Monday, January 30, 2012

Happy almost Tuesday!

Hey! We made it through Monday!

Today was a rough one for me. I had a headache most of the day. But! After work was pretty nice. I hung out with my roommate and the puppies, then the bf came over. We ate dessert and watched sports. =) So my Monday was pretty nice in the end!

Here's to hoping you all had a great Monday! To celebrate the hardest day of waking up and driving to school/work being over, here's a video:

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Book review: Moonglass

Moonglass by Jessi Kirby

Description from Goodreads (below) can be found here along with other reviews.

"I read once that water is a symbol for emotions. And for a while now, I've thought maybe my mother drowned in both."

Anna's life is upended when her father accepts a job transfer the summer before her junior year. It's bad enough that she has to leave her friends and her life behind, but her dad is moving them to the beach where her parents first met and fell in love- a place awash in memories that Anna would just as soon leave under the surface.

While life on the beach is pretty great, with ocean views and one adorable lifeguard in particular, there are also family secrets that were buried along the shore years ago. And the ebb and flow of the ocean's tide means that nothing- not the sea glass that she collects on the sand and not the truths behind Anna's mother's death- stays buried forever.

Moonglass took me a while to get into. I was actually about to return it to the library. It starts out fairly slow--Anna and her father are moving and Anna is mad. The first couple chapters or so deal with this theme.

Push through. Push through until you meet a character named Ashley and see a man crawling down the beach. Because Kirby's greatest strength in Moonglass is her characters. She wrote amazing characters. Characters that are somehow both true to life and completely original. Characters I want to be or know in real life. Ashley, the beach crawler, and another girl named Jillian are the real stars of this novel. They are the catalysts for action and the most entertaining parts.

Moonglass is a book of introspection, not one of action. It's a book that will make you think and feel. It takes a bit to get into and will not be the most exciting book you ever read, but you'll think about it after you finish. You'll remember the characters, and you'll wonder what happened to Anna long after the conclusion.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

What I'm loving Wednesday!

Hi loves! I'm linking up with Jamie again for What I'm Loving Wednesday!

1. First of all, I'm loving this link up! Every week I find new fun blogs, and I love to see everyone's happy moments of the week. It's such an optimistic day in the blog world!

2. I'm also loving the changes I made yesterday/am still working on here on this blog! You'll notice some new tabs at the top--One is my first post about why I'm blogging, and the other is my reading list. I'm still working on an about me to get up there too!

3. I'm loving that I have no plans tonight. Usually I hang out with the bf or have Zumba or something planned every evening, but tonight I think I'm just going to chill at home, watch an old movie and get my craft on. And hopefully go to bed early.

4. I'm loving all the exciting things coming up! First is my friend and future roomie Sam's 21st birthday this weekend! We'll be having people over Friday and probably checking out a couple bars Saturday.

Me, Pat and Sam at Late Night

Then, next weekend, my parents and little sister are coming to town! She has a volleyball tournament and they'll be staying at my house next Friday and Saturday.

Me, my parents and Anna at my cousin's wedding last summer

And the weekend after that I'm going to visit my bffffffff in California!!!! She's been living out there since August-ish and I'm finally going to make the trip to see her new home and meet her new friends. I'm so excited!

I need to find another good picture of us instead of always using this one...

I can't wait to see what everyone else is loving! Happy Wednesday :)

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Happy Tuesday!

I have a lot coming up I'm excited about! I'll share soon, but for now...

please enjoy this clip from Scrubs!

Friday, January 20, 2012

Book review: Shatter Me

Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafi

Goodreads description:

Juliette hasn't touched anyone in exactly 264 days.
The last time she did, it was an accident, but The Reestablishment locked her up for murder. No one knows why Juliette's touch is fatal. As long as she doesn't hurt anyone else, no one really cares. The world is too busy crumbling to pieces to pay attention to a 17-year-old girl. Diseases are destroying the population, food is hard to find, birds don't fly anymore, and the clouds are the wrong color.

The Reestablishment said their way was the only way to fix things, so they threw Juliette in a cell. Now so many people are dead that the survivors are whispering war-- and The Reestablishment has changed its mind. Maybe Juliette is more than a tortured soul stuffed into a poisonous body. Maybe she's exactly what they need right now.

