general life update

As I’ve been neglectful…

As I mentioned in this post, David and I moved to Idaho in June for David to start a cool new job. He is doing really well as a data analyst at a FinTech firm and learning lots. I started work as a clinician at an agency serving survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault and abuse in October. (Then I got my LPC — my Licensed Professional Counselor license — in December, which was exciting because I thought the paperwork would take longer.)

We’re very fond of our small apartment on the edge of downtown, and we both walk to work every day. We can walk to restaurants, movies, bars, and cute shops as well.

The running is probably the best part of life here (for me). We live close to a trailhead that opens up to miles and miles of sandy and hilly trails. In October, after a summer clambering all over the foothills, I got a personal record in a local half-marathon.

Our lives are pretty routine these days : work, running, church, and lying around watching Doctor Who while eating cookies. The usual. We’re planning a wee trip in June — more on that once it’s a bit more solid — and pondering our next move. But in the meantime we’re staying cozy.

a pond as seen from the trails near our apartment


We were surprised to discover that our flight is the first international flight out of Stewart Airport! When we arrived, there were news crews and cameras all over. We were greeted at the door and given souvenir sunglasses. David, my mother, and I watched as a press conference was held, complete with ribbon-cutting ceremony and free cupcakes for all. Mom says this is an auspicious way to begin our trip. It was certainly a lot of fun! We’re having a bite to eat at the one little café here. Turns out it is the first day this café is open. Employees keep coming to ask if our meal is good and offer us ketchup packets and whatnot! 🙂 Fewer than two hours until we board our flight! 


baby’s first french macarons

I often enjoy a baking project on a weekend afternoon. Last Saturday evening, I had a friend over and she baked cookies while I provided feedback and guidance (in January, she taught me some weightlifting, and the agreement was that in exchange I would teach her some baking tips). It was a fun evening and left me in a baking mood. So the next day I decided that after church, I would swing by the craft store to get the correct decorating tip for making French macarons. I’m not particularly enamored of them (although they are tasty, and beautiful) nor have I ever made them before…but they seemed like a challenging pastry to learn to make, and what better day to start my learning process than a sunny, warm, April Sunday?

After gathering the ingredients that I didn’t have lying around (almond flour and a #1A baking tip), I consulted about a dozen blogs for advice before beginning my macaron process. I used this recipe for the macarons but I have written out the steps I took, adding in the tips I learned from reading and from experience, below. This was only a first batch so mine were a bit uneven, but I am pretty excited to keep perfecting my skills and wanted to share!

Some initial tips : this recipe takes time, largely due to letting the egg whites come to room temperature and also letting the macarons “rest” before they go in the oven. Don’t start baking them after dinner unless you want to be up late. I also read that they don’t do well when there is a lot of moisture in the air, so don’t try them on a humid or rainy day (aka, where I live, don’t try them during summer at all). I read the recipe that I used, and the tips, about six times — and then I wrote my plan out by hand. I know that may sound like a lot of work, but it was worth it.

  1. Separate three eggs. Set the egg whites in a bowl under a dishtowel on the counter to come to room temperature. This took about two and a half hours in my case — I checked the temperature with an instant-read thermometer. (Room temperature should be around 70 degrees Fahrenheit.) While you wait, make the filling. I made this super-easy chocolate ganache.
  2. Meanwhile, sift together one cup of fine-ground almond flour with two cups of confectioner’s sugar. Discard any almond bits that don’t make it through the sifter.
  3. Once the egg whites are at room temperature, beat them in a stand mixer with the whisk attachment along with 1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar and a pinch of salt, on high speed (I used level six) until foamy. (This happened quickly.)
  4. While the mixer is still running, slowly pour in 1/4 cup of granulated sugar. Stop a few times to carefully scrape the sides of the mixing bowl.
  5. When the mixture reaches soft peaks, add one teaspoon of vanilla and desired food coloring.*
  6. Continue whipping until the mixture forms stiff peaks, occasionally pausing mixer to scrape sides (remember, you are trying to trap air in the mixture, so scrape sides very gently).
  7. Gently pour confectioner’s sugar-almond flour mixture over the whipped whites. (I removed the bowl from the stand mixer first.) Fold in mixture. (There are lots of online guides to folding. What I did was, using a rubber spatula, basically a gentle scrape down one side of the bowl, carefully guiding the spatula across the bowl, and then lifting out and twisting my hand so that it rotated the spatula which then “folded” the batter down into itself. It took me about forty-one folds until it appeared to be well combined — I’ve read “no more than fifty” lest you over-fold it and deflate the batter.)
  8. Carefully transfer the batter to a confectioner bag. (I used a 16″ disposable bag with a #1A tip. I forgot that my fastener for tips wouldn’t fit a #1A so David taped it to the bag and that worked fine.)
  9. Pipe 1″ rounds onto parchment-paper** lined baking sheets, slightly more than 1″ apart.
  10. Tap the pans on the countertop, hard, four to five times to release air bubbles.
  11. Let the macarons sit 20 – 30 minutes at room temperature, until they form a skin and do not stick to your finger when gently touched.
  12. Bake 18 – 22 minutes in center of oven. Rotate midway through, and switch sheets if you have two in at once (I just did one sheet at a time). ***
  13. Cool completely on a rack before creating sandwiches with your filling!


