November Reviews

Happy December! I have never really been a Christmas person, but this year I'm excited. I am also extremely excited for December 23 when I will be off work for sixteen days and will hopefully read a few books. Meanwhile, here are November's reviews:

Here I Am by Jonathan Safran Foer
571 pages
In Foer's third novel he writes about the Bloch family, comprised of Julia, Jacob, and their three sons. Their imploding marriage is paralleled by a catastrophic earthquake in the Middle East; each faces a disastrous event (Julia's discovery of some scandalous texts between her husband and another woman, the Middle East a series of earthquakes), and then the need to process, cope, and recover. Both the Bloch's and Israel must reassess who they are and what they want long term; decisions must be made regarding a course of action. It's definitely a character study, though, and one that spans decades, which I know isn't everyone's cup of tea. It's also raw and graphic at times, which can be uncomfortable but is still some people's reality. People masturbate, die, are obsessed with computer games, text or say ridiculously sexual things at times, and deal with constantly defecating dogs. 

Verdict: I enjoyed this book; after eleven years Safran can still write fiction. There were some issues; I thought the pacing at the end was a bit sloppy and I wished for more time devoted to certain characters. I also thought his young sons were a bit too articulate, thoughtful and informed, but I guess you could make the whole nature/nurture argument. I think that this is a departure from his other works, though, both in length and even content, and I know that's not what some readers are looking for. 

I think part of the reason this book appealed to me is that I am well aware of the risks you take in your marriage when you have kids- Julia's section most acutely connects to this motherhood conundrum. You want your children to come first, but you have to be so careful or you can easily lose track of yourself (and marriage) in the daily rigamarole of domesticity. 

I also appreciated the look at Judaism and religion in general; he did not wear rose-colored glasses by any means- the inner-conflict was palpable. But there was still this sense of duty, obligation, and connection that I myself don't have to a belief system. I am not interested in feeling this way personally, but I find faith on a psychological and anthropological level interesting.  

*I had wanted to do a whole post on this beast, but... life. 

The Sleep Revolution by Arianna Huffington
286 pages
I am going to review this one in more detail this weekend, so I'm going to cheat a little and just say that this self-help sort of book is about, well, how to sleep.

Verdict: I appreciated the solid science research, but was bored by the history of sleep and some of the more obvious tips. Again, more to come.

"Master Harold"...and the boys by Athol Fugard
60 pages
This is my third time (for work) reading Fugard's play about a South African white young man and his relationship with two of his parents' employees, Sam and Willy. Hally struggles with race, his relationship with his parents, and what kind of man he will grow into. 

Verdict: I love the simplicity of no acts, one setting, and really just three characters. The story is about a "world without collisions" and whether or not the true nature of humanity is conducive to living without conflict. 

917 pages

Bookish (and not so Bookish) Thoughts

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1. I have revolutionized my way of living- I made a grading calendar. Why have I not done this before? I assign certain assignments to myself to grade and input each day so that things are now in much more manageable chunks. I'm still behind, but feeling like I am only responsible for so much on each day helps. I'm on day three and I'm actually ahead. 

2. Sawyer sleeps a million times better than he used to and since the time change he has been sleeping later in the morning to (he used to wake up before he needed to and now he's barely stirring as I go in to get him). Unfortunately, after crappy sleep for a few years now I can barely go two or three hours straight without waking up or becoming very restless. I don't want to take anything medicinal because I still need to be conscious in case he needs me and I typically end up really groggy when I have taken things in the past. After reading The Sleep Revolution and doing some additional research I found that tart cherry juice is a natural producer of melatonin and that some studies have shown it's effectiveness as a natural sleep aid. Last night I drank two ounces an hour before bed and slept for almost five hours straight. I don't know if it's a fluke, but I will definitely be trying it for a few weeks to see if it works. I have the data from by Fitbit to help me out, which I know isn't perfect but it's a least good for comparison reasons.

3. Speaking of my Fitbit, my husband got me the Charge 2 for my birthday and it's so much better than the Flex. It's not too big and the information it provides is a dream come true. 

