Category Archives: Uncategorized

Twitterature / October 2014

A Twitter-inspired look at books I’ve been reading recently.  (And here’s what I read last month.)  What’s on your bookshelf these days?

6224935This is Where I Leave You / Jonathan Tropper
A book club pick from before I joined the group. Witty, poignant and raw, it reads like it’ll be made into a movie (which it was). I disliked the narrator quite a bit, but still enjoyed the book.

11367726

Defending Jacob / William Landay
Part legal thriller and part family drama.  Full of secrets, twists, and the unconditional love of a father.  A dark story, but one that captivates.

1736739Olive Kitteridge / Elizabeth Strout
A languidly slow, rich book – Strout wrote stories to savor.  This book is ordinary, and it is precisely that which makes it so beautiful and so exceptional.  Olive Kitteridge was awarded a Pulitzer Prize – a courageous decision.

17262126Mastering the Art of Soviet Cooking / Anya von Bremzen
Digging in to Mastering the Art of Soviet Cooking is not for the faint of heart – it’s a bit on the long side, rich with Soviet history and  filled with family memories and descriptions of meals that will make you want to go make a snack right now.  With mayonnaise.  I absolutely loved it.

———————————————————————–

I’m linking up with Anne Bogel for her Twitterature series. Hop on over to Modern Mrs. Darcy for more.

20140115-152556.jpg

Twitterature / September 2014

A Twitter-inspired look at books I’ve been reading recently.  (And here’s what I read last month.)  What’s on your bookshelf these days?

6936382

Anna and the French Kiss / Stephanie Perkins
I’ve been trying to read more YA, since some people say I shouldn’t.  This book was adorable.  Simply adorable.  I’ve read some valid critiques of the storyline, but I just plain loved it.

12617758

The Expats / Chris Pavone
I picked this up after seeing it on Anne’s can’t-put-down list, and that proved true.  I read this in nearly one sitting.  Not the best book ever, but certainly enjoyable.  I always enjoy espionage and Americans living abroad.

18050094The Accident / Chris Pavone
I rolled right into The Expat’s sequel.  Also enjoyable.  However, I found The Accident to be a bit more predictable, and this one had just a few too many branches of the storyline for my liking.

I also started 4 books that I didn’t finish.  I didn’t dislike any, just couldn’t get into them.  Might give them another try next month.

———————————————————————–

 

I’m linking up with Anne Bogel for her Twitterature series. Hop on over to Modern Mrs. Darcy for more.

20140115-152556.jpg

Twitterature / August 2014

A Twitter-inspired look at books I’ve been reading recently.  (And here’s what I read last month.)  What’s on your bookshelf these days?

my-wish-list-cover

My Wish List / Gregoire Delacourt
A quick (short – under 200 pages) read.  Enjoyable and reflective if not a bit stodgy in places.  What would you do with a million dollars?

17262476

Top Down / Jim Lehrer
A character-driven novel based on the events surrounding the Kennedy assassination.  An interesting (but not fascinating) look at What If? questions in life and the big impact that seemingly small decisions may or may not have.
{72D9A7FE-65FD-438D-8F6F-F1EB5E937EC9}Img100

The Centurian’s Wife / Davis Bunn & Janette Oke
I enjoy Oke’s writing style well enough for what it is, and I’m not ashamed to say that I enjoy her books on occasion.  An interesting look at life in Judea immediately following the death of Christ – it gave me a new perspective on choosing to have faith in Jesus.

73089

Match Me If You Can / Susan Elizabeth Phillips
Sometimes you just need light and fluffy chick lit.  This was okay, but not great.  I learned later that it’s actually #6 in a series, which made some characters make a little more sense.  A lot of the humor rests on gender stereotypes, which I don’t love.

10627040

Composing Amelia / Alison Strobel
This was not a great book.  The characters make terrible decisions, you guys, and the prose is nothing to write home about.  It highlighted a lot of what I have seen to be true when immature, overly-enthusiastic evangelical Christians marry at a young age.

