The Weekly Squee! (3)

The Weekly Squee

The Weekly Squee! is an exercise in positive thinking.

1. Have I told you that I’m re-reading the Harry Potter series? Again? These books have cast a spell on me (har har har!).

2. Fitocracy.com is a cool website and iphone App that marries physical activity with the level-up systems of RPGs. I get to burn calories while simultaneously satisfying my nerdy desires to gain experience points. Currently, I’m a level five paladin fitocrat, and I only have 864 points to earn before I level up.

3. The office staff had their monthly meeting, and our manager bought everyone Panera’s. In the past, we were allowed to customize our orders to our hearts content, but that took a long time, and it cost a lot of money. Now, our manager just buys a bunch of turkey sammiches and asiago steak sammiches for everyone. Except for me. I just found out that she orders the Mediterranean Veggie sammich special for me. It is a small gesture, but it actually made me feel appreciated.

Coffee and Mango

Coffee and Mango

4. Mangoes. I’ve never been a mango fanatic before, but now I cannot get enough of them. I eat them plain, I eat them along side homemade coconut rice pudding, and I eat them on top of steak salad with homemade honey lime dressing.

5. Three Day Weekend! Thanks to Memorial Day, I get one more day to really mess up my sleeping schedule.

 

 

Is it possible to re-read a series too many times?

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone by J.K. Rowling

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J.K. Rowling

I’ve mentioned before (here and here), when the seasons shift from Summer into Autumn, I re-read the Harry Potter series. The crisp air, the Fall colors, and the overcast skies make me think about feasts in the Great Hall, trips to Hogsmeade, and mugs of butterbeer. This year, the hankering to re-read Harry Potter has come two seasons early. I blame it on Al Roker, who has been reciting Harry Potter-themed trivia on Comcast On Demand for the chance to win tickets to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. After hearing Hedwig’s theme for the umpteenth time, I could resist no longer, and I decided to hunt for my books. You’d think I wouldn’t have to “hunt” for something I cherish and read so frequently though. Alas! I am dreadfully unorganized.

I embarked on another re-read around midnight on Saturday. After cracking open the cover of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone for the 8th time, at least, I was struck by a memory of my first, true re-read. My final semester at college, right before Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (part one) hit theaters, I decided to re-read the series from start to finish. I picked up Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone for the first time in probably 10 years, and I was flabbergasted by how much I forgot. I had become so accustomed to the introduction in the movie that I forgot all about Vernon Dursely’s uncomfortable day at Grunnings and the shower of shooting stars over Kent, which was probably bewitched by Dedalus Diggle. Since then, it’s been a rare occasion that more than a year should pass before picking up at least one of the books to read (last year was one such occasion), and I feel I could practically recite parts of the series.

I wonder if there is such thing as reading a book (or in my case, a series) too many times. Is it possible that one day, the spell these books have cast on me will run its course? …Naaaaaah! Surely not. That’s kind of like saying one day I will stop craving my mom’s homemade chicken noodle soup!

What book(s) do you frequently re-read? Have you ever felt like you read a book too many times? 

Writer’s Block Anonymous

During my freshman year of college, I had one teacher say something to me that, for better or for worse, determined my college career. “This is a well-written piece, and I know of a small, on-campus publication that would love to print it. Have you ever thought about studying English?” The following semester, I disregarded my parents pleas to study business, and I declared a major in English. But with an Emphasis on Practical Writing. It was a compromise, you see; in case creative writing never worked out, at least I could write interoffice memos really well. And I never did submit my essay to the small, on-campus publication.  This isn’t about regret though. Not really.

Shortly after college, I stopped writing, and after I stopped writing, I stopped dreaming. I could fill up a notebook with all of my excuses, but it all boiled down to the value I placed on myself as an individual and myself as a writer, which was zilch. Aside from these sporadic blog posts, I haven’t written anything in about 4 years.

Last month, I got a new supervisor at work, and after work I stopped by her office to chit-chat. Honestly, this lady terrified me, and this was my way of testing the waters. For some reason, I mentioned that I used to love to write, but lately it’s caused me a lot of anxiety. I mentioned that fear of failure kept me from telling stories, even though I recognized this was a self-fulfilling prophecy. The next morning, she approached me and told me she ruminated over our conversation from the previous day, and it upset her that I wasn’t writing anymore. She printed out a quote and stuck it to the whiteboard in my office:

There is only one thing that makes a dream impossible to achieve: the fear of failure. –Paulo Coelho, The Alchemist

Then she told me that I need to start writing again because I’d never be satisfied otherwise. This caught me by surprise because for once, someone seemed to give a damn– someone other than my mom and dad, who have to encourage me to keep writing because they are my parents***. But, the encouragement didn’t stop there. Once a week, she asks me if I went home and wrote. She sends me encouraging words and pictures in e-mails, like the Rumi quote above. She turns accounting lessons into life lessons into reasons why I need to write.

