Reading Report

One thing I have been loving with absolute abandon this summer is reading. I have been absolutely devouring books — mostly novels, many of them mysteries (you know how I do). My favorite place to read has been sitting on my patio with a glass of wine or a whiskey drink just at sunset. It’s divine, I tell you. Reading late at night in bed or lazily throughout the morning, with coffee, is also very, very good.

Let me warn you now, though, that what I am about to share with you are not what anyone would call “book reviews.” I do enough academic writing about books at work that here on the blog I prefer to share my thoughts and experiences about them with very little intellectualizing. I hope you will forgive me.

Today's Patio Reading

Sharp Objects, by Gillian Flynn

My mind kept hearkening back to Gone Girl after I finished it, so I managed to check out both this and Dark Places so I could continue delving into the dark and compelling characters Gillian Flynn creates. I’m a little obsessed with her right now, in fact. I loved this book, and the length of it (it’s a pretty quick read) inspired me to choose it for my summer class on detective fiction. The narrator of Sharp Objects is fascinating and, in some disturbing ways, relatable. One thing I really enjoy about Flynn’s writing is the prose: crisp, quick, witty, and wry. She strikes just the right note for this genre, in my opinion.

Dark Places, by Gillian Flynn

I read Dark Places next and really enjoyed it, too. The 1980s obsession with Satanic cults certainly rang some bells for me — I quite vividly remember my own (paranoid & mentally ill) mother’s obsession with same. The characters and the Missouri communities Flynn creates are so vividly realistic to me I feel like I cam practically smell them coming off the page. Recommended.

Time for some sunset patio reading.

State of Wonder, by Ann Patchett

I’d been meaning to pick up this book for a while, after having read some friends’ comments about it online. I found it didn’t go very quickly for me, partly because I never really connected with any of the characters (I don’t believe I need to like the characters to like the narrative, but in this case the characters only barely interested me, to the point where I couldn’t even drum up much emotion when one character is attacked by an anaconda and another character has to wrestle and hack said anaconda to death), and partly because I found the colonizing relationship between the American scientists in the book and the Amazonian people among whom they were living to be, well, highly problematic. You can take the girl out of the West-Coast-radical graduate program, but you can’t take…well, you know the rest.

My current read. Not sure about it yet, but I've heard some good things.

Ready Player One, by Ernest Cline

I wanted to read and love this, but I abandoned it after about 20 pages. I didn’t dislike it — the abandonment had a little something to do with running out of online renewals from the library — but I didn’t find myself compelled to go on, either. I think I’d like to try it again, but not right now. There are other things that are more enticing at the moment.


Room, by Emma Donoghue

I knew nothing about the content or plot of this novel before I began, but I became absorbed so quickly and so irrevocably that I stayed up late one night, starting it when I got into bed around 10:00 and not being able to put it down until 2:00 or so — and then only reluctantly. The next morning, instead of getting up, I stayed in bed until 2:00 in the afternoon finishing it. At one point I got up and made coffee, but otherwise: read, read, read, must read. I do love it when that happens. The narrator is often unbelievable and/or overly precious (it’s narrated by a 5-year-old-boy), but I was able to overcome any objections on those counts due simply to how gripping the story was. Plus: I was reading it the same week Amanda Berry, Gina DeJesus, and Michelle Knight were rescued. Life and art collide in a terrifying, all-too-real fashion.

Just finished this and SO glad I chose it for my summer course. Loved it. I would immediately set about reading all the other Ripley books, but I've got Dashiell Hammett and Georges Perec awaiting me re course planning.

The Talented Mister Ripley, by Patricia Highsmith

I chose this novel for my summer class without having read it — purely on the basis of the Matt Damon/Jude Law film I’d seen years ago. Well, plus I felt it was high time I read some Patricia Highsmith. It did not disappoint. As is always the case, the novel is richer and more complex than the book. Highsmith’s voice is delightfully crisp on the page, her prose both witty and dark. She makes Tom Ripley frighteningly real and surprisingly sympathetic. But then again, a lot of sociopaths are quite charming. I can’t wait for my chance to read the four other Ripley novels. Recommended.

Dashiell Hammett time.