19321432

The Beginning of Everything / Robyn Schneider
Everyone gets a tragedy, indeed.  I enjoyed Ezra, Schneider’s male lead character – I thought he was well written for a teen boy, which I would imagine to be hard to capture.  Cassidy, his love interest, is written as such an Enneagram 4.  An intelligent read, while still witty and quick YA.

18114233

Solsbury Hill / Susan Wyler
The setting of the moors was stunning and well-written, and became their own character in a way.  The rest of the book, and the characters of the human sort, fell flat for me.  A loose continuation of Wuthering Heights.  Bronte fans might enjoy this more than I did.

3090282

A Homemade Life / Molly Wizenberg
I read (and enjoy) Orangette occasionally, and I think Wizenberg’s writing style works better in blog format.  Great recipes, lovely memories, but overall disappointing as a book for me. #unpopularopinions

7362158Girl in Translation / Jean Kwok
I saved the best for last.  I loved this book.  The true-to-life circumstances of this little immigrant family are disturbing and left me with much on my mind.  Beautifully written, important story.  I want to read more from Jean Kwok.

——————————

17910558 Bread & Butter / Michelle Wildgen
I forgot this in my July edition, so I’ll include it here.  I was excited to read this since I love bread and butter, and restaurants, and brothers, but I found it a little boring.  Filled with sibling rivalry and mouth-watering descriptions of food and daily restaurant life, it should have been better than it was.

———————————————————————–

I’m linking up with Anne Bogel for her Twitterature series. Hop on over to Modern Mrs. Darcy for more.

20140115-152556.jpg

What I’m Into / July 2014

A summer night is like a perfection of thought.  — Wallace StevensIMG_4560

I realized that I’m becoming like my Grandmother, starting these posts each month with a quote.  A few words that share the beauty of the month, the season.  There are worse things. She does like the summertime.  

 IMG_4589

I wrapped up my 33 Before 33 list, including the things I did not do.  But! All the things that I did do that were not on my list, for which I got zero credit.  I feel cheated.

I mean, in July alone, I cleaned out our linen closet, I tried cooking bok choy (successfully), and we had a roommate.   I’m giving myself extra points.

tbt dad

My dad found this #tbt gem at my grandmother’s house and basically won the internet that week.  Tiny Dad is just so cute.  

IMG_4879

I did a week-long hydration challenge and subsequently used the bathroom all. the. time.  

IMG_4864

Chad and I went to Pasadena for Max & Kate’s wedding (sadly missing Matt & Jenya’s celebration) and took pictures in a parking garage.  Because love.

IMG_4928Chad is exploring Business School, so we went to a Preview Day for a program at Northwestern, and naturally had to enjoy beignets and Bloodys at Dixie Kitchen.  Lake Effect makes for a nice July morning, I’ll say.  

What I’m reading
I linked up with Modern Mrs. Darcy to share books I’m reading in Twitter-inspired fashion.  This month’s reads included The Romanov Prophecy, Bound, Between Shades of Gray, Wedding Night, The Fault in Our Stars, and Department of Speculation.

What I’m watching
I was obsessed with The Face on the Milk Carton as a teen, and MTV’s Finding Carter fills a special place in my heart.  I don’t regularly watch the full show, but I can’t get enough of watching Kacy Catanzaro absolutely dominate this American Ninja Warrior course.  And, we finally watched Season 2 House of Cards and loved it, natch.  

Around the web
Consider digging into some of the Faith Feminism synchroblogs here.

Little things I’m loving
IMG_4622

Summertime fresh fruit is the best.  Especially when Whole Foods has samples.

IMG_4876

My friend Jenipher creates these amazing, encouraging doodles (and sells adorable prints and cards in her Etsy shop).  I loved this one especially.  Emojis are the best.  

IMG_4785

Jazz on the Green on a beautiful evening AND Ranae in town.  The greatest.

IMG_4860

Oh – I’m NOT loving this.  Starbucks, what is this straw?  Quit messing around.

