Saturday, October 31, 2009

speak before the silence

NaNoWriMo begins tomorrow. During the month of November, you probably won't be hearing from me too much--unless I'm procrastinating. Then you might be hearing from me a lot!

Some things to say before I go silent:
  • My incredible cousin Nate, who joined us on our awesome road trip to Oregon, has been selected to the All State band for the second year in a row. Last year he played 3rd trumpet; this year he's playing 1st! I gave him a check for my concert ticket the other day (so Aunty M, if you're reading this and haven't seen a check, go shake your boy down!)--I'm excited for November 20!
  • I made the best hot fudge sauce the other day. It's my great-grandma's recipe. I have fond memories of eating this sauce on vanilla ice cream at her house. Muy delicioso!

  • I'm beginning to seriously think about church membership. I grew up in a church where membership wasn't stressed, and I'd honestly never really thought about officially joining a church before. Some of you will remember that just over a year ago, I decided to switch churches. I wouldn't say that membership is pushed in my new church, but it's definitely encouraged. I'll be writing more about this later, I'm sure!
  • I had the greatest thought last week as I was watching the tail end of an episode of LOST on some cable channel late at night: When LOST comes back in January, I won't have to watch it alone and then bore/confuse my mom with the details at work the next morning. Why? Because Val and her roommate will be able to watch it with me!
  • Watch this video. (Sorry, I couldn't figure out how to embed it here, so you'll have to click through to the website.) Now be jealous of me and my mom--we're going to a Straight No Chaser concert in December!!! Merry Christmas, Mom!

Thursday, October 29, 2009

monkey see, monkey do

My uncle is the king of reading. My mom's side of the family is known for its readers, and he just may top all of them. Not only does he love to read, but he loves to share the things he's read with my family. My parents have received, well, probably hundreds of books from him throughout the years. And, of course, you can't forget the numerous magazines and newspapers he subscribes to. He'll often send clippings of things he thinks we'll be interested in. During my senior year of college, one of the articles he sent me inspired what I remember to be the worst paper I've ever written ...

Mass Communications was a class I'd looked forward to taking, but in the busyness of my final semester as a full-time student, I didn't give it the attention I should have. It was an easy class, and a large percentage of the grade came from two papers. The day before the first paper was due, I still didn't know what I was going to write about. Then I checked my mail. In my box was an envelope from Uncle Ken. And in that envelope, I found an article about Christian music. (Sidenote: Isn't the internet great? I just found and linked to that very article--an article published six years ago!) The article inspired my paper, unimaginatively titled "Christians in the Secular Music Industry." (At least I remembered to give it a title. So many times I turned in papers or articles without titles, and I eventually got to the point where I'd type TITLE in huge letters at the top of the page. I don't think I ever turned in a paper with the TITLE still there ...)  I pulled the only all-nighter of my college career while writing the paper--thank goodness for the internet; I found every single source, except for the article from Uncle Ken, online! I finally finished minutes before class started (I skipped my other morning class to work on it), rushed across campus, and arrived just in time to hear the prof say that she'd give us until 5 p.m. to turn the paper in!

Because I'm a nerd, I saved all of my college papers; I just reread this one, and it's not as horrible as I remembered, though it reads more like a magazine article than an academic paper. Still, I got an A!

Well, this trip down memory lane wasn't supposed to be the focus of this particular post! What I was getting at when I first mentioned my uncle was that he recently sent the food section of the Los Angeles Times, and it inspired me to bake. The front page article was about monkey bread; following the article, the author listed three variations. I'd never thought of monkey bread as being anything other than a gooey, cinnamon and sugar, pull-apart bread (which is, of course, fabulous); when I saw the recipe for an olive oil and herb version, I knew I needed to try it.


All ready to go into the oven
 
It. Was. Fantastic. I'm a huge fan of dipping bread into herb and garlic flavored olive oil, and this bread reminded me of that--except that every bite was infused with flavor, and the outside was all crusty and delicious. Mmmmmmm, good!


It was supposed to cool for 15 minutes after coming out of the oven. I waited ten!


Doesn't it look delectable?



No, I didn't eat 1/4 of it in one sitting--Steph had some, too!

If this has whet your appetite, you can read the article and get the recipes here.

Monday, October 26, 2009

the tallest of smalls by max lucado, illustrated by maria monescillo


I recently read and reviewed Max Lucado's Fearless. It was my first real exposure to Lucado's writing, and I loved it. When I learned Lucado had written a children's book based on a story he tells Fearless, I couldn't wait to read it. Fortunately for me, Thomas Nelson decided to offer that book, The Tallest of Smalls, as a book review blogger selection!

