Category: Blogging

Five [Awesome] Things I Read This Week, 11.29.2013

Five 2

Well, it’s a holiday weekend and so I really only have three gift guides and two posts for you, but I would love to read your recommendations so if you read something awesome this week please link to it in the comments (even if it’s something you wrote yourself!).

#1, #2, and #3:  Jessica over at How Sweet It Is has great gift guides for foodies, friends, and practical gifting needs.

#4:  D.L. Mayfield posted her year in books, and I loved them all!  I also spotted several books from my own reading this year on her list.

#5:  Tasha Golden for Ploughshares Literary Magazine with Four Reasons to Write the Hell out of (What’s Left of) 2013.


Happy Thanksgiving!

It’s been a beautiful (yet freezing) Thanksgiving day in Tennessee. I got enough quiet time to read two more chapters of Sarah Bessey’s Jesus Feminist while my husband and in laws ran five miles. We had breakfast with the in-laws, thanksgiving lunch with my parents, an afternoon with my grandmother, aunt and cousin, and are now back at the in-laws for dinner. And drinking.

This afternoon we made coffee the old-fashioned way, because the coffee maker at my parents’ house was broken and we just couldn’t have cheesecake without it. We boiled water, poured it over the coffee grounds, steeped for three minutes and then filtered through a Martha Stewart tea towel. (Thanks, Martha.) It was maybe the most fun thing ever, and it tasted great.

I have a few things on my shopping list (mainly cold weather items because holy moly it is freezing in Chicago) but I’m not shopping until Friday or maybe even Saturday. For today, I’ll be at home in solidarity with the hourly workers and retail employees forced into work on this American holiday.

Saturday with the Boys

I have a blog post planned, but it will just have to stay in the cooler because there has been no time for writing today! I mentioned that H’s two brothers would be here for the weekend, and entertaining our guests and preparing for tomorrow’s Fake Thanksgiving Dinner has me exhausted. (I took a mini-nap on the L just a while ago!)

We woke up and had poached eggs and cheesy grits for breakfast this morning. I went ahead and made up two pans of cornbread to use for the dressing tomorrow before jumping in the shower. While that was baking, I threw together the cranberry sauce so it would be chilled and ready to go.

We drove northwest of Chicago so the boys could spend the afternoon hitting golf balls at Top Golf. I went along because of an exciting detour involving wildlife that I will share once the photos are edited! I sipped a hot toddy and read a magazine for a few hours while I watched them play from the warmth of the lodge.

It’s freezing out, and I’m wearing my down coat, two sweaters, tights under my jeans, wool socks, and fleece-lined boots. I found the bright green hooded scarf (with pockets) that my mom gave me five years ago for Christmas for my first winter in DC, and today it is the only thing keeping me from giving up and staying inside forever.

We are now at the Bad Dog Tavern, Chicago’s University of Tennessee bar, watching the UT-Vanderbilt game. When UT scores they play rocky top and the food is honestly pretty great. They have nachos with short ribs. AND the whole place is totally decked out for Christmas!


So, how was your Saturday? Have you started holiday shopping yet? I can’t wait to dig into the sales next weekend!

Tips for a Successful Week: Introduction

Successful Week One

When I announced my decision to join NaBloPoMo this month, I mentioned that using Sunday afternoons to prep a few advance posts for the week makes a huge difference in my ability to post daily.  The first week of November, I did this well and had a pretty great week, on the blog and otherwise.  Last week, I didn’t make my time count over the weekend and spent the entire week paying the price.  It is only half-way through the month and already I am frustrated with having to blog each day; the timing of my postings is getting a little later each night of the week.  So today, while the rain and wind and thunder and hail bounce against our windows, I’m putting in the time it takes to get things back on track.

While planning for the blog is a big part of what I do on the weekend to prepare for the workweek, it isn’t the only thing I need to prioritize if I want to be successful.  When I’m being responsible, I take a few minutes on the weekend to make some decisions in advance so that I can head to work each morning with minimal stress and spend my weekday evenings doing things I enjoy instead of constantly playing catch-up.