Juliette has to make a choice: Be a weapon. Or be a warrior.

I don't remember how I heard about this book--probably from one of the many YA authors I follow on Twitter. I started following the author even before reading the book and grew even more excited to read it.

I have to admit, I was a little disappointed. I love the premise of the book--a girl who can't touch people without hurting or killing them, first imprisoned, then used as a weapon of war? Awesome.

But other than Juliette's power, I found little of the story very original. The land is more barren than most stories involving attempts at reestablishment and utopian societies, but that seems a minor detail. There is a love interest (or two?), which is common in most YA. The book gave me pretty much what I expected and not much else.

I found it hard to get into the book at first. Juliette had been in isolation for hundreds of days, and her thought processes suffered for it. I found myself skipping paragraphs of introspection to get to the point or the action.

Despite these negative impressions, I did finish the book, which says a lot because I don't finish books I don't like at least a little (why should I read something I'm not enjoying when there are so many other options?). And the end of the book was my favorite. Tahereh finally threw something at me I had not expected.

Shatter Me is the first in a trilogy. The ending of the book picked up a lot--enough that I know I'll be reading the rest of the series.

I'm not sure yet if I recommend this book. I think I do. It was entertaining and easy to read.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Getting fit and getting embarrassed

I've been working on my fitness, and I've noticed a strange thing.

Part of my plan to be healthier has been using my lunch break to take a walk. I eat my lunch at my desk, then take off for half an hour to listen to some music and walk.

I'm lucky to work in a pretty great building. On the nice days, I go outside, where there's a track that loops around a pond. It's not a huge track, and I have to watch out for goose poop, but I like it a lot.

Since it's been too cold lately to go outside, I'm also lucky that my building has a "walking track."

(I put it in quotations because really, it's just the connecting bridge between the upstairs of the two sides of the building. It just happens to form a circle that some people use for a walking track.)

And the strange thing I've noticed is that I get pretty embarrassed when people I know see me walking there. Heck, I get embarrassed when people I don't know see me walking.

For the past few days, I've been trying to figure out why. Why does it embarrass me?

No matter what shape you're in, working on your health and fitness is always a good thing. I should be proud to be seen trying to better myself, right? And there's nothing wrong with what I'm doing--I'm still getting my work done and not skipping out on any time that should be spent at my desk. There's even another woman out there walking on most days.

I can't figure it out. I'm not embarrassed about my Zumba class, which I blogged about here and have told all of my friends about.

But when someone I know walks through while I'm there, I make quick eye contact, give an uneasy smile, then look around the next curve.

Maybe it's the actual, being-seen-in-action part. Like, everyone knows I do Zumba, but no one I know is there to see it happen. Or, people know I pluck my eyebrows--I mean, most women do--but I wouldn't really want anyone watching me while I did it.

Or maybe I just think it's a dorky way to exercise.

But, I enjoy it AND I burn more than 100 calories each lunch period.

So I shouldn't be embarrassed. But I still feel it.

Has anyone else ever felt something like this?

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Happy Tuesday

Oh, the Places You'll Go! This week, and every week after. I believe in you!!

Happy Tuesday!

Monday, January 16, 2012

Very late New Year post

I was walking during my lunch yesterday and listening to my favorite podcast, This American Life. The theme was "Neighborhood Watch." One of the first stories was of a lovely woman in New Jersey who has an adult son with autism. Though she was only 65 and in great shape, she was worried about what would happen to her son after she passed.

So she developed a plan: She moved him into his own house to increase his independence, then began canvassing her small town, from the police department to the senior center, for people who would volunteer to be her son's friend.

She got no response.

The reporters from This American Life followed her as she went from place to place, handing out fliers and explaining what she was hoping for: someone to check in on her son from time to time, make sure he was doing ok, and call for help if he wasn't.

As she worked her way through the town for hours, you could hear her panic growing as she got little or no response, again and again. I kept getting verklempt, wishing I was there. My heart called, I'll be his friend!

But I kept asking myself, if she had approached me--would I really be willing to help?

