2.20.2017

reading rainbow

                               
The Inheritance by Louisa May Alcott--4 stars: This was the very first novel Louisa May Alcott wrote at just 17! It is definitely no Little Women, but her writing is still outstanding for a teenager. If I had written a novel at 17, it would've been Amish fiction or something cringe-inducing like that. Truly. So I have nothing but the utmost respect for my girl Louisa. It's kind of an old-fashioned rags to riches story with a pinch of Mean Girls. The book is short, the characters are pretty one-dimensional and borderline annoying at times, the plot is fairly predictable, but I love it. It was charming, delightful, and reminded me a lot of Jane Austen's Persuasion. 

For fans of: Little Women, Jane Austen, all things prim and proper 





Unplanned: The Dramatic True Story of a Former Planned Parenthood Leader's Eye-Opening Journey Across the Life Line by Abby Johnson--5 stars: Oh my (five) stars, this book. THIS BOOK. This is one of the most powerful books I've ever read. It absolutely broke me. Abby Johnson worked her way up from college intern to Director at her local Planned Parenthood clinic in Texas. It wasn't until she actually helped assist with an ultrasound-guided abortion, and she saw the baby try to fight for its life, that she truly realized what takes place during an abortion. She ended up walking away from Planned Parenthood shortly after and joining the Coalition for Life, which she had considered her enemy for years. She walks the reader through her thought process in why she thought being pro-choice was a noble stance, and how her colleagues really believed they were helping women who need it. No matter your view on abortion, I think this is an incredible book for understanding both sides of the spectrum and why people fight for each side. The writing wasn't my favorite, but Abby's story more than makes up for it.

For fans of: politics, transformation stories, sobbing halfway through the first chapter


I'm Happy for You (Sort of...Not Really): Finding Contentment in a Culture of Comparison by Kay Wills Wyma--2 stars: Bleeeehhhhh. I pretty much skimmed this book because it was just not my cup of tea. I've had this on my list to read for ages, so I thought I'd give it a try. I found it very annoying. This book probably could've been 50 pages instead of 250. She said the same thing over and over, and the whole point was to be happy for someone instead of being jealous. I didn't need to read 500 boring anecdotes about her 5 kids (who she refers to by annoying code names) to know that. She literally spent one full chapter reliving the mortification that a friend saw the inside of her messy fridge when she brought brownies over for her just because. If those are her problems in life, then I don't have much sympathy. There are a lot of rave reviews and she made a few good points, but honestly I think this book could've been so much better.

For fans of: reading about the daily intricacies of a busy PTO mom, reading about feeling jealous of all the other PTO moms, 


Seasons of Waiting: Walking by Faith When Dreams are Delayed by Betsy Childs Howard--5 stars: I read this while sick, so admittedly I don't remember a lot of details the way I should. However, it was a fantastic book and I highlighted so much of it. I honestly think I need to read this once a month. Most of the book is split into categories of things people are most likely to be waiting for: a spouse, a baby, healing, a house, etc. I read every word of every chapter, even if that specific struggle didn't apply to me, because the overall message was transcendental of that situation. It was theologically powerful and so comforting. We will always be waiting for something here on earth, but the waiting will always serve a purpose.

For fans of: feeling comforted and understood, theology, faith



Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus: A Devout Muslim Encounters Christianity by Nabeel Qureshi--5 stars: Another crazy powerful and fantastic book. Nabeel was raised in an incredibly devout Muslim family. He loved Islam and wanted to shout it from the rooftops. He met a friend in college who was a Christian. They frequently butted heads about religion, but they challenged each other constantly. Both were incredibly intelligent, and in order to defend Islam, Nabeel started fanatically researching the origins of his religion and Christianity. He had never once questioned his faith, but after years of research and debates, he realized that historical facts support Christianity far more than they do Islam. After a long and painful process, he became a Christian and went into full-time ministry. Nabeel gives a very in-depth look at the life of a devout Muslim. He explains their prayer rituals, beliefs, and culture. He goes through all his research and explains how history supports Christianity and not Islam, and he dissects every argument a Muslim can use against a Christian. It was fascinating. I've never read such an intellectual take on religion, and I loved it. Even if you're not a Christian or a Muslim, but you're interested in religion, philosophy, or faith, I recommend it. It was incredible and profound, though occasionally dry in some spots.


