Monday, July 27, 2009

Things I'm Enjoying Right Now

1. Arrested Development: We borrowed the series from our friends, Laine and Adam, and just started watching it a lot the past few weeks. We're still on Season 1, but we really like it so far. It's also a fave of Marissa's, so I don't know why it took me so long.
2. Exercising: I resurrected my Polar HRM the other day and I'm really enjoying kicking into high gear. I've been taking Les Mills' BodyPump class at my gym for a little more than two months now and I really love that as well.
3. Makeup: This is a relatively new and minor thing, but I'm trying to relearn how to wear makeup again. I don't have a lot of the basic tools (brushes and things) or the basic skills (liquid liner still is not my friend), but I'm enjoying it so far. I'm trying to take better care of my skin as well.
4. Cooking: I decided about a week ago that Ryan and I were going to avoid shopping until August. I figured two weeks would be enough time to deplete our well-stocked pantry a bit. It's been fun cooking a bit more again. So far I've made steak, honey mustard chicken and blueberry pancakes.

Book #32: Columbine

Columbine Columbine by Dave Cullen

My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Amazingly, Dave Cullen was able to cut through hundreds of thousands — maybe millions? — of paperwork to write the authoritative journalistic work on Columbine shootings. From the first page, this book was riveting. Cullen breaks down the hysteria and misconceptions surrounding Columbine. He tells the stories of that day (and the ones before and after) so well. I think this book is a must-read for any journalist, educator or historian.

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Sunday, July 26, 2009

Book #31: Made in America

Sam Walton: Made In America Sam Walton: Made In America by Sam Walton

My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Sam Walton's book was much more pleasant to read than I thought it would be. Written in the years before his death, the book gives a brief history of Wal-Mart and also serves as an ode to Walton's self-made principles. I felt that a large part of the book was spent answering his critics — those who called him cheap and who thought Wal-Mart could have treated their employees better — and at times the book came off as defensive.

I grew up going to Wal-Mart (Wally World as my mom still calls it whenever we're in Great Bend) and now I live in Wal-Mart's playground, so it was interesting (and humbling) to see how the company came to fruition. I was also surprised to learn that the Topeka store that my family frequented when I was in high school was one of only two HyperMart concept stores in the country.

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Saturday, July 25, 2009

Yummo

I told the hub that I would make dinner tonight, so I went digging around in our treasure trove of a freezer and came up with about 1.3 pounds of frozen sirloin. Yea! I was so excited because we're trying to make it until August without grocery shopping (beyond the perishable essentials) and I was sure a bland chicken dinner was in my future.

Ry and I really like steak, but because we are a grill-less home, we usually make ours stovetop-style. We do have a Foreman, but that sucker that I just had.to.have. has been put away in a cabinet for years.

But a friend changed all of that when he printed me out his go-to recipe for steak cooked indoors:

Sirloin Steak
Recipe courtesy Alton Brown
Prep Time: 2 min
Inactive Prep Time: 5 min
Cook Time: 16 min
Level: Easy
Serves: 4 servings
Ingredients
1 1/2 pounds sirloin steak, 1 to 1 1/4-inches thick
2 teaspoons olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Instructions
Preheat oven on broiler setting. Make foil 'snake' out of aluminum foil to use to keep oven door slightly ajar so that broiler won't turn off if it gets too hot. Brush steak with oil and salt and pepper, to taste. Place a piece of foil on the bottom rack as a drip pan. Place another rack in the position above this and put the steak directly on this rack. Cook steak in this position for 5 minutes. Flip steak and cook for another 5 minutes. Move rack with steak to top position in oven, moving rack with foil and drippings just underneath, and cook for 3 minutes. Flip 1 last time and cook for another 3 minutes. Transfer steak to wire rack and rest for 3 to 5 minutes. The above times are for medium doneness. Adjust cooking times up or down as desired.
The steaks came out wonderful and juicy. I served it with some steamed asparagus, salad and my favorite frozen rolls. We also finally cracked open the bottle of wine I brought home from Israel. (Proof that we're not big drinkers — that bottle has been sitting on my countertop since my return in March.)

It was my first time using my broiler, but it was so easy that it might have to become a regular addition to my very limited repertoire. The only downside to using the broiler was that it made throwing in my favorite rolls a la Pillsbury a little more difficult. I think next time I'll cut down the cook time because the steaks came out well-done (perfect for Ryan, but not so much me).

The rest of the weekend is going to be spent cleaning and working out (me) and working in the yard and studying (him). It's catchup weekend I guess.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Book #26-30: Emily Giffin books

There is something satisfying about knowing you have read all an author's books. Even if she's only written four: Something Borrowed, Something Blue, Baby Proof and Love the One You're With.

The past few weeks I have been devouring Emily Giffin's books. Every time I go to Borders, I seemed to be drawn to her books' covers (I guess I do judge a book by its cover). Finally, I gave in and picked up two of her books at my library and reserved the other two.

It's not that her books are fantastic. What they are is tried-and-true chick lit. They're all set in New York. The protagonists all have to-die-for careers. Etc. Etc. I did like that for the most part the protagonists are all very much adult. These aren't characters who live *fabulous* New York lives. For the most part, the protagonists are very relatable and easy to root for.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Book #25: The Ladies Auxiliary

The Ladies Auxiliary (Ballantine Reader's Circle) The Ladies Auxiliary by Tova Mirvis

My review

rating: 4 of 5 stars
I read this book as part of my book club at the synagogue. It is a story of a widow from New York who upon the death of her husband decided to return to the small Orthodox community in which he was raised — Memphis. To make the story even more complex, she is a convert.

The story is very much a fish out of water story mixed with social commentary. Batsheva, the outsider, is a free spirit, who doesn't exactly follow the rules to the letter of the law. She interprets them in her own way and finds inner meaning in whatever way she can. The women of the community are taken aback by many of her practices. (For example, she continues to use the mikveh even though as a widow the practice is irrelevant.)

My favorite part of the book was not in particular passage or story, but the way it was told. The author used a rare collective first person narrative — the women of the community. This mechanism gave the book an organic feel. You felt like you were watching Batsheva from behind the curtains as well.

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Thursday, June 11, 2009

Book #24: The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox

The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox by Maggie O'Farrell

My review

rating: 4 of 5 stars
This is a great, moving book that kept me enamored till the shocking end. This novel reminded me of one of my all-time favorite books, The Awakening. The message, the writing style, the theme remind me so much of Kate Chopin's greatest work.

This belongs in the small category of "books that aren't predictable."

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Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Book #23: Certain Girls

Certain Girls Certain Girls by Jennifer Weiner

My review

rating: 3 of 5 stars
I picked up this book at the library because I've read most of Jennifer Weiner's books. And as most you know, once I start a list I have a hard time letting go until I conquer it. Little did I know (really! I swear!) that this book was about a mother and daughter struggling through the planning of the latter's bat mitzvah (and other related issues).

This book was OK for me. If I hadn't found the subject matter personally interesting, I would have given it a lower rating.

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Thursday, May 28, 2009

Book #22: Water for Elephants

Water for Elephants Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen

My review

rating: 4 of 5 stars

I almost gave this five stars, and then I decided to pull back a bit. I think I might overdo it on the reviews sometimes. I don't think books should get five stars unless I feel the need to press it into someone's hands or tell someone it will be required reading someday.

But this is one of those books you just can't put down. I started reading this book in the Belize airport and finished it about 15 hours later after I got ready for my flight out of DFW in the morning.

I was instantly drawn in by the narrator. I was surprised that a female writer was using a male narrator, but she did a great job creating the character and making him totally believable.

