I’m Still Here!

When I first started blogging, I was certain I should always post on Sundays.  Sunday seems to be a dead zone for most of the bloggers I read, and I always hate that.  I wanted to be a little different, but even for me, it has now turned into a dead zone.  What can I say, I guess there really is no post on Sundays.  (Yes, the Harry Potter geek in me is loving this.)

I intended to have a long and well thought out post today, but tomorrow morning my family leaves for a week in Rome.  It is a combination fall break/birthday trip and I am really excited.  I hardly felt like we were going for the month we have been planning this, but today, with the dog dropped off at the kennel, tickets in my hand, and my bag packed?  I finally feel like we are going.

I still have a few posts coming this week, but I am busy getting ready today, so I don’t have time to try to fix my no post on Sunday’s issue.  I plan on coming in strong in two weeks (though probably not on Sunday), hopefully with amazing pictures and stories to tell.  Until then, you will have to pick up a book instead of my blog, and follow me on instagram for the quickest access to my Roman Holiday.

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Friday Inspiration

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I found a candle holder wandering through a market last week, and knew it had a place on my desk as a reminder to keep dreaming, keep setting goals, and keep working.

Happy Friday everyone!

50 Books- His Dark Materials Trilogy

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Three more books down, I am stupidly proud of myself today.  I have never thought of reading as an accomplishment before, but checking the books off of a list gives me a weird since of purpose for my reading.  I am not just reading, I am doing self guided learning.

His Dark Materials Trilogy- by Phillip Pullman

The Golden Compass, The Subtle Knife, and The Amber Spyglass

Where did I get the book and how many pages?

I ordered this book online through Amazon.  (I know, boycott Amazon for using negotiation tactics that hurt authors.  I’m firmly in the middle on all of this, and Amazon is so easy.)  I thought I remembered ordering a book set, but ended up with a 933 page monstrosity with all three books in one.  It is convenient to have them all together, unless you actually want to carry it somewhere.

Have I read this before?

No.  I thought I had heard nothing about this series and then I realized there was a movie based on the first book.  I haven’t seen it, but I’m pretty sure I own it.

What did I already know?

Absolutely nothing.  Ok, I knew there was a movie, and I assumed there was a compass, knife and spyglass, but that was it.

What do I think now?

I liked it.

During the reading I learned this had once been banned for religious reasons.  I have to admit, I am against banning anything on religious reasons, just as a matter of principle.  Someone else’s beliefs shouldn’t dictate my actions, or my reading.  I could see where there may have been some religious ire going on; the church of this book was definitely a bad guy, and I could see parallels to large religious organizations.  Author confirmation of the intentional tribute does not help anything.  However, it is a work of fiction.  Yes, fiction can effect our view on the world, but I don’t think it would do the large scale damage to religious institutions that some people may believe it could do.  Churches have been going strong for so long, I think they have a little more staying power than that.

If a person is not offended by the anti-church statements of the book, there  is a lot to like. There is travel between worlds, there is love, there is loss, there is companionship, there is family, there is hatred, there is fear, and there is fighting for what you believe.  There is so much going on, so much about all these different worlds to tell, and so many small details included.  A story like this could be easy to mess up, but when it is done well, it is amazing.

Books like this both  make me want to write fantasy and make me terrified that I could not ever do it.  I’ve worked with outlines to help me keep track of timelines and information; this would likely be an entire wall in my house covered with people, events, and colored strings connecting them all.  It would look less like storyboard, and more like a serial killer tracking wall used to catch the killer by an old school cop with an obsession.  Of course, if it works as well as this does it would be worth it.

I was a little disappointed by a few things towards the end.  Keeping spoilers to a minimum, I liked the way the final battles went on, but there was a bit of a relationship thing that I felt was very abruptly begun and not completely comfortable considering the age of the characters.  It wasn’t bad, just not exactly as I expected.  Eh. It happens.

Should you read this book before you die?

There is a part of me that wants to always agree with the list, but I’m not sure I can.  I think this was a great work of fantasy, and I am glad I read it.  Reading fantasy is a great way to learn about writing in general.  For non-writers, I think reading fantasy is a great escape from reality, that somehow manages to teach about humanity at the same time.  Magic is such a representation of human desires; if you could do anything, what would you do, how would it change things, and of course, should you do it?

