Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Leap Day Musings

I really love Leap Day, and I'm not sure why. I just like quirky dates, I think (hence the 07/07/07 anniversary). My Grandma Trish was born on Leap Day and I remember thinking it was hilarious to wish her a "Happy 16th Birthday" the year she turned 64.

Despite my love for this day, I must admit I'm feeling kind of down. I try to stay fairly positive on this blog, facebook, etc., because I don't want to be a complainer. But, I also feel like I should be honest, and sometimes it's a very thin line to tread between being positive and being fake. I once had a friend tell me that it had taken her a long time to get close to me because she felt like I never was only her complaining. Any family members who are reading this are probably dying laughing; I am not known in my family as being upbeat. I guess that's the issue. I don't really feel comfortable sharing problems until I'm close to someone, but, if you don't share problems, how do you get close? It's an interesting dilemma.

Since that conversation with my friend, I have tried to be a little more open. So, in that spirit, I'm admitting that I just feel blah. In the four years that we've been here, I've gotten progressively more "homesick" with each year. I'm not sure why it gets harder rather than easier. Of course, it doesn't help that four of our best friends have moved away in the past 18 months, and two more will soon. It's been rather lonely here lately.

Well, I feel better having gotten that out. And now you know why there's been somewhat of a dearth of posts in the last year or so. But, I promise not to turn every post into a pity party. I just found out today that Custard Cup opens for the season in 10 days, so you know I will be a happy girl then!

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

February Books

I'm really reading a lot this semester, mostly because I don't have much reading to do for my classes, so all of my bus time is devoted to fun reading. That is one positive about riding the bus. I'm mainly doing these summaries for myself. Posting it on the blog just helps me remember to do it regularly. So thanks for bearing with me. I realize this is probably quite boring. :)

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close
by Jonathan Safran Foer
Darby bought me this book for my Kindle since he knew I wanted to read it. Much of it is told from the perspective of a highly precocious 11-year-old, so it's an interesting read. I loved Everything Is Illuminated, and this reminded me of that book. Both deal with how people cope (or don't cope with tragedy) and both have a kind of magical realism feel. It was a bit of a downer but very beautiful. I really want to see the movie now.

Maisie Dobbs by Jacqueline Winspear
I had heard a lot of good things about this first book in a detective series set in post-WWI Britain, and it did not disappoint. The heroine is incredibly intelligent and truly cares about the people she works with and for. I enjoyed learning more about World War I (Maisie was a nurse). I look forward to reading more books in this series.

Misquoting Jesus by Bart Ehrman
Darby and I have both become interested in the history of the Bible (that is, how we came to have the form of the Bible we have today, not the historical accuracy of the Bible, although that's another interesting subject). This book explores some of the changes that were made to manuscripts of the Bible by scribes, especially those changes that appear to have been intentional. It was very interesting to read about how controversies of the day might have shaped the text we currently have. Some people view this kind of research as antithetical to faith, but I don't. (In fact, the author was a believer when he wrote the book, though he has since, for different reasons, become agnostic). I would like to read more on this topic from different perspectives.

Meant to Be by Walter Anderson
The author of this memoir found out as an adult that the abusive man who raised him was not his biological father. His quest to find out more about his real father and his Jewish heritage is compelling and sincere. A very quick, uplifting read.

A Friend of the Family by Lauren Grodstein
I think this was a free (or cheap) Kindle offering. While engrossing, I wouldn't recommend it. It's pretty dark and ended rather negatively.

Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe
This one's been on my shelf for a long time. I always buy "classics" and then put off reading them, expecting them to be a bit dry. This story was very engrossing, though; I particularly enjoyed learning more about Nigerian culture. It raises interesting issues related to colonialism and forced assimilation.

Organized Simplicity by Tsh Oxenreider (not a misspelling, Tsh is really her first name)
I'm really into self-improvement blogs/books right now. This one had a lot of practical tips for simplifying your routine and making your home a welcoming, stress-free place. While it's mainly directed at people with kids, it did inspire me to do some decluttering around here.

Monday, February 20, 2012


In spite of the fact that Darby majored in physics and I majored in English, he is the more creative one. This became even more clear to me this morning, when we each described the dreams we had last night.

Me: I dreamed that I was trying to help someone prepare to take the written section of the driver's exam (something that I have done in the past). They didn't get it, and it was really frustrating.

Darby: I dreamed that we went on a trip with the president of Iran. He stole some old-school Nintendo cartridges and was trying to smuggle them back to Iran because he had stored some data on them. Then, he held us hostage. He was drinking one of those little cartons of milk, so I squeezed on the sides until it exploded on him. Then, I poured the rest of it into his suitcase to ruin the Nintendo cartridges. I hate that guy.

Our dreams are always like that. I dream something totally normal, albeit frustrating, and Darby dreams something totally ridiculous. I'm not even creative in my dreams! (Well, except for my crazy sleep-talking episodes.)

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Happy Valentine's Day!

