Christmas Projects #2: The Bookish Wreath from Effing Hell

I bring you Christmas Project number two of three- the wreath from effing hell.

When I first saw the inspiration for this wreath made out of recycled book pages on Pinterest I was immediately determined to make one. I prefer more classic, simple holiday decorations and this, along with the literary look, fit the bill. I had a stack of old book from my Master's program that I was absolutely positive I'd never crack open again and knew from another wreath using rosettes that it shouldn't be difficult. What I never considered: the time. I'm estimating over the past two months or so I've put in somewhere around 50 or 60 (or more) hours, meaning I've read basically nothing this month (womp womp womp). Now that I'm down I'm really not sure what I'm going to do with my life... Anyway, in case you too are a masochist, here are the instructions (for the site it is was adapted from see link above):

Styrofoam floral wreath 
White paint (only if the wreath is green)
Hot glue
Something circular (for tracing)
Several old books
Embellishments (optional)

1. If you're using a wreath that isn't already white, slap a quick coat of white paint on it, just so that in case there are some visible cracks it's not obvious. Make sure to let it dry quickly- you should only need one coat.

2. In order to make the flowers you'll need to find something circular- the "something" will depend on the size you want your flower to be. I used a cheap coaster, but in the past I've used things as small as shot glasses and as large as a bowl. Play around what size you like best.

3. Depending on the thickness of your paper, pull out 2 or 3 pages from your book and trace your circles. Apologize for mortally wounding your book. Now cut them out.

4. Cut a spiral, trying to maintain an even distance from the sides at all times. Some tutorials will have you draw the spiral first, which may be a good idea in the beginning, but I find the pencil marks to visible once the rosette is finished. I'll generally cut out 5-10 spirals at a time before I start rolling and gluing- too many more end up hurting my hands.

5. Start rolling! Making sure your papers are evenly together, start on the outside edge where you first made your cut and roll inwards. The flower will automatically form, don't worry. Typically, at about an inch or two from the end (the very center of the circle) things will start getting a little uneven and you can clip the rest off.

6. It's time to glue. I do this in two parts- first I put a small dot of hot glue between each of the end layers where you just stopped rolling to help reinforce. Then I load up on glue on the bottom and immediately place on the wreath. Hold for thirty or so seconds while it becomes tacky enough to stick.

7. Repeat 7.56 million times. Remember the back is unnecessary and to place them very close together. 

8. I added a star ornament to mine, just to jazz things up a bit (my husband claims it was cheating and that I just did it to speed up the process- not my original intent, but it was definitely a nice side effect). 

9. When you're done fill in any gaps on the edges, pick off the dried hot glue (an ongoing process), and hang up!

I love, love, love the finished project, I do, but it really took a lot longer than I anticipated. It is a great mindless activity, though- something that can be done while watching countless episodes of Scandal, your husband play videogames, or listening to podcasts. 

Christmas Projects #1: Sorta Snow Globes

Let's just clear something up right now: I'm not a crafty person. I'm a person that occasionally does crafts, if they're not pointless, expensive, or tacky. Anyway, in an effort to add some Christmas decorations to our house I took on a few projects last month and thought I'd share over the next few days. Today: Sorta Snow Globes.

I saw some samples on Pinterest (of course) and read that Anthropologie was selling them for $40 last year- I made six for somewhere around $30 (thanks to several Michael's coupons). What was also great about this project was how quick it is- from start to finish it took barely thirty minutes. And you could probably do it with your kids (or, um, your dogs), if that's your thing. Mine will live on the mantel for the season. 

Mason jars in assorted sizes
Hot glue
Fake snow
Foam board (or thick cardboard)
Various items to put in jars: trees, ornaments, etc...

Step 1: Gather your materials

Step 2: Ask for help

Step 3: Determine the contents of each jar

Step 4: Cut out small pieces of foam (or whatever) to act as risers  for some of the low lying or shorter objects

Step 5: Hot glue everything in- some materials, like ceramic, will need a generous amount

Step 6: Add a little bit of snow to the bottom of the jar- it's really preference. I added maybe 2-3 tbsp or so for the larger jars and far less for the smaller ones.

Step 7: Screw on top. You're done! 

Bookish (and not so Bookish) Thoughts

As always, link up below!

Happy Thanksgiving! As I write this Wednesday night I can barely function. Today has been beyond busy- I went to a 90-minute vinyasa flow class (regular yoga as a pregnant person if very humbling), went to two grocery stores, baked 5 pies from scratch, cleaned the bathroom, vacuumed, cleaned the kitchen, and set up tables for tomorrow. Still up- get the HELL out of the house for dinner, make the stuffing, clean the turkey, and hopefully. Tomorrow 19 people will gather around my three tables for dinner- wish me luck!

