leigh kramer

What I’m Into: October 2014 Edition

Happy November! Here is my October What I’m Into post. Sorry it’s a few days late! As always, I am linking up with Leigh Kramer for this post.

What I’m Reading:

This month I buried myself in books. It was almost an addiction – the minute I stopped reading one thing I needed to pick up something else. I couldn’t tolerate any lag-time. This was partly because quite a few books I wanted to read went on sale for kindle all at once and I bought about 8 books in just a few days and then felt like I needed to justify my purchases by reading them all immediately. But mostly it was because I was hiding from writing. I kept trying to write – blog posts and book chapters and proposals –and I kept failing to write. I started to cram all of my free moments with other people’s words so I wouldn’t have to think about my own. And this is what I read:

Speak by Nish Weiseth. This is a brand new book about the power of sharing stories. The author is the founder of A Deeper Story, a website that creates space for people to tell their stories. This was a short, quick read and I really enjoyed it.

What Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty. I had heard this book widely praised for a long time. I’ve read two of Moriarty’s other books and really enjoyed them, so I was looking forward to this one. I was not disappointed. This book is about a woman who wakes up after a fall with no memory of the past ten years of her life. While the whole “I have amnesia” trope can feel overdone or predictable, the complexity of the characters made this a much more nuanced story instead of just a cheap plot device. This was a fun, quick read, but it also left me thinking a lot about how the little choices we make in life that can add up to change the direction of your life. Little moments can pull you somewhere you never imagined going. This book also deals with infertility in a very genuine way that I’ve never quite seen done in fiction. I’m a fan.

Help, Thanks, Wow by Anne Lamott. This is a short, sweet book about what Anne Lamott considers to be her three essential prayers. I liked the idea of distilling prayer down to the core of what we are usually really praying and appreciated the reminder that simple prayers are sometimes the most powerful.

Julie and Julia by Julie Powell. I love food books and I loved the movie version of this book. Sadly , I did not love the book version quite as much. I still enjoyed it, but frankly the author is much more likeable as she is portrayed by Amy Adams in the movie than she is in real life. (Who wouldn’t be, I guess). I just found her to be very whiny and ungrateful and she joked a lot about how mean she was to her husband and how much it sucked that she’d married her high school sweetheart and so had never been with other men, etc. The parts about cooking were definitely the best parts, but overall I’d give it a 3 out of 5.

Tables in the Wilderness by Preston Yancey. Sigh. Such mixed feelings. This is a brand new book that’s been lauded by many of the bloggers and writers I admire. It’s not a bad book. But Yancey is young. He’s even younger than I am. And honestly…it shows. This is a spiritual memoir about moving from certainty about God and faith into doubt and then back again. Much of it is about Yancey’s transition from a staunch Southern Baptist tradition to exploring more liturgical traditions, specifically the Episcopal church. His reflections on the liturgy and what it can do for us are some of the best parts of the book.  But, there are many other parts that just read (to me) as incredibly un-self-aware. The basic arc of the story is of a kid who goes to college (he went to Baylor) thinking he knows everything and then comes to understand that in fact, he doesn’t have everything figured out yet. He tries to start a church at 18 and unsurprisingly, it fails. His conversations with his friends and his questions about faith remind me of my time at Wheaton and that was very relatable for me. But ultimately he tells this long story of his time in college and how he realized he didn’t know everything as though it were a very unique and original experience. I couldn’t help feeling that this is such a common story. Most of us go to college as arrogant know-it-alls and discover that we don’t know everything. It’s called maturity. And if it had been written that way – as though he was reflecting on an experience common to young adults –I probably would have liked it better. As it was, I felt like he was trying to share a super unique story and he went into great detail about his struggles and choices and emotional conflicts. And honestly, his struggles and questions were very valid, but also very common. The best way I can say it is that in the book he was not as self-aware as he seems to think he is. He seems to still have the “I’m a special millennial snowflake” syndrome common to many of us. Also, some of the writing (particularly near the beginning) was technically poor. He switches verb tenses like it’s his job. So, I didn’t love it. I feel a little ungracious writing this, but it’s also my honest opinion.

The Nesting Place by Myquillyn Smith. This is a quick, easy read about decorating and how you don’t have to have perfection to have a beautiful home. Mostly, it’s about the pictures.

Faith Unraveled by Rachel Held Evans. I read this at the exact right time in my life. This is Evans’ spiritual memoir coming from a fundamentalist evangelical “it’s us against the world” background and learning to be ok asking questions, even if you don’t find answers right away. I loved that she actually articulated some of the really hard questions of life and faith and didn’t try to smooth them over with Bible verses or trite Christian phrases. My biggest takeaway was something Evans said at the very end of the book – that there is a difference between questioning God and questioning what you believe about God. That was so profound to me and has helped me come to terms with some of my questions.

Quiet by Susan Cain. This book is soooo good. It’s completely fascinating. If you are an introvert or you love an introvert, you should read it. It taught me so much about how I work as a highly sensitive introvert in contrast with my husband who is more strongly introverted, but is not highly sensitive. I also found her exploration of Western culture’s “extrovert ideal” so helpful in understanding the ways in which I’ve trained myself to act more extroverted. This helped me make sense of why I am 100% sure I’m an introvert, but other people sometimes seem surprised by that.

