Sunday, August 21, 2016

happy sunday!

In lieu of my semi-usual happy Friday post, I'm writing on a Sunday! This is the first time in a few weeks that I've had both the time and the desire to write something in this space, so I figured I should jump on it. Hope you're ready for some stream of consciousness style writing...

When school finished in June, I had grand plans for summer. I made two lists (goals and things to do for fun) and I planned on blogging a lot. Some things got done and some didn't...more about those lists later, but you obviously know I didn't blog much. I read a lot of books though! So I published book reports for June and July!

T and I landed back in Beijing two weeks ago and then he worked every day for the next 12 days. I eased back in, popping into work a couple times before I had to, and then returning officially on the 12th. We settled back into being home by unpacking, eating at a few of our fave spots, and sleeping a lot (except in the mornings; thanks, jet lag). I'm always amazed at how I forget things like which way I'm supposed to turn the taps to turn off the water in just a few weeks. Why is it so easy to forget those little aspects of a home? We have a new bathtub that I've yet to take a bath in, but I plan to rectify that some day soon, maybe even tonight.

I met most of my new kiddos on Wednesday when school started. I have 25 this year (woah), but I'm feeling a bit more laid back about everything (or trying to). I have my alarm set for 5:30 on weekdays to ensure I get the quiet time I crave and all of last week I woke up on my own sometime between 5:16 and 5:29. Keep it up, body.

I'm addicted to my new Fitbit. (I bought the Alta.) I had a Fitbit Flex a few years ago and loved it. It really motivates me! I've been taking the stairs more often and forcing Tony to walk with me when we would maybe have taken a taxi before. When I sometimes walk in place while waiting for a light to change, T laughs at me. Another foreigner watched me doing this and then she started doing it too. I pointed her out to Tony and said, "See! I'm inspiring people!" and he replied right away, "She's making fun of you." I don't know if she was or not; her face didn't look like she was, but maybe.

We're still not quite in a groove yet, partly because the beginning of the school year is hectic for both of us, partly because I've been battling middle and outer ear infections, partly because it just takes time, but I'm looking forward to getting back into it. We walked to get groceries today, and then walked to brunch (okay, we walked partway, took a taxi the rest of the way because Tony complained he was too hot, but then we walked back the whole way), and now I'm settled on the couch with iced tea (using my new iced tea press from David's Tea!).

We'll see what the rest of Sunday brings. Definitely leftover Indian; maybe a bath; hopefully an episode or two of Criminal Minds, beginning a new book, and an early bedtime.

Happy Sunday!

Friday, August 05, 2016

july book report.

book report / july 2016 /

The Darkest Child by Delores Phillips / I couldn't put this book down. It's written from the point of view of a young black teenage girl, living in Georgia in 1958. She has 9 brothers and sisters and her mom is abusive. It was incredibly detailed, sometimes painfully so, and when Tony told me, "It's only a book," I was quick to remind him that racism and lynching and abuse really did happen and still does happen. A powerful and worthwhile read. I wish that I had someone to discuss it with, so please read it and let me know!

Finding Audrey by Sophie Kinsella / I've read all of Sophie Kinsella's novels and there hasn't been one I didn't like yet, so I was excited to read this YA story about a teenager with an anxiety disorder. It was a cute story and while I thought the climax and the end was a bit abrupt, I'd recommend it, especially if you're a Kinsella fan.

Circling the Sun by Paula McLain / This was a fantastic book! In fact, I gave it its own post here.  (I also really liked The Paris Wife so I've added her first novel, A Ticket to Ride, to my to-read list.)

The Paris Architect by Charles Belfoure / A story about an unsympathetic architect that ends up building hiding spaces for Jews. I've read a lot of WWII books lately, and while this one had potential, I thought it was just okay. I think mostly because the writing just wasn't very good. (WWII novels I would highly recommend: All the Light We Cannot See, The Nightingale, and Secrets of a Charmed Life.)