It's My Birthday and I'll Blog if I Want To: 30

[JFK died so that I could live. Source]

I've been dreading turning thirty for, well, the past thirty years. When I was a teenager the number was synonymous with "old," and I assumed my life would basically be over. And while that obviously isn't true, I'm still not completely jazzed, although I'm not as depressed as I thought I'd be either.

I think my biggest point of contention has been that my twenties were just so... fantastic. So many life-changing events went down and there was so much fun had. I met and married my husband and we eventually bought our home, all by ourselves (I will forever and always be so very proud of the fact we did it without any assistance, FHA excluded). We became owners of two awesome dogs and have worked hard to live comfortably, but responsibly. I've gotten to travel some, destinations including Italy, New York City, Hawaii, Chicago (sort of), and the Caribbean. I got serious about my health, running eleven half marathons, climbing Half Dome in Yosemite twice, and beginning yoga. I graduated from UCLA, got three teaching credentials, and a Master's. I made some of the greatest friends ever after moving to a new city, while still maintaining close relationships with my mom and siblings, despite the distance. I've tried to cultivate new hobbies (sewing, cycling, blogging), while still holding on to old ones (cooking, reading, worrying). I've made an effort to spend time with friends and have also tried to "get out and about" in the area, going to readings, museums and other fun events once a month. I've gotten really drunk, but I've also mastered the art of cooking quinoa. I've done turn-around trips to Vegas, but have also spent long weekends reading on the couch. My twenties have been exactly what they needed to be.

Not to say this decade was easy. I've spent thousands of hours worrying about things, both controllable and uncontrollable. We've had to deal with job loss and the threat of job loss. I've had to move schools three times and I've had to work at creating a social life from nothing (friends are important to me, what can I say?). And a whole bunch of other stuff that I won't dwell on because there's only so much I can share with strangers.

Being pregnant has softened the blow, I have to admit. I always said I wanted to either have my first baby or be pregnant by the time I was thirty, and for quite some time that was looking like it wasn't going to happen. The possibility of not hitting that checkpoint during the allotted time was quite unsettling. This wasn't some arbitrary number I had set- I was serious. But then things changed and the impending gloom of the notorious 3-0 wore off a tad. Another item to check off the life to-do list.

And here we are. I'm not happy about it. I know your thirties brings more grey hair, a slower metabolism, and worse hangovers. You can't fuck up and blame it on being young anymore, and the next decade, the forties, will make you officially middle-aged. But being the realist I am, I know there's nothing you can do to stop aging. I'll work just as hard to stay healthy, active, social, and aware of the world. It's all I can do.

Bookish (and not so Bookish) Thoughts

Leave your link below!

1. I finally tried a cronut (donut + croissant)- it did not disappoint. It definitely was on the more croissant-y side, but that was fine by me!

2. I couldn't resist- I ordered two of these book letters from Anthropologie (luckily my husband and I have the same initials, just reversed):

3. It's almost Thanksgiving break- I'm super excited. My family will be in town for most of it and my husband and I are hosting 19 for Thanksgiving dinner! I am hoping it ends up being the perfect mix of fun and relaxation.

4. I've officially decided on my favorite food, after many years of deliberation: chocolate ganache.


5. I've been trying to learn how to French braid my hair upside down. It's really hard.

6. I've ordered a few things from Modcloth and have always been happy with their products and service. Now I'm even happier. Some sort of something happened when they were processing my order and it couldn't go through. They sent me an email offering 20% off my next purchase and free 2-day shipping. So I got what I originally wanted for less, faster. 

7. I started Jhumpa Lahiri's Lowland and really like it so far.

8. I took last Friday off for various reasons and spent most of the day following Batkid on the live stream. And by "following" I mean I cried for hours because it really was just that sweet. I'd love to blame pregnancy hormones, but the truth is I would have done it anyway. I'm a sucker for that kind of shit.


9. I downloaded the Charity Miles app a few days ago and am completely infatuated with the premise. They've partnered with big time companies to donate money for every mile you bike, run or walk. The only thing you have to do, besides move your ass, is remember to turn the app on and then "thank" the sponsors on Facebook or Twitter (sorry Twitter followers...). So far the dogs and I have raised enough funds for like 12 or 15 puppy and kitten vaccinations through the ASPCA.

