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What I’m Into: November 2015 Edition

The holiday season is officially here! I wish I had endless resources for Christmas decorating, but we usually just put up the tree and call it a day. Although our new place actually has a fireplace mantle that would be perfect for stockings…then again, our cats will probably think dangling stockings are toys just waiting to be knocked down. We already play an annual game where every morning we guess how many ornaments they knocked off the tree while we were sleeping. I believe the record stands at six.

I’m linking up with Leigh Kramer to share what I’ve been up to in the month of November.

What I’m Reading:

Let’s Explore Diabetes with Owls by David Sedaris. I continued my Sedaris kick with this one. I think I liked Me Talk Pretty One Day better, but I enjoyed this one too. As I’ve said before, Sedaris is a strange guy, but amusing and I feel like I learn a lot about writing from the way he paces his essays and the balance between narrative and exposition in them. And he grew up in Raleigh so I like hearing him describe places I have fond memories of.

Committed by Elizabeth Gilbert. I think I’m more a fan of Liz Gilbert as a person than I am of her as a writer (although The Signature of All Things was pretty good). I listened to this as an audiobook which she read herself and I think that made a huge difference in how approachable and interesting it was. It’s a nonfiction book that’s partially about her coming to terms with the institution of marriage and partially about the historical significance of marriage (in the Western world). The most interesting parts to me had to do with her research on marriage as not being the inherently Christian concept it’s often made out to be and also the tremendously depressing data on how the age of a couple when they marry dramatically influences their chances of staying together. (The younger people marry, the more likely they are to get divorced) and how men’s quality of life improves dramatically after marriage while women’s quality of life is significantly worse. I don’t think this is an amazing book, but I found some of it interesting.

The Lake House by Kate Morton. If you are a fan of Morton’s previous books you will probably like this one. She stays in her wheelhouse with this mystery which involves an old house in the English countryside, family secrets, and movement between the past and present as the reader and the characters try to solve the mystery of what happened to Theo Edevane, who disappeared when he was two years old. I found the ending to be a bit contrived, but was nevertheless charmed by the book.

In the Valley of the Shadow Light has Dawned by Stephanie Ebert. I wrote a review of this little advent devotional here, but the short version is that I loved it because it met me right where I am. I recommend it to anyone looking for how to hold on to hope in the midst of a dark world.

I am on the verge of finishing both Accidental Saints by Nadia Bolz-Weber and Career of Evil by Robert Galbraith (AKA J. K. Rowling) so my review will have to wait for next month, but spoiler alert – I’m really liking them both.

What I’m Listening To:

Adele. Duh. Isn’t everyone?

What I’m Watching:

I completely forgot to mention this last month, but I watched all of season 1 of Jane the Virgin on Netflix last month. I haven’t been able to watch Season 2 though because I didn’t start it in time to catch the first few episodes while they were on Hulu and now they aren’t available anymore (I know, I know, first world problems). Jonathan and I are keeping up with How to Get Away with Murder and Brooklyn Nine Nine (our favorite) and we are making our way through the new season of The Mindy Project.

In movies this month we saw Spectre (the new James Bond movie) which was a classic James Bond movie – entertaining but nothing special. We also saw the last Hunger Games movie with Jonathan’s family on Thanksgiving night. It was well done, but, like the book, rather dark.

What I’m Eating:

Way too much, guys. Way too much. One of my healthier fall favorites has been winter squash (acorn squash). Cut it in half and scoop out the seeds. Fill the hollow with butter, cinnamon, and brown sugar (amount depends on how healthy you want to be) and microwave for 6 – 8 minutes. Eat with a spoon!

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via Huffington Post

What I’m Writing:

I wrote my weekly adventures for weeks 44, 45, 46, and 47 here on the blog. I also wrote about the loss of two dear professors and about advent as the season of holy longing.

I wrote a few more articles for Modernize and while I’ve gotten positive feedback from the editor, I think my contract with them may be at its end. Fingers crossed for a few more weeks of work!

On the Internets:

Did you guys know about Glitter for Your Enemies? Cause I think it’s brilliant. It’s a website that lets you send an envelope full of glitter anonymously to your enemies. So they get glitter bombed. Because we all know how impossible to get rid of glitter. Almost makes me wish I had enemies…

What I’ve Been Up To:

I’ve actually been working a lot this month. I tutor 7 days a week for students from elementary school through college. Some days I just have one student and other days I have 3 or 4. I subbed 8 days this month and picked up 7 freelance articles. Some weeks I have too much to do and other weeks I can’t quite scrape together enough, but God has been faithful and little by little things are coming together, even without a traditional job.

We moved into our new place at the beginning of November and spent the first few weeks getting settled. I did a little photo tour to give you a glimpse of it.

The loss of two of my professors a couple weeks ago hit me hard and made me think a lot about what it means to live life well.

This past week we traveled to Ohio to spend Thanksgiving with my in-laws. It was our first time back to Ohio in a year and half and it was good to be with family.