Sometimes I forget why I write because I read articles about writing for an audience and writing for publishers and writing for money and writing for fame and writing for change. Sometimes that burden is too much because at the end of the day, most of us started writing for ourselves. Because art nourishes in a way that accounting never could. So, last weekend I wrote. On the back side of neon orange-colored printer paper. With an equally orange pen that had the perfect amount of inkiness to slide across the page with ease but without coating the side of my hand with black smudges. My hand started to cramp after just a few minutes because I haven’t written with such vigor in a long time.


 

Footnote:
*** It’s like when I was really young, I used to say I was going to be a tiger when I grew up. Or a cowboy-girl. I’m certain it was met with, “Honey, you can be anything you put your mind to”. I obviously could never become a tiger, but good parents don’t discourage big dreams. (Cowboy-girl, on the other hand, is still a potential job title that I may or may not strive for once I gain a little more work experience.)

 

That time I did a Follow Friday on a Saturday: Japan!

Yesterday, I did not go to work. I woke up at 9:00 in the morning bathed in warmth and the sun’s rays. It felt like a magnificent Saturday morning. Alas! It was only Friday. This is a much better scenario than thinking the day is Friday, but in reality it’s only Thursday (or worse, Wednesday). I did forget about participating in Follow Friday, but this week’s question was too fun for me to pass up.

Spring Break: Where would be your favorite destination spot if you could join the Spring Break festivities?

First, this would require me to still have a Spring Break. Adulthood is such a drag! But, if I could choose any place to visit for a Spring Break, I would go to Japan.

Hanami by Eric Monfort

Hanami by Eric Montfort

1. I would have a Hanami (花見)– Hanami means “flower viewing”, and they take place when the cherry blossoms are flowering. I’ve read that many people get together and have picnics in parks, but even to walk amongst the trees and their delicate flowers would be a delight.

Okunion Cemetery on Mount Koya from Jordy Meow

Okunion Cemetery on Mount Koya from Jordy Meow

2. Take a hike on Mount Koya– After spending a day hiking mountain trails, you can experience a temple lodging by staying at one of the Buddhist temples.

Old Town in Takayama

Old Town in Takayama

3. Travel back in time in Old Town in Takayama– The houses that line these streets are preserved from the Edo Period (1600-1868). Take tours of sake breweries, enjoy a cup of coffee at a coffee house, or even take a tour of houses to see how people lived during the Edo Period.

Kenrokuen from trako_aus

Kenrokuen from trako_aus

4. Visit Kenrokuen– Kenrokuen in Kanzawa is considered to be on of Japan’s most beautiful landscape gardens. While you’re there, you can also visit a tea house and watch a tea ceremony.

Nagoya Castle from Yevgen Pogoryelov

Nagoya Castle from Yevgen Pogoryelov

5. Daydream in Nagoya Castle– because how could you say no to a quintessential touristy thing like touring a castle?!

Japan is on my bucket list, so really I’d be happy to visit even in the dead of winter. Where is your dream Spring Break destination?

Follow Friday is a meme hosted by Parajunkee’s Views and Alison Can Read

Just My Cup of Tea: April Showers

In the north, there often is one week of warm weather early in the year that makes northerners feel irrationally hopeful that spring is around the corner. It usually takes place in March. We start packing away our long johns and bulky sweatshirts…only to be greeted with a porch-full of snow a few days later. Now it’s April, and the true battle for warm weather begins. It snowed last earlier this week, dipped down into the teens at night, and now it’s 70 degrees and sunny. Which begs the question, why am I indoors typing up this post?! But, I digress.

I planned this post shortly after browsing the Farmer’s Almanac, which suggested the Great Lakes region was going to have a soggy springtime. It made me think of that proverb “April shower bring May flowers”. In reality, it’s not been overly rainy, at least not in my town. The forecast always says rain, but it never comes. It’s kind of disappointing because I love rainy days.

Ah well. Here is a collection of fantastic tea cups and mugs for rainy days.

Rain from Society6

Rain from Society6

The Rain mug makes me think of rolly faces pressed up against rain-spattered living room windows looking out onto the world with longing. I never experienced this because I was always the kid splashing around in puddles and making mud pies. I had good parents, and they had good carpet cleaners.