The Thin Man, by Dashiell Hammett

Dashiell Hammett is a favorite of mine even though I haven’t read all that many of his novels — no one could ever believe I hadn’t read The Thin Man. Well, shut up all of you, because now I have! It’s the classic Hammett noir: lean and efficient prose, quick dialogue, twists, mistaken identities, and double crosses. And lots and lots of cocktails. But then he goes and makes it funny, too! My boyfriend and I happen to be watching some Veronica Mars lately, and I now see a lot of Nick and Nora Charles’ influence on the snappy (and often inappropriately flirty) dialogue between Keith and Veronica.

Today's patio reading selection. This is quickly becoming my favorite part of the day.

In the Woods, by Tana French

Let me say first of all that I wound up loving this book, and I shall make it my mission to read her follow-up novels just as soon as I can (though I have stacks of other books for both work and fun standing between me and that plan, dammit). I loved Rob and Cassie, the detective team at the center of this novel. The plotline was gripping and the storytelling seemed realistic in its use of detail, but not tediously so. The inclusion of entire interrogation-room dialogues, for example, lends the air of an authentically long investigation. The pacing reminded me a bit of The Killing, in fact, in that I felt we really were following the murder squad detectives through all the steps of their work. And yet the pacing still felt fast and I found myself anxious to get back to the book whenever I wasn’t reading it. The only negative, for me, is French’s prose style. I almost put the book down after reading the first three sentences:

Picture a summer stolen whole from some coming-of-age film set in small town 1950s. This is none of Ireland’s subtle seasons mixed for a connoisseur’s palate, watercolor nuances within a pinch-sized range of cloud and soft rain; this is summer full-throated and extravagant in a hot pure silkscreen blue. This summer explodes on your tongue tasting of chewed blades of long grass, your own clean sweat, Marie biscuits with butter squirting through the holes and shaken bottles of red lemonade picnicked in tree houses.

I’m glad I didn’t. (It isn’t all like this.)

Spent the morning finishing this.

Wild, by Cheryl Strayed

I started this and finished it this morning, in another marathon reading binge. I’d heard so many good things about it and finally my library’s copy was available. I enjoyed reading it, but a good many things about it also annoyed me. I never read Eat Pray Love, but I sort of have a suspicion that this is the hiking version of that story, i.e., a privileged white lady who’s having some problems goes off somewhere to “find” herself. From what I hear, though, I take it that Cheryl Strayed is much less … that woman than Elizabeth Gilbert is.

Currently Reading (Wild, by Cheryl Strayed)

On another note, if you’ve known me for very long at all, you know that my love for the mountains of the west, the Sierras and the Cascades in particular, is deep. The High Sierras from Tahoe to Yosemite are where I spent many summers as a child and teenager, where I first camped, fished, learned to rock climb, found bear tracks, hiked in the woods both with my family and — occasionally, secretly — alone. The landscape of those mountains is (and this is difficult to describe, but) where my heart feels most at home — the only place in truly longs for. If you’ve read this book, imagine my feeling upon reading the section entitled “Range of Light,” where Strayed reached the High Sierras, and the events that ensued.


Well then. I have just started John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars (a rare foray into young-adult fiction for me, not counting Harry Potter and Twilight) and it is calling me back to its pages. If you’ve read any of the above books, I’d love to hear your opinon!



Eat & Run by Scott Jurek

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt recently sent me copy of Scott Jurek‘s memoir, Eat & Run, to review. OH, IT WAS MY LUCKY DAY! I’d been wanting to read this book since I first heard about it, but hadn’t bought a copy yet.

Looking forward to reading and reviewing this! @scottjurekLike most people, I first heard of Scott Jurek through Christopher McDougall‘s Born to Run, the book that help launched the barefoot running craze and made average distance runners like me suddenly aware of the possibility of ultrarunning, the completely insane practice of running farther than marathon distance — thirty, fifty, one hundred miles. Or more. I’d only ever run as far as 26.2, but I was intrigued.

I had to learn more about the man who had become a legend, winning the Western States 100-Mile Endurance Run seven years in a row, the 135-mile Badwater Ultramarathon twice (that’s the one that goes through the extreme heat of Death Valley), the 152-mile Spartathlon three times (running from Athens to Sparta), and setting the U.S. record for a 24-hour endurance run at 165.7 miles. Oh, and he did all of this (and more) on a vegan diet. Suffice it to say, what I’d already learned about Scott Jurek had launched him to the top of my list of running heroes.

