a month already - it seems like an appropriate time to reminisce a little. Our first stop is Old San Juan (aka Viejo San Juan). If you're planning a trip to Puerto Rico, plan to be in San Juan, and specifically in Viejo San Juan, the oldest settlement and historic area of the island. It's worth it to spend a day or two in that area (and I'm sure there's enough to eat/drink/do to keep you entertained for an entire vacation). Here's what Jesus and I (along with his wonderful cousins, who were our tour guides and hosts) had the most fun doing over the course of a day and night in the area.

Castillo San Cristobal & El Morro
These two forts, which protected Spanish-controlled Puerto Rico from both land and sea-based attacks, are both awesome to explore and interesting to learn about. We climbed up and down and all around at both sites, something we could never do if these forts were located in the States. The entrance fee is $5, good for both locations (as long as you visit each within a week of each other). I recommend exploring one, then taking free transit to the other.

Walking/Riding on the Streets of Viejo San Juan
Old San Juan is small enough that it's easy to take a self-guided walking tour. Another option is hopping on the free trolley that makes its rounds on the cobblestone streets. You can take in the sights and sounds of the city from the (relative) comfort of a bus.

Eat & Drink

I only have one actual restaurant recommendation, because the French toast at Caficultura was the bomb.
Good For: Feeding yourself before a long day of walking and exploring.
Ambiance: Friendly Brunch.
Notes: Get the French toast. Everything else was amazing too, but coconut French toast with pineapple marmalade? You don't see that every day.

For other meals, scope out the menus on restaurants as you walk by. Find something with mofongo or tostones, get yourself some seafood, and definitely treat yourself with ice cream from a street vendor. I suggest getting the coconut, but parcha (passion fruit) is also highly refreshing on a hot day. Most places have drinks as well, and there are some great bars serving specialty shots, craft beers, and Papa Jac.

This isn't an exhaustive list of things to do - and Old San Juan is just a tiny part of the enchantment that is Puerto Rico - but these activities will keep you busy until it's time for the rest of your adventure on the island. Enjoy!

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Sharp Objects & Dark Places

Before Gone Girl, there were two pretty creepy thrillers to make readers leery of small towns and their secrets. Sharp Objects tells the story of a reporter who travels back to her hometown to get the story on the recent murders of two young girls. Dark Places takes readers both back to the events leading up to the murder of Libby Day's mother and sisters, ostensibly at the hand of her brother, and to the present day, where Libby searches for the truth of that bloody night.

Sharp ObjectsSharp Objects by Gillian Flynn
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

First thoughts: Holy Sh*t. So messed up.

Recommended for: fans of mystery, thrill, and creepy family members.

Final thoughts: The story as a whole is dark, but several characters, conversations, and scenes weren't believable (or were too predictable), which took me out of the story.

Dark PlacesDark Places by Gillian Flynn
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

First thoughts: Love the Now/Then concept to get differing points of view on the same story.

Recommended for: fans of mystery, thrill, creepy family members, and conspiracy theorists.

Final thoughts: This one kept me guessing and reading late into the night, and the story as a whole was more fleshed out and developed than Sharp Objects.

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Thursday, July 21, 2016

Row, Row, Row Your Boat

Me: Would you say we are in one boat, rowing together, or in two boats, rowing in the same direction?
Jesus: Two boats. Definitely two.
Me: Why do you say that? I mean, I agree, but why do you think that?
Jesus: First of all, you're trying to have this conversation while I'm playing a video game.
Me: ...And second?
Jesus: Second what? What were we talking about?

When I first read this post, I was grateful for its honesty. No two relationships are the same and that's okay. I've struggled (in my current and past relationships) to be comfortable with that truth. In the past 4.5 years of dating Jesus, I've tried to both climb into his boat or pull him over to mine. I've also assumed we were in the same boat, which meant I was rowing on "my" side, thinking he was rowing on his, and instead, I was rowing myself in circles while he patiently waited for me to look up and notice what I was doing.

