Monday, September 26, 2016

book report #10

*Mother Tongue (Christine Gilbert) - I thoroughly enjoyed this memoir about a mother's (admittedly crazy) idea to become fluent in three languages - Mandarin, Arabic, and Spanish - and raise her family in a multi-lingual household. I admired Gilbert's honesty. She made a few huge mistakes in her journeys (China was a giant bust) but wasn't afraid to fess up, ask her husband for forgiveness, and move on - a lesson in humility she wasn't shy in sharing and one that we as readers could probably use ourselves.

*Eleanor & Park (Rainbow Rowell) - all the feels. All the teenage angst. This book was every John Hughes movie rolled into one hormone-fueled, modern-day Shakespearean drama, and I loved it. I was surprised though - I normally can't stand love stories, but this wasn't a typical romance novel nor was it a splashy beach read. It was a tale of pure yet unrequited love between two desperate teens told with both innocence and passion, and I never wanted it to end.

*The Flood Girls (Richard Fifield) - not a fan. The first 97% of this novel painted a vivid picture of an odd and quirky small Montana town that was part A League of their Own and part American Graffiti. I enjoyed peeking into this world so unlike any I've ever experienced, even if most of the fictional residents freely oscillated between character and caricature. But then the story turned tragic for no other reason (it seems to me) than sensationalism, and the last 20 pages were entirely dark and depressing with little chance for hope or redemption. It was by no means a long or difficult read, but I wouldn't recommend this one. It left me feeling strangely empty and dubious of humanity's ability for compassion.

*The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society (Annie Barrows & Mary Ann Shaffer) - I grabbed this book off the library shelf for two reasons: it was a softcover small enough to fit into my purse, and I had a train to catch and couldn't spend any more time in the library. As it turns out, my methods for choosing reading material aren't so terrible because this was a delightfully surprising book. Set in the years immediately following WWII and written as a series of letters and telegrams, this tells of the inhabitants of Guernsey - one of the Channel Islands (between France and England) that spent the entirety of the war under German occupation. I had never heard of Guernsey, let alone it's particular role in the war, and this book was a wonderful introduction to a time and a place unfortunately glossed over by my teachers. It was written with humor and empathy and had me googling all sorts of historical facts alongside my reading.

*Sons and Daughters of Ease and Plenty (Ramona Ausubel) - an intensely compelling novel about a couple's infidelity and how a series of events and one small decision can completely unravel a previously happy family unit. Ausubel created an inhabitable world and often revealed fascinating details and backstories of minor characters for the sole purpose of adding color to the story, which made me want even more from the book. The characters were all flawed but relatable, and toward the end I was rooting for no one and everyone. Definitely one of my favorite books of the year.

*Harry Potter and the Cursed Child (J.K. Rowling, Jack Thorne, John Tiffany) - so...I didn't like this. And it pains me to say that, because I love the Harry Potter books. I read each one within 48 hours of their release dates back in those early '00s, and hell, I spent this very evening taking a quiz to discover my true Patronus (spoiler alert: it's a grey squirrel. I'll be unpacking that one for a while.) But this play was vapid. And not written well. Or rather, written at a much lower reading level than the final books in the original series (a literary device I truly appreciated), which frankly just pissed me off. Either the playwrights didn't think a play can be written with compound sentences (it can) or they were intentionally writing for the grade school set, but either way it created a disjointed narrative. Also - the scenes were JARRINGLY short. From both a literary perspective (let's try a little harder, shall we?) and a technical theater perspective (SO many scene changes!!), it was distracting. Finally, I just didn't like the story. Without giving anything away, it felt forced, unbelievable, and obvious all at the same time. I've heard the London production of this play is fantastic, so maybe all the smoke and mirrors help hide the structural flaws in the script. But since it's unlikely I'll be seeing the play in person any time soon, I'm going to need a little more than this version of the script to keep me interested.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

status update

I don't want to be one of those people who only talks about her wedding, but my wedding is in 15 days and I can think of no other worthwhile topic to occupy my every waking thought and most of my sleeping thoughts as well. The programs have been written but not printed, the dress has been hemmed but not picked up, the card box that goes on the gift table is a task I keep shuffling to the bottom of the to-do list and you guys, NO ONE TOLD ME WEDDING PLANNING WOULD BE THIS TIME-CONSUMING!!! Blame Pinterest (obviously) and those cutesy little 6-word programs that say "music starts - we kiss - everyone parties." Granted, I knew it was going to be a little more complicated then that, but it's as though I've been in a year-long production meeting for a one-day party. Oh and on top of that I'm still trying to find my purpose a day job and jumping in on a few theater-related gigs because why the hell not. So I guess it's a good thing that my focus has been elsewhere, because this is one of the few status updates that didn't begin with a blithering recap of the current weather situation. Yay me!

