Serial

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.

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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: 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?