Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Wednesday introduces Jerry

Christina: Your Christmas sounds like a good one! I sometimes wish I had a bigger family to be around during the holidays. Mine is tiny.

Cassie: I think I know that guy you kissed onstage. And it truly is surprisingly easy for a girl to reach the age of 21 and remain undated, unkissed, unattached. Read on for blandly un-sordid details. And everyone, Monday’s boyfriend is wonderful. They are amazing together.

Alexandra: I like your story. Very matter-of-fact, but with an interestingly romantic (if slight) bent to it. Sometimes, when you know, you know. Hope you had a good honeymoon!

So I’m a bit torn when it comes to telling romantic stories. I have a whole lot of dumb, lame anecdotes involving persons entirely unsuited for me. And I have one amazing, almost-seven-month-long anecdote involving person entirely suited for me.

For the sake of humor—and Anything for Humor, right?—I will first tell you about Jerry.

Around homecoming season of my junior year of high school, my best friend at the time had just started dating a guy named Josh. He went to a different high school from us, and asked her to go to his homecoming dance with him. Of course, she could not go alone, so she dragged another friend (Heather) and me with her.

Josh had two friends who were to be our dates. Heather’s date’s name was Mike, and he was entirely nondescript and therefore shall not be mentioned further. My date’s name was Ryan, and he was touted to me as the most fun-loving, caring, enjoyable fellow. It was hinted more than once that we might be just perfect for each other. I began to get excited about the dance.

Fast-forward to the day of the dance, four hours before the doors open.

Ryan is sick.

Enter Jerry.

Have you ever seen Napoleon Dynamite? Ok, good. Imagine Kip (Napoleon’s brother), in a grey version of Napoleon’s leisure suit, with Uncle Rico’s haircut. Now make him five feet tall and incapable of functional social interaction.

That’s Jerry.

I don’t think Jerry was even still in high school. I’m pretty sure he had dropped out, even though he was our age.

We went to dinner at a local Mexican restaurant where I had contracted mononucleosis only months before. I don’t remember what I got, but I remember that Jerry got a salad. Which he did not eat.

Carlyn, attempting to make conversation: “Do you, uh, not like your salad?”

Jerry, attempting to attempt to make conversation: “… I have food allergies.”

Carlyn: “Oh.”

Jerry, attempting to attempt to attempt to make conversation: “… Do you have any food allergies?”

Carlyn: “… No.”

That’s basically the extent of the conversation we had.

I spent a good portion of the dance avoiding him in the bathroom.

My friend tracked me down and coerced me into one slow dance with him, which he took advantage of by grabbing my wrists and, I kid you not, swinging our arms wildly and hopping around in what I can only imagine to be… Never mind. I can’t fathom what in the world he thought that was. But it was better than actually slow-dancing with him.

At the end of the night, we all made our way back to my friend’s house for a bonfire. She and her new boyfriend were all aglow with post-dance endorphins, and Heather and I were avoiding our dates as best we could. We decided to make a run for it, citing work the next day.

As we said our goodbyes, Jerry seized the moment and asked me to be his girlfriend.

I was dumbfounded.

I told him I was seeing someone, which was a downright lie.

That was the last I ever saw or heard of Jerry.

I’m going to save my better romantic story for another week, as this post is already getting about as long as I write ‘em these days. I hope you have enjoyed the Story of Jerry.

Have a good New year, everyone! I’ll see you in 2012.

Tuesday is Back From her Honeymoon

Which is as relevant a segue into romance as I can make. Obviously, my romantic life is doing well, as I am married and living with my husband and I'm not sure where we can move from that. I have mentioned before that I was in a relationship with a Japanese man a few years my senior, back in high school. He is a nice guy, but we haven't talked in a long while. He's been in a bit of a rut since his brother died, hasn't talked to many people but his boyfriend.

I've never really had any other relationship, and to say my first one was conventional is certainly a stretch. Age difference, long distance. I mean, I got my firsts from the guy (and I will leave it at that), so it counts in that regard, but... it was very casual. It was a friendship with some fun, I guess. That sounds crude, perhaps, but it was just what it was, not much else to say. We broke up when he decided he'd try to settle down with Masashi, but it was on pleasant terms. I basically didn't date again for about seven or eight months, which is when I met Al.

And Al, well, we were hardly normal. We met in August and were engaged by November. We met when we were both out of work and out of school (at least for the time - he got a job two weeks later and I started school up around the same time), so we hung out every day often for hours on end. We did the movie and dinner thing, but we also spent hours on the couch watching movies and playing video games. We were... upfront with each other. I think we discussed every topic you're not meant to talk about on that first date. Past relationships, abortion, children, marriage, politics, religion. Neither of us could date a theist, I don't think. It's one thing to know a few, even love a few in a strictly friendly way. But to discuss a life of hard choices and maybe, who knows, child-rearing with somebody who, ultimately, has beliefs we fundamentally cannot agree with is just not a possibility for either of us.

I think, coupled with the fact that I had a terrible landlord and a worse apartment at the time, we just... we compacted the year or two's worth of dates, discussions, and dreams into about two months. And over the nine months until our wedding, with Al injured and out of work, visiting my family in New York, struggling with finances, with school, with immigration... I think we just covered it all in a year and we're young (him less so, perhaps), neither of us has a long history of relationships, but I think we're both mature enough and honest enough to know what we were getting into and nothing in the past year since I agreed to marry him has changed my opinion on that matter.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Mondayszzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz . . .

Whoops! Sorry, girls. Fell asleep there a minute.

I don't know about any of you, but on Monday's end, it has been an exhausting holiday. A great one, but an exhausting one, and I am looking forward to finishing this post, curling up in my Christmas jammies, and heading off to sleep

Anyway, I loved reading about all of your holiday traditions, and was surprised to see how similar some of them were to my own! I hope everyone's holiday has been wonderful and relaxing and enjoyable!

On to today's topic: relationship stories.

Here's a secret: Discounting the one I'm currently in, I've never been in a romantic relationship before. I mean, I've had crushes, and I've been on things that others called dates that I certainly do not (it was supposed to be a group thing, everyone else bailed, and his mom was along. Not a date, folks. Not a date.), but I've never been in an actual relationship. I'd never been out on a date, and I'd never been kissed  except for onstage encounters (most of them with the same guy . . . )

See, I went to high school with a group of peers who were vastly different than myself. My school was very much part of a farming community, and all the guys were in the FFA and liked to hunt and either played football or wanted to, and here was this weird, artsy girl who sang and liked theatre. For the most part, we didn't have much to talk about.

So the pool of potential dates dwindled to the guys I did theatre with a town away, and I don't know what you've heard about theatre guys, but a lot of the stereotypes are true -- meaning, a decent percentage of them are gay. I had the hugest crush on my best friend for a year and a half -- took him to my senior prom and everything -- before he came out of the closet. I think a part of me always knew, but I was still crushed.

So, I came to college, and I was just too busy, you know? And the one time I did manage to develop a major crush on a guy I was in a show with, I practically threw myself at him and he remained oblivious. After that, most of my friends focused down to the members of my fraternity, who were almost all either gay (theatre fraternity) or already taken, and I decided it just wasn't worth it. After all, I was a strong, independent woman. I was in college to get a degree, not a boyfriend, and I didn't need a man in my life to define me.

So how easily can a girl reach the age of 21 and remain undated, unkissed, unattached? Turns out, surprisingly easily.

Enter the Pledge Class of 2010.

The story of how my boyfriend and I met is not particularly interesting, largely because I honestly don't remember, and neither does he. It was certainly not an "eyes meet across a crowded room and all sound of the conversation around us dwindles as the orchestra swells to indicate that this, this is a significant moment." I'd seen him in a couple shows without really remembering, and when we'd voted in the class, he was one of the three names I had to check photos on to be sure I had the right person in my head. Our first real conversation was during pledge interviews, where the pledges of Theta have to interview so many members as part of their process. His was one of several that happened one night at the pizza parlor after our meeting. It was slightly unusual because we went off on a half-hour tangential conversation geeking out about Harry Potter and Firefly. Then he left and moved on to his next member, and I thought, "He was pretty cool. Who's next."

Terribly romantic, huh?

Probably the most interesting thing about the start of our relationship was that his jaw was broken at the time. Shortly after the night of the interview, he was mugged on his way home from a party. I remember getting the email from the fraternity president and thinking, "Oh, no, and such a nice guy, too!" I remember declining the invitation to visit in the hospital because I thought it would be weird, since we didn't know each other very well. I remember admiring his stamina and determination when he went through the next pledge event on low pain meds with a broken jaw and fractured vertebra, determined to complete the process even if he had to be stoned out of his mind at the time.

We started really talking at Theta's weekly study tables. And that's when the spark really began. He started asking each week if I'd be there the next. I started hanging by the door, waiting for him to walk in. We both made sure to arrange the walk at the end of study tables so that we would end up walking next to each other over to the meetings. Then there were the eye-catching moments across the room during the meetings, the goodbye or congratulatory hugs that lasted just a little too long, and finally, the invitation to coffee that I couldn't accept because I was going out of town for a week, followed by walking me home after some event and the first kiss goodnight.

Not a whirlwind romance, to be sure. Not a wild, crazy, sweep you off your feet losing of heads and minds. Not the gooey, gushy, crazy fairy tale romantic stuff I always thought I'd be in for when I pictured such things. But honestly, having been in this relationship for almost two years, and knowing with utter certainty that it will be lasting for many, many more, I can look back and say that this was really perfect for the two of us. There is love and trust and friendship, and it's been steady and sure from day one, which may make for a less exciting love story, but I think, in many ways, a truer one.

And now that I've waxed poetic, I'm going to wrap this up, say Happy Holidays to you all, and I'll see you again in the new year!

Week 42: Romance is in the air

Sorry. Christmas fail at posting topic. Here 'tis.

Romantic relationships- any good stories from the past (horror or otherwise)?

Look for me later today!

Friday, December 23, 2011

A Traditional Friday

Happy Friday everyone! I hope you all have a wonderful Christmas, Hanukkah, and all other holidays!


My mom is Christian and my dad is Jewish, so we celebrate both Christmas and Hanukkah in my little family. Really, we've celebrated Christmas my whole life, but it wasn't until I was around five (I think) and learned about Hanukkah that we started celebrating that too (my dad isn't a practicing Jew, so it was at my insistence). The main holiday is still Christmas though.