The Opposite of Me by Sarah Pekkanen. An easy but unremarkable read about fraternal twins who have never gotten along and come to understand each other better. No great shakes, but it was an easy read and a nice break from all my non-fiction.

I was reading The Inner Voice of Love by Henri Nouwen devotionally over the past few months, but I’ve finished it now. I am currently using Shane Claiborne’s Common Prayer in my devotional reading. I’m nearly finished with Molly Wizenberg’s Delancey and have a few lovely novels queued up on my kindle.

I read 10 books this month for a total of 51 so far this year. You can follow me on Goodreads if you’re into that.

Also, If you would be interested in me doing more book reviews in the future, leave me a comment and let me know, especially if there’s anything in particular you want to hear more about.

What I’m Listening To:

October has been a month of long runs preparing for a half marathon at the end of November. On long runs I like to listen to podcasts. In addition to This American Life and Wait, Wait Don’t Tell Me! I’ve become obsessed with NPR’s newest podcast, Serial, which tells one long story over the course of many episodes. This story is a true crime investigation of a man who has been in prison for 15 years for a crime he still says he didn’t commit. It’s fascinating.

Also fascinating/moving/inspiring was Nadia Bolz-Weber’s interview for the On Being podcast. Bolz-Weber is a Lutheran priest and the author of Pastrix a book very high on my to-read list. If you get a chance, listen to this. There are some breathtaking moments.

What I’m Watching:

I’m on Season 5 of my re-watch of Gilmore Girls. I raced through the last season of Call the Midwife when it hit Netflix. I’ve also been watching and loving The Paradise on Netflix. I’m staying current with Nashville, Parenthood, Mindy Project, New Girl, Modern Family, and Brooklyn Nine Nine. We’ve also been watching old episodes of Frasier and just last night watched the first episode of the British show Broadchurch after which I immediately asked Jonathan if we could skip work today and binge-watch it, but he said no.

*I just edited this because I forgot the movies!*

We saw Gone Girl last weekend and I thought it was really well-done. I read the book last year and actually pretty strongly disliked it because it seemed to be trying to say something deeper about marriage and relationships, etc but epic-ly failed to do so because of the nature of the plot. (When there are psychopaths or sociopaths involved you can no longer treat any of their relationships as an effective commentary on normal society.) I thought it worked so much better as a movie where you could appreciate it as entertainment without trying to extract this deep message about marriage and society.

We also saw the Maze Runner, which was entertaining as well as long as you didn’t think about it too much.

What I’m Eating/Cooking:

Soup! I got a new thermos to take my lunch to school with me and the ability to eat hot foods is rocking my world. I make a big pot of soup on the weekend and bring it for lunch every day. Last week it was my all-time favorite chicken tortilla soup. This week it’s a chicken noodle soup with no noodles and more veggies whose recipe I just made up on the fly.

I use this recipe except I add a tsp of taco seasoning and up the other spices. And I use black beans instead of (or sometimes in addition to) corn. Photo by: Allrecipes.com

I use this recipe except I add a tsp of taco seasoning and up the other spices. And I use black beans instead of (or sometimes in addition to) corn. And I put the whole thing in my crockpot, including the raw chicken. So easy. Photo by: Allrecipes.com

Also I made my mom’s gumbo this weekend (with a bit of my own flair thrown in – let’s face it, I am pathologically incapable of leaving recipes alone) and it was like heaven.

Gumbo

I also made a pumpkin cake with cinnamon cream cheese frosting for church yesterday and it rocked my world. I don’t have any pictures because I inhaled it.

If you want to see more of what I’m cooking you can follow me on Pinterest.

What I’m Writing:

As I said above, I’ve mostly been avoiding writing, so instead I’ve been hosting my Sex and the Church guest series here including such greats as “Can We At Least Begin By Saying the Words?” “You are not a gift to be unwrapped” a post about same-sex attraction, and a post from my hubby about how sex is both dangerous and beautiful. I also wrote two guest-posts for friends’ blogs. The first was for my friend Brett about being (or not being) a mom. The second guest post was for my friend Karissa’s Where I Found God series about finding God outside of the church.

On the Internets:

This off-color, but terribly funny post (similar to last month’s) about Women Having a Terrible Time at Parties

I loved this article from my friend Briana Meade about getting how we are not special millennial snowflakes and how we have to learn to live faithfully in the small moments of life instead of constantly thinking we are too good for ordinary. I have had to come to grips with this myself over the last few years and I think this piece is so insightful.

Glennon Melton’s challenge What if Your Life Is Already the Best Thing? is worth a read. (I adore her).

This post from Lisa Jo Baker about why women don’t need to be ashamed of needing to feel beautiful stuck with me.

And this post from my friend Karissa about quitting the writing rat-race (even thought this was technically a November post, I’m including it). I second everything she says here.

And, obviously, this:

What I’ve Been Up To:

I’m training for a half marathon at the end of November so I spend about half of every weekend running and then trying to recover from running. I frequently ask myself why I am doing this, but then I remember, hey, I’ve got these awesome shoes I’ve got to justify buying, and I soldier on.