Reading Eat & Run just solidified his position on that list. Scott (with Steve Friedman), writes about his experiences in not only these events, but also about his childhood in rural Minnesota where he hunted and fished and developed his strong, persistent work ethic; his past as a competitive Nordic Skier, where he learned from his coach that “pain only hurts;” and his journey toward the healthy, whole-foods vegan diet that he now credits with keeping him training consistently and recovering quickly.

Eat & Run combines Scott’s stories from a life training and competing with advice for runners and healthy vegan recipes. Each chapter begins with engaging and entertaining tales from the trails, then includes a bit of advice and/or a recipe at the end. I found reading his race accounts to be entirely gripping, but, more than that, I found inspiration in his reflections on how his family shaped him, the things he learned from people in his life, and his thoughts about what running means to him.

I started running for reasons I had only just begun to understand. As a child, I ran in the woods and a round my house for fun. As a teen, I ran to get my body in better shape. Later, I ran to find peace. I ran, and kept running, because I had learned that once you started something you didn’t quit, because in life, much like in an ultramarathon, you have to keep pressing forward. Eventually I ran because I turned into a runner, and my sport brought me physical pleasure and spirited me away from debt and disease, from the niggling worries of everyday existence. I ran because I grew to love other runners. I ran because I loved challenges and because there is no better feeling than arriving at the finish line or completing a difficult training run. And because, as an accomplished runner, I could tell others how rewarding it was to live healthily, to move my body every day, to get through the difficulties, to eat with consciousness, that what mattered wasn’t how much money you made or where you lived, it was how you lived. I ran because overcoming the difficulties of an ultramarathon reminded me that I could overcome the difficulties of life, that overcoming difficulties was life.

If you’re a runner (or athlete of any stripe), I know you identify with that just like I do.

The advice sections of the book include topics like stretching, going easier not harder, getting enough protein, and improving your gait by hitting the right landing zone. His suggestions are practical and easy enough for any runner to implement — and hey, who doesn’t want training advice from Scott Jurek? Nobody, that’s who.

Scott’s recipes are all nutritious vegan food, including lentil-mushroom burgers, Japanese rice balls (onigiri), 8-grain strawberry pancakes, Minnesota winter chili, and a kalamata-hummus trail wrap. Sound good? To cook just like an ultrarunning champion, you have to do more than just avoid animal products: you have to embrace ingredients like nutritional yeast, spirulina, and chia seeds, and processes like milling your own flour or making hemp milk at home. Scott Jurek does not mess around. I’m eager to try a few of the recipes and (as you probably know) I’m already well acquainted with hippie vegan ingredients, but I may stick to using store-bought flours and milks for now. The way Scott cooks and eats is an ideal — a standard befitting an athlete of his experience and abilities — but I think the average cook, vegan or not, can probably make the most out of these recipes even without that homemade hemp milk. As I try some of the recipes in the future, I will keep you posted.


On Thursday evening I had the opportunity to attend a group run and book signing event with Scott at Phidippides (the world’s oldest running store, owned by marathon legend Jeff Galloway!). Luckily, Thursdays happen to be work-from-home days for me, so I was able to make the two-hour drive up to Atlanta. It was worth it.

The Runners 

Photo from Phidippides, via FacebookA huge group of runners gathered at Phidippides for the 6:30 run — I suspect it was just a few more people than they usually have for their weekly group runs. Just a suspicion. It was cold and grey and misty outside, with temperatures in the 40s. If you read my running posts, you already know this is my favorite weather for running.

CanopyWe set off through the sidewalks of Atlanta, making a loop through Piedmont Park, and down the flowering, tree-lined hill back to the shop. Scott warned everyone that this wasn’t going to be a tempo run — he wanted to start in the front of the pack, then go more and more slowly to work his way back and try to run with as many folks as possible. I don’t think everyone got the “Not a Tempo Run” memo, however, as there were a lot of pounding feet and heavy breathing around me, courtesy of people who were clearly trying to increase the pace. Or maybe they were just excited and trying to catch up to where Scott was up ahead. At any rate, I never caught up to him and wound up finishing the run with the more moderately paced runners in the back of the pack.

Scott Jurek 

Photo from Phidippides, via FacebookAfter the run, we gathered in a large room next to the shop for Scott’s presentation. We watched a short movie that covered some of the events from the book: Scott’s start in ultrarunning in Minnesota, his journey toward a plant-based, vegan diet, and his experiences running all over the world. Scott then spoke, telling us some of his stories with an engaging voice and sense of humor. He’s an easy speaker to listen to — confident and easy-going and friendly. He took questions from as many of us as he could, and we had a chance to get our books signed and our photos taken.