December promises to be full of activity. My birthday is coming up this week and my best friend from college and her new husband are coming to visit for the weekend. A week later, Jonathan’s family will come to visit us bringing along his brother who will be newly arrived from South Africa. After their visit, we’ll travel to see my family in Louisiana for Christmas.

While I’m looking forward to all of that activity, I’m also longing to carve out times of quiet. After two years of being away for the holidays, I’ve become accustomed to a quieter Christmas season.

How was your November? What do you have planned for the holidays?

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What I’m Into: June 2015 Edition

It’s that time for the monthly round-up, otherwise known as What I’m Into. As always, this is a link-up with the lovely Leigh Kramer.

I know I try to be all about living in the moment and embracing where I’m at, but to be honest I’m feeling pretty ready to kiss June goodbye. In the Korean school year, the first semester runs from March to July and in spite of this being my second summer here, I can’t shake the feeling that I’m supposed to be on summer vacation right now. I realized that I keep thinking of the time we leave Korea (August 14th) as the beginning of summer since that will be our first break from teaching and we’ll be going home. In reality, it will be the very end of summer, especially since Jonathan has to be at school on August 18th. (Yes, that is correct. We have 3 days to arrive in the US, get all of our stuff out of storage and drive it 12 hours from Louisiana to South Carolina while severely jet lagged. I feel tired just thinking about it.)

Here are all the things I’ve been up to in June while trying to avoid thinking about the move and how I still don’t have a job or a place to live.

What I’m Reading:

I read a lot of 3-star books this month (not typical for me since I can be a picky reader), but thankfully I ended the month with a bang. If you’re on Goodreads, I’d love to connect with you there!

Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro. This was my first Ishiguro book and to be honest, I wasn’t wowed. This is a sort of dystopian novel along the lines of The Giver but set at an exclusive boarding school in England. Even though there is a first person narrator, I felt disconnected from her and from the other characters to the extent that I didn’t really care that much what happened to them. There was also a moment towards the end that is set up as though it’s a big reveal, but I personally didn’t find the information surprising as I’d assumed it all along. I also found it irritating how extremely non-curious the characters were about the world and their role in it. I know this book is pretty highly acclaimed, but for me it was just OK.

Mariana by Susannah Kearsley. Kearsley writes a lot of semi-historical novels set in England and Scotland. In this one, Julia Beckett buys a centuries-old Wilshire farmhouse on a whim, but she discovers that her draw to the house may be more than random chance when she starts to slip back in time, experiencing the life of Mariana, a woman who lived in this house in the 17th century. This book was so similar to the only other Kearsley book I’ve read, The Winter Sea, that I couldn’t help feeling like maybe she’s a bit of a one-trick pony, but I liked it fine. I didn’t feel like I really knew all that much about the protagonist since the book is more driven by the plot than by character development, but there was still something pleasant about it. Like a not-as-good Kate Morton novel.

Interrupted: When God Wrecks Your Comfortable Christianity, by Jen Hatmaker. This book challenged me, in a good way. I’m planning some posts on this in the future, but the central message of this book is what the Gospel is really about and whether we ought to be going out and being among people in need instead of trying to get them to come to us.

The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd. I’m so proud of myself for finally getting around to this book! I don’t know what took me so long to read this since it has great reviews and it sounded like the type of book I’d like, but now that I’ve read it I can confirm that this is a great book. This novel is based on actual historical figures, Hetty “Handful” Grimke, a slave in a prominent Charleston household, and Sarah Grimke, the master’s daughter. The story begins on Sarah’s 11th birthday when Handful is given to her as a present and continues on through the two women’s lives as each woman strives for freedom in their own way.

The Geography of You and Me by Jennifer. This is YA book that I literally read in one day while traveling. It was cute enough and the writing wasn’t distractingly bad or anything, but it was kind of a take-it-or-leave-it book for me. It won’t stick with me.

The Well of Ascension (Mistborn #2) Brandon Sanderson. Reading this took me as long as all of the other books combined, but even at a whopping 825 pages it was worth it. This book picks up a year after the fall of the Final Empire (where the first book ends) in the series and I liked it even more than the first one. If you’re into big fantasy series, definitely give this one a go.

What I’m Watching:

In theaters this month we watched Spy and at home we watched the movie Chef. Spy was much funnier than I expected it to be, but I also feel very uncomfortable recommending it to anyone as I know that they will judge me because this movie was VERY crude. It’s totally not my usual type of humor, but I admit that I laughed. A lot. But I’m not condoning it. And Chef was very touching. Plus I love movies about food.

On TV I finished the current season of Nashville, and am current on Pretty Little Liars. I’ve also made it to season 4 of The Good Wife and Jonathan and I have been watching a lot of Frasier together in the evenings now that most of our regular shows are off for the summer.