10. I found out that because my blood type is the rare/super special B negative I have to get a few shots at various points so my body doesn't reject the tiny little alien and refuse to let anymore take up residence in the future. I just keep picturing the Rhesus monkey (this has to do with the Rh factor- I'll spare you the bio lesson)... Bottom line- my baby and are already probably INCOMPATIBLE! 


Top Ten Tuesday- Nonfiction for Fiction Readers

I was never a huge non-fiction reader, and still am not. I do, though, think it's important to expand your literary repertoire once in awhile, not to mention learn some true shit. So for this week's Top Ten Tuesday, I've decided to list ten non-fiction books that would even interest (hopefully) someone not interested in the genre.

1. The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot: I couldn't put down this story of the woman behind the famous cells that have been bought and sold to cure a number of diseases around the world.

2. Into Thin Air by John Krakauer: Another page-turner! After reading this I thought for just a tiny moment that maybe I too could climb Mount Everest.

3. Animal, Vegetable, Mineral by Barbara Kingsolver: While this isn't exactly a nail-biter, I do think it's a really informative read. If anything, it will force you to think about where you get your food.

4. Wild by Cheryl Strayed: I'm not a huge fan of Strayed herself (I went to one of her readings once... between that and her voice in the book something just rubbed me the wrong way) but I will say her story is interesting. I'm a sucker for endurance stories, what can I say?

5. Eating Animals by Jonathan Safran Foer: Like the Kingsolver book, this too will make you think about your food. You may not be ready to think this much in-depth, though. I read it when I quit eating meat for awhile (I've been eating poultry again since January, but only make sure to buy the good stuff) and it really supported everything I stood for.

6. Born to Run by Christopher McDougall: It doesn't matter if you're a runner or not- this book about ultra-marathoners is inspiring and fascinating. 

7. Spark by John Ratey: I read this several years ago when I was getting really serious about regular exercise and found it incredibly motivating. Ratey will make you want to put on your shoes and move your ass from the first few pages. Besides the normal diatribe about cardiovascular health he also focuses a great deal on how movement can positively impact the brain.

8. Another Day in the Frontal Lobe by Katrina Firlik: Firlik talks about what it's like being a female neurosurgeon in her memoir.

9. Readicide: How Schools are Killing Reading and What You Can Do About It by Kelly Gallagher: While this book is definitely geared more towards educators, I think that all of us in the reading community should have a vested interest in students become passionate readers.

10. The Lost Girls by Jennifer Baggett, Holly Corbett, and Amanda Pressner: Three women quit their jobs and take their life savings to travel the globe. 

Non-Fiction Nagging: Orange is the New Black

After watching the Netflix show Orange is the New Black I became curious about the memoir and added it to my already long wishlist. When the blog Love at First Book announced they were hosting a virtual book club featuring it I decided to move it to the top and participate. From the very first few pages I was shocked at the differences between the series and book.

I'm not intending to put any spoilers in here, since it's a real story and she's done a lot of press, but if you plan on reading it or watching and want to be 100% surprised you may want to avoid the rest of this post. 

For those unfamiliar with the story, Piper Kerman was a typical affluent white girl- she went to Smith, graduated, and decided she didn't know what she wanted to be now that she was grown up. She was clear on one thing, though, and that was that she wanted adventure. Oh, adventure. It's so easy to want adventure post-college when it doesn't appear you have any more financial obligations than the typical day-to-day. Kerman gets involved with a woman named Nora (how cliche- "adventure" equating with sexual experimentation), who is a pretty important cog in a global drug smuggling operation (Nora is Alex on the show). Kerman eventually starts working for Nora, but after awhile decides she's had enough and cuts ties.

Fast-forward several years in the future. Kerman is seriously dating Larry (change of vagina heart*, I suppose) and living in New York, happily going about her business. And then all of the sudden she's being taken in on charges related to her past. Fast forward six years- she finally ends up going to jail, Larry, now her fiancee, by her side. That's right- for years she had to live her life, waiting for the day the government got all their ducks in a row with the case (it involved many people) and could prosecute.

The majority of the memoir talks about everyday prison life- the psychological aspect, the social infrastructure, and the politics. She mentions her fellow inmates, but doesn't delve into lengthy back stories, as the show does. Eventually, close to her release date, she is transferred via Con Air to Chicago where she has to testify as a witness for the government. Her time after leaving Danbury is a bit rougher- she's lonely, bored, and uninformed about her future. 

