Tuesday, May 31, 2011


Let me warn you now that I'm a little verbose today.  Will you stay with me?

You might have noticed that today is the last day in May.  Remember this post, when I said I wouldn't be buying anything until at least the end of the month?  How I have too much stuff?


I pretty much made it.  I bought some yarn on an impulse (but cheaply!).  It's actually more of a type I already have, but they're going to discontinue the color and I needed more for the project, so I suppose it was kind of justified, even if I have a bit of guilt.  I didn't save a lot of money because of gifts I purchased and because of necessities, like gas.  I also bought some running clothes because I don't have any that fit and I desperately need to exercise, but I used a gift card for those.

Purging the Closet

So I'm content, but I think I need to push myself a little more.  I laughed at this old post from Heart of Light (yes, I did search for and read through people's old posts from the hiatus after I first heard of it), because it's so much like me.  I love some of my clothes and possessions for reasons I don't always remember--some association of emotion but not always memory--and I'll be ridiculously sentimental about giving things up.  My friend Beth passed along some advice and a resource that I'm going to try when I'm in "my own" home again, so I do have a plan to take on this monster.

my apartment (alcove): dressing area

Once I get back to Louisville and all.my.stuff. (ugh), I'm going to sort, clean, simplify, and reduce my wardrobe to what will fit in one closet.  I want to make it so everything can be coordinated with everything (almost, anyway), so I quit making so many goofy not-quite-right outfits.

Then I'll shop for what I need to fill in the gaps.

After that?

I'm done shopping again for a month.

Photos link back to their sources.  I found them via the pretty organized flickr pool, a very effective way to get inspired to organize!

Monday, May 30, 2011

grammar guide and more

I had a busy and lovely weekend, filled with good food, graduations, friends and family, and a lot of sun.  It's already hitting ninety degrees and I'm a little afraid we're going to have a ridiculously hot summer.

Summer Sun

Today, in lieu of writing up my own grammar post, I'm going to send you to the recently rediscovered series of grammar posts on The Oatmeal.  Have you ever read/seen them?  They're part snarky, part just funny, and part informative.  You'll probably laugh out loud.  I did, at least, especially while reading the one about semicolon use.  I am searching for my notebook (among other things hiding in boxes) that has my list of future grammar-related posts in it, but I can't find it and my mental list seems to be in hiding at the moment.  Does that ever happen to you?  

Remember how I posted about a haircut?  I went ahead and got one.  I like it quite a bit; it's short and simple to keep up.  I changed my blogger picture accordingly.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

dreaming versus doing

dreams and wishes. 62/365

I've been thinking about dreams and next steps lately.  I hate getting stuck in waiting periods--waiting to hear if I have a job, waiting for paperwork from other people to be submitted so I can be officially accepted into a graduate program and register for classes, waiting for our life to settle down so I don't have to shuttle between two cities and live out of a suitcase constantly, waiting for...

we had the moon we had the stars we were divine.

I'll stop there.  

Do you dream like I do, with wonder and hope tempered by a dose of anxiety and an occasional touch of angst?  Lately, I've been wondering what, exactly, I'm dreaming of, and how, exactly, I will achieve something that I can't even seem to name.  Part of the problem with being a lover of language and a student of the liberal arts is that your area of study rarely translates into real-world work and practice (the other part of the problem, in my opinion, is the constant sense that you have to justify your area, yourself, and your work if you find it).  I want to do good in my life, to give back at least some of the blessings with which my life has been filled, but it's hard to figure out how the gifts I have could translate into something I can actually do.  

wise hands. 54/365

For now, then, I will keep dreaming of a sort of life that I can't seem to put into words and trying to figure out how I can begin living that life--how my dreaming can translate into doing.

i waited. 142/365

These three posts from Not Your Average Ordinary probably played a role in sparking these thoughts to a much greater flame (compared to the little flicker that they've been for the last few months in which I've been only partially employed and the ember for years before that).  Those pictures are by nicole pierce photography, a happy accidental discovery on flickr.

Friday, May 27, 2011


Cory's little brother and my little sister are graduating tonight.  We're both enormously proud of them, but I think we're both trying to get used to this crazy idea of our younger siblings growing up.