The podcast had opened with this question: Are you the kind of person who would stop and help someone in need? And if you said yes: Are you really, or is that just who you want to be?

I've seen a lot of posts lately with goals for the year. I know I'm late on the trend. But each hopeful post has inspired me to think about what I want this year to be.

I'm not one for resolutions or goals, really. When you make them, they're supposed to be measurable, things you can say, oh, yeah, I lost my 15 pounds or I saved my $1500 or whatever. And I suppose I have a few of those. But my real goal is not quite so black and white.

This year, I hope to choose every day to be the person I want to be instead of the person I am. 

I hope...

if I'm presented the opportunity to help someone, I will, even if it's inconvenient or downright difficult.

in fact, I hope I will seek out opportunities to help others. I have a pretty sweet deal in life, folks. I need to remember that.

I will speak up for the little guy whenever he needs support.

I will make sure everyone I love knows I love them, through my words and my actions, because love is what life is for.

when I have an empty night ahead of me, I will at least occasionally, maybe even regularly, open up a new document and write instead of staring at the TV or Netflix.

I will  find an affordable sewing machine, learn to sew on that sewing machine, write, read, and do all the other things I always wish I'd do. {Starting with learning to juggle!}

I will know when it's been Just Too Much and I really do need a night of Netflix. Or a nap.

I will sincerely thank people and notice acts of kindness. Including thank-you waves in traffic.

I will clean out my closet and donate. Less is more.

I will exercise regularly and eat right, because part of being the me I want to be is being healthy and fit.

I will occasionally indulge, and I will be ok with that.

I will be open to adventure.

I will make memories worth remembering.

I will be present for every moment. I don't want to look back at this year and discover that the best times are fuzzy around the edges. Life is beautiful.  People are incredible. Even when something great is on the horizon, I will focus on right now, because I don't want to miss a single moment any more.

Maybe this is ambitious. I don't know. But goals are supposed to be.

Here's to a new year and a better me, friends. Wish me luck! 

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Easiest chocolate covered pretzels ever!

Hey all! So I posted here about the chocolate covered pretzels I made when Pat came back from Oregon. Now, here's one of the easiest and shortest how-tos you'll ever see. :)

I first saw these treats when my mom made them for Christmas. She was able to use the kind of pretzels that have little criss-crosses all across and look like window screens. You know the ones I mean?

But when I made them, I couldn't find the checkers kind, so I used the tiny twists.

You'll also need a bag of Hershey's kisses and plain or peanut M&Ms.

Preheat your oven to 250*.

Lay the pretzels out on a cookie tray. You may want to line it with tin foil (especially if you're using the twists) in case some chocolate slips though.

Set a chocolate kiss on each pretzel.

Bake the pretzels+kisses for only 2-3 minutes at 250*.

When they come out, the kisses will be melty enough that you can press an M&M on top of the kiss's point!

If you have room in your freezer or fridge, stick the tray in there while they cool. If not, you can leave them out at room temperature and the chocolate will eventually harden again.

That's it! Super easy, right? And so cute! Especially for holidays or themes with colors--the red and green ones we did for Christmas looked great! I also might try different variations (peanuts instead of M&ms or different kinds of kisses) in the future.

According to my MyFitnessPal calculations, each treat is about 33 calories, so they aren't a diet killer as long as you don't overindulge.

Happy nomming! :)

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

What I'm loving Wednesday

Hey all! I'm so happy this week, so of course I'm linking up with Jamie to let you all know what's going on!

1. Last night I picked Pat up from the airport after a three-week-and-a-few-days separation. We didn't do much--we made mac & cheese and watched Larry Crowne. But it sure is nice to have him back around!

2. Last night I also started my Zumba class! I took a class when I was a student and absolutely LOVED it (kind of surprising as I'm not known as being very outgoing when it comes to dancing, or coordinated ever). I was frustrated after finishing my KU class because I couldn't find any Zumba classes for the general public at first. But! Recently I discovered the parks and rec here offers a ton of classes, and not just in Zumba--and my classes ended up being only about $3 a week!