The differences between the book and show were astounding. Nora, her ex-girlfriend, doesn't make an appearance until the end, where they are held together before testifying. Kerman doesn't cheat on Larry, nor does he write a scandalous article about their relationship. A guard doesn't get anyone pregnant, Kerman doesn't get blackballed on her first day there for talking about the food, and she doesn't beat the shit out of anyone. She actually has no conflicts at all, and is never locked up in the SHU. Readers aren't made privy to extensive back stories of other prisoners and and you never find yourself getting attached to them, either (like I was with Crazy Eyes and even Tasty). I understand why they made the changes they did- the memoir does not read like a movie or TV show. In order to keep the episodes flowing they had to introduce conflict and ensure that the viewers were invested in more characters besides just Kerman. I was still surprised that the changes were as extensive as they were.

I really despise Kerman on the show- I find her unsympathetic, stupid, and dishonest. She's a bit more likable in the book- she fully accepts responsibility for her actions and isn't nearly as desperate as the Piper on the show. She also doesn't cheat on Larry. I'm still not her biggest fan; she knowingly committed a serious crime AND somehow forgot to tell her serious boyfriend. Massive loss of respect in my book. 

I found Orange is the New Black an interesting look at prison life and a quick read. If anything, it will make you question whether or not you could survive in prison!

*Obligatory "I love the gays and hope they can all get married soon" comment to counteract the two jokes I made. Seriously. Jokes.

I Quit You, NaNoWriMo!

I'm quitting NaNoWriMo. We're over half way in and I've only made a minute amount of progress- it's not going to happen.

I could come up with some valid, intelligent, practical excuses. For example, rushing through 50,000 words tends to lead to some pretty shitty writing. That I need to let the writing come organically, rather than forcing it. That the whole concept is amateur and laughable. But I don't believe any of that. I think that NaNoWriMo is an excellent way to light a fire under a slow-going writer's ass (like myself)- those little charts are quite motivating! What you produce during the month is never intended to be a final draft- it's a starting point. And while there may be some amateurish undertones, that's okay- we are beginners to various degrees. 

So why am I withdrawing? I don't have time. Scratch that- I don't want to make time. In order to maintain pace I have to put in anywhere from 90-120 minutes a day, and then if I were to get behind at all you have to adjust. Between work obligations (normal grading, a million letters of rec, daily personal statement proofreading sessions, teaching myself to appreciate Sylvia Plath), trying to stay active so I don't blow up like a balloon (usually 75 minutes of walking a day), time with husband and friends, my new 10 pm bedtime, and everything else I like to do I just don't want to carve out additional time to write. Plus I'll have house guests for 6 days starting next Sunday, which requires juuuuust a little bit of attention as well.

I also have problems with obligations. As soon a I feel forced to do something I become resentful. It could be something I love doing, with one of my favorite people, but as soon as I feel like I can't get out of it my hackles go up ever so slightly. I can't help it. I really love the project I'm currently working on and I don't want to hate it, which I fear NaNoWriMo may provoke.

To all of you who are still plugging away- keep going! I truly think NaNoWriMo is an awesome concept and that anything that motivate writers to be productive is a positive thing. Good luck!

Bookish (and not so Bookish) Thoughts

Link up below!

1. Last week a student particularly near and dear to me emailed me while I was out at a training "Do you get laid?" I know this sounds shocking, but the kid asks me 17.5 million questions a week (2/3 via email) and some tend to be personal (although none this much so...). I quickly received a follow-up email explaining she means "paid." Anyways, it was hilarious at the time and she still gets embarrassed when I mention it- ammo!

2. I rediscovered my love for the cereal Oh's! I ate an excessive amount in college (they're less than $3 a box) and have only hopped back on the wagon a few times since then. I'm back on. I'm trying to be pretty diligent about my calorie intake right now, so I'm trying to stick to the serving size since they're pretty dense. Then again, 120 or whatever calories does not make a meal, so it is a bit of a conundrum. But still, so good. 

3. I have a check up tomorrow and am so very, very excited that I get to leave my clothes on. And I guess to hear the baby's heartbeat or whatever. But anyway, at the practice I go to you have to strip down to nothing and wear all that paper shit until you're 12 weeks along. That ship has sailed so I get to stay dressed. And I'm seeing a new doctor who hopefully won't suck as much as the one I've been currently seeing, so fingers crossed.