We've been best friends since you showed up almost nineteen years ago.  When mom told me I was going to have a sibling, I prayed with all my little three-year-old heart that I'd get a sister, and you never once let me forget it.  I don't know if I ever admitted it, but I'm actually glad my prayer was answered with a yes (which I'm sure you knew without me saying a thing).  We've never been quite alike, as you can see here--I'm holding a doll and you're on roller skates--but it didn't and doesn't matter.  We've had our fights and screaming matches like any good sisters do, and we've bickered amiably, too.    
Now you're done with high school and you're going to walk across that stage tonight and get your diploma and in a few months you're going to college.  

All I'm wondering now is when this happened.  When did you turn into a young adult instead of a goofy little girl with big blue eyes and your heart on your sleeve?  When you hated being called little, I used to have to call you my big-little-sister and now you are my big little sister.

Congratulations, Jojo.  I'm so proud of you!

Thursday, May 26, 2011

summer's coming

I'm a pretty serious water drinker (like, beyond the recommended amount of 6-8 eight-ounce glasses a day) and keep warm with multiple cups of hot tea in the winter, but when summer comes, I find myself craving a change, and I almost always end up sipping my two favorites: unsweetened fruit teas and lemonade.

I love how big jars of lemonade evoke summer, and I have a serious love for strawberry or raspberry lemonade.  I've been bouncing around summery images on pinterest and dreaming about a perfect picnic.    

When I have a more settled place (instead of hopping from my grandparents' to my in-laws' and back on a weekly basis), I want to have a picnic party.  All I need is an excuse and a day without weird weather!

Oddly enough, in spite of how many times I made huge batches and how many times running out of it slowed us down in the drive-thru, my favorite lemonade is from Chick-Fil-A, but I'll generally be content with little powdered packets at home.  

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

effortless style

I spotted this photo on Pinterest while looking for inspiration for the short(er) haircut I've been pondering lately.  I love the graceful imperfection in her overall appearance and the simplicity of her style, and I decided to hunt down the source, in hopes of finding more inspiration for style in general.

I found the original post on You Are My Fave and discovered, unsurprisingly, that she's French.  Her name is Nine d'Urso and she is the daughter of a model and designer.  I suppose great style is second nature for her; the other images, all taken from Parisian Chic (written by her mother, Inès de la Fressange), definitely make it seem that way!  Bloggers all over the place seem to be obsessed with the way she wears classic pieces so well, and I guess I'll have to count myself among them.  I might even join Gabrielle of DesignMom in getting my hair cut in that style--it's the perfect mix of unruly and controlled and would probably work with my not-straight-not-wavy hair.
The kicker, for me, is how young she is--just a teen--and how naturally she wears beautiful pieces.  I know that Parisian Chic has received mixed reviews, both for being reductive and for being a bit of a let-down, but I'm definitely at least a little interested in getting my hands on a copy long enough to see for myself.

I'm learning French right now, which may or may not have influenced my current interest in all things French.  Who knows if that will become a trend around here?

Monday, May 23, 2011

The Nitpicky English Major's Guide to Grammar: Comma Splicing

Be nice to your sentences and don't splice them.  
The comma splice is any easy mistake to make.  I went years without knowing exactly what it was--all the way through to AP English in eleventh grade.  I know I was taught what a comma splice is, but I think I overcomplicated it and confused myself.  It's so simple, though, that I can't believe I never figured it out on my own.  
Put simply, a comma splice occurs when you try to connect two complete sentences (more commonly--and accurately, if not understandably--called independent clauses) with only a comma.  Strunk and White are not fans, to say the least.  In some languages, comma splices are grammatically correct, but not English.
So how do you recognize and avoid them?
To begin, review what makes a complete sentence: a subject (a noun or noun clause) and a verb (or verb clause) that go together.  The girl smiles.  The cat runs.  The horse neighs.  Purple polka dots are bright.  Now, each of these can stand alone; each is an independent clause.  Commas are intended to connect dependent clauses (like prepositional phrases) to each other or to independent clauses.  A comma used correctly will look like this:

When the girl smiles, the cat runs.