As I write this post I am partaking in my family's biggest Christmas tradition- we're staying with my aunt and uncle in Massachusetts. All of my mom's and dad's families live in Massachusetts and Connecticut, so we always come out here for Christmas (and Hanukkah, though we're not always out here during the actual eight days, since they don't always fall during the same time as vacation). This year, however, we are here for Hanukkah (right now) and we'll be seeing my dad's family for a Hanukkah dinner too! I don't get to go to many authentic Jewish holidays with my family, so I enjoy it when I can. Anyway, I'm digressing. So, my parents and I come out to New England for Christmas every year. I enjoy it out here. Two of my aunts (the ones we stay with when we're out here in the winter and summer) live in rural, Western Massachusetts. It's a bit middle-of-nowhere, but in a way that I like. When I was younger I dreaded losing cellphone service while out here, but now I don't mind- it's nice to have a break from my phone.

Really, my family is a bit boring in that we don't have any real traditions except getting together at my aunt's house for Christmas (it's been the same aunt for as long as I can remember, except for one year when we gathered at another aunt's house since the former was doing renovations). Oh, we also do a gift exchange among the adults instead of having everyone get everyone else a gift. The children get gifts from everyone until they're 18 and then they have the choice of joining the exchange or not. I'm doing it this year and got paired with one of my aunts, which is lucky because I've found it hard to get a good present in previous years when I got paired with one of my uncles!

Hmm... other traditions... I suppose it's traditional by now that everyone arrives about two hours later than they said they would. It seems like we open presents later and later each year, though that also probably has something to do with the fact that all the children are college-age or graduates now (save one or two grandchildren who are sometimes here) and therefore aren't as much-open-presents-now excited.

Of course there's the food too, generally everyone chips in and makes a little something. This year I'm making carrot cake as one of the desserts (there are multiple, of course). I actually made it tonight so that the kitchen will be less crowded on the actual day. It smells so good though, I need to just ignore its existence for the next two days.

Well, that's it for now because I am falling asleep as I type. Goodnight and Merry Christmas Eve Eve!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Wednesday does things a little differently these days

Christina: Welcome back! I’m glad you have traveled safely and hope you continue to do so.

Cassie: Boy oh BOY does your family make candy…

Alexandra: Your Christmas sounds like it is going to be wonderful! Enjoy your travels. I vote Tardiness Amnesty : )

My family is a dynamic creature, and so are our holiday traditions. For Christmas, when I was young, we would all hop in the car about two weeks before Christmas and go pick out a tree. We would then take it home and decorate it with family-favorite ornaments to a soundtrack of A Charlie Brown Christmas.

On Christmas Eve, my mom’s parents would make the two-hour drive from Mom’s hometown to join us for Christmas Eve church service and Christmas the next day. That night, my sister and I would stay up late plotting a scheme that would get us to our presents without waking up Grandma and Papa, who slept in the room where the tree stood. We would have a hard time falling asleep and then wake up at quarter-till-too-damn-early in the morning, crawl around the house to our stockings, sneak back to open them in one or the other of our bedrooms, re-pack them, sneak back to the fireplace, and put our stockings back, to pretend we hadn’t opened them at all.

We would wait as long as we could possibly force ourselves to wait and then ever so gently awaken our parents by sneaking into their room and whispering, “Mom! Dad!” until we annoyed them enough to make them awake. Then we all went to where Grandma and Papa were waking up and opened presents. We had dinner at around noon, which was always (as per Papa’s insistence) a deli tray—a food variety that no self-respecting child should ever enjoy. Then we spent the rest of the day enjoying our presents and doing a whole lot of nothing.

We do things quite a bit differently these days. For one, we no longer put up a tree. Several years ago, we decided that it would be easier and just as fulfilling of Christmas tradition obligations just to cut a tree shape out of foamboard and decorate it with construction-paper replicas of favorite ornaments. It’s the best tree ever; we unfold it afresh every year and prop it up against the wall, no watering or pine-needle-stepping-on required. This year, we made a new construction paper replica of our advent calendar.

My family has liberalized quite a bit in recent years, not a little bit due to our lessened (for many of us, eliminated) religious inclinations. We no longer go to Christmas Eve church (or church at all). It is quite a relief to be part of a family that doesn’t guilt its members into going (though Grandma might, if she had her way).

My sister and I no longer connive over Christmas-morning-goings-on. We stay up late watching TV and sleep in, getting to presents when we’re good and ready to be awake. Most years, Mom and Dad are awake before one or both of us.

Dinner now happens at normal dinner time, 5 pm or later. And it consists of lasagna and garlic bread instead of a nasty deli tray (everything on those stupid things tastes like pickles anyway) and all our favorite accoutrements and desserts.

The only thing that really remains the same is that we spend the rest of the day enjoying our presents and each other, only it’s a whole lot better than it was when I was growing up.

So that’s my family Christmas “tradition.” A very Merry Christmas to you all!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Tuesday is Festive

As a child, holidays were primarily celebrated by not attending school. My family was, back a couple of generations, atheistic - we didn't even acknowledge Easter, and Christmas was - as it is for many Americans - a chance to exchange gifts. I didn't like the music, the decor was mostly annoying (we had to move the dining table into the living room to make room for the tree), and I was mostly content to just have my birthday for the gifts (though, hey, a Wii? I'll take it).

As an adult, maybe even just in the past couple of years, I have grown to like the atmosphere. I like the decor, I like the feelings, I like the carols - sans the ones sung by Justin Bieber - and I like Christmas. Of course, as an adult, I don't really exchange presents. My parents might send me a check, and my mother-in-law took me out to get a pedicure and we went clothes shopping together, but really, we don't have so much as a wreath and no physical gifts have been purchased. The only gift I've given was Skyrim, for Carina (my BGSU friend).

Of course, this year, I am going to Disney World. Specifically, in fact, I'll be at Universal for Christmas. Harry Potter World for Christmas - talk about magical. :)

Regarding the other holidays... well, there really is nothing to say. I never liked Thanksgiving, because aside from the pumpkin pie, the food doesn't really appeal to me. I'm not one to keep from the spices and cheese, and turkey roasts get a baste at much, the stuffing is too gritty to eat, and everything else is just buttered vegetables and the highly questionable 'cranberry sauce'. Until I moved up here, Thanksgiving was an excuse to see my grandpa, which... wasn't much. My grandma came over, too, but she came over no less than twice a month, sometimes twice a week, so it didn't really matter. These days, Thanksgiving is (a) on Columbus Day, and (b) a torturous event in which I need to hang out with a bunch of in-laws, some of whom are tolerable, maybe two of whom I like, and at least one of whom I loathe passionately (and she was pregnant this year, so she was infinitely less tolerable).

Valentine's? I never really had a boyfriend - I had a long distance one, but we didn't exchange gifts... because of the distance. And my husband and I were already engaged by the time our first Valentine's came around. Further, my husband's birthday is a week later, so I don't feel obliged to get him anything. He got me a Chocobo plushie and I made a nice big dinner, but we sometimes just do things like that, so it wasn't really special. Just an excuse to do something fun, really.

Halloween - I marathon a couple of horror movies and make treats. This year I made a jack o' lantern rice krispie treat, some cinnamon popcorn, and some 'worms in a cup' chocolate amalgamations, plus some apple cider and a bowl of candy. Most years this is how it goes. First year of college, Matthew and I watched a bunch of old Halloween-themed Disney cartoons, Nightmare Before Christmas, etc. and ate candy, and as a kid, my mom and I would watch horror movies and eat candy. It's a reliable pattern, if nothing else.

I don't so much as acknowledge any other holidays, so... yeah. And, on a final note, my flight back from Disney World is... next Tuesday. And I'll be on a plane for nine hours of that. Statistical odds of me making a post rely entirely on me arriving home and not being dead tired, or there being free Wi-Fi in the Chicago Airport during our layover. Think up a punishment or something now, everyone, and I'll see you when I get back. :)

Monday, December 19, 2011

Monday wants snow, damn it!

Hello, girls! It's Monday! And I am sitting in balmy, warm, snowless central Ohio. Can a girl get some Christmas snow, please??? Yeesh!

Most of the year, balmy weather = yes, please. But from December 15 to the New Year? Monday wants some snow. Please and thank you.

So, I'm at my parents' right now, surrounded by their Christmas decorations (two trees, dozens of nativities, and 213 santas), and it's a bit surreal, because this is the first Christmas I won't be spending at home. We (the boyfriend and I) are doing Christmas with my folks on the 21st because we'll be at his folks on Christmas Eve and Christmas, so I'm building some new traditions.

Up til this year, though, Christmas has always been one of those holidays with long-standing traditions in my family. We always went, all five of us, to get a live Christmas tree from the tree farm down the road. On Christmas Eve, we'd have two candlelight services at church, and between them, we'd open one gift (usually clothes for the service). On Christmas morning, my younger brother and I would get up obscenely early, and be allowed to open our stockings on our own. Then, when my older brother finally dragged himself out of bed, we'd open gifts before breakfast. Then, once lunch was down, we'd all get in the car and head up to grandma and grandpa's. Second Christmas would be on the 26th or 27th, once all the aunts and uncles and cousins had assembled. Constant activities during Christmas in my extended family include an UNO tournament every year in memory of Ethan (Champion 2005, 2007, 2008 - Yours Truly. I must win back my crown), night sledding on BG's one and only hill, and Christmas carols in the living room every night.

But Christmas, for all its traditions, has never been my family's biggest holiday. That is Thanksgiving.

I've briefly touched on my family's Thanksgiving tradition, but I'll go into more depth here. My family makes candy. Specifically, my family makes 209 3/4 pounds of 23 different flavors of hand-dipped chocolates - four kinds of caramel, nine kinds of fudges, seven kinds of creams, three kinds of truffles, and toffee. It takes us most of a week, with six dippers, six cooks, and an ever-moving rotations of cutters, rollers, dishwashers, and gophers. It is an art, and it's one we have down to a science. We've been doing this for four generations, ever since the Great Depression. We make candy for one week of the year, and give it all away as Christmas gifts to teachers and coworkers and friends and family. I've already told my boy: Christmas we can spend with your family. But Thanksgiving will always be spent with mine.

