Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Tasty Tuesday: Mediterranean Stuffed Peppers

To say that I've been feeling uninspired in the kitchen lately would be a huge understatement. If it requires more than 20-30 minutes, more than two pots/pans, and more than a handful of ingredients, I don't feel like making it. (Okay, if I'm being totally honest here, I'll admit that the majority of our meals these last couple of weeks have either been from a restaurant or from the freezer/a box/a jar.)

I wasn't even sure if I'd have anything to post for Tasty Tuesday this week, but then I realized that I still had a couple of recipes I've made over the last few months that I hadn't gotten around to posting yet. And, luckily, these Mediterranean Stuffed Peppers seemed like the perfect end of summer recipe.

Okay, yes ... You have to bake them. However, this meal is light and delicious and relatively healthy, and the vegetables and bright lemon flavor make me think of summer (or spring too, I guess). And, really, if you don't want to go through with the stuffed pepper portion of this recipe, that's okay too. I had extra filling left over, and it was delicious heated up as a warm lunch salad.

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Mediterranean Stuffed Peppers

Adapted from recipes on Smashed Garlic and The Mediterranean Dish.

Ingredient List (Filling):
  • 7 oz. Israeli couscous (This was about half of the package I purchased.)
  • 18-24 grape tomatoes, quartered
  • 1 14.5 oz. can quartered artichokes, roughly chopped
  • 1 14.5 oz. can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
  • 3/4-1 cup spinach, chopped (Fresh or frozen, it doesn't really matter.)

Instructions (Filling):

1.  Cook the Israeli couscous according to the package instructions.

2.  Once the couscous is cooked, add the grape tomatoes, artichokes, chickpeas, and spinach. Stir several times to thoroughly combine.

Ingredient List (Lemon Dill Vinaigrette):
  • 1 lemon
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 tsp dried dill weed
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper

Instructions (Lemon Dill Vinaigrette):

1.  Add the juice of a lemon, olive oil, dill weed, garlic powder, sea salt, and black pepper to a small bowl and whisk together until completely blended.

2.  Once the vinaigrette is well mixed, pour it over the Israeli couscous filling and stir several times to completely coat the filling.

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Ingredient List (Stuffed Peppers):

  • 6 bell peppers (I used a combination of red, yellow, and orange, but any kind of bell pepper is fine.)
  • Crumbled feta cheese for topping

Instructions (Stuffed Peppers):

1.  Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

2.  Cut off the tops of the peppers and remove the cores and any seeds.

3.  Stuff the peppers with the filling. You don't want to fill them to the brim, but stuff them about 3/4 full. Top with crumbled feta cheese.

4.  Place the peppers in an ungreased 9x13 inch pan, snuggling them as closely together as possible. (There will likely still be some space, depending on the size of your peppers, so please make sure you move the pan gently when you place it in the oven!)

5.  Bake the peppers uncovered for 15-20 minutes. (I baked mine for the full 20 minutes.)

Monday, August 29, 2016

The Olympic Book Tag

I didn't really plan to step away from most blog-related things for the last couple of weeks, but, you know, sometimes that happens. I wish I were a better, more consistent blogger, but I'm just not. I write when I feel like it (and when I have the time).

One of the reasons I haven't been working on this stuff as much lately is because I was completely sucked into the Olympics this year. (Obviously they haven't been on for a while now, but, like I said, it was one of the reasons I wasn't blogging. And, also, I'm not talking about the craziness surrounding Lochte and some of the other swimmers right now. I will say that I'm embarrassed that people like that are representing my country ... But this is supposed to be a fun, happy post. So I'll leave it at that.)

Anyway, my obsession with the Olympics led me to discover a new blog. (Well, new to me.) Shannon at It Starts at Midnight came up with this very fun and creative way to get book lovers (like myself and many of the people reading this!) into the spirit of the Olympics: the Olympic Book Tag.

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So, while the actual Olympics are over, I thought it would be fun to give this a shot. If nothing else, it got me back into blogging mode. Plus I got to use Shannon's adorable graphics!  (Seriously, I love these!)

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This book is centered around a school shooting in England, and it sucked me in from the very first page. There's no real mystery here (the gunman is revealed in the second chapter), but it was a very chilling look at the cruelties that both children and adults can be capable of.

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I know everyone doesn't love Chuck Palahniuk, but he remains one of my favorite authors (even if I haven't loved much of his more recent work). Invisible Monsters is one of my all-time favorite books, and, since I haven't read it in years, I'll likely be rereading it at some point in the near future.