"When the girl smiles" has a subject and a verb, but the word "when" changes the function of the phrase to a dependent clause.  Thus, the comma is place after the dependent clause and is actually necessary.  However, if we dropped the word "when," then "the girl smiles" would become an independent clause, and it would be incorrect to use a comma like this:

The girl smiles, the cat runs. 

This can be corrected easily with any number of changes, depending on the context.  If the two independent clauses are very closely related, a semicolon (;) is generally acceptable.  If the two independent clauses are connected a little more loosely, then a comma followed by the word "and" usually will suffice.  Other times, a comma followed by "but," "or," or "then" is more appropriate, but some sort of conjunction is necessary.  If you can't figure out which one to do, then you can simply separate the two independent clauses into two sentences with a period.  

The girl smiles; the cat runs.
The girl smiles, and the cat runs.
The girl smiles, but the cat runs.
The girl smiles, then the cat runs.
The girl smiles, or the cat runs.
The girl smiles. The cat runs.
Any of these would be acceptable.  Oftentimes, a comma is not used before "and" unless you are joining three independent clauses; however, I used it here for the sake of simplicity, and because either way is technically correct.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

our first year

{image by Kathy Phy}

We were lucky on our wedding day.  The rain and oppressive heat stopped just for a day, just long enough for us to marry in an old stone church with the sun shining through the eclectic mix of stained glass images.  We wed amongst the support of wonderful family and friends and sweet laughter.  You're still making me laugh every day and catching me by surprise--that photo up there was not staged.  Where did the year go?  Will they all be so fast?  

I got roses this morning and he even wrapped up his studying in the first half of the day just so we could have time together.  It's pouring rain on this May 22nd, but I don't really mind too much.  

Friday, May 20, 2011

Friday's Fancies

If we're imagining that I had the money to spend on a complete head-to-toe outfit for my anniversary, I think we can easily imagine that I can also walk in heels.  If I hadn't promised myself not to buy extra things lately, I probably would buy a dress for this weekend, but I'm actually glad I decided to stick with what I have.  It makes me look at my clothes differently when I think "How can I make this go with this?" rather than "What can I buy to make this go with this?"  I still want the dress in this post and in the last Friday's Fancies post I did, though!  Maybe I'll get ahold of something like it next month, if I still have a thing for off-white dresses with floral motifs in pinks and greens.  

I probably will.

Have a beautiful weekend!


It's the man's birthday today.  We're not having a party, I know, but we are having some fun, no matter how determined he is to keep his head in those books (I admire his dedication).  I think I'm mostly looking forward to the devil's food cake that my sister-in-law is going to bake.  Yum!

What he doesn't know is that this birthday also initiates four months of "you're old" jokes until I, too, turn twenty-three.  

Thursday, May 19, 2011

just read :: The Age of Innocence, by Edith Wharton

I can't believe no one told me to read Wharton before my dear friend Shelby recommended The Age of Innocence a month ago.  Not only is it a moving portrait of unspoken and thus unrequited love, as well as a troubling impression of an entire era, but it is superbly readable.  Of course, it's a little slow in the way all character-driven novels are; however, for me, this was not an issue in readability.  I'll acknowledge that not very much actually happens, which is of course part of the point of the novel.  Its protagonist mourns over the lack of happenings in his life.  He aches for adventure and interest but cannot let go of the mores of his time and social standing.

Newland Archer is at times sympathetic (how he aches for Ellen!) and at times impossible to stand (why does he not break with convention?).  We never know the full story from any character, but we get the most information from him.  I wonder how the dynamic of the novel would change if May's or Ellen's perspective--or even Catherine Mingott's--was given to us instead.  However, since the story is told primarily from the perspective of a man discontented with his life, it lends an interesting perspective on the female role in late 1800s New York society (society meaning the upper-upper-upper crust).  Early in the novel, Newland claims, in a heady rush of emotion, that women should have the same freedoms of men.  However, he discovers quickly that the society he lives in not only prevents women from gaining freedom, but actually (and disturbingly) trains them out of desiring it, as seen in the case of his wife, May.  He is deeply in love with Ellen Olenska, I think, because she has the desire for freedom, and sees the sham that society really is.  Because we see the plight of women through his eyes, rather than through the eyes of any of the female characters, I feel that we see the great interplay of various individual roles in any formal society, not just those of gender.  Of course, I have no idea if this was the reason Wharton chose to narrate through the male perspective, or if there were other factors at play, but this is what strikes me as a strength of the point of view.