So, yeah. Christmas and Thanksgiving are the big ones. I celebrate Halloween less and less each year, Easter is observed more than celebrated, 4th of July is more about my birthday than the holiday.

I look forward to reading about your holiday traditions, and I hope everyone has a very merry Christmas!

Week 41: It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas . . .

Topic from Christina:

Holiday traditions! What holidays do you celebrate, what's your favorite, and what do you do?

Friday, December 16, 2011

Coming to you from... America!

This is a very good week to have JAB because I am back home for the holidays! I got back last night at 6:30, promptly passed out in my lovely bed at 8:30, slept for nearly 12 hours, and have (so it seems, fingers crossed) evaded jet lag! Well, I say I've evaded jet lag, but I am still very, very tired (part of me still feels like it's 1:00 am), so this will have to be a short update.

I love being back in America. Don't get me wrong, France is fine and all, but living there has made me realize just how wonderful America really is. All the space! The restaurants! The ease of everything! (I acknowledge this is because I grew up here.) And all the space! Today I made my own breakfast, baked chocolate banana bread, watched Fellowship of the Ring extended edition special features, had Swedish meatballs for dinner, and saw my friends. It was a great day. :) I also got to just sit on a couch, read, and relax. I only ever get to do that in France if I'm visiting my family friends in Paris and even then I don't get to read or do whatever I want because I'm talking with them (which is enjoyable, but you get my point). It's so nice to just be able to stretch out on a couch.

Living in France is a great experience and I get to travel and see new countries, but I am also really looking forward to being back home for longer than two weeks. This experience has made me realize that I want to live in America and, more importantly, near family and friends. When I was younger I used to think about moving to France, but I now know that that life direction is not for me. I'm not miserable over there, but it's not what I want to do for the rest of my life. America does have many, many problems, but it is, overall, a great place and I'm glad to be back.

Oh, and Cassie I will think of topics and get those to you tomorrow!

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Wednesday is nipping nostalgia in the bud

Christina: I have a penchant for used bookshops, too. It’s especially bad if there’s an antique book section… Welcome to how I decorate my apartment. Old books and old glass trinkets. And light. Lots of light. And welcome back to the States (tomorrow)!!!

Cassie: I’m glad to hear the performances went well! I heard several were tear-inducing. And I can’t say I’m surprised. You bring out beautiful things in those kids. And I can’t imagine Jeffrey’s hair French braided… Goodness.

Alexandra: I watched Skyrim being played for the first time tonight. Those are some beautiful graphics! If I had time, a game console, or a television bigger than 13”, I would consider playing.

So. My life.

Oh! Here’s something really fun and awesome. My girlfriend and I have some friends who are getting married in April, and they recently sent out their Save-the-Dates. And Meghan got one—addressed to both of us! We got our first piece of mail! I hugged the groom the next time I saw him. Once for hello, and once for OMGTHANKYOUTHATMADEMYDAY.

Also, I am 4.5 pages’ worth of a paper away from being done with my first semester of graduate school. I can’t believe how fast it has gone! This last paper, a statement of my theoretical orientation, is a bit of a b****, but it would have been easier to write if the class had in any way prepared me to write it. Oh well. It is all that stands between me and three weeks of deliciously relaxing break.

I’ve really enjoyed my time here. I’ve acclimated well to my new city, I’ve made some pretty awesome friends (most of whom are guys, regardless of the expectedly female-heaviness of my cohort), and Meghan and I are getting the hang of a long-distance relationship. It’s not always easy, but it is >100% worth it. That girl rocks.

I also can’t believe how long we’ve been at this blog project. Twelve weeks after this seems like a lot yet, but then I think back to the fact that we’ve already written forty posts each. That’s crazy. And we’ve all had some pretty cool life transitions in that time!

But this is hardly the time for a blogstalgia post. We’re not done yet, ladies! I’ll save the flashback-sequence writing for another time : )

Anyway, enjoy your weeks, everyone! I look forward to hearing from you.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Tuesday is Dovahkiin

There is a game called Elder Scrolls V - Skyrim; if you are a gamer or know a gamer, you have probably heard of it. My husband is a big fan of the series, particularly the third game in the series. I was skeptical, at first. I had played Oblivion, the fourth, and wasn't really into it. Admittedly, I don't know if I gave it a fair shot, but it seems to be less liked than the third, so perhaps I was not wrong.

Still, Skyrim offered a lot. Beautiful graphics, a decent variety of races (four men, four elves, two beasts), some interesting factions, dragons, and a combat system I could get behind. And since my husband had bought the game for himself, I said "hell, I can play while he is at work, give it a go". My life has been Skyrim ever since. Every page on my tumblr has two to five posts about Skyrim, be it reblogs of 'skyrimconfessions', videos of covers of the main theme, or just me posting about my Skyrim adventures.

You'll be getting a condensed version of that in 3, 2, 1...
  • My Argonian character - a lizard woman with tusks and feathers - was what pulled me in, really. Light armor, one-handed weapons, high sneak, lockpicking, pickpocketing. Made a great thief and assassin, and she was a fantastic character. I named her 'Ophiucha', of course. Snake bearer for the lizard girl. It was fun, but it was... inexperienced.
  • The obsessive nature of gaming came in. I had wasted a few levels playing with perks in two-handed weapons and goodness that just wouldn't do. I created a wood elf, named Olwen (as an aside, I have a fondness for women whose names begin with O, and clever readers might note a tendency for my FMCs in my novels to have names beginning with O). Similar stats, here. A tendency towards the sneakier arts. But with archery. Archery is a beautiful thing, if you have high sneak, because you really can just sniper people and get away with it.
  • You can also get away with it if you are Thane. There is a preacher who - I swear to Talos - is preaching 24/7 out in Whiterun, and I was forced to kill him. The guards ran up to me, asking me to pay for my crime, to which I replied "yo, I'm Thane" and they were like "oh, carry on then". Fantastic.
  • I desperately wish I could marry Delvin Mallory. He is a member of the Thieves Guild, based on Jason Statham (in appearance and accent), and my goodness, I am in love. He's an author, a thief, a friend of the Dark Brotherhood, he's sexy, and hell, he's just a good guy all around. Not one of the marriageable people in the game though (and there are several, too).
  • This game seems to encourage homicide. I had a husband who, unlike my other husbands Vilkas and Balimund, was a sexist pig. Your spouses can make you meals, you see. Vilkas and Balimund both say something along the lines of "here you are, dear, I'll have another one for you tomorrow", but Sadri? He's like "I should be asking you that... but fine, here, shove off."
  • I murdered him and hid his body under the table so Aela (my new wife) wouldn't find it.
  • I have made several characters, beaten the game in two or three different ways, joined every major faction at least once, and yet I am still not content to stop playing this game.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Monday . . . has nothing to talk about . . .

Hi girls! It's Monday!

And I . . . have nothing to talk about.

See, last week, I had to write a short post because I was in the midst of a prop-making, costume collecting frenzy, freaking out about whether or not my students were going to actually be memorized for the production, but they performed on Saturday, and all three classes did wonderfully. The audience loved them, and I always love to watch students do so well after putting in so much work.

And now, my schedule of obligations is pretty much wide and clear until the week before Christmas, when I go to several different Christmas celebrations with several different groups of people. So I'm in the process of crafting and purchasing and delivering my Christmas gifts.

The Project for Awesome is coming up, and while I'm not making a video myself, I did help with both my brothers', which means I spent the evening helping to brush, straighten, and French braid my little brother's hair.

Let me explain. My little brother has hair. A lot of hair. It's dark and long and bushy and curly. And he spends a decent amount of his time looking kinda like a hobo caveman Jesus. Well, last year, he decided to blog every day for a year, agreeing to be punished if he missed days. He missed six, and the punishment decided on was that his hair would be brushed, straightened, and French braided. His charity is Locks of Love, and all this will be on YouTube this weekend. I'll post a link next Monday.

Hmm . . . what else? I hit my book goal at the beginning of the month. Son of Neptune by Rick Riordan was my 125th book of the year. My boyfriend challenged me to hit 150 by the end of the year, so I'm attempting to read 25 books in the next 19 days. Well, 20 actually, as I'm five in. If I make it, I get a yet-to-be-decided reward.

Yeah . . . not much else to talk about. Sorry about the randomness of this blog . . . Christina, as a reminder, the next three weeks are yours for topics!

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Week 40 - JAB Away

Well, girls, if you can believe it, we are entering into the final three months of this project! week 40 is upon us, and it's another JAB week, so let us know. How goes life on your end?

Friday, December 9, 2011

Christina loves used book shops

Welp, my internet's not working again! After nearly a month of wonderful, unlimited internet, it has suddenly stopped working for no reason. Sigh. The wait begins again to see when it will be fixed. But I will be home in America in 6 days, so nothing can get me down!

Carlyn asks where I must avoid going if I don't want to spend money. My answer: used book shops! There's something about used book shops over regular book shops that just make me want to buy ALL the books! This even happens in foreign used book shops as evidence by my Dutch copy of Sorcerer's Stone (Harry Potter en de Steen der Wijzen) which I cannot read and probably will never be able to. I think this is justified because it's Harry Potter and I think it's a nice little collection to have difference copies of Sorcerer's Stone. Hey, I stopped myself before I also got Prisoner of Azkaban and Order of the Phoenix in Dutch! But I digress. I just love used book shops: the smell of old books on the shelves, the teetering shelves groaning under pounds and pounds of books, the feeling that the shelves are going to collapse on you, everything. I also like used books because other people have read and (hopefully mostly) loved them. They have past lives; someone else has held them, brought them to work, taken them on vacation, etc. To me, used books are so much more appealing than new books. My love for used books plus their lowered price tag means I need to steer clear of used book shops if I shouldn't be spending money.

I'll be heading back to American for Christmas on the 15th, I can't wait!

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Wednesday is a crafter and grocery connoisseur

Christina: There is a lot to be said for Liz Lemon. She is awesome.

Cassie: Good luck with the props! And the next 25 books ; )

Alexandra: I love the word “turophile.” Props for being one and knowing it!

