Wednesday, February 10, 2016

A Day In My Life

Because SOMEONE told me that I was slacking on my blog entries, here you go. This was yesterday because I'm still living today.

5:30am - The alarm goes off. Dr. BB has a doctor's appointment at 7. I roll over and go back to sleep.
6:30am - Dr. BB gives me a kiss goodbye.
7:30am - My alarm goes off. I roll out of bed, wander to the kitchen, say good morning to Zelda, slam a glass of water, and head to the bathroom where I shower.
7:45am - Get out of shower, go to bedroom, and get dressed.
7:45am - 8:20am - Make and eat breakfast.  Yogurt (the 100-calorie coconut Yoplait Greek) with homemade granola, blueberries and grapes, and green tea (Celestial Seasonings Honey Lemon Ginseng).  At some point Dr. BB comes home. Doctor's appointment has gone well.  Feed cat.
8:20am - 8:30am - Blow dry my hair.
8:30am - 8:45am - Brush teeth and put on makeup and jewelry.
8:45am - 9:00am - Pack lunch and school bag.
9:00am - 9:10am - Drive to school with Dr. BB.
9:10am - 10:50am - Prepare lecture and grade. Respond to the endless emails.
11:00am - 12:15pm - Teach.  (Well, actually, I walked around the room while they worked in small groups, but damn it, I was in charge.)
12:15pm - 1:10pm - Each lunch while grading at my desk. A big bowl of cucumbers, carrots, and tomatoes and a 100-calorie guacamole pack with 15 pretzels.
1:10pm - 1:50pm - Walk. We had a high of ten degrees today. It was cold.
1:50pm - 2:15pm - Back to my office where I just goofed off on the internet, reading about Cam Newton and the Sanders/Clinton debate.
2:15pm - 2:30pm - Drive home with Dr. BB.
2:30pm - 2:50pm - Just sit on the couch with the kitty reading my library book for a few minutes.
2:50pm - 3:00pm - Pack up for the rest of the day. Put sewing stuff and dinner in the car.
3:00pm - 3:10pm - Drive back to campus.
3:10pm - 3:25pm - Walk to the student union; treat myself to some frozen yogurt BECAUSE I CAN.
3:30pm - 4:40pm - Listen to a lecture on tribal sovereignty. I was riveted; I'm pretty sure the students were not.
4:40 - 4:50pm - Drive to quilt shop.
5:00pm - 8:00pm - Quilting class. Me and some old ladies working on quilts.  I stop for a break at about 6:30 to eat my dinner.  Lemon broccoli frittata and a granola bar.  The piecing of my quilt is finished, now I just need to, you know, put the front, back, and batting together and quilt the damn thing.
I had four of these and sewed them all together. And then pressed and pressed and pressed. Now I'm going to make a quilt.
8:00pm - 8:10pm - Drive home.
8:11pm - Change into cozy clothes.
8:20pm - 9:00pm - Watch Family Feud.
9:00pm - 9:10pm - Feed cat. Take out her litter. Brush her teeth.
9:10pm - 9:30pm - Brush my teeth. Take off my makeup and wash my face. Take allergy medicines.
9:30pm - 9:40pm - Chase the cat around in an attempt to brush her. She hates being brushed so that didn't go well. Play ball with her for a minute or two.
9:40pm - 9:50pm - Dawdle on my way to bed. Do last minute night things - fill humidifier, start dishwasher, put Zelda's brown ball on the rope thing, and make sure there's nothing left out that Zelda can destroy.
9:50pm - ??? - Read in bed on my Kindle. I'm currently reading the new JD Robb book and OH MY GOD IT'S SO GOOD.  It's the best one in ages and I'll write more about it later, but it's so good and I'm staying up too late reading it.

And then it's lights out. 

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Arcadia by Lauren Groff

Our book club book for January was Arcadia by Lauren Groff.

I thought this book was tryhard silliness. Groff would write complex, sometimes beautiful prose, but when I tried to figure out what individual sentences meant, I was frequently left bewildered.  She described places, which meant that the setting, which was a hippie commune called Arcadia in the first part of the book, was the most well-developed character in the novel. And since we were actually following a guy named Bit, it was a bit revealing that no one in our book club actually felt like we knew anything about him, but we could basically draw you a map of the commune compound. 