It's a rarity, but I really enjoyed the how the author told the story from the narrator's perspective in his 20s and then in his 90s. Maybe because I have a soft spot in my heart for old guys.

I loved the author's voice in this book, and I loved how she used real-life events (or at least what are believed to be real-life events) throughout the book. When I read the author's note after the fact it made the book all the more charming.

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Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Book #21: A Tale of Love and Darkness

A Tale of Love and Darkness A Tale of Love and Darkness by Amos Oz

My review

rating: 4 of 5 stars
Thanks to my honeymoon I finally finished this book. And even then it took nearly the entire trip.

I received this book as a birthday present prior to my depart for my first-ever trip to Israel in March. My friend promised it would be good and the book had great reviews. I admit I had never heard of Amos Oz before reading the book, but I am not well-versed in Israeli culture.

I wanted to like this book from the get-go. I was excited to use it as a window into Israeli life. But I hit numerous speed bumps on the way that made me put the book down several times.

Oz's writing style, while melodic and moving, made it hard to follow at first. The story is not linear, but starts in one place, then jogs back several decades, then forward, then back again. Several time he even repeats anecdotes but in different ways. The story finally ends somewhere in the middle at a true tipping point in his life.

This is a must-reread for me as I did so many starts and stops with it — more than two months' worth. By the end of the book I was smiling, truly fascinated.

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Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Book #20: The 19th Wife

The 19th Wife, 15 Cds [Unabridged Library Edition] The 19th Wife, 15 Cds [Unabridged Library Edition] by David Ebershoff

My review

rating: 3 of 5 stars
I loved this book a lot at first. I got the audiobook from the library to make a long journey bearable. This audiobook is loooooong. Fifteen discs unabridged so be prepared for a journey.

Like I said, the book was great at first. I was enraptured, not wanting to get to my final destination. The story goes back and forth between the present set in a fundamentalist polygamous sect in fictional Mesadale, Utah, to the origins of the Mormon church and the story of Brigham Young real-life 19th wife. The author weaves in research of a college student at BYU to connect the two.

As with all books that are set in two different eras, I eventually grew weary of one part of the plot and just wanted to finish up the other. I didn't feel like the author totally tied up the story well enough at the end to make the long journey back and forth between the two worth the wait.

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Monday, May 25, 2009

You Better Belize It!

So this morning Ryan and I finally made our way back from our much-delayed honeymoon to Belize.

It's hard to remember how we ended up at Almond Beach near Hopkins, Belize. I think I remember Ryan and I were frustrated at the lack of funding and American Airlines flights available to Europe. Greece and Italy (either not both) were our first choices of honeymoon destinations, but with the economy still declining daily, the notion of taking the most expensive trip of our lives during a time the dollar was worth practically nothing didn't sit well with us.

To cheer Ryan up, I started searching the Web for popular destinations for the months of April and May. Belize came up frequently. I mentioned it to Ryan, who thought I was crazy. (I think mostly because he had never heard of it — he may deny that but I'm pretty sure it's true.) Truth be told, I had to look at a map to clarify its location.

When I finally got Ryan on board, I let Trip Advisor do the work. Almond Beach got great reviews, and the price was right (or close enough). It was one of the few resorts I found that was truly all-inclusive. House beer, wine and cocktails and gratuities were included. Our "Ultimate Honeymoon" package also included all of our meals, almost exclusively private tours, access to a car for two days, golf carts, bicycles, several spa treatments, $100 credit at the gift shop and a fabulous beachfront casita. Our room featured a king-sized bed, large bathroom with a big shower, a private outdoor shower and a nice veranda right on the beach. Also included in our package was the option of having all of our dinners privately on our veranda, which we took advantage of three times.

We arrived at the Belize City international airport on Sunday. It is no bigger than the Northwest Arkansas airport. Because our next flight was domestic, we went to a very small check-in that was humid, noisy and grimy. Our gate was just a series of benches and our view was a bunch of small propeller planes. I was nervous, so I popped a few of the anti-anxiety pills I had convinced my gynecologist to give me for this very occasion.

The flight itself was smoother than our American Airlines trip on the 737. We took a Cessna 208, 12-seater, to Dangriga, about a 15-minute flight. We were scheduled to arrive at the Dangriga airport, but because of ongoing work on that airstrip we landed at a private airstrip that was not much more than years-old asphalt in the middle of the jungle. The "terminal" consisted of two tarps set up around a few trucks. The attendants were playing cards as we landed.

We were quickly ushered into a old van (complete with tape deck) and were transferred 45 minutes to our resort. The drive was bumpy to say the least and our driver swerved every few minutes to avoid potholes on the two-lane highway. We finally pulled onto a red-dirt road that led through Hopkins and to our resort.

My first site of Hopkins was eye-opening, but not all that surprising. Hopkins is a beach village of about 1,200 people (though the locals claim that children must not be counted in that number). Most of them work at nearby resorts, in neighboring citrus fields or by selling souvenirs, food and other things to travelers out of their homes. Most of the houses are built on stilts and have survived almost annual floods. Some of them are painted bright colors; others haven't been touched in years. The town is full of character, with signs for souvenir shops "dis way" and lots of little drum and karaoke bars with sand for the floor. Our guide told us they'd only gotten electricity there within the last 20 years.

We arrived at the resort (at last) right before dinner. It gave us enough time to settle in, take lots of photos of the room and sip on our welcome drink, a Belizean Breeze. We had our first meal on our veranda in our robes with champagne, which was a welcome gift for honeymooners. Between the anti-anxiety pills, the welcome drink and the champagne, we were ready for bed by 9 p.m., which was nearly the latest we would stay up all week long.

We spent Monday lounging around and avoiding our first (and thank goodness only) rain storm of Belize's "wet season." We were awake by 6 a.m., and instead of going back to bed we deposited ourselves under the hut out in front of our room. We laid out and read until it was time for my manicure and pedicure and Ryan's massage. The day was finished with napping, reading and pool time.

Tuesday was the first of our many excursions. We took a private tour with Cipi to the Mayan ruins near the border with Guatemala. When I say private, I really mean a double date, because Cipi brought along his girlfriend who had just had her appendix out. He thought she needed the exercise, he said, because village life was getting to her.

We drove nearly two and a half hours in a Mercedes Benz van (again with a tape deck) that lacked an interior door handle. The route was almost entirely paved, but also was riddled with potholes. We took Hummingbird Highway most of the way through the mountains. Cipi said (I think jokingly) that the highway got its name from the tankers and tractor-trailers "humming" up and down the mountains. We saw a lot of the country this way. Schoolhouses overflowing with children clothed in uniforms. Amish men with their watermelons and donkeys. Acres of citrus tree and scores of hurricane shelters.

The trip was exhausting but the destination was worth it. We first went to Cahal Pech, which were pre-classic ruins near the city of San Ignacio. Activity there is thought to go back to 900 BCE. Excavation continues there yearly. We took a quick lunch at a local rice and beans joint where we sat below the fan on a sweltering day. Then we went to Xunantunich and climbed El Castillo, which is about 130 feet. From the top we saw into Guatemala. That ruins site was active from about 200 to 900, so the structures were more intact.

Wednesday brought the most challenging day of our trip. We hiked to Antelope Falls in the Mayflower National Park near our resort. It was a strenuous hike. The ascent took about an hour and we had to use ropes to climb steep areas. The journey was rewarded with a refreshing waterfall pool at the top. The waterfall is about 100 feet tall. Ryan climbed some rock with our guide and dove in from about 15 feet up. I found the descent nearly as challenging because I'm not too coordinated. We didn't see many wild animals, but we did see fresh jaguar paws.