As for my wallet and me, we spend too much of ourselves at various places. Like Cassie, I am an absolute sucker for office supply stores and Hobby Lobby. Oh, Hobby Lobby… That place has everything. Am I making jewelry for an upcoming wedding? Oh, look! Beads are on sale! I will buy ALL THE BEADS. Am I foraying into horticulture via baby spider plants from my girlfriend’s mother’s gigantic plant? Oh, look! Fun-colored flower pots! I will buy ALL THE FLOWER POTS. Has Meghan made the mistake of introducing me to Sculpey polymer clay, the most fun art thing ever? Oh, look! Every color and tool imaginable! I will buy ALL THE SCULPEY. I could go on. Believe me. Right now, I am working on a wedding commission for which I will earn about $100. I have spent over $200 in supplies already (though I get to keep the supplies I don’t use, which should help me actually make a profit).

And groceries. Oh boy, groceries. I cook for only myself (while the cat eats Senior Cat Cat Food [which I find hilarious—Old Man Cat Food oughta be a brand name]), and I don’t cook terribly often, but I somehow find a way to spent over $100 every time I go grocery shopping. This last trip, a good half of that was taken up with stocking up on the supply of cards (birthday, thank-you, encouragement, congratulations) I keep on hand to send when momentous occasions happen and three bottles (again, to stock up) of face moisturizer. I do perhaps more than my fair share of stocking up on things when I have the money, and this tends to get me in slightly large grocery bills.

The place where I do most of my impulse shopping is online. I’m a year-round Christmas shopper (I’ve been mostly done since August), and find myself in the clearance section of many a cool online store before I can blink twice. My Half.com wish list is filled with dozens of 75¢ books that I didn’t let myself buy just yet, for instance, and I’ve been known to spend $50 just on interesting-looking books from the bargain bin. In fact, after I post this, I think I’m going to do a little shopping before hitting the (text)books and going to bed.

I think this is about the longest post I’ve had in a while! Hope everyone and your loved ones are doing well.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Tuesday is a Turophile

I don't have a problem when it comes to shopping, for the most part. Mostly, I don't buy things from shops at all. Books are far too overpriced at most stores - Barnes and Nobles, or Chapters as it is now that I live in Canada, is particularly bad. They'll charge you $30 for a hardcover book the size of Twilight or so. You can get that for $10 less on Amazon. Same with games and movies and the sort. It's all much cheaper online, with a selection far broader. I don't need to hold a book to know I want it, a synopsis, a few pages of an excerpt, that's enough for me.

I don't particularly care for clothes shopping. Oh, I like clothes, and if I'm in a shop that carries my size (that is, if I'm in Lane Bryant), I will undoubtedly pick out a new bra and a pair of jeans. But I can usually keep myself to the bargain bin if I'm on a budget. This lovely shop downtown has a $5 and under section with some very nice sweaters. I don't feel the need to get anything *expensive* from a clothing store, so I don't feel very obliged to avoid them.

My sin is food, as the quip about my pants size might imply. But, more specifically, it is cheese. On a budget, my grocery shopping is generally limited to bread, cheddar, pasta, sauce, mozza, parmesan, a box of chicken breast, rice, and restocking the herbs, broths, milk, eggs, butter, oil, and root vegetables (the ones that last a while). I can live with about $100/week, which has never been outside of our budget. I get creative with the basics: if we can't afford pizza, I am completely capable of making pizza dough with the flour and water we undoubtedly have.

Cheese, though, that's my Achilles' heel. Can't really do without it. And I don't mean the aforementioned cheddar, mozza, parmesan. That's the basics - I can make eighty meals with those, no harm in it, really. No, my sin is a shop called Benton Brothers. A cheese shop. Local BC blues, Cheddar and Stilton from the places that can claim the name (incidentally, Stilton cannot actually be named 'Stilton' if it was made in the town of Stilton, where it got its name), the finest from Quebec and France. If I am so much as in Vancouver, I cannot avoid the temptation to pick up cheese.

And it is expensive. Don't doubt me when I say that I can spend $100 on a single night's worth of cheese and crackers - and I don't drink wine, my friends, that's just the cheese. 8-Year Cheddar, from Silo, that costs about $10 for a block as thick as your thumb and as wide and tall as your palm. Think about how genuinely little cheese that is. For comparison, you can get some Cracker Barrel cheddar about as thick as two thumbs and about three times as wide for the same price. Bleu d'Auvergne, a sinfully sweet blue from France, can't go without $15 worth of that. There's always the temptation to grab a bit of buffalo mozzarella for a nice proper Italian dish. The Stilton, the finer goat cheeses, my mum-in-law always appreciates us bringing home some Brie; it's hard not to spend a week's pay check at this store.

Hell, we got a cheese platter for our wedding.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Monday loves books . . . and office supplies . . . and craft things . . .

Hello, girls! It's Monday!

Short blog from me this week -- my students perform on Saturday, and I'm up to my ears in waiting craft projects also known as all the props I have to construct in the next five days. I've found I develop a strange need to explain myself to the cashier at Ben Franklin's when I hit this point in show mode. I don't want her to make her own conclusions about the fake bird, bag of stones, plastic vegetables, three pieces of foam core, and black masking tape. You know how it is.

But that leads nicely into this week's topic. Where do I avoid going when I'm poor because I know I'll spend money? Places like Ben Franklin's. Or Michael's. Or Hobby Lobby. Craft stores are my undoing. Because fabric paint's only 99 cents a tube and scrapbook paper's only 59 cents a page and stickers are only $1.49 a sheet, and before you know it, I've spent $50.

The same can be said of office supply stores. You've all seen the pictures of my Neville Notebook. My planner is just as colorful. When Sharpie came out with their eight color highlighter set, I thought I was made. I soon discovered that eight isn't nearly enough, so when the 10-color set came out the next year, I bought that, too, despite having eight colors in common. I just needed the extra two, you know? I do all my longhand writing in spiral notebooks or college-ruled composition books (which are ridiculously hard to find, by the way), I'm insanely picky about my pencils, and I'm in love with black Pilot .07 ballpoint pens. And yes, hello, my nerd is showing.

But my real undoing when I am poor? Bookstores. If I had all the money in the world or no self-discipline, I could drop two hundred dollars in a bookstore without even thinking about it. I mean, my relatively small two-bedroom apartment? One of those bedrooms is our library. Three bookcases. All full. 85% my books, 15% the boyfriend's, best estimate, and I think I'm being generous. There are just so many books that I want!

Speaking of which, I hit my year goal of 125 books a few days ago. Chase then said, "You could get to 150 before the end of the year if you worked at it." To which I said, "Challenge accepted, sir."

So we'll see how that goes.

And now, if you'll excuse me, I've got eight more tombstones to make.

. . . yeah, don't ask.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Week 39:The Black Hole of $$$

From Carlyn:

Week 39 Theme: Where do you avoid going when you are poor because you know you'll spend money?

Friday, December 2, 2011

Heroes, and not the tv show

I very nearly forgot that it was Friday and I had to post, but then I saw that Lex had uploaded her sarcaschicks video and I realized it was Friday! It's a sad statement on how big a part of my life youtube is that this is how I (apparently) now gauge the days of the week. .... yupp, it really is. Moving on....

Congratulations on winning NaNoWriMo Cassie!!

Who are my heroes? I have always been horrible at answering this question. I don't know if I really have heroes. I have people I look up to, are those technically heroes? Perhaps. Okay, the people I look up to! Like Cassie, I hated this question when I was younger because I never knew how to answer it. And I still don't, apparently. Looking back, I loved my fourth grade teacher Mr. Schmittle. He was awesome. I think I can count him as a hero from my childhood. I also loved my kindergarten teacher Mrs. Thompson. In hindsight I think she was one of my heroes back them, judging from how happy I would be to see her even when I wasn't in kindergarten anymore. A few years out of elementary school, in seventh grade, is when I discovered Harry Potter and, as cliché as it is, J.K. Rowling has been a hero of mine ever since. I look up to her for her intelligence, kindness, imagination, and natural elegance. She just has a wonderful presence to her. Throughout most of college I would have most likely said that Tina Fey was one of my heroes as well. I identified so much, and still do to an extent, with Liz Lemon and her. Looking back, however, I don't know how wise it is to emulate Liz Lemon because that manifests itself mainly through lots and lots of eating and watching tv. That's really why I identified with her though- those are two of my favorite activities... *hangs head*

These days I still count J.K. Rowling as one of my heroes. As I thought about this question I also realized that I have some personal heroes as well. I don't want to name any names, but I believe that I can count some close family friends as heroes of mine. They are so kind and welcome to me and everyone they meet really. They are really like extended family to me and I admire how welcoming and kind they are.

Well, I think I've exhausted my list of heroes. I'm surprised I came up with that many actually! I used to have so much trouble with it.

Okay, that's it for Friday- see you all next week!

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Wednesday admires a lot of teachers...

Christina: Sounds like a good meal! And cooked abroad, no less. I’d steer toward sandwiches too : )

Cassie: Congratulations! I’m sure Matthew is roiling in fury. Yay! Also, I love your teacher heroes.

Alexandra: My girlfriend’s favorite movie is Equilibrium. Truly a good movie.

My heroes. Like Cassie, mine have, by and large, been teachers (and all have taught me something). I have been lucky in my schooling to have a great many incredible teachers and not so many crappy ones. (I just did a headcount, and I’ve had something like 130 teachers in my day. Holy crap.)

For me, heroes usually show me something about myself that I didn’t know was there before. One of my first was my tenth-grade English teacher, Mr. Osborne. I was used to slacking off and doing well, but he didn’t take any of my shenanigans. Playing games on my TI-83 during class? Not gonna fly. It was in his class that I started reading things that challenged me philosophically, and he and that class got the ball rolling on my eventual liberalization. I owe him a lot.

My eleventh-grade chemistry teacher, Ms. Bowers, is another hero, though I didn’t realize how much until years later. She was one of the first non-heterosexual people I ever knew, and she was one of the best teachers I ever had. She taught us to teach ourselves. And, while that was awesome, what I admire most about her these days is how much of a nonevent her sexuality was. She was out and open and talked about her family, her spouse, and her kids. I don’t know how I would go about finding her today (she no longer works for that school district, and I’m unsure about her first name), but if I could tell her anything, it would be to express admiration at a life authentically lived and students incredibly well taught.

