Nothing Like a Good Book

30 September 2009

Today I went to Books-A-Million for the first time in a while. In all seriousness, bookstores could be my heaven. I read Nancy Drew and Clifford a lot when I was younger and then when the first two Harry Potter books came out I became addicted to reading. Harry Potter certainly became my initiation of sorts into the bookworm world and probably sparked my love of fantasy novels.

Since the summer after fourth grade I have mainly be interested in fantasy and have only "branched out" because school had required me to. Recently I have been trying to go beyond that sole genre and its probably overdue but something about journeys, magic, doing what is right... well, those are the ingredients for a captivating read in my mind.

Every once in a while I go through a library or bookstore to try and find some mainstream reads. Thats the reason I first read Angels and Demons (a brilliant book and rightly appreciated) and DaVinci Code. My home library chooses a book for the community to read each year and they have it on display and I've read those before (such as David Baldacci's Wish You Well) and while they're ok books they don't bring me to the point of exultation. I can put them down and pick them up later.

Truly, I love books where I have to fight an internal battle just about going to get dinner - should I go eat or skip a meal and find out what happens next?? Reading takes you to a parallel existence where so many more things are possible. Karen Armstrong in A Short History of Myth sums up quite well why I love novels. The last three or so pages of her book could just be one long perfect quote in my mind but I'll try to keep it shorter:

"A novel projects them [the readers] into another world, parallel to but apart from their ordinary lives. They know perfectly well that this fictional realm is not 'real' and yet while they are reading it becomes compelling. A powerful novel becomes part of the backdrop of our lives, long after we have laid the book aside. It is an exercise of make-believe that, like yoga or a religious festival, breaks down barriers of space and time and extends our sympathies, so that we are able to empathize with other lives and sorrows.... If we allow it to do so, it can change us forever." (pg 147/8)

There have been several novels which have changed my life. Most I agree with anyways but sometimes things just stick with you.... for instance the quote from Lord of the Rings, Fellowship of the Ring:
"Always after a defeat and a respite, the Shadow takes another shape and grows again."
"I wish it need not have happened in my time," said Frodo.
"So do I," said Gandalf, "and so do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us."

Thats a problem I definitely have - figuring out why life isn't fair. Sometimes that quote just pops into my head irrelevantly.

I think Harry Potter will have a profound affect on me as an adult with my own kids. As Harry aged, so did I - almost every single time a book came out I was the same age as he was and I vividly remember thinking that I was that capable. I could think that deeply, make those "right" decisions.... I hope one day I can treat my own children as intelligent beings who are CAPABLE. Far too often adults underestimate children and particularly teenagers and I hope that I will be able to read that series again and be able to acknowledge their abilities.

The list is too long to go in depth on particular novels, but sometimes I will get attached to a character and they will reach death during the novel or series and it will cause emotional pain. Sometimes the feeling of love is described so beautifully that I can feel it too. Certain authors have such a power and influence with their words that it is impossible not to feel connected with something beyond yourself (as Armstrong implies in the above quote).

Today I decided to buy The Time Traveler's Wife. Recently a movie was made based off of this book and repeatedly movies have shown that they are not as capable as books. I want to go in with a knowledge of the book before I let the movie make my images for me. I've talked to several girlfriends about this book and three of them said it has been their favorite read. Thats encouraging, I certainly can't say that most girls like the same books I do but when its this popular I like to think it could make it onto the radar with Dan Brown and the like.

The novel is supposed to be a romance and it is relatively lengthy which is also supportive of the hidden treasures in the binding. From my experience, I have a better chance of relating to the characters if the book is longer - you can learn so much more about who they are and how the plot lines affect them. When I finish and put it up on my bookshelf I'll give a brief review of it.

Image taken from here.

Just for my own sake I thought I would make a note of my other purchases. I invested in another Vegetarian Cookbook (by teens for teens) and while I'm not technically a teen I have found that many vegetarian cookbooks go with some...well, strange ingredients. I'm sure they're commonly used by experienced vegetarians but as someone who is looking into that lifestyle and who has a longterm boyfriend with those ideals I think I need to find some more practical quick meals for us at college. I'll keep you updated with how those recipes turn out!

Lastly, I bought two small, bound purple journals. One for me and one for my friend Heather back home. I don't keep up with her as well as I would wish and I plan to send her a package in the near future (or drop it off one weekend when I'm in my hometown for a weekend). I'm hoping that she'll be able to make a few notes about her life so it will be easy for us to catch up when we're together again for our coffee and tea - its agreed, a starbucks trip is due.

Have you ever met up with someone to catch up on life and are left feeling like you haven't done anything. Truly we always have been doing things but they all blur together. It'd be nice to truly learn about what her life is like, learn about the character of her boyfriend, and see how Eli is growing.