* I have read that liquid food coloring (as opposed to gel) can harm the structure of the macaron by introducing too much liquid to the batter. To avoid this, I dropped four drops of food coloring into the teaspoon measure before adding the vanilla, and then filled the vanilla to the top. This way, I didn’t add any extra liquid (just a teeny bit less vanilla).

** PARCHMENT PAPER. Not silpat. I tried both. On silpat, my macarons needed to be removed via a metal spatula. On parchment paper, they skated around like happy children on a frozen pond.

*** How do you know when macarons are done? THE WOBBLE TEST. Place your finger gently atop a macaron in the oven and if it “wobbles” on its foot it is not yet done.



the wide-open future

David has lived in Indiana for six years now, and I’ve been here with him for almost four. In that time we’ve found an apartment we love, a church community that is our heart in Indiana, and (in my case) a fantastic job with amazing coworkers. We’ve also made some great friends and had wonderful experiences — I mean, the majority of our relationship has taken place here in Indiana. It is pretty weird to think about leaving, even though we’ve known all along that we would.

And now, we are preparing for our next adventure. David will finish his teaching responsibilities in May. And in June, I will leave my (beloved) job and we will drive all of our possessions east to my mother’s house, where they will live in her basement until our next solid plan comes into existence.

In the meantime…we are traveling Europe for nine weeks from June until August!


We are so incredibly fortunate to have this opportunity. We have funds specifically set aside for traveling purposes from David’s family, and my family has a small house in a teeny town in Italy. We also have various contacts in different parts of Europe. There are even some opportunities for David to meet with some scholars who do work related to his dissertation work at Cambridge in England. We have a wide-open summer ahead of us with exciting travel but also many lazy days of reading (and in David’s case, dissertation-writing) in the little house in Italy. We are going to be visiting :
– The U.K.
– Italy (of course)
– Sweden
– Denmark
– Germany
– The Netherlands
– Belgium
– Switzerland

& possibly France, too, who knows? I’m so excited (and nervous), but determined that even though it is scary, we will not miss this amazing opportunity! We’re trying to travel carry-on only, as lightly as possible, and hoping to fill ourselves up with memories that will last a lifetime.


We will be using this blog to update as we plan our trip and as we are traveling (although I don’t know how consistently we will have internet access — but I intend to write blog posts while I am on the road and then upload whenever I can!). We still have 2 months living in the sweet city of Bloomington and spending time with our friends and church community here before we leave, and we’re working to balance our excitement and need to plan with the desire to live in the moment and enjoy our home here before we leave. 🙂

an overnight train

One of the most beautiful weekends of my entire life was in the spring of 2011. I was studying abroad in Germany and had met two amazing people — one of whom is my husband, David — and another my very dear friend, Jenny. Jenny and I went to Amsterdam for a weekend, taking overnight trains there are back. The journey there was beautiful. I slept in a tiny bunk on the train with my small backpack in the bed with me. I woke at 2 in the morning and watched the lights of Paris, the Eifel Tower, out the small window. (You were meant to sleep with your head away from the window, but I wanted to be able to peek in case I awoke, and I’m glad I did.) As we were rolling into the Netherlands, I was awake and reading — finishing The Diary of Anne Frank which I had somehow never read before and wanted to read before I visited the place where she had hidden. I lay flat in the bunk and read silently, every so often glancing at the glowing beauty of the green fields out the small window. Tears poured down my face as I finished the diary, trying to cry quietly to not wake the others in my compartment.