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Trying to come up with a choice for this category was harder than I thought it would be. I guess I don't read a lot of books featuring love triangles. I will say, though, that even though I didn't love the way things played out in the end of Wreckage, it was an enjoyable read with a memorable love triangle (or maybe even love square, if you consider the fact that both main characters were married to other people).

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I wouldn't say that I didn't "get" this book, but it's definitely a complete mindfuck. It's also probably one of the most complex books I've ever read. (It took me around 6 months to get through it!)

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As the title implies, most of the events in this novel take place during the summer. If you've never read a Herman Koch novel, trust me when I say that he creates some of the most horrible, despicable characters ... And somehow it works. Summer House with Swimming Pool is no exception: it's filled with characters you'll love to hate.

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Full disclosure: I actually never finished this book. I rarely leave books unfinished, but, for whatever reason, one day I put this down and never picked it up again. (Well, I picked it up to put it back on my bookshelf.) This isn't a bad book, but I do think you have to be in the right mood for it because it's pretty horrific. I still think about some of the scenes to this day! (And, if you're wondering, I do plan to read the entire thing at some point.)

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It was kind of tough to choose just one book for this category because I've read several with really awesome twists. But The Man From Primrose Lane deserved this honor because it was a complete "didn't see that coming" mindfuck (in the best possible way). It's bizarre, but it's so good.

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This was another tough category because several books have made me ugly cry for ridiculous amounts of time, but The Nightingale managed to break my heart multiple times. And the ending? I was a complete wreck.

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I really liked The Silent Wife, but it definitely was not a fast-paced novel! It eventually sucked me in, but it took a while for me to really get invested.

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There are so many books I could have chosen for this category, but I can remember really falling in love with this one. It's been years since I read it (I was probably somewhere in the 10-13 age range), but I still remember being deeply affected by the story. (Don't judge it by the awful cover!) It was unlike anything I'd ever read at that time. I don't know how I'd feel about it if I read it now, but I did ask my mom to keep the copy I have at her house just in case I ever want to revisit the story.

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This book easily could have been my pick for childhood favorite, but it also definitely works well for this category. If you've never read this book, you really really should. It's just so heartbreaking and beautiful.

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Since I usually push myself to finish a book once I've started it, I've struggled through my fair share of "meh" (or even awful) novels. I felt like Grotesque was probably most deserving of this "award" (if you can call it that), though, because I had such high hopes for it and it was such a disappointment.

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I had a really tough time coming up with a book that didn't center around a friendship turning into a romantic relationship. (And, to be honest, Oscar and Eli's friendship dipped into the romance zone at least a few times.) I chose Let the Right One In, though, because the friendship between Oscar and Eli is strong. (This becomes even more apparent by the end of the book.)

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It may be cheating to include a book I haven't read, but I'm currently on the waiting list at the library for this one ... So it's going to count. I loved Megan Abbott's novel The End of Everything, so I'm looking forward to reading this one (especially since it gives readers a look into the world of elite, competitive gymnastics)!

If anyone decides to steal borrow this idea, please just make sure to credit Shannon at It Starts at Midnight. I hope some of you do write a post like this. I'd be interested to see your picks for each category!

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Recently Read: In-Depth Reviews - August 2016 Edition

I was really hoping to get a lot of blog related stuff done this weekend since I didn't have any major plans, but, if I'm being totally honest, laziness took over. Things were particularly busy/exhausting at work last week, so I needed to come home and basically shut my brain off most evenings. And, unfortunately, this has spilled over into the weekend. It happens.

As promised on Tuesday, today I'm sharing more in-depth reviews of the books I've read recently. Thankfully I wrote these reviews as I finished the books ... Otherwise, I probably wouldn't have the motivation to get this up today!

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The Virgin Suicides by Jeffrey Eugenides - 243 pages

Completed on 07/14/2016

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The Virgin Suicides has been on my radar for years, but, for whatever reason, it took choosing it for one of the categories in the Semi-Charmed Summer 2016 Book Challenge to get me to finally pick it up.

I read Middlesex (also by Eugenides) three or four years ago. It's a long novel, but I remember really enjoying it and thinking that Eugenides was an extremely talented writer. At just under 250 pages, The Virgin Suicides is less than half as long as Middlesex, but the story is still powerful, the writing still beautiful.