Adventures in Piggery

IMG_4900

The tassels on sweet corn are my favorite.  They pop out all ethusiastically Pfft Pfft Pfft!!  Plus, popcorn is super good.

IMG_4903 IMG_4753I mostly saw barn exteriors this month. This is what #RealPigFarming looks like from the outside.

———————————————————————–

I’m linking up with Leigh Kramer for her What I’m Into series. Hop on over to her blog for more.

The things I did not do

I made a list of 33 things I want to do before I turn 33 in June 2014.  See the full list here.

4.  Tour a dairy farm.  I’ve never been on one as an adult, and I want to see how the operation works.
9.  Tour a feed lot.  See #4.
11.  Keep our hydrangeas alive.  Easier said than done.  I kill things.
17.  Tour a poultry farm.  See #4.
20.  Finish Project 4:4.  Amen.
27.  Purge my Facebook friends.  I’m up over 1,000 again and that’s just ridiculous.

These are the things I did not do.  No other way to say it.

There’s no real reason that I did not get the farm visits scheduled – I made some basic attempts, and it just didn’t come together.  I’m still interested in visiting a dairy, feed lot and poultry operation, and hopefully I can get it done this fall.

IMG_4564

My hydrangeas.  You guys.  We have a beautiful large hydrangea bush in our back yard, and it comes back faithfully every year.  We had smaller hydrangea bushes planted in our front window box, and paid a kid to water them carefully last summer through the draught and our travels.  And then, the winter hit.  And they did not live.  At all.  So we have mulch and a few unwelcome volunteer mini-trees right now.  We’ll try again next spring.

Screen Shot 2014-07-29 at 1.47.33 PMIn 2012, the church we were attending underwent a year of reading the Bible chronologically.  There were videos and blogs and podcasts and a whole lot of support for readers.  However, we got all the way into the minor prophets and then lost steam.  So close to the New Testament, we really should have just kept going, but alas.  We had initial hopes of completing the readings and videos this past year, but nope.  It just didn’t happen.  We didn’t even start again.

Screen Shot 2014-07-29 at 2.33.46 PM

Have you ever tried to sort through your facebook friends to (kindly and thoughtfully) unfriend people?  They make it difficult, let me tell you.  Anytime you go back to the full list, you have to start at the top, and it’s not alphabetical. And there’s no “open this person in a new tab.”  So, I unfriended like 3 people and gave up the ghost.  And then I took two e-courses and became friends with about 30 new amazing people.  So, the more the merrier, y’all.  I have muted and unfollowed a few people here and there, and I’ve definitely been on a Do Not Invite Me to Play a Game Ever rampage, but I’m done trying to systematically unfriend.  Too much effort.

So there you have it.  Those are the things I did not do.

Snail Mail

I made a list of 33 things I want to do before I turn 33 in June 2014.  See the full list here.

10. Send one snail mail card each month. Between my grandmas and all my friends scattered about, I’ve got quite a few options.

———————————————————————–

snailmail
I actually did this! Cards and packages went to Chicago, Seattle, Tacoma, Omaha, Kansas, South Dakota, Raleigh, and the last package I sent went to my friend Regina who lives in Zimbabwe. Mac & Cheese, taco seasoning, Twizzlers, all the great U.S. goodies…I went out with a bang.

I like receiving mail, and I like sending mail. I think I’ll keep it up.

(photo)

Twitterature / July 2014

A Twitter-inspired look at books I’ve been reading recently.  (And here’s what I read last month.)  What’s on your bookshelf these days?

75020

The Romanov Prophecy / Steve Barry
While not exactly great writing, I enjoy a good international conspiracy thriller. And, I love all things Russian, especially when it deals with Anastasia Nikolaeva or Anna Anderson.  I’m a believer.

1945184

Bound / Sally Gunning
Nicely written historical fiction set pre-revolutionary war. Bound is a sequel, although I didn’t know that until after I finished.  Enjoyable but not overly compelling.