4. Speaking of the baby thing, I have this super unrealistic goal of wanting to read all my books before it's born. I swear to GOD I'm still going to read postpartum (at least fifteen or twenty sleepy minutes a day), but I do love goals and challenges. It's so not going to happen, but it's something to aspire to (mainly because I know I'll end up getting 10-20 books in the next several months).

5. Have you heard of the Cartwheel App for Target? Every week they post new coupons on normal, everyday things and you download them to your phone and they'll scan it at checkout. I don't save that much, maybe a few bucks a week, but it's oddly fun. Like a game. 

[you're welcome for the free advertising, you corporate pigs]

6. I want to take a minute to apologize for being a shitty follow-up commenter. Some of you (like Rory and Lianne) are so great at responding to blog comments. I totally suck at it. So I'm sorry, and I'll try to be better, but just know I love hearing what everyone says. Part of the problem is I get email alerts and I'm usually not home, so I forget to respond. Excuses, excuses.

7. I made these last night. They were pretty fucking awesome.

8. A month or so ago I shared the fun news that I was probably going to Seattle for a work training. Now it's been changed to Houston, and that's if we can get a spot. Houston. HOUSTON! Let's just say another choice was Detroit. Sliiiiiim pickins. Nonetheless, I will make it fun and will possibly wear cowboy boots and a ginormous belt buckle. Yeehaw. 

9. I know it's old news, but I still really hate that "Marriage Isn't for You" article. Yes, marriage is for me! I chose a husband based on someone that would make me happy for the rest of my life- not because I wanted to make him happy. Not that I wanted him to be unhappy, but I figure if he was willing to go through with it he was good to go. It was not an act of altruism that allowed him to be graced with my presence until death. And for my "future children?" Are you kidding me? There is so, so much more to marriage than kids. It just rubbed me the wrong way. I'm not saying that I don't do anything for my husband or never give him anything. I'm just saying that you have to go into it realistically. Seth Adam Smith needs to get out of rainbow colored bubble full of puppies and kittens and get with the program. Oh, and his argument may hold more stock if his wife was a troll, but she's not. 

10. Sylvia Plath update: we're on our third poem and all still alive and relatively happy. Dare I say I'm enjoying this? We still have 17 more to go (plus a Socratic Seminar, a possible essay, a buttload of review, and their individual twenty-minutes commentaries recorded to send to IB), so I may be singing a different tune in a few weeks. 

11. (Bonus!) I can't wait for this to happen tomorrow. I need to not watch the footage around my husband, or any person for that matter, since I will cry like a baby the entire time. Humanity as a whole gets so much shit sometimes, but once in awhile people do some really great things.


Update: Satellite/Cable Free


A little over a month ago my husband and I decided to cancel our Direct TV satellite after determining it was costing us about $8/hour to watch. We waited until Breaking Bad was over (how could we not?) and pulled the plug, saving us almost $100 a month. And so far? Totally, unbelievably worth it.

I am definitely not a TV person- I hate the concept of "background noise" and would rarely, if ever, turn it on myself. I know some people have their TVs on from the moment they walk in the door after work until they go to bed but it just doesn't work for me. The only shows we ever watched while they were actually airing were Breaking Bad and Mad Men, with the occasional football game or Food Network show thrown in here or there (more my husband than me). 

This isn't to say our TV never gets turned on or we never watch anything. I watch Grey's Anatomy (eye roll) on my computer every week whenever I have time and have been watching Scandal (double eye roll) on the treadmill. At night we usually watch an episode of whatever we're watching on Netflix or Blu-Ray if we own it. Right now we're watching Parenthood, and just finished Season 2 of Fringe (other favorites are Downton Abbey, The Girls, Modern Family, The League, House of Cards, and Orange is the New Black; up next is season one of Sons of Anarchy). All in all, I can say that I collectively watch maybe 10-12 hours of show a week with maybe the occasional movie thrown in. And my main reason for watching is to have an hour of down time with my husband at night or entertainment while walking. Studies show that most Americans watch between 20-35 hours a week... and this is why I read so much.


This isn't to say watching TV is a bad thing. There are so many great shows on these days between network TV and Netflix- shows that are smartly written, make you think, and are well-acted. Not to mention the fact that we all need time to unwind; I read, walk, skim blogs, pin recipes on Pinterest, go to yoga (finally, I'm back!) and whatever else. Pinning another recipe for cookies or looking at another blog post about the best sports bras to wear while running (I read a lot of HLBers) are far from intellectual activites. There's just something about the noise and the need to sit still for an hour straight that gets to me. Plus, our TV watching was limited when we were growing up, so "finding something else to do" has become a habit (needless to say our kid will need to get used to hearing this phrase). 