Polka Rain from Society6

Polka Rain from Society6

If you take your tea or coffee with a little whimsy, then I think Polka Rain is the mug for you!

Monsoon from Society6

Monsoon from Society6

Somehow, I don’t think this really represents a monsoon. But hey, what do I know? I live in Michigan, and we don’t get monsoons here.

White Cloud and Rain from Pieces of Porcelain @ etsy.com

White Cloud and Rain from Pieces of Porcelain @ etsy.com

I love this White Cloud and Rain mug from Pieces of Porcelain. So, the handle looks a little cramped, but the patterned cloud and the raised rain drops are unique. Pieces of Porcelain offers a lot of really unique and clever pieces of pottery, so mosey on over to her etsy shop to see more.

The details on the Rainy Day mug are subtle. I love the lightly raised rain cloud at the mouth of the teacup!

Which of these rainy mugs is your favorite? Alternately, is springtime sprouting in your neck of the woods? Has it been particularly rainy?

Sorry!

This is a list of things I have not done lately:

  1. Read books. Yep, I admit it! I’ve barely picked up a book since the New Year. What’s my problem, man?
  2. Taken lunch breaks. This is a problem that has existed for over a year. I have a ton of work, even during the slow season, so I feel anxious when my hands are idle. I am actually forcing myself, at this very moment, to take a lunch break by typing up this post.

This is a list of things I have done lately:

  1. Exercised on a regular basis. Generally I’m a sluggish, sedentary person, but not since the beginning of February! I’ve been exercising 3-4 times a week, and I’m not even certain what motivated this change. I get at least 45 minutes of a clear mind, I sleep easier, and I feel pretty good about myself afterward.
  2. Made better financial decisions. I’m paying down my credit cards, rebuilding my savings account, and saving for a down payment on a new car.
  3. Studied Japanese every day. Because I’m a nerd.
  4. Read about ancient civilizations. See #3.
  5. Had a Boys Over Flowers marathon. I can’t say I’m hooked on Korean dramas (yet!), but Boys Over Flowers is excellent. It’s like Gossip Girl but in Korea. Has anyone read the manga? I’m wondering how different the manga is compared the TV show, and is it worth reading.
Boys Over Flowers

Boys Over Flowers

 

Things I would like to do:

  1. Jetset all over the world.
  2. Eat better.
  3. Read more.

Dream big, friends!

Book Report: A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson

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A Walk in the Woods: Rediscovering America on the Appalachian Trail by Bill Bryson
Released: May 1999
Publisher: Little, Brown Books
Age Group: Adult
Genre: Non-fiction, Travel
Pages: 304
Source: Purchased

From Goodreads The Appalachian Trail trail stretches from Georgia to Maine and covers some of the most breathtaking terrain in America: majestic mountains, silent forests, sparking lakes. If you’re going to take a hike, it’s probably the place to go. And Bill Bryson is surely the most entertaining guide you’ll find. He introduces us to the history and ecology of the trail and to some of the other hardy (or just foolhardy) folks he meets along the way; and a couple of bears. Already a classic, A Walk in the Woods will make you long for the great outdoors (or at least a comfortable chair to sit and read in).

My Thoughts:
Good gravy! All I really want to say is, “OMG! GO READ THIS BOOK NOW!”. But, that doesn’t really make for an interesting review. Does anyone else find it challenging to write a review for a book that you absolutely loved?

There is no doubt that Bryson is a well-traveled individual, but he seems so out of his element on the Appalachian Trail. This makes for some pretty hilarious stories– his foray into a camping supply store, meeting other foolhardy hikers, his companion (Katz), crossing paths with a moose, and of course bears. If you’re familiar with Bill Bryson’s writing, then you know it’s never short on snark. Sometimes his style of humor can be exhausting, and it can make him seem pretentious. This is not the case in A Walk in the Woods. For every jeering remark he makes, it’s followed up by an anecdote of his own ineptitude. Hiking the Appalachian Trail seems like it was a humbling experience for Bryson.

Bryson’s account of the trail was satisfying enough, but the gem of the book was his discussion of human interaction with nature. The first half of the book, while it focuses on Bryson’s experience of hiking the trail, introduces the reader to the National Park Services. The NPS is a government organization created to preserve nature, though they have been known to single-handedly eradicate entire species of animal or plant. Oops! The second half of the book provides a more in-depth look at the human/nature relationship and on a broader timeline– from the European explorers first trek into the woods to modern-day ghost town made so because of a massive fire that’s been burning in a coal mine since the 1960s . You come away with the feeling that humans, who have always had a fascination with their surroundings, manage to destroy the beauty of nature out of sheer curiosity or their desire for recognition or monetary compensation.