That weekend, Jenny and I saw so much of the beautiful city of Amsterdam. We had a walking tour, a ride on the canals, and fruity liqueurs at a tiny bar called Wynand Fockink. We got lost one afternoon looking for the Anne Frank House & Museum, and got directions (and a free map) from a friendly doorman at an apartment (the people of Amsterdam are incredibly welcoming and kind). The museum was incredible. It was heartbreaking and astonishingly moving.

Afterwards, we came outside and I sat down on the curb and wept.

In the United States many people read The Diary of Anne Frank earlier in their lives than I did. I was twenty-one when I read it, lying on that little train bunk. But many people in the US read it in middle or high school. They are taught about the Holocaust with the sweet, intelligent, and entirely familiar voice of Anne Frank. They cry, like I did, and say, never again and if I were alive then, I would have…

What? What would you have done?

Now is the time to decide, and I don’t know what to do. I tried to call my senators’ offices but of course it’s a Saturday. I tried to focus on things I can do right now (like cleaning my little apartment) but I can’t stop crying. I’ve donated again to the White Helmets, read articles, started brainstorming signs for the protest tomorrow. But what is any of this doing for anyone?

We had the opportunity to welcome refugees and we have lost it. Lives being lost because of the United States government is a constant fact, but this is another level. There are young girls, brilliant and beautiful as Anne Frank, who are being denied entry because of this racist, Islamaphobic order. There are families that were set to come into the US, that had finally found a chance of true survival, that have been turned away at the last minute. And we have had the nerve to say “never again.”


“The question is very understandable, but no one has found a satisfactory answer to it so far. Yes, why do they make still more gigantic planes, still heavier bombs and, at the same time, prefabricated houses for reconstruction? Why should millions be spent daily on the war and yet there’s not a penny available for medical services, artists, or for poor people?

Why do some people have to starve, while there are surpluses rotting in other parts of the world? Oh, why are people so crazy?” – Anne Frank


a quiet evening

Today, I went to work early (7 am) to cover for a colleague while she took time off for Thanksgiving. I had a very busy workday — calls coming in, walk-in visitors needing to meet, updating files, meeting with clients. But the benefit of going in early was that I was done at 3 (well, 3:30…I almost never leave on time). David and I went to the library so I could check out a few fun novels, and I came home and have done almost nothing but read and prepare dinner (a simple roast chicken) for the past four hours. It has been glorious. The rain has been pouring down all day, and for the past hour as I’ve sipped a mug of peach tea, the only sounds have been the heavy rain, the sizzling of the chicken in the oven, and the gentle sounds of the keyboard keys as David practices a piano piece with his headphones on. In just a few minutes we’ll light the candle on our solstice/advent wreath and read a poem, and then sit down to enjoy dinner together. I love these quiet evenings.

twenty six point two miles

One week ago I ran my first marathon and it was an amazing experience! I have been training for this since late June. I have been a runner since I joined my school’s cross-country team in middle school, and have always had the idea that I’d love to run a marathon someday. However, I have had periods of not running on and off in the past several years, and it seemed like it would never happen. In October 2014, I flew out to Oregon for a whirlwind weekend to surprise one of my oldest and dearest friends, Ruth, at the halfway point of her first marathon. Ruth, who is in remission from lymphoma, was raising money for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. I wanted to run a marathon next for the same cause — but I didn’t know how to approach that goal, as I hadn’t been running for at least a year.

Cheering for Ruth 

The only way to train for a marathon was slow and steady. I decided to create a series of smaller goals to build up to it, starting with a 5K, which I would tackle after I was done with wedding craziness (I got married only a couple of months after Ruth’s marathon).

In the spring of 2015, I did a Couch to 5K program that culminated in running the “Run Through the Jungle” 5K. It went through a big cat sanctuary — so I got to run past tigers and lions (oh, my!).

Run Through the Jungle 5K

I spent the summer after that 5K training for my first half marathon, which was the same event that I ran for the full marathon. The half was so exciting, and I loved training for it too. The following winter I was doing a lot of dog-running for David’s side hustle, and then began running again in earnest to train for the Hoosier Half-Marathon down here in Bloomington.