Because of the Oil Change That Would Not End last week (which I tweeted about), I missed my first class. Last night I went, a little nervously, texting Pat that I wasn't sure I was in the right place and looking around for signs of others there for the class.

They showed up. I was the youngest by at least 10 years, sometimes probably more like 30 years.

It was a blast. All the women were so excited to be there! There was a group of four or so friends that took up the back row that were so enthusiastic! Apparently last week the instructor told them her only rule was to keep moving and keep smiling, and these women took it to heart! It was inspiring to see them throw their whole selves into Zumba and made the class so much more fun. I can't wait to go back!

3. Also this week I'm loving MyFitnessPal. I first heard about it before Christmas when my former roommate started using it. I signed up, guessing my weight and height, and used it for about a day before giving up on it.

But as time went on, I could see my roommate tweeting about her success. I also started following another blogger who used it successfully too, and who helped explain to me how to use it.

So a few weeks ago I bought a scale and started getting serious.

And it is awesome! I've always known that to eat more, you need to exercise more, but this really lets me see it. I've also discovered one of my worst diet habits is the snacking I do while I'm preparing my real meals. Also candy.

The only thing I hate is that because I guessed my weight when I signed up, my badge--which says how much I've lost--will always be wrong. I've already lost about 6 pounds! but it still says zero lost. I'll just always have to mentally add those 6 pounds to my number. :)

If you're on MyFitnessPal, please add me! My name on there is aestrusz.

I hope you all are having a great week too! <3

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Happy Tuesday!

We made it through Monday! This is my first full work week in a while, AND I finally get to pick up my bf Pat from the airport today, so I think this Tuesday deserves some extra celebration.

First, a more-somber-than-usual-but-totally-awesome video about a man who has taken 4,748 self portraits. I can't figure out how to embed it since it isn't on youtube, but you can see it here. Be warned, it gets a little medically graphic around 3:15, but gets not so graphic again at around 4:00.

And, a more light-hearted celebration, a bird who sings the rock chalk chant. :)

Also, this week, I will be joining Meg over at Life of Meg for Mingle Monday(is over, in my case:)

Her question of the week is what we're looking forward to this week. I think it's pretty obvious, but in case you couldn't tell, I'm looking forward to spending time with this lovely boy again:

He comes back from Oregon, where he's been for three long weeks, tonight! I had planned a big dinner surprise for him, but then I signed up for a Tuesday night Zumba class, so my big plans have dwindled to twisty mac and cheese and these chocolate covered pretzels:

A post on these super easy treats will be coming soon!

Happy Tuesday!

Monday, January 9, 2012

The Experiment

The Commute: Every day I drive about 33 miles to work and 33 back home. Most of the drive is on a highway with a speed limit of 70. My comfort zone is usually about 3-5 mph over the speed limit.

It takes about 45 minutes each way, usually, depending on traffic. I don't really mind commuting--I listen to music and wake up before work and get to relax on my drive home. I used to have something that played my ipod in my car and I would listen to my favorite podcast.

However, I do not love buying gas every four days. That's how many trips I can usually make to and from work: four days of commuting plus my normal in-town driving. Gas is expensive and I hate seeing all my money sucked into travel.

I began thinking about ways to save gas. I've always heard that as soon as you break 65mph your gas efficiency tanks. It was part of math questions in high school, it was posted around one building at my alma mater. This fact was always part of my awareness.

But somehow I never really thought of making use of this fact until recently.

The Experiment: Since just before Christmas, I have been driving 65mph to and from work. On a highway where many people drive 75+, this means I am the slow car puttering along in the right lane. It didn't seem like it was making much of a difference at first, but I wanted to use a full tank of gas and a full week to try it out.

The Result: Holy cow! Last week was the first uninterrupted week where I could study the effect. (Before my trials had always been interrupted by Christmas or trips to the airport, etc.) But man, did it make a difference. I was able to drive the whole week to and from work, do my normal travel around town AND have gas left for the weekend just on one tank of gas! Granted, soon Pat will be back and I'll be driving around town a little bit more, but the experiment got me at least 70 miles more per tank of gas than before. Again--Holy cow!