What I’m Listening To:

Podcasts, man. First my friend Josh turned me on to the Gilmore Guys podcast  which is literally two guys who go episode by episode through Gilmore Girls and discuss everything they like and don’t like about each character and each episode. And they are serious. They are not being sarcastic at all. And then my friend Josh started his own podcast with his friend Kayla. It’s called Podcast! The Musical and is a podcast dedicated to discussing musical episodes of TV shows. It’s great! And then hubby and I started listening to Spontaneanation which is an improv Podcast done by Paul F. Tompkins. Each episode starts with him interviewing a special guest. The interviews are not always that interesting, but they use the information from the interviews in the following improv. And the improv is hilarious. My recommendation if you are first trying it out is not to judge it til you’ve listened all the way through the improve part. You’ve just got to muscle through the weird intro and the interview. It’s worth it. My favorite one I’ve heard so far was A Secret Society.

What I’m Eating:

I’ve managed to make June a pretty healthy eating month and can now fit in my summer clothes without assistance. I’ve made two food discoveries this month that have made eating mostly plants more enticing. The first is green smoothies which are simply some sort of milk (I use soy or almond or coconut or a combination, but you can use cow milk, too) plus whatever frozen fruits I have (usually one frozen banana plus a handful of something else) plus a big handful of spinach. If it’s not sweet enough I will add a dried, pitted date or two. You can’t taste the spinach, I swear, and they give me a lot of energy. Of course, I don’t eat a bunch of fruits the rest of the day on mornings I eat that, since it still ends up being a lot of sugar, but I’ve been really enjoying that!

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And my other food obsession is making mini eggplant pizzas. Just slice and roast your eggplant in the oven for 15-20 mins, then top with tomato sauce, toppings and cheese and broil til the cheese melts. Super easy. Super yummy.

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If you want to keep up with what I’m cooking and eating, follow me on Instagram and Pinterest.

On the Internets:

This guest post on my friend Brett’s blog about responding to difference.

This interview Rob Bell does with Elizabeth Gilbert

This post from my friend Sara about the temptation to live a safe life instead of embracing opportunities and then being left with regrets.

This post, which is not new, but which I just read again recently and still love about when you doubt your faith.

This post from Sarah Bessey about being a secret-keeper even though you are a writer, blogger, and over-sharer. I could relate so completely it was eerie.

On the Blog:

I went on 4 new adventures for my 52 weeks of adventure series (23, 24, 25, and 26). I wrote about fictional character crushes, books and place, middle child books, and YA fiction. I hosted Thankful Thursdays posts from Crystal Tripp, Kelsey Munger, Cara Meredith, and Meredith Bazzoli.  I wrote about being an introvert, my battles with trust, and rediscovering music.

This month I published my most-read post of all-time, On Getting Married Too Young. It got shared around on Facebook and mostly got a great response which was exciting. It isn’t WHY I write at all, but when you guys comment and share my posts it makes me feel like there’s value in what I’m doing here and I appreciate you all.

What I’ve Been Up To:

We celebrated our 5th anniversary with a weekend trip to Busan. We said good-bye to friends who were leaving for the summer and won’t be back before we go. We made a list of all the things we want to be sure to do before we leave Korea and started trying to sell some of our things. I picked up a couple of freelance gigs that will hopefully help cushion the blow as we move into a no-income situation. We did an awesome photo shoot with our friend, Laura. And we celebrated Jonathan’s 28th birthday the right way – with Indian food and homemade cake.

What have you been up to?

What I’m Into: April 2015 Edition

Even though I was counting down the days to the end of April and the beginning of our little spring vacation trip to Taiwan, somehow the end of the month What I’m Into post crept up on me. So here it is, a little late, but not forgotten. As always, I am linking up with Leigh Kramer for this monthly round-up.

What I’m Reading:

I’m actually super confused about what I read this month. I had to look back on Goodreads and check the dates because I couldn’t remember… yeah, it’s been that kind of month. Apparently, I read 5 books. I’m at 20 for the year so far which is on-pace for my goal of 60.

51gKBPHun-L._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_An Altar in the World by Barbara Brown Taylor. I really love Barbara Brown Taylor. This book was a breath of fresh after so many books (and sermons and churches and Christians) who intentionally or unintentionally separate the spiritual life from the physical world. This book made me feel so grounded in my body and to this earth. I especially loved the practical disciplines she suggested for making the world a place of worship. Things as simple as taking a walk or working with your hands. or being still and resting. The thing I loved most about this book was walking away feeling that a simple life could be good and honest and holy and true when so often I feel the drive to be more and do more, even from the church.