This year, we got to celebrate Valentine's Day several times. My parents sent us a Starbucks gift card, so on Saturday night we went on a little Starbucks date. Since we already had plans for tonight, we had our Valentine's dinner at home on Sunday night. I made pesto chicken stuffed shells (I adapted the recipe and covered the shells with this guiltless alfredo sauce before baking), bruschetta, and Caesar salad. The shells were delicious. I highly recommend the recipe. For dessert, I made this Oreo-crusted white chocolate mousse tart. I made a mistake while reading the recipe and accidentally added too much white chocolate to the filling. It was still good but a little on the sweet side, even for me. It's best to eat with coffee, so there's something to cut the sweetness. We ate our "romantic" meal on our TV trays while watching Downton Abbey (our newest Netflix obsession). I did manage to at least change out of my Christmas pajama pants before eating, so I haven't totally given up on romance. ;)

Tuesday nights are my usual women's Bible study tonight. We didn't want to completely cancel, so Billie invited all of us and our husbands to dinner. Dick made his famous lasagna, and I contributed a red velvet cake roll. It was wonderful to spend the evening talking and playing games with some of our favorite people.

Casey, Matt, Kim, Erin, Billie, Dick, Will, and Darby

I've always loved Valentine's Day, because I don't think it has to just be about romantic love. It's fun to celebrate with friends and family, too. Although, I will admit, I was happy to receive my traditional single rose from Darby when I picked him up from the lab this evening. He's a keeper.

And the Valentine's fun will just keep going. Darby's parents sent us some Valentine's Day money, so we're going to go out to eat sometime soon. Yay!

I didn't get cards made this year. I hope I'll be back on track next year. Hope you all had a wonderful day and at the very least used the excuse to eat copious amounts of chocolate!

Friday, February 10, 2012

Super Bowl

I'm a little late in posting this and, sadly, I forgot to take any pictures of the night, but I like to write at least a little something about big events, so indulge me. :) For the Super Bowl, we invited a bunch of people from my program over to "watch the game" (i.e., eat a lot and stop talking long enough to see the commercials). A lot of people turned out, so it was a little bit crowded but very fun. I enjoyed making a bunch of snacks, including a brownie swirl cheesecake. I forgot to take a picture of the whole cake, but here's one of the pieces. I thought it turned out very pretty---and there was no huge crack down the middle. Yay!

It was a fun evening. And, since there are a lot of international students in my program, it was several people's first Super Bowl party. I hope we did this American tradition proud.

Wednesday, February 01, 2012

January Books

I decided I'd like to start keeping a record of the books I read. My memory for books/movies is so bad that I often can't remember whether I liked a book, or even if I've read it. So, I thought I would do a brief review of each of the books I read at the end of the month. I normally don't read this many books in a month, but schoolwork hasn't really ramped up yet.

The Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins
I had heard really good things about this series and decided to go for it over the break when I knew I'd have a lot of time to read. I absolutely loved the first book, really liked the second, and thought the third was only so-so. But, overall, the series was great. The characters are very relatable, and it brings up interesting ideas about sacrifice, free will, and our addiction to reality TV. I think the third book falls apart when the focus changes from a character-driven story that takes place in the future to a more traditional, plot-heavy science fiction story.

Eat That Frog: 21 Great Ways to Stop Procrastinating and Get More Done in Less Time by Brian Tracy
This was offered for $0.99 on Kindle, and I thought it might help with my word of the year: "discipline." Like most self-improvement books, it was a bit repetitive and had a lot of common-sense ideas. But, it was a quick read and I think worth the time for the few really interesting ideas in it. It certainly inspired me to try to curb my insane multi-tasking.

51/50: The Magical Adventures of a Single Life by Kristen McGuiness
This was offered for free on the Kindle, and it seemed like it would be right up my alley. I love memoirs, especially ones about crazy life experiments. In this one, the author decided to go on 51 dates in 50 days in order to hopefully find her life partner. While it was interesting and funny in parts, the author's worldview was just too different from mine (she's way into mysticism) for me to get into it. Additionally, in her attempts to overcome her lack of confidence, I think she became over-confident. She expresses the idea that she didn't fit in in Texas because she "thinks too much." Boo. I don't think Texas wants her. ;)

The Marriage Bureau for Rich People
This is a book that I borrowed from my dad a while ago and just got around to reading. The back cover says, "If Jane Austen had been lucky enough to set foot in modern-day India, she would have written [this book]," and I completely agree. Like Austen's books, it offers a strong critique of the status quo but does so through lovable characters and an ultimate happy ending. I would describe it as "light" but certainly not "fluffy." The influence of Indian English is obvious in both the dialogue and the narration, which was interesting for me to read as an ESL teacher.

The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell
I cannot believe that this book has been sitting neglected on my shelf for years. When I finally began it, I finished in a matter of days. It is about a group of Jesuit priests and scientists who make first contact with alien life on another planet. It is such a smart, compelling, and heartbreaking story. And it offered a very challenging perspective on the nature of faith and doubt, the problem of pain, and the level of God's involvement in day-to-day life. Highly recommended.

The Sacredness of Questioning Everything by David Dark
I agree strongly with the premise of this book: that we should always be questioning our religious beliefs and not be satisfied with trite answers. However, I found the stream-of-consciousness style of the author hard to follow. And, while he claims to be apolitical, he obviously equates liberal political views with true Christianity, which I think can be just as dangerous as the opposite view. Ultimately, the philosophy that everything should be questioned falls apart. How can one even say that everything should be questioned without questioning that statement? So, while I agreed with much of what the author said, I found the book impractical.

Running by Patrice Fitzgerald
This was another Kindle freebie. It is about a presidential race between two female candidates, centered around a blackmail scandal. The main character is very likable, and it is definitely a page-turner (or page-toucher, hee-hee). But, the criticism of our current political system, especially the Tea Party, was not subtle enough and definitely too one-sided for my taste. Probably not worth your time.