Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Holiday Cards

Source: via Katie on Pinterest

I got a misleading email earlier this week from the alumni group at my university.  This tells you something about me: when I see the words "Holiday Cards," I think of paper goods, not a holiday event involving a sports team.  I was a bit disappointed in opening the email.

But it did remind me that it's about time to plot out my Christmas cards, and I'd love to have you join in.  I'll be sending handmade postcards this year, inspired by these pretty things I've found and gathered here.  Would you like one?  Just fill out this little survey and I'll add you to my list.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Winter Reading

Source: via Katie on Pinterest

A friend just sent me the link to the New York Times list of 100 Notable books of 2011.  I have yet to read any.  This will change over the break.  How many books can I cram in between December 13 and January 9?  I'm about to become a regular at the library and finally pay the fines on those overdue books from the summer.

Here's my list so far...

pre-2011 titles I've been meaning to read for too long:
Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close (Jonathan Safran Foer)
The Poisonwood Bible (Barbara Kingsolver)
Mrs. Dalloway (Virginia Woolf)
After You'd Gone (Maggie O'Farrell)
Agnes Grey (Anne Brontë)

2011 titles:
1Q84 (Haruki Murakami)
Say Her Name (Francisco Goldman)
Blue Nights (Joan Didion)
The Marriage Plot (Jeffrey Eugenides)
The Tiger's Wife (Téa Obreht)

Ten books in twenty-one days?  I like this challenge.

Oh, and that picture up there?  A replica of it is hanging in my room at my parents' house.  I love it.

Thursday, November 24, 2011


I read this book about a month ago.  I didn't have time for it, really, but I made it, and I am glad I did.  Ann Voskamp was dared by a friend to count one thousand gifts.  She did, and found well beyond one thousand gifts.  She found a deeper faith, a fuller life, even when it was not easier--especially when it was not easier.  Voskamp is part poet, part mystic, part theologian, and fills her pages with imagery that will call to mind the Romantics and Transcendentalists and syntax that throws your attention around, grabbing you, engaging you, making you read twice to get just what that line is saying.

Starting today, I'm going to keep a gratitude journal, my own list, hopefully to one thousand, hopefully beyond.  And I'm going to try to take photos of the little things, the tiny things, because it is so easy to forget how much they matter--the sky in all its wonder, the dappling sunlight when you're up early, a quiet dinner at home, even something as simple as a clean, clear glass of water.  These things are worth remembering, worth appreciating, worth our gratitude.

One Thousand Gifts was a gift for my birthday in September, and I am so glad it was given to me--I never would've picked it up for myself, as I don't really pick up books from Christian publishers anymore (I burned out on them years ago).  This one surprised me.  I should add that if it's not your faith, you may not feel quite the same way about it.  Still, Voskamp's poetic prose might get you anyway...

Tuesday, November 22, 2011


I have a confession.

I don't like pumpkin pie.

Generally, when I first mention this, I get jaws-dropped owl-eyed stares of disbelief.  You don't like WHAT?!  Occasionally, this is followed by "You need to try my grandmother's/mom's/friend's/that restaurant's pumpkin pie and you will definitely change your mind."  But I have tried the other pies, and I have not changed my mind.  It's a texture-taste combination that I just can't seem to like.  But aside from pumpkin pie, I do like (and occasionally love) anything and everything pumpkin-flavored: pumpkin spice coffee, chai tea, pumpkin rolls, seeds, bread, muffins, and candies...and now I have discovered this: pumpkin cheesecake trifles.

I think they'd be totally worth the post-dairy-consumption stomachache...which I would probably sleep off in my annual post-Thanksgiving-dinner nap.  Alternatively, I might give this recipe a try.  Yum.

Monday, November 21, 2011

How [not] to Write a Paper

Repeat from ten am to six pm with one break to make coffee, one to warm up lunch in the microwave, and one to make a cup of peppermint tea, accompanied by occasional texts to an old friend who is an undergraduate English major and deserves to know just how fun it is to write graduate seminar papers on topics you only sort of care about.