As a reward, we took Thursday off but we still got up very early. We set our alarm for 4:45 a.m. and kayaked out onto the sea for a look at the beautiful sunrise. We were kind of disappointed because a cloud delayed the sunrise for a bit, but it was still beautiful. We spent the rest of the day napping and sunning.

After dinner, we went with a few couples to King Kassava's bar in the nearby village for drumming and apparently watching the Lakers-Nuggets game on a tiny television in the corner. We had a good time visiting with the locals and getting to know the other guests better. Another couple had just married at the resort the day before so they treated the outing as their reception and the drummers played celebratory songs for them. Karaoke was promised, but because the game was on that didn't materialize. I don't think Ryan minded.

On Friday we went zip lining and cave tubing at Jaguar Paw Resort, which was about a two-hour drive. This time we went with a large group, which was a lot of fun and made the long drive not so monotonous. We at first weren't going to go zip lining out of fear, but a couple we met early in the week went their first day at the resort and they convinced us it was worth it to get over our fears. They were totally right. This was above and beyond my favorite excursion on the trip. We had seven platforms and five passes. Most of the passes were no longer than 10 seconds. The scariest part was the 50-foot drop at the end.

The cave tubing was a bit of a letdown because the river was low and we had to do a lot of paddling. I struggled because I was in a large tube and my wingspan wasn't really made for paddling for an hour. On the trip we passed through Belmopan, which has been the capital city since hurricanes proven deadly to the coastal Belize City.

On Friday night, we stayed up late in the "not so hot" tub with friends and Belikins, the local beer. On our trip we met couples (every one of them had married within the last week) from Warsaw, Ind., Charleston, S.C., Valdez, Alaska, Charlotte, N.C., Toronto and Fresno, Calif.

Saturday we had our last excursion. Our guide took us about 15 miles off the shore to snorkel. Belize is home to the second-largest continuous coral reef in the world, the Belize Barrier Reef. We saw lots of fish, schools of sergeant majors and even a barracuda, and some beautiful coral.

When we returned we spent the afternoon at the spa to finish up the last of our credit. I had orange blossom wrap and cucumber facial and Ryan had another massage and a facial. Afterward we spent the rest of the afternoon at the pool and then had a large dinner with friends. We stayed up late again (about 11 p.m.) playing Phase 10 on a nearby veranda. We had a good time with all of the couples we met. I think meeting new people really added to our honeymoon.

We woke up early on our last day to have an early breakfast, some pool time, pack and have lunch before we left. Cipi took us back to the "airstrip" and Ryan got to fly up front with the pilot.

And just like that we were back in Belize City, ready to board our flight from DFW. And this is the end of the longest blog post in the history of Baleboosteh in Training.

Click here, here, here, here, and here for more photos.

Check out video of me zip lining here:

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Book #19: Chasing Harry Winston

Chasing Harry Winston: A Novel Chasing Harry Winston: A Novel by Lauren Weisberger

My review

rating: 3 of 5 stars
I prefer Weisberger's Everyone Worth Knowing to this latest book.

At first I was pretty sure I was going to hate this book. The characters didn't appeal to me and I didn't find the trio believable as best friends.

I warmed to the storyline eventually, however. Weisberger is definitely not to make you think, but I chuckled a few times and thought the book had its moments. Some of the moments seemed "borrowed" straight out of Sex and the City. Good thing I liked SATC, I guess.

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Sunday, May 10, 2009

Book #18: A Christmas Carol

Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol : With 45 Lost Gustave Dore Engravings (1861) and 130 Other Victorian Illustrations Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol : With 45 Lost Gustave Dore Engravings (1861) and 130 Other Victorian Illustrations by Charles Dickens

My review

rating: 3 of 5 stars
I had forgotten how much I enjoyed Charles Dickens and how witty his prose was. I chose this book because it is on the MLA Must-Read List. It was the shortest Dickens' work on the list, so I figured it was the place to start. I hadn't read Dickens since high school (Hard Times) and his writing style was now unfamiliar to me.

I can't say I loved this book, but I did enjoy it. The story is well-known to most of us, so it was interesting to read the original version. Next Dickens books on the list are Great Expectations and David Cooperfield.

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Friday, May 8, 2009

Book #17: City of Thieves

Note: I promise someday I will actually blog about something that doesn't involved reading...

City of Thieves City of Thieves by David Benioff

My review

rating: 5 of 5 stars
I really loved this book. It was compelling from the get-go. It is a war novel that manages to have a charm about it.

It is the story of an unlikely pair, a Red Army deserter/lothario and a Jewish boy/virgin, who are on an equally unlikely quest into German territory. It is a crass book — filled with gruesome images of cannibalism, rape, torture and murder — but the images are at home in this book. The crass candor of the author gives the novel a touch of realism to balance out the unlikely charming relationship that blossoms between the pair and their cohorts along their journey.

I picked up this book at the library, but wish I had purchased it so I could loan it out among friends.

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Monday, May 4, 2009

Book #16: Angels & Demons

Angels & Demons Angels & Demons by Dan Brown

My review

rating: 2 of 5 stars
I have a hard time giving a book a bad review, because if I really hated the book I wouldn't have finished it. I'm usually good at deciding whether to invest in a book. I read a lot of reviews first (both lay readers and "the experts") because I don't want to waste my time.

That said, I only moderately enjoyed this book. I actually didn't set out to read this book. I saw the preview for the movie, and when I was at the library last week, I randomly checked the shelves to see it was there. I figured it wouldn't be, because I'm still used to the avid readers in Johnson County (outside of Kansas City) who keep popular books checked out for months. But apparently in Springdale this isn't the case, because sure enough it was there.

I have been struggling with my reading lately, so I figured some pop literature would be just the pick-me-up. So I picked it up and fell right back into Dan Brown's formulaic writing style. This book is basically a rough draft of The Da Vinci code, his more recent and more popular work. It's the same character and the supporting characters are "different" but the same basic characterization.

The ending was trite, and reading the book made me not want to invest the $8 to see the movie.

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Book #15: 1776

1776 1776 by David McCullough

My review

rating: 3 of 5 stars
I will never again to attempt to listen to a narrative history book on long car trips. It just didn't work.

I think some of McCullough's greatness must have been lost in the edit of this book, which I've always heard great things about. I have a feeling I might like his other books that focus on individual characters much better. Maybe it was because I hadn't recently studied revolutionary history or because I was distracted by, you know, driving, but I found it hard to keep all of the players in this book straight.

I'm adding this to my "I probably should re-read this at another time" pile.

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Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Book #14: The Wednesday Letters

The Wednesday Letters The Wednesday Letters by Jason F. Wright

My review


rating: 1 of 5 stars
I read this book in about four hours. The ease of this book is not an endorsement.

The characterization and foreshadowing in this book is about as subtle as an episode of Murder She Wrote. You know what is going to happen and what roles the characters are going to play chapters in advance. Subtle this author is not.

And the end was not satisfying. It was abrupt and unrealistic and left me with a bad taste in my mouth. The book turned into a story focused on forgiveness and morals. It was a little too syrupy for my cynical psyche.

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Saturday, April 18, 2009

Book #13: Those Who Save Us

Those Who Save Us Those Who Save Us by Jenna Blum

My review

rating: 4 of 5 stars
Hmmm. I wish I could give this more like 3.5 stars.

I read this book for a book club that women of my synagogue are starting. It is our initial book. Once I realized the book was written from the perspective of Germans during the Holocaust in Weimar I was a bit confused by the choice, but continued on with an open mind. The author is a German Jew.