Monumental Half Marathon

This past summer I have learned so much about myself, my body, and running as I have trained for the full marathon. I joined Team in Training just like Ruth, but there isn’t a chapter in my town so I did all the training solo. I relied on books, websites, and my sister-in-law Mary and friend Maggie for most of my marathon-training information. David was (as always) hugely supportive, and my mom and friends texted and called with encouragement and questions throughout the training process.

Finally it was the marathon weekend! I took Friday off of work, and Friday morning as I packed, my legs hurt like crazy and my hands were shaking. I was so anxious. My friend Nia texted with me and tried to calm me down, and finally David was back from his classes and we headed up to get my mom from the airport. It started to feel fun once we were up in Indy and my mom had arrived. We went to the expo and got my race packet and met the Team in Training coordinator, who presented me with a bag of goodies as a prize for raising the most money (I hadn’t realized I had done that!).

Posing at the expo

When we arrived at dinner, LINDSEY was there to surprise me! It was so incredibly exciting. After that we all hung out in the hotel watching funny videos online, talking, and preparing for the next day. I slept pretty well that night, although after waking up at 4 AM, I was pretty much done for the night. In the morning I met the rest of the Team in Training people (including the coaches), and lined up in the dark with thousands of other runners.

I wrote out a six page account of the marathon, but I won’t ask anyone to read that. Instead, here are some highlights:

  • I stopped to pee only once — at mile 1.5. It was slightly ridiculous but I’m glad I did because I didn’t have to stop again throughout the whole race!
  • Ruth surprised me at mile ten (ish) and it was the BEST THING EVER.


  • Not only did Ruth surprise me, but there was a never-ending rotation of exciting new signs because my AMAZING friends had sent signs with Ruth! After the marathon, Ruth shared photos of my friends holding their signs back in Portland.


  • I had a very dramatic experience at mile 15, where I pulled a muscle in my shoulder (stupidly, trying to hold my phone with my arm when I got it out to listen to music) and nearly panicked. But I am quite proud that I managed to use breathing, self-talk, and stretching to calm down and loosen the muscle, and I felt fine afterwards — actually quite high, and I ended up dramatically dancing and mouthing all the words to You Make My Dreams by Hall & Oates.
  • I got to see my people like five times. Every time it was amazing and I felt filled up with love and gratitude for how well my people love me!

  • Mile 19 was my biggest “runner’s high” mile. I felt incredible. I had just seen my people at the art museum grounds, and then I’d seen a really enthusiastic high school cheer-er who had yelled, “You’re running a fucking marathon! That’s AMAZING!” when I ran by. I was running past the Free Basket sculpture, and I took a joyous selfie and then dramatically danced and mouthed all the words to Defying Gravity from Wicked. I almost sang aloud, but thought better of it.
  • photo-nov-05-12-14-00-pm
  • The other hardest mile was mile 23. It felt really contradictory. On the one hand I thought, three miles! That’s nothing! but at the same time, I could not imagine that I still had to run three miles. I felt like I could do it, but that it would be so miserable. I was trying to monitor my mental state throughout the marathon, and that was a time when I felt like I was having to constantly prevent myself from becoming demoralized. I wasn’t demoralized – I wasn’t having to pull myself out – but I was having to constantly prevent myself from falling in. That was really hard, and it wasn’t a very pretty or interesting part either.
  • The Team in Training coaches helped me so much at the end. They coached me through the last two miles, and when we got to mile 26, they yelled their heads off to encourage my sprint. I saw my mom, David, Lindsey, and Ruth cheering in the crowds, and the music was blasting, and all around me hundreds of people were cheering. It was definitely the best .2 miles of my entire life.564775_241628464_xlarge
  • After the marathon, there was a lot of relaxing, laughing, eating, and napping. We had an amazing dinner at the Weber Grill (less than a block from our hotel), and the next day we all enjoyed a hotel breakfast before Lindsey went home. Ruth, Mom, David and I visited Butler University, where I had done my main internship for graduate school, and then we sent them back to their opposite coasts and drove back down to Bloomington.

    I am such a lucky person to have amazing family and friends who care about me so much. I know I will remember this experience, and what it taught me, for the rest of my life. I know my dad would have been so proud. And I learned that I can do hard things — really hard things — with dedication and support. I learned that I can get myself through scary, panicky moments, all on my own. And I learned — yet again — that the people who love me will always show up, whether it is in person, via the mail or phone, or by sending along geeky signs to encourage me during a marathon.