All of that said should you read this specific fantasy?  If you can handle fiction with religious fantasy, this is a great example of the genre.  If you are going to spend the entire time complaining about the religious undertones, don’t bother.  There is plenty of great fantasy out there, including other books on this list.  Yes you should read a great fantasy novel (or set of novels) but it should be one you can appreciate, not one that will offend you.  Don’t waste it.

I’m already onto the next book, cruising through Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte.  This will be followed by The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald.

Happy Reading Everyone!

Home Cooking

The weather is definitely turning here in Belgium.  More often than not it rains, and there is a nip in the air. It is now officially boot and sweater weather.  I am partially happy for the excuse to wear the coziest clothing I own, but I have also been hit with a deep feeling of homesickness.

In someways my homesickness is a little strange.  I am not homesick for the home I grew up in, or the places where my family currently resides.  I am not missing the places others would expect.  I am missing Okinawa, the island I called home for eight years.

I wasn’t born in Okinawa, and I know that chances are I will never see it again.  However, eight years is approximately a quarter of my life.  Okinawa is the home my older daughter remembers, the place my youngest was born.  There are so many memories there, how could it not be home?  I miss the friends, the sunshine, the beaches, and of course the food.

Ah, food.  The comfort of my life, and the reason my jeans are occasionally a bit tighter than I would like.  There is so much of life that comes down to food.  I might not be able to bring back my time on the island, but I can try to recreate the food.

There are many restaurants I loved in Okinawa, but by far the family favorite was Coco’s Curry House.  I have had a few different kinds of curry in the past, and I admit a love for Thai green curry which may be greater, but I still love Coco’s.  Over many attempts, trial and error, I have managed to make a curry sauce that is similar enough to satisfy the family, but I cannot recreate the entire meal.  Their chicken cutlets were amazing.  My husband loved the Hirekatsu chicken, and just before we left they had a chicken that was shredded with cabbage, before being coated and cooked.  Seriously, I have never had chicken that was as moist and tender as that cutlet.  It was amazing.

One of the largest tragedies to leave behind I actually gave up a few years before we left.  Naan bread.  My gluten issues are usually not so severe I cannot manage the bit of breading in a chicken cutlet, or the thickening agents in the curry sauce, but actually eating a piece of bread was out of the question unless I was willing to accept the consequences.  But I have never stopped thinking about naan bread.

Coco’s Naan bread is amazing.  It is light and fluffy, just a little crispy, with a flavor that is uniquely amazing.  Granted there may be a little bit of inflation of quality in the memory, but I know for certain it was delicious.  For years I have dreamed of replicating the recipe in a gluten free version, but I have never come close.  It does not stop me from trying.

My most recent attempt involved the use of a paleo version.  I followed the recipe used by My Heart Beets, and cooked the naan as instructed.

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I have to be honest, it wasn’t what I was hoping for.  The naan I remembered was much fluffier, possibly from using yeast and letting it actually rise before cooking.  Not only that, but mine did not look nearly as good as her’s did in the video.  There was no crunch, and when I pulled off a piece it was more like pulling slightly melted mozzarella than pulling bread.  It tasted good, just not like the naan I wanted.  Instead, I stuck a slice of cheese and a slice of ham in the middle, folded it up and called it a grilled flatbread sandwich.  Yum.

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I might use this recipe again, and if I do, I will probably play with it a bit.  But I will definitely spend more time trying to find the naan bread of my dreams.

Busy, Busy

At what point during the day is it acceptable to look at your to do list, scream, and then spend the day binge watching The Lizzie Bennet Diaries instead of accomplishing anything on the list? Is right after waking up too early or should I wait until lunch time to give up?

All right, context.

I am currently sitting six days from my vacation. I’m not sure how this happened since I know when we booked the plane tickets I had six weeks to get ready.  I refuse to believe that was really five weeks ago.  Of course, my refusal to believe it has done nothing to change the calendar, and I am still sitting here, curled in a ball in the corner wondering how I am going to finish everything on time.