Overall I enjoyed the book. It is definitely a page turner and a fast read for anyone who loves to devote a few hours to reading at a time. I just never felt like I really got behind the two protagonists — a German woman who was in her early 20s during World War II and her daughter who was born during that time. No other characters are really developed. As the supporting cast comes in and out of their lives, I was left wanting to know more about them and their fates, but the author didn't answer many of my questions. When she did, it was perfunctory and without much elaboration.

By the end of the book — the climax of which I thought was a little hasty — I had decided it was a good choice for our book club, though I wish the author had the characters delve a bit more into their Jewish origins and relationships.

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Thursday, April 16, 2009

Book #12: The Faith Club

The Faith Club: A Muslim, A Christian, A Jew--Three Women Search for Understanding The Faith Club: A Muslim, A Christian, A Jew--Three Women Search for Understanding by Ranya Idliby

My review

rating: 4 of 5 stars
I saw this book in the general religion section at Borders and immediately knew I'd like the book. Since my conversion, comparative religion seems like a natural interest to me. Not only do I love learning about the nuances with Judaism, but I love to learn about the differences in other faiths as well. The book is told through the perspectives of three very different women — a Catholic-turned-Episcopal from Kansas City, a Palestinian-born modern Muslim and a Boston-born Jewish artist.

It is easy to stereotype people because of their faith. I find myself doing it in my daily life. It's something we all do whether we want to cop to it or not. I loved that this book featured three REAL women who were willing to talk about their stereotypes of each others' faiths and break down so many walls in the process.

My only beef with this book was the Jewish author. I think Priscilla is like a lot of Jewish women — at least of the ones I know. She culturally identifies herself as a Jew, but when it comes to the issue of theology she is unsure. She even goes further to question her ties to Israel itself. While I think these are common traits for the average Jewish woman (and I'm glad to see it represented in some way), I did not like that out of the three women she was clearly the weakest in her faith. Throughout the book she seemed to assimilate the most — going so far as to call Jesus "her friend" and called herself "born again."

Now, I do think it's intriguing that a Christian woman and a Muslim woman were able to bring a Jewish woman closer to G-d. But I worry that the book paints Jews as people of rote traditions and lacking emotional connections to their religion.

Of course, the idea of this book is to break down stereotypes, so maybe I'm not giving the average reader enough credit. I'd love for more people to read this book and see what they think.

My favorite line of the book is actually a quote from Gandhi: "A rose does not need to preach. It simply spreads its fragrance."

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Book #11: Beloved

Beloved Beloved by Toni Morrison

My review

rating: 4 of 5 stars
I really wanted to love this book, but I can't say I got there.

It wasn't what the book was lacking, I believe, that kept me from loving this book but what I was lacking. This is a kind of book so rich with symbolism, metaphor and allegory that it requires several minds (or at least one more adept than mine) to permeate its layers. It's the kind of book that should be read with a literature teacher close at hand — or at the VERY least a friend who will bounce around crazy ideas about double meanings.

This is my second Toni Morrison novel. I read my first, Song of Solomon, in my AP English class at Washburn Rural. I needed that kind of dialogue to really enjoy this book. The minute I finished the book I started frantically searching for any articles I could find on the book's symbolism and the connotations of Morrison's word choice. But perhaps I'm just a little over analytical and can't enjoy a book for what it is on its surface — a good story.

I did however enjoy reading the book, and once my mind got used to Morrison's cadence I enjoyed the way the prose strung from image to image.

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Friday, April 10, 2009

Book 10: The Boy in the Striped Pajamas

The Boy in the Striped Pajamas The Boy in the Striped Pajamas by John Boyne

My review

rating: 4 of 5 stars
I really liked the book and I think anyone who is interested in the Holocaust should carve out a few hours of their time and digest this book in one big gulp.

My mother-in-law had mentioned this book to me right around the time the movie came out. It wasn't really on my radar at first, but when I returned from Israel I really wanted to dive deeper through books. We went to Yad Vashem in Jerusalem so I really wanted to learn more about the Holocaust. I have read Anne Frank and Night by Elie Wiesel, but I hadn't read any other narrative accounts.

While this is obviously fiction, but the fact that it was told from a young German boy's perspective was interesting. The Book Thief is also told from that perspective, but the protagonist in that story is from a family of sympathizers. Bruno's father is actually in charge of Auschwitz and he lives just outside the camp's tall fence.

It's hard to say I enjoyed this book because it was so tragic, but it truly was a fulfilling read. You have to be able to suspend your judgment a bit as you read this book. I also found the author's notes and the interview with the author in the back of my edition worth the read. He explains his reasoning behind a lot of the story.

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Sunday, April 5, 2009

For all that is holy...

Remember this?

That star is still there. What is the worst thing that could happen if I take it down for them and put it somewhere for safekeeping?

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Sorry for the silence.

But when you write 81 pages in your journal, you kind of feel like you have nothing left to say. Believe me, for a former Chatty Cathy, this is kind of a new phenomenon. But I have photos, and hopefully these will speak for themselves. Sorry for the lack of captions, but I'll give you a quick overview of my trip, and you can figure it out from there.

Wednesday — We travel about 14 hours from JFK to Zurich to Tel Aviv. We arrive on Thursday, do a few icebreakers and hit the sack. Well, I did at least.
Friday — We went to Tsfat, one of the four holy cities. We met with a Kabbalist from Detroit. We also went to a winery near the Lebanese border. We had Shabbat dinner.
Saturday — After Shabbat we did havdalah and then went to Tiberias for a night out.
Sunday – We went hiking in the Golan Heights. We then went to a military bunker and met the soldiers and students for the first time.
Monday — We went to a kibbutz, had lunch in a small town and then went to a Beduoin tent. We rode camels and then went to another small town for a Purim service.
Tuesday — Early morning hiking up Musada at sunrise. Long Day — wading in a natural spring, bouncing in the Dead Sea and then driving to Tel Aviv for dinner and sleep after an activity.
Wednesday — We visited Ben-Gurion's home, heard an awesome lecture on current Israeli politics and conflicts, went the Tel Aviv market and fashion district and visit Rabin Square. We went to a restaurant and had sharshuka and then went to Purim party/concert with a bunch of other Birthright groups. We drove to Jerusalem after the party and arrived at our final hostel at 1 a.m.
Thursday — Day in the Old City. Lunch in the Jewish Quarter. We visited the wailing wall. We said good-bye to some of our soldier and student friends. That night we started discussing the Holocaust.
Friday – We went to Yad Voshem and Mount Herzl cemetery. After that we went to a shuk and then had Shabbat dinner. We stayed up pretty late that night because it was our last in the hostel.
Saturday — We slept in quite a bit and spent the day packing and doing our final activities. We had havdalah and then went to an Israeli barbecue place. We spent our last night shopping and going out around Ben Yehuda street. Then we drove straight to Tel Aviv and got on a plane.

The End. Enjoy the pictures.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

A quick tease.

I'm back and too overwhelmed to share much, but here's a little something to keep you coming back for more.


Tuesday, March 3, 2009

On my way....!

My bag is checked, kisses were exchanged and shoes were scanned. I'm
sitting at XNA awaiting the first leg of my trip. It'll go something
like XNA>DET>LGA>Brooklyn>JFK>GEN>TEL. I can't believe what started
out as a random thought is only a few minutes away.

I'll try to update, but unless there is wireless access I will be
iPhone-less for the first time in months!

Expect one more update tomorrow!

Sent from my iPhone

Saturday, February 28, 2009

Pack what you can carry...

Yeah right.