It's taken time and the experience that comes with time to realize that it's best if Jesus and I stay in our own boats, so we don't end up in the water. That's not to say we don't rock our respective boats, or find a third boat to hang out in for an afternoon, or any other iterations of this boat metaphor, but our default is individual boats, floating along the river of life together.
Or wading in the ocean, whatever this metaphor is.

Monday, July 18, 2016

As the Colby Dudes Do

What do you do when you find yourself in rural central Wisconsin? Well, if you're lucky enough to be there during any number of annual festivals, you make the most of it! The festival I'm talking about in particular is Colby Cheese Days. I haven't been in probably 8 or 9 years (I know I was under 21 the last time I was there), so I was excited to reminisce while also checking out all the things that had changed. Here are some of the highlights:

Food Stands: Here's the rundown on food - skip the stuff trucked in with the carnival rides and head straight for the local stands to support all the churches, youth groups, scouts, and other various clubs. You'll enjoy burgers, brats, fries, hot beefs, walking tacos, onion rings, smoothies, milkshakes, and, of course, cheese curds, those deep fried nuggets of golden happiness. And did I mention every food stand also gives out free cheese sticks? Take advantage - those sticks are the real deal and the crown jewel of this weekend.

The Bingo Tent: A dollar will get you three cards, and a little luck will get you a nice little check. I won twice over the weekend, for a grand total of $23.

The Beer Tent: Like I said, I was under 21 at my last Cheese Days, so this year I took advantage of being able to be in the Beer Tent...which isn't even a tent, but more of a pavilion. Whatever, there's beer and plenty of old friends.

The Fun Run for a Cause: It doesn't matter if you're a kid, a passionate marathoner, a weekend warrior, or just a few folks who want to support your community and the people in it, you can do a 5 or 10k. With water breaks and cheerleaders spread out over the course, there's plenty to keep you going. And remember, if the firefighters can do it in all their gear, you can do it in your casual walking shoes.

Book Sale: 1 bag. 4 dollars. Need I say more? (I will - Jesus just doubled his Animorphs collection and I now have a creepily worn in copy of Rosemary's Baby. Win. Win.)

Parade: Even at the end of the route, we got plenty of candy. We also got great views of horses, marching bands, cars, trucks, tractors, and various emergency service vehicles. Dancers danced, old people and little kids waved, and the Shriners performed their intricate scooter routine.

Music: The party was only starting once the parade ended. We enjoyed a 5th Quarter concert by the UW Marching Band, a show choir performance, and musical selections from a band visiting from Switzerland - all on the street right in the middle of the action.

Whew. If you survive all that, congratulations. You hit all the biggies in the carnival world!

Saturday, July 16, 2016

something to food about

something to food about: Exploring Creativity with Innovative Chefssomething to food about: Exploring Creativity with Innovative Chefs by Ahmir Questlove Thompson
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Creativity comes in all shapes, sizes, and flavors in this gastronomical collection of interviews by Renaissance Man Questlove.

First thoughts: This book has lots of recurring themes, almost like riffs. Food and music are very similar.

Food thoughts: Will I ever eat food from any of the chefs or at any of the restaurants mentioned in this book? I'm gonna say no, and that was the drawback for me. At times all I could think was " people." Luckily Questlove's narrative voice is choice, and I loved his footnotes. It felt like he was talking directly to me as a reader.

Favorite quotes:

"Food can be magic. Food is magic. And yet it's not. It comes from somewhere - and from someplace and someone. Always. Food tells a story. Usually a very personal one." -Anthony Bourdain, p9

"Food without eating is just sculpture." Questlove, p62

"At the end of the day, I hate saying this and I hate hearing this, but I also believe it: it's just food." -Michael Solomonov, p 64

"I've mad so many mistakes, but I'm always finding new ones to make." Daniel Patterson, p182

Recommended for: foodies, chefs, chefs-at-heart, artists, musicians, creators, jammers, human encyclopedias.

Final thoughts: Interesting people are interested people. Everyone Questlove interviews is interested in food, its variations, the processes that go into making and serving it, etc. And Questlove himself is the most interested. He's a lucky (read: hardworking) guy - more power to him for having the time/talent/motivation to pursue this project.