For fans of: religion, theology, conversion stories, history


Lunch in Paris: A Love Story, with Recipes by Elizabeth Bard--3.5 stars: This was my February book club pick, and I have a lot of feelings about it. When I think about a food memoir set in Paris, I think of My Life in France by Julia Child, and I don't think anything can beat that. The bar is high. Elizabeth Bard is a New Yorker who studied abroad in England, and on a weekend in Paris she met a Frenchman. They eventually move in together and get married, and she has to learn to speak French, to adapt to buying her groceries in the market, and to cook like the French. She talks a lot about the cultural differences between the French and Americans, and that was probably my favorite part. I minored in French in college so there wasn't a lot that surprised me, but I had no idea how...unambitious? the French can be. First of all, I can't imagine all that's involved in marrying someone from another continent. I'm from the West Coast/Midwest and James is from the rural South, and honestly that seems like a huge cultural barrier to overcome at times. But back to the book--she ended each chapter with a series of recipes. Some I'm going to try, and some just sounded disgusting. Overall I found the book enjoyable and interesting, and I wish she would cook for me. I think my problem is with Elizabeth herself. The first half of the book, she came off highly pretentious. A lot of her writing felt like braggy name-dropping when she talked about the restaurants and places where she would hang out (or....maybe I'm just jealous). Just something about the tone of her writing irked me. I felt like she and I didn't get off on the right foot, and I could never quite shake that first impression. I warmed up to her more the second half, and overall I'm glad I read it. Definitely worth it if you're into all things French (comme moi) and food writing.

For fans of: French, food writing, cultural differences, an art historian bemoaning the lack of gainful employment


After several convicting books, I'm looking for some lighter, happier books to dive into. I've also been working my way through the Little House on the Prairie series (5 stars all around!)(last night I dreamed I was Laura Ingalls Wilder and walked around with my hair in braids), and I'm in the middle of The Little Book of Hygge, which is basically a book about Danish culture. It's proving to me that I definitely am Danish, because I'm pretty sure the book was written about me and all the people in my Danish family.

What are you reading these days?

2.16.2017

visiting a hipster coffee shop



It's Valentine's Day. You decide to take your daughter on a little date to a coffee shop you've been wanting to visit. You pride yourself on your innate sense of direction and the fact that you rarely get lost. You make up for all of that by getting lost in a seedy area of downtown so confusing that the GPS doesn't even know what to tell you. You have to turn around so often that you wind up making yourself carsick. If there's one thing you've learned over the years, it's that the trendier the place, the harder it is to get to. Expect one way streets, back alleys, and zero parking. They believe the coffee is so good you should have to earn it.

You finally arrive, and as you pull into the parking lot of the converted warehouse/garage-turned trendy coffee establishment, you watch a girl with a strange hat and heart-shaped glasses walk inside. It's your first clue that you're a little out of your element. You walk inside to find it bursting with people wearing nearly the same thing. Everyone is in a different shade of grey. The girls are all wearing crop-top sweaters and leggings as pants, and the men have skin tight jeans on and tattoo sleeves. Everyone looks like they haven't washed their hair in a week.

Your knee-jerk reaction is to run. Run away as fast as you can. The entire room stared at you the moment you walked in. Two different men gave you the once-over. Not in a flirtatious way, but in a you don't look like us, are you lost? kind of way. The whole thing is ridiculous. You have hipster tendencies, including a closet full of v-neck tees, skinny jeans, converse, and a propensity to listen to music the rest of the world has yet to discover. You are not about to let a man in skinnier jeans than yours intimidate you, plus your daughter is watching, so you march up to the counter and order a cappuccino. You also stress-order a blueberry scone before noticing the cinnamon rolls and donuts.

You survey the room. There are a few solitary tables, but they're all full. The room is comprised of mostly community tables. It's repulsive to you, but you find the only two empty chairs at one and sit down. Your daughter sips her apple juice and smiles at the barista. People eye your daughter like they've never seen a child out in the wild before. You watch the man making your coffee. He has the waif-like body of a female model walking at New York Fashion Week. He has long blonde Fabio hair and a full mustache that would make Ron Swanson envious. You can't stop staring at him. It's all so over the top that you want to sit down with him and ask him about his life story. What was it about your childhood that made you think this mustache is a good idea? Another guy has a pink neck tattoo that at first glance looks like ringworm.