imgres-1A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness. (First book in the All Souls Trilogy). Oh man. This book drove me nuts. I read it because several bloggers and fellow readers who have similar taste to mine raved about it. This book is Twilight for grown-ups mixed with The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova. Since I really hated both of those books, it makes sense that this book drove me crazy. However, if you really really liked either or both of those books, then you will love this. Diana Bishop is a witch who inadvertently discovers an old manuscript that all of the non-human community has been searching for for years. Vampire Matthew Clairmont stumbles upon Diana while in pursuit of this manuscript, and the two fall immediately, madly, and passionately in love despite the fact that a union between vampires and witches is forbidden. This book is 600 pages of almost nothing happening. And then when something finally does happen (around 400 pages in) it is resolved within 20 pages. I could not connect with the main character, Diana, at all. I didn’t understand her reactions throughout most of the book.  There was so much tea drinking and wine drinking and not-having-sex for somewhat inexplicable reasons (very reminiscent of Twilight) and what essentially felt like the same conversation happening dozens of times–Matthew saying, “No, Diana, you cannot do x. I won’t allow it,” and Diana saying, “Matthew, I am my own person I can do what I want.” And Matthew responding in awe, “Will you never cease to amaze me?” Diana also did a lot of telling people that Matthew was in charge and they all had to listen to him, which rubbed my feminist side the wrong way. And yet…at the very end of the book things suddenly got more interesting. And now I kind of want to know what happens in spite of finding this book almost painful at times. Dilemma.

imgresOrdinary: How to Turn the World Upside Down by Tony Merida. The author of this book is the pastor of a church in North Carolina that was supported by my former church in Raleigh. I picked this up because it was pitched as a sort of anti-Francis-Chan’s Crazy Love. It was supposedly about how God doesn’t call us to be radical, he calls us to be faithful in ordinary lives. But then came the twist. And the twist was convicting. Because Merida pointed out that our ordinary lives should be about extravagant justice and mercy, especially to the poor, the orphan, and the widow, because these things are the very fundamentals of what it means to follow Christ. I didn’t think this book was especially profound, but it was challenging and convicting.

imgres-2Atlas Girl: Finding Home in the Last Place I Thought to Lookby Emily T. Wierenga. I had a complicated relationship with this book. First off, I think it’s mis-marketed in a way. I didn’t get the sense that this book was about finding “home” even though the author shares life experiences that occurred in various parts of the world. To me it it was more about finding herself, coming to terms with her faith and with her family. The writing is poetic and moving at times, but at other times it feels like she is drawing connections without fully explaining them. In other words, it probably makes sense to her how these things are connected, but it doesn’t always to the reader. There were quite a few times when I wanted to know more or to understand more. Wierenga writes candidly about growing up with a missionary/pastor father who was distant throughout her childhood, about her struggle with anorexia as a child and again as an adult, and about the pain and the healing of moving home to help her father care for her mother who was ill with brain cancer. The stories she tells are poignant and evocative, even if some left me wanting more. Overall I thought this was a lovely memoir.

41YwlLvuaIL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_I also want to give another shout out to my friend Brett “Fish” Anderson’s book i, churchIf you are interested in a realistic view of the problems with the church coupled with a hope for how the church could be, you should check this out.

What I’m Watching:

Television: Finished The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt (sometimes hilarious, sometimes just OK) and The Mindy Project and caught up on Pretty Little Liars (total guilty pleasure show). Still making our way through the new season of Community and staying current with Brooklyn Nine Nine (hilarious) and Nashville. Also picked up where I left off with The Good Wife a few months ago. I’m mid season-2 now and still love it.

Movies: Avengers: Age of Ultron – entertaining, but I didn’t love that the villain is essentially a computer. I think Loki is one of the most fascinating villains in the realm of superhero mythology, so I missed him.

What I’m Eating:

Wraps. Guys, I just figured out that if I take a fairly boring salad and wrap it in a tortilla – Bam! Magic. I tried it out with a recipe of Bang Bang Shrimp and it was probably the most excited I’ve been about lunch in two years. Tonight I made buffalo chicken wraps. I sort of feel unstoppable. Follow me on Pinterest for more of what I’m cooking.

Photo by: cinnamonspiceandeverythingnice.com

Photo by: cinnamonspiceandeverythingnice.com

On the Internets:

My sister-in-law sent me this article called “I Followed My Stolen Iphone Across the World and Became a Celebrity.” It’s kind of long, but it’s so amazing. And hilarious.

This post from a sort-of-internet/sort-of-real-life friend Abigail Heath about wanting life to be a fairytale. I actually have a lot of thoughts about this that I plan to share in an upcoming blog post.

The news about actor Jonathan Crombie’s sudden death made many of us sad and nostalgic about the role his most famous character, Gilbert Blythe, played in our childhoods and adolescences. Here are two great posts that express some of my own feelings about what Gilbert Blythe meant to me and how one person, even playing a part, can impact the lives of so many: this one from Kelsey Munger and this one from Sarah Torna Roberts.

I was also moved by this piece “How Christians Have Sex” from my college friend, Rachel. I’ve always admired Rachel’s frankness, but more than that, the way she finds poetry in the raw truth. While our experiences are very different, this post gave me a lot to think about and I admire her courage and her willingness to express confusion and doubt in a world that prizes certainty and self-assuredness.

Also, just everything on my blogging friend Angela’s travel blog. Especially all of the spectacular apartments she and her hubby manage to find around Europe.

This video that my mom sent me made me cry. Let’s all walk through the door marked, “Beautiful,” OK?

