Saturday, March 1, 2014

Trying to Become a Reader Again

I used to love to read. When I was little, I would spend all of my time finding little places around my house to "hide" and read books. My regular getaways were my bedroom closet (I even put a lamp in there) and behind the dining room table. At night when I supposed to be falling asleep, I would beg my parents that I could read "just one more chapter"... And then I probably read two;)

But something happened over the years. I think when high school turned reading into something that I had to do a lot of, I lost the practice of setting aside time for personal reading. I mean, I was still a nerd and my favorite high school "class" was working in the library for one period a day. Yet still, the time I devoted each day to reading for the purpose of enjoyment began to go down the drain.

Then I went to college and grad school, majoring in a subject for which my main textbooks were The Bible and a gigantic systematic theology book. Even though I was finally able to study what I loved, reading about it now seemed like a labor that I wanted to constantly postpone. To this day I have a hard time being interested in reading The Bible because it still seems like a textbook.

The thing is, I'm still interested in a ton of other books. I like their titles, their descriptions on the back cover, and the idea that if I read a bunch of them I would know the answers to all of life's questions. I have no problem excitedly buying and starting a book. I just can't seem to finish them.

In the last few weeks I did something I haven't done in years: I actually finished reading not just one, but two books! I started both of them at least two years ago. Over the last few weeks of forcing myself to read, I've come to rediscover the awesome benefits that voluntary reading provides. It's a perfect way to kill two birds with one stone, enabling you to both relax and be productive at the same time. From reading a novel and an autobiography, The Secret Garden and The Heavenly Man respectively, I was able to mentally escape while becoming inspired to live differently. Perhaps I've shied away from book reading because I think that it will either be too much a waste of my little time or too much work for my little brain... Yet I guess I'm learning to see both the rest and the labor of reading in a positive light.

That being said, below is a list of some of the books I've started over the last couple of years and would like to finish in the next couple of months:


Give Them Grace by Elise Fitzpatrick

The Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert by Rosaria Butterfield

Messy by A.J. Swoboda

Good News About Injustice by Gary A. Haugen (I officially started this about 6 years ago, ha)

When Helping Hurts by Steve Corbett and Brian Fikkert

Dead Aid by Dambisa Moyo


I'll try to report back when I finish them (but I make no promises, considering I'm not too consistent on here anymore:).
 

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Life Lately

 
I went to a Farmer's Market on Saturday... I loved these beautiful heirloom carrots. I didn't buy any, but I did get a yummy crepe for lunch and some mandarin oranges to take home.
 

 
I've gotten to hang out with my 7-month old nephew a lot lately. He possesses an abnormally high level of cuteness. I think he looks like a porcelain doll in this photo with my dad.
 
 
 
With each passing day I get a little more obsessed with Asian cultures... I especially love a lot of aspects of Asian pop culture and therefore fully enjoyed watching this music video by a Chinese girl band while waiting for my "scallion pancake" the other day.
 
 
 
I have had a horrible time falling asleep lately, but last night I got out this book that I started... oh, a year or two ago. It did the trick and I fell asleep faster than I have in weeks (out of relaxation, not boredom). This is just another reason I need to start reading books more often (I have started and left unfinished more than I care to admit).
 
 
 
Tonight I made this awesome "No Knead Bread" that I found on my favorite blog, Bleubird. I didn't follow the directions precisely, but the bread still turned out amazing. The only way I strayed from the recipe is that I didn't pre-warm the pot that I cooked it in (I was in a hurry). I also didn't use a French oven like she did, but my stainless steel pot will have to suffice until I can afford one of those.
 


This may be a little too personal, but whatever. Over the last few weeks my skin has been breaking out horribly for some unknown reason. In desperation, I started taking care of my skin with manuka honey and a mix of jojoba, lavender, and tea tree oil. They seem to be agreeing with me so far and my skin feels a lot better than it did just a week ago.
 
 
Well, that's all for now!


All photos were taken on my iPhone and edited with the Vsco Cam app.