4. I just started Hillbilly Elegy by J.D. Vance and am so far really interested. I thoroughly acknowledge the fact that I am comfortable and happy in my liberal, progressive, Californian bubble and need to see how others live in the US. 

5. This weekend we are in full Christmas mode! Friday night we are putting up the tree and Saturday I am taking Sawyer to a Breakfast with Santa event at Pretend City in Irvine. That night we are going to head to The Mission Inn in Riverside to check out their huge light display and then on Sunday we'll do some baking and more decorating. There are only three more weekends until Christmas weekend and I work up until the twenty-third this year. Womp womp. Holidays are SO much more fun with a toddler. I used to sort of see Christmas as a means to a break (which is still great and I can't wait for), but now it's all about the fun activities we can do with him during December. 

6. Sawyer is super obsessed with BB-8 from Star Wars and has likes to say hi to the inflatable one that's on display at Target for Christmas (we go to Target very often, so this has happened numerous times). Scott and I are vehemently opposed to lawn inflatables (sorry-not-sorry), but we decided that we'd compromise and get on for the backyard so it's not visible from the front but then Sawyer can enjoy it whenever he wants from the sliding glass door. 

7. I started listening to Laurent Graham's new memoir Talking as Fast as I Can and it's been the perfect cure for the sadness following being done with all the new episodes. 

8. I know that I'm not going to Vegas for two and a half months but I am already SO excited (my mom and I are going to a concert and my brother, who is probably too young for me to keep up with in that city, might come along as well).

Thanksgiving Break

[still so proud of my lattice work]

It's been pretty quiet on the blog, but in real life this week has been busy! I am fortunate enough to have the whole week off, which thankfully sort of took the edge of the mounting stressors I'd been trying to ward off. 

So, here's a lot of pictures and a few words:

[85 going on 60- this guy is a beast]

The weekend break started we had an 85th birthday party for my grandfather in Brea. My brother and his girlfriend drove to my house and we drove to Orange County together, which made the drive more enjoyable. There were lots of aunts, uncles, and cousins there, so it was nice to catch up and for them to see crazy Sawyer. We also hit up Chelo's Creamery on the way back in The City of Industry, which is one of the few places that that has rolled ice cream. It was good, but I think it's more of a novelty thing that will fizzle out.

The next morning my brother, his girlfriend, and I drove up to UCLA to do a 5k that is a charity run for The Special Olympics. This year it ended rivalry week with USC, so when you sign up you pick a school and your fees are in their pot, adding a layer of team competition to it. I ran it about thirty seconds or so faster than my goal, so I was definitely pleased. And, despite the numerous hills, I ran the entire time and had no pain, so I definitely entertained some half marathon fantasies on the way home.

I was able to see many friends while off, which made things even better. A good friend and I have the same birthday, so we left our little guys at home with their dads and had breakfast the weekend before. I met another friend with her little girl for lunch, got to spend a few hours with our friends from out of town that came home for the holidays, and then was lucky enough to see a few students-turned-friends. 

[chicken and waffles for breakfast; I think I need to try ones with better chicken...]

After talking Santa up extensively, I took Sawyer to see him the day before Thanksgiving. We rehearsed it many times:

Me: What are you going to say when you see Santa?
Sawyer: Hiiiii.
Me: And then you can stand by him and when they take a picture what do you say?
Sawyer: Cheeeeeese.
Me: And then what?
Sawyer: M&Ms
Me: Yeah!

I got this parenting thing in the bag. Obviously. It worked and I have an adorable picture of him, smiling, holding his own stuffed little Santa that he insisted taking next to the real deal. 

There was lots of food. Like "afraid to step on the scale" lots of food. It's Thanksgiving. What can you do?

As previously mentioned, I hosted Thanksgiving, which meant two days of cleaning and cooking. Everything turned out well and my oven burns are minimal, so we'll call it a win.

I finished Jonathan Safran Foer's book, Here I Am, which I enjoyed for various reasons and will discuss soon. I am also about half way through Arianna Huffington's nonfiction, The Sleep Revolution, and I am fairly confident my brain is turning to mush because of my horrible sleep situation. I somehow miraculously watched the entire four episodes of the new Gilmore Girls, and the ending made wanting more. I ran, I cross stitched, I graded far too few papers.