The Tallest of Smalls tells the story of Ollie, a boy who lives in Stiltsville, where status is shown not by fancy cars or designer clothes but by ... stilts! Those who possess stilts are elevated, literally and figuratively, and they look down on those who aren't. One day, to Ollie's shock, he is given stilts! But his elevation doesn't turn out like he'd planned, and he is soon back on the ground with the Smalls. Jesus comes alongside Ollie to teach him that he is special because He created him!

This book is wonderful. I loved the message when I read it, and then I gave it the "kid test" by reading it to the elementary students in my Awana Sparks group. They were captivated. The illustrations beautifully depict the story, but the words give the book its power. Lucado uses rhythm and rhyme masterfully in this story to teach children that they are so special to God.  I highly recommend it, not only for kids, but also for adults who read Lucado's Fearless!

Sunday, October 25, 2009

warm and wonderful weekend

So the Huskers lost (and, frankly, looked like they wouldn't have been able to hang onto the ball if their lives depended on it). But other than that, I had a delightful weekend!

Friday
  • Made breakfast for supper with Blendy and enjoyed eating with the fam.
  • Looked at a house with Val. She has the opportunity to move into a furnished house for not very much money.
  • Watched The Proposal with Mom. She thought the eagle scene was hilarious. (And I thought the preview for Old Dogs was hilarious. The movie will probably be ridiculously stupid, but I couldn't stop laughing at the trailer!)
Saturday
  • Finished the first season of Fringe. Boy, was Lori ever right when she told me I'd love it!
  • Did all my dishes. I so wish I had a dishwasher!
  • Made pizza with my sisters.
  • Went to Love Happens with Steph and Janae. It was ... OK. Much more serious than many romantic movies, it wasn't actually that romantic, either. I think Janae and Steph liked it much more than I did. (Weird fact #1: There were no previews. I don't think I've ever been to a movie with no previews, and I felt kind of cheated. Weird fact #2: The average age of the people in the theater had to be at least 45--and that's only because of the row of teenagers. Most people were well over 50, I'd say. I think the only other time I saw a movie with so many old people was when Beth and I saw The Horse Whisperer.)
  • Watched The Proposal with Steph and Janae. Tried to contain myself as we watched the Old Dogs preview ... with moderate success.
Sunday
  • Went to my high school friend Dorinda's anniversary party in Beatrice. Being a great sister, Steph went with me! It was great to see Dori and her parents again! (While we were talking, I remembered how Dori's mom used to always feed me when I went to community college. I had several evening classes one semester, so I'd go hang out at their house during my break between classes. I'm not big on barbecue, but Dori's mom would frequently make barbecue ribs that were out of this world. If I remember right, she made her own sauce--and it was amazing!)
  • Stopped by Andrew & Susan's in Lincoln on the way home. Andrew provided me with the caffeine I needed to squelch my headache.
  • Drove through Popeye's for supper. Steph and I split a meal, so we got the mild chicken ... next time I'll be having the spicy!
  • Made cinnamon coffee for Janae and Val. Thanks to Jen for the simple cinnamon tip!
  • Watched FlashForward with Val. We're both thinking that we may not watch much longer. It's trying to be LOST, but it's not succeeding.
  • Realized that since I'll be at work until 8 p.m. tomorrow due to parent-teacher conferences, I don't need to go in until noon!

Monday, October 19, 2009

prepare to dig down deep!

I've been a fan of Josh Harris's writing for a long time. Like many other Christian girls in my generation, I read I Kissed Dating Goodbye, and it made a lot of sense, though its application was purely theoretical, as I'd never dated in the first place! In college, I read Not Even a Hint (which has since been re-released as Sex Is Not the Problem (Lust Is)), and a couple years ago I purchased and partially read Stop Dating the Church. (The reason I didn't make it through the book had little to do with Harris and much to do with my virtual inability to finish reading a non-fiction book. I'm getting better at it now!) Harris's next book, Dug Down Deep, doesn't release until next year, but the first chapter is available now. I'm really looking forward to this book, and after you read the first chapter, I bet you will be, too!
Dug Down Deep-Chapter 1 by Joshua Harris