When I got to college, one of my first professors turned out to be one of the most life-changing. My oboe professor, Dr. Leclair, was and is freaking incredible. She is a world-renowned oboist and, long story short, taught me that I didn’t want to be a musician. I cannot express my gratitude enough for this revelation. She showed me, through her own passion and incredible work ethic for her art, that I owed it to myself to find what I love. And I’m getting there. She is another authentic human being. I guess I have a serious admiration for authenticity.

I once took a class on grammar (surprise, surprise) that turned out to be geared toward future English teachers. I planned on skating through and pretending to want to be a teacher, but the professor, Ms. Aiken, was not satisfied with that. She actively encouraged me to tailor the course material to make the most out of it for myself. Clichéd though this is, she took learning outside the classroom. I learned a hell of a lot from that woman. As the course progressed, I went to Ms. A for help planning for graduate school. Today I count her among my friends.

I do have other heroes. My family is my foundation, my girlfriend is the light of my life, and various historical figures are freaking inspirational. But when I think of heroes, my mind automatically starts listing off teachers. And honestly, I don’t want to give you guys a TL;DR situation by listing everybody who ever gave me encouragement—though those names are many.

Other teachers worth mentioning: Mr. Woodman (high school biology); Mrs. Geisler (12th grade English); Dr. Gene Poor (entrepreneurship and innovation); Dr. Margaret Weinberger (sociological theory and anthropology); Dr. Marissa Wagner-Oehlhof (adolescent psychology and human sexuality); Mrs. Pugh-Blevins (high school counselor)

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Tuesday's Holding Out for a Hero~

Fun piece of trivia about me: I have a secret fascination with songs that have the word 'hero' in them. "I Need a Hero" by Bonnie Tyler is a classic, but "Hero" by Enrique Iglesias is basically my guilty pleasure. Remember when Enrique Iglesias was awesome? No? Me neither, it's been tainted with "Tonight". That song offends me deeply.

Anyway, heroes, eh? When I was little, I couldn't stand the term. Kind of went through my 'goth phase' back in kindergarten, and I'm fairly sure my first crush was Scar from "The Lion King". Not inclined towards heroes, you know? I never really looked up to anyone, either. Near the closest thing I had to a hero was a huge celebrity crush on Jeff Goldblum. That started with Jurassic Park, moved on to his horror works (The Fly, in particular), and culminated in a Goosebumps computer game. In that game, you need to go to Dracula's castle and steal something from his cloak and - in FMV glory - Jeff Goldblum was Dracula! My little crush couldn't handle the amount of amazing that came from that one. I still have a giant crush on Jeff Goldblum.

 In retrospect, the closest thing to a role model I had as a child was Steve Irwin. Paleontology - which was my ambition at the time - can potentially land one in a place with a lot of snakes. I may have hated the heat (still do), but goodness knows I'd sooner dig up bones in Colorado than learn the scientific know how to do the same thing with a giant ice breaker in the Arctic, you know? Mostly it was the snakes, though. I wanted a snake as a kid, and a guy who just picked up venomous ones and treated them with as much kindness as most treat a kitten? He was radical.

I can't think of anyone I idolized in the middle years, now, the early high school and junior high period of time in my life. I was absorbed in my media at that point, just dedicated to the next Harry Potter books and spending 10 hours on the phone with my best friend at the time discussing the latest episode of Yu-Gi-Oh!. If I were asked, I'd have probably said something like Marik Ishtar or Lucius Malfoy.

Eleventh grade was probably the first time I ever met somebody who inspired me, genuinely. That would have been my science fiction/AP English (I had him for both classes) teacher, Mr. Sorrentino. He was a hoot. Old gentlemen, I'm willing to admit I probably had a bit of a thing for him, who really helped me come into my political views. Didn't agree with everything he said, of course. Bit of a conspiracy theorist, in that regard, particularly when it came to the Egyptians and the aliens. But he helped show me how far the left side of politics could go. I really didn't know until him, you know. I knew about abortion, gay marriage, the big issues, but economic matters, privatization, things like that never really phased me. I'm probably a socialist because of Sorrentino, and I'm happy for it. Not to mention, he had a great taste in literature. He taught a sci-fi class, after all. Even introduced me to a few great shows: Firefly, Stargate SG-1, Harsh Realm. And we watched Equilibrium in school, so how couldn't I think highly of the guy?

As an adult, out of school, married, etc., I again am inclined to say I don't have a hero. I don't think of people that way. I have influences, certainly, but they are very tied to my beliefs and profession. People like Mario Batali (a chef) and China Mieville (an author). Even those people are practically chosen because of shared tendencies. Mario Batali always reaches for the same herbs as I do, you know? I read his cook books because I want to cook like him, but outside of the kitchen, I have no particular interest in him (except for the fact that's kind of cute). China Mieville gets mention because, as with Batali, he is very much my ideal in terms of my own writing, but he is someone I follow outside of writing. He's a man of my politics, and a man who has some genuinely interesting things to say about speculative literature, and I love him for it. And yes, he's kind of hot, too.

Erm, yeah. I think that about covers it. I definitely never 'looked up' to my parents. I can't honestly say that I think I've ever even loved them. I have a... disconnect, I guess, between blood and love. I genuinely despised my brother until quite recently, and that only because he's evolved into something of a miniature me, with a wide array of the same interests and a bit of a brain on him, too. I've liked a fair few teachers, but mostly in the same way I like my friends, not really as figures to look up to. When I like a teacher, I don't put them up on a pedestel, I tend to bring them down to my level. I call them by their first name and we talk about the most recent episode of Game of Thrones and make penis jokes. So, Sorrentino aside, celebrities and fictional characters are about the only place I'll find my role models, and even then, I tend to only think of them in regards to one or two aspects of my life.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Monday's heroes are teachers

Hello girls! It's Monday!

Nano Count: 50234! I have won! Last night, in an 8500 word push after stalling out over most of Thanksgiving! The story is nowhere near finished, but I made my word count, and more importantly, I beat my brother. Not that everything's a competition between us . . .

Everyone's meals sound fantastic! Alexandra, I will definitely try your suggestion when I make my chili again, and now I want to try and cook everyone else's recipes, too! Who knows? If I get my kitchen stocked and ready, I may become culinary yet!

As for this week's theme, let's talk about heroes.

I always hated this question when I was younger because I didn't really know how to answer it. Truth be told, I still don't. I never followed the classic superheroes and Prince Charming made me want to punch things, so I always felt like I had resort to real people who no one had heard of.

But I was a huge fan of Helen Keller for a long time. I read her autobiography when I was nine, I believe, and I saw The Miracle Worker for the first time a little before that. Helen Keller was inspiring to me. She overcame a whole lot of adversity through her drive and determination, and I could never imagine living in the world she did, dark and silent, and being able to move past that.

Now, Helen Keller still inspires me (and Helen Keller jokes are not in any way amusing to me; I find them incredibly distasteful), but the more I studied her story, the more I realized that, while heroic, she would never have been able to accomplish all she did if it hadn't been for the stubbornness and determination of her teacher, Anne Sullivan. Anne Sullivan made Helen Keller's accomplishments possible. She looked at the wild, seemingly untrainable hellion before her, and she saw the intelligence and the passion and the potential, like all good teachers must.

And as I reflect on my heroes today, I am struck by what they all have in common: they are all teachers. Not necessarily my personal teachers, though many of them all, but they are all teachers because that is, in many ways, the truest kind of legacy.

So. My heroes are:

Ethan Lillard, a 10-year-old who died of brain cancer. He was my cousin and he taught me that every day is a gift and that optimism is everything. He taught me that life should be lived with a song and a smile, and that family is the most important thing.

Mike Mack, a high school math teacher, who once ran a footrace with me in the hallway before I knew who he was. He was dry and sarcastic and intimidating, and he once told his eight and five year olds that the ice cream truck only played its music when it was empty, but he made calculus make sense (almost), and he let me banter back and forth with him, and I'm convinced he once gave me pity points on my final grade in pre-calculus to bump my percentage up to an 89.5 so that I wouldn't get the first ever B on my report card because of two-tenths of a percent after I'd worked so hard.

Steve Taylor, a middle and high school band teacher, who took a shy, awkward, unpopular girl and gave her the one non-elected officer position because he knew she deserved it but would never be given it by her classmates. He gave me private lessons once a week for eight years, knowing all the while I that I didn't practice anywhere near the amount I was supposed to. He taught me that scoring a III at contest wasn't the end of the world, and that any dream was worth pursuing if I wanted it, even if he really wanted me to pursue the French Horn into college instead of theatre.

Connie Ballard, a fourth grade teacher. She had the reputation of being the meanest, strictest, scariest teacher in the entire school, and I cried when I found I'd been put in her class.She kept us in at recess if we skipped even a single problem in our homework or if we failed to accurately recite our multiplication tables. She was, in fact, the strictest teacher I have ever had. She was also the best. She let me sit at her desk during five-minute oral book reports and talk for twenty minutes about the books I was reading. She asked if she could enter the poems I wrote in my journal into a writing contest because she thought they had a chance of winning. When I got the lead in the high school musical, she came opening night and sat in the front row. She was entirely invested in my education and in me as a person beyond just as a student in her classroom, and I will never forget her for that. Yes, she was strict, but we learned from her. And what we learned, we didn't forget.

And now that I've graduated college and am teaching myself, my students have become my heroes. Because they teach me so much, about myself, and about how to be a better teacher. Their energy and enthusiasm inspire me every day, and I have so much still to learn.

Famous heroes are all well and good, but I find it's the personal ones that end up meaning the most.

Alexandra, I'll see you tomorrow.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Week 38: Holding out for a hero!

From Carlyn:

This week's theme: Heroes! Who are yours? Living, dead, knew them personally or not, who do you look up to as an example for your life and how have they affected you?

Friday, November 25, 2011

Making the most of my resources

All of your meals sound delicious! I can't wait until I'm back home for Christmas to do some fancier cooking, especially some baking. :)

I may have mentioned before that there is a communal kitchen in the residence here, but it's only open on the weekends. During the week we have breakfast and dinner in the cafeteria. For lunch I either go out and buy something like a pita or a baguette or I make a sandwich. Nothing too fancy, but I get fed. Anyway, the kitchen is in very sorry shape and is really just disgusting, to be blunt. I don't even want to guess when the last time it was properly cleaned was. But we've been making the most of it!