Shoes

It’s like running on beautiful pillows made of mermaid fins.

I also recently discovered the enormous Korean cosmetic and skincare industry – I was always aware that that’s a huge thing here and that they’re supposed to be really good, but I hadn’t really tried out too many products. One day it occurred to me that I basically haven’t bought new makeup in eight years and I decided to try a thing or two. I made the thrilling and dangerous discovery that I love Korean cosmetics and skincare. The packaging is ridiculously cute and everything is so cheap! AND they give you SO MANY free samples. What’s not to love?!

Samples

Seriously. All free samples. Including that toner and moisturizer that are at least half-size products.

We recently joined a few other people to start a sort of house church here in Daegu and have been really enjoying getting to know some new people and getting to have church in a more casual and comfortable setting.

The past two weeks seem to be peak fall weather/foliage time for Korea so we are trying to get out and enjoy that as much as possible. Korea lights up like New England in the fall and I can’t get enough of it.

I was loving seeing all the baby costumes on Facebook this past weekend. Baby costumes are probably the biggest pro in my mind to having a baby. If I have kids, mine are gonna wear costumes all the time. I especially like this kid in his minion costume.

 

Oh, and I dyed my hair. I’m no longer a red-head. I’m a raspberry-chocolate head. I keep scaring myself when I pass mirrors.

What have you been into? Anything amazing I should be checking out?

 

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What I’m Into: September 2014 Edition

I can’t believe it’s the end of September already, but since it is…it’s time for the monthly round-up. Here is my September contribution to Leigh Kramer’s “What I’m Into” link-up.

What I’m Reading:

At first I thought, “Man, I didn’t read that much this month.” But then I remembered that The Goldfinch was 750-unnecessary-pages long and I gave myself a break.

goldfinchThe Goldfinch by Donna Tartt. Sigh. I don’t really know where to start with this one. It’s not a bad book. There are some really interesting characters and ideas. I just didn’t love it. It was not up to par with what I expect of a Pulitzer Prize-winning novel (It was no Kavalier and Clay). My main beef with this book is that the main character and narrator (Theo Decker) is neither interesting nor sympathetic. Apart from the very beginning where you feel bad for him because of his family situation, he really turns out to be a pretty terrible person, but he’s not even an interesting terrible person. I don’t think all the characters in good literature need to be likeable. But they do have to make me care what happens to them. I did not care about him. Some of the secondary characters, on the other hand, were fascinating. At the end of the book Theo goes into this long tangent where he philosophizes on life in a way that I found really unsatisfying. He ends up saying essentially that life is really difficult and sucky and meaningless but it’s all we have so we should maybe try to find some joy in it. And I just didn’t understand how that was even logical. If life is sucky and meaningless, what possible motivation is there to try to be a good person and find joy? I was pretty frustrated at the end of the book – dissatisfied with both the story itself and the author’s conclusions on life. And it was a lot of pages to read to feel that disappointed.

secret placeThe Secret Place by Tana French. I love, love, love Tana French. She and Kate Atkinson are my favorite mystery writers, hands-down. This book did not disappoint me. I will say – this was the first of her books that I guessed who the murderer was pretty early on, but I don’t really think it was because it was too obvious. I just had a good gut instinct on this one. The Likeness is still my favorite French book, but I really enjoyed this one.

 

 

 


Good luckThe Good Luck of Right Now
by Matthew Quick. This is the author who wrote Silver Linings Playbook which I LOVE (the book and the movie. The movie is actually one of my very favorites). It’s told in a series of letters that Bartholomew Neil is writing to Richard Gere. Bartholomew is a 38-year-old man with some sort of social/mental impairment that’s unspecified. His mother, whom he’s lived with all of his life, has recently died of brain cancer and he is alone, unemployed, and without any adult friends except for his priest and his therapist. Richard Gere was his mother’s favorite actor and Bartholomew has become fixated on him as a sort of imaginary friend/confidant who helps him get through life. It’s a funny and sad and endearing book Not on the same level as Silver Linings Playbook, but still a good (and fast) read.

 

 

teach us to wantTeach Us to Want: Longing, Ambition, and the Life of Faith by Jen Pollock Michel. This is a wonderful book that I am still meditating on. It’s about building a theology of desire.  Michel begins by talking about how mistrustful many Christians are of desire and how early in her adulthood she felt that the right thing or the thing God was calling her to do would necessarily be difficult and uncomfortable. In other words, if it was something she genuinely desired then it must not be God’s will. She goes on to suggest that the sign of spiritual maturity is not how well we suppress our own desires, but how much our desires change to reflect God’s desires. Michel uses the Lord’s Prayer as a frame to hang the many facets of desire and to explore what role desire plays in the life of faith. This book is thoughtful and wise and I highly recommend it.

 

 

I am currently reading: Julie and Julia by Julie Powell,  Life of the Beloved by Henri Nouwen (as devotional reading), Crazy Love by Francis Chan with my Bible study, and very slowly working through, Good News About Sex and Marriage which is an exploration of the Catholic church’s teachings on marriage and sex by Christopher West. This month I’ve got my eye on Speak by Nish Weiseth and State of Wonder by Ann Patchett (though I’ve been trying to get to that one for a while now). For a more complete list of what I’ve read/am reading follow me on Goodreads or check out my Books I’ve Read page.