Friday, January 10, 2014

Cheesy Recipes


One of my New Year's Resolutions was to do more cooking. Thankfully, I was able to try out two new recipes this week and they were both winners.

The first recipe, Grown-Up Grilled Cheese Sandwiches (pictured above), was found on Joanna Goddard's blog, A Cup of Jo. I made it pretty much as directed, except I only had about half of the balsamic vinegar the recipe called for. That didn't seem to affect anything and they turned out very "gourmet":)

I made the second one just tonight. It's a quiche recipe that I found in an old cookbook named Recipes from a French Country Kitchen. What was really unique about it was that you had to coat the pie shell with mustard (or maybe that's common and I've just been missing out all these years?). It really added something special to the flavor. I also loved that there weren't many ingredients, yet there were good portions of those few ingredients (partly due to me adding a bit more bacon and cheese than required:) This turned out to be the heartiest and richest quiche I've ever tasted.

I adapted the recipe just a tad, so this isn't exactly from the book:

CHEESE AND BACON QUICHE (I feel like they should have named it "Onion and Bacon Quiche"... I mean, what quiche doesn't automatically have cheese?)

Ingredients:

1 whole wheat pie shell
1 rounded tablespoon of honey mustard
1 package of Applewood Smoked Uncured Bacon by Niman Ranch (the best bacon I've ever had)
1 white onion, chopped
3 eggs
1.5 cups of heavy whipping cream (they asked for light cream, but I have no idea what that is)
8 ounces of Swiss cheese, diced
Salt and pepper


Directions:

1) In a frying pan, cook the bacon over medium heat, until crisp and browned, stirring occasionally.
2) Remove the bacon with a slotted spoon and drain on a paper towel.
3) Cook the chopped onion in olive oil over medium heat for about 12 minutes until very soft and golden, stirring occasionally.
4) Beat together the eggs and cream and season with salt and pepper.
5) Brush the mustard evenly over the whole pie shell.
6) Sprinkle half the cheese over the pie shell, spread the onion over the cheese, add the bacon, then top with the remaining cheese.
6) Pour on the egg mixture and bake for approximately 40 minutes until lightly browned.


Unfortunately, I devoured a good chunk of this really quickly without thinking to take a picture first... but then I guess all quiches look the same, right?



Image via A Cup of Jo.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

New Year's Resolutions

I love New Year's resolutions. LOVE. They give the perfectionist in me a yearly opportunity to set unrealistic goals that will supposedly transform me into the human being I've always dreamt of becoming. Ha. That being said, here's this year's list:

1) Stop being a perfectionist.
2) Become legitimately trilingual.*
3) Try harder to stop worrying so much (I'm already worried that I won't be able to fulfill this one).
4) Cook more often (instead of regularly eating toast and fruit snacks for dinner:).
5) Learn how to study the Bible in a more interactive and creative way.
6) Spend less money on boba teas and lattes:)

* I could probably write a whole other post about this one, but I'll try to be brief.

I formally studied French between the ages of 11 and 18, including taking part in a foreign exchange program in France. It was my life. But then at age 19 I transferred to a tiny college that didn't offer French classes. From that point on, I've only maintained any French language skill through watching Amelie approximately 100 times and playing MC Solaar on repeat. However, I've recently realized that it's very important for me to continue developing my ability in French, so I'm going to do all I can to make a habit of individual study.

Though I transferred to a college that didn't offer French, I did transfer to a school that offered frequent trips to Thailand. After visiting Thailand four times, I decided that it couldn't hurt to learn the language. I also happened to be unemployed after my last trip and needed something to occupy my time with for sanity's sake. After several months of wrestling with the idea, which included realizing that teaching myself from a book just wouldn't work, I started taking lessons over Skype with a woman in Thailand. I absolutely love it and am hoping to spend part of this summer in Thailand to do more intensive study.

In the last 8 days since committing to this resolution, I've spent a lot of late nights on YouTube, soaking in any French and Thai movies, TV shows, and music videos I can get my hands on. It's been awesome. It's also why one of my resolutions this year cannot be to get more sleep.