One of my favorite things about this book is the fact that it's told from an outside perspective. The narrator is (as far as I can remember) never named, but he tells the tragic story of the Lisbon sisters the way he and his friends, all boys from the Lisbon's neighborhood, remember it, attempting to make sense of what happened. This point of view is unique, especially since he speaks for all of the boys: "we" felt this, "we" thought this, etc.

I'll admit that there were times when I wished Eugenides had written the story from the inside. Readers are given a glimpse into Cecilia's mind when the boys manage to snag her journal, but overall the Lisbon girls remain a mystery. There's no question that their home life is stifling, their parents so strict that they're barely given room to breathe ... But I was left wondering what actually pushed each of the girls over the edge. (Especially Cecilia, who dies a year before the rest of her sisters follow suit.)

But, honestly, I think that was the point. By telling the story from this perspective, Eugenides is asking his readers to draw their own conclusions. And, like the narrator and his friends, we're left only with fragments of knowledge regarding the events that ultimately led to the suicides.

As you can probably tell from my 4 star rating, I really enjoyed this book. My only real issue wasn't with the book itself (not really), but with the fact that I've seen the movie several times (I even own it!) and the movie and book are nearly identical.

I feel silly even commenting on the book/movie similarities, since I usually appreciate when a film adaptation stays very true to the book, but this was so similar that I sometimes didn't even feel like finishing the book. I felt like I already knew exactly what would happen, so why bother?

Sometimes I like reading a book after I've seen the movie because I think it gives me added perspective. Most movies can't include everything in a book, so it's nice to get more of the story. I didn't get that here. The movie narration and dialogue is literally word for word in most cases. I could easily visualize each scene from the movie as I was reading the book because it felt like I was reading the screenplay: they were that much alike. (And, for the record, I haven't watched the movie in several years ... So it's not like I rewatched it right before reading the book or anything.)

Like I said, I feel kind of silly even mentioning that, especially since I still managed to appreciate the book ... But it did slow my reading down a lot. (Enough that I definitely noticed it!) I wouldn't say I was really bored, but I didn't look forward to picking it up as much as I probably would have if I'd never seen the movie.

The Virgins by Pamela Erens - 281 pages

Completed on 07/21/2016

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As many of you who are participating in the Semi-Charmed Summer 2016 Book Challenge may have guessed by the similar titles, The Virgin Suicides and The Virgins were my picks for the "Two Books Containing The Same Word In The Title, One Singular And One Plural" category.

Since I chose the word "virgin" to focus on, I guess it shouldn't be too surprising that these two novels had many similarities. Don't get me wrong ... Both books were wonderful and not at all carbon copies of one another. But there definitely a lot of things these books shared.

Both novels were set in the 1970s. Both novels were coming of age stories. Both novels were narrated by an outsider with very little knowledge about the person/people he obsessed over. Both novels were told after the fact: the events in the story have simply been pieced together through memories and conversations with others. Both novels touched on many similar themes, most notably (and probably most obviously) the loss of innocence/childhood. And, finally, both novels were beautifully written.

As I mentioned above, The Virgins is narrated by an outsider. Unlike the narrator in The Virgin Suicides, this narrator is given a name (Bruce Bennett-Jones). Readers are also given quite a bit of insight into Bruce's life, which really helped me understand his obsession with the relationship between Aviva and Seung. And, although he was technically an outsider in this story, he played a vital role in the way some of the events of the novel played out ... So it was interesting to hear things from his perspective. (Though, judging from his character, he wasn't exactly the most reliable narrator.)

The Virgins was an interesting read for me because it reminded me so much of what it was like to be in high school (and even college). Although the book was set at a boarding school in the Northeast (and I definitely didn't go to a school like that!), a lot of things were still very relatable. The buzzing hormones, the general discomfort and confusion when romantic and/or sexual encounters don't exactly go as planned, the need to please your parents while trying to carve out your own place in the world, the desire to discover yourself and what you want out of life, the curiosity that often surrounds inseparable young couples, etc. I loved that Erens tackled all of these elements of youth (and more), and created a beautiful and fascinating story.

I found The Virgins gripping and, ultimately, a little sad. It's a complex emotional rollercoaster of a story that earned a solid 4 star rating from me.

What is Not Yours is Not Yours by Helen Oyeyemi - 325 pages

Completed on 07/24/2016

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I feel like I need to begin this review with this statement: I'm not a huge fan of short stories. I know I've mentioned this on my blog in the past, but I feel like I'm usually not able to really connect with them. I can enjoy and appreciate a well-written short story, but there are very few I'd say I truly love.