This novel is both stirring and thought-provoking in the way all classics are, taking what could be only a period piece and connecting it to a general human experience--the difficulty we trod through when our role amongst and connection to others conflicts with our hearts' desires.

If you're looking for a novel that you can feel intellectual reading (it is a classic!) and still find the reading enjoyable, rather than tough work, this is an excellent choice, but be forewarned: you won't find a happy ending.  It's not a tragedy, but it's not happy.  Still, Wharton writes with beguiling eloquence and some occasional poetic turns of prose, and you will find the novel beautiful, and I haven't even told you about the splendid descriptions of the scenery.

available for purchase here

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

another love

If you read this blog, you know I've got a thing for books, crafts, and pretty things.
You've  also figured out that I'm a nerd for correct spelling, grammar, and punctuation.
Every now and then, I come across things that combine the two with pleasing results.
Would you like to see?

I spotted one of the illustrated pages of this guide to Portuguese grammar.  Don't you wish they still illustrated book covers, instead of putting exceptionally clichéd photos all over the front?  The man in the striped shirt looks pretty fantastic, I think.

{click here for complete source information}

I really wish my French textbook was this fun inside.  I wonder what the story was in this lesson?

31 May 2010 022

The colors in this are great together.  This textbook might have actually made learning math a little more fun.  

I have a pack of vintage papers that I got from Alex Keller a few months ago (when I was lucky enough to win a certificate to her store) and I plan to scan some of them soon--I guess with the ease of digital photography and layouts, fun and whimsical illustrations in everyday, more utilitarian sorts of books, have sort of gone away. 

Monday, May 16, 2011

and we're back

It was a busy weekend.
We woke early on Saturday and attended the graduation walk--a commemorative trek across campus with a portion of the two hundred eight-five graduates--in the rain.  I handed out name cards to the graduates who forgot theirs and said goodbye to the wonderful women I've worked with since last July.  Cory stood in a sort-of-huddle with his friends, trying to keep his honors hood, sash, cords, and valedictorian sash from getting too soaked.  The ceremony was in the blessed indoors and hardly interrupted by the rain pounding on the roof.  We (Cory's family, my family, and the Smiths) listened to every last name called across the stage and stood and cheered very very loudly for Cory--not only did he graduate, but he managed to do so with a plethora of distinctions.  We're proud.  We're excited.

{you can't even see his honor cords here}

Then we trudged through the downpour to our cars and went back to the apartment, wading through the puddle of our (now our old) parking lot to get inside, where we devoured a meal and congratulated the graduate.  After that, the sun mercifully came out and two hours of chaos ensued, with twelve adults packing up a little apartment with an insane amount of stuff.  It didn't feel like nearly that much while we lived there, but when you suddenly have to pack everything into a ten-by-sixteen foot truck (including a good bit of furniture), the total amount of your possessions seems ridiculous.  Then we cleaned like crazy, because we are definitely getting that deposit back.

{along KY-210, on our way out of town}

We shuffled the boxes into the truck.  We shuffled a bunch into a storage unit.  We shuffled a few more into my grandparents' garage and then into the storage section of the basement.  Nothing's really unpacked yet, but we finished the move for now.  We're not settled yet, but we're getting there.  This next phase is officially begun--a waiting period, while Cory prepares for and takes the CPA exam and I get ready to start a graduate degree.

{found here; original source doesn't seem to have it up anymore}

We're lucky, I think, to go through these transitional phases together.  While some people struggle when they marry young, we've learned that we can grow together.  We don't set out on new phases alone, but with a partner, with support and love at home, even on the days we drive each other crazy (will you ever pick up your laundry, dear?).  We're almost at the close of our first year and the beginning of many more.  Who knows what's ahead?