I have two weeks worth of homework to do, if I want to avoid doing homework in Rome.  I have a house to prep for vacation, which in my mind involves every thing that could possibly be done to clean every surface of my house before I leave.  I have a baby gift to finish before a dinner tonight (EEEEKK!).  I have a book to finish and and post to write for next week, or have a 50 Books posting day come up empty (not acceptable).  I have a dog to prepare for the kennel, which with my inability to read the dutch on her puppy passport may require a trip to the vet to double check her shots.  My contact prescription is almost out of date, everything is a little fuzzy, and I need an appointment, which could require several hours on the phone.  I have photos to gather for my pottery class this week, in order to show my instructor what I want to make.  I am behind by five chapters and one week on beta reading for another author.  My daughter has been sending me a short story everyday for two weeks, and I haven’t had time to read a single one.  Two classes from graduating, my school has decided to mess up my financial aide.  I have cleaning and organizing I have been meaning to do for months, which somehow, in my stressed out mind, now seems like the best time to get it done.

Yeah, I’ll be in the corner, weeping in the fetal position.

Technically this does not all need to be done today, but it feels like it does.  I can write out all of lists I want, but if I cannot calm my mind enough to get moving on any of them, it will not matter.  I have so much to do, the only logical thing to do is take a nap.

All right, maybe the problem isn’t just being overwhelmed.  Truth?  A lot of my list is not fun.  I don’t like doing one week of homework, let alone rushing through two weeks.  Finishing the baby quilt is boring; the fun part came a month ago when I made the design.  Cleaning is annoying, and the family always comes along and messes things up again.

I want to do something exciting.  I’m not talking about the trip at the end of this busy week, I just mean something amazing right now.  I want to waste the hours away designing things I will make someday.  I want to spend an entire day sitting in front of my computer writing my story.

I don’t want to scrub anything.  Please, don’t make me.

Sigh.  All right.  Back to reality.

50 Books- The War of the Worlds

photo (6) The more of these essential books I read, the more unworthy I feel as a writer.  It is not just the story ideas, or the word selection, or even tone and subtext.  It is everything, all together, creating something greater.  I know, you are guessing I read another one I liked, and you are correct. Time to skip this and get to the good part.

The War of the Worlds by H.G. Wells

Where did I get the book and how many pages?

This is another book from that iPad app I cannot seem to find.  Seriously, just look it up in the app store, it is called Free Books and has a picture of a few cartoony books as the icon.  I’m pretty sure it was free and it has thousands of books that I think must all fall under public domain in the copyright law, but I’m not positive.  Either way, there were 214 pages.

Have I read this book before?

No, I have not read this book.  This is one of the books I thought I might have, simply because I had heard so much about it.  It wasn’t more than a couple pages before I realized I could not have read this book before because I remembered nothing.

What do I already know?

The aliens come from Mars and run around in large three legged machines.  In the 1930s(ish?) there was a radio broadcast of this story that caused panic as listeners did not realize it was just a show. There was recently (ish?) a movie made staring Tom Cruise, but I never saw it.

What do I think now?

Wow.  This is both the beauty of science fiction (which I do love) and not science fiction at all.  This book highlights what is wrong with writing today, why there are less truly good books, and lots that are quick out. Let’s break this down a little.  As a science fiction, this is amazing.  There is aliens, coming to take over the planet.  There is scientific reasoning for actions, such as the quick adaptations of the aliens to any trouble that is encountered.  It discusses the biological makeup of the aliens, why the aliens move the way they do, and gives logical reasoning for everything that at least sounds like it could be scientifically possible.  It doesn’t totally matter if it is not all accurate, because the effort is put in to make it sound good.  I’m honestly not sure what a real scientist would think, but hey, this is science fiction, not science fact a few liberties can be made.  The point is, H.G. Wells did not neglect the science, he brought it out into the forefront of the story. Now, I just told you why it was amazing science fiction.