The thing I did appreciate about the novel was that the narrator was unreliable through the entire novel, but for entirely different reasons. At first, it was because he was a child. Then it was because he was heartbroken. Then it was because he was in love. So you always had to search for context clues (often written in an indecipherable wall of text), but it was sort of like a little mystery within the story.

My fellow book club members seemed to like the book a bit more than I did, although I don't think it's going on anyone's list of favorite books anytime soon.

Monday, January 25, 2016

New Favorite Hard Candy: See's Cinnamon Lollypops

I see that I've written about my love for hard candy here before. It's very satisfying and much lower in calories than most other candy type things that I love (including my beloved candy cane Kisses. My  newest love is See's Cinnamon Lollypops. These things are addictive as hell. They taste like those cinnamon imperials my mom used to get for us to be decorate sugar cookies.

I've been eating one after dinner now for dessert for the last week or two and it's the perfect little 70-calorie sweet to end my day
Unfortunately, these things are not a year round treat. Much like my beloved candy cane Kisses, they are a holiday treat only. They'll disappear after Valentine's Day, so make sure you go get one right now.
On the website, it's $8.40 for 12 lollypops. I just ordered two boxes. I'll have to portion them out carefully, I guess.

Friday, January 22, 2016

American Idol: The Last Auditions

My American Idol history: I watched the first three seasons like it was my job. I was working my first "real" job during the first season, was home by myself alone a lot because I was in a new place with no friends, and after I had gobbled up all the Harry Potter books that had been written up until that point, I turned on the television, saw the auditions for season one and laughed and laughed and laughed.  I petered out in season four, briefly watched a couple of episodes in the Steven Tyler seasons, and that's it. I really wanted to watch it this season in a nostalgic, I must be involved in popular culture in a way that isn't JD Robb novels way.

So I watched all six episodes of the auditions.

The Judges: The judges are Harry Connick, Jr., the very, very sexy Jennifer Lopez, and the very, very sexy Keith Urban. I bet Connick feels outclassed in appearance when he's at the judges table. I found the judges endearing.  They have chemistry among them and you can feel it in some of the silly outtakes, like when they started singing the Green Acres theme song.

However, they didn't give particularly good feedback. It was all pretty general stuff like "you're not ready yet" or "haven't figured out how to use your voice yet" or Urban's inane "I didn't feel like you meant it." It lacked actionableness, which is key when you're giving constructive feedback.  They were just too nice. There were a couple of flashbacks to early Cowell ("that's terrible") and I missed that honesty.

Also, I hated how much they talked to one another during the auditions. So rude.

Ryan Seacrest: I find Seacrest charming. I really want Brian Dunkleman, who was a co-host during season one, to come back for an episode this season, too. I like that Seacrest doesn't take himself or American Idol too seriously. He made several jokes about rumors regarding his sexuality, but didn't bother actually addressing the rumors. He's pretty okay in my book.

Special guests: I don't know a lot of the later season Idol winners.  Seeing Nick Fradiani (S14 winner) meant nothing to me. But the look on Ruben Studdard's (S2 winner) face at bad auditions just made my day. And when Clay Aiken (S2 runner-up) went off on an auditioner for making a mockery of the show, I have to admit I rolled my eyes at the sanctimoniousness of the whole thing, but still kind of loved the spirit of Aiken.  Oh, and I don't actually know much about Taylor Hicks (S5 winner), but he was so adorable and excited when people did well at their auditions. I just wanted to hug him.

The less said about Kanye West's appearance on the show the better.

Contestants: I think American Idol has a longer screening process now, so we only see contestants who have made it through what seems like several other auditions before they can see CLU (Connick, Lopez, Urban). So that means a lot fewer bad auditions.  I know there was a brouhaha and viewers complained that there were too many bad auditions and the judges (mostly Cowell) were too mean, but I LOVED those bad auditions and that's what hooked me on the show in the first place. The did a couple of brief "bad audition" segments and, maybe I'm not crazy about what this says about me as a person, I loved those segments and they made me laugh so hard. 