Well, I ended up on a bit of a reading rant there didn't I? I guess if you can read through that then you understand my love of reading anyways. Hopefully everyone can find themselves a good novel for fall reading.

Whats your favorite novel?

Beads For Life

29 September 2009

Above is a picture of two bracelets I purchased at our International Fair recently from an organization called BeadforLife.

This is an intro off of their website:
Our beaders and tailors are primarily impoverished women who are hardworking, intelligent, and strong in their desire to improve their lives. They make gorgeous handcrafted paper beads from recycled paper and turn them into necklaces, bracelets, and earrings. Because the beaders use recycled, colorful paper, the beads help prevent environmental degradation. What was trash becomes beauty, money, food, and hope.

Initially what caught my eye was the beautiful colorings of the jewelry but when I saw they were made from RECYCLED resources and were helping a CAUSE I was sold. They would make absolutely wonderful gifts and if you're interested, check out BeadforLife here.

Tortilla Soup (Vegetarian Style)

28 September 2009

I am following Analiese's blog Tulips and Tea and she recently put up a post called tortilla soup (found here). Monday nights are the time I get to eat a homemade meal with Noah for the week and I had been looking for a recipe to use on this particular evening. She even offered idea for a vegetarian version which is what sold me. Let me tell you, she's not kidding; this is delicious!

This is the recipe as taken from Analiese's page:

Chicken Tortilla Soup (Serves 4)
1 large bag of corn tortilla chips (at some grocery stores, you can find the ones that are already shaped like tortilla strips, but if not, just use your favorite brand of regular tortilla chips)
1 32-oz box or can of chicken broth (we like the boxed Pacific brand)
1 cup water
1 cup canned stewed or diced tomatoes with juices (we used Muir Glen's canned diced tomatoes with roasted garlic)
1 bay leaf
2 garlic clove, minced
1/2 white or Spanish onion, finely diced
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon dried crushed red pepper
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon cayenne
1/4 teaspoon dried or fresh oregano
Note: If you have a Mexican seasoning blend, you can use simply 1 teaspoon of that and omit or add very small amounts of the other spices.
12 ounces skinless boneless chicken breast halves, cut into 1/2-inch-wide strips
2 green onions, sliced
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
Avocado, sliced, and sour cream (or plain yogurt) for garnish

Combine garlic and onion in a large saucepan or soup pot. Sautee until onions are translucent. Add broth, water, tomatoes, bay leaf, garlic powder, cayenne, oregano, cumin, red pepper, garlic powder, and oregano to saucepan; bring to a gentle boil. Reduce heat; simmer 5 minutes. Add chicken; simmer until just cooked through, about 5 minutes. Stir in green onions, cilantro and lime juice. Season with salt and pepper.

Serve immediately in large soup bowls. Sprinkle tortilla chips on top, crumbling them with your fingers as you do. Garnish with slices of avocado and a dollop of sour cream if desired.

The changes we made:

-Pure and simple we forgot the white onion so we just added a little extra onion powder - it tasted just perfect although I'm sure onions could only have added more flavor.
-We added in frozen corn to the mix and it was delicious
-used vegetable broth instead of chicken broth
-instead of chicken breasts we used two baking potatoes (almost 16 oz total) which I prefer to chicken anyways. Worked just wonderful in the soup
-as it says optional, we opted out for the sour cream

Honestly it was a wonderful meal (and quite hot) so we added a side of freshly baked french bread. Perfect way to end a day and start an evening.

There Are So Many Reasons

Above is a picture of crinoid stems embedded in matrix. Sweet right?

My paleontology class took a trip to Kentucky over this past weekend. We camped out which was a great idea except we were poured on the whole time! Still, the campfire and talking was nice plus we got out during the day to collect fossils! There were some really fun lagerstatten that we visited. You could reach down, pick up any random rock, and you would find a fossil! We had a few lapses on the way (we were turned back by flooded roads and both of our vans got stuck at one point) but it was a lot of fun nevertheless.

The best part about coming home though was seeing my boyfriend and my best friend. I know that I'm attached but.... wow, being apart for a weekend really emphasizes it. I'd find myself thinking "oh Noah would love this" or "Jake would definitely agree with me on this point". When I got back I stayed with them for about an hour and then we ended up going out to El Charro's, a local Mexican restaurant. I had a really good time and ate delicious food. Yummy! After dinner we headed back to their dorm and we watched The Rocker.

Today Jake has been sick which isn't fun at all so I've seen very little of him all day. I hope he gets better soon. I thought about bringing him a soup that Noah and I made for dinner but I don't think he'd appreciate all the vegetables. ;)

*I'll get back on soon to put up the recipe.

Fall Colors

22 September 2009

This is on one of my few countertops in my apartment. Kate posted a few pictures at her home of some things that she appreciates. For me its not so much objects as colors that draw the eye. I figured it was appropriate (especially after that previous post about Autumn) to show the colors that truly capture fall for me.