Advice for my next adventure.Oh just me and ultrarunning legend Scott Jurek. You know, chillin'. How we do. No big deal.Can you tell I had a great time? I did.

I’m sure I don’t have to tell you that if you’re already a fan of Scott Jurek, you will really enjoy this book. If you aren’t already a fan, don’t worry; reading Eat & Run will fix that.

Spring Break, "Light" Reading

We had a lovely trip to Mississippi to visit Clarabella and family, which included a stop along the way to watch some of the Division 2 College Wrestling Champsionships. CW has a college friend who was coaching there and a family friend competing, so it was perfect that the tournament happened to be taking place halfway to our destination, on the night before we wanted to go. Good timing!


So we spent one night there and then went on to Mississippi the next day. It was lovely. We entertained ourselves with great conversation and tons of laughs, as usual. We ate fantastic food (which I did not photograph), and drank well, too. They have this very cool whiskey decanter, which was one of the only things I bothered to photograph the entire time:


I suppose I was too busy having fun to whip out the big camera.


I borrowed a couple of books from Clarabella, one of which was Gone Girl. If you plan to read that book and don’t want any SPOILERS, maybe SKIP THIS NEXT PARAGRAPH (AND MAYBE THE COMMENTS, TOO):

So, I finished Gone Girl in less than 24 hours. Quite the page turner! I was utterly engrossed by the plot and characters, both in spite of and because of their terrible, sociopathic nature. I’m pretty sure I’ve known at least one Actual Sociopath in my life (though it’s hard to tell, sometimes, isn’t it?), and I admit to finding that type of mind and that type of behavior just as fascinating as I do appalling and frightening. I think it’s fascinating because it’s so awful, you know? Who do you have to be to sail through life with no conscience, no guilt, no sense of responsibility to any moral or ethical code? I think you just have to be someone missing some important component of what it is to be a human living in a society. And do you think all that applies to just Amy in the book, or to Nick, too? Did you read the book? Want to discuss in the comments?


Since we’ve been back in town, I’ve been reading, catching up on TV, and generally relaxing. I’ll have to get a little work done this weekend to prepare for the return to school, but for now I’m ignoring that. The only ingredient missing from my spring break so far is a little warmer weather. I’m quite tired of running directly into an icy wind every time I step outside. My weather app tells me that we’ll be seeing the 70s again starting tomorrow, and for once, I’m finally looking forward to it. Spring, I am ready for you.

Cooking with John Irving

9781400063840_p0_v2_s260x420I recently finished reading John Irving’s latest novel, Last Night in Twisted River, and I loved it. It had been a while since I read one of his, and this one is as good as any. It really reminded me how much I enjoy his fiction — the pacing, the character development, the warm-but-wry tone he often has. Even his afterword, in which Irving detailed some of his writing process, was great. I’m afraid to spoil anything about the plot by explaining too much, but I will tell you that writers writing about writing happens to be one of my favorite things to read, so it was right up my alley.

Tonight I’m making pizza at home, and — what? Yes, this information is relevant, so hold on. Anyway, as I was saying, I am making pizza at home, which involves my easy semi-whole-wheat crust (recipe here). In honor of one of Irving’s characters, though, I changed the recipe. There’s a whole plot point in Last Night in Twisted River where the cook character, Dominic Baciagalupo, in a moment of food-genius inspiration, decides he wants to add honey to his pizza crust recipe.  Reading the book, I decided I definitely wanted to try it myself. Reading about cooking always makes me want to cook (and eat), you know? So I Baciagalupoed that crust right on up. It’s rising in the kitchen right now and I think it’s going to be great. The consistency of the dough just feels right. Better than usual. All I did, if you want to try it too, was add a tablespoon of honey along with the warm water and olive oil. I’ll let you know how it goes.