Normal-ish posting will resume tomorrow, probably.  That reliable internet connection I mentioned is kind of elusive right now.  Something wonky is going on with the font in this post, too.  Oh well.  

Saturday, May 14, 2011

it's that time

I had to sneak in a little post once I caught a steady internet connection!  

cap on books

I married one smart man.  He's the valedictorian of his class and has a ridiculous amount of regalia.  We still haven't figured out how he's going to wear all of it at once.  Maybe I should have my mom bring my robe from when I graduated in December and go along behind him with all the extras.

Seriously, though, I'm really proud of him, and you better believe we're going to be cheering him on louder than anyone else.  

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

where we've been

Since I started my job on the first of July last year, this town has been our full-time home.  Cory's been in school here all four years, of course, but it's only since we got married and I started working here that he's actually stuck around for the weekends.

It's a small town here, with about ten thousand people, of whom at least four thousand are directly connected to the university.  There is some industry here, with an Amazon warehouse and a few factories, but for the most part, it's just quiet and small.

{I work in the building at the top}

Chain stores and restaurants (which I didn't bother to photograph--you can see a Kroger, Arby's, Wal-Mart, and the like any day you want) seem to dominate the town, but main street has some small business that have been around for ages and keep the small town charm alive.

I hope they're doing well, even if the Wal-Mart parking lot is usually the most happening place on a Saturday night, filled with kids sitting on the backs of trucks and the occasional bunch of folks grilling out.  Yeah.

There's definitely an effort to bring some more life into these gorgeous older buildings and preserve the history of the town, but the plain and simple truth of an area like this is that the money isn't around.  
I've captured some of the prettier, more quaint spots, but in reality, I haven't spent a lot of time in them.  Still, the buildings are pretty interesting, and everything has some history to it.  I love that.

But we are really ready to move.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

a week off

This is it, our moving week, finally here!

Moving Boxes. 53/365. (02/22/09)

I discovered this picture when trying to find something in my flickr photostream.  This is a photo I took last summer of the house we lived in when I was born.  We moved to a bigger home right around the time I turned six, so I don't have strong memories of the house, but I have recently noticed that all the houses I'm most attracted to are similar in construction--1920s era bungalows or cape cods.  Isn't that kind of funny?  I remember all the problems my parents had with the place (they redid almost everything), but I also remember how charming it was. 

shorewood house

I wonder what sort of a place we'll move into next?
Anyway, I have a busy week ahead.  There'll be a post tomorrow (I wrote and scheduled it last night), but I'm going to sign off otherwise until next Monday. I have a lot to do and won't have a reliable internet connection until we get to Louisville on Saturday, so blogging will have to fall by the wayside.  I hope you have a lovely week, and I'll "see" you again on Monday!

Monday, May 9, 2011

The Nitpicky English Major's Guide to Grammar: there, they're, their

This one really gets to me.  It hurts my grammar snob eyes.  I try to be open-minded in most things, and I know a lot of people just can't keep track of rules for word usage in the same way that I can't keep track of the order of operations in mathematics (but I still remember PEMDAS!), but I get a little bothered when otherwise intelligent people write "there" to mean that something belongs to them.

Here are the simple rules for there, their, and they're:

Use "there" to indicate a position or place or in forming "there are" or "there is" phrases.

I parked the car over there.
There are many ways to park a car.

Use "their" to indicated that a plural noun possesses something.  This noun, more often than not, will be they.

They lost their way.
My mom and dad like their house.

Use "they're" when you could use "they are" instead.

They're going to the fair.
When do you think they're going to arrive?

You could even occasionally have all three words in one sentence, like this:

I think they're going to lose their way getting there.

I know that homonyms (words that sound the same but have different meanings) can get terribly confusing, but you can think of it this way: "there" has the word "here" in it, "they're" has "they" and part of "are" in it, and "their" is used the rest of the time.  Does that help?