For my meal I was inspired by Rosianna's video in which she makes halloumi salad which you can see here. For her salad she used a mix of spinach and watercress, halloumi, quinoa, garlic, cucumber, and lime. I trimmed mine down a little to save money and also due to lack of product availability in France, so for my salad I used: a mix of lettuce and spinach, zucchini, quinoa, garlic, olive oil, and balsamic vinegar.

The quinoa takes the longest to cook, so I did that first. It takes about 20 minutes to cook quinoa and I find that about 1/4 cup is usually enough for one person, especially if you're adding it to a salad. I minced one clove of garlic and added that to the water while the quinoa cooked. Once the quinoa was done, I chopped the zucchini into little rounds and sauteed it in olive oil. (There's only one working stove burner in the kitchen, so we have to cook things one at a time.) Then came assembly! I put the salad mixture in a bowl, with the quinoa on top, and then the zucchini. I added a little bit of balsamic vinegar on top for flavor and there you go! It wasn't the fanciest meal and not the best thing I've ever eaten (if I had been able to get a lime at the grocery store I would have liked to have that little zing), but it was good! It tasted especially good after a week of cafeteria food which is not the healthiest or tastiest. France gets a reputation for having amazing food and eating fresh and local all the time, but the cafeteria here definitely does not follow along with that. They serve so many fried things it's becoming a bit ridiculous, but I suppose that's the north of France for you.

For all those who celebrated I hope you had a nice Thanksgiving! Despite being in France this year, I will actually end up having two Thanksgivings. Like I mentioned, I went to Paris last weekend to have Thanksgiving with family friends. And now this weekend the English teachers I work with are putting together a Thanksgiving dinner this Saturday. I'm interested to see what it will be like- will it be a traditional Thanksgiving dinner or a Frenchified Thanksgiving?

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Wednesday is enjoying cooking!

Christina: I’m glad to hear everything is working!

Cassie: Impressive NaNo word count! I hope it’s going well. And that you’re beating that brother of yours :P

Alexandra: Sounds like a great recipe! Well done.

For my own food, I had some help from a certain girlfriend. We teamed up on this meal first for ourselves and then for her family, and it turned out really well both times.

Stuffing-Stuffed, Bacon-Wrapped Chicken

Yields: Six filling servings
Prep time: ~10-15 minutes
Cook time: ~45 minutes

Three chicken breasts
1 box stuffing (Stove Top or other brand)
½ stick of butter
1 ½ C water
1 pound bacon
Toothpicks

1. Preheat oven to 375°F.

2. Cook stuffing according to box instructions (using butter and water).

3. Slice defrosted chicken in half laterally, so you end up with two (six total) half-thickness breast fillets.

4. Using meat tenderizer, flatten each piece of chicken.

5. Lay out three strips of bacon side by side. Put flattened chicken on top of bacon.

6. Smush some stuffing on top of the chicken.

7. Starting at one end, roll the bacon-chicken-stuffing combination up.

8. Pull the bacon tight and pin together with toothpicks. (We had to used sharpened pieces of dowel first, as we had no toothpicks.)

9. Place on baking pan (perhaps lined with foil to make for easy cleaning).

10. Repeat steps 5-9 with each piece of chicken.

11. Bake for about 45 minutes.

12. During this time, cook the rest of the meal. Maybe boil some potatoes for mashing or heat up some green beans.

13. Enjoy! But be careful not to eat the toothpicks.


So that was my meal. It turned out really well, and we're going to perfect our methods and make it a staple in our kitchen.

Hope everyone is doing well!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Tuesday Is Kind of a Cook, So...

I didn't really plan anything in particular for this week, given the fact that I cook at least thrice in any week. When considering what to post for this challenge, I thought it'd be fair to make something that I had tweaked a bit myself, worked into my own meal. Seemed like the best option.

@Cassie, Looks good! Might I recommend a pinch of oregano? Most people think of that as a pasta-pizza sort of herb, but it's really good in chilis. :)

Mushroom-Stuffed Chicken
6 Chicken Breasts
2 Cups of Chopped White Mushrooms
2 Cups of Tomato Sauce
1 Tablespoon of Mixed Herbs (Basil, Parsley, Oregano)
1 Tablespoon of Butter
1 Clove of Chopped Garlic
Olive Oil
Salt and Pepper
Toothpicks

1. Unpack the chicken breast from wherever you were keeping it, and be sure that it is fully defrosted. Slice each breast nearly in half, but leave the back closed up. We'll be stuffing these. Put it in a ziplock bag with 1 cup of tomato sauce. Leave sitting for 2 to 6 hours.
2. In a skillet, sauté mushrooms in butter, salt, and olive oil (use as much as needed to coat pan) on medium temperature, until browned and soft.
3. Let the mushrooms sit on a paper towel to dry off, clean out your pan, and in a bit of olive oil, cook up your chicken breasts on medium temperature. You'll want to cook the meat through once you're done, so check to see that it's not pink on the inside.
4. Remove the chicken breasts and spoon in mushrooms. Once you've filled up a breast, pin it shut with a couple of toothpicks through the seal.
5. In a bowl, mix your herbs, garlic, and tomato sauce. Add salt and pepper at your discretion.
6. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees (Fahrenheit, obviously)
7. Take a pan - something large enough to give each chicken breast its own space - and add your tomato sauce and chicken breasts. Coat the chicken breasts in the sauce, and use any excess for the bottom and sides of the pan.
8. Pop it in the oven for 10 to 20 minutes. Just enough to see the sauce bubbling.
9. Remove it from the oven, and remove the toothpicks. Serve with a bit of garlic bread, steamed vegetables, rice, or pop it in with some pasta, breadcrumbs, and mozzarella for a fantastic twist on chicken parmesan.

I can't say I personally care much for the mushrooms - never been a fan - but my husband and mum-in-law both liked the recipe. And the tomato sauce-soaked chicken has a great taste to it, if you feel the same about the mushrooms. It is really a fantastic touch on a chicken parmesan, particularly if you add dried tomato to the breadcrumbs. Incorporate the ingredients into every element you can.

Can't wait to see what the rest of you came up with! :)

Monday, November 21, 2011

Monday made chili!

Hello, girls! It's Monday!

Current NaNo Word Count: 37,699.

So, cooking.

Me, I've always been a baker. I liked to help make cookies, brownies, bread, all of it when I was younger. I made pretty tasty things, too, though I do say so myself. But I stayed away from cooking. It was a lot more intimidating, as there were a lot more things that could go wrong in the process. Even once I got my own apartment in college, I kept to things I could cook in the microwave, steam or heat up in a pot on the stove, and pasta. So this challenge was a little intimidating for me.

However, while thinking about what to make, we had a potluck at my church, and someone brought in brown sugar chili, which is what my mom used to make very occasionally, given that my brothers didn't like beans. But I always loved it, and so, I decided then and there. We have a slow cooker, I said. So I'm going to make brown sugar chili.

And that is exactly what I did.

My ingredients:


My recipe:

Crock Pot Brown Sugar Chili
Source: Weight Watchers website, via a post on TheNest.com
Yield: 8 servings

1 lb extra lean ground beef (I used ground turkey)
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 Tbsp prepared mustard
1 medium sized onion, chopped (I used frozen pre-chopped onion)
2 (14 oz) cans kidney or red beans (I used one can chili beans in mild sauce and one can red beans)
2 cups low sodium tomato juice
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp ground pepper
1 tsp chili powder

My addition: frozen red, green and yellow bell peppers

Brown ground beef and onion (and peppers) in a non-stick skillet over medium heat. Drain. Add all ingredients to crock pot and stir to combine. Cover. Cook on high for 2-3 hours. If possible, stir several times during cooking.

240 calories, 6g fat, 4g fiber = 4/5 WW points per serving (hits right on the line)
 
In process:
 

And three hours later, voila! Dinner for two! And lunch . . . and dinner again . . . and more lunch . . . :) We had leftovers for a week!



 But it was very good, and is now definitely going to be a regular recipe!

I made cornbread, too, but it wasn't all that stellar, so I'm not posting the recipe.

But yay! Brown sugar chili!

Happy Thanksgiving if you're celebrating this week, and with Christmas on the horizon, I'd like to send out Christmas cards to everyone, so if you'd email me a mailing address, that would be great! :)

Alexandra, I'll see you tomorrow!


Sunday, November 20, 2011

Week 37: The Culinary Arts!

Well, girls, the time has come! Hopefully, you've spent some time in the kitchen since Alexandra posted her challenge, 'cause the timer's gone off, and soup's up!

. . . Okay, no more cooking references, I promise.

Tuesday's challenge awaits, and I can't wait to hear how everyone's meals turned out!

... Whoops

Okay, I suck. Working internet and all (my own connection is finally working!) and I missed my blogging day. Here's the deal: I was in Paris over the weekend visiting my friend and having (early) Thanksgiving with her family and totally forgot to blog before I left. I remembered when I was there, but it was too late at that point. I'm sorry!

So, yes.... I suppose a punishment is in order, right? Sigh.

JAB time! Well, like I said, this weekend I was in Paris visiting my friend and her family. We've known each other our whole lives, so they're a bit like extended family at this point. We had a wonderful Thanksgiving on Saturday with their family, another family they're friends with, and me. It was great to be with good friends and have a cozy, homey Thanksgiving. And I enjoyed spending quality time with good friends. Also! I got to help bake a cake and apple pies. I've really missed baking, so that just made the whole weekend even better.

Things have been on a considerable up-turn on this side of the Atlantic! In the future I now refer to last Tuesday the 15th as "The Day When Everything Started Working." It was miraculous. For the past month or so France and I have been in a battle, with France very much winning. Sign up and pay for internet? Nope, doesn't work for a month. Send in immigration papers to be here legally? Still hadn't gotten appointment yet. Name spelled wrong on important work document? Oh, we won't send you the fixed copy for a month. Your cafeteria meal card doesn't work? We can't fix it until next week, just scavenge until then! 