Saturday, October 17, 2009

writing, reading, and browsing

  • I'm going to do it. At least I'm going to try. After starting and never finishing a multitude of stories, I'm going to write a novel. Next month. It will probably be terrible, but that's OK. I've signed up for National Novel Writing Month, affectionately known as "NaNoWriMo." My sisters and I have talked about doing this for a while, and last year I even joined a writing group organized by my friend Jen's brother ... and I got all of 1600 words down before I quit. That won't happen this year--I'm determined to finish!
  • I just read Lonestar Sanctuary in an evening. It's the prequel to Lonestar Secrets, which I reviewed for Thomas Nelson. Lonestar Sanctuary was good, but I didn't enjoy it as much as Lonestar Secrets. For one thing, I had the bad guy pegged pretty quickly, though I couldn't figure out his motive. Also, I wanted to scream, "You're married; it's OK to admit you like each other!" at the two main characters a few times (I think I had that reaction while reading Lonestar Secrets, too). Here's a brief synopsis of the story:
Everyone close to Allie is dying. A madman is targeting her, and she doesn't know why. With no one else to turn to, Allie and her daughter Betsy head for the Bluebird Ranch.
Every day, Rick deals with the guilt of knowing he was responsible for his best friend Jon's death. When Jon's widow shows up at his ranch, Rick knows he must protect her, so he offers to marry her and adopt Betsy.
Rick and Allie's marriage of convenience soon turns into something more. But will Rick be able to trust Allie with his past--and will she learn to trust him with her heart?
Maybe I should be a book jacket copy writer ... what do you think?
  • Have you ever clicked the "next blog" button at the top of my blog (or any other blogger blog)? I did tonight ... and I learned that Jennafer is moving to Disneyland, Kat really likes writing poetry, and J believes the Kremlin will be responsible for a nuclear apocalypse that will be blamed on the Jews and Americans--oh, and he was crucified in a past life and may (I wasn't clear on this point) be Jesus reincarnated. Then I got stuck in some horrible loop where clicking "next blog" sent me back and forth between a Japanese blog and this blog called "Robots 4 Change." J was definitely my favorite!

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

sleep? who needs it!

  • I should be sleeping. In fact, an hour ago I was dozing on the couch. But then I got up to get a drink, and now I'm completely awake!
  • At what point does a fever become a fever? If I'm at, say, 98.9, should I stay home, even though I feel fine? My normal temp is 97.9 (at least according to my digital thermometer). With the flu going around, is one degree considered dangerous and/or contagious?
  • Why would Amazon offer me a deal on something I bought from them last week? Every day, Amazon has these "gold box" deals where they offer items for quite a bit less than the normal price. (This is how I got Dr. Quinn last year.) If you have an Amazon account, they'll also personalize some offers based on your purchase and browsing history. These deals aren't too exciting, as they usually knock about a dollar off the regular price. I've often seen deals on things I already have--especially books--but never on something I actually purchased from Amazon. Why would they think I'd want to buy another???
  • After all my talk (just ask my sister) about how it's so much better to download from Amazon than iTunes, I went and downloaded Michael BublĂ©'s Crazy Love from iTunes. I got sucked in by the promise of a video for "Haven't Met You Yet." I assumed it would be the official video. Nope--it's the promo video. So save your money, buy the Amazon MP3 Exclusive Version, and just download the instrumental version of "Haven't Met You Yet" from iTunes. (Trust me, you'll want it.)
  • One of the coolest aspects of my job is being able to have a front row seat to see how God transforms the lives of some of the students. Just yesterday, a girl who I had to discipline last week came up to me, threw her arms around my neck, and said, "Miss Becky, I'm so sorry!" This is a girl who, less than a year ago, would have either held a grudge against me or would have apologized without really meaning it. But yesterday, I knew she was sincerely remorseful and wanted to repair our relationship. And that change could only have come about through the power of God!
  • I'm getting another free book to read--and this time, it's not a book review blogger book! It's Colleen Coble's The Lightkeeper's Daughter. I'm anxious to read it and review it.
  • My alarm is going off in six hours. Must. Sleep. Now.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

christmas is coming!

Yes, I know it's only the second week of October, but for me, the Christmas season starts when we start practicing for the Singing Christmas Tree. Our first practice was this afternoon. It's nice to be doing it for the second consecutive year--when I went back last year after being away for several years, I recognized a few people, but not too many. But this year, I remembered so many of the altos, and they remembered me! In a church of our size, it's hard to get to know people, and SCT is a great way to do that! Plus, Steph is singing this year, so it will be fun to share the experience with her.

I was pleasantly surprised to see that one of our songs is "The Majesty and Glory of Your Name." I wrote about that song once before. We sang it my high school choir, and I loathed it then. We sang it with a taped accompaniment, and I thought is was just ... lame. Wow, was I immature. First of all, the song comes directly from Scripture--Psalm 8. Second of all, it's just beautiful poetry! So I'm very excited that we'll be singing this song.