Sometimes I think I'm a bit more snobby than I'd like to be by going about grammar like this, and I understand that a lot of people just don't care.  But isn't posting a little series about grammar rules better than leaving pointed comments on people's blogs?  I haven't decided yet.  It's not as effective in reaching people, sure, but it does pretty much take care of my irritation with all the misused words I find on the internet. 
By the way, our internet connection will be turned off tomorrow afternoon, so I'm not sure if I'll get posts up or be able to read and comment on your blog.  My time in the writing lab will be spent tutoring and working on my French class.  I've got a post or two scheduled, but if you don't hear from me, I'm probably still alive, just disconnected.  Have a lovely week!

Sunday, May 8, 2011

happy mother's day!

I've got a lovely mom, mother-in-law, two wonderful grandmothers and grandmothers-in-law, and a whole bunch of terrific aunts.  Today is their day!

This is my mom's side of the family sometime between 1997 and 1999, judging by the backyard.
Starting from the left, in the top row are my namesake, Aunt Katharina, and her husband, my Uncle David; then my Uncle Jeff and my mom's twin sister, Auntie Franny; then my dad and my mom; on the next row are Papa and Oma and Jeffrey (now 19 and at Westpoint); on the bottom row are my sister, Jojo (now 18 and about to graduate), our dear old dog, Bucky, me, and Josh (now old enough to drive).
I'm pretty sure Josh and I were responsible for having the dog in the picture.  I doubt I shed any tears to make it happen, but I probably would have if necessary.

Please don't kill me for posting this picture.

I miss you guys!  Have a happy mother's day and I can't wait to live just a few minutes away (or in your house, Oma)!

I hope you give your mom a hug today--in person or in thought.  

Friday, May 6, 2011

a day at the races

It's derby weekend back home and I know the whole city is crazy and decked out.  I know it's sort of the cool thing among my college/grad-school aged crowd to be all "meh" about derby, and I'll admit that I'm kind of with them.  But at the same time, I can't quite get over my girlhood fascination with horses--I guess living in the dairy state for awhile made me prefer the equine to the bovine in farm animals--and riders.  I remember, at age ten, two years after moving to Kentucky, I wanted to be a jockey.  Between my above-average height and my soon-realized allergies to just about everything in a barn, my dream was quickly dashed.  And of course, I now know all about the unpleasant goings-on of the racing industry (who in this state doesn't?) and I have a firm opinion on gambling (I've heard of and even seen a few too many disasters), and so a little of the dramatic magic is lost.  
Yet still, each year, for two minutes, watching beautiful, strong, athletic creatures test the limits endurance, hurtling forward amongst the roar of a crowd and announcers speaking a thousand words a second, and wondering who will be a surprise or no surprise at all in the winner's circle under the garland of roses, it's hard not to enjoy at least a little bit of festivity.

Naturally, if I were going to the race (rather than packing to move back to the city it's in), I would have to be decked out fabulously, so take a look above or visit me on polyvore (for item info) here.  Do you want to play Friday's Fancies, too?  Visit long distance loving and join in!

packing up

I forgot how much I hate this part of moving.

That's not even all my stuff.  If you're one of the lovely family members coming to help us move, don't worry too much--that is most of my stuff.  It's somewhere between two-thirds and three-fourths of my stuff.
This is a little depressing for me.  I've tried to pare down how much I own, to some success, but this is still far too much.  Most of my clothes are already back at my parents' house, so at least that's done, but Cory and I are definitely going to need a storage unit.  I was really hoping we could avoid it, but with this much stuff added to our furniture, I don't think we can.

post-hiatus scarf, roughly 1/3 done

I'm going to try that shopping hiatus.  I made one purchase this week--a solid black scoop-neck tee to replace the one that I cannot find anywhere but wore all the time--with the idea that it's the last thing I needed to make my wardrobe versatile.  I think I should approach this a little more confidently and set up some rules.  Any ideas?  So far, I'm thinking these things will suffice...