7824322

Between Shades of Gray / Rūta Šepetys
An important, beautiful book.  The western world has long brushed over the atrocities of Stalin’s reign of terror in the Soviet bloc. Rūta does her family’s Lithuanian heritage justice with this must-read (but admittedly hard-to-read) YA book.

17910611Wedding Night / Sophie Kinsella
Typical Kinsella – fun, fluffy and quick.  Not my favorite of hers, but great for a sunny Saturday with a cocktail in hand.  

11870085

The Fault in our Stars / John Green
I cried as much as the next girl, I suppose, but I have a hard time buying the idea of My One True Love at age 16.  As good as any Lurlene McDaniel book was when I was a tween.  (Also, I kept thinking that Jennifer Lawrence plays Hazel in the movie, and that was super distracting.)

17402288Dept. of Speculation / Jenny Offill
Brief, lovely snapshots of a marriage – the “love, loneliness, grief, joy, fidelity, beauty, depression, mania, motherhood.” Less a typical novel and more enticing fragments of thought and life.  Should be read in one sitting.

I’m linking up with Anne Bogel for her Twitterature series. Hop on over to Modern Mrs. Darcy for more.

20140115-152556.jpg

 

What I’m Into / May 2014

It’s not May without ponies and big hats, y’all.
IMG_3273

And a sweet and refreshing mint julep or two, natch.

IMG_3554

I love our neighborhood, and coffee with Kels makes it even more lovely.  I used to be able to see this building from my old apartment – I don’t miss the traffic noise but I do kind of miss the view.

IMG_3544

Moving right along on my 33 by 33 list (although I’m running out of time!), I successfully made pie with my mother-in-law, who was a champion pie baker back in her day.  I married into a darn good family.

IMG_3748

We went to DC for #averyhappystart to a marriage for some dear friends, and I waved hi to FLOTUS.  I knew we didn’t have much time to really see the city, but we did walk past the White House and Capital building.  Memorial Day brought out allllll the people, and my introvert self was DONE with crowds.  We’ll be back in the off-season.

IMG_3451

Things are greening up and sunsets are turning back to summer glory.  Hallelujah.

What I’m reading
I linked up with Modern Mrs. Darcy to share books I’m reading in Twitter-inspired fashion.  This month’s just-a-few reads included The Sense of an Ending, Eating Heaven, and King & Maxwell.

What I’m watching
This is a light TV month for Team Wastell, but we’re keeping up with Game of Thrones. I still haven’t watched the finales of Grey’s or Nashville, but it’s hard to stay un-spoiled.  Looking forward to some good silly summer TV.

Around the web
#yesallwomen all the time.  It’s important; it’s real; it matters.

Little things I’m loving

IMG_3606

I’m thankful for non-local produce – these peaches from California were marvelous.

IMG_3761

I love summer thunderstorms, especially when accompanied by rainbows.

IMG_3490

I love The Good Life as Nebraska’s state slogan, but an Official Committee disagreed with me, and we are now “Nebraska Nice.”  Bleah.  Definitely not loving that.

IMG_3686

Traveling with Airbnb is the way to go.  It’s thrifty, plus I love seeing a different side of a city and the spaces in which people live.

IMG_3719

I’ll say it again – this guy.  🙂

Adventures in Piggery
Two things I love about my job:  small town old men and pigs who stick their tongue out at me.

IMG_3593

IMG_3413

———————————————————————–

I’m linking up with Leigh Kramer for her What I’m Into series. Hop on over to her blog for more.

 

Pie Day

I made a list of 33 things I want to do before I turn 33 in June 2014.  See the full list here.