According to my Goodreads page I have read 41 books this year. I guess that’s accurate.

What I’m Watching:

I saw Begin Again and Frank in theaters this month. I adored Begin Again. Interestingly enough it is extremely popular in Korea. My Korea coteacher told me she has all the music and listens to it on her way to work and on her way home and before she goes to bed each night. I guess I shouldn’t be too surprised since Adam Levine is in the movie and Korea has an inexplicable love for Maroon 5. Frank was weird, which is not necessarily a bad thing for me, but in this case I thought it was interesting but inaccessible. I also watched Philomena which I really loved. Oh Dame Judi Dench. You have done it again.

Before the fall premiers started I was watching Gilmore Girls season 4, the last season I have on DVD, in anticipation of its release to Netflix next month. I also re-visited my love for Ugly Betty and have been watching old episodes of Parks and Recreation with the hubby. Oh, and I’m trying to catch up on Pretty Little Liars but have trouble finding places to watch it. Now that the shows have started up again I will be watching some to all of the following: Parenthood, Nashville, ANTM (Don’t judge), Brooklyn Nine Nine, The Mindy Project (I remind you, Mindy Kaling is my spirit animal), New Girl, Scandal (after we catch up), and who even knows what else.

What I’m Eating:

In July I lost 10 lbs. In August I gained 8. I mean…I accept full responsibility for this. I really don’t have any regrets. But I don’t seem to have quite been able to kick the habit. I blame a lot of that on my discovery of these cookies which literally melt in your mouth. These are definitely my Recipe-of-the-month.

almond meltaways

Photo by: The Novice Chef Blog

For more recipes and other happy things, follow me on Pinterest.

 

What I’m Writing:

Relevant

Did I mention how excited I was to sort of be this close to Nick Offerman’s face?!

Here on the blog I wrote about my difficult summer and about praying for the grace to believe when I don’t. In response to the print publication of my Relevant article coming out, I re-posted my response blog to my Lies About Sex article. I wrote about what it means to be sensitive to others and still celebrate and mourn in community. And I wrote about Jill Duggar Dillard’s pregnancy announcement and whether or not things need to be public to be celebrated. And last week I wrote about the time I asked my mom to spank me and how I’m learning that grace isn’t really free.

I had an opportunity to submit a freelance piece for Explore God last week (not published anywhere yet) and am looking forward to contributing to Karissa Knox Sorrell’s “Where I Found God” series this month. I will also be hosting my own series on Sex, Purity, and the Church. I am still accepting submissions for this series. If you are interested in writing on this topic you can contact me at lily.e.dunn at gmail.com.

On the Internets:

This has been a good month for the internet.

Ann Voskamp’s “Why Wait Til Marriage” post was just beautiful and great to read at a time that this topic has been a major part of my work.

This re-post of Sarah Bessey’s “Dear Body” is a beautiful celebration of womanhood and extending love and grace to ourselves.

This essay my sister sent me on the art of listening is both interesting and convicting.

Emma Watson’s Kick-Butt speech about the need for male feminists was, well, kick-butt.

 

This set of graphs that explain so many truths about Gilmore Girls.

This is absolutely hilarious. “Unsatisfied Women in Art History.”  But sorry about all the curse words. I guess.

“18 Kinds of People Who Comment on Recipe Blogs.” And this I read this at school and was laughing so hard my face hurt. I don’t know if everyone will find it as funny as I did (probably not) but as someone who does a lot of perusing of recipes online I see this all the time.

Jonathan shared stories and pictures from our trip home and to Bali over at Two Sore Thumbs. Check it out!

What I’ve Been Up To:

Coming off of a rough summer I have been enjoying and embracing fall. Perhaps this has something to do with the ability to cover the 8 lbs I gained in August with fashionably bulky sweaters and stretchy tights, but hey, I’m not proud.

Really though, the fall is always the best season of the year for me emotionally and spiritually and often physically as well. I love the cooler weather, the colors, the smells and the FLAVORS. (I am eagerly awaiting my order of canned pumpkin so I can start making some fall yummies). I’ve started running again and am hoping to do another half marathon in November. So far I’m only up to 6 miles, but I got some awesome new shoes that make me feel like I’m magical, so I think it’s doable if I can just stop eating pizza and cookies all the time.

On Sunday we went hiking which my legs are still punishing me for, but it’s been really nice to be in the sweet spot for outdoor activities again and we want to take advantage of those kinds of things before it gets too cold.

Korean thanksgiving (Chuseok) fell very early this year so we had a 5-day weekend at the beginning of September which we used for a very quick trip to Japan. We were only there for two full days, but we got a quick taste of Kyoto (which is beautiful) and Osaka. We even saw some real-life geisha! (Geisha is the plural of geisha in case you were wondering).

School started up for the fall, which in Korea is just the second semester of the same school year, so there have been no big changes there although I do have a new coteacher since my original one is out on maternity leave. Yesterday she (the new coteacher) said to me, “Today it is raining and I have had many classes. I will need something sweet.” So yeah, I think this relationship is going to work out well.