The place is bustling for a Tuesday morning. Who are these people, and why don't they have jobs? If anything, they look like they're all waiting for their shift at the American Apparel store a few blocks away. The girl in front of you has a top knot and those short bangs that look less like a trendy fashion statement and more like a kindergartner took to her hair with a pair of Crayola scissors. Everything in the building is a startling neutral, from the white walls to the concrete floor and the gray of everyone's clothes. Even the succulents in front of the white espresso machine look strangely devoid of color. It's the Instagram dream. The only pop of color in the entire room is your daughter's red hat that she insists on wearing 24/7. Maybe that's why everyone keeps staring; their eyes aren't used to seeing in color.

You're no stranger to a hipster coffee shop. You love them. They make amazing coffee, and the people watching is even better. But this one? It's in a league of its own. It's like you've stepped into another universe. Everyone looks like they're trying so hard to be unique that they've all become a carbon copy of each other. After you finish your stale scone and down your $4 cappuccino that came in a cup so small it could almost double as a shot glass, you leave. Not only is it hard to get there, it's hard to leave. You have to drive around the entire building and exit out of a back alley, which leads to another back alley, which leads to a completely random street. It's like you're a kid again, and you've been blindfolded and spun around and you're trying to get your bearings. The only tool to help you get home is the caffeine from your overpriced cappuccino.

But now you fully understand why Starbucks is always so busy.

2.13.2017

literary valentines

This post almost didn't happen this year. I had zero inspiration. I thought about it for months, but nothing. I asked friends for ideas, but still nothing. Nothing clicked. I thought maybe all my creativity had dried up.

And then one Saturday afternoon, I got in bed to read a book and take a nap. And it came to me.

LITERATURE. 

Of course! Books are only the greatest love of my live. How could I have not thought of that before? It's like they were right in front of me the entire time, and I never saw them for what they really were. A host of valentine inspiration. 

Give these to your literary-minded friend/crush/cute barista/spouse and enjoy. Just make sure to invite me to the wedding, ok? I'll have the chicken.










Need more valentines? Look no further:

Celebrity valentines
TV valentines 
Political valentines
Downton Abbey valentines

2.10.2017

currently, vol. 27



reading: Minding the Manor by Mollie Moran. How's that for an alliterative title? This book is ridiculously good. It's as if Daisy from Downton Abbey had more personality and humor and wrote a memoir of working as a kitchen maid in an English estate. I'm seriously basking in this book I love it so much.

watching: I flounced on my bed Wednesday evening after putting Gracie to bed. It had been a particularly grueling day, and I was in a wretched mood and in need of a distraction. At that moment, Joellen texted me out of the blue and told me to watch Raising Hope on Netflix. I pounded through 4 episodes that night and I'm hooked for life. It's kind of a twisted humor, but it's kept me company and made me laugh while James works in the evenings. But by day? Kitten Party on Amazon Prime. It's literally half an hour of footage of kittens playing in a room while cheeky music plays in the background. It's delightful, minus the songs at the end, and Gracie thinks it's the best thing ever. When James is home, we've been rewatching Parks & Rec. I'm convinced it's 200% funnier the second time around.

cooking: I made this tomato chickpea soup for dinner last night, but I swapped the rosemary for other seasonings. It was pretty good! Gracie ate about three bites, so I consider that a win.

dreaming: Last night I had an insanely vivid dream that James and I bought a 300-year-old bakery in a neighboring town and converted it into a house. It wasn't very suitable for a house, but we made it work, and I convinced the sellers to throw in a box of cannoli (thanks to the red squiggly line, I did a google search and cannoli is the plural form? Not cannolis? I'm not Italian). In other news, I can't stop thinking about cannoli. After we moved in, I opened the blinds in Gracie's room and discovered it was connected to the YMCA pool.

loving: Gracie is obsessed with pointing out everyone's noses, eyes, and ears. She walked up to a kid in the library the other day and tapped him on the nose and said "it's a nose!" She does it to James every morning when he leaves for works, and slips her finger behind his glasses to tap him on the eyes. It's precious. She does it every time we FaceTime my parents, too. She's also obsessed with making soup. She grabs mixing bowls out of the cupboards, fills them with random toys, then stirs it with a spoon and tries to feed it to us. I love watching her little imagination blossom. And don't get me started on the spoon thing. She has to have a spoon with her at all times, including while she sleeps. And she ate a bagel for breakfast yesterday with a spoon. I just really love her.