How am I going to follow that with the telling of how it is horrible science fiction?  Bare with me, please.  The War of the Worlds is about an alien invasion, but it is not told in the way that most modern science fiction is told.  This is not about the epic battle with the aliens, or creating a hero.  This story focuses on the humans, not the aliens.  I would estimate about half of the book or more has no actual martians running amuck in the scene.  When it comes right down to it, this is not about the alien invasion, it is about the human reactions to the aliens.  You hear about the crowds gathering around the pit where they landed.  You hear about the mass exodus from the areas where people are dying.  You hear about the emotional and mental breakdown of the people who can’t quite handle what is happening.  The heroes are not the people fighting the aliens, they are the people who are helping others in a time of need.  This is not a story about humans fighting aliens as one would expect from science fiction.  This is a story about humans that happens to also be about aliens. Books today are all about the special effects.  It is not enough to write a good story, it needs to also be a story that can turn into big screen adaptation and bring in lots of money.  The War of the Worlds was written in 1897, long before movies were a regular and accepted part of life.  It was written to be exactly what it is, not something that might be able to turn into something else.  I know it has been turned into a movie, but in order to do that there had to be some changes to make it visually interesting.

It reminds me of a story I had heard about a book series and author I enjoy.  When writing the first book, the author chose to make a car explode.  When asked about it later, the author was reported to have said, she was hoping to one day be able to to sell it as a movie, and it would sell better if there were a few explosions.  The book was great, the movie was okay (much better if you liked the books I think) but the motivation to make that writing change bothers me.   When the book is written just to be a great book it can be a classic; I’m sure you can guess if this other book is on this list.  (It has not.)

Should you read this book before you die?

Absolutely.  It is short, but incredibly engaging.  Much like Frankenstein, this is a story that has a different perception from those who have not read the book.  Going in you might be thinking ‘science fiction and explosions’ when instead you should be thinking about what makes humans who they are.

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Time to head into a long one, the His Dark Materials trilogy by Philip Pullman.  Since it is three books for the list price of one, it might take just a little bit.  Be prepared to dig in if you are reading along!  Right after this, I will head back to the classics a bit for Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte.

Run It Out

A while back I wrote a post, talking about how I was starting my running over.  I had been fit-ish, but injury and laziness had set me back to the beginning.  I would like to say it went wonderfully, but that would be a lie.

I’m not sure if anyone knows this, but it is hard to start over.  Knowing I had once been much more advanced, and being sent back to the beginners circle sucked.  And running itself can be hard, particularly in the beginning.  I hurt, I was tired, and I felt slightly ridiculous.  I used to run marathons people!  Maybe not a lot, but two does allow me to make that plural, I’m certain of it.  I was a distance runner, slow as I was, and slogging through two miles was suddenly almost impossible.

Maybe it’s ridiculous, but yes, I quit again for a while.  You can judge here, I judge me too.

Last week I decided I needed to get it back.

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My feet look tiny from up here!

While talking with a friend, we were discussing how for some reason we both do great work on Sunday afternoons.  For both of us, it seemed to stem from the same thing; when we worked all week, Sunday was the time we could set aside to catch up on homework for the week before it was due.  She would go to church, then home for homework, I would take my long run for the week, then homework.  It seemed our brains had gotten used to thinking well at that time of the week.

I kept thinking on that later.  Lately it seemed I could only sit and write well on Sundays when I do my homework, but that was not always the case.  When we first moved here and I was not working, I wrote all the time.  Granted, looking back it was not some of my best work, but the words seemed to flow constantly.  Of course then I was running constantly too.

Why it did not occur to me before that my best writing comes after my runs I don’t know.  It is logical.  Exercise wakes up the mind, gets the blood moving, and gives you happy happy feel good chemicals.  (I’m pretty sure that is the scientific term.)  Naturally when you feel that great, even through the soreness and exhaustion, you are more productive.

So, I’m trying again.  I’m only three runs back in, but I already feel better.  Well, not the first time, but in retrospect, three mile run followed by two mile walk is not the best way to start back in.

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Looking real cool with my head torch.

I’d like to think this time it will stick, but I know me. I’ll fall back a little a few times again.  At least for now, I can enjoy the benefits.  My second run in I solved the problems with two stories almost as soon as I left the house.  Silly me, I didn’t realize they should have been the same story, but my running shoes knew.  I’m just glad I set out and let them share with me.

Happy Running everyone, I am out the door!