I’ve also discovered that my right thumb is apparently delicious. I feel like I’ve been missing out for a long time.

yummy thumb

What I’m Into: June 2014 Edition

It’s time for the monthly round-up again. If you are into this kind of post, check out Leigh Kramer’s monthly link-up to find other bloggers’ posts or submit your own.

What I’m Reading:

My plan was to tackle some non-fiction books this month, but I ended up going in a different direction. This month turned out to be more stressful than I thought it would be, leading me to devote most of my reading time to fun, easy reads that served as a mental break from some of the stressors of real life. You can follow me on Goodreads if you want the play-by-play.

 

BridgetBridget Jones: Mad About the Boy, Helen Fielding. The return of Bridget Jones as a 50-year-old widow with just as much personality and all the same quirks we either loved or hated about her in the first place. Basically, if you loved Bridget before, you’ll find her not much changed (in a good way). If you found her annoying, this probably isn’t the beach read for you. I read this during our weekend at the beach at Namhae and it was fluffy and charming.

 

MindyIs Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? Mindy Kaling. Ok, I’m pretty sure Mindy Kaling is my spirit animal. Again, I guess it depends on whether you generally find her funny or not, but I do and I thought this book was hilarious. And I also wanted to be her best friend. I can’t wait for her second book to come out.

 

 

 

Husband's SecretThe Husband’s Secret, Liane Moriarty. For the most part, I really enjoyed this book. I found most of the characters to be interesting and complex and I’ve always enjoyed the types of narratives that start with different characters in different places and slowly intertwine. It was interesting and held my attention from beginning to end. And for the first time I considered the phenomenon that Easter happens IN THE FALL in Australia (and the rest of the Southern Hemisphere).  Mind bomb.

 

 

DaringDaring Greatly: How to Courage to be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead, Brene Brown. I won’t say too much about this now since I am planning a blog-post review of it in the next few weeks, but I highly recommend it to everyone. It’s different than I expected it to be – for some reason I was thinking it was more creative non-fiction whereas it is true non-fiction written by a real researcher. I believe everyone struggles with shame and vulnerability and I also believe the ideas and strategies in this book about embracing vulnerability and developing shame resilience has the power to change people’s lives. You should read it and be open to finding yourself in it.

Currently reading: The Silkworm by Robert Galbraith (pen name for J.K. Rowling), Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott, and American Gods by Neil Gaiman with an eye on Red Seas Under Red Skies by Scott Lynch and The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt for the near future.

 

What I’m Watching:

I know I’m behind the times, but I just started watching The Good Wife and I’m totally hooked. I also spent some time this month getting all caught up on my Pretty Little Liars, which of course, has become more and more absurd and convoluted with each passing season, but which I can’t stop watching because I need to know what the heck is going on. Also those girls have great hair and I feel like I could learn a lot from them.

See what I mean. Total hair envy.

See what I mean. Total hair envy.

Jonathan and I have been watching the new season of 24 and catching up on Scandal now that Netflix just released new episodes. We also have been excited about the return of Graceland – we really enjoyed the first season and hope the second one is just as good.

I also saw Maleficent a few weeks ago and I really enjoyed it. I thought it was an interesting take on the story and Angelina Jolie was fantastic. I really, really want to see The Fault in Our Stars even though I know I will cry buckets, but unfortunately I don’t think it’s going to make it to Korea so I might have to wait awhile.

 

What I’m Eating:

Curry curry curry. I’ve liked curry for a long time, but I suddenly find myself wanting to eat it always. Indian curry. Japanese yellow curry. Thai green curry. I love them all. I still haven’t gathered all the necessary ingredients for completely homemade curry, but I’ve been rocking the packaged stuff I can bulk up with veggies and the restaurants in town that serve it.

I’ve also been really into this super easy, melt-in-your-mouth delicious almond sheet-cake recipe. I made it once as an experiment, then again for a baby shower, and again this weekend as Jonathan’s birthday cake. This thing is scrumptious and soooo easy. (Though I do but about half the amount of powdered sugar called for when I make the frosting and it’s still so sweet you’ll get a headache if you aren’t careful).

Photo from sweetandsavorybysarah.blogspot.com

Photo from sweetandsavorybysarah.blogspot.com

 

Oh, and I also made the discovery of this super easy and delicious way of doing pork loin! All you need is steak seasoning, balsamic vinegar and oil. Soooo delicious!

Photo from allrecipes.com

Photo from allrecipes.com

 

You can follow me on Pinterest if you want to see what else I’m cooking.

On the Blog:

This month has been a doozy. I started out with a post about the title of my blog, Such Small Hands. Then I had this article about sex published over at Relevant and received a ton of messages alternately praising and berating me. I wrote this response post about my experience. Jonathan and I celebrated our anniversary and I wrote a short post reflecting on that. And I wrote a post challenging myself and others to live a life of extravagant generosity.

I have some exciting upcoming writing opportunities in the pipeline as well – first of all, Brett Fish Anderson  has given me the opportunity to do a series of guest posts on his site expanding on some of the thoughts in my Relevant article regarding purity culture and pre-marital/post-marital sex. I’ll be linking to those posts here as they go up over the next few weeks.

Secondly, Explore God, a website that focuses on creating thoughtful content that engages with spiritual doubts and questions, has invited me to join their team of writers. Check out their website and keep an eye out for something from me sometime in the fall.