frustrated by: the belittling of SAHMs.

listening to: Colony House all the time. Lots of dance parties in the car, and let's be honest, on the treadmill when I (hope) no one's looking.

making: valentines! FOR YOU! Yes, you.

missing: sunshine! WHO AM I. It was sunny and 60 on Monday. We spent the whole morning outside, and the sun filled a void in my soul I didn't know I had. All this dreariness has worn me down this year. I might be turning into a sun person.

planning: James and I are supposed to go on a date tomorrow night (the second in 2 years!), but I'm a little concerned. I woke up feeling sick (though I feel a bit better now), and the movie we wanted to see is sold out, so we found it playing at another theater and accidentally bought tickets for the wrong day. We go out so rarely that I feel like the pressure is on to make sure things go well. I'm currently a little nervous.

sniffing: a smidge of marijuana with a lot of air freshener. Whoever's smoking is trying to cover it up some kind of ungodly air freshener that might be even worse than the pot. Now that I think about it, that's probably why I woke up coughing. And probably the cause of my crazy dreams.


What are you up to this weekend? Eat a cannoli for me.

2.06.2017

the best advice I can give is to never do your taxes late at night

I don't know about you, but we like to live it up on Friday nights.

And by that I mean I spent Friday evening watching a BBC documentary on Auschwitz and eating a frozen pizza while James worked. It was a lot more fun than it sounds. Sort of.

James came home bearing gifts in the form of ZzzQuil in hopes that it will cure my long-term insomnia. I took a quarter of a dose since anything in the NyQuil family is known for putting me in a 3 day coma, and while I need to start sleeping again, I can't afford to sleep that much at once. I was finishing a chapter in my current library book, feeling like I might actually fall asleep without struggle, when I heard a loud gasp next to me. I rolled over to discover that James had been lying in bed at 10:30 pm doing our taxes.

Like I said, we're known for living life to the fullest.

Apparently, TurboTax thought we owed the government a sizable amount of money. The effects of the Zzzquil instantly wore off and I felt like I was going to be sick. James was horrified. We went back through every single step. It was all done correctly and still came up with the same dollar amount owed. We resigned ourselves to the fact that we'd never buy a house and we were stuck forever. I went through the process one more time and finally realized we forgot to add Gracie as our dependent, which is funny considering she's been more dependent on me than ever the last few days while teething.

The intensity of the whole experience was so severe that I was running around looking for her social security card because I couldn't for the life of me remember where it was. It happened to be right where it was supposed to be; I was so frazzled I didn't see it the first three times I looked. We entered in all her info and wound up with a refund for almost the same amount we thought we owed.

I'm here to tell you it literally pays to have kids.

I'm also here to tell you to do your taxes during the day when you're well-rested and you've neither worked a 14 hour day nor been under the influence of a sleep-aid.

It was only a 10-15 minute experience, and yet I felt the full range of human emotion. I was so hopped up on adrenaline from solving a tax crisis that I once again couldn't fall asleep. Who said staying home on a Friday night to do taxes isn't a scintillating experience?

On Saturday night, James and I were watching Parks & Rec while Gracie was in bed. We were at the scene where Andy is trying to figure out if he's too old to date April. Tom tells him to take his age, divide it by 2, and then add 7, and that's the minimum age he can date. He's 29, and he couldn't get past trying to divide 29 by two. "It's 36, you idiot," James lovingly chimed in.

"No, he's trying to divide 29 by 2 and then add 7," I explained.

"Oh. Then 19. Duh."

The man who did our taxes, ladies and gentlemen.

In his defense, it was once again past our bedtime and we were slap happy, and maybe I considered pulling out my calculator to divide 29 in half.

Numbers and I have never gotten along well. I tend to ignore them, especially in the form of cookies eaten. Ignorance is bliss.

I think the guy who labels shoes at Nordstrom Rack would beg to differ. I bought Gracie a pair of shoes yesterday for exactly 71% off, according to the sticker on the bottom. Considering that attention to detail, I should hire him to do our taxes next year.