Packing List

Know that it can be rainy, snowy and as cold as 40°F in Israel during the winter. You are allowed to check two pieces of luggage (maximum of 50 lbs. and 62 inches [L + W + H]) and carry-on one piece of luggage (maximum of 45inches [L + W + H]), however we strongly suggest coming with one suitcase and an empty small duffle to expand into as you travel and shop. We will be traveling to several hotels around Israel throughout the trip. A good guideline – don’t bring more than you can comfortably carry up one flight of stairs on your own.

Required items:

  • Backpack for daily use (this will be your carryon for the airplane)
  • Sunscreen (minimum SPF30)
  • Hat (no visors - must cover top of head - must be packed in backpack)
  • Sneakers or walking shoes (with traction for wet Jerusalem stone, and with straps or laces)
  • Old gym shoes [closed-toe]

Suggested clothing list:

  • 4 Jeans (for hiking, for going out at night)
  • 1 Sweatpants
  • 1 Sweatshirts/ Sweaters
  • 2 Long sleeve shirts
  • 4 Short sleeve shirts
  • 1 Shorts
  • 1 Bathing suit
  • 2 Button-down shirts
  • 2 Long skirts
  • 1 Khaki or corduroy pants
  • Undergarments
  • Socks
  • Light jacket
  • Hiking boots or sturdy sneakers (must be closed-toe, for rougher terrain)
  • Teva/water sandals
  • Sleepwear/ Long Johns
  • Raincoat/ anorak/ poncho (or anything waterproof – winter is RAINY season)

Other stuff you’ll want:

  • Umbrella
  • Gloves - Gore Tex (or anything waterproof – winter is RAINY season)
  • 1 beach towel (for swimming outside of hotels)
  • 2 Plastic bags for wet clothes
  • Travel alarm clock
  • Nalgene water bottle
  • Imodium (your system may react to the new foods)
  • Flashlight (mini)
  • Camera (don’t forget your charger and a plug adapter (Israel uses the European adapter)
  • Film (bring extra film, because it's much more expensive in Israel)
  • Extra pair of prescription glasses or contact lenses
  • Fanny pack or money belt
  • A kipah/ yarmulke and tallit/ prayer shawl (although not required, you may want to bring them)
  • Extra duffle packed empty to expand into while you travel

Toiletries:

In Israel, most of the same products they sell in America are available, although they are at a substantially higher cost:

  • Shampoo/Conditioner
  • Soap
  • Toothbrush
  • Toothpaste
  • Deodorant
  • Lip balm
  • Razor
  • After-shave
  • Band-Aids
  • Tampons/pads
  • Tylenol/ Ibuprofen
  • Eyeglasses/ contact lenses
  • Anti-bacterial hand lotion
  • Topical antibiotic ointment (such as Bacitracin or Neosporin – you can’t buy this over the counter in Israel and is handy for small cuts, blisters, etc.)
  • Any prescription medicine (acquiring the generic name is recommended)

Airplane Backpack:

  • Don’t forget your passport
  • Change of clothes
  • Deodorant
  • Camera
  • iPod
  • Toothpaste
  • Toothbrush
  • Magazine, books, etc.
  • Journal
  • Snacks
  • Medications – You should carry on all medications you need to take while you’re travelling rather than packing them in your checked suitcase. If they are clearly labeled, there wil be no problem getting them through security.

Shabbat Attire:

We recommend modest dress for religious sites - shirts with at least short sleeves for both men and women, a skirt covering the knees for women (a jacket and tie are not necessary). Please be sure your Shabbat clothes are warm.

Out on the town clothing...

You can wear exactly what you'd wear here. For example, a nice shirt and pants or a casual skirt. Comfortable walking shoes are essential. FYI- many of the streets are paved with stone...it's challenging to wear shoes with awkward heels/soles on uneven pavement.

Other:

A few more suggestions that will make your trip to Israel more comfortable:

  • Batteries
  • Tissue packs
  • Sunglasses
  • Photocopy of your passport (keep one in your suitcase, one in your backpack)
  • Gum/ candy

Friday, February 27, 2009

Early birthday at James on the Mill

Onion-crusted chicken on asparagus rissoto with a milk chocolate
pyramid, a good German Riesling and the best husband ever.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Said Roger Ebert about his Late Colleague Gene Siskel

...He spoke about his Judaism, which he took very seriously. His parents had started the first synagogue on the North Shore after World War II. "I had a lot of long talks with my father about our religion," Gene told me. "He said it wasn't necessary to think too much about an afterlife. What was important was this life, how we live it, what we contribute, our families, and the memories we leave." Gene said, "The importance of Judaism isn't simply theological, or, in the minds of some Jews, necessarily theological at all. It is that we have stayed together and respected these things for thousands of years, and so it is important that we continue." In a few words, this was one of the most touching descriptions of Judaism I had ever heard.



Thanks to a colleague for sharing...

Sunday, February 22, 2009

New look for now...

My prior blog design was getting a little stale to me. I originally picked it because it seemed to scream "BALEBOOSTEH!" at me. It seemed a bit old world meets new world. But I've grown a little tired of it.

Truth be told, I toyed with the idea of taking this blog elsewhere. Over to WordPress to be specific. You see at work we use the WordPress interface for our staff blogs and some staff sites, so I thought it would help me learn more to use the same interface over her at BiT. But then I wandered over to WordPress and all the templates just seemed fug.

Now, of course I could spend hours and hours designing my own, but I don't know if I'm there yet. Plus -- not that you'd know it by the comments section -- I have some pretty regular readers and quite a few subscribers on readers, so there would be potential abandonment issues I'd have to deal with.

So for now, I'll stay put here, but I gave my site a quick update. Yes, it's very green, and I will probably get sick of it before long. But for now it's very me (which is precisely why it'll get changed sooner rather than later).

Another weekend without Ryan


Mom and Dad came to visit this weekend. They missed Ryan by a few hours because Ryan is in South Carolina presently to continue his coverage of the demise of Razorback hoops. (Seriously, this has circled past humorous, sad, embarrassing, suicidal and apathetic and now it's back to humorous. The circle will continue.)

Somehow this weekend has turned into my parents fixing everything that is wrong with our house — which believe me is a lot. So far the garage light has been fixed, the trees have been trimmed and my mom is about halfway through fixing our screen door. (Right now the screen door is on the floor of our kitchen, screenless.) I try to help, but I'm pretty hopeless — which is why we got into this situation to begin with. Our ladder has gotten the most use it has since we bought it two years ago.

Somehow I think I ended up being the most tired of the bunch. Go figure.

Later today I am solo again for Religious School and we're continuing our marriage unit. I've spent the last hour reviewing the curriculum and then my wedding video to use for class. I'm sure they'll be bored to tears, but without a copy of Fiddler on the Roof handy, this is the best I can do.

Hopefully this will be the last time I have to do it on my own, because really these are supposed to be Ryan's students and I think they like him much better. Really I should just have him do the class tomorrow via speakerphone.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Book #9: Reading the OED

Reading the OED: One Man, One Year, 21,730 Pages Reading the OED: One Man, One Year, 21,730 Pages by Ammon Shea

My review

rating: 4 of 5 stars
This book is strange. Reading it wasn't nearly as painful as reading the OED, but it came close. But -- just like the OED -- there were moments every 10 pages or so that were pure magic to me. Now I know there are words for the phenomenon of the sun warming a cold day and the pleasant smell after a good rain. I know there is a word to describe my loathing of laziness and lack of purposefulness. I know there is a word for something that has not been peed on (unbepissed)!

And what is brilliant about this book, like the OED, is that I will never use these words, and they will go in and out of my memory (some already have), which means in a few years, I can just pick this book up again and be similarly delighted again and again.