On the Blog:

I’ve really tried to stay committed to posting three times a week though I admit that sometimes it’s a challenge. Thankfully, I have my 52 Weeks of Adventure posts and my Friday Book Chats to keep me focused. This month I wrote about unplanned loveliness, a coastal hike in Busan, a professional baseball game, and a major hair change. I wrote about my favorite spiritual memoirs, about books I own but haven’t read, about the most interesting fictional characters I’ve encountered, and about my favorite books to re-read.

I also wrote about my struggles with wholeheartedness in the midst of failures and about combatting shame with self-compassion. I wrote about gratitude and started a Thankful Thursdays guest series with this post from Pradnya Vernekar.

My most-viewed post this month was an open letter to my sisters about love and regret followed by my Geronimo post about giant leaps of faith which was part of a link-up with my friend Karissa.

Also, if you just can’t get enough of me, you can like my Facebook page, or follow me on Twitter and Instagram. I will probably follow you back if I can figure out how. 😉 And I will definitely keep you updated on flash Kindle deals and other stuff I’m discovering day-to-day.

What I’ve Been Up To:

Things are starting to crank into high gear as we make preparations to move back to America. At this point we are about 3 1/2 months away. For a while I was so excited for the next step that it felt like it couldn’t come quickly enough, but nowadays I’ve become more hesitant. I’m anxious about all of the unknowns of what comes next, but also realizing how much of this life I will miss and how quickly it will all feel like a dream. I am a complete mess of contradictory emotions.

We went through some major ups and downs as we considered whether or not we should buy a house when we return to the US (we landed on not, for the record) and I struggled through some serious homesickness when all of my college roommates got together a few weeks ago to help with planning my best friend’s wedding.

I continued to wade through awkward interactions with CoT this month (which have actually declined a bit as we’ve fallen into a routine) and got to witness the school’s Sports Day at the end of the month. It was similar to Field Day in my school growing up with tons of strange relay races and athletic competitions. There was also a lot of parent and even grandparent participation built in which I thought was kind of sweet.

The first-graders had to roll this giant ball around a cone and back in pairs. It was unbelievably adorable.

The first-graders had to roll this giant ball around a cone and back in pairs. It was unbelievably adorable.

We have two short trips planned for May, one to Taiwan and one to Tokyo, so I expect this month will move quickly. I have a few guest posts coming up this month for other blogs that I am excited to participate in as well as continuing my Thankful Thursday series with guest writers here on my blog. I really enjoy opportunities to collaborate with other bloggers and I hope you enjoy those posts in the coming weeks!

What I’m Into: March 2015 Edition

March is over and spring seems to have officially arrived in Korea! I am linking up with Leigh Kramer for my monthly What I’m Into post.

What I’m Reading:

MistbornMistborn #1:The Final Empire by Brandon Sanderson. I’m a big fan of Brandon Sanderson, but had not yet read his Mistborn trilogy. I tackled the first book this month and will probably delve into the second one in April. In a land where ash falls from the sky and mists envelop the night, a band of thieves plots to overthrow the Lord Ruler, the immortal king who has oppressed the people of for centuries. Kelsier is the tortured hero, leader of the band of thieves, and schemer who has designed an elaborate and perfect plan to overthrow the Lord Ruler using allomancy, the magic of metals. To complete his plan he needs the help of Vin, a street thief who has no idea the power she possesses. This book has solid characters, an interesting magic system, and a compelling plot line. It’s not Way of Kings, but it is still a really great fantasy book

Girl meets godGirl Meets God by Lauren F. Winner. This is Winner’s first book and it explores her conversion from Orthodox Judaism to Christianity. Reading this was a strange experience for me since I read it after reading her more recent book Still: Notes on a Mid-Faith Crisis which I wrote about here). To be honest, I think reading these in reverse order probably affected my reactions to some of this book. Overall I liked it more than Still and I was really intrigued by all that she shared about Orthodox Judaism and the connections between the Jewish tradition and Christianity. However, reading it and knowing about her future struggles with Christianity and even her future divorce, I felt like I could see some foreshadowing in this book. One thing that’s interesting to note is that Winner converted to Orthodox Judaism in the first place. Her father was Jewish, but her mother was Christian. In the Jewish faith, Judaism is passed down by the mother, so Winner actually had to undergo an extensive process to formally convert to Orthodox Judaism. A few years later, after becoming convinced of the truth of Christianity, she uses a marriage and divorce metaphor to talk about her conversion. In one passage in particular, she speaks about leaving Judaism in terms of divorce and she says,

“If it was a marriage, me to Orthodox Judiaism, I failed long before I met up with Jesus. I failed from the beginning. You could say I became a Christian because Judaism had stopped working for me, but the truth is that I had not done very much to make Judaism work…

Sometimes divorce is the only thing to do. Sometimes it is the more loving thing to do. Sometimes, you have to do it.”