:)

Saturday, December 21, 2013

My Very First Christmas Tree

Today I went to a little local Christmas tree lot to get my very first Christmas tree... Not that I didn't grow up with them, I've just never had one that's all my own.
 
 
I loved the sign on the tree below...
 

And voila! A humble little Charlie Brownesque tree in the corner of my bedroom:) Ha, I love it.

 


Merry Christmas:)

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Isn't It Ironic?

Several years ago, I caught the end of an episode of Bridezillas. The bride, who was - of course - crazy, kept going on about how she needed to have an outdoor wedding. Yet, despite the warnings from her family, she didn't make a backup plan for the possibility of rain. So, as you would expect, the wedding day came and it started pouring. When the bride realized that her wedding day was not going to go as planned, she went outside and screamed, "God really hates me!"

I got a flashback to that crazy bridezilla in the rain today. I was standing in the kitchen, thinking about how everything seemed to be going absolutely wrong and pondered, I wonder if God hates me or something. Though I was kind of ashamed by the theological inaccuracy of that thought, there was something relieving about putting my feelings into honest words.

Though I wasn't planning an outdoor wedding for today, I was planning a day of relaxation and rejuvenation. I decided to skip church and go to Starbucks to read and journal. Now, instead of using a handwritten journal, I write in a Word document that I started in 2011. I write in it at least once a week, so by now I've reached about 500 pages. So with my tall soy latte at hand and my headphones in ears, I spent a few hours typing out my heart onto the pages. It was awesome.

When I got home, I wanted to add an extra thought to my journal, so I went to open it. And just like rain on your wedding day (I can hear Alanis singing "Ironic" now), the file wouldn't open. I got a ghastly message saying that the file was corrupt. As of now, two technologically savvy men and myself have spent about seven hours trying to recover the document, with no success. Though I found a backed-up version of it, it's over six months old. So, I haven't lost all 500 pages, but I have lost at least a hundred. As well as six and a half months of memories.

Now I know this doesn't sound like a tragedy worth declaring God's hatred for me over, but it has felt like a bit of a breaking point for me. My journal file was called "The Desert Diaries" because it has been my place to document a period of my life (now three years long) that has felt dry and empty like a desert. I guess you could say that journal has kind of been like a best friend. When things get overwhelming, I just go to it and talk it all out. Part of why I decided to take the day off church and journal today was the fact that my heart has been feeling very hard toward God lately and I wanted to set apart some time to work through it rather than force myself through a worship service.

So, I guess losing my journal made me want to say to God, "Things are already going bad enough. Now you have to take away one of my biggest sources of comfort? Something that means so much to me?!" But being the Calvinist that I am, I have to remind myself that God is 100% in control... and perhaps He is using this situation to actually work on the issues I stayed home to journal about today. Maybe He's (lovingly?) showing me that He cares less about me having what I want and more about how I react when things are not going my way.

Okay, this song was in my head the whole time I was writing this post, so I need to include it:


Wednesday, November 27, 2013

I'm Giving This Another Shot...

I'm notorious for starting and quiting blogs. A lot of times when I get back into blogging, I just create a brand new blog. However, I won't be doing that this time. I'll just try to pick up where left off.

Around the time that I was writing on here last, I was trying to get a jewelry shop going. Well, I posted my items for sale and then... nothing happened. I know if you really want to make money you have to work at it... You have to market, you have to network, whatever... Anyway, I quickly learned that I do not have a business bone in my body. I just can't do it. Oh well.

However, since writing last, I have made some progress in the money-making area. Well, I should rephrase that: I am actually making less money than I used to, but I am at least still making some. I left my miserable job as a secretary to start working at a preschool. It is so much fun and so much less physically painful (sitting at a desk for several hours = every muscle in my body tightening into excruciating pain). So even though I'm a little poorer (which I didn't think could be possible), I am certainly happier.

Anyway, I'll try to get back into the swing of things here. Surprisingly, though I haven't been updating this blog, I've continued to get a number of readers. Hopefully I'll start giving my random visitors something interesting to read soon.

Seeya!