That being said, I did enjoy the time I spent with Oyeyemi's short stories. I previously read (and loved!) her novel White is for Witching (my review can be found in this post), so I fully expected to at least appreciate most of the stories found in What is Not Yours is Not Yours.

I considered going through each of the stories and discussing what I liked and didn't like, but I scrapped that idea because it would just lead to a really long and rambling review. No one wants that. (Not that my more in-depth reviews aren't long!) Instead, I'll just talk about the book overall and mention a few of my favorite stories, as well as the reason(s) the other stories didn't quite stack up.

My favorite thing about What is Not Yours is Not Yours was the fact that Oyeyemi cleverly inserted several of her characters into seemingly unrelated stories. I was initially tempted to skip around in the book, reading the stories with titles that intrigued me most first, but I'm really glad I didn't. Even though the stories weren't necessarily related, they were told in a sort of chronological order (since the characters aged as the book went on) and it was kind of nice to see where some of these characters wound up later in life.

Since Oyeyemi chose to reuse certain characters throughout the book, I was a little disappointed that those stories weren't more connected. That being said, I can also understand why she may have chosen to write them in this way. I mean, she was compiling a book of short stories. This isn't a novel. If she had opted to tie several of the stories more tightly together, she may as well have just turned the book into a novel.

As for the stories themselves, they were an interesting bunch. Oyeyemi's writing is lovely and almost poetic, and, judging from what I've read so far, she likes to insert some magical or supernatural elements from time to time. Honestly, it's probably a little odd that I like her so much since magical/supernatural stories aren't really my thing. Somehow, though, her writing works for me. It's odd and it's lovely and it's so different from what I normally read.

But I didn't love all of the stories in this collection. As I mentioned in my Show Us Your Books! summary, my favorites were ""Sorry" Doesn't Sweeten Her Tea," "Is Your Blood As Red As This?," "Presence," and "A Brief History of the Homely Wench Society." If I had to choose a single favorite, it would probably be "Presence." There was one thing in particular about that story that really moved me, almost to the point of tears. I didn't expect to have such a strong emotional reaction to any of these stories, but that one just really got to me. (I'd say more, but I always try to avoid any spoilers. Unfortunately, it's almost impossible to review a short story without giving away spoilers since everything happens pretty quickly and within just a few pages.)

As for the other stories, I wouldn't say I hated them or anything ... They just didn't really grab me. Some of them were a little too much like fairytales. And, while I wouldn't say I dislike fairytales, I just wasn't expecting that type of story in this collection and the stories that read this way felt a little out of place. The other two stories I didn't enjoy as much just ended rather abruptly and felt unfinished somehow.

I almost gave it a 4 star rating because I didn't want my feelings about short stories to influence my rating, but I realized I didn't like some of the stories enough to warrant a higher rating ... So 3 stars it is. Still, this is a very solid short story collection.

Let the Right One In by John Ajvide Lindqvist - 472 pages

Completed on 08/06/2016

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It took what felt like forever for me to finish this book, but make no mistake: it was actually very good. (In case you couldn't tell from my 4 star rating.) It was just long. And, if I'm being completely honest, reading hasn't been very high on my priority list lately. But anyway ... On to the review.

I really loved the movie version of Let the Right One In. I've seen it a few times, but it's been a while since I last watched it. Although it wasn't completely fresh in my mind, I could picture certain scenes very vividly as I was reading. Several scenes were identical (or nearly so), but there were enough differences to keep me interested. (Though I'll admit that one thing that was completely cut out of the movie was just kind of "meh" for me. I liked the direction the movie took a lot more when it came to that. I know I'm being vague since I want to avoid spoilers, but if you're curious, I'd be happy to discuss it via email.)

My favorite thing about this book was the fact that it gave a lot more information about Eli's background and her "friend," Hakan. (If you've seen the movie, Hakan is the older man that lives with her.) While I think the movie does a great job bringing this story to life, there were a few things that really weren't explained very well. (Or maybe I just didn't put them together.) Either way, I found the book to be really helpful in making the story feel more complete.

My one criticism, however, was that Lindqvist has so many storylines going throughout the novel. I generally don't mind when an author follows multiple characters throughout a book, but I got annoyed more than once when he built up the suspense only to cut to a completely different storyline. And even that would have been okay if he'd immediately gone back to the suspenseful moment, but that wasn't always the case. If he cut away from that moment for too long, it kind of lost its ability to thrill me. And that was a little disappointing.

