I’m back for the July edition of my monthly What I’m Into posts, part of the lovely Leigh Kramer’s link-up. July has somehow felt busy and boring at the same time because our school semester just ended last week and all of the end-of-schoolyear madness as well as vacation planning and planning and running summer English camps has kept us busy, but we haven’t done a lot of exciting extra-curricular activities since we’ve been gearing up for our big trip home in August. In spite of all of that I’ve still found time for reading, seeing movies, watching shows and cooking/baking, all the while anxiously counting down the days until we get to visit home (12!)
What I’m Reading:
I kicked off this month with Robert Galbraith (AKA J.K. Rowling’s) The Silkworm, the newest installment of her Cormoran Strike mystery novels. It did not disappoint. Rowling is, of course, a master storyteller and the mystery was intriguing, the characters were well-developed, and the plot was engaging and unpredictable. I thought this book was great fun.
Next I read Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter. This book follows artists of different types – a writer, an actress, a film producer, and a musician, from post-war Italy to modern-day Hollywood. The connections between the characters are complex and interesting. Naturally I found some characters more compelling than others, but overall I really enjoyed this book. It’s one of my favorite types of books that starts with characters at all ends of the world and in very different circumstances and gradually brings them together until you understand how they are connected and why their stories belong together. And I thought this book did this very successfully. Also, it made me want to go to Italy. But then again, pretty much everything makes me want to go to Italy.
I followed this up with Kathleen Tessaro’s The Perfume Collector which was part of a big sale Amazon was having. (Don’t worry, I still prefer physical books over electronic books, but while living in a foreign country it is infinitely more practical to use a kindle than to have physical books shipped here when I can’t even take them home with me.) I was ambivalent about this book. I enjoyed it enough. It wasn’t in any way a BAD book. It was an easy read without being mindless. It just wasn’t a great book. The book follows two women, one living in England in the 1950’s who is left a large inheritance by a complete stranger and the other – the woman who left the inheritance. I suppose the problem was that I found one of the main characters to be somewhat bland and boring. I just didn’t click with her and the plot was fairly predictable. I did like learning a bit about perfume-making, something I’d never given any thought to.
Cold Tangerines by Shauna Niequist. A few months back I read Shauna’s most recent book, Bread and Wine and just loved it. (It sparked some thoughts about the role of food in my life which I wrote about here.) I was excited to go back and read her other books. The conversational style and honest observations about celebrating ordinary moments of ordinary life made this book very enjoyable. I admit that while I appreciated each individual essay or story, there were definitely moments when I didn’t see the organizing structure too clearly, but I still enjoyed the pieces individually, especially since this is the kind of book I envision myself writing someday.
The Signature of All Things by Elizabeth Gilbert. I’ve been meaning to read this book since it came out, but only just got around to it. Liz Gilbert is a great writer, her prose is smooth and beautiful and she paints a world you can imagine very vividly. This book follows the Whittaker family through the 18th and 19th century. It begins with Henry Whittaker, who rises from poverty to become a prosperous and enterprising botanist, and continues to chronicle the life of his daughter, Alma, who follows her father’s footsteps into botany and ultimately is driven to research and understand the workings of life itself. There were times when the action in the book seemed to move slowly, but the characters were interesting and even the writing so polished that even the more scientific passages were engaging. I don’t know that I would count this among my favorite books, but it’s certainly a good book and well worth the read.
I also just finished up Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird, which is a book about writing. There were some good tips and ideas in this book (carrying around notecards or something to jot ideas on while you’re out and about, developing a group of writing friends for encouragement and support) and there were some hard truths (like the fact that getting published really doesn’t completely change your life), but overall it was encouraging to hear another writer who has been at this for a long time sharing many of the ups and down I feel about writing myself. There were moments that felt a little over-dramatic, or not so practical for me since I am not currently focusing on fiction writing, but I still thought there were some good thoughts and some very funny moments. I realized that this book has now been out for twenty years and it made me wonder how Anne Lamott feels about writing these days and if her advice has changed at all.
On deck for this month (which will include several around-the-world flights): Red Seas Under Red Skies, the second book of Scott Lynch’s Gentlemen Bastard’s series, Jen Pollock Michel’s Teach Us to Want, and probably The Goldfinch (though it’s on Jonathan’s kindle right now so I have to wait for him to finish.) I’ll probably also read a fluffy vacation book or two. I might pick up something from my books in storage at home so I can enjoy reading a physical book for a change. You can follow me on Goodreads if you are interested in what I’m reading.