So this is one of the few library books I will probably make a point of purchasing. It is one of those rare books that will be just as interesting every time you read it.


View all my reviews.

Book #8

Life of Pi Life of Pi by Yann Martel

My review

rating: 5 of 5 stars
Usually I don't go for fantasy or adventure novels, so I was really surprised by how much I like the book. Once I got into the meat of the novel, it was hard to put down and I was rooting on Pi. The author's writing is superb, and I found myself physically squirming as I read this account. I'd recommend this book to anyone. This is definitely a book that you'll appreciate 20 times more once you read the last five pages. Excellent ending.


View all my reviews.

Book #7: The Alchemist

The Alchemist The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho

My review

rating: 3 of 5 stars
This is a book I would never have picked up had it not been on the MLA list. I can't say I enjoyed it, though I did appreciate its brevity. Although I am not too old to enjoy a good fable, it is hard to get me to sit down and let an author force a message down my throat. The message was a little obtuse for me.

View all my reviews.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

More Info.

Some people asked about the Adam and Eve Ecological Farm. I found this article with more info.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

My Trip Itinerary!

Things that intrigue/terrify me in bold. I've linked to Web sites for our accommodations when available.

Taglit Birthright Israel
Israel Experience IE-19-278
Winter 2009 Itinerary
Subject to change

Thursday, March 5, 2009
Afternoon arrival in Israel
Drive north
Opening ceremony and program orientation
Icebreakers
Accommodations: Karei Deshe Guest House, 011-972-4-672-0601

Friday, March 6, 2009
Tsfat – tour of the old city, ancient synagogues and artists' galleries
Winery in the north
Kabbalat Shabbat (candlelighting)
Shabbat Dinner
Oneg Shabbat – fun group activity
Accommodations: Karei Deshe Guest House, 011-972-4-672-0601

Shabbat, March 7, 2009 (aka MY BIRTHDAY!)
Kiddush
Shabbat discussions
Visiting Hours for Friends and Family
Havdalah
Fun night in Tiberias
Accommodations: Karei Deshe Guest House, 011-972-4-672-0601

Sunday, March 8, 2009
Mifgash begins-Israeli participants join
Gadot overview: Introduction to the north
Gilabun hike
Mt Bental – overlook into Syria and entire region, introduction to the area and the story of the
Golan Heights
Valley of Tears
Fun group activity
Accommodations: Karei Deshe Guest House, 011-972-4-672-0601

Monday, March 9, 2009
Volunteering at Adam and Eve ecological farm
Drive south
Bedouin Hospitality in Kfar Hanokdim (camel rides and dinner)
Accommodations: Bedouin Tent, Kfar Hanokdim

Tuesday, March 10, 2009
Early ascent to Masada – enjoy the sunrise and tour the site that has a unique story of faith
and survival and that has become a central part of Israeli culture and Jewish legacy
Ein Gedi Hike
Swim in the Dead Sea
Drive to Tel Aviv
One woman show: "The Four Faces of Israel"
Accommodations: Sea Net, Tel Aviv, 011-972-3-517-1655


Wednesday, March 11, 2009
Israel Update with guest speaker Neil Lazarus
Neve Tzedek-first neighborhood in Tel Aviv
Independence Hall
Lunch on Sheinkin Street
Yitzchak Rabin Square
Purim Party with other Taglit-Birthright Israel groups!
Drive to Jerusalem
Accommodations: Judaean Youth Hostel, Jerusalem, 011-972-2-632-2777

Thursday, March 12, 2009
City of David - explore the first Jewish neighborhoods of Jerusalem, when King David chose
Jerusalem as his capital, forever linking the city with the story of the Jewish people
Tour the Jewish Quarter - learn the stories of its inhabitants, then and now
The Kotel – the central, most significant site in Jewish tradition
Machaneh Yehudah open-air market
Say goodbye to Israeli friends
Prepare for Yad Vashem
Accommodations: Judaean Youth Hostel, Jerusalem, 011-972-2-632-2777

Friday, March 13, 2009
Yad Vashem – visit the National Memorial for the Victims and Martyrs of the Holocaust
Mt. Herzl – the tombs of the leaders of the nation and the military cemetery tell the story of
the struggles for Jewish independence from the first days of Zionism to today
Kabbalat Shabbat (candlelighting)
Shabbat Dinner
Oneg Shabbat – fun group activity
Accommodations: Judaean Youth Hostel, Jerusalem, 011-972-2-632-2777

Shabbat, March 14, 2009
Morning Services
Shabbat discussions
Time to rest
Visiting time for family and friends
Havdalah
Program evaluation
Night out in Jerusalem
Depart for airport

Sunday, February 15, 2009

I am...

a antisocordist. Just ask my husband.

I'm also on my ninth book of 2009 and a few behind in my updates.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

This is the end.

Of my beautiful MacBook Pro. Oh how I loved her so.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Book #6: The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time

The next books I'll be reading for a time come from MLA's List of 30 Books To Read Before You Die.

Reading this entire list has always been a goal of mine -- well, ever since Mrs. Diana Davis handed out the purple pamphlet in AP English my senior year. (Mrs. Davis was always a romantic and loved the color purple and often commented on my love for wearing orange with kind of a grimace. She had to like me because my in-class essays always rocked, but I know she liked Elisabeth Ahrens better.)

Anyway, I've decided that I will finish this list in concert with my goal of reading 50 books this year. I making one exception. The Bible in No. 2 on the list and I just can't sit down and read the Bible cover to cover and still accomplish my 50 books goal, so reading the Lord of the Rings trilogy and The Golden Compass trilogy (which only count for one book apiece) will have to be my atonement.

I had already read about a third of the books, so I will be able to read some other books, too. I put all of the books I have yet to read in my GoodReads to-read shelf and ordered them by reader popularity. I'm working my way from least popular to most popular, which brings me to....

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time by Mark Haddon

My review

rating: 4 of 5 stars
I read this book in less than 24 hours. I started it at about 8 p.m. Monday and finished it at 2:30 p.m. Tuesday.

I really liked this book though it didn't really move me emotionally. The narrator is an autistic boy, which allows the reader to be reintroduced to basic themes of family, trust and love from a new viewpoint.

This is not a "dog lovers" book. (I feel the need to point that out because a lot of people are turned off by the derth of Marley & Me copy cats out there.)


View all my reviews.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

People in Arkansas are going bat-shit-crazy...

If my slideshow didn't convince you, this might:

Driving to work today, a pair of guys behind in an old Bonneville were wearing 3-D glasses.

Who does that?!

It must be the weather. Everyone's got cabin fever.

When I picked up pizza from Papa John's this evening, they had spelled my name Missell. Interesting.

A pit bull found its way into our yard today. A fat, ugly one I had never seen before. Luckily Olivia was inside when he made his entrance (and he was obviously looking for some female action if you know what I mean). The dog didn't have a collar nor tags and I had never seen it before, so I called the police.

I don't know what scared me more — the dog or the officer saying "If that dog looks at you that way one more time than I'm just going to shoot it."

Ah, small-town cops.

Very soon...

I'll be teaching Religious School for the first time. I'm pretty sure these kids know more about being Jewish than I do, but I have something they don't -- lesson plans and a teacher's guide. I'll get the best of them.

Ryan is in NOLA. So the house is a complete mess and I've been keeping weird hours. This is how it always goes when he's gone. It's like if I don't have anyone to take care of, why bother taking care of myself?

Eh, depressing.

Speaking of -- apparently I'm all dark and twisty (yes like Mer on Grey's Anatomy, I stole the phrase) because my 25 Things I finally managed to do on Facebook depressed some passersby.