Overall, though, I enjoyed Let the Right One In. I read another of Lindqvist's books, Handling the Undead, a few years ago. After reading two of his novels, I've realized that one of the main reasons I plan to keep reading his work is because he does a great job blending horror with heart. He creates characters you can care about and somehow managed to make me feel sympathetic toward even some of the most despicable characters. If that's not great writing, I don't know what is.

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

From the Bookshelf: Recently Read - August 2016 Edition

Today is one of my favorite days in blogland: the Show Us Your Books! link-up with Steph and Jana!

The good news is that I don't have any duds to review this time around. The bad news is that I really haven't been prioritizing my reading at all lately so I've been reading a lot less. (And this kind of sucks for me since I'm currently participating in two reading challenges. Hopefully I can get it together and finish both of them!)

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The Virgin Suicides by Jeffrey Eugenides - 243 pages - 4 stars

The Lisbon sisters, beautiful and mysterious, each commit suicide over the course of a year. Years later, a group of neighborhood boys who obsessively watched from the outside continue to try to put the pieces together to find the answers they so desperately seek.

Jeffrey Eugenides is, without a doubt, a very talented writer. With The Virgin Suicides, he manages to create a haunting coming of age story that sticks with you long after the final page.

While I enjoyed reading this, I'll be completely honest: if you've seen the film adaptation, you can probably skip the book. This isn't one of those cases in which you're given additional insight into the characters' motivations. The movie is almost identical to the book: word for word, scene by scene. This isn't necessarily a bad thing (in fact, the movie is one of my favorites), but I never felt overly inspired to pick up the book because I knew exactly what was going to happen.

The Virgins by Pamela Erens - 281 pages - 4 stars

Aviva and Seung have the kind of intense relationship many teenagers dream about, inspiring jealousy in many of their classmates at their elite East Coast boarding school. One classmate in particular, Bruce Bennett-Jones, is obsessed with the pair (Aviva especially). Told from Bruce's point of view, The Virgins is a blend of memories and reimaginings of the year at Auburn Academy in which Aviva and Seung were the most fascinating couple on campus.

I really appreciated that this wasn't just a typical "rich kids at boarding school hooking up" kind of novel. The characters are well developed and feel very real, despite the fact that the narrator really doesn't know Aviva and Seung well at all.

Pamela Erens did an amazing job bringing together many complex elements of youth to create a gripping and intricate novel. The writing is gorgeous, and the story is one I won't soon forget.

What is Not Yours is Not Yours by Helen Oyeyemi - 325 pages - 3 stars

In this collection of short stories, Helen Oyeyemi adds her own unique and surreal spin on the idea of keys (both literal and metaphorical).

I've mentioned before that I'm not a huge fan of short stories. This book was on my "To Read" list because I already knew I loved Oyeyemi's writing style, but I doubt it would have shot to the top of my list if it weren't for the Semi-Charmed Summer 2016 Book Challenge.

That being said, I enjoyed many of the stories included in What is Not Yours is Not Yours. My favorites were ""Sorry" Doesn't Sweeten Her Tea," "Is Your Blood As Red As This?," "Presence," and "A Brief History of the Homely Wench Society." That's about half (4 out of 9), and the others weren't awful ... I just didn't like them as much.

As someone who doesn't really love short stories or magical/supernatural stories, it's surprising that I liked this book as much as I did. I don't think Oyeyemi's style would work for everyone, but there's a lovely, lyrical quality to her storytelling that keeps me coming back for more.

Let the Right One In by John Ajvide Lindqvist - 472 pages - 4 stars

Bullied by his classmates and mostly friendless, 12-year-old Oskar leads a lonely life filled with thoughts of revenge. When he meets Eli, the strange new girl living next door, things begin to change for him.

Let the Right One In is a fantastic movie (one of my favorites, in fact!), and I'm happy to report that the book was fantastic as well.

Going in, I was really hoping that the book would explain a few things that weren't completely clear to me in the movie, and thankfully it delivered! This book is nearly 500 pages long, so there was obviously no way they could add every single detail into the movie without making it ridiculously long. The things I wondered about most were answered, so that alone was enough to make the book a satisfying read.