So the contestants, even when they weren't sent through, were generally okay.

Format complaints:  I don't like that they can have musical accompaniment during the auditions (piano, guitar, ukulele, whatever). It's a singing competition and I think you should make it through the audition acapella.  Sure, bring in instruments later since most "pop stars" don't go around singing without something, but there should be a base layer of actual talent. Also, I was watching this while texting a friend and she pointed out that it was hard to hear the voices over the instruments sometimes.

Also, what is with this stupid schedule? Tuesday and Wednesdays? Sometimes one hour long and sometimes two?  Who thought this was intuitive or that someone with my limited scheduling ability could figure this out?

This is going to make me sound like a mean person, but I think the American Idol winner should be young (but not too young!) and single. I got really upset with the folks with babies and spouses along for the audition. It ruins the whole dream of "someday I can be like that" if it's someone you really don't want to be like.  Ahem.  So pretty much if I got wind of a kid or a spouse, I am holding a grudge against that contestant. Those folks can be musicians, even successful ones, but I don't think American Idol is the place for them to get their breakthrough.

Contestants I'm Going to Watch For: 
1) Dalton Rapattoni, who showed up with bleached out hair and guyliner, but sang "Phantom of the Opera" in a way that I really enjoyed.
2) LaPorsha Ranae who sang some Radiohead song I'm unfamiliar with. I liked it. She had a strong voice, didn't hide behind any instruments, and I'm going to root for her. I did not like that she had a baby and a sob story to go with her, but I did think her baby was adorable (and I don't say that about many babies, particularly babies wearing dumb flower headbands) and I thought JLo was super adorable holding the super adorable baby.
3) Melanie Tierce who sang "Rise Up." Her look matches her voice and she was wonderful.
4) Jordyn Simone, a 15-year old who looks like she's in her twenties. I thought she was articulate and quite mature for her age. Her voice was good, I think she will appeal to both young women and young men, and I think she'll go far. Even Dr. BB called her "cute as a button."
5) Elvie Shane (with a kid! damn it all!) impressed me with his version of "House of the Rising Sun." He's kind of greasy and I'm not sure if his look will go over with Idol voters, but I have hopes for him.
6) Emily Brooke is quite talented, but it feels like a bit of a cheat. She made it to the live shows last season and she was great.  With the advantage of making through Hollywood week last year, I think she's one to keep an eye on.  She's got a contemporary country radio sound, so I can see her having commercial appeal.
7) Melany Huber, a young cancer survivor from Michigan, made me relax during her performance. I didn't worry about her hitting notes, I didn't worry about her forgetting the words, and it didn't seem like she was trying too hard. Just effortlessly good.
8) Chynna Sherrod who sang in a different style than Huber, but just as effortlessly.

And what this list tells you is that I perfer female voices to male.

Up next:  Hollywood week, which has historically been my favorite week. Let's do it!

Monday, January 18, 2016

Books I Read Over Winter Break

The Blade Itself by Joe Abercrombie (library book) - I realized at the end of last year that I was just reading trashy romance novels because I could get them for free on my Kindle, but I can also get books for free from the library! I used BuzzFeed's (often critiqued) list of the 51 best fantasy series to give me some suggestions of where to start looking for a new series.  So I tried the Abercrombie book. I didn't have a clue what was happening for the first 150 pages. I was reading it slowly, carefully, and really trying hard to follow it when the magic happened. I figured out how all these different stories were going to come together and it was delightful.  But not so delightful that I'm going to get the next book in the series.

The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms by N. K. Jemisin (library book) - Jemisin was also a find from the Buzzfeed list and it was an interesting read. I really liked the tone in this book; the first person narrator was casual like she was telling a story to an actual person, full of tangents and digressions like you would have in person. Unfortunately for Jemisin, I just don't find abusive alpha gods attractive, so the rest of this series seems tedious to me.