What I’m Watching:
I’m way behind the times I know, but I’m actually just now working my way through Veronica Mars, which I never had access to before now. Kristen Bell is just the most adorable person in the world and I can’t stop watching her. When I’m not watching VM, I’m still working my way through The Good Wife and lately re-watching seasons 3 & 4 of Gilmore Girls. Jonathan and I have still been catching up on Scandal and the 24 Re-boot as well as Graceland. Every once in a while we throw in some Bob’s Burgers or an old episode of 30 Rock to get some comedy in the mix.
Last weekend we went to see How to Train Your Dragon 2.which was really fun. I think I might have liked the first one better, but it’s been a long time since I’ve seen it so it’s tough to say. And we are eagerly awaiting the release of Guardians of the Galaxy this weekend, so I’ll be sure to report on that next month!
What I’m Eating:
I’ve been trying really hard to eat super-healthy in preparation for our two weeks in the US during which I plan to eat as many foods as I possibly can. (You think I’m joking, but I’ve basically got our meals scheduled out). My dedication seems to be paying off because I’ve lost almost 10 lbs in the last month (yay!) but it does mean I’ve been eating far fewer tasty treats. And lots of eggs. I’ve eaten 2-3 eggs every day for the last month. That is a lot of eggs, particularly for someone who doesn’t like them in the first place. Fortunately, I found this recipe for chicken picatta (well, revised chicken picatta) that not only tastes AMAZING, but is much much better for you than the regular stuff. It’s low-carb, gluten-free, paleo friendly, all that good stuff. I threw some zucchini straight into the pan with the chicken at the end because I liked the sauce so much I wanted it on my veggies too.
In less healthy eating, I also discovered that I can, in fact, make my own samoa girl scout cookies. So I did. And they were amazing. Next time I will try to make mine smaller. And I might consider buying some sort of pre-made butter cookie for the base to save on time. In spite of being very time-consuming and ridiculously rich, the results were fabulous! (Recipe here!)
You can follow me on Pinterest if you want to see what else I’m cooking.
On the Blog:
It’s been a busy blogging month! I want to give a quick shout-out to all of my new followers. I so appreciate your support – the encouraging messages I’ve received and just knowing that at least some of what I write matters to people is really huge. Thank you so much for reading and commenting and sharing. It makes the tough parts of writing and being vulnerable worth it.
I started this month with a post about how my husband doesn’t treat me like a princess. Then I wrote a piece about how hard it is to comfort a loved one when you just don’t have the right words. I reviewed Brené Brown’s book, Daring Greatly, and I had the incredible opportunity to do a 4-part guest series about sex for Brett “Fish” Anderson. Brett also included a re-post of my “I suck at marriage but my marriage doesn’t suck” post for his series on marriage. I jumped in on the Faith Feminisms synchroblog with a tongue-in-cheek piece about being married to a feminist. And I got to write guest post and share a favorite recipe at my dear friend Asharae Kroll’s amazing food-and-photography blog, This Wild Season.
Looking ahead, an editor from Relevant’s print magazine has contacted me about a print article (no details on that at this point) and I am starting to look at this incredibly scary and overwhelming thing called a book proposal (again, no details at this point). So besides my regular blogging activities, I’ve got some potential writing projects on my plate for the next few months.
On the Internets:
I was really moved by this piece from Ann Voskamp, particularly the part where she talks about the problem of evil and whether we’ve maybe forgotten that tied up in that is the (perhaps larger) problem of good. “If there is no God, why is there so much good?”
This gorgeous piece, “On Prayer,” by Sarah Torna Roberts
This news report about the Church Of England synod voting for the approval of women bishops. Yay!
This hilarious post from my friend Briana about one of her recent mothering mishaps.
I really appreciated this post from Rachel Held Evans called, “I Don’t Always Tell You” where she admits to doubts and discouragement and fatigue from fighting battles all the time. I admire Rachel in a lot of ways, even if I don’t always agree with her, but I admit that sometimes I just can’t read another angry blog post. This post showed a softer side of her and reminded me that she is a woman too, doing some hard work, and that even people who seem really confident all the time need encouragement.
What I’ve Been Up To:
As I said before, we haven’t been doing much besides working and spending time with our good friends, Josh and Laura, who are expecting their first baby any day now. It’s kind of fun that every time we see them could be the last time we see them without a baby. Having been with them through this whole pregnancy, it’s exciting to be so close to meeting their daughter. Definitely gives me some maternal urges, haha.
I am anticipating a VERY needed vacation starting August 12th. We will be traveling home to the US for two weeks, splitting our time between my family and Jonathan’s family and from there, heading back to this part of the world for five days of vacation in Bali before going back to Korea in time to start the fall semester on September 1st. It’s been almost a year since we left the US and while I have deeply valued my experiences abroad, I need a little r&r in a familiar place with the people (and foods!) I love to get me through another year in Korea. I’m getting over a nasty cold and I’ve got one more session of English Summer Camp to get through next week and then I am free! I. CANNOT. WAIT.