Editor's Note: I received a copy of something to food about in exchange for an honest review.

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Thursday, July 14, 2016

Searching for Everything

"...perhaps my life has not actually been so chaotic, after all. It is merely this world that is chaotic, bringing changes to us all that nobody could have anticipated." --Elizabeth Gilbert, Eat, Pray, Love 
I came across the news of Elizabeth Gilbert's divorce the other day, and it gave me mixed feelings. First, what a world we live in where the marital status of celebrities major and minor are headlines, where the celebrities themselves feel compelled to share their take on this news, and where we common folk feel entitled to have our own opinions about someone else's personal life.

That craziness aside, I felt...okay. While I'm not happy that someone I look up to is going through an emotional time, I don't think I'm as sad (or mad or personally offended) as other readers of Eat, Pray, Love are. In fact, I can only hope that this is a positive and necessary change in Gilbert's life, one that couldn't have been easy, but will allow Gilbert to live her most genuine life. I guess for me, E,P,L was never about the relationship at the end. The adventure and message I got was to live wild and free, to make your own destiny, to seek both pleasure and divinity.

For these reasons, plus the fact that I didn't have a library book on deck when I finished my most recent read, I'm rereading E,P,L. It's my third time, but it'll be the first time the Love section might mean something to me. My first read, shortly before I studied abroad in Rome, focused on the Eat section and convinced me to go to Rome in the first place. I gave more attention to the Pray section in my second read, during my MercyWorks year, and it resonated with my own spiritual journey. At neither of those times was I in a physical or emotional space to think about Love, but now I am.

I'll read in the hopes of learning more about balancing pleasure and the divine, reminding myself why I chose the life experiences I did, and following all the ins and outs of my million gorgeous curiosities.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016


I spent these past two days (plus last week) reorienting myself at work. Our headquarters is in a new space for the year, which means finding new work areas, adjusting to a different commute, and getting into a summer rhythm. We also welcomed three new Teaching Fellows with a few training overviews, a Q&A session, lunches, and (my favorite) an escape-the-room challenge.

It's been nice to take a step back from working in school to remind myself why I came to this program in the first place, and to introduce it to newcomers. I've enjoyed the change of pace and the more individualized work of summer projects to prepare for the fall. Personally, I get to edit and revise lesson plans and rubrics, all of which is right up my alley. (After a year of struggling to grasp what these educational materials are/mean, I am now well-versed in them and how to make them more user-friendly - especially for the non-teacher crowd.)

I didn't realize until I was in the middle of it, but I needed this shift in perspective and tasks. It's helped out my work life and my home life, since my purpose is more clear and I can truly relax when I'm off the clock, not wondering if what I did that day was enough.

This is my conscious reminder to take time to hit pause and refresh. To remember how I got to where I am. To keep on keeping on, in the direction of my wild and varied curiosities.

Saturday, July 9, 2016


My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Cheryl Strayed's journey to find herself on the Pacific Crest Trail, and a reflection on what it means to make and learn from mistakes.

First thoughts: Yes, it was similar to Eat, Pray, Love, but also different. I think Wild appeals to a different sort of person than EPL does, or a different point of life. I keep thinking about this book as both a thing that actually happened and the later retelling of it - I have mixed feelings about the actual events, while completely enjoying the telling of those events.

The Actual Events: At times I think, I could do that. Or, that sounds fun/awesome/gratifying. Other times...not so much. But overall, I'd love to hike at least a portion of the PCT. Ideally more prepared than Strayed. And probably with a companion.

The Retelling: The language is beautiful. The pacing - back and forth between "present" and what got Strayed to the trail - is perfect. My mouth dropped open in some parts, tears formed in others. I enjoyed the process of reading.

Favorite Quotes:

"Fear, to a great extent, is born of a story we tell ourselves, and so I chose to tell myself a different story..." -p51

"I could go back in the direction I had come from, or I could go forward in the direction I intended to go." -p69

"It was really over, I thought. There was no way to go back, to make it stay. There was never that." -p307

" was enough to trust that what I'd done was true. To understand its meaning without yet being able to say precisely what it was..." -p311

Recommended for: students, teachers, graduates, adventurers, armchair adventurers, wanderers, people with questions, thinkers, lovers, fighters.