It took me almost all day on Saturday to write six of the ten pages of my first draft that are due on Tuesday (the final draft will be twenty-something pages).  They're not stellar, but they'll do for now.  Guys, this does not bode well for my future as a grad student.  I have apparently lost the ability to crank out decently-researched, adequately composed papers at a moderate pace.  Hopefully I'll pick it back up soon.

Thursday, November 17, 2011


Source: via Carlie on Pinterest

Sometimes, while I sleep, my memories and my dreams mix up together and take me to the few faraway places I've been, only in the present or the near future instead of in the past.  I usually wake up with a distinct sense of wanderlust and memory.  Almost every time, I've travelled to Poland again.

That's a part of my story you don't know.  It was just two weeks of one summer, my teenage years, and it was one of those experiences that shaped the person I've become--not just because of the travel, the expanding world, but because of something that happened in my heart, something still rather ineffable because I'm not sure what it was.  It could have happened anywhere, I suppose, but it happened there.

It's part of the story that I want to write, that I need to write, but have yet to form.  Yes, it's been around that long--six and a half years now.  I wonder how long it'll be until the words reach the page?  My friends from high school would laugh to hear me talk about Poland again.  I guess some experiences just never leave your heart, even if you're not sure how they got there.

My photos from the trip don't look like this one, but my memories do.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Interruptions :: An Ounce of Action...

Source: via Katie on Pinterest

"An ounce of action is worth a ton of theory."
Friedrich Engels*

I was going to write last night, but I have a theory-heavy class on Monday nights and it sometimes renders me unable to do anything intelligent whatsoever because my brain is spinning inside my head.  This line resonated with me today because sometimes I sit in classrooms thinking about how we talk about so much but how much do we ever do?  We talk constantly in one of my classes about social problems as embodied in the texts we're reading, the way this narrative reveals this truth, that narrative talks about that one, this author (if we even accept authorial intent as relevant to meaning), but do we ever actually do anything about it?  Do we ever do anything to right the wrongs that we see recorded over and over again in literature?

Sometimes the academy gets a little too far from the experience of daily living, I think.  Maybe it's different outside the humanities.  Days like today, I want to skip class to go do something with a directly visible purpose, to go matter to someone in some small way, to take this indignation with the historical injustices we're reading about and use it to help someone else in the here and now.  Ultimately, we cannot change the past, but we can make the present a little better and maybe help another person with the future.

*Yes, that Friedrich Engels.  No, I'm not a Marxist, socialist, communist, or anything like it.  I debated using the quote because of all the connotations of its author.  Interestingly, it's occasionally attributed to Emerson.  I don't really know what to make of that.  Also, I'm usually one to overthink things, but I guess I do sometimes reach my limit.  

Thursday, November 10, 2011


Some days, the sky feels so close you could almost grab it by the fistful.  There's a line of cloud above the trees, a space of blue, like the stretch of the sheet visible between the pillows along the earth and the blanket of even more cloud in the sky, gray-blue and so textured you feel like you should be able to reach up and grab it and pull it around you.  Even from the roadside, rain dotting the windshield and the photo you're trying to take, trying impossibly to capture this so you can look it again, sky like this makes you feel the same as resting your back against a tree, barefoot toes in the grass, physically feeling the natural world.

Some days, even cold, wet, windy ones, the world can be astonishingly beautiful.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011


One of the papers I'm writing this term deals with homes, with spaces that we inhabit--our bodies, buildings, and our stories.  I think everyone desires a safe space to live, physical and otherwise, a safe space in which our full selves can fully be.

I think that the physical spaces we create to occupy should be a reflection of the self, a space that moves us to be comfortable but also to dream of expanding that zone of comfort.  For me, this is a room full of books and a great big window and a soft landing place--sofa, bed, or even a pile of pillows on the floor.  Whenever my husband and I look at places to live, I analyze each room's potential to become a mini library, a little space that's in my world but opens me up to a million others.