Devoted in Death by J. D. Robb (Kindle purchase) - I still read every book in the In Death series despite my frequent complaints about the quality of the series degrading.  AND I stand by this argument. But this book, despite being a strict procedural, was kind of interesting in that Robb has begun to weave in small details from previous books that are actually kind of fun. For example, in a previous installment of this series, Mr. Mira gave Eve a hat with a snowflake on it and she keeps wearing it, even though she thinks it's silly. I love Mr. Mira. This is important because in the next book MR. MIRA is in the mix!  It's coming out on February 2 and I'm pretty jazzed about it.  Please don't let me down, J. D. Robb.

Deer Season by Aaron Stander (free Kindle book)- This book was free, set in the upper peninsula of Michigan, and a murder mystery seemed right up my alley during the frigid temperatures during the first week of January. Unfortunately, it was kind of boring. I think it might be a mid-series book and it might have been better if I'd read the other books in the series. 

Holding Her Hand by Tammy Falkner (Kindle purchase) - This is the ninth book of the Reed Brothers series and while I loved the first five books in the series, but things aren't as good now. It's still good, much better than most Kindle authors, but there's no tension in this book. The female main character immediately spills her guts to our hero about all her baggage, he dumps his baggage to be with her, and it's over.  I love the Reed family and I don't really want to leave this world, either, but I think Falkner needs to switch to another group of characters so she can start fresh.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Quick Tossed Ribbon Quilt #1, Part One

There's a quilt shop in our town that holds regular quilting classes. I opted to take this class instead of another garment making class mostly because I didn't want to have to drive fifty miles to Madison each week during the winter.  Last night I went to my first class. It's a beginning quilting class and she uses the easiest pattern ever, a quick tossed ribbon quilt pattern.  I'm starting to understand that "quick" is relative in quilting, but I'm a willing pupil.

Step 1 (last week of December): I went into the store to talk to the lady (hi Cheryl!) and bought a quarter-inch foot for my machine.  She told me to think about what colors I wanted. 

Step 2 (first week in January): Color about two dozen sample squares. Think about colors.

Step 3 (last week): I bought some fabric (and much less exciting thread).

Step 4 (last night): Go to class. Cut squares. I actually am only halfway through the cutting of the squares process - guess what I'm doing tonight?  - okay fine, I'm going to watch American Idol* tonight, but I'm going to cut some more squares tomorrow. I promise.

Step 5 (last night in class): Construct (actually sew!) one complete quilt square.

Step 6 (to be done in the next month before the next class): I need to finish cutting those squares and then piece together fifteen more of those quilt squares. Ooookay. That seems ambitious. I'll keep you up on progress.

*What do you think about American Idol?  I stopped watching about season fourish, tuned in briefly to lose all my illusions about how awesome Steven Tyler is (seriously, that was a BAD career move for him), and now I'm back for the last season because I am a nostalgic person. I LIKE all three current judges, but I miss the shattering of lifelong dreams that were the hallmark of the original auditions. I liked the dissension among the judges. I really just want Simon, Paula, and Randy back, I guess. (I DO like the current panel, but they're just so NICE.)

Monday, January 11, 2016

Snail Mail, Part 1

I think I'm going to attempt to keep track of my outgoing snail mail this year. This may be a New Year's resolution that falls to the wayside, but I'll do my best.

Years ago, someone gave me a bunch of cards from Thirty-One Gifts, a multi-level marketing scheme that I'm not entirely sure is on the up and up, and I have only a handful of those cards left at this point. The toast one was holding on because I usually don't send broad congratulations cards, but for specific events (birth, wedding, new job, whatever).
But my sister-in-law just bought a dental practice and I sent it to her.  Because why the hell not?  (She has celiac disease, like Dr. BB, so the asterisk is how the toast would be gluten-free, of course.)

My oldest niece turned nine last week and we sent her this awesome card with a check. I made some sort of "seal of approval" pun on the inside and I just know that someday those kids are going to think I'm funny. I don't think she gets puns yet, but someday she will and I'll be hilarious until she realizes that some lame, un-fun people think that puns aren't a sophisticated form of humor. And then I'll be boring Aunt NGS again.
Card from Man vs. George. Adorable!
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