On the right is my favorite (and only) mug in the apartment. I've had tea with it nearly every morning since the semester began and I chose it for the deep color. In the background is a piece of petrified wood from the national park museum which I went to after my junior year of high school. Now that does capture my attention purely because of what it is. I'm an Earth Science (geology) major and this was bought long before that decision. It had actually belonged to my mom and I sort of snagged it from my Dad's house one day. The candle and tumbler just push autumn to the forefront of my mind. You can probably tell from the picture that the candle is Cider scented which is just perfect and the tumbler reminds me of the colors of the Blue Ridge Mountains late fall. The other thing that grabs my interest (although it moves around a lot along with the mug) is the purple bracelet in the foreground of the picture. My boyfriend's mother gave that to me the week before this semester began and I think it suits me really well, I love that deep purple with golds and greens interspersed.

Thanks for the idea Kate, I use these objects nearly every day so I don't always take the time to appreciate what it is about them that strikes me. Here's hoping for a great fall.

Favorite Time of the Year

It is official, fall has begun which means I couldn't be happier! The school year has been nigh on perfect thus far and the rest of the week is looking to follow suit quite well. I've already had two grades during this week (its only Tuesday) but I feel quite confident that I did well on both. In less than two full days I am taking my paleontology test. That one does require a bit more studying on my part but I have every intention of passing with flying colors.

Speaking of colors, the leaves are starting to change. One of the best things about living in the (Shenandoah) Valley is the view of the mountains (particularly in the fall). The landscape is covered in yellows, reds, and oranges and its just stunning. The leaves on most trees are still green but a few are just beginning to turn and I look forward to the colors in the coming month.

Autumn... what do you think of when you think of this season? I think of leaves, hay rides, corn mazes, apple cider, apples, pumpkins, jewel colors, warmth/coziness, crisp days, and serenity. Its a peaceful season yet there are still so many activities to be involved in - its perfect, exactly the balance I look for in all things.

Just last night I was with a study group in the library and headed into the Starbucks to get something to drink. A friend suggested the apple cider and I quickly agreed (mainly due to my love of apples and my dislike of all things coffee). It was absolutely delicious and warm; it also had some caramel and spice in it. Anything with apples is guaranteed to be good but with sugar too? Who doesn't want some warm apple pie? Mulled cider? I found a recipe I would like to try relatively soon: Apple and Almond Pastrys. Sounds really yummy to me!

Football season is here when you can cuddle under blankets while cheering for your school, hot cider and tea are welcome, sweaters are back in season, and nature is its most beautiful.

I'm very happy to have come around to this point again! Whats your favorite thing about fall?

Live the Life You Love

18 September 2009

Today is just one of those days. I even failed a calculus test today but I'm still really happy!

Drinking some amazing chai tea, having the best bagel in the history of bagels, belting out Disney songs (just to end on PERFECT timing), being with my best friend and boyfriend the whole day, eating pizza, zebra cake, sitting in candle light with my new music, well, life is good.

I love days when I take my attitude into my own hands. I make decisions (ones I know that I will like) which help me keep my mood in a completely positive realm. The first thing that comes to mind - waking up the RIGHT way. I love waking up and having TIME to do what I want to do. Things I've found that start the day off right for me: tea, cinnamon treats, yoga, reading (book or paper), being outdoors on a clear/crisp morning, eating/reading/listening to music outdoors, and planning an adventure for later in the day.

From there, everything generally feels right. It helps me stay positive for the rest of the day. Each new day has been a blessing (even this past week being stressed). Now I'm at the weekend and I'm prepared to step up to get things done. I'm ready!

One quote I want to leave you with from off of my wall - I don't have written who said it, but you can always google it. ;)

"Each day is a new canvas to paint upon. Make sure your picture is full of life and happiness, and at the end of the day you don't look at it and wish you had painted something different."

Why Do This to Myself?

15 September 2009

To be straight up honest.... I am horrible about procrastinating.

Since Saturday in particular I've been dreadful about keeping up with homework. Not even an attempt. I feel overwhelmed by the amount of sheer studying. Then I feel guilty because I don't do it....

How do you motivate yourself to do something you don't want to do?

Thats true for a lot of situations in life beyond just homework, but if I'm to start homework at all tonight I can't go down that path........ Sorry for this leading absolutely nowhere. ;)

My professor did talk about Dolores Umbridge in class today though while talking about fundamentalism. Pretty cool!

Do You Like Yourself? Why?

09 September 2009

Ok, in class yesterday my professor asked me a question (and he only asked me) whether or not I like myself. Of course, I answered (honestly) "yes". What made this difficult was that he then proceeded to ask "why?".