A Walk in the Woods is the fifth book I’ve read by Bill Bryson, and I think it might be my favorite. It’s a perfect balance of everything that is typical of Bryson’s style. It’s equal parts breathtaking, informative, and hilarious. The landscapes he creates with his words makes me want to trek along over 2,000 miles of the Appalachian Trail myself. Then, he obsesses over bears and hantavirus-carrying mice, which immediately brings me back to reality. I am not a hardy person, and I am better suited to experiencing Mother Nature vicariously through others. Thank goodness for Bill Bryson’s A Walk in the Woods.

Read A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson if– OMG! JUST GO READ THIS BOOK NOW!

Obligatory New Year’s Resolutions Post

New Years, 2014

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I read the blogging resolutions that I made for 2013, and they were simple enough that I thought I might actually be able to follow through with them. I wanted to read more than I did the previous year, update by blog regularly, and participate in at least one read-a-thon. I basically failed to achieve everything on that list except for “create a more appealing blog layout”, though recalling what my blog layout looked like circa December 2012, that wasn’t much of a feat. I could jot down yet another bullet-pointed list of resolutions that I’m not likely to accomplish, but on the eve of 2015 I’d look at it and lament over lost opportunities. So instead I’ll make it simple.

My 2014 resolution for reading/blogging/writing:

Just My Cup of Tea: A Blank Slate

A (long) while ago, I ran a brief series about finding a designated tea mug for my post-college life. I wanted one that said a little something about me as an individual. Bonus points if it acted as a conversation starter as I awkwardly navigated my way through my first nine-to-fives (or more accurately, eight-to-five-with-an-hour-for-lunches). I never did find that perfect tea mug. To be honest, it’s for the best. I’ve discovered on days that I’m really frantic, I have a tendency to punch my mug of morning brew spilling it all over my important paperwork. Now I only drink from a travel mug that my office provided me. Just to clarify, I received the mug because there were extras, not because I’m clumsy.

Even though I’m destined to drink from work-provided travel mugs for the rest of my life, I decided to bring back this feature. Simply put, compiling a post of tea mugs to fit a certain theme (for example, animals) was really fun. I’m jump-starting Just My Cup of Tea with a blank slate.

Behold! The simple, white teacup:

Any time I mention to my mother that I want to own white shoes/shirts/cats, she gives me a horrified look. She knows that I’m almost definitely going to scuff or stain the pristine fabric by the end of the day. Usually while I’m standing still. But, should I deny myself the opportunity to drink tea from a proper teacup on the likely chance that it will end up permanently tea stained by the end of the day? I say nay!

Vintage Gladding McBean, Cloud Nine tea cups via SageGoods@Etsy

 1960, Gladding McBean, Cloud Nine teacups via SageGoods@Etsy

I’m not going to pretend to know anything about mid-century, modern dinnerware, but apparently there are books about it. Like a pair of white Chuck Taylors, these teacups are timeless.

Vintage White Tea Cup via  thesistersoberth @ etsy

Vintage White Tea Cup via thesistersoberth @ etsy

Nobody said white teacups had to be plain. The dot and stripe texture and the unique handle give this sweet little cup some flair.

Magisso Tipping Teacup via Finnstyle

Magisso Tipping Teacup via Finnstyle

This teacup is ingenious! Tip to the side with the tea leaves to steep. Tip to the other side to drink and enjoy.

Hidden Animal teacups via Uncommon Goods

Hidden Animal teacups via Uncommon Goods

If you’re on tumblr, then I’m sure you’ve stumbled across these mugs at least once. But, I had to include them on this list. What’s sweeter than finding an adorable ceramic bear staring back at you as you sip your tea?

Which of these white teacups do you fancy? Alternately, since we’re ringing in the new year in a few days, do you plan on making any resolutions?

Follow Friday: What Books Did Santa Bring?


Merry Christmas! Happy Holidays! What books did Santa stuff your stocking with this holiday season? Do a holiday book haul for us! If you don’t celebrate just show off your books that you got this week. Pictures!!!