I don’t think these passages would have stood out to me so much if I didn’t know what came later for her. There are moments when it seems that faith is more a matter of choosing what she intellectually has decided is true than it is a matter of her choosing something she believes in with her heart as well and is something that greatly impacts how she lives her life. All of that to say, I thought the book was very interesting, but reading it after Still made me wonder if some of her more recent struggles are really larger patterns in her life.

CinderCinder by Marissa Meyer (This is only $2.99 for Kindle right now!) The stand-out book for me this month might just be Cinder. This is  a YA book about a futuristic world where androids are essential to daily life and the moon has been colonized and become the home of a new species known as Lunars. This unique twist on the Cinderella story involves a cyborg/mechanic Cinderella, a handsome prince, and the search for a cure for the plague pandemic that is wiping out Earth’s population. This is not the sort of book I would normally gravitate towards, but it is so fresh and clever and well-done that I couldn’t put it down. Thanks to my friend, Karissa, whose positive reviews convinced me to give it a shot!

ImperfectionThe Gifts of Imperfection by Brené Brown. Brené Brown is a huge inspiration to me. I’ve written previously about her book, Daring Greatly, which explores the power of vulnerability and her two TED talks (here and here) are phenomenal. This is her book about wholeheartedness and what we need to live a wholehearted life. As most of you know, wholehearted is my OneWord for 2015. This book inspired and encouraged me in my journey towards wholeheartedness. Some of the material was already familiar to me because it was touched on in her other book or in her TED talks, but this book was still well worth the read. I will be blogging more in the near future about specific steps I am taking on my journey to embrace courage, compassion, and connection.

I’ve just started Barbara Brown Taylor’s An Altar in the World and I am GREATLY anticipating the release of Rachel Held Evans’ new book, Searching for Sunday, which comes out April 14th. If you’re a big reader (or even if you’re not) I would love to connect with you on Goodreads!

What I’m Watching:

This month I caught up/finished the current season of Nashville and Jonathan and I tried to stay current (with limited success because of internet troubles, so we are still behind) with New Girl, The Mindy Project, and Brooklyn Nine Nine. We also finished Broadchurch (amazing) and watched a few episodes each of The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, the new season of Community, and Fresh Off the Boat. I have to say, the standout for me so far is Fresh Off the Boat. I think I find it especially funny and accurate since my experience living in Asia.

We actually went to a lot of movies this month and were able to see Birdman (Jonathan liked it, I was ambivalent), Cinderella (I could die of happiness.This was so beautiful I never wanted it to end), and Insurgent (I like this about the same as the first movie minus Shailene Woodley’s amazing hair. I do really like her though. It was entertaining). Speaking of Shailene Woodley’s hair, we also watched The Spectacular Now which I thought was a really good, if unsettling movie.

What I’m Eating:

I recently tried out a zucchini apple muffin recipe that came out really well and is something I will make again. You know me and zucchini – I like to put zucchinis up in everything. I’ve also been obsessed with enchiladas lately. They are all I want to eat. Follow me on Pinterest for more of my favorite recipes!

Photo by: twopeasintheirpod.com

Photo by: twopeasintheirpod.com Click image for link to the recipe.

On the Internets:

I loved this piece from Micha Boyett about choosing love and humility over rightness. I think Micha is such a beautiful writer and truth-speaker.

I appreciated this post from my friend Karissa about the differences between writing and blogging, something I’ve been struggling to sort out myself.

My friend, Briana is running a 3-part series called Love Letters to the Church from a Millennial at Off the Page that are just fantastic.

This stunning piece of prose by Addie Zierman that reminds us of the love of the father for the prodigal, even when he is still a long way off.

I loved this piece from my friend, Sara, about where our confidence comes from.

I actually really appreciated this interview from Angeline Jolie regarding her recent surgery to remove her ovaries, etc. after her double mastectomy last year. The story was completely sensationalized in the media, but I like her message about making sure women have all the information they need about their health and that they can feel empowered and in control of their bodies.

I loved this brief sermon from Nadia Bolz-Weber about that oh-so-famous verse, John 3:16. She really has a way of breathing new life into things that feel old and tired.

“God so loved this corrupt world of empires and victims and violence that God gave God’s self to us. God so loved the world that God came to us in the most vulnerable and fragile way possible. God so loved the world God created that God walked among us as love.

I love Mumford and Sons new single, “Believe” whose chorus, “I don’t even know if I believe,” might as well be my anthem most days. I think it’s a fantastic song, but I can’t pretend that I don’t miss the banjo. Something about the folksy bluegrass sound touches me in a way that electric guitars just don’t. (PS- don’t watch the video, it will make you motion sick!)

On the Blog:

This month I kept up with my 52 Weeks of Adventure series by posting  Weeks 9, 10, 11, 12, and 13 adventures.

I had an article published over at Relevant.com about overcoming guilt in my sex life and did a follow-up post here. I wrote about not faking it til I make it and living authentically, about my recent struggle with anxiety, and about how judgement day might just be the best day of our lives.