The other reason it feels like Christmas is coming is ... we had our first snow early Saturday morning! I'm not that thrilled about snow--it is only the beginning of October, after all--but it certainly makes me think about Christmas!

Saturday, October 10, 2009

statement about reviews & recommendations

Due to the FTC's new blogger guidelines, I thought I should make a statement about the reviews and recommendations I provide on this site.

I am a member of Thomas Nelson's book review blogger team. This means that I receive free books from Thomas Nelson in exchange for reviewing them. Thomas Nelson urges us to be honest in our reviews, and I am. If I loved a book, I let you know, and if I didn't love it, I let you know that, too. All of my Thomas Nelson reviews are tagged "book review blogger," and I also make a statement about it somewhere in the review (usually at the end). I also have a banner on my site that identifies me as a book review blogger. I think it's a great program, and I'd urge anyone who has a blog and enjoys reading to join.

All of my other reviews are written about products I either paid for myself or was given by a friend or family member who paid for them. I write about them simply because I liked or disliked them, and I want you to know about it. If I'm ever fortunate enough to receive more free stuff to review, I'll let you know.

I am also an Amazon Associate. This means that if someone uses a link I provided to go to Amazon and then buys something, I get a referral bonus. They don't pay until you reach $10, and I'm not anywhere close to that amount. Just know that all of my Amazon links are connected to my associate account. If you have a problem with that, then just go directly to Amazon and search the product I've linked to. When I joined the program, I was already linking to Amazon a lot, so I figured I'd join, and if I made a little money, well, that would just be a bonus! (What I really need is for imdb to create a referral program ... 'cause you know I link to that site all the time!)

green by ted dekker


Wow. That’s pretty much all I can say after finishing Green. Now, I’m used to having Ted Dekker blow my mind with his fiction, but Green wasn’t as much mind blowing as it was inspiring, intriguing, and just really satisfying, well-written fantasy.

Green is the last of the Circle books (Black, Red, and White are the others). It completes—and begins—Thomas Hunter’s journey in two realities; the first reality is our world, and the other reality is 2,000 years in the future. Thomas is tasked with saving both worlds, though as I think about it now, he doesn't do much to try to save this reality—his efforts are concentrated on the future reality, which is careening toward Armageddon at break-neck speed.

Supposedly, one can read Green either before Black or after White, but I think it would be quite confusing to enter Dekker’s fantasy world with Green. After finishing the book, I can understand how it leads directly into Black, but I still think it would be better to have at least a rudimentary knowledge of the other three books before reading Green. Dekker’s Paradise Novels and Lost Books also tie into the Circle books; I’m glad I read Sinner recently, as Billy, a major player in Green, made more sense than he would have had I not known about him from Sinner. (Reading Green also helped me understand why I despised Billy in Sinner.)

I hope Dekker isn’t finished with the fantasy world he’s created here; reading Green made me want to reread his other books to pick up things I may have missed, and I’d really enjoy reading more about these characters. I highly recommend Green … as well as Dekker’s other novels!

I received a copy of this book for review through Thomas Nelson's book review blogger program.

Friday, October 9, 2009

musical musing

"Storybook Love" from The Princess Bride came on the radio during Classics by Request this afternoon. When I heard the first strains of the music, I got a little chill. Then I thought, "That's dumb. I just listened to the entire soundtrack yesterday!" So why is it that I get so much more excited when hear a song I love on the radio than I do when it's on my iPod? Maybe it's because it seems so much more coincidental and unexpected when it's on the radio ... or maybe it's that hearing the song on the radio is confirmation that someone else likes it, too ... or maybe it's a little of both!

What songs do you get excited about hearing?

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

find your strongest life--expanded review

Thomas Nelson requests that book review bloggers keep their reviews close to 200 words. I found I had many more words than that to say about Find Your Strongest Life, so I'm posting this expanded review. I'm bolding the new stuff so you can easily identify it.

I must admit, I was quite skeptical as I began reading this book. The cover evokes thoughts of Joel Osteen’s Your Best Life Now, which some would see as a positive, but not me. However, before I even finished reading the introduction, Buckingham had me hooked.

In Find Your Strongest Life, Marcus Buckingham stresses that women should be pursuing their passions, not settling for doing what seems sensible. He says that in order to be strong, happy, and successful, women need to discover what their strengths are and then pursue those strengths, rather than focus on “fixing” their weaknesses.