 

On the Internets:

This tongue-in-cheek piece “When Suits Become a Stumbling Block” is the funniest thing I have read in a long, long time. If you grew up in the Evangelical Purity Culture like I did, this will make you laugh. Please remember that this is a SATIRE and don’t get your panties in a wad.

“Cough. Breathe. Cancer. Dance.” by Shawn Smucker at A Deeper Story. This beautiful piece about mortality and suffering and beauty hit very close to home as this month I received news from home that one of my loved ones is losing one of her loved ones.

Jamie, the Very Worst Missionary’s post “A Million Ways to Say it Wrong” about her recent trip to Thailand and the near impossibility of finding the right words to talk about things like human trafficking, prostitution, and human rights violations, but also the absolute necessity of trying.

Also, this video which just makes me all kinds of weepy.

 

What I’ve Been Up To:

Jonathan and I took a long weekend trip to Namhae, which is an island just off the coast of southern Korea (connected by a bridge) where we explored some terraced rice patties, lounged at the beach, and went kayaking. He wrote a blog post about it here on our Korea blog.

On June 13th we celebrated our anniversary and Jonathan surprised me with a trip to the Busan Aquarium. Fun fact about me – I am, for no discernible reason, obsessed with aquariums. Second fun fact – the lighting in the main tank of the Busan Aquarium turns out to be the prime place to take the most hideous/evil-looking pictures of all-time. I gave myself nightmares when I saw this one.

Hideous me

Yesterday was Jonathan’s birthday so we celebrated with cake a presents and dinner at a restaurant. It was low-key, but I think still a good way of honoring the wonderful man he is and who he is becoming. In case you didn’t know it, I really love that guy.

Other than that, we are winding down the semester at school. My students have finals this week (even though there are still 3 more weeks of classes after this) and I’m in crunch time for planning our English Festival and the two camps I’ll be working before our official vacation time. But today is July 1st which means we are 43 days from being home for vacation. I’m considering making a paper chain to count down. As we say in Korea, “Fighting!”

What I’m Into: April 2014 Edition

Linking up with Leigh Kramer again this month for her What I’m Into series.

What I’m Reading:

I actually finished Words of Radiance this month even though I slipped into last month’s round-up, but now I sort of regret doing that because my book list feels short. So I’m just going to re-mention that I finished Brandon Sanderson’s Words of Radiance this month and it was even better than the first one and I cannot recommend it highly enough.

bread and wineBread and Wine by Shauna Niequist is a book that had been on my digital bookshelf for a few months. This month I finally got around to reading it. Let me tell you, this book was a balm for my soul. Through years of struggling with my “relationship” with food, I have come to believe that there is something deeply significant about what we eat and in the communal aspect of sharing food with others. Niequist’s book made me feel validated in these feelings. It especially helped me to articulate for myself how I feel about food and my consumption choices in a world where more and more people are becoming ardent food-evangelists for a particular way of eating. (I wrote about that here). At it’s core though, this book is about food as an avenue for community and about hospitality, both of which are increasingly important values in my life.

cuttingThe Cutting Season by Attica Locke. I’d seen this book on a lot of bestseller lists and was in the mood for something different. Genre-wise I’d classify it as a literary mystery. The plot is built around a murder, but the book isn’t designed as a classic detective or crime novel. Overall, I thought it was a good book, not a great one, but the basis of its appeal for me was that it’s set in the present day on a plantation in South Louisiana, actually just an hour or so from where I grew up The plantation is kept as a historical site and the main character is in charge of renting it out for events and running tours. I’ve rarely read a book, even one set in Louisiana, that brought me home so completely. This book made me miss Louisiana, which is strange for me since I’ve never felt particularly tied to it

thousand daysThe Book of a Thousand Days by Shannon Hale is a YA fantasy book I decided to read this as a quick and relaxing story while I tried to decide which larger book to get into next.. It served its purpose. No great shakes, but it was mildly entertaining. I’m generally a fan of the retold fairy-tale genre when it’s done well.

I’ve just started reading The Wise Man’s Fear which is the second book in the Name of the Wind series by Patrick Rothfuss. So far it is just as enchanting as the first one was.

What I’m Watching:

Divergent: Jonathan and I saw Divergent in theaters a few days after it came out here in Korea. In his words, “I liked it more than I thought I would.” Having read the books, there are a lot of gaping plot/logic holes to the story which can be irritating if you think about them too much. But if you can put all of that to the side and just go with it, the movie was entertaining and the acting was pretty good. And Shailene Woodley’s hair was absolutely the star of the show.