A new URL

& an old name.

In the interest of not spending tons of money (are you surprised that a PhD student & a part-time case manager don’t earn very much?), I’ve shifted my blog over to (which is free!). In the process, I have given up my domain name ( and chosen a new/old name for the blog : sunnyskiedlaura. Initially, I was going to just change to, for some continuity. However, that name is taken (by someone who made one post in 2014, naturally). It only took me a minute to think of an alternative.

Sunnyskiedlaura is the name of my email account that I made when I was seventeen, and a bunch of subsequent social media accounts. I chose the name at that time for a few reasons. One was a song I loved (and still love), Sunny Skies by James Taylor. Another was a poem I had written at backpacking school that began, “if awesome were coffee, this would be a quadruple espresso in Paris (in the sun).” After that poem, I started signing my emails with “sunny days,” instead of “sincerely,” or “best,”. So it became kind of “my thing.”

I still use that email address, and despite the darker, less-sunny stretches of my life, I still think of myself as a sunny person at heart (a sunny-hearted person?). So welcome to my new/old blog, with my new/old name. It’s nice to see you.

Sunny days,

* yes, I do write poetry. And one of my plans for the blog is to start sharing some of it — maybe I’ll start with this one.

My New Camera

So I totally haven’t prepared a good “what I’m into” post for March…oops. I definitely read some books, but not as many as in January & February. I’ve been a bit busier with preparing for my Last Term of Graduate School (fingers crossed) — two more classes & an advanced internship this summer and then I will have my Ed.S. degree! But I did read a few books, watch some films, and at the very end of the month, I got a real, grown-up camera.

As for books, I read Games Wizards Play by Diane Duane — the tenth novel in the Young Wizards series. I LOVED it and am probably just going to read it again once I finish Out of Sorts by Sarah Bessey, which I just got from the library after being on the hold list since late December (!). I also read Double Identity by Margaret Peterson Haddix — all in one long afternoon while I was trying to rest due to a really tremendous cold. (Seriously — fever, chills, headache, all the things. It was the worst.) Finally, I got hooked on a new series by reading Snow Like Ashes by Sara Raasch. In this series, there are eight kingdoms, and four of them are season kingdoms. The protagonist is from Winter, a land where there is always snow falling and the people native there enjoy/can withstand cold temperatures comfortably. I wish I could be a Winterian because I LOVE snow and cold, but I definitely also feel it.

In terms of watching things, I watched the whole first season of Catastrophe on Amazon Prime while I was ill — I LOVE it and can’t wait for season 2 to come out. I also watched the first five episodes of Mozart in the Jungle, which is fantastic. David and I are continuing to watch Parks & Rec. We continued our theme of watching documentaries, listed here in order of how much I liked them : Inequality for All, To Make A Farm, and Tiny.

Anyway, back to the CAMERA. I have been saving my pennies for this for quite a while. I got a Nikon D3300, which is sort of the “entry level DSLR.” It has both automatic and manual modes, so until I actually learn how to properly use a camera, I can still take great photos. I’ve been really enjoying playing around with it, and David has been a good sport about being a subject of a lot of photos. I love taking photos outside, but I also want to get in the habit of documenting our life together — even the boring, watching-TV-in-our-PJs bits. Not that I want thousands of photos of that, but I also don’t want to miss the beauty of making boxed mac & cheese for dinner before rushing off to Thursday night church choir rehearsal…because that’s life, too, you know?

Our beloved squirrel friend, Hank

What I’m Into : February 2016

I am linking up with Leigh Kramer to share what I’m into — which is mostly books!!

February has been a month chock full of READING. It’s the perfect season for it : cold and gloomy outside (well, mostly). And what better way to keep “active” during the winter than to roam around in various landscapes of the mind? In addition to reading a lot, David and I have been trying out a variation on the theme of meal-rotation. Rather than creating a few rotating menus, we’ve assigned “themes” to the days of the week regarding meals, and tried to stick to them. So far, it has simplified cooking and meal planning a lot and has definitely helped us save money.