What kind of space do you love? What space makes you feel comfortable, safe, and happy?

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

New Eats

I've learned from experience that the blogosphere is an excellent source of advice, so I'm asking for some.

Since sometime during my freshman year of college, about four years ago, I've had continually-worsening lactose intolerance.  Milk was the first to go, then ice cream, then regular cream in my morning coffee, then most cheeses, and now I can't even eat a few ounces of a low-lactose content cheese without feeling icky the next day.  This is a bit of a problem, because almost every recipe I make regularly involves some kind of cheese.  I'm running short on ideas now!

That, dear blog friends, is where you come in: I need to build up a new repertoire of dairy-free recipes.  I'm pinning some here, but I'm picky.  It has to be easy, not use too many dishes and pans to make, and satisfy two rather large appetites.

Do you have any favorite recipes that don't involve dairy products?  Or know any websites with good vegan meals?  Or have any particular favorite dairy substitutes?  Any ideas would be great!

Friday, November 4, 2011

Three Things

The list of books I want to read after the semester ends grows almost daily.  I actually picked up a book this week and read it, even though I really should have been working on an annotated bibliography.

I probably can't afford to do that much more, but if I again read a book as a procrastinating tool, it'd be one of these three...

Source: via Natalie on Pinterest

After hearing an interview with the author on NPR a few weeks ago and then reading Brandi's recommendation, I'm convinced I'd love The Night Circus.  I tried to get my hands on this one at the library earlier this week when I had two hours between classes and forgot to bring homework for the next day with me, but apparently it's good enough that it's checked out of the university library and the four public library locations that have it.

Source: via Angie on Pinterest

I pretty much missed all the hype for Everything is Illuminated, but then, I rarely read anything that's popular while it's popular.  I'm just frequently behind the times like that.  My sister got me a copy of this and Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close for my birthday, so I'll be taking them both on over Christmas break.

Source: via Katie on Pinterest

I've read mixed reviews of The Marriage Plot, particularly from readers who loved Middlesex (which I thought was brilliant) and The Virgin Suicides (which I haven't read).  It seems it's good, but not as good as his previous work.  But then, how do you follow up a Pulitzer Prize?

So, what are you reading?  And what would you like to read?  

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Before I Die

Dreams, big, small, adventurous, or simple, can be a food for the soul.  They push us forward into the next day and the next and every one after that, giving us the impetus to expand our lives and grow.  Most people probably have some sort of mental list of things they'd like to do before they die, things that may seem in the future but get closer every day...yet get lost in the every day.  

Earlier this year, Candy Chang, a cofounder of Civic Center and TED fellow among numerous other accomplishments, launched Before I Die, a project that transformed the side of an abandoned building in New Orleans into a giant space to articulate and share dreams.  It's a giant chalkboard, with spaces for people to fill in their hopes and dreams.  Some of them are inspiring, others a little heart-breaking, and a few are even kind of funny.  

Since the initial project, Before I Die has been recreated in at least nine other cities, using the Toolkit from Civic Center, and people continue sharing their dreams.  What would you write? You can share your dream here.  

All images are borrowed from here, available for use for publicizing the project.  Oh, and yes, I found this on StumbleUpon.  I'm sure I'm not the first person to blog about this project, but I really, really love it.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011


Guys, I just discovered StumbleUpon.  I know, I'm like a billion years behind the rest of the web.  I mean, I've seen it before, sure, I just never tried it.  But yesterday, Tina, author of English Muse posted about it and I clicked on over.  Now I'm hooked.  I've got a whole bunch of things I'll be sharing with you soon.

So far, this is on the list of the coolest things I've found.

It was posted by him and made by them and it's a little bit awesome.

If you're on StumbleUpon, I'm liltoiloflove.  If not, you should join, unless you have things that you really should be doing, like schoolwork or real work, because the internet is a very easy place to get distracted in.

Right, I'm going to work on my homework now.