26. Make a pie. I really need to conquer my fear of baking.

———————————————————————–

“When [Almanzo] began to eat pie, he wished he had eaten nothing else. He ate a piece of pumpkin pie and a piece of custard pie, and he ate almost a piece of vinegar pie. He tried a piece of mince pie, but could not finish it. He just couldn’t do it. There were berry pies and cream pies and vinegar pies and raisin pies, but he could not eat any more.” — Farmer Boy, Laura Ingalls Wilder

My dear mother came to town to help with bread baking, but when it came time to tackle making a pie, I turned to my mother-in-law.  I grew up enjoying Mom’s bread, cinnamon rolls, cookies, crisps and cobblers, but she wasn’t a pie mom.IMG_3513

Corinne, however, was a State Champion pie baker (Entrant No. 10, actually).  So on Mother’s Day, she pulled out her old recipe card and we baked a pie.  Two pies, actually.  Over achievers.

IMG_3521

Isn’t that cookie jar just the cutest?  I’m totally putting a sticky note with my name on it in hopes of inheriting it someday.  And you guys.  LARD.  Corinne said she found it with the cottage cheese, not with the butter, like we both had sort of expected.

IMG_3523

Anyway.  We cut in the butter and lard until we had little peas, being careful not to overwork the dough.
IMG_3524

Corinne floured up the pastry cloth on its little frame and slipped the sleeve on the rolling pin.  I remembered my sticky dough near-mess from baking bread and sighed in relief.  I rolled out the dough for a 9-inch pie pan.
IMG_3529

Then I tried (not so successfully) to get the pie crust into the pie pan without tearing it or poking holes through the tender dough.  Corinne showed me how to patch the holes  – no one will see the inside, she reminded me.  IMG_3530

Then time for the cherries.  I am not sure if I’ve ever had tart cherries from a can before  – these were in water not syrup – but they are SO good.  I had to restrain myself from eating too many before they made it in the pie.  We mixed the sugar and juice and cornstarch and heated until thickened, the stirred in the glossy butter and plump cherries.  Mmmm.  So good.IMG_3531

I used a nifty tool to cut the pretty lattice strips.
IMG_3533But don’t look too closely – I was not good at the weaving part, and the lattice strips kept breaking so I gave up and faked it a bunch.IMG_3534

Then we made an apple pie, because two pies is better than one pie, clearly.  I actually did a pretty good job moving the top crust on this one.   IMG_3544

We put them in the oven, and when there was about 30 minutes left, the tornado siren went off.  Not even joking.  A tornado warning vs. my beautiful pies!  What were we going to do?

We all went down to the basement and watched the news as the storm moved closer.  And closer.  Straight line winds and rain-wrapped tornados in the area prompted us to move into an interior bedroom, so I dashed upstairs, and with 10 minutes left on the oven timer, I turned off the oven (but left the pies in), ran back downstairs, drank more wine, and hoped for the best.  20 minutes later, the storm had passed and I went up to check on my pies.

Overall, I think they would have been better baked at the proper temperature for the full time, but considering their low-temp long hangout, they sure were good.  And pretty.  IMG_3535

I’m thankful for the time that Corinne spent with me, and I feel good enough about making pie crust that I’ll try it again.  Above:  Totally the best part about pie making, amiright?  Below:  The woman who gave life to the man I love.  She has a pretty special place in my heart.  Screen Shot 2014-05-16 at 7.32.52 PM

Twitterature / May 2014

A Twitter-inspired look at books I’ve been reading recently.  (And here’s what I read last month.)  What’s on your bookshelf these days?

10746542

The Sense of an Ending / Julian Barnes
A melancholic, odd little tale of subjective memory and unforeseen consequences. Beautifully crafted prose and an unreliable narrator make for unexpectedly good read.

528113

Eating Heaven / Jennie Shortridge
Relationships with food and family are extra complicated for our heroine as she wrestles through secrets from her past.  Filled with poignant writing and deliciously descriptive details.

17333431

King and Maxwell / David Baldacci
Baldacci’s political thrillers are as enjoyable as they are predictable.  His new releases will always make my Guilty Pleasure book list.

———————————————————————–

I’m linking up with Anne Bogel for her Twitterature series. Hop on over to Modern Mrs. Darcy for more.

20140115-152556.jpg