And now, to the books :

February’s Books

51L-AuGJGXL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_Goat Song by Brad Kessler. I will say right off the bat that this book filled me with ENVY. Kessler is a novelist married to a photographer and they clearly make good money, because they are able to move out of Manhattan to a small farm in Vermont, where they learn to care for a small herd of goats. Obviously they don’t support themselves on the cheese they make from the goats’ milk, but their creative pursuits are successful enough that they can afford this lifestyle. I read this book because I saw it mentioned in a Facebook group, and one of my standing jokes is that I would love to ditch modern life and my career plans and move into the mountains of Switzerland to become a goat herder, a la the grumpy grandfather in Heidi. Despite by powerful envy and occasional eye-rolling, I truly loved this book. I learned a lot about goats (especially goat sex…SO much about goat sex) and Kessler also weaves in fascinating explanations of the many ways that goats, and humans’ domestication of goats, has shaped many aspects of human culture (language, literature, music, religion, etc.).

girl-of-fire-and-thornsThe Girl of Fire and ThornsThe Crown of Embers, & The Bitter Kingdom by Rae Carson made up an engrossing and enjoyable series. It was great to just fall into a different universe for a bit. I would classify the books as YA high fantasy — dramatic journey, chosen one trope, adventure, danger, all the classic elements. That said, I had some issues with Carson’s handling of the topic of weight and weight loss. I think she had a great opportunity to make a positive for readers (many of whom are teenage girls), but instead, the main character loses weight and afterwards becomes a better hero figure. So, I’m torn. The books were SUPER enjoyable and I think she…tried to handle the topic of weight/appearance well, but stumbles at a few points. That said I FLEW through these (read one of them in one evening after work, even with cooking dinner) and was very engrossed in the plot.

a-thousand-morningsMary Oliver’s poetry collection A Thousand Mornings was beautiful. I have often enjoyed Oliver’s poems, but I’ve never read a collection, only the ones I’ve come across in anthologies or online. Her writing is so quiet and yet powerful at the same time. The first poem in the collection, I Go Down to the Shore, is pretty much perfect. And her response to Christopher Smart’s poem For I Will Consider My Cat Jeoffrey, For I Will Consider My Dog Percy, moved me to tears.


orlandoVirginia Woolf’s Orlando BLEW MY MIND. I had never read any Woolf before, and happened to start with Orlando because I saw a quotation from it and was intrigued and it only cost 99 cents for a Kindle copy. And…I have no idea what I just read. (Like, none.) The whole time I was going “…??? what???” but I also could not stop reading because every single word is just perfectly selected. And it was so gender-bending and feminist and queer and fabulously over-the-top…I loved every second of it. A few people have said this isn’t the right Woolf to start on, but honestly, I was never drawn in by the other Woolf books I tried (To The Lighthouse, Mrs.Dalloway, and Flush) but this did the trick…and now I am more willing to slog through a bit at the beginnings of those more standard Woolf books. I am glad I started at the crazy end.

quiet-susan-cainQuiet by Susan Cain is a book that I started reading almost three years ago but couldn’t get drawn into. Luckily, I picked it up after I finished Orlando and was headed into a long evening shift at work. It was a quiet night and in between tasks I read about the first forty pages and was hooked. Cain weaves the history of the culture shift in the United States from a quieter ideal to an extroverted ideal along with reflections about the struggles and strengths of introverts in our culture. It was an empowering read for me and helped me reflect on my own introversion and begin to consider ways that this awareness can help me at work and in my social life.

the-bell-jarThe Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath marks another first-foray into a famous author’s work. Amazingly, I managed to make it to age twenty-six before reading this classic, despite being an upper-middle-class girl from the East coast who has spent a lot of time in therapy (ha!). I devoured it — picked it up after work, went home and cooked dinner, and then read all evening and in the early morning. I had to consciously slow myself down at times to catch Plath’s beautiful writing, because I was being drawn along so quickly by the plot.

interim-errantryInterim Errantry by Diane Duane made my year. So, I love the Young Wizards series by Diane Duane but I had missed the announcement that a) book ten was coming out and b) between books 9 and 10, Duane was releasing a collection of stories/novella-length adventures with the characters that were all holiday themed. But I just found out about it so now I get to read them!! I am saving the tenth book, A Wizard of Mars, for next Saturday when David will be at a conference in Chicago and I will be at home alone without a car all day. But I read Interim Errantry as soon as I got it and IT WAS SO MUCH FUN. All the characters I love, plus Halloween, Christmas, and Valentine’s Day. Absolutely delightful. The Young Wizards books feel like home to me.