So, here we are, a month later, $100/month richer, and completely unphased. 

Top Ten Tuesday- Redesign

The Broke and the Bookish are asking us this week to list ten books that need their covers revamped.

1. Any movie cover- I abhor movie covers. They cheapen the story by making the novel a marketing tool.

2. The Song is You by Arthur Phillips- The cover makes the story seem melodramatic and YA-ish.

3. The covers of most classics- They do absolutely nothing for the books besides making them appear more boring than the general public already thinks they are.

4. In One Person by John Irving- Are you kidding me with the bra? This isn't some trashy romance novel, it's John-freaking-Irving! 

5. American Wife by Curtis Sittenfeld- Again, another story trivialized an overly sentimental cover.

6. Away by Amy Bloom- I actually wasn't a huge fan of the book itself, but the still-life cover was just icing on the cake. So boring and muted.

7. Bossypants by Tina Fey- I hate the arms, I really do.

8. Any cover where the author's name is bigger than the title: Stop relying on your reputation to sell your books, you egomaniac. 

9. Maya's Notebook by Isabel Allende- Something about the tattoo and the soft colors are way to melodramatic for me.

10. The Casual Vacancy by JK Rowling- I'm not a fan of the book, but I thought the cover was very lackluster as well (perhaps appropriate, though).

Weekend Update- Reading and Writing

I don't know about you, but this is a three-day weekend for me and I couldn't be happier. Besides two (!?- usually we barely manage one) anniversary dinners, working on some Christmas projects, lots of walking, and the normal crappy domestic chores, this is shaping up to be weekend heavy on the reading and writing. No complaints here.

Orange is the New Black- I'm taking part in a virtual book club at the blog Love at First Book and have read half of it. So far it is very, very different from the Netflix series (which I loved), but still interesting. I still firmly believe I'd do terribly in prison.

The Bell Jar- I told my students they could read this book and then take an extra credit quiz, which is on Tuesday, so I'd better get with the program. I keep picturing Esther as a skinner Lena Dunham. And yes, I am ashamed that I've never read it.

Sylvia Plath Poems- Is anyone actually confused as to why she put her head in the oven?

Running in the Family tests- A necessary evil, I'm afraid. Shockingly they haven't been doing too bad.

Articles on the Philippines- Anything I say will be trite and pointless compared to the devastation those poor people have faced.

The Astronauts Wives Club (well, listening)- I've been walking the dogs for at least 35-45 minutes a day, so this went by pretty fast (I just finished it on our walk this morning). It was interesting, but the narrator did voices- no thanks.


NaNoWriMo- I'm not caught up, or anywhere close. I think the fact that I've gone into this in middle of a project is causing a problem. Overall I think it's a great problem to have, but still, it's making me lazy.

The Bell Jar Extra Credit Quiz- True or false: Esther Greenwood needs some Xanax.

Blog Posts- Obviously.

Letters of Rec- 'Tis the season! Luckily I know most of my students really, really well so it's more tedious than difficult. I only need to do a few this weekend, which is great compared to the marathon Sunday I had a few weeks ago. 

You? Read? Written?

Bookish (and not so Bookish) Thoughts

Leave your link below!

1. I seriously don't understand cheering for a college team that represents a school that you did not attend (ahem Ducks/USC/Stanford/Texas A&M fans). Where's your school loyalty? And why does it seem like just the huge, big schools have all of these extraneous fans? Why doesn't, say, I don't know, New Mexico state? Why like Oregon or USC or whatever instead of New Mexico? I just don't understand. Please explain it to me.

2. I'm getting a flu shot for the first time on Friday. I'll do the actual shot, as opposed to the spray with the live virus, so I'm not worried about getting sick. All the doctors and experts recommend for people in my situation- the idea of being knocked on my soon-to-be fat ass with the flu seems pretty unattractive. 

3. This month I'm aiming to walk the equivalent to a "5k a day" (isn't it catchy?). Some days more, some days none, but I'm hoping that by the end of the month I'll end up somewhere around 90-100 miles. I also returned to yoga  last night and I'm getting an indoor trainer for my bike for my birthday, so exercise is definitely being amped up in November. I could not be happier.

4. NaNoWriMo is not going well. Let's just leave it at that for right now.

5. I have to confess a terrible, irrational fear that I have (well one of them, anyway): restarting, updating, and turning off my laptop or iPhone legitimately scares me. I wish I was joking, but when I installed the updates to my laptop last week I hovered around and started to panic when the reboot screen was on for what I felt was too long. Thankfully some smooth-talking and gentle petting brought it back to status quo.