At any rate, it got me reflecting — I think I also learned how to fire-roast a bell pepper from another John Irving novel, but I can’t quite remember which. There’s a scene where the main character is roasting a bell pepper over the flame on his gas stove and then peeling off the burnt skin, and then gets distracted, maybe when his son runs out into the street? Or when he realizes his son is missing? Or something with a son? Is that in a John Irving novel? I feel like it is. The sort of tender realism with which he writes about cooking in Last Night in Twisted River really reminded me of the bell pepper scene I think I remember. It might be in A Widow for One Year, I thought, but there isn’t a father-son dynamic in that book, that I recall. It might be in The Fourth Hand, but I think all I really remember from that book is the weird sex stuff. I don’t think it’s in an earlier novel, but it could be. Then it occurred to me that it could even be from Don Delillo’s White Noise.

So, does any of that ring a bell? Help if you can! Google could not help. If you know of anything, I’ll be in the kitchen tossing that pizza dough in the air and thinking fondly of Dominic Baciagalupo.

Dirge Without Music

I intended to post something here this weekend, but after Friday’s events in Connecticut, it seemed silly to do my usual thing here. I didn’t know what to say about Connecticut either, though, so I didn’t say anything at all.

Saturday, my friend Emma shared her thoughts along with this poem by Edna St. Vincent Millay, who happens to be one of my favorite poets. I thought I’d post the poem here as well, since it seems right.

“Dirge Without Music”

I am not resigned to the shutting away of loving hearts in the hard ground.
So it is, and so it will be, for so it has been, time out of mind:
Into the darkness they go, the wise and the lovely. Crowned
With lilies and with laurel they go; but I am not resigned.

Lovers and thinkers, into the earth with you.
Be one with the dull, the indiscriminate dust.
A fragment of what you felt, of what you knew,
A formula, a phrase remains, — but the best is lost.

The answers quick & keen, the honest look, the laughter, the love,
They are gone. They have gone to feed the roses. Elegant and curled
Is the blossom. Fragrant is the blossom. I know. But I do not approve.
More precious was the light in your eyes than all the roses in the world.

Down, down, down into the darkness of the grave
Gently they go, the beautiful, the tender, the kind;
Quietly they go, the intelligent, the witty, the brave.
I know. But I do not approve. And I am not resigned.

— Edna St. Vincent Millay, 1928

Dog Days

I am in complete denial about the fact that summer is winding down. School starts again in just 18 days, and I have a lot of work to do before that happens. I’ve got a new course I’m working on for the fall semester and lots to prepare. But, for now, I am comfortably dwelling in the last dwindling days of summer and I am hanging on with my whole heart.

I’m enjoying hot afternoons on the patio, taking care of my plants and drinking a cold beer from a can (with a foam coozy thing, just because I am a high-class lady). I have been taking long walks around the neighborhood, letting myself get as sweaty as possible. I’ve been making giant pots of coffee for chilling and icing, and huge salads with my home-grown herbs.

Today I went on a short run (PT prescribed!) and then came home and cleaned up my house almost from top to bottom. I still need to dust certain shelves and clean the patio doors, but it’s basically all ship-shape right now. Tell me, is there anything more satisfying than sitting around and enjoying your freshly cleaned home, watching your puppy nap in the sunbeams filtering through the windows? I submit to you that there is not.

[211/366] Sunbeams

I’ve been continuing to read fun things, currently Shadow of Night by Deborah Harkness (the sequel to A Discovery of Witches, which I loved). I’m not that far into the book yet and it’s starting off slowly, but I trust that like the first book in the series, it will get more gripping as it goes on. I’m also marathon-watching a couple of TV shows: catching up with season four of True Blood from last year, and just starting Game of Thrones with season one. Basically, I am fully immersed in weird, nerdy, supernatural fantasy shit. Witches, vampires, and whatever the hell Game of Thrones is — I don’t know, but it’s good.

Side note: So I’m three episodes into Game of Thrones, and I already hate this insufferable little blonde teenaged boy with the Caesar cut. Joffrey. What kind of smug, twattish name is “Joffrey,” anyway? Not only is he terrible, but what is with the haircut? I was complaining about this on twitter last night and I thought I’d bring it up here, too. His hair, in addition to just being unflattering on his big-eared head, doesn’t fit in at all. Most all the other characters have longer, wavier, more natural looking hair styles, but this kid has a purposeful, precision haircut with highlights and what looks to be gel. GEL. IN HIS HAIR. HAIR GEL. I do not get it at all. Where is he getting it done? Is there a Supercuts somewhere in the Seven Kingdoms? Regardless, I like the show, so I’m sure I’ll keep watching and this important question will eventually be resolved.