the-hero-and-the-crownAnd finally, I finished out my February reading with a classic fantasy novel (in the beloved subgenre of girls-defying-gender-stereotypes-with-swords) that I have “meant” to read for like…fifteen years? The Hero and the Crown by Robin McKinley is the first in the Damar series. It was so much fun to read. All the classic tropes but not boring or repetitive at all, and with lots of delicious additions like a cat-and-dog army and the rehabilitation of a slightly snooty but lovable war-horse. Is Aerin’s true battle the battle against an evil wizard and an ancient dragon, or against her own struggles with self-worth? Probably both, to be honest, and both of those battles are worth reading about. I am definitely looking forward to reading The Blue Sword.

Reading has (clearly) been my main entertainment this month, but I’ve also continued to enjoy baking, watching movies, and listening to podcasts during my dog runs. Most of my baking was tried-and-true recipes (the chocolate chip cookie recipe on the back of the Nestlé chocolate chip bag…is the right recipe) but I also made chocolate shortbread hearts and rosemary and cheddar biscuits (which were so, so scrumptious!).

David and I enjoyed two documentaries this month.

meet-the-patels-posterMeet the Patels was a hilarious and super interesting documentary about actor Ravi Patel exploring marriage traditions : specifically, trying out his parents’ preferred method for finding a spouse. Patel is (as you guessed) Indian-American, and his parents met via a carefully arranged match and have had a wonderful marriage and been very happy together. As Patel approaches 30 years old, his family is bemoaning his single status, so he decides to explore the issue with his sister Geeta as filmmaker. It was phenomenal.

meru-movie-posterIn a completely different kind of documentary, we also enjoyed Meru, a film about climbers attempting the Shark Fin climb on Mt. Meru, which is pretty much the most difficult mountain/rock climbing site in the world (previously un-climbed). Similarly to Meet the Patels, Meru was filmed mostly just by a couple of people with small cameras (the climbers themselves — obviously, they couldn’t bring a crew with them!), but where Meet the Patels was funny and heartwarming (while also tackling social issues of the day), Meru was heartracing. But it was also fascinating and the scenery shots are just unreal.

One new podcast that I have enjoyed listening to is called Reply All.

reply-allReply All is a podcast about the internet — but also more broadly about technology. The episodes I have listened to have been Cathedral, a very sad but touching story about a man who designs a “videogame” (game seems the wrong word) about his late son’s experience with cancer, Raising the Bar, a story about Leslie Miley — a black engineer at Twitter who left the company due to the racist environment that he found there (and at other Silicon Valley giants where he had worked), and In The Desert, a “mystery” in which people keep showing up on the same couple’s doorsteps, claiming that their Find My Phone app is telling them their lost/stolen smartphone is in the couple’s home (they aren’t). Clearly, the podcast runs the gamut from emotional stories to important discussions about issues to just weird, quirky situations. The storytelling is fresh and interesting and I love the variety of topics.

For Valentine’s Day, David and I saw the local symphony orchestra perform a concert of romantic music — my favorite two pieces we heard were Barber’s Second Essay and Liszt’s Les Preludes. David and I also went bowling towards the end of the month — something I hadn’t done probably since high school (or maybe early college?). We had a great time and are very excited about the campus bowling alley which is really inexpensive and convenient. Plus, I bowled a strike on my first frame!

On February 20th, David and I observed the sixth anniversary of my father’s death by going for a long walk in the woods, eating Indian food, drinking Beck’s beer, and listening to Stevie Wonder. It was sad and hard and always is, but it was also…okay. I shared a bit about my dad and my grief here.


Coming up in March : um…probably more insane weather (we have gone from single-digits to SEVENTIES this month — snow, rain, thunderstorms, and clear skies — Indiana is nuts!), more books, more work, and at the end of the month : Easter! David is going to two conferences this month, commenting on a paper in each and also giving a poster presentation at one. Go go academia go!

In an effort to encourage you to purchase books from local booksellers or to utilize your local library, I have linked all the books to the authors’ webpages, when able, and to Wikipedia when unable (i.e. with Sylvia Plath and Virginia Woolf).