1. Spending on experiences is okay.  Coffee with my best friend is always worth a few dollars.
2.  Materials necessary to complete a project I start with materials on hand are okay, too.
3. Spending on an outfit for an event or that last little something to add is NOT okay--I can borrow things from my mom, sister, and friends.
4. Stop buying books for a little while and use the library (living near a good library ought to make this possible).  I seriously have a book accumulation problem that's beyond my years and definitely beyond the storage space at my disposal.
5. Buying birthday/mother's day/father's day/anniversary gifts is okay and necessary since pretty much everyone I'm related to was born or married between the end of May and the start of July.

beginning the post-hiatus scarf

This accumulation break needs to occur because of the honest-to-goodness anxiety I feel when I look at the boxes full of my stuff.  Cory told me not to bring so much, and he was right, but I would really prefer not to HAVE so much in the first place.  It's time to really change things and keep the possessions from increasing.  We're going to move again within the next year and I do not want to deal with even more possessions.  

Now I've just got to decide how long to take the hiatus.  I definitely want to go through the end of this month, but do you think I could make it until the end of June?

Meanwhile, I'm dreaming of knitter-ly things.  I'm horrible at knitting but determinedly trying to learn.  I even knitted a complete square with no dropped stitches!  Now I've just got to figure out how to cast off correctly.  Wish me luck!

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Just Read :: No Man's Land, by Duong Thu Huong

This book is challenging.  It's sad and it's hard.  But it is incredible.
The setting is Vietnam, a few years after the withdrawal of US troops.  Mien is the wife of Hoan, a wealthy merchant; they have a son.  Fourteen years earlier, she was married to Bon, a soldier believed dead.  Within a few pages, all filled with imagery of a living, breathing, storming jungle, Bon returns to their small hamlet, surprising everyone by simply living.  Out of duty, Mien returns to him.  The novel tells the next year of their lives--Mien, playing the dutiful wife while deeply missing Hoan, who she loves; Bon, desperately trying to reassert his role as a husband while running out of money and health; and Hoan, trying to make a life without the woman he loves deeply.

Huong's imagery is among the most sensory I've ever encountered.  The world she details comes to life around you as you read.  In a single page, sometimes even a single sentence, the hot, damp, and often sensual landscape feels like it surrounds you.  Every character is enigmatic; we cannot cast our own stock associations onto anyone.  A reviewer noted that the greatest trait of the novel is the way Huong makes it difficult, if not impossible, to take sides.  No one can win entirely.  We just have to hope for the best possible outcome--which I believe comes with the end of the novel.  I can't tell you what that is, not only because it would be a spoiler, but because it won't make sense.

I found it hard to believe how well I could sympathize with the characters, even though my modern western world is in an entirely different time and place from theirs.  Huong gives a full personality to every character, except, perhaps, Mien.  We know the least about Mien's emotion and experience at the end of the novel, and I think this is intentional.  Mien ends up being "no man's land," always caught between the two men that love her and caught between duty and her heart.  She must become her own, rather than someone else's.  When the story closes, I believe she achieves this.

This is a hard book to read, not because of its difficulty or because it's a translated work (Nina Mcpherson's translation is readable and beautiful, as I've noted), but because the story is so sorrowful for so long.  You ache for the characters to figure out a way to be happy again, yet for four hundred and some odd pages, it feels like nothing will change.  Still, somehow, the end is life-affirming and the novel feels beautiful.  Duong doesn't give us a lot of hope--her life and her place in her home country as a political prisoner and human rights advocate don't lend themselves to a happy outlook--but she does give us a little, just enough to make one feel that even if we feel our lives just drift along, they can and do drift towards something good, towards possibilities for good.

You can purchase this novel here, but I should note that a good portion of this book is extremely sensual and some of the content is mature.  It's not gratuitous, though, which is why I found this novel so impressive.

woolly branch centerpiece: a tutorial

I meant to post this on Friday last week, but then we went to Louisville and I was thinking about other things, so it's a bit late.  But then, anyone who knows me well can tell you that being late is sort of common with me.  I mean, I'm good about getting to work or to class on time (or very, very close to it), but if you're planning to have dinner with me at six, be ready to wait until five after (or even quarter after) the hour before seeing me.

Besides, do you ever really remember when bloggers say they'll post something next week or the week after?  I know that I don't.  Maybe that's just me and an early onset of those senior moments my middle school history teacher used to claim to have.  If I'm having them at twenty-two, though, I'm a wee bit concerned for the future.