6. As I write this I'm supposed to be looking for a new restaurant to make reservations at for our upcoming anniversary. And yet once again I'm reminded that not only does my area have shitty hospitals and very little culture, it also has the worst options for foods (unless you like chains, than we've got them all). I'm trying to find somewhere new and cool within a thirty mile radius and it's not happening. Time to expand the search.

7. My family (as in my mom and siblings) have agreed to minimize Christmas gift giving a bit this year- we're all just happy to have vacation time at this point. I so love that we decided on this, and not just because it means less expenditures, haha. We're all adults- we have what we want and we don't really need anything. The holiday gimmies are so out of control in our society.

8. I'm making myself an awesome thirtieth birthday with lots of sprinkles and could give two fucks about what anyone thinks (that doesn't so defensive or anything...). I love baking, I prefer homemade, and I'm guaranteed to get what I want. And no I'm not sharing. Some possible contenders:

[classic Devil's Food Cake; source] 
[Salted Caramel Six Layer Chocolate Cake; source]
[That Chocolate Cake; source]
[Chocolate Cake with PB Frosting; source]

There's a trend...
9. I just started Sylvia Plath poetry with my students and have began reading The Bell Jar. Might as well kick off the holiday season with some uplifting cheeriness, right? Just as long as no one puts their head in the oven...

10. You know what the fox says? The fox says "shut the fuck up and leave me alone," that's what the fox says. My students discovered the video six weeks after my husband showed me and will occasionally as "what does a fox say" when I ask if they have any questions. What's next, a video for a giraffe?

Bridget Jonesapalooza

Bridget Jones definitely fits the bill for "exception" in my book. First of all, I'm not a fan of chic-lit. Secondly, I don't generally read series. And yet last month I reread the first book and read the second and third for the first time (unless I've already read the second? I saw the movie, and didn't own it, but still, I can't believe I skipped it... so I don't know). Anyway, the breakdown:

Bridget Jones's Diary (1996)
This is the original, and in my opinion the strongest. Bridget was a thirty-something year old woman obsessed with losing weight, finding a man, and feeling valued at work, all the while counting calories, units of alcohol, and cigarettes. Her tone was fresh, witty, and hilarious. The parallels to Pride and Prejudice were modern and creative, while it was obvious that she didn't take herself too seriously. I was young at the time (I read it senior year in high school), but I could still relate to Bridget. I knew what it was like to be concerned with appearances, frustrated by guys (if you knew my high school boyfriend you'd sympathize), and always wanting to be improved (sub her self-help books for Seventeen and Cosmo, though, for me). 

Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason (1999)
The follow up to the first book, Bridget must learn to survive in a relationship with a man very different from herself (politically, socially, and professionally), manage her job, and still battle the calories and cigarettes. Her insecurities haven't vanished, despite Mark Darcy's interest in her, and she must learn to handle her jealousy. Just like in the previous book, Bridget must also mediate between her crazy mother (she brings back a random tribesman from Kenya...) and father. Oh, and she also gets thrown in jail in Thailand for accidentally smuggling drugs. My biggest issue with this book was that I felt that it didn't really do anything new- it was just the same old typical Bridget falling into ridiculous predicaments. There wasn't much growth and there was no sense of maturity in the writing.

Mad About the Boy (2013)
After I finished this book I let out a really long, labored sigh. Bridget is now fifty-one, widowed (RIP Mark Darcy), and the mother of two small children (talk about late in life babies). Honestly, it was a bit ridiculous at times. She was well into middle-aged acting like thirty-year-old again, and her typical irresponsibility was annoying. Her obsession with her looks and men were redundant and some of the episodes were flat out silly. There were some truly entertaining moments, though, and it was interesting to see what happened to Bridget, but it just wasn't strong. Also, there is far too much conversation about lice for me.

I truly hope Fielding doesn't do another Jones book (at the reading I went to Friday night she did seem to leave the door open). What, Bridget at a rest home, hitting on men as she accidentally forgets her dentures and slams back Metamucil? No thanks. As a whole, the series is entertaining, but I think it definitely loses it's steam as it progresses.

Helen Fielding Reading (With Princess Leia)

Last night my friend and I drove to Beverly Hills for the Helen Fielding reading at the Writer's Guild Theater and it was extremely entertaining. I have to say one of the  major perks (besides a $5 parking garage directly across from the theater) was that Carrie Fischer, aka Princess Leia, interviewed her. Princess Leia is fucking hilarious in that crazy sort of way that only a manic depressive recovering alcoholic whose gotten electric shock therapy can be. I love her. 