Then, the week before last, it seemed that things were starting to look up- I got my meal card fixed and could eat in the cafeteria again! And then suddenly, The Day When Everything Started Working! Last Tuesday I got my fixed work paper with my name correctly spelled! I talked to the immigration office and found out my appointment was in enough time for me to go home (legally) for Christmas!! And a technician from the phone company came and properly installed my internet! It was a glorious day.

I will ignore the fact that the phone technician showed up without any appointment, just called me and said he was downstairs and could I let him in. Umm... okay, sure, I went with it. I got a phone call the next day telling me a technician was going to come by. Yupp, the company was really on top of that one. BUT it is okay, everything is good now. Everything is working! 

So, in conclusion, things are going well over here in France. And I will be visiting home in less than a month for Christmas! Some of the things I'm looking forward to doing: seeing my family and friends, petting my cat, baking cookies, cooking in a real kitchen, driving a car, eating an American breakfast, lying on my couch and watching tv. I can't wait.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Wednesday IS a spreadsheet

Christina: Welcome back to your regularly scheduled programming!

Cassie: Yay, Guion candy! Also, yay Oklahoma! Also, yay NaNo! And finally, yay Deliverance! She is wonderful. And you are telling her story well.

Alexandra: What a brilliant world! I have incredible admiration for all the complexities of that kind of writing. Amazing.

I’m not involved with NaNo, except for hearing and being excited about y’all’s involvement.

But that doesn’t mean I haven’t been writing.

So far this semester, for my first four graduate-level classes, I have written about thirty papers and outlines of various persuasions, totaling over 300 double-spaced pages and more than 60,000 words. Grad school means writing. Lots of it (though probably no more than you all are used to writing for various purposes).

To count this, I have dorkily set up a spreadsheet of all my papers and documents. And no, this is not the dorkiest thing I have ever done with Excel.

Also not the dorkiest thing I have ever done with Excel: Set up a layout for my eventual Dream House on Sims. And no, not the Sims you play on your computer. We’re talking Facebook Sims Social. Really bad.

The dorkiest thing I have ever done with Excel, you ask?

Pokémon.

I was halfway done with Pokémon Gold for Gameboy Color (which I was playing on my Advance and never actually finished) when one day I decided that I needed a spreadsheet of every single Pokémon in my collection.

Complete with species, name, date obtained, method of attainment (caught, traded, hatched, etc.), moves, and every single other statistic imaginable.

I spent hours on this spreadsheet.

And I never found a single use for it, as the Gyrados in that one lake eluded me until I got too annoyed to continue.

And that, children, is my story of how Excel can be used for powers of Dorkiness.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Tuesday Has Mostly Been Working on a World

Yeah, I've just been chilling. Kind of on-off with NaNo, but I've been writing a lot this month, which is all that matters. Interesting character dynamics in my novel. Margarita, an asexual, is in an arranged marriage with Fyodor, a homosexual, and is pregnant with his child - but they're on the run (they were Tsar and Tsaritsa) along with Fyodor's lover (and one of the lords) in the sewer system, basically. They sort of become a family, but a very strange and dysfunctional one. They all love each other, and their child more importantly (which Nikolai, Fyodor's lover, considers as much his as the others), so it... works.

But that's not really what my passion's been for this past month. My passion has been a worldbuilding project, #soundworld (that's a collection of notes on the subject). I can't recall how much I've mentioned and I'm tired as hell (I've been up all night), so I'm not looking it up, but the basic premise is that sound (and on a deeper level, math) is magic. Music, in turn, is how one can produce the more interesting magic of the world. Been building up everything, but the real kick here comes in what I want to write. Short story anthologies that span the world's past, present, future. I'm a sucker for fantasy, and that means history, so I want the religion and bad medicine and sexism and all that comes with it... but I really want a modern fantasy world. Even a futuristic fantasy world.

So I'm developing the changes over time in everything. Civilizations rise and fall, languages diverge, religions disappear, music - noise, soundwaves - are understood. Different species learn to communicate. The nature of some of the world's mysteries are discovered. I want to write different types of stories. Drama, comedy, action, erotica - I have an idea for a typical fantasy story about a floating city that's doomed to collapse, I have an idea for a Canterbury Tales-esque collection of travellers on a long train ride through the desert, I have an idea for a romance between a single father and a medic. And as I develop all of them, more of the intricacies of the world open up. It takes a lot of fine tuning to match everything I want, and I want to write everything before I consider publishing any of it. I hate stories with too much retconing, you know? But I'm excited about this project, and it's been a while since I felt that.

I like it, as well, because I can draw influence from a thousand places and never really lose anything or bundle up too much. I want to draw in a bit of Lovecraft, so I just stick it in the future. I have these creatures, the Soundless, whose origins are oft debated and speculated upon in the world, and finally in the distant future, they discover that they are people who solved the wrong equations, changed reality. Like, fundamentally altered their realities. To the point where it takes eons to reverse it, because you need to use math to change it again, but math itself is different. 2 + 2 = 3, man.

Other, general updates:

  • Someone take Team Fortress 2 away from me, I can't write with this on my computer.
  • Skyrim looks nice, but do you know what was released on the same day?
  • LEGO HARRY POTTER YEARS 5 - 7.
  • I will have no life for the next month, TBQH.
  • New Professor Layton and new Legend of Zelda, too.
  • And then I am going to go to Florida.
  • JSYK, I am graciously accepting my punishment now because hahahano if you think I am going to update on the 27th. That's my last day at Disney World (I leave on the 21st), and aside from being on a plane for about 10 hours of that, I want to enjoy a nice fancy lunch at Epcot and get a good nap in before the painful plane ride.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Monday . . .

doesn't have time to finish her title!

Hello, girls, it's Monday, and I'm swamped. I'm stage managing and props master-ing for a production of Oklahoma that goes into tech this week, my family is helping my grandparents make their Christmas candy today, I have a list of things a mile long that have to be completed for the classes I'm teaching, and, oh, yeah, NaNo.

27,719 words, by the way.

So . . . yeah. I'm gonna be losing my mind and running around like a chicken, etc, etc, fill in the phrase for yourself, for the next few days, so . . . here! Enjoy an excerpt of my NaNo novel! :)


Deliverance
Prologue

You know how they always say you can never fully understand prophecies until they’ve come to pass? Maybe I cannot speak for the majority of prophecies, but I can speak for my own, and I can tell you that the mysterious “they” are absolutely correct.
   
My name is Deliverance, and nothing important was ever supposed to happen to me. If it happened to anyone, it was supposed to happen to Patience, who was the eldest, or Honor, who was the youngest, or Valor, who was the only boy. But me? I was just Deliverance, number eight in a long string of daughters born to my parents King Earnest and Queen Laurel over the course of sixteen years. I was not the prettiest (that was my elder sister Constance, who will deny it until her dying day because she is also the sweetest), the most outspoken (that was my elder sister Faith, who could, and often did, turn anything into an argument), or the most mischievous (that was shared between my own twin Remembrance and, most ironically, my younger sister Serenity). No, I was just Deliverance, and if I were to be given any superlative at all, it would be the quietest or the shyest or perhaps the most likely to simply fade into the background.
   
And I was content with that superlative. I even desired it, to some degree. I was shy, I was quiet, and my idea of an exciting afternoon was finding a new book in the library. I did not enjoy the public eye, and I never sought the spotlight. I was content to be ordinary and overlooked for my entire life.
   
But of course, that is not the way that things worked out.
   
My story begins with my mother’s death. The story I was part of, of course, had its beginning many long years before, but the day my mother died is when it all started for me. It is a tragic beginning for a story, but it is the necessary one, for it was on my mother’s deathbed that she whispered a prophecy to me, the prophecy of who I was and what I was destined to do. I was ten years old, and her words frightened me greatly, for my mother didn’t prophecy often, but when she did, what she saw always came true. And she told me that if my world was to be saved, I would have to live up to the name she had given me, and truly become the Deliverance for so many.    
   
But I am getting ahead of myself, and ahead of the story. For if you are to understand what happened to me, to us, I must start before my mother’s death. I must start with the story of a young, handsome prince and a beautiful but mysterious lady who appeared at his court one day.

Chapter One
Once upon a time, there lived a young prince named Earnest, and the time for him to marry was drawing near. His parents, the ruling King and Queen of Lochlea, were getting older, and they wanted to see their son settled with a wife and an Heir before their deaths. But none of the foreign princesses who had come to court had captured the prince’s fancy, and none of the noble ladies who had been there since his birth had managed to do so, either. King Valiant and Queen Grace were dismayed, to say the least, for they dearly wanted their son to marry for love. But they and he both knew that if love didn’t come soon, a marriage would have to be arranged.
   
And then, one day, who should arrive at their court but a beautiful young woman who introduced herself as Laurel. She said she was a noble woman from a country far across the sea. When asked how she had come to travel so far from her home, her perfect smile faltered and a sadness crept over her. She said that she had always longed to travel and never been content with staying in the land she had been born into, as had been expected of her. She had finally convinced her parents to allow her to follow the pull she felt in her heart and see the world. She had left her kingdom behind and taken the first ship across the sea, going wherever that pull in her heart led her, and Lochlea was where she ended up.
   
My father always used to say it was my mother’s sadness that truly captured his heart, for she had accepted it and bore it and balanced it, and because it had touched her, she was wiser and more beautiful than all the silly ladies he had so far met. They fell in love and were married. My mother’s parents were unable to come to the wedding, but if this raised any suspicions, my mother had won over people of the country so entirely during the time my father courted her that no one dared bring their suspicions forth.
   
So the prince was married, and the kingdom rejoiced and waited for an heir, but a year passed, then two, and there was no heir. My grandfather died, and my father was crowned king, my mother named queen beside him, but still there was no heir. Now, my father had a cousin who had married the second son of a neighboring kingdom, and she had a son the year my father became king. Dauntless was his name, and often, when my father worried about the future late at night, he would whisper to my mother if they shouldn’t make Dauntless their heir. And my mother would just smile (“For women always know,” she would interject at this point of the story), and lay a hand on his arm and say, “Patience.”
   
And sure enough, when my parents had been married for six years, they had their first child, a daughter. And following the Lochlea tradition of naming the royal children after the qualities one hopes they will grow to possess, they named my eldest sister Patience. Two years later, they had Joy, then Faith, then Hope, and then it was as if a floodgate had opened, and they went from having no children for six years to having eleven children in thirteen years.
   