Side Effects: Of course, being the slow car has had its side effects. I get passed a lot. I'm sure I get cussed at, too, and I see people look over as they pass me, wondering who would drive 10 mph slower than anyone else on the road.

It did not, though, add a significant amount of time to my commute. I watch my GPS--it only adds 1-2 minutes to my expected arrival time. I usually budget that much in for unexpected traffic anyway, so I'm not leaving any earlier than I did when I was driving over the speed limit.

But I also noticed I'm less stressed during the commute. I moved my chair back. I'm no longer cussing at the slow cars myself because I am the slow car. I thought my drives were relaxing before, but they're even better now that I'm not worrying about driving too slow or passing everyone in my way.

Photo from here.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Book review: Room

Room by Emma Donoghue

Description from Goodreads (below) can be found here along with other reviews.

To five-year-old-Jack, Room is the world. . . . It's where he was born, it's where he and his Ma eat and sleep and play and learn. At night, his Ma shuts him safely in the wardrobe, where he is meant to be asleep when Old Nick visits.
 Room is home to Jack, but to Ma it's the prison where she has been held for seven years. Through her fierce love for her son, she has created a life for him in this eleven-by-eleven-foot space. But with Jack's curiosity building alongside her own desperation, she knows that Room cannot contain either much longer.

Room is a tale at once shocking, riveting, exhilarating--a story of unconquerable love in harrowing circumstances, and of the diamond-hard bond between a mother and her child.

I was excited when I got this book from the library. I'd heard the premise and heard good things from acquaintences who had read it. But I found myself delaying starting the book because I wasn't in the mood for a story I predicted to be very dark.

Though Ma and Jack's situation is very bleak, the story isn't--it isn't a difficult read and not nearly as much of a downer as I'd predicted. Because the book is told by five-year-old Jack, there is little sense of the desparation of the situation--he doesn't know that he and his mom are being held captive.

Jack is very hopeful, intelligent and sweet. It can be really difficult to write in the voice of a child, but Jack's voice almost always was on perfect pitch for a five year old. I only questioned this once whenn Jack expressed that the other people of the world were just like him--they were happy or sad and breathed and slept, and if you cut them, they would bleed, just like he does. I felt this was way over the head of a five year old--maybe even over the head of some adults.

I did have issue with one very small thing--Jack was still breastfed and talks about it regularly. I'm not sure why this bothered me so much. I have no problem with breastfeeding. Maybe I just didn't want it to be so descriptive? or it might have been Jack's age. But every time it was mentioned, I cringed.

I only rated this three stars on Goodreads ("I liked it" rather than two, "it was ok," or four, "really liked it") because it didn't really surprise me at all. Other than the approach (more hopeful than dark) I pretty much knew what I was going to get when I picked up the book and there weren't really any surprise twists. But the book does have a pretty high rating on Goodreads (3.96) and plenty of rave reviews.

I do recommend this book because it's like nothing I've ever read before.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

What I'm loving Wednesday!

Hey everyone! I hope you're having a great first week of 2012! Here's what I'm loving this week, and as always, head over to Jamie's blog to see what everyone else is loving this week!

1. I'm loving that it's a short work week! I took Monday off this week, which made the week look that much easier.

2. I'm loving that I'm wearing my favorite work outfit today! It's the little things, you know?

3. I'm loving having a full house again! I've been spending a lot of time home alone, but last night my roommate Katie was back, and she brought her two wonderful dogs with her! We made pancakes and hash browns for dinner and Bandit followed me around all night. :)


4. I'm loving all the inspirational New Year posts! I loved this one about picking a word to focus on for a year. Still trying to think of a word. And, although I've been struggling to define exactly what I want to do this year, everything Meg wrote in her post seemed like a good idea for me too!

5. Finally, I'm loving that I have a skype date with Pat tonight and that he'll be back in less than a week! I had to say goodbye to my bffffff yesterday morning, which always leaves me feeling kind of sad and lonely. It's good to have seeing him to look forward to.
Me and Pat when he visited my hometown with me last March 

What are you loving this week?

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Happy Tuesday!

I know it's going to be a good day when I hear this on the radio on the way to work...

Happy Tuesday!


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