Do you know what is a nice way to spend a sunny Sunday afternoon in summer? Spend two hours floating in the pool with your friend, then come home, take the dog on a walk/roll around the neighborhood. Cool off with a cold beer on the patio while reading a few chapters of a really great book. Boom! You just had a great afternoon!

Pool Time.[195/366] This is how an injured runner and a paralyzed dachshund take on the neighborhood.Patio photo shoot..Reading material

Speaking of a really great book: I’ve recently started reading The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach and I am in love. Because it’s the Summer of Frugality around these parts, I needed to check it out from the library instead of buy it (but I already love it so much I’ll surely buy it when I can). Except, well, our library hadn’t bought it yet. I put in a request for it and (due perhaps to the awesome power of a faculty ID), they ordered it right away and even delivered it to my campus office. I am also in love with the library a little bit now. Anyway, the novel is fabulous so far. It’s a campus novel, which I always enjoy, and it’s a baseball novel. That’s a walk-off double right there! The characters are fascinating but not unfamiliar, well developed, and likeable. The shifting narrative focalizers keep me turning pages from one chapter to the next, and the whole thing has me longing for the smell of fresh-cut grass and the crack of the bat. Perfect summer reading material. Perfect. I already know I’ll be sad when it’s over.

I’ve taken to reading a few chapters every afternoon on my patio after I check on my herbs and tomatoes. So far all my little plant charges are doing well and I’ve enojyed my own tomatoes, basil, and mint in various recipes. Can you guess what I did with the first of my mint?

[196/366] Mint Julep

A mint julep, obviously. Muddle mint and sugar, add ice, pour bourbon over the top. That’s what I did here, anyway. My friend Dangermoose gave me the following idea on twitter: “Can I share my own sacrelicious mint julep method? 4 oz bourbon, sugar and mint to taste. Shake, strain, serve UP! You can really pack in the mint, the shaking brings it all out, and the straining leaves you less glass salad to contend with.” I believe I’ll try this method next time. I do love a drink served up, and as long as I can still taste all the mint I don’t necessarily need to drink the leaves. Dangermoose added, “Anyway, my julep method is probably a felony in Kentucky but it is the business.” I can’t argue with that. Besides, I don’t live in Kentucky and therefore cannot be arrested for this.

In television news, I am currently re-watching Gilmore Girls, in the middle of season three. (Team Jess!) I’ve watched this show approximately a million times, but it never gets old for me. It’s deeply comforting to me, somehow. I laugh; I cry; I just love it. I suppose it fills some empty space in my mind that, in most other people, gets used to store knowledge of what it is like to have a decent mom. On the other hand, maybe I just love the fast-talking banter and clever library of cultural references and the keenly written emotion.

Generally, things are going fantastically well here. Several months ago, when I went through the most angry-making break-up of all time, I had to stop and make myself a daily checklist of things I could to to take care of myself and make myself happy. I didn’t want to forget to eat my vegetables or floss my teeth or listen to music or read or think of something postitive every day. I actually kept up with that checklist for eight weeks. It worked. When you prioritize your own health and happiness, you are reminding yourself that you are worth the effort and that you deserve to live well and be happy. And when you are living well and being happy, it attracts good things, good opportunities, and good people into your life. That is a promise.

Living is Easy

Good afternoon, friends of the internet. My summer break has well and truly begun, and it’s been fabulous so far. As I write this, I am sitting on my couch in pajamas with a half a cup of now-cold coffee at hand. I’ve spent the morning finishing up a writing project and watching some more of Veronica Mars Season Two. Things are pretty goddamned exciting.

The weather has been delightfully scorching so far and the temperatures are only climbing higher. I am peased as can be to have my afternoons free for lounging at the pool and enjoying that delightful, sun-induced state of absolute sleepiness. I rock the SPF 100 while at the pool, but I confess that lately I’ve been forgetting to put it on before runs and bike rides, which means I am now sporting very fashionable racerback and running-shorts tan lines. This is almost okay, as I’ve been spending most of my time wearing shorts and tank tops anyway. Please don’t be intimidated by how glamorous I am.

Sunday Bike Ride

Speaking of sports, my hip seems to be tolerating two slow interval runs per week and one bike ride of gradually increasing distance. My friend who is getting ready for RAGBRAI next month has been generously allowing me to tag along for short portions of his long weekend rides. Let me tell you, there is almost nothing I love better than that salty crust of dried sweat and sunscreen one gets after a hot, windy bike ride. Except maybe for the cold beer one drinks afterward. Bell’s Oberon is the recovery drink of the pros, is it not? (Please don’t tell me it’s actually Michelob Ultra.)