What do you think?

1. I am kind of obsessed with paper.
2. I hate wearing black 99 percent of the time. In fact, I probably wear green twice as much as I wear black. OK, maybe three times as much. Four?
3. I don't like talking on the phone, but will do it in extreme situations.
4. There's a 50 percent chance I didn't listen to your voicemail before returning your phone call. Unless you're Marissa, and then I wouldn't miss it...95 percent of the time.
5. I successfully continuously talked from Colby, Kan., to Lawrence, Kan., when I was 3, thereby earning me the nickname Chatty Cathy.
6. Interestingly enough, I have discovered as I've matured that I really don't like to chat, but only do so when in awkward or too-quiet situations.
7. My face is asymmetrical. When I smile the right side of my face shifts higher. In pictures I always tilt my head to balance it.
8. This "disfigurement" makes me prone to not smile very big, which kind of ruined lots of good wedding photos and video footage of me walking down the aisle. I used to think about this daily. Now it's more like weekly.
9. My "Internet" friends voted my wedding best of 2008 among them.
10. When I was little I couldn't imagine driving a car so I was sure I would die before I was 16.
11. In middle school, when I'd have fleeting moments of depression, I would decide not to kill myself because I didn't want to miss school the next day. (You know, because English class was always so much fun.)
12. I've obviously never really been depressed.
13. I distinctly remember my grandpa turning 66 when I was 6 and thinking "Wow, he's old, and he's not going to live till the inverse of his age (99), so he's going to die soon." From that moment until he died, I felt like I was just waiting for it to happen.
14. Waiting for my grandpa to die (it took almost 19 years by the way) affected my life more than anything else. I worked hard in school so he'd be proud of me before he died. I got married young because I wanted to get married before he died.
15. I've cried thinking about my dog dying before I have kids.
16. I obviously have issues with dying.
17. 80 percent of the people I encounter in my daily life annoy me. I can't help it, and I'm sure I annoy them too.
18. I procrastinate just as bad as Ryan, but his procrastination is my No. 1 pet peeve about him.
19. I've never been able to enjoy something in the moment -- really relish something. As soon as something begins, I want it to be over so something else can begin. I hope this changes when I have kids.
20. When I think about my college GPA, I think I should be making more money.
21. I don't really like eating, but I'll do it when I'm bored and there's nothing else to do. Or if I'm really, REALLY hungry.
22. I wrote a short story about a teenager dying of AIDS when I was 10. I blame this on reading too many adult books at a young age. And all the summers I spent watching Days of Our Lives.
23. I'm terrified of financial failure.
24. My last meal would consist of peanut butter and jelly and Kix with skim milk. And a slice each of cheese pizza from Minsky's, Rudy's and Papa John's.
25. That last one was my attempt at being light-hearted, which I'm clearly not.
At first the feedback was grim, but then my closer friends logged on and had a few chuckles (or so they relayed). It's funny to me that I consider myself a happy person, yet have fairly dark thoughts and have a fairly negative outlook on life. So I guess in some weird inverse way being negative makes me positive? Hrm.

Saturday, January 31, 2009

This is what happens in Fayetteville

It was (kind of) Caleb's birthday. Scarlet was threatening everyone who managed to come near. Anna squealed. Dan (not pictured) corralled Scarlet. I wore a side ponytail that was only slightly askew.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Book #5: The Time Traveler's Wife

The Time Traveler's Wife The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger

My review

rating: 5 of 5 stars
I really loved this book. No, it's not literary genius, but it was an entertaining read when I was holed in my house on Wednesday. It took me a long time to really get in my groove with this book, but I'm glad I didn't give up. I simply just didn't understand what the hell was going on at first. The author's imagery is superb and you can really picture the story unfolding on your internal film projector. In fact, the author said in an interview that she imagined the film version of her story as she was writing it. The rights were bought before the book even was released to the public.

I'm THRILLED with the casting of this book in the movie that is coming out sometime this year. Rachel McAdams and Eric Bana in the leading roles will really help ensure this book-to-movie adaptation works.


View all my reviews.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Book #4: Dreams from My Father

Dreams from My Father Dreams from My Father by Barack Obama

My review

rating: 4 of 5 stars
The book opened quickly for me and I was engrossed instantly. I will say I found the section about Hawaii and Chicago the most interesting. I did not dig the Africa section, but I'm not surprised by that. (Other books set in Africa kind of fall flat with me -- yes even The Constant Gardener and The Poisonwood Bible...I don't know what it is.)

What amazed me most while reading this book was that the author is now our president. He wrote such an honest book, talking about his struggles and faults, and he has still managed to win the majority of Americans over. I was also impressed with Obama's use of literary devices. All around a good -- very inspiring -- read.

View all my reviews.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Running Log #6

Workout — Eh...tried to do .5-.5-.5 intervals, but that didn't work out so well. It kind of ended up being .5-.25-.3-.12. Ick.
Total mileage running — 1.17 miles
Total mileage — 2.4
Time — 35
Pace — 6.0
Highest Heart Rate — 190
Average Heart Rate — 159
Calories Burned — 315
Overall Report — Well I have been sick for about 10 days, so this was my first time back on the treadmill in more than a week. I feel like I've been setback two weeks. And I'm sore for the first time ever in this training process. Also, I felt close to being totally out of breath and weak during my intervals, so maybe I wasn't totally ready to come back yet. I'm going to try to hit the treadmill every day this week (tomorrow is up in the air) to catch up on my training. I'd like to run three half-mile intervals by Saturday and maybe take the run outside on Sunday if it's nice.

Training Schedule
Week 1 — 0.25-0.5-0.25 (check)
Week 2 — 0.5-0.5-0.25 (check)
Week 3 — 0.5-0.5-0.5
Week 4 — 0.5-0.75-0.5
Week 5 — 0.75-0.75-0.5
Week 6 — 0.75-0.75-0.75
Week 7 — 0.75-1-0.75
Week 8 — 1-1-.75
Week 9 — 1-1-1
Week 10 — 1-1.25-1
Week 11 — 1.75-1.5
Week 12 — 3.25

Love This

Check out this New Yorker interview from 1996 before Barack Obama got into politics.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

It's Politics


I can't pinpoint the exact moment I became politically minded, but I know it happened fairly young.

I have distinct memories of voting for George H.W. Bush in the 1988 Weekly Reader election in kindergarten. (I believe my young love for Republicans had a lot to do with the candidates looking more like a grandpa than their Democratic rivals. I guess old white guys have that going for them, too.) I remember making a Bush/Quayle '92 sign in the fourth grade. I remember voting in the kids' election at my parents' precinct in 1996. I stayed up past 2 a.m. watching the 2000 returns with my dad.

That was all before I could legally vote.

So it's probably easy to imagine how excited I am about Tuesday. It's all I want to talk about and think about and read about. I can't get enough. Tuesday is bigger to me than the National Championship or any bowl game. It comes a close second to my wedding day. VERY close.

I married someone similar, but maybe not quite as fervent. (Although he is only half-joking when he talks about sending Obama an application to be his chief fantasy sports counsel.)

So Ryan and I will be camped out in front of the TV all day Tuesday until I have to go to work and I will be DVRing the coverage and readying my hard drive to save all of the front pages of Wednesday's paper like I did on Nov. 6.

Regardless of your political affiliation, Tuesday will be a time to watch and hope for the best for our country. We certainly need all of the positive energy we can get.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Book #3: One Fifth Avenue

One Fifth Avenue One Fifth Avenue by Candace Bushnell

My review

rating: 3 of 5 stars
Ryan got me this book for Christmas this year. It wouldn't have been one I picked out -- I have read Candace Bushnell's Sex and the City and Lipstick Jungle and didn't come away with much of an impression.