*There's an entire world of competitive steel drumming and it's a rabbit hole but one worth going down
*I'm seriously considering signing up for this and this
*The eye of the artist
*I can't unsee this
*The best sushi in all the land
*It turns out I've been slow blogging this entire time!
*I don't know the first thing about neuroscience, but this was one of the sweetest stories I've heard in quite a while

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

the organized life - travel tips and tricks

I am by no means a true frequent flyer, but 2016 is shaping up to be my personal Year of Travel. I've already taken eight flights and a handful of train trips equalling over 80 hours of travel time, and I've got at least four more flights before the year is over. Though I'd previously done a decent amount of traveling, this is the year I finally got smart about surviving the sometimes endless journeys. With a little pre-planning and investing in the right tools and gear, I took a huge step in making my time on a train or airplane a bit more comfortable.

* Reusable and collapsible water bottle - this collapsable water bottle is my no.1 smartest purchase of the year. While bringing an empty water bottle to the airport is a no-brainer (fill it up after security at a water fountain to save yourself some $$ and the environment from another discarded plastic bottle), the collapsible nature of my bottle means I'm no longer carrying around the weight of an empty bottle. Granted, it's not as pretty as some of the "fashion" bottles out there (because we need water to be fashionable?), but at 3oz in weight, I'll take it over your 11oz Swell bottle any day.

* Clean socks on long flights - I love taking my shoes off on long flights. I often sit cross-legged in the seat and for obvious reasons, don't like to do so with shoes on. However, my go-to transit shoes are a pair of Tom's (they're flat, comfortable, and quiet, and perfect for this 32-going-on-62-year-old) - but thanks to my smelly feet I need to wear little nude socklettes with them. The socklettes are great underneath the shoes, but not so much as stand-alone socks. Cue a fresh pair of clean, white cotton socks. I'm not sure why, but there's nothing so refreshing as putting on a pair of socks just as you're settling in for a long winter's flight. I don't necessarily do this for quick trips to Chicago, but by hour 4 of my 10-hour flight to Hawaii? So glad I added a pair of socks to my carry-on.

* Snack attack - I do not care what time it is in New York or what time it will be in California. If I'm hungry I'm hungry (and if I'm hungry I'm cranky), and the airplane is not the place for me to reset my internal clock. If you're unlike me and use the flight to get yourself on "local time" then you must be a robot and please tell me your secrets now. I've learned (the hard way) to always have a snack or three on hand. Subsequently, I've decided that I am too old and fancy to eat like I'm at an airport just because I happen to be at an airport. So remember: as long as it isn't a liquid, you can get it through security. A giant bagel with artisanal cream cheese, a Tupperware full of fresh blueberries, or a DIY cheese and cracker plate will not only sustain you beyond Delta's idea of a dinner, it'll also make you feel downright posh. 

* Wrap it up - I make sure to pack a scarf, sweater, or a Turkish towel in my carry-on, even if I'm going to Mexico in June. That flying metal tube can get mighty chilly, and even if you're not cold per se, it's sometimes nice to wrap yourself in something soft and comforting.

* Charge it - I've mentioned this before, but I recently invested in a second set of all my charging cables/plugs/cubes/doohickeys. While it's certainly not necessary, it is a tiny luxury to not have to undo my at-home charger situation every time I travel. I now have a ready-to-go baggie of all the cords I need for all my devices and have shaved at least a few minutes off that dreaded packing process.

* Go analogue - even though I do my due diligence and save PDFs of important documents and correspondence to both my Dropbox and email, it's often very helpful to have a physical printout of a few of those documents. Itineraries, contact info, and maps are all things I need to have at the ready - and I don't want to wait for my phone to turn on, recharge, or find a strong signal to access this info. And, because I'm an adult and it looks bad to use crumpled papers pulled out of the bottom of my bag, I store everything of this ilk in a slim, old-school folder. It's lightweight and doesn't take up any extra room but does wonders for my overall organization level. Also - I add an empty #10 envelope to the folder for any receipts I need to save for reimbursement purposes. The last thing I want to do is scramble to find a random $3 parking lot receipt that I know I put here somewhere but can't find so I guess I'll just eat the cost. No way.

Are you a frequent traveler? What tricks have you picked up over the years?