It's not a "perfect" book by any means, but it's definitely my kind of vampire story. And, while it's often dark and disturbing, it's also got heart: Linqdvist managed to create characters I actually cared about, despite the fact that most of them were unlikable.

As always, I'll be posting my more in-depth reviews on Sunday. I just wanted to give a quick overview of my thoughts on each book for the link-up.

Monday, August 8, 2016

32 Random Facts About Me

Today I officially become another year older. To celebrate turning 32, I've decided to share 32 random facts about myself.

I love it when other bloggers share things like this because I always feel like I learn something new about them (even if I've been following them for a long time and/or chat with them via email fairly regularly). Hopefully you'll learn something new about me as well!

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1. I was born in West Virginia. I moved around the state a bit, but I lived there until a month before my 24th birthday.

2. I have lived in 3 states: West Virginia, Wisconsin, and Nebraska.

3. I don't have an accent. This surprises most people since my family members (and most people who grew up in my area) have one, but I don't. If you're wondering how this is possible, I started working on getting rid of it at the tender age of 8. 

4. And if you're wondering why an 8-year-old would be working on something like that, I had lofty dreams of becoming an actress and worried it would be much more difficult to get certain roles if I had an accent. (For the record, I'd totally still quit my day job and become an actress if the opportunity ever presented itself. I've always really loved performing even though I'd always get ridiculously nervous right before going onstage. Once I was out there, I loved every second.)

5. My other dream jobs include author, musician, and FBI agent. Hey, I said "dream" jobs ... They don't necessarily have to be realistic!

6. I have two birthmarks. One is on my right thigh, and one is in my hair. (Yes, really.) Since I dye my hair, you can no longer see the super light blonde chunk that ran through the left side of my hair (right around my temple), but you can still see it in my left eyebrow and left eyelashes if I'm not wearing makeup. There's just a small part of my left eyebrow that is light blonde, but all of my left eyelashes are light blonde. My right eyelashes are all black. This is why my "bare minimum" makeup routine includes brow pencil and mascara. You can (hopefully) see it in the picture below. And now you know what I look like with absolutely no makeup on (trust me, I was a little nervous about posting this picture!):

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7. I wore braces for 3 years in middle school. I still don't think my teeth are perfect, but they're so much better than they were when I was a little kid!

8. Speaking of teeth, I have never had a cavity. 

9. And, while I'm telling you random things about my health/body, my eyesight is horrible. I can't really see anything other than blurry shapes if I don't have my contacts in (or glasses on). Even with contacts/glasses, my vision isn't 20/20. Oh, and I also have astigmatism, which means I have to wear toric contact lenses. 

10. I would never consider myself a picky eater, but there are a lot of foods I don't like (including many that most people love). Some things I hate include: mushrooms, melons of any kind (including watermelon), cucumbers, peaches, cinnamon rolls, black olives, and yogurt.

11. I am, however, really picky when it comes to cheese. I will absolutely not eat Kraft singles. I will also not eat cheese on sandwiches or burgers unless it's "fancy" cheese, mixed with some other flavor (like the beer cheese we made for our beer cheese burgers shown below), and either completely melted or made into some kind of sauce. And, in general, I won't eat a piece of cheese by itself unless it's "fancy" (and even then I need to combine it with crackers or meat). 

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12. I will say, though, that I used to only order pizza without cheese (or pick it off if I couldn't convince the people I was with to order cheeseless pizza), so I've come a long way.

13. Most foods I don't like have, in my opinion, a horrible, disgusting, sickening smell. I will literally hold my breath for as long as possible when walking through a mall food court with a Cinnabon. That probably sounds extreme, but the smell makes my stomach churn. Yuck.

14. Speaking of food, I didn't really attempt to learn how to cook until I was 24. I'd made a few things with my mom in the past, but I'd never tried cooking on my own until then. Even at that point, I stuck with really simple 4-6 ingredient dishes. I didn't cook from scratch until at least a year or two after that. (And, if you're wondering, I lived on my own before that. I just lived on pasta and jarred sauce, cans of soup, and frozen meals for far too long.)

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15. I've been in 3 serious romantic relationships. All of them involved, at some point, long distance dating.

16. I had a "man of honor" instead of a "maid/matron of honor" at my wedding because my best friend is a guy.

 photo KristenandKevinNovember2013Wedding_zpsgy3t5mis.jpg

17. I have only owned 2 cars in my entire life. My grandparents very generously purchased a brand new car for me the summer before my senior year of high school. I drove it for almost 11 years, then bought the car I have now. I'm planning to buy my third car sometime in the next couple of years or so. (I've already started the research process!)