I also continued my Friday Book Chat series with posts on my abandoned books shelf, my favorite mysteries, my favorite childhood books, and my guilty pleasure books. I also run a list of current Kindle deals that I’m aware of on books I’ve read or would like to read at the end of these posts.

What I’ve Been Up To:

Thinking back to the beginning of March feels like ages and ages ago. I feel like I’ve made a lot of changes this month. We started the new school year and I’ve been dealing with my interesting new co-teacher.

I got a tattoo (which I love! I already want another one), new glasses, and highlights (I don’t think I have any pictures of that, but I basically look the same just blonder).

tattoo2

Glasses

New glasses. Total cost of the frames and top-quality lenses – $60. Go Korea!

My friends have been rocking at life lately.

My best friend got engaged and I got to help her pick out a wedding dress thanks to Google hangout and lots of pictures. Two of my friends announced pregnancies this month, both of which were somewhat surprising and completely exciting. My friend, Karissa is having a poetry chapbook published cause she’s just that awesome.  And my friend Brett “Fish” Anderson published and launched his book i, church which you should all buy and read and share with others now. Brett is passionate about the church and has a realistic view of the problems with it while also sharing hope and casting vision for what the church should be.

This was also the month that things became more definitive for us in terms of what comes next. Jonathan applied to a number of graduate school programs to do an MFA. These programs are incredibly small and selective and I am so tremendously proud of his work and his perseverance.  After months of working, then waiting, then praying, we’ve arrived at a decision. (Drumroll, please!) We are moving back the US mid-August where Jonathan will be pursuing an MFA in Creative Writing (for fiction) at the University of South Carolina in Columbia. The paperwork isn’t in yet, but that’s our final step in making it official.  And just to brag on him – this program received over a hundred fiction applicants and accepted four. FOUR, y’all. He is so freaking awesome.

I will be working full-time to support us, though I don’t know where or what I’ll be doing at this point. We’ve never been to Columbia, but are really pleased about it’s proximity to some of our closest friends, almost all of whom live somewhere in the Carolinas. We are full of excitement and anticipation for this new season, though it’s going to be a crazy ride. The earliest date we can possibly leave Korea is August 14th and school starts for Jonathan on August 20th. Best case scenario is that we will have about 4 days to find a place to live and get all of our stuff there from my parents house in Louisiana. It’s gonna be an adventure. Good thing we’re always up for those!

What have you been into this month?

What I’m Into: November 2014 Edition

As usual, this is my monthly wrap-up post for Leigh Kramer’s “What I’m Into” link-up.

What I’m Reading:

If last month was a bit excessive on the reading front I think I’ve evened it out by only reading four books this months and most of them were lighter reading as well.

19715106Delancey by Molly Wizenberg. I really enjoyed this book. I love books about food and the food industry and this one – about a young couple opening a specialty pizza restaurant in Seattle, both satisfied my voyeurism about that world and broke down some of my romanticized notions about what owning a restaurant is like. I’ve heard others say this book was not as good as Wizenberg’s first book A Homemade Life, but as I haven’t read that one yet I don’t have anything to compare it to.

17557750Me Before You by JoJo Moyes. Moyes’ books are all over bestseller and other kinds of book lists, but I’d never read anything of hers before so when this one went on sale for $2.99 in the Kindle Store I thought I’d try it. (It is actually still on sale for that price if you want to check it out). I wanted a bit of lighter read in a modern setting. Well, I got the modern setting part right. Ambitionless twenty-six year old Louise loses her job and takes a temporary position as a caretaker for a 35 year old quadripalegic who challenges her to live life on a grander scale. This was a quick read, but light it was not. I’m glad I read it, but be warned that you’ll need Kleenex.

17925145Someone Else’s Love Story by Joshilyn Jackson. Jackson is another writer of what might be called “women’s fiction,” but is not really chick lit. More domestic drama? I never really know how to describe it. I admit that I didn’t love the main character of this book – I found her a little annoying – but the other characters and the situation were interesting enough that they outweighed those feelings.

 

19398490-1All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr. This book has made all of the Best of 2014 book lists this year and I can understand why. I admit that I am not quite done yet, so I can’t comment on the ending, but everything I’ve read so far is very compelling. In alternating chapters the book tells the story of a blind French girl whose father is the Keeper of the Locks for the Museum of Natural History in Paris and a German orphan boy whose talent with engineering gets him recruited into an elite military academy and then sent into the field tracking the Resistance during WWII. It is a gorgeous and haunting book.

This month so many books I’ve been wanting to read went on sale for Kindle and I couldn’t resist buying them since many of them had been on my wish list for eight months or more. (I do still prefer physical books but living abroad makes the Kindle so much more practical). You have permission to scold me if next month’s books do not include some of the following: Pastrix by Nadia Bolz-Weber, Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty, Kitchen Confidential by Anthony Bourdain, Wild by Cheryl Strayed, Found by Micha Boyett, and The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd.

You can also follow me on Goodreads if you want to keep up with my reading.