Girl at War by Sara Nović / Set in Croatia during the War of Independence and ten years later in New York, this novel is told mainly from the point of view of a ten-year-old Croatian girl. It's haunting and sad, and really well written. I read it almost three weeks ago and I still think of it almost every day. I knew nothing about the Yugoslavian wars but after reading this and talking to a friend from Serbia, I'm eager to learn more.

Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear by Elizabeth Gilbert / I listened to this one, as I do most non-fiction lately, and it was good. Gilbert had some good gems of advice re: creativity and writing. I loved that she's both "the creative process is magical" and also "you've gotta do the work." Inspiring. (If you're into podcasts, The Girl Next Door has a book club episode about Big Magic. Fun!)

The Sky Is Everywhere by Jandy Nelson / Turns out I'm a big Jandy Nelson fan and I'm sad that she only has two novels published. This is her first, and it's about a seventeen-year-old girl whose older sister dies suddenly and she's left to figure things out. It's a coming of age/love story. Highly recommend.

Will I Ever Be Good Enough? by Karyl McBride / Another non-fiction book, but this one I actually read. It was recommended to me by a friend, whose therapist had recommended it to her. (Hooray for not being alone in having rocky relationships with our mothers?) Although I don't think my mom and I are an exact fit for the scenarios in this book, I still found it valuable. I loved that the author emphasized not blaming anyone, recognizing the problem/pattern, and healing. It gave me a better understanding of some things, and hopefully will help me to have at least a slightly better relationship with my mom, a better mindset, and to not repeat the same pattern with my future kiddos.

So, that's what I read in the month of July. I love summer vacation! Since I'm going back to work next week, I have a feeling my reading will slow way down, but I'm always happy to have recommendations. What have you read lately and loved?

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

highlights from Circling the Sun.

Circling the Sun by Paula McLain was such a great story. I devoured it! And there were a few sections that really got me. I didn't think to highlight all of them, but here are the ones I did:

"People interest me so much. They're such wonderful puzzles. Think of it. Half the time we've no idea what we're doing, but we live anyway."


"I've never travelled," I told her.

"Oh, you absolutely should," she insisted, "if only so that you can come home and really see it for what it is. That's my favourite part."


"Honestly, I couldn't even say. To care less, maybe. She was away for so long, I didn't imagine she could still do harm, but now..." I let my voice trail off. 

"My father died when I was young. We all thought it was rather fortunate at first. It simplified all sorts of things. But over time... well. Let's just say I've developed a theory that only the vanished truly leave their mark. And I still don't feel I've sorted it out. Maybe we never do survive our families."

P.S. My monthly "book reports."

Tuesday, July 05, 2016

june book report

I Am Malala by Malala Yousafzai and Christina Lamb / Malala's story is fascinating and inspiring. It took me longer than usual to read, but I'm chalking that up to it being the last month of school, plus I usually take longer to read non-fiction than fiction. Of course, I already knew the basic facts about Malala, but reading her words, learning about Pakistan and her life before being shot, was so interesting.

The Gifts of Imperfection by Brené Brown / This is the second book by Brené that I've listened to (have I mentioned I love audiobooks?). I know I'm an odd man out, but I haven't loved them. A lot of material was covered in this book and there were some gems of insight and advice though. Maybe I should try actually reading the next one, instead of listening to it?

Reconstructing Amelia by Kimberly McCreight / I don't remember where I heard about this novel, but I think it must have been from someone whose taste in books I trust, because this isn't usually the kind of story I go for. It's young adult/adult fiction/thriller/mystery and it's really well written, so I think almost anyone would like it. I think part of why I liked it so much is because I didn't predict the ending, which I'm usually able to do.

Secrets of a Charmed Life by Susan Meissner / I've read a lot of good books lately, but this one was the first in a long time that I couldn't put down. I read it in about a day! It's set during WWII, about two sisters living in London, their evacuation, and the Blitz. I don't know what else to tell you other than you should read it! I've already added Meissner's other novels to my to-read list.

What have you read lately?

(