For Constance followed Hope, and then Prudence, and then Remembrance and myself were numbers seven and eight. Then came the “itties,” Charity, Purity, and Serenity. And for three years, little Ren was the youngest, and people began to say, “Yes, eleven girls is all quite well, but what about a son?” And my mother, as she had eleven years before just smiled and said, “Patience.” And sure enough, when Serenity was three and I was eight and Patience was sixteen, another pair of twins, a boy and a girl, Valor and Honor, were born. Thirteen children, twelve girls and one boy, in sixteen years. But the kingdom had an heir and my parents had a family, and for a while, all was perfect.
   
Then my mother fell ill.

Friday, November 11, 2011

I'm on time, I'm on time!

What's that, it's ACTUALLY Friday? And I'm posting? What??

As it turns out, in a humorous turn of events there has been wifi in the downstairs common area of the residence the WHOLE TIME. Of course, the helpful and thoughtful administration never informed us of this and we finally found out from some students who live in the hall. Womp womp. It isn't the fastest internet, but it's unlimited, doesn't block "unsavory" (aka downloading) sites, and is in the same building! Though now that I've told you this I'll no longer have an excuse to post late... Nice one, Christina.

Also before I get to the topic, I wanted to let you guys know that I finally started posting on my travel blog about my time in France. If you're interested you can read it here!

I've never been an athletically-inclined person and I've always wished that I were more sporty. I'm not a good runner, even when I'm in shape. I can't hit balls, can't kick them... I'm just not good with the whole hand-eye coordination thing. And running and throwing/catching things at the same time? Disaster. So sports are one of the abilities I envy. Not so much that I'd actually put effort into practicing so I could, you know, actually improve. Just something that it would be nice to be able to do, but when push comes to shove isn't actually enticing enough to merit the work.

I'd also like to be a more artistic person. I'm good enough at graphic design and I think I could become much better if I took it back up and worked at it often (I used to have my own website that I designed myself, graphics and html), but I'm not so great at drawing, painting, things that require a steady, practiced hand. Maybe this has something to do with hand-eye coordination again, definitely not a strong suit for me.

In the same artistic vein, I also admire writers. I would like to be a better writer, especially now that I'm regularly blogging for this blog and my travel blog. I feel like I use the same phrases over and over in my writing, repeating the same words. I just don't see a lot of variation in the way I express myself and it's something I want to improve. I'd love to have the writing ability of, for example, Stephen Fry or Neil Gaiman. I also very much admire Rosianna's writing (missxrojas on youtube). She's one of my favorite internet people in general; I love the way she expresses herself both through video and text.

That about sums it up, I believe! I would like to be better at sports, drawing/painting, and writing. And I'm currently working on writing. :)

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Wednesday is dismayed at her forgetfulness

::falls to knees in despair::

NOOOO!!!

I just got done telling Cassie that I’ve been getting very used to blogging on Wednesdays, it’s becoming part of my routine, blah blah blah blah…

Frick…

Double frick.

Anyway…

Cassie: Yep… procrastinate… That friend is a really good procrastinator. Now, go close that word gap!

Christina: I hope your friend’s internet gets less spotty soon! Hope the French life is treating you well!

Alexandra: Harry Potter World! That is going to be wonderful fun.

Now, what do other people do that I don’t do that I would like to do…

Seriously, this was my topic. I should be better at coming up with something.

Hm.

I would like to develop my skills in several artistic fields. I’ve always wished I could draw, and I’ve practiced it for a while, and it’s gotten slightly better. I don’t have a natural eye for it, but practice has improved my drawing ability somewhat. Similarly, I’d love to get better at painting. And photography—which is something people seem to be doing in spades these days.

I would also very much like to know how to fix cars. Most people get annoyed or scared when they have a flat tire or need to check their oil or something. I love it. I’ve changed a handful of flats in my life, and it always leaves me energized and smiling. Seriously, I love changing tires. I can’t imagine what it would feel like to know how to fix something more involved.

Also, interior design. I love decorating and planning layouts to maximize space and all sorts of things like that. Sometime I’d love to take a class in it or something.

Finally… cooking. I have no skill in cooking. That probably has something to do with the fact that I have never seriously cooked in my life. But it would be a wonderful skill to learn.

That’s all for me today! And it leaves the word count at… Three-hundred and thirty-two. : )

(Plus the smiley face and this sentence, three-hundred and forty-three.)

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Tuesday Would Like to Knit or Something

I mean, I'm content with my talents, I should say. Cooking? Practical. Writing? Creative. That's all I need in my life, if I'm going to be honest. But I guess I've always kind of wanted to knit or crochet or something. Just sort of a passing fancy, you know? I think it stands out to me because unlike many things, it is something I could do, and I simply haven't yet. I'm a very... mathematical person. I always say I am not an artist, but really, I can draw patterns quite well. Intriguing networks of lines and spirals and Celtic knots and all sorts of things are quite simple for me. I can make fonts, I can make sprites, even. I just can't draw anything, you know, physical.

Similarly, with musical instrumentation, I don't have the right skills for it. I can't play a song unless I've memorized it beforehand, though it should be noted that I can play songs *far* beyond my skill level because I've memorized it. I can't read music and play at the same time, and I can't really get tempo in my head unless I know how fast the song has to go. But I am very good at memorization. I only need to hear a song once to learn the lyrics, the beat, the timing. And if I watch someone play a song, and perhaps write out the notes in a 'CDEEEFF' kind of way, I can play it. I can't play certain instruments, mind. Never got the hang of percussion, I don't have the fingers for string, and I've got bad enough asthma that most wind instruments are out. I used to play clarinet, before it got bad.

So knitting stands out because it is a mathematical process. There's creativity, yes, in choosing yarn and whatnot. But following patterns, counting in your head, repetition, I'm very good with that. I even own knitting needles and yarn and all that. I just haven't be bothered to learn as of yet, which kind of makes it worse, really. Because I know I could if I took out the time to do it, but I'm just... not motivated to, I suppose. I consider starting up, but then I want to read a book, or write a book, or it's an hour until my husband comes home and I need to make him dinner, or something.

Anyway, NaNo Update: I started over on Day 5 because I didn't like the story I was writing, and am currently around 7,000 words. I've done for this for like five years, so just beating isn't a great concern of mine, I just want to finish the story so I can clear the palate. It's been a while since I've written, and finishing something up in a month or two will help me move past this, get the juices flowing. That said, I probably will finish by November 30th, anyway, because writing 2,000 words a day really hasn't been hard since my first NaNo.

Also, my husband and I bought tickets for Universal Studios for our honeymoon in Florida, and I think you all know what means. (It means Harry Potter World!.)

Monday, November 7, 2011

Friday's unreliable friend

So I have this friend... she's really nice and all but lately she's become really unreliable! She has these "valid" excuses like "oh, my internet's not working," but still- when they say "I'll see you Friday," you expect to see the person Friday, right?

I'm sorry, I know it's understandable, but it's really starting to annoy me!

And she just turns up randomly too, without warning! Like this one time, we were supposed to meet on a Friday, but she was late and didn't show up until Saturday. So then we were going to meet again the Friday after that and she just shows up at my place Monday night! What is that?

I'm sure she'll get over it though... :)


Monday can't play the piano

Hello, girls, it's Monday!

Alexandra: Your friend is such a brilliant reminder of how we are all intelligent in different ways! Also, I want you to know, I have completed your challenge! I won't be talking about it here, obviously, but I have cooked things, and my boyfriend and I ate them, and neither of us got sick! So, success! :)

Carlyn: Procrastinate? You? Never. I refuse to believe it. Also, thank you for the ice. I got it to my . . . friend . . . and you'll be pleased to know that the penguins have been taken care of. Now to figure out what to do about the carpet . . .

Christina: Fingers crossed for your internet. We miss you!

Nano update, for anyone interested. It is Day 7. Target word count for the end of Day 7 is 11,666 words. My current word count is 14, 092. I am not currently beating my brother (not that everything's a competition between us . . .) For about six shining hours this morning, I was. Then he got up and wrote another 500 words. And I've spent the morning doing errands. Sigh . . .

But speaking of the fact that my brother and I aren't competitive at all, this week's topic!

So, I don't know if I've mentioned it, but I took piano lessons for about 11 years of my life, from first grade through high school, with a couple hiatus years in there when I was between teachers. Overall, I had two phenomenal teachers and one pretty mediocre one, but I got a good grounding in how to read music and chords, piano technique, and music theory. And I can play, strictly speaking. After eleven years, I can sit down with a piece of music and get through it, more or less. But I cannot really just play the piano, and I certainly can't accompany anyone. I stop and start and second guess myself and am far too much of a perfectionist. It takes about five months of constant, daily practice and pretty intensive work for me to get a piece to the point where I will play it in front of someone, and that was back when I was taking weekly lessons.

So, I'm not piano player. I realized this pretty early on. And I realized it because both of my brothers are. This is the point where Matthew will sputter and deny it and say that he actually can't play very well at all, he just knows how to fake it. This is also the point where I punch him. Because faking it or not, he's still miles better than I am, and he always has been.

I was okay with that, growing up. I mean, he was older and music was always more his thing than mine, so I could live with him occupying that niche, as long as he didn't come over and start sightreading the piece I'd been working on for five months and play it better than I could.

But then I started to notice that my little brother was also a better piano player than I was. And that wasn't okay, because he was three years younger, and had three years fewer experience, and was still better than I was (You should all be impressed with my maturity at this point, because I very rarely admit that my little brother is better than me at anything). The point when I realized that was the point when I came to the conclusion that I was never going to be a piano player. I envy people who have the ability, though, and I'd love to be able to just sit down and play and have beautiful, flowing music come out. But, sadly, that is not among my talents.

I would also love to be able to sign. From a young age, ASL has been fascinating to me. I love to watch interpreters -- I think there's something very beautiful and poetic about sign language. I'd love to actually learn calligraphy forms, instead of the self-taught stuff I can do, and I'd like to be able to juggle.

And that's my ability envy. Now, if you'll excuse me, Matthew's 1000 words ahead of me, and I must close the gap.

Monday out.