But I have to say once I got into this book, I enjoyed it. Bushnell writes about high society New York City like she is writing a zoologist's field guide. There is never one main character, and in this case there is no fewer than eight characters who take on prominent roles. In the end, you end up rooting for a few, hating several and not caring about the rest.


View all my reviews.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Observations on Past & Present

1. I'm not as chatty as I thought. I just talk to fill the awkward silences.
2. If something doesn't work four or five times, it probably won't work the subsequent time either.
3. My husband can be determined if you convince him to be.
4. I need to work on Subject-Verb-Object when talking to people as an authority figure. Backing into suggestions when I'm the one in charge doesn't make me seem like an effective leader.
5. I love lists.
6. I really love completed lists.
7. I really love lists that my husband complete.
8. I don't like talking on the phone to anyone really. It's just awkward, and Observations No. 1 and No. 4 make this even worse.
9. I feel really lucky to have a job right now.
10. Nine of my 10 favorite people in Arkansas aren't from Arkansas.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Running Log #5

Workout — .5-.5-.25 intervals on treadmill
Total mileage running — 1.25 miles
Total mileage — 2.25
Time — 34:30
Pace — 6.0 mph for first and second intervals, 5.5 mph for third interval
Highest Heart Rate — 191
Average Heart Rate — 152
Calories Burned — 289
Overall Report — Today was harder for some reason. Maybe it was the poor soundtrack (still haven't made that special running playlist and "All the Young Dudes" is just not that inspiring to run to), or maybe I just wasn't into to it. I can't really imagine adding another quarter-mile next week (hopefully I'm not overdoing it?) but we'll see. I'd love to see my peak heart rate drop into the mid-180s.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Things I Don't Like Right Now

1. Lists that aren't completed.
2. The tear in my screen door.
3. My co-workers (in general, not particular).
4. My lack of Wii to play my Wii Fit.
5. Running for longer than 5 minutes.
6. My nasty kitchen floor.
7. Trusting my husband to take care of his online class without telling him what to do.
8. My loved one continually making the same mistake over and over again.
9. Winter.

Your turn! Post below!

Things I Like Right Now

1. Lists. [See RemembertheMilk.com]
2. Wesabe.com.
3. Running in intervals.
4. Encyclopedia of an Ordinary Life. (Please, please, please read it, but don't tell me if you don't like it. It'll ruin my good feelings about it.)
5. My Wii Fit.
6. This video. (OK, so I totally teared up at this. Lame, I know...)
7. NPR. (OK I know how pretentious that sounds, but I HATE music, but hate silence more. How have I not been an NPR nerd all my life already?)
8. Goals.
9. My clean shower. (That I used two toothbrushes to scrub.)

OK, readers (I know I have some), post some of your recent highlights. Don't be shy...

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Book #2: Encyclopedia of an Ordinary Life

Encyclopedia of an Ordinary Life Encyclopedia of an Ordinary Life by Amy Krouse Rosenthal

My review

rating: 5 of 5 stars
Can I give something 10 stars? Please?

Seriously, now that I've read this book, any flitter of thought about me writing my own memoir is now buried. Amy Krouse Rosenthal has already written something so original — but yet something so accessible and heartfelt, that I can merely just reread, smile and nod — satisfied that someone else told my story so perfectly.

View all my reviews.

Running Log #4

Workout — .5-.5-.25 intervals on treadmill
Total mileage running — 1.25 miles
Total mileage — 1
Time — 35:00
Pace — 5.5 mph for first and third intervals, 6 mph for second interval
Highest Heart Rate — 189 (slowly going down!)
Average Heart Rate — 148
Calories Burned — 282
Overall Report — I added a quarter-mile of running onto my workout this week and it went well. My peak heart rate is gradually decreasing so that's a good sign! I can already tell my stamina is improving and my muscles are developing enough that the running is easier. I also started covering the statistics on the treadmill with a towel, so that seemed to make everything go faster.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Running Log #3

Workout — 1 mile run outdoors
Total mileage running — 1 mile
Total mileage — 1
Time — 11:02
Pace — 5.37 mph
Highest Heart Rate — 191
Average Heart Rate — 178
Calories Burned — 129
Overall Report — It was a fabulous day outside so I decided to take advantage and run a mile outside. It's my first straight mile in months, so I wanted to kind of use it as a base point of sorts. It's also the first time I used Trailguru, which is a free iPhone application that uses the GPS in my phone to track my path, elevation and pace. All that gets downloaded to a Web site where it gives me handy-dandy charts (I <3 charts!) and tracks my overall progress. Overall, the run was good. My pace was slower than I'd like, but I entered quite a bit of wind today.

Friday, January 2, 2009

Running Log #2

Workout — 0.25/.5/.25 intervals with .25 in between.
Total mileage running — 1 mile.
Total mileage — 2.07 miles
Time — 32 minutes including cooldown
Pace — 6.0 for the first two intervals, 5.5 for the last interval
Highest Heart Rate — 193
Average Heart Rate 152
Calories Burned
— 270
Overall Report
— Running at 6.0 is getting a tad more comfortable, though I think I'll still build up to it weekly. That is likely going to be my outdoor running goal. My highest heart rate dropped a little bit. I've decided I need to make a dedicated playlist.

Book #1: A Virtuous Woman

A Virtuous Woman (Oprah's Book Club) A Virtuous Woman by Kaye Gibbons

My review

No. 1 on my journey to 50 books in 2009.
rating: 5 of 5 stars
Have you ever read a book and felt so distant from the characters that it shocked you when you realized you were actually in tears? This novel, such a quick read that a devoted reader will finish it in one sitting, seems so benign and irrelevant, yet works its way into your heart. By the end I found myself shockingly gulping for air. This may be an Oprah pick, but it's a smart book that I'd recommend to anyone who can appreciate a simple story line and a solid tale.

View all my reviews.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

I just spent my hour dinner break curled up on the couch in the foyer trying to fight off sleep while reading a book. This doesn't bode well for the new year.

Two highlights of my 2009 so far. I beat Ryan in Trivial Pursuit (this never happens, those dang sports questions get me every time) and I spent a few hours with the lovely JT on her sojourn from Costa Rica.

(Side note — Raise your hand if you think it's fair Ryan got a pie piece answering this question: What team does the Arkansas Razorbacks play every year in the Boot Bowl?)

JT has been my New Year's staple for three years running now. My first NYE in the Great State of Arkansas, we passed the hours playing Apples to Apples. Last year, we spent a quiet night in (Ryan of course was out of town) watching Jesus Freaks.

This year we talked life in my kitchen and later at BWW — one of her favorites. She is the poster child for why you should never get married before 30 — clearly everything I am not. She is everything I think I want to be, yet I'm glad she's my friend so I don't have to.

She goes back to Costa Rica in a dozen days or so. Sometimes I wonder if her students think all Americans sound like her. :)

DRAMATIC SUBJECT CHANGE

New Year's Resolutions.

I have lots this year. I think I'm going to take the "Throw as much shit on the wall and surely some of it will stick approach." I realize this is kind of illogical, but I can't seem to narrow it down. So I won't. Apparently I have a lot to work on.

• Run a 5K and a four-miler in April.
• Read 50 books this year.
• Keep the house clean!!!!
• Let people make their own mistakes.
• Create a budget.
• Cook more meals at home.
• Don't buy clothing for at least four months. If I finish four-miler in April, I'll get myself a little something-something, but that's it!

Wish me luck.