A Few of my Favorite Things

As an artist I love likes to say at the beginning of her podcast, “Hello out there in Internetland!”

So it has been a while since I last posted, primarily because it has been a while since I did anything worth posting about. For those wondering about the state of my apartment, I have finally acquired a table and chairs! They came today and, after much wrestling with packing tape and the really cheap bitty wrenches that come with flat packs, the table was assembled.

The pizza came separately.

But other than putting together furniture that is admittedly less complicated than the average Lego set, how have I been occupying myself? Some of you may recall that I had noble plans to get started on the reading for my qualifying exams at the end of next May. Some of you, who know me at all well, can guess that I have not picked up a single book that will be on the exam (unless you count having physically lifted two of the books out of my knapsack and onto the coffee table and, subsequently, onto the bookshelf).

I suppose honesty is the best policy. I have been doing nothing. In my defense, it has been a very involved kind of nothing that consists of reading, watching television, cooking, neatening up the apartment (though I maintain that the apartment’s ability to become messy again five minutes later exists independently of anything I do), pondering additions to the apartment, occasionally hanging out with people to whom I am not married and so on,  but if I had to condense it into one word, the best I can do is nothing.

And it has been kind of glorious.

However, I figured I would break some of that nothing down into its aggregate parts so that I can at least blog about something and what better way to do so than through a list of some of the somethings I have enjoyed over the past month since I moved in?

  • Favorite meal:

    Pizza with Broccoli Rabe and Roasted Onions. To be fair, any pizza whatsoever, but this one gets especially high marks for flavor (even if I did burn myself on the pan that the onions were roasting in and Josh had to actually assemble the pizza because I was too busy running my hand under cold water. It was completely worth it, though). I mostly followed the recipe on this one, other than using my grandmother’s pizza dough recipe instead of the one she uses here and splitting it into two rectangular pies and substituting a mix of Mediterranean olives because that was what Whole Foods had that was kosher. But, yeah, other than that I mostly did as I was told.

  • Favorite movie:

    Brave. I realize this one does not come as a shock to anyone. But it was like seeing a new Disney movie, except maybe a little bit better…it’s like going back and seeing a Disney movie as a little kid again, where you find yourself not noticing some of the questionable messages (oh, sure, 16 year old girls are more than grown up enough to run off with a prince especially after they’ve proven their maturity by selling their souls to an octopus…why, yes, I have my biases) and being swept away by the story. And the story really was brilliant. Hats off to Pixar for a great film.

  • Favorite iOS app:

    I realize I may be the only person who has moments of “and then there was this app and it was awesome and it lets you do something you could already do anyway,” but indulge me for a moment. There’s this app called Pepperplate and it’s basically a recipe book. I have a problem wherein I google a recipe for X, find one I like and inexplicably forget to bookmark it or in any way set it apart from all the other recipes for X out there in the world. I also have an equally silly tendency to forget which bookmarks on my computer (when I remember to save the recipes) are “to try” or are “tried and liked” or are “meh”. What this app does is it lets you either manually enter or import recipes into your own personal database and then syncs across every device that has Pepperplate on it. So I can find what I want to make for dinner either online or in a cookbook, type it in or import it to the Pepperplate website and then, when I open my iPad in the kitchen, the recipe is there in the app and I can take notes on the bottom.

    I admit, I am rather more excited about this than it warrants (feel free to point that people have been doing this with pen and paper for centuries), except that it’s basically an app designed to prevent me from losing recipes I like. I like using my iPad in the kitchen and Pepperplate is the easiest way to get a recipe from my computer to the iPad and display it in a way that makes using it to cook convenient. Oh, technology. I can live without you just fine until I’ve lived with you.

  • Favorite work of non-fiction

    This was going to just be favorite book, but I couldn’t choose. To be fair, I actually had a tough time deciding which of the two really good non-fiction books I finished in the past month were worthy of being called favorite. T. M. Luhrmann’s When God Talks Back wins by about a hair. Luhrmann is an psychological anthropologist who goal in this book is to try and explain to both believers and non-believers how American Evangelicals can train themselves to experience what they perceive of as God. The book isn’t about whether they are actually experiencing God or not, it focuses on how people use their minds to encounter what feels to them like the divine. And it was one of the most interesting and thought-provoking books I have read in a long time. As a psychological book, it really highlights just how cool the brain is and, as a book about religion, it provided a fascinating framework for understanding belief and, at least for me personally, some of the shifts that have happened in Judaism with the advent of Chassidut. And, of course, it was incredibly well written. (For those inquiring minds who wish to know, the runner up was Cathy Davidson’s Now You See It.)

  • Favorite work of fiction

    The Man from Primrose Lane by James Renner. So I have a to-read list problem. This is infinitely better than having no to-read list, but it still presents a problem. There are over 100 books on the list and I tend to forget to consult it when I am in the library. The way it usually works is I look at the list, sort the books based on obscure memories of which genre I think they fall into and then go to the library and forget all about it. But because the list is vaguely in my head, I more often than not pick up a book that is, in fact one I have been meaning to read. This is how I got Primrose Lane; I saw it on the New shelf at the library, picked it up and started reading it one Sunday night. I thought it was literary fiction. Then I began the book and realized it was actually a very clever mystery novel. Then I got halfway through the book and told the categorizing part of my brain to shut up and go away, I was too busy reading. This was around the time when I went complaining to my husband that I was reading a really good book. He was puzzled why this would be a cause for complaint until I explained that I would not be able to go to bed until it was done. It was that kind of book. I would explain more about it, but part of the joy for me was being surprised every time the plot swerved in a completely new direction and I wouldn’t want to ruin that. But the writing itself made me think of some odd combination of Ian MacEwan and Kate Atkinson, only decidedly American and with a tinge of science fiction.

And there you have it. The joys of vacation.



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5 responses to “A Few of my Favorite Things

  1. Erachet

    Thanks for the update! I have no to-read list because every time I look at book descriptions, I get turned off from them. I don’t like books that are depressing, violent, sexually descriptive, are about rape, are about murder, are about finding long lost loves. Sooooo……that covers most modern books out there. At least, that I know about. I find that young adult books tend to make me happier. Are there any adult books you recommend that are well-written, thoughtful, good reads, and not any of the above that I dislike?

    • Yeah, you’ve covered most of what gets lumped into literary right there. (It must be angsty and meaningful and then we will not shy away from the human condition, but rather emphasize how angsty and depressing and horrible it is. Oh, and put in a random sex scene. That’s edgy, right?)
      In terms of recommendations… I mean, my usual response is stick to YA, it’s often better written. Oh, which reminds me, have you read anything by Patricia McKillip? I think she’s YA (the library shelves her all over the place) but she’s a lovely writer.
      I honestly tend to forget details about books, so I’m not quite sure if I would dare recommend anything. I will think on it, though.

      • Erachet

        I have not read any Patricia McKillip, but I will check out her books! It is interesting how YA books seem to be better written, isn’t it? I wonder why that is.

        Post-modern literature all seems to have to be as edgy as possible, and it also likes to rub it in your face whenever it has decided to use a metaphor. Like when I read Atonement and just knew the vase was going to break and symbolize “breakings” that would happen in the family.

  2. Ema

    You both are way more critical of modern fiction than I am. I have to admit, I had so many issues with Atonement that I can’t even remember the vase breaking. I am currently reading a good post WW II noir book – Istanbul Passage, but it doesn’t meet Erachet’s criteria -there is murder, betrayal, sex, etc…..but still good.

  3. Aunto Barbo

    Pizza looks good…notice what I zeroed on. Table and chairs look really nice too.

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