I am getting used to life without Netflix, Hulu, cable, etc. and have managed to entertain myself nonetheless (imagine that). I’ve been reading a bit — I thoroughly enjoyed Jonathan Safran Foer’s Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close and Jeffrey Eugenides’ The Virgin Suicides. I’ve started but haven’t finished Sara Gruen’s Water for Elephants and Eugenides’ Middlesex, and have been picking my way around in Patricia Highsmith’s The Selected Stories of… and Edna St. Vincent Millay’s Collected Poems.

From the latter, here is one of my all-time favorites:

I, being born a woman and distressed
By all the needs and notions of my kind,
Am urged by your propinquity to find
Your person fair, and feel a certain zest
To bear your body’s weight upon my breast:
So subtly is the fume of life designed,
To clarify the pulse and cloud the mind,
And leave me once again undone, possessed.
Think not for this, however, the poor treason
Of my stout blood against my staggering brain,
I shall remember you with love, or season
My scorn wtih pity, — let me make it plain:
I find this frenzy insufficient reason
For conversation when we meet again.

Any feisty 1920s woman who writes a Petrarchan sonnet about a one-night stand is tops in my book. And there are hundreds more poems in the collection for me to peruse!

Not that all my reading has been so literary: in fact I have taken to Twitter to ask for smutty book recommendations and have followed through with a couple of them so far. So terrible, so titillating. And where would we be without Twitter for such matters? Where, I ask you.

My Cherry Tomato Plant, Miraculously Still Alive.More amazing cherry tomatoes from my plant!

In gardening news, my tomato plant is going gangbusters, I’ve got plans to replace the herbs that died (for dog’s sake, it is still June; I am not giving up this easily), and my little metaphor has quietly taken root. I am happy.

How are you?

Summer Plans

The kids who live in the apartment upstairs are out of school for the summer, which means I am awakened in the morning by their stomps above my bedroom, awakened from my afternoon naps by their stomps above my couch, and annoyed at all other times by Egon’s warnings whenever they are outside in the yard or on the balcony. Itis amazing to me how two skinny little kids under the age of ten, who could not possibly weigh more than 50 lbs each, can make that much noise on the ceiling. You gotta love summer.

In other summertime news, I have one more full week of summer classes followed by a half week and a final exam. That’s all that stands between me and my little summer vacation! I will have all of the month of July to do Whatever I Damned Well Please before the prep for fall semester begins in August. It’s been such a long time since I’ve had any significant time off work that I’m afraid I don’t know what to do with myself.


So far, I have exactly one plan: I am going to see Furthur (Bob Weir and Phil Lesh’s band) in Atlanta in the middle of the month. CW, who loves the Grateful Dead, invited me to go and I am pretty effing excited. It’s been ages since I’ve been to a show like that — in college, there was a lot of Widespread Panic and the Allman Brothers (among others), but I have never actually seen these guys. I missed my chance to see The Dead when Jerry Garcia died my senior year of high school. This won’t be quite the same, of course, but it should be a really great time.

[159/366] Eegs Takes a Rest

As far as other plans, I’ve been thinking a bit about how I’ll spend my time. Although Egon’s vet care is now taken care of (because you people are seriously incredible) (also please see here for videos of him using his amazing new wheels!), I still need to be very frugal due to summer work being less than plentiful this year. That doesn’t mean I can’t make the most of life, though! I think I should follow the lead of Holly and a few other blogging friends and make myself a list of things to do this summer. I’m sure I’d be almost as happy to to while away the hours watching movies on my couch, reading books, sitting on the patio, and swimming in Becky’s pool, but if the summer goes by and that’s all I’ve done, well, I may feel I’ve missed out. Here is a bigger list of things I’d like to do:


  • eat tons of my favorite summer foods (tomatoes, basil, cherries — in particular the tomatoes and basil currently surviving in my container garden)
  • make more amazing drinks with the fresh mint that is currently thriving in my patio garden (dependent on my not killing it)
  • resume a daily walking habit, bringing Eegs along when he’s ready to put more miles on his wheels
  • make lemonade and iced tea
  • read as much fun and literary fiction as I can (Jeffrey Eugenides, Jonathan Safran Foer, David Foster Wallace, more?)
  • read some of the poetry I’ve been piling up for later (Edna St. Vincent Millay, Frank O’Hara, E.E. Cummings)
  • hang out at the pool
  • ride my bike a lot
  • peruse Veganomicon and Clean Food for some summery recpies to get me out of my cooking rut
  • re-watch some favorite old shows (including at least some of: Veronica Mars, Gilmore Girls, Angel, Freaks and Geeks, Friday Night Lights, Lost, Alias, Dollhouse)
  • do some trail running (or hiking, depending on my hip) at the forest ecology preserve
  • carry my DSLR around more often for unexpected photo opportunities
  • spend more time hanging out at people’s homes when we want to share a meal or drink or watch a movie
  • relatedly: trick a friend with a grill into hosting a small cookout
  • take Eegs to the park when he’s ready

Anything I need to add to the list? I feel like I’m forgetting something.




Homebody Weekend Goings-on, Books and Movies

Yesterday was my nine-mile training run, the longest so far in my half marathon plan, and it went exceptionally well. I’m pleased that I’ve been able to meet the longer distances again with no problem and to keep my long-run pace just a smidge ahead of where the McMillan pace calculator says it should be.

After my long run, however, the business hit the fan. I don’t know what it was for sure, but something I’d eaten at happy hour the night before did not wind up agreeing with me. (And I wasn’t alone! We’re blaming the deep-fried pickles.) Luckily the angry backlash didn’t strike during my run, but rather well afterward. Nonetheless, DAMN. I spent the rest of the day lying pathetically in bed. The only thing that sounded appetizing was a real-sugar Mexican Coke, which I happily downed while picking at some various lackluster selections from the Earth Fare deli case.

[273/365] Real CokeWhile it surely is miserable to be stuck at home all day when you’d planned to be doing Other Things (even if said Other Things were merely working at a coffee shop while grading papers and running a couple of errands), it wound up being OK. I am still borrowing W.’s supersized TV with the internet apps built in, so Netflix and Hulu were streaming their way into my living room in glorious high definition. When I didn’t feel like watching, I read a bit on my Kindle. Hooray for technology!

I started Bret Easton Ellis’s Rules of Attraction, which I picked because I wanted a sort of slightly hip, contemporary campus narrative à la The Secret History. And he and Donna Tartt both went to Bennington together, which inspired the college settings in their work, and such, so I thought this seemed like a reasonable thing to reach for. Uh, that is not what this book seems to be. I’m not sure I’m a fan of his prose style at all, but I am going to keep on reading and just see. If it doesn’t work out, I’ll just re-read Donna Tartt for the umpteenth time, you know?

Eegs the InternToday I felt much better so I made my way to the coffee shop and began grading papers in earnest, did some grocery shopping, finished today’s quota of papers at home (Eegs helped out again, as seen above), and I decided to reward myself. Since my gentleman friend is out of town this weekend, I made it the girliest night possible: chick flicks, wine, and a DIY manicure & pedicure. (Fire-engine red and dark grey sparkles, respectively, because I know you are curious).

Movies I have watched since dinner:

1) Love and Other Drugs – Gyllenhaal and Hathaway are both adorable and charming and charismatic in general; the movie is clever and funny and totally predictable. I giggled a bit and got a little misty, too, but I have no need to ever see it again.

2) Charlie St. Cloud – I watched this mainly for the sailboat porn and secondarily for the love-story possibility, but it was so eye-crossingly awful that I spent the entire film texting, browsing the internet, and editing photos while only 40% paying attention. Oh well!

3) A Summer in Genoa – This one is interesting enough to make me want to watch it. It’s sad and compelling and personal. It’s also one of the only times I’ve noticed a hand-held camera in a negative way. Normally I like that style or just don’t notice it, but in this case it was a bit disconcerting — especially as the Netflix thumbnail and description made this seem more like a Hollywood B-movie with slicker production values if not a great story. It’s good — better than what Netflix suggests –, but not what I expected. Also, I prefer to think of Colin Firth as he was in, oh, any movie in the pre-jowl years.

So what’ve you been up to? If you have any 1) hip, contemporary campus narratives; 2) sad/funny young romances; or 3) charming Colin Firth flicks to recommend, please do so! Other media recommendations are also being accepted, though at a lower priority at this time — thank you for your consideration!