Oh, what's that?  This is supposed to be a tutorial and not a stream of consciousness narrative concerning my momentary memory lapses?  I've done it again.  Here is a very simple project that looks very pretty in real life.  The photos confirm the great need for more sunshine and better light in the month of April here instead of ten-plus inches of rain.  Thank goodness the sun came out on Friday and Saturday!

It really is that easy.  Happy wrapping!

You may have noticed that I didn't use wool in this woolly centerpiece.  However, wooly sounds better than yarn-y (or does it?) and even though this was an acrylic yarn, it still has a bit of a wooly look.  I'm also allergic to wool, so I generally don't use any wool yarns.  Itchy reddish fingers, hands, and arms are unpleasant.  How's that for some great imagery?

Tuesday, May 3, 2011


P.S. Check out the Louisville City Guide on Design*Sponge today!

Dome building and Assumption Louisville Kentucky
{by Sabot Images on Flickr--the domed building is where Cory will be working}

This made me very seriously excited.  I almost squealed in the writing center.  That's my town!

Now I'm off to continue packing.  The books I didn't already take back are in a box now.  I should take the advice I once gave to put books in a rolling suitcase, but my rolling suitcase is already full.

The Nitpicky English Major's Guide to Grammar: I'm late, I'm late for a very important date!

Yes, I forgot about posting the grammar guide.  Yes, I have completely fallen off of my brilliant schedule (like I ever keep one anyways!).

Since last week's post came from a question asked by Gram, I though I'd extend an invitation for grammar questions you have.  Is there some sneaky little thing that you can never remember?  Did your teachers always circle or count off for something on your paper without telling you why?  What would you like to know?

I have quite a few grammar-related things to post about still, but I figure they're a little boring and possibly irrelevant if they're not something you've been trying to figure out.  Today, I'm going to post a fun little something from The Grammar Devotional, which I receive in my email regularly from DailyLit.  If you're a nerd for all things grammatical, then you can sign up for The Grammar Devotional emails here.

Is anyone else amused to see the little pop culture reference at the end?  New words do get made up frequently and old words disappear or change in meaning almost as often.  On the first day of my first linguistics course, my instructor informed us that there are only two things we really know about languages: they exist, and as long as they are alive, they change.  So once again, even though I'm rather picky about writing things correctly, it's quite probable that ten years from now, I may be able to permit students to write something a way that's incorrect right now.  It's not that language is always getting messier or less intelligent (though that is sometimes the case), but that it changes.  

There's your little linguistic tidbit for the day.  I hope you enjoyed it!

P.S. Did you know that blog is also a portmanteau word?  It comes from "web log."  Blogger, blogging, and the like are derivations that I believe will be in the next edition of most major dictionaries.  I've got to check on that. 

Monday, May 2, 2011

Why yes, I watched the royal wedding.

This weekend, I joined my mother and several of the ladies of our family friends for a tea, hostessed by our resident Aussie-married-to-a-Brit.  We sipped tea, ate cucumber sandwiches, scones, strawberries, lemon bars, and pavlova, and chatted about the royal family and all its history.  It was  a lovely time.

{prepping cucumber sandwiches}

{cucumber sandwiches and (gluten-free!) scones}

{the prettiest union jack tea towel}

{Mrs. Smith's perfectly heavenly lemon bars}

{perfectly ripe strawberries}

{our wonderful spread}

Did you watch the royal wedding?  Did you swoon over the dress?  Did anyone else grin when the little flower girls covered their ears on the balcony--or when Prince William reportedly (according to the lip readers) whispered, "I thought this was supposed to be a small family affair!" to Kate's father?  

I am, of course, very conscious of how hyped up the wedding has been, and well aware of how many other things are going on in the world while we watch a royal event, but you can't help admitting that it was incredibly beautiful.  It's hard not to enjoy seeing something positive and just plain happy on the news.  I must say, though, that I am really quite glad my husband is not a prince and that we did not have millions of people watching our wedding.  I am really quite glad to be perfectly ordinary.  I mean, being a princess could be rather nice, but a quiet life like ours is pretty lovely (particularly since we get to move in just two weeks!).