One Summer: America, 1927 by Bill Bryson

In the summer of 1927, Charles Lindbergh became the first man to cross the Atlantic by plane nonstop. Babe Ruth was beginning his assault on the home run record. A Queens housewife named Ruth Snyder and her corset-salesman lover garroted her husband, leading to a murder trial that became a huge tabloid sensation. Alvin “Shipwreck” Kelly sat atop a flagpole in Newark, New Jersey, for twelve days—a new record. The American South was clobbered by unprecedented rain and by flooding of the Mississippi basin, a great human disaster, the relief efforts for which were guided by the uncannily able and insufferably pompous Herbert Hoover. Calvin Coolidge interrupted an already leisurely presidency for an even more relaxing three-month vacation in the Black Hills of South Dakota. The gangster Al Capone tightened his grip on the illegal booze business through a gaudy and murderous reign of terror and municipal corruption. The first true “talking picture,” Al Jolson’s The Jazz Singer, was filmed and forever changed the motion picture industry. The four most powerful central bankers on earth met in secret session on a Long Island estate and made a fateful decision that virtually guaranteed a future crash and depression.

All this and much, much more transpired in that epochal summer of 1927, and Bill Bryson captures its outsized personalities, exciting events, and occasional just plain weirdness with his trademark vividness, eye for telling detail, and delicious humor. In that year America stepped out onto the world stage as the main event, and One Summer transforms it all into narrative nonfiction of the highest order.

By now my mother has caught on that I’m a huge Bill Bryson fan, but I was still surprised to find myself holding this book on Christmas morning. I knew I’d read this book eventually, but I never dreamed that I’d own it a few months after it was released. My frugal nature makes owning new releases a rarity. I’m really hesitant to start reading this book though. It has the word “Summer” in the title, and it’s the dead of winter. Embracing American nostalgia seems more appropriate on a warm, summer day with an ice-cold glass of Coca-Cola or a mouthful of watermelon flavored Hubba Bubba. Someone tell me I’m nuts and get to reading because Bill Bryson books are great in any season.

Whiskerlists: The Kitty Classifieds by Angie Bailey

When the humans are away, the cats will play . . . online

Do you ever wonder what your cat does when you’re not home? Is your keyboard covered with mysterious paw prints? Well, your feline friend might be hiding a secret Internet addiction: whiskerslist. The kitty community is more connected than ever with this online hub that brings together cats looking to sell lousy pet toys, rant about their humans, search for a soul mate (or quick hookup), and much more.
With more than 160 hilarious classified ads written for cats, by cats, whiskerslist reveals the inner lives of our furry companions like never before.

The only thing I love more than Bill Bryson books are cats. Have you seen my #crazycatlady hashtags on Twitter? So, my mom scored another win when she gifted me with a book about the feline version of Craigslist. After Fargo and I have a session of chase-the-laser-point, we settle down and read a few Whiskerlist ads.

Dr. Seuss: The Cat Behind the Hat by Caroline Smith (Collector’s Edition)

Illustrator by day, surrealist by night, Ted Geisel created a body of previously little-known work during his leisure hours that he called his “Midnight Paintings,” and which is now known as “The Secret Art of Dr. Seuss.” This irrepressible and soulful collection redefines Ted Geisel as an iconic American artist. For sixty years, his “Secret Art” allowed Geisel to expand his artistic boundaries without the confines and pressures of commercial deadlines and influences. These paintings afforded the peaceful distraction that he craved, and through this work, the tenets of surrealism—surprise and juxtaposition—energized his sensibilities.

This volume exuberantly juxtaposes Geisel’s “Midnight Paintings” with his best-loved children’s books because this was how Dr. Seuss constructed his creative life—his days devoted to literature for children, his nights to letting his mind and palette wander to even stranger shores. Inevitably, Geisel created images in his private artworks that would find their way into his literary projects. Though he fiercely protected his “Secret Art” from criticism during his lifetime, his intention all along was for these works to be seen when he was gone.

 The collectors edition come with this 320 page “coffee table book” about Dr. Seuss and his artwork, a poster sized colored print, and three smaller black and white prints.

Of all the gifts I received this Christmas, The Cat Behind the Hat was probably my favorite. The gift-givers thought the artwork was kind of neat, but they were uncertain if I would like it. I meant to tell them this gift was perfect, but words failed me.

Barnes and Noble Gift Card. I like to think of this as potential books. Maybe it’s Scarlet by Marissa Meyer. Maybe it’s Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins. Or maybe I’ll make a tradition out of buying science books. Last year I purchased A Brief History of Time and The Universe in a Nutshell by Stephen Hawking. Maybe this year I’ll try Death by Blackholes: And Other Cosmic Quandaries by Neil deGrasse Tyson. Sky’s the Limit! (Actually, it’s $25).

Follow Friday is a meme hosted by Rachel at Parajunkee’s View!