Noah. I know a lot of people have strong opinions about this movie. Frankly, I don’t understand the people who were getting their panties in a wad disowning it because it isn’t biblical. What did they expect? These are secular filmmakers making a movie they hope will entertain people and make money. Their goal was never to make a biblically accurate story. All of that aside, there were a few things I really liked about the movie – like the way that God speaks to Noah once and then he is left clinging to that, forced to have faith that his encounter with God was real and meaningful. There are times when God doesn’t give us constant amazing displays of his power and presence and sometimes we have to trust God and have faith in our past experience of God even when He is silent. What I didn’t like so much is the portrait of this t God who doesn’t intervene even when Noah gets fixated on the idea that they aren’t meant to survive. I didn’t like how the other characters, even Noah’s family, treated the whole thing like it was Noah’s God who only existed in his head rather than a God that they could also communicate with. I heard many complaints about the strong environmental message, but I didn’t find that problematic personally. I think Christians, more than anyone else even, should be concerned about how we care for the earth and could stand to think about conscientious consumption and what it means not to take and use more than we need. All in all, I didn’t think it was a terrible or offensive movie, but I also didn’t think it was a great movie. I was just like, “Meh.” Though the special effects of the actual flood were kind of cool.

As far as television goes, I can feel summer coming as we reach the season finales of New Girl, Mindy Project, Parks and Recreation, and Modern Family.  I’ve continued to be hooked by Nashville and am completely emotionally exhausted after this season of Parenthood. And of course, there was the series finale of How I Met Your Mother which I had conflicting feelings about and which left me feeling like I’d lost some of my best friends. Is that sad? I’m also more than halfway through Call the Midwife which I am both fascinated and repulsed by. During ever labor scene I swear I will never, ever do that and then every time they successfully deliver a baby, I cry at the miracle of life, so I don’t know where that leaves me on the baby thing…

 

What I’m Listening To:

Ingrid Michaelson’s new album is wonderful (like everything about Ingrid). I also stumbled onto this gem recently and have become completely obsessed with it. This is an unrecorded song that she sings at live shows sometimes with her husband, fellow musician Greg Laswell. I can’t even deal.

 

What I’m Eating:

I’m still loving the zucchini lasagna, but strawberries being in-season here led me to try a strawberry cream cheese chocolate chunk bread recipe that I cobbled together out of a few recipes I found on Pinterest and then turned into strawberry cream cheese muffins. They were a rousing success. I also turned my love of adding zucchini to things to my baking and tried a lemon zucchini bread. I don’t like using oil in my baking, but there isn’t any applesauce here (which would be my normal substitute) so I used sour cream instead. It made the texture slightly gummier, but it also cut out about 800 calories, so I say worth it.

zucchini bread

Check out my Pinterest boards for the basic versions of these recipes (I always end up changing things). I’m also obsessed with pistachio ice cream right now. I can’t get enough of it. But sadly, I think I bought the last pint from our local grocery store this week. I may be the only person who ever bought it so I’m not confident they will be re-stocking any time soon. So much weeping…

Best thing I’ve read:

One of my favorite writers, Addie Zierman’s, wrote a courageous post about depression.

And Emily Maynard wrote this beautiful, thought-provoking post about God and gender. Parts of this really resonated with me. Parts of this were confusing to me. I wasn’t 100% sure what she wanted us to take away, but i think it’s worth a read. I’m still mulling it over.

Finally, my friend Briana Meade’s post about tricking the YMCA into thinking she works out so that she can take advantage of a few hours of childcare and free coffee cracked me up. I’m obviously not a mom yet, but I’m pretty sure I’ll be doing things like that too.

 

Best thing I’ve written:

My most-read post this month was the one I wrote about the sacramental nature of food and why I don’t really believe in Paleo. The thing I am most proud of is probably my spoken-word poem from the beginning of the month that was a guest post for my friend Briana’s blog. I don’t think it’s the best thing I’ve ever written, but it was way out of my comfort zone and I felt good about trying something new.

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In other news, we are kicking off May in Korea with a bang. My parents have arrived in Korea for a visit! They’ll be here for the next 10 days and we are off of work on Monday and Tuesday for Children’s Day and Buddha’s Birthday respectively, so we’ll have extra time to gallivant around the country.  And in case you missed them, pictures from our trip to the green tea fields and cherry blossom season are up on Two Sore Thumbs!

What I’m Into: March 2014 Edition

I am linking up with Leigh Kramer for her What I’m Into series (a few days late). Since the new school semester started at the beginning of March I have been much busier than I was in January and February which means I’ve done a lot less reading/watching/listening, etc. than I would like. So, I’m including a few from February as well to round out the list. I am very excited to have a guest post for Briana Meade coming out very soon, so stay tuned for that!

 

What I’ve Been Reading:

Way of Kings

Words of

Blue Bike



 

 

 

 

where'd you go bernadette

girl

Name of the Wind

 

 

 

 

 

 