So, tomorrow we head back into the final four weeks of the semester and I am determined to jump back on the productivity train that I was riding before break started, so that it's not two in the morning the night before grades are due and I'm in the fetal position weeping. Because that would never happen.  

I'm also excited to get Christmas going around here! I had wanted to put up our tree today, but Sawyer napped late and I was trying to get things tied up. Next weekend will be Christmas-heavy, so, see above comment on me getting it together. ASAP.

Hope everyone had a  great holiday! 

Bookish (and not so Bookish) Thoughts

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1. Thanksgiving prep is in full force, over here, so things will be a tad shorter than normal. I am hosting my husband's parents and his sister's family of four, plus our three and my brother. I have done far, far bigger, so while I still need to make sure the house is clean and the food is made this isn't too crazy. I am doing the turkey, stuffing, gravy, mashed potatoes, mac and cheese, and then pumpkin and apple pies. It makes sense for the host to do the first three things, and the others I don't mind (I love making pie, actually). Right now the bread has been dried and cubed for the stuffing and there is a pie crust mixing as we speak. There are still a few more things to do... ha. 

2. Some subtle things I am doing differently: making extra pie crust to attempt fanciness, seasoning the heck out of the bread crumbs prior to drying, adding in a mac and cheese dish, and using a new brining recipe for the turkey. I'm also going to take a run up a long, tall, hill before the morning kicks off, so I might die before all of this can come to fruition. 

3. I am trying to push through the last season of The Gilmore Girls before Friday and I don't think it's going to happen in time. I'm horrible at binge watching- I've gotten through six episodes in the last two months, but it's not like I've never seen them before.

4. My new obsession: following super-talented embroidery artists on Instagram. I follow very few strangers/celebrities/places, but their work is truly inspiring so I am making an exception.

5. A few food bloggers, like Joy the Baker, have started "Coobook Clubs" and I am soooooo jealous. Basically, they get together with a group of friends and divide up recipes from the same cookbook and have themselves a dinner party with all new-to-them dishes. Someday, one day, eventually, I will make this happen in my life, with my friends.

6. I got a flu shot for the first time ever on Monday (I know, I'm horrible, but I just put it off... Sawyer always gets his, though!) and my arm is sore, has a huge bump underneath, and is start to get a bruise the size of golf ball. But of course. It's worth it, right? 

Have a lovely Thanksgiving, guys! Remember, it's one thing to shout your gratefulness out on social media, but make sure to do something about it. Donate to charities! Call your grandma! Give that person that irritates you a tad a compliment. Nonetheless, enjoy and eat!


Once in awhile I post about things I'm loving- gotta share the wealth, right? Here's a hodgepodge of things I'm slightly obsessed with right now:

Oversized Coffee Cups 

Target has super cute, affordable ones, but I always like the occasional Anthropologie splurge. I picked the "C" one up with my 15% off birthday coupon this month:


ASICS Gel Kayano-22 Running Shoes

I still regret my temporary leave from ASICS. These shoes are made for my flat, over-pronating, deformed feet- I feel like I am walking on a cloud. I haven't even moved over my orthotics from my old Mizunos back to these.

Reese's Stuffed with Pieces

Move over Hi-Chews, there's a new, fattier, more delicious, favorite candy around here.

Target's Christmas Line

Sawyer and I have a problem... Target has the CUTEST Christmas decorations this year. Most of our purchases have been $10 or less (the ornaments for $3 are perfect for the bottom 1/3 of my tree where they at risk for toddler hands and large dog tails), but this little guy did find a new home:


Albero Spanish Rose from Trader Joes

Obviously this isn't one I recommend to my readers under 21... But, anyway, if you are old enough to drink, this is super cheap from Trader Joe's, but it's good after dinner on the couch while trying to keep your eyes open for an episode of Gilmore Girls. Let me add that I am no wine connoisseur. At all. 

Your Daily Mix from Spotify 

I am late on the Spotify train- my husband subscribed and he signed me up sort of against my will and now I LOVE it. I noticed these mixes based on your recent listens and they're a great way to hear favorite songs and discover new ones (like Empire of the Sun, who I am loving for running).