I really enjoyed this book—with a few reservations. Buckingham’s writing style is clear and friendly, and he includes a “What to take away from this chapter” bulleted list at the end of each chapter, which clearly summarizes the main points. The final section of the book, “Strong Life Tactics,” is especially helpful. Buckingham gives clear advice for building up your strengths in several areas of life.

I do wish Buckingham would have spoken specifically to single, childless women and stay-at-home moms—millions of women (including me) fit into one of those categories, yet this book focused exclusively on women who are trying to balance careers and families.

One area of the book I was disappointed in was the Strong Life Test (stronglifetest.com) and its application. I took the test twice and came up with different Lead and Supporting Roles each time. Most of the questions on the test dealt with relationships with a spouse or child or seemed geared toward high-powered career women. As I am not a wife, mother, or businesswoman, I had to guess, and honestly, most of the options didn’t sound like me. More helpful were Buckingham’s suggestions for ways to discover your passions—reading through old scrapbooks and journals, talking to your parents about what you were like as a child, remembering the things you got excited about before adult responsibilities took priority.

Also, if you’re thinking about buying this book, you should know that, while it’s published by Thomas Nelson, there’s nothing particularly “Christian” about it. It does contain helpful advice, but the advice doesn’t come from a biblical standpoint. I don’t think that invalidates the book, but readers should be aware that this book basically approaches life from a humanistic standpoint, focusing on self and each person’s “truth” for their life (and I cringed each time I read the words "your truth"--which popped up quite often), while largely ignoring faith—an aspect of life that should be paramount to believers.

Basically, I think this book has value--if taken with a grain of salt. For someone in my situation--single, childless, and basically free to do whatever I want--his advice is great. I'm not pursuing my passions ... I've gotten to the point where I don't even remember what they are anymore. So reading this book has caused me to think about my life and the direction I want for it to go. But for the married woman who stays home with her kids, I'm afraid this book may do more harm than good. I think it's wonderful for women to stay home with their children (though I'm not by any means saying they must), and this book will do nothing to affirm that decision. In fact, it may even make women feel they need to be pursuing career goals.

Monday, October 5, 2009

guess what? i still haven't met you yet!

The other day, I posted the promo video for Michael Bublé's single "Haven't Met You Yet." Since then, he's released the official music video. I thought it was really odd at first, but by the end, it had grown on me!

find your strongest life by marcus buckingham


In Find Your Strongest Life, Marcus Buckingham stresses that women should be pursuing their passions, not settling for doing what seems sensible. He says that in order to be strong, happy, and successful, women need to discover what their strengths are and then pursue those strengths, rather than focus on “fixing” their weaknesses.

I enjoyed this book—with a few reservations. Buckingham’s writing style is clear and friendly, and he includes a “What to take away from this chapter” bulleted list at the end of each chapter, which clearly summarizes the main points. The final section of the book, “Strong Life Tactics,” is especially helpful. Buckingham gives clear advice for building up your strengths in several areas of life.

I do wish Buckingham would have spoken specifically to single, childless women and stay-at-home moms—millions of women fit into one of those categories, yet this book focused exclusively on women who are trying to balance careers and families.

Also, if you’re thinking about buying this book, you should know that, while it’s published by Thomas Nelson, there’s nothing particularly “Christian” about it. It does contain helpful advice, but the advice doesn’t come from a biblical standpoint. I don’t think that invalidates everything Buckingham says, but readers should be aware that this book basically approaches life from a humanistic standpoint, focusing on self and each person’s “truth” for their life, while largely ignoring faith—an aspect of life that should be paramount to believers.

(I reviewed this book as a Thomas Nelson book review blogger.)

Saturday, October 3, 2009

what to do on a completely free day

These things I've done:
  • sleep in
  • watch Thursday's FlashForward
  • rewatch the middle 20 minutes of FlashForward because I was distracted.
  • watch Thursday's The Office.
  • retake the Strong Life Test that goes along with my book review book. Get yet another result for my lead and supporting roles.
  • finish my review of Find Your Strongest Life. Per Thomas Nelson guidelines, it will go up on my blog on Monday.
  • write an expanded review to also post on this blog. Thomas Nelson requests that all reviews are approximately 200 words, but I had so much more to say about this book that I decided to write a regular review and an expanded review.
  • work out while watching the first season of Fringe.
  • make a better-than-Egg McMuffin out of a soft-boiled egg and an English muffin.
These things are yet to be done (and I can virtually guarantee not all of these will happen!):
  • do the dishes
  • go to the parents' for supper
  • read Green
  • take out the trash
  • shower
  • watch Ryan Reynolds on SNL
  • search for speeches for the new speech season
  • go to bed before midnight