  1. Way of Kings and Word of Radiance. Books 1 & 2 of Brandon Sanderson’s Stormlight Chronicles. Oh. Em. Gee. Some of the best books I have read ever. Period. And I have read a looooot of books. Beautiful writing, stunning world-building, interesting plot, complex characters, twists and turns. These books have everything. The only downside is that the second one just came out this month, so it will probably be another three years before Sanderson churns out his next 1,000 page masterpiece. Also, I’m cheating a little bit because I am not quite done with Words of Radiance, but maybe you can cut me some slack.
  2. Notes from a Blue Bike Tsh Oxenreider’s new book about living simply and creating the life you want to live. In many ways I was inspired by this book to evaluate and define what it is I want out of life. What are my priorities? What are the things that matter most deeply to me? What are the values I want to build my life around? And how do I make those things reality. You only live once and you can either whine the whole time about how life isn’t the way you wish it was, or you can find ways to intentionally create the life you want to live. Tsh gives examples from various times in her family’s lives when they have been  living in Turkey, in Austin, Texas and in a tiny town in Oregon. I mostly really enjoyed this book and its message. But then she wrote a chapter about traveling and how it’s important for their family and so they have found a way to make it work even after having kids. At first I was like, “Hurray! It’s totally possible, see?!” And then I read about how they spent a week in Paris with their kids and made compromises like barely seeing the Louvre and stopping at playgrounds so their kids could get out energy and foregoing a romantic picnic by the Eiffel Tower. And that’s where she lost me. Because all I could think was, “That sounds great, except for the part where your kids were there and you had to go to all of the playgrounds in Paris.” So, this confirmed for me that I need to go to Paris before we have kids.
  3. Girl at the End of the World. This is Elizabeth Esther’s memoir about growing up in and leaving a fundamentalist cult. It was equal parts heartbreaking and hopeful. Although not many of us have experienced the level of fundamentalism and abuse Esther experienced, I thought her story shed light on what spiritual abuse looks like in an extreme case which helped me understand what it can look like in milder situations. I also drew hope from the way Esther and her family were eventually able to make peace with God and find a way back to the Church. If anyone had a reason to give up on Church entirely, it was Esther, and reading her story gave me hope for my own.
  4. Allegiant– Veronica Roth. I read this because I read the first two books in the Divergent trio and felt compelled to finish the story. It’s easily the worst of the three books. In this book the narrative is told by two first-person narrators (Tris and Four) and chapters alternate between them, but the voices were so similar I constantly had to flip back to the beginning of the chapter to remember who was supposed to be speaking. The plot feels very fragmented rather than cohesive and in the end I still wasn’t sure what I was supposed to be hoping for.
  5. Gone Girl –Gillian Flynn. I read this as a quick read at the end of my vacation and I can’t say I liked it all that much. Without ruining the ending (even though I don’t really recommend reading it) I’ll just say that in my opinion, the author sacrificed an opportunity for complexity in the characters and some insights on relationships for the sake of sensationalism. Not a fan.
  6. Where’d You Go, Bernadette? – Maria Semple. I read this book as a light vacation kind of read and I was not disappointed. It’s fun, it’s clever, it’s well-written. I didn’t guess the ending from page room. The characters are unique and interesting. If you are looking for something light but not mindless, I’d recommend it.
  7. Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss. This is another long fantasy book, but the prose is stunning and the characters are great. In simplest terms, it tells the story of a young boy who loses his family to some mysterious forces and spends a lifetime trying to find out what happened to them and seek justice. With about a million plot twists along the way. If you are at all into fantasy, read it.

 

 

What I’ve Been Watching:

Movies:

Captain America – Winter Soldier: This was another typical superhero movie and I found it entertaining as I generally like superhero movies. I’ve always found the Captain America character in himself a bit bland since he is just sort of an all-around good guy without a lot of internal conflicts. I did think this movie added a little more complexity to the Captain America saga. And he’s easy on the eyes.

The Grand Budapest Hotel – What to say…it’s a Wes Anderson movie. While I LOVED Moonrise Kingdom, this movie was harder to categorize as something I “enjoyed.” Some parts of it were deeply sad, but were mixed in with Anderson’s characteristic quirky humor so that it was also amusing. But it was hard to say, “Oh I loved it!” when there were some very sad or upsetting elements. I do always love the look of Wes Anderson movies. Each shot is like a painting and I find them very visually interesting.

 

TV Shows:

Since finishing both Sherlock and Downton Abbey, I’ve been keeping up with my regular shows including Nashville, Parenthood, Bones (out of loyalty, even though every episode is essentially the same), and The series finale for How I Met Your Mother took me through an emotional wringer I may never recover from.

Jonathan and I have also started watching the IT Crowd and are trying to catch up on Scandal which we just started watching a few months ago. (Are we the only people who don’t find Olivia Pope to be all that sympathetic of a character, btw? I just spend most of the show feeling really bad for David Rosen). We also watch Parks and Recreation, New Girl, and Modern Family as they air.

What I’ve Been Eating:

I made a zucchini lasagna for the first time a few weeks ago and I am absolutely raving about it. It’s hands-down the best thing I have cooked since moving to Korea. You use the zucchini instead of lasagna noodles so it’s much healthier for you (though it does still have all that cheese). I’ve actually made it twice since I found the recipe and talked about it at least once a day. I’m that proud of it.

Zucchini-Lasagna

Also, I am maybe obsessed with pinot noir. I can’t seem to stop myself from buying it every time we go to Costco or Homeplus (the only 2 stores in our city that sell wine). It’s like I’m stocking up for the apocalypse. This wouldn’t be such a terrible thing, except that Jonathan doesn’t really drink wine. So it falls to me to finish all those bottles. I bravely soldier on…

It’s finally spring in Korea which means cherry blossoms everywhere! We are headed to the Jinhae Cherry Blossom festival this weekend and running a 10K in our city which we will hopefully write all about soon (with many pictures!) on our Two Sore Thumbs blog.

What about you? Anything you are into that I am really missing out on?