18. I love music, and I love seeing my favorite musicians live. The farthest I've traveled to attend a concert was Montreal, Canada for Alexisonfire in December 2010. Totally worth it.

 photo AlexisonfireShow2010_zps7i2jynwv.jpg

19. I own (and regularly wear) a lot of concert/band t-shirts. I haven't counted lately, but a good estimate is around 30-40. And I'm always adding to my collection ... I just bought 2 more (one at Garbage and one at Chris Cornell).

20. I'm terrified of fire. And here's a potentially embarrassing confession: I've never attempted to light a match. I'm too scared. (I do, however, love our gas fireplace since it only requires the flip of a switch and the fire is safely behind glass.)

21. My other weird/potentially embarrassing fears include bugs of any kind (yes, even "harmless" bugs like flies or ants), pregnancy/childbirth (maybe not that weird, but probably at least a little), chainsaws (the sound more than anything), and clowns (let's be honest here, they are creepy as fuck).

22. I don't have any tattoos. I have 3 specific tattoos I would eventually like to get, but I've never been moved to make an appointment or anything. (Not surprisingly, all 3 are music related.) I think I'm just afraid I'll hate them once I get them. Honestly, I probably shouldn't be too worried ... At least one of those tattoos has been on my mind for almost 11 years now, and the other two for at least 7-8 years. 

23. I've had my tongue pierced since I was 19. Sometimes I feel like I'm too "old" to still have it, but it's never been an issue at work and I still like it ... So why not? (And yes, I'm posting a picture of myself sticking out my tongue to illustrate. Classy, I know.)

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24. My favorite seasons are fall and winter. I hate driving in snow/ice, but I love fall/winter clothing, seasonal menu items, sitting in front of the fireplace with a good book, holidays, the beautiful colors of the leaves when they start to change ... The list goes on and on.

25. I'm currently obsessed with Holland Lops and Bedlington Terriers. (If you're not sure what those are, I've provided some pictures below.) I've never owned a rabbit before, but Eric has. Our apartment complex doesn't allow pets, but when we eventually buy a house, I would love to get a couple of Holland Lops and a Bedlington Terrier. I'll just have to make sure we introduce them to each other early on to prevent any mishaps (and avoid leaving them alone together because I wouldn't trust the dog that much!).
 photo HollandLopandBedlingtonTerrier_zpsduwrqgzu.jpg
26. I have a hard time concentrating on TV shows and often lose interest halfway through a season. That being said, there are some shows that I will happily watch from beginning to end over and over. Some of the shows I regularly rewatch are: Gilmore Girls, Pretty Little Liars, Dexter, Sex and the City, and Seinfeld

27. I really like foreign films with English subtitles. Dubbed movies are terrible, though. I just can't deal with that shit. 

28. I didn't get a library card in Omaha until last year (!). I had this crazy idea in my head that they couldn't possibly have very many books available that I'd want to read. LOL. I've increased my reading a lot since then, and I can honestly say that there have been very few books they haven't had (or weren't willing to purchase). 

29. Also new to me in 2015: pedicures. I have no idea why I'd never gotten one before, but now I get them regularly. (I even posted a picture on Instagram to commemorate my first pedicure. You can see that picture below.)

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30. I set a minimum of 7 alarms every weeknight. Yes, 7. I have trouble getting to sleep, but once I'm out, I'm out. I sometimes turn my alarms off in my sleep or just don't hear them, so I actually need to do this ... Otherwise I'd probably never get up in time for work. If Eric has a day off or is out of town, I will set between 8-10 alarms. 

31. I love traveling, but I always get really anxious about missing my flight connections. (It's not even like it hasn't happened before. Everything always works out in the end, but I can't seem to control those feelings!) And when I say anxious, I don't mean just a little nervous ... No, I mean heart racing, sick to my stomach (I usually can't even eat or drink anything before or during my first flight unless I have a really long layover), mind racing with all that could possibly go wrong anxious. It's ridiculous. Once I'm on my final flight, though, I'm completely calm.

32. I still haven't told many people in real life about this blog. I think I'm pretty open about most things (both on the blog and in real life), but for some reason I just can't bring myself to bring it up. Sometimes I just feel awkward trying to work it into a conversation. Sometimes, though, people will be talking about a blog post they saw or something similar and I still say nothing. I don't really know why I don't, but I don't. And, to be perfectly honest, it would probably be pretty boring to most of them anyway ... I mean, they probably already know at least 90% of the stuff I share here. Maybe I'll start sharing it a little more one day, but for now I like to keep it separate from the rest of my life.