Really, I do like myself and I have reasons for it but I began wondering if I should try and justify myself to say why I like myself or why others should like me. Its hard for me to imagine someone not liking themselves. If you didn't like yourself then wouldn't you change so that you did? It felt big-headed or as if I was exaggerating when things went through my head. I ended up kind of circling around the question instead of just answering straight up. Its one thing to like things about yourself and to talk to close friends about it but to just be asked point blank and to answer in a room full of people? Tough....

For example, I like that I volunteer - but some people may not have the time (will that make them feel guilty? Being able to stick to my morals (such as not drinking or smoking) are things that I'm proud of but I didn't want to seem as if I was judging people who did. Being a member of the political party who offers CHOICE is a big thing to me but its not as if Republicans are bad people... These are some reasons I like myself. These are more things I do or do not do. Is that what the question is even asking?

I could say that I am intelligent (but how much of that do you control?), I'm kind (or try my best to be), I love to laugh, I am connected emotionally, I care about the world, I define myself and don't conform to others, I know what I believe, I am a confident person, I try as best I can to do what I think is right.... Then if I say those things I feel like I'm puffing myself up too much.

Is that normal? I felt like it would be rude but maybe that comes off as underconfident. It was certainly a confusing time trying to figure out what I should or should not say....

Basically it ended up with me saying something about sticking to my beliefs and values and being the person I want to be (so I didn't really go into specifics) but looking back now I wonder if most people - at this age - would say they even do that.....

Just an interesting question for the day.

Jelly Beans

06 September 2009

So I'm sitting down eating jelly beans right now.... I love how bright and colorful they are. You look at a pile of them and they seem to radiate happiness and tastiness. There are three ways to deal with jelly beans: 1)Eat them all at one time without caring what you get together 2) reaching in and grabbing one at a time at random or 3)peeking and picking out your favorites. I must say that I am a follower of the third route.

I don't like reaching in at random and grabbing a jelly bean. There are too many ....wrong flavors. You know when you see a gray colored jelly bean that it just can't possibly be delicious. There are some that have deceptively beautiful colors yet taste just icky. I tend to stay near the pinks: tutti fruity, bubble gum, cotton candy - you know, the good stuff!

It made me wonder how similar that is to life. Everyone has there own preferences (it can be pretty much guaranteed that as long as you have ...oh, lets say..... five people that you can finish off a tub of jelly beans). Eventually they will all get eaten. People are that way also. Sometimes we judge based off of looks without even giving the person a chance. The phrases "Oh, she looks mean" or "he is definitely a druggie" put forth the idea that you truly can tell someone by their appearances. Now, to be fair, first impressions and the like typically need to be based on outer looks because you cannot possibly have the time to go up and talk to every person you see and if you're looking to make friends then its natural to feel more comfortable around people that dress the same way as you. Yet I have come across a number of instances in my life when someone has surprised me in some way. Its very difficult to tell. You can't always tell by the outside 'color'.

As for picking out certain ones you like.... I think that could apply to close friends. The vast majority of my friends are similar to me (other "pinks") but there are tons of other types out there (all the other colored jelly beans). I have friends in other 'colors' but the people I tend to get along with best are honor the same values and belief systems as I do. Of course the world can't be made up of only one type of person, if most of the world were pinks then blues would feel lonely! There would be only a few yellows and what are the chances they would meet? Maybe greens are great at following commands and they get all the work done but browns are excellent leaders who know how to control a system. All of the individual types/colors make up the whole. I'm glad our world is like the jelly bean barrel. Every type is needed to have a working society and to keep each other company but theres always a select few who you know you will love forever!

Sorry.... I know I kind of ranted on about jelly beans there but something about them just struck me today. Maybe I'm just hungry. ;)

What I Love About My Major

03 September 2009

1. You learn about things you can see/touch.
2. You go on field trips (and I don't mean to the local dump - we get to go to Ohio, Ireland, DC, Bahamas, mountains, the beach, camping...)
3. All of our professors are really quirky.
4. Experiments - Hydrochloric Acid anyone?
5. Part of the study is going out fossil-hunting.
6. I get to use awesome puns about "Schist", "Granite", and "Gneiss".... .and TONS more.
7. You don't have to dress up - in fact, they expect you to dress down. Sweats and a t-shirt are ideal for 'chalk talks'.
8. Caving, spelunking, boating, stargazing, and scuba diving can all EASILY be related to my career.
9. In a school that is more than 60% females, in my classes there is probably a 40% or 50% ratio. Score one for the ladies.
10. You can be a hero to little kids because you major in "dinosaurs". Childhood dream fulfilled!

Ok, so to be fair I'm taking invertebrate paleontology not vertebrate but it is quite possibly my favorite class so far. I rather enjoy Oceanography also. Earth Science is very likely the right path for me to go down. I can't wait to get high school students involved in this type of education. Academics, say hello to your new friend Fun!
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