Anyway, Fielding didn't read from Mad About the Boy, which I was thankful for. She was a bit shy for the first few minutes, but warmed up quickly, since apparently Princess Leia and her are friends. Fielding discussed how that when she started working on Mad About the Boy it was originally going to be a different story, but Bridget Jones infiltrated her way into the plot line and it became the third book in the series. She didn't tell anyone she was writing it in order to avoid pressure and expectations. She was also concerned with her readers' reaction to a 51-year-old Bridget, who is widowed with two small children. Personally, I did have trouble connecting with her in the same way as I did with the first, but I think it's more of a matter where you're at in your life. 

Fielding recounted many personal stories that have found their way into her books. Someone asked her during the Q & A portion of the character Rebecca (a new Rebecca, not the one from the first) was actually based on the author's friend Helena Bonham Carter- all Fielding would say is that their love of head ornamentation was similar. Fielding also discussed her writing process, which is typical of Bridget's work ethic- go to the fridge, browse online, think about writing, go back to the fridge, write a few words, look out the window, etc... 

I wasn't in love with the second or third Jones books- I think they lost a bit of the original charm and became a bit overdone with silliness (and at least the first one had the Pride and Prejudice parallels). But I do now have a better appreciation for her and her books. She did go to Oxford and knows that her works aren't hardcore serious- she intends for them to be light-hearted and doesn't take them seriously. I can respect that. 

My favorite moment was during the Q & A session a man raised his hand and Princess Leia called out, "A man!" Then she noticed he was gay and added an "-ish" and proceeded to gush over his physique. He took it well and the audience thought it was funny. 

October Reviews

Excuse the brevity and absence of pictures, but I’m off to LA for the Helen Fielding reading tonight (excuses FTW). 

Running in the Family by Michael Ondaatje

203 pages

I wrote about this memoir earlier in the month after reading it with my students and really enjoyed it. In brief, Ondaatje tells the story of a trip he takes back to Ceylon, now Sri Lanka, to put the pieces of his family history together. The reader must accept, just like Ondaatje, that he or she might not be completely informed- there are times one isn’t sure who exactly speaking or if the stories being told are completely factual.

Verdict: It’s not for everyone (stream of consciousness, non-linear narrative, poetry, etc…) but I thought it was fascinating and appreciated the risks he took (although critics maintain that he is still just a “Western autobiographer).

What I Had Before I Had You by Sarah Cornwell

288 pages

This doesn’t come out until January, but I was able to receive an ARC through Amazon. The narrator, Olivia, a bipolar woman, has cheated on her husband and is moving her young son and teenaged daughter from Texas to New York. She decides to visit her hometown of Ocean Vista where her son, also bipolar, disappears at the beach. While trying to find him she must also tackle the demons of her youth, flashing back to her teenaged years with a mentally ill mother, new friends, too much freedom.

Verdict: Cornwell has a unique tone, but at times I felt some of the coincidences and such were a bit too far-fetched. As someone who grew up with a bipolar father some of the elements of this book did hit home- it’s always interesting to see someone else’s spin on the illness.

Catch-22 by Joseph Heller

544 pages

I originally started reading this in July or August for our English department book club, but the date kept getting pushed back so I stalled. We finally met last week so I rushed to finish before our meeting. Just in case there’s another human being alive that hasn’t read it, Catch-22 is about a pilot named Yossarian in WWII, stationed on an island off Italy, who is frustrated with the increasing number of missions he must fly before he is sent home. The novel satirizes the bureaucratic and stereotypical aspects of wars, with a non-linear, hilarious narrative.

Verdict: As our book club meeting demonstrated, this book is not for everyone. It’s long, it can be difficult to follow if you’re not prepared for the randomness of some of the scenes, and there are a ton of characters. That being said, I loved it and could kick myself for waiting so long to have read it.

Bridget Jones’s Diary, Bridget Jones’s Diary: The Edge of Reason, Mad About the Boy

288, 352, and 386 pages, respectively

Yes, I had a Bridget Jones month. I read the first book back in high school and thought I had read the second, but had apparently not. And then the third came out in mid-October and I was curious to see what happened to Bridget. I plan on writing a post this weekend on my thoughts on it as a “series” (such a dirty word), so check back in a few days if you’re dying to know. Oh, the suspense.

Monthly total: 2,061 pages