I know this was a long post, so thanks for reading! I still can't believe I actually came up with 32 things to share! I'm sure some of you knew at least a few of these things already, but did anything surprise you?

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Currently I'm ...

I shared some random life update things in my post on Monday, and considered just using that for the link-up today with Kristen and Gretchen ... But then I decided not to. I just felt like writing another post, I guess. (Plus I have a not so great update, so there's that.)

What's New With You

Currently I'm:

Reading: Let the Right One In by John Ajvide Lindqvist ... Still. I started this book on July 24th, and it feels like I've been reading it forever. It's not bad or anything, but it's pretty long (almost 500 pages). I also haven't had as much time for reading lately (and sometimes haven't even felt like reading), so there's that. I should at least finish it before the next Show Us Your Books! link-up. I hope.

Listening To: A lot of Chris Cornell. I probably spent the entire week before the concert listening to everything Chris Cornell, and that really hasn't changed since the show. I loved that he played songs from every part of his career (as well as some awesome covers of Led Zeppelin, Prince, and even Michael Jackson songs!). I'm posting a couple more songs than usual in this post because I couldn't narrow it down (and because I wanted to represent all of his projects). #sorrynotsorry

Wishing: Things were a little different right now. I think I got a little overly excited about my mom's visit, and now I wish I hadn't posted about it on Monday. It's nothing too serious (she's thankfully not in the hospital or anything!), but she's had a very bad reaction to some new medication ... And she's now rescheduling her visit. It's not a huge deal since obviously I want her to get better (and no one should have to travel when they feel like absolute shit), but it sucks. We were both looking forward to seeing each other, and now we'll have to wait a little longer.

Spending: More than usual, but that's (mostly) okay. I love saving money, but I also love spending it (as long as I'm spending it on fun things!). As I mentioned on Monday, my birthday is this month. I don't want to overspend, but I've decided to adopt an "it's okay to treat myself a little" attitude this month. I'm not going to buy a bunch of really expensive stuff or buy every single thing I see that I want, but I'd like to get at least a few fun things for myself.

Trying: To get a little healthier before Eric and I head in for our annual health screen on the 27th. If we get a decent score (I can't remember the minimum, but I think it might be 85/100), we get a discount on our health insurance through his employer. Last year I got 100/100, which was completely amazing. I doubt I'll do that well this year. I've been exercising pretty regularly, but I've also been eating like shit 90% of the time. I've been slowly trying to cut down my portions, but it's never easy to do that. I'm hungry and I want lots of food, dammit!

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Thinking: A lot about "old times." I know I said this on Monday, but I always get really nostalgic around my birthday. In honor of this, here's a picture of me with my best friend, Kevin, during Christmas break our senior year of college (December 2005):

 photo KristenandKevinDecember2005_zpsjnpm4ah8.jpg

This was right before I started dying my hair black. I dyed it darker brown as sort of a "trial run" before going black, so it's still darker than my natural color ... But definitely not as dark as all of my more recent pictures! It was also super short back then (probably the shortest it's ever been).

Craving: Potato salad. I posted these Mustard Roasted Potatoes last week, and I mentioned that the mustard/potato combination kind of reminded me of potato salad. I told a couple of people at work that I was craving potato salad, and they were both nice enough to bring some in for our Friday treats two weeks in a row! I didn't get great pictures, but here was my very full plate a couple of weeks ago:

 photo PotatoSaladPlate_zps9f2ra8jk.jpg

And, yes, I ate every bite.

 That I won a $25 Amazon gift card from Erin and Dani's Read My Books challenge! This was my first time winning anything in a blogger challenge, and it completely made my week when they told me I was one of the winners!

Planning: Our anniversary trip ... Sort of. We keep throwing new ideas out there, checking prices, etc., but nothing has actually been booked. It's crazy. I mean, November is coming up soon, and we still haven't figured out exactly what we want to do or what our trip budget should be. As you may remember from my last "currently" post, I've recently dealt with some pretty expensive car repairs, so that's why we're not sure how much we actually want to spend on a vacation this year. Regardless, I know we both want (and probably need) to get away and do something fun ... So we need to figure that out pretty soon.