Final thoughts: Really, this book is wild.

Thursday, July 7, 2016

What I Know About...Getting Ready for Island Time

My reflections and recommendations from my trip Puerto Rico are going to take more than one post, so let's start with information for the planning stage of a trip (to PR or other island and non-island travels as well).

  1. Do your research: I've said it before, the planning stages are the most fun. I can't tell you how many pre-travel lunch hours I spent googling travel to Puerto Rico, eating in Puerto Rico, things to do in Puerto Rico...yes, some days I felt overwhelmed, but most of the time I was even more excited about the trip and I had some idea of what I wanted to do once we got there.
  2. Take care of things: Besides the obvious (tickets, travel to and from the airport), remember all the little things that go with leaving the country for an extended amount of time. Tell your bank where you'll be so your debit/credit card works while you're there. Hold your mail. Find someone to water your plants, feed your pets, or just check in on your house/apartment to make sure all is well. Set up an automatic reply for work and/or personal email if you don't plan on checking it.
  3. Make a few lists: Before I travel, I make three lists: To Pack, To Do, and To Buy. By listing out specific outfits to bring, I don't over-pack (well, to an extent), and including all the little stuff on the To Pack list means things like phone chargers and contact cases don't get forgotten. On To Do goes all that stuff from #2, plus the last minute things I always forget, like taking out the trash or closing windows. To Buy helps me keep travel purchases in one spot so I don't make unnecessary trips for the travel-sized toothpaste I forgot when picking up airplane snacks.
  4. Make another list: One final list, for when I'm going on a longer trip...souvenirs. I list out upcoming birthdays/holidays or certain things I want to be sure to come home with, mostly so I can shop for them at my leisure and not have to raid the duty-free shop before getting on my flight home. This time around coffee and rum made up the totality of my list - look into what your travel destination is known for ahead of time and you won't come home with magnets and shot glasses.
  5. Have a tentative schedule, but stay flexible: In doing your research, plan out a few days, even with just one activity. Some things are only open on certain days/during certain hours, so that's a good place to start. Then fill in with other things you'd like to do, including restaurants, events, and activities. You may have to sub activities in or out as you go, but it's easier to have a plan to change than no plan at all.
  6. Take a deep breath...and be ready to have a blast, sweat your butt off, and eat all of the plantains.

Saturday, July 2, 2016

The Crimson Petal and the White

The Crimson Petal and the WhiteThe Crimson Petal and the White by Michel Faber
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Over the span of about 800 pages, we follow 19-year old Sugar from her life as a prostitute through her interesting climb up the social classes of Victorian London.

First thoughts: This is a solid/heavy book - one I read entirely at home, since it was too large to carry with me on the train. I enjoyed with with plenty of coffee/tea/wine. And I made it all the way through! I'm glad I stuck with it, though Faber's narration kept things moving right along.

Almost Did Not Finish: Yep, there was a point where I was like, "is this book worth it?" - but as I said, Faber's narration was on point. The plot and characters were intriguing, but any less genius in the actual writing and I'd have given up or gotten bored.

NSFW: Sugar is a prostitute. Her profession plays a large part in the telling of the story, and in the subtle nuances of the prose. If you blush easily, don't read this in public (but still read it!).

Favorite Quotes:
"...she was born to be a dissenter within a larger certainty, she knows that." -p354

"for all that he isn't worthy, he lays claim to her as if he is, as if sin has yet to be invented, and they are two animals on the sixth day of creation." -p469

"I would read a thousand million pages, Miss; if all the words were words I could understand." -p793

"You imagine you can make it last for ever, then suddenly it's over." -p835

Recommended for: marathon readers, lovers of Victorian England, fans of a slow burn and a long con, champagne dreamers on beer budgets, people with a bottle of wine and an evening to themselves.

Final thoughts: So glad I stuck with this book. It's one to get lost in for sure.

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