What I’m Watching:

My internet seems to be struggling more and more these days so I never really know when I’ll be able to stream shows or which shows I’ll be able to see. I am a little behind but trying hard to stay current with Nashville, Parenthood, New Girl, Mindy Project, Brooklyn Nine-Nine, and Modern Family.

This month’s new discovery/obsession: Jane the Virgin. The premise sounds kind of dumb, but I’m finding it irresistibly charming a la Ugly Betty. We also finished the entire season of the BBC’s Broadchurch which was so fantastic. Highly recommend it.

On Netflix I am nearly finished with the last season of Veronica Mars and have made it halfway through season five of my Gilmore Girls re-watch. Hubby and I have also been watching more episodes of Frasier, a show he grew up on, but that I’ve never seen before.

I saw both Interstellar and Catching Fire, this month’s two big movie releases. I love everything Chris Nolan’s ever done and Interstellar was no exception although I admit that it took me a little while to decide how I felt about it – I didn’t really know much about the plot going into the movie, which was fun but also meant it took me a while to digest it.

What I’m Listening To:

SERIAL!!!!  Need I say more? For anyone who doesn’t know (though I can’t imagine who doesn’t know) Serial is a podcast that is an off-shoot from This American Life (my other favorite podcast). Serial is a one big investigative journalism story that is being told one episode at a time. This is the first season they’ve made and it is completely addicting. This season’s story is about a murder that happened in the 90’s where an 18 –year-old boy went to prison for supposedly murdering his girlfriend. But did he really do it?!!!!! We just don’t know. We are down to the final few episodes and I am so torn. If you haven’t listened to this, you need to catch up. It’s absolutely fascinating.

I also loved hearing this original song from Lauren Daigle, a friend of my little sisters’. I think she’s got a really cool voice and she is such a sweet girl.

Fawn Larson is a friend from high school who is a pretty awesome blue grass kind of artist releasing her first album. If you’re into that kind of music and supporting indie artists, you should check her out and buy her album!

What I’m Eating:

All the Thanksgivings! Thanks to a great expat community here in Korea we got to participate in three separate Thanksgiving dinners with all the good stuff. My contributions included apple crisp and this pumpkin cake with cinnamon cream cheese frosting. Pretty serious stuff.

b6d29cbb669200d9f13a1896c0c2a6f3

Photo by: cozycakescottage.com

Follow me on Pinterest for more recipes.

On the Internets:

I adored this post from Jamie the Very Worst Missionary about the obnoxious misuse and overuse of the word “Blessed.”

Also, my friend Brett has had a few different series going on over at his blog, Irresistibly Fish including perspectives on racism and reconciliation, what single people want their married friends to know, and what married people want their single friends to know. Basically, there’s always something new happening over on Brett’s blog.

If you are one of the people who is also obsessed with Serial, these charts are fun.

If you need a laugh, here’s a great video of how German sounds compared to other languages. Cause it’s always fun to laugh at people speaking other languages. 😉

 

I also enjoyed this humorous post in the New Yorker about the benefits of coconut oil. “A few dabs of coconut oil in my ears and I could hear the ghosts of all my ancestors. “You’re fabulous,” they whispered. “The triumph of our bloodline.”

On the Blog:

As most of you know I was honored to be Freshly Pressed by WordPress this month, ironically for my post about how going viral doesn’t necessarily open all the doors you think it will. Thanks so much to all of you who sent encouraging comments and messages. I’m sorry I haven’t been able to respond to each one, but I have read all of your comments and appreciate them so much! I’m really humbled by all the love and encouragement I’ve received.

I also had my friend Meredith share her story of uneventful virginity for my Sex and the Church series. (There is one more piece in this series coming this week! Stay tuned!) I wrote about why I don’t jive with phrases like, “This World is Not My Home,” about learning to speak thankfulness as a way of showing love, and about my favorite passage on gratitude.

What I’ve Been Up To:

My students all participated in an arts festival at the beginning of the month where they performed songs and dances and other routines for all of their parents. They were adorable, though I did find the song and dance to “Summer Lovin’” from Grease to be mildly inappropriate for elementary school students. I figured they didn’t understand what the lyrics were really about…

The semester is winding down so I’m about to enter the frenzy of planning for English festival and the three separate English camps I have to run over the holidays as well as (the much more exciting) planning for our two weeks of vacation in January (hurray!)

I spent a lot of time this month running in preparation for the half marathon I ran last weekend with my friend Courtney. We finished in 1:57:07 which was my first time running a half in under 2 hours.

This week we had all the Thanksgivings including one with our friends Michael and Sophia who are a Korean couple in their 60’s who just retired to Korea after living in New York for most of their lives. They were a little homesick for American Thanksgiving so we all went to a big international hotel downtown that had a big Thanksgiving buffet in their main restaurant. They didn’t really know how to cook a turkey but they had an amazing selection of food so I can’t complain. Especially since we had two perfectly cooked turkeys over the weekend.

Tomorrow, we diet!

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Look at that beauty. 28-lbs of turkey carcass.

 

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?