I know that doing these small tasks on the weekend makes me happier and more successful, but I don’t always do them.  I sometimes struggle to follow through on things I want to do, especially if they are good for me.  As we enter the busy holiday season, I must remind myself how important these small things are for my own satisfaction and save time on the busy weekends to take care of myself.  H and I have two special guests arriving mid-week and staying with us until we all leave for Thanksgiving in Tennessee, so I need to fit in all of my usual tasks along with the extra baking, cleaning, cooking, and shopping I want to do so we all have a wonderful, stress-free weekend and holiday with our families.

Since it’s timely and a needed reminder for myself, I’ll be posting a bit this week about how planning ahead helps me stay on-track in the following areas:

  1. Arriving at Work Professionally Dressed
  2. Healthy and Budget-Friendly Meal Planning
  3. Keeping your Apartment Comfortable and Welcoming

As we go through the week, please be sure to share your own weekly and/or nightly rituals that keep you on top of your game.



Quick Update

1.  We still haven’t found a great Chinese takeout place in Chicago.  We live really close to Chinatown and we’ve tried a few places, but none of the places we’ve tried has been all that delicious.  It makes me really miss DC because we had a really delicious Chinese restaurant right by our apartment and it was the best for a lazy faux-Friday [Thursday] evening.

2.  This week at work we had a baby shower for one of my coworkers and it was the most fun I’ve ever had at a shower [wedding or baby]!  It was co-ed and not awkward at all.  I’ll be taking over some of the work of my coworker while she is on maternity leave and I’m pretty excited about it.

3.  Lisa Kudrow is killing it on Scandal lately.  I really like her in this more serious role.  Also, she has almost convinced me to eat Yoplait yogurt again.  Almost.

4.  I CAN’T WAIT FOR CHRISTMAS!  AND THANKSGIVING!  It’s been freezing out for weeks now and I’m feeling like it is already appropriate for Christmas music and Christmas lights and Christmas cookies.  Also, I’ve learned that there is a huge difference between my wool socks and my regular socks.  Wool socks are clearly superior.

5.  I’ve been making a lot of reports at work lately and I really like doing it.  I always struggle to name the tasks I like to complete, because I honestly like doing anything that needs to be done and keeps my days busy and exciting, so I’m very happy to add “prepare official reports to Congress” and “develop explanatory and instructive materials for employees and stakeholders” to that list of things I enjoy.


Check Out My Bookshelf: A Link-Up!

Today I’m sharing my bookshelf, as part of a link-up of bloggers who love books.  Anne at Modern Mrs. Darcy wrote that she loves to see others’ bookshelves, that it helps her find common ground with the people in her life.  I’m excited about participating in this link-up because I agree that what people read, and which books they hold on to, says a lot about them.  I’m looking forward to checking out the submissions!

Personally, I hate letting go of a book.  I want to SAVE THEM ALL forever.  I have this fear that I’ll want to quote something I read and won’t be able to find the right book.  As if any day now I could be asked to prepare an essay on literature or history to save my life or the lives of others.  I know it’s not a realistic worry, but I still struggle to let them go.  I want to own all of the books since my brain cannot hold all of the knowledge.

The most embarrassing part of that struggle is that many of the books I’ve picked up over the years because I wanted to “read” them and “know” the contents, I haven’t actually gotten around to reading.  I want to have all of the important books, but  I will often choose to spend my free time watching a movie or going shopping.  The books I want to know and understand are meaty and intense, but my brain gets used up at work and these books that I want to soak up and study and understand just sit, unloved, on the shelf.

Since we’ve just moved, my bookshelves make absolutely no sense.  I’ve packed the books in any-which-way just so they aren’t in boxes.  It’s amazing how many books can fit on a shelf if you don’t care at all how it looks.  Here’s a snapshot into my bookshelf:

Top Shelf

The top shelf is crammed full.  As I unpacked, I stacked books on the top shelf first, so most of my favorites are on this level.  These books are nearly all mine, if we ignore H’s Michael Crichton sitting in the bottom right corner.  Some highlights from this shelf include:

  • Christy, Catherine Marshall.  Favorite childhood book.
  • My dad’s copy of Atlas Shrugged, Ayn Rand.
  • Two books from my freshman Honors course, neither of which I have finished:  Consilience, Edward O. Wilson, and The Great Chain of Being, Arthur O. Lovejoy. I’m actually a huge fan of The Great Chain of Being even though I haven’t completed it, because it traces the history of an idea back to a place I didn’t think it would go.  It’s dense and boring, though, so hard to consume.  I read it a lot while flying back and forth to Minnesota to visit H last summer.
  • Canterbury Tales, a few history books from college, Zadie Smith’s On Beauty.
  • A bright yellow copy of Sarah Bessey’s Jesus Feminist.  Loving it.

Shelf 2

This shelf has a pretty strong mix of H’s books (do you see the Book of Basketball?  The Life of Reilly?).  It also has some Harry Potter, a Marketing Textbook, and the last Twilight book.  In the top left corner is the biography of Chuck Norris that a sweet friend gave me as a gift.  Because Chuck Norris is awesome.

  • Thomas Hardy’s Jude the Obscure.
  • Gerald Rosenberg’s The Hollow Hope.
  • Love in the Time of Cholera, Gabriel Garcia Marquez.

shelf 3

The third shelf is an interesting mix of elements of my life.  You’ll see several philosophy textbooks (something I want to study further so didn’t sell back after college), two favorite history textbooks, a Norman Shield from my days as a sorority Chapter Advisor, and the Hunger Games trilogy.  Also stuck in there:

  • Harmon’s Handbook for Literature.
  • Pat Robertson’s The Ten Offenses.  Opposition research.
  • Yann Martel’s Life of Pi (I love this book, and the movie was beautiful!).
  • Jon Meachum’s The American Gospel — a recent favorite, which I highly recommend.

Well, that’s it!  If you’d like to share your own bookshelf, or if you’d like to read through all of the posts and find some new favorite books or favorite bloggers, check out the link-up at  [I’ll update this link once the link-up goes live.]  UPDATE:  Link-up Here!  

Why we do what we do: a crisis of [blogging] faith


This is that moment we talked about, when I told you why I was hesitant about taking on a daily blogging challenge this month.  This is the night when I argue with myself between choosing not to post today and accepting that every single day on my November blogging calendar would be bright pink with content except for November 12th; or, on the other hand, whether I should post content today even though it is later than normal and chances are it won’t be read at the same frequency content posted in the morning would be, and probably isn’t of the caliber I would prefer be treated as a sample of my best work, just so that I can fulfill a commitment I made to myself and to you.

As much as “real” bloggers write for “an audience” to provide “quality content” to their readers, I oftentimes write here for myself. Do I really think that the internet world needs to know that eating tacos at a certain restaurant may or may not give you a severe case of taco stomach?  No.  Do I really think that you need to know the shallow struggle I face between acknowledging I am a satisfied and successful professional and wanting to be being considered “successful” by my peers?  Not necessarily.  But do I think that we are all on a journey where understanding people different from us helps us to better understand ourselves?  I do.  And also, it’s nice that my friends and family can stay close and know about our life even when there isn’t always enough time in the day to regularly phone all of the people I care about so much. Even when the sentences I write here are silly or cliché or describe photos of food, they serve their purpose.

This week a blogger I sometimes read in the Christian blog world wrote that bloggers who blog for themselves and not for the “glory of God” are stupid and should die.  [It was a tiny bit milder than that, but only a tiny bit.]  And here’s what I’ve been thinking:  why do we really ever do anything?  Do we really do things for the glory of God?  Or does God already have all the glory he needs, and we say we do things for the glory of God when we really mean we do things for the glory of saying we did things for the glory of God?  How is having a calling and pursuing it with abandon different from having a thing that you really love to do and doing that thing?  How do you actually differentiate those things in your actual heart?

This is something I’m learning about right now.  And also something I don’t fully understand.  Today I’m giving you these words, which aren’t necessarily clear or interesting, but fulfill my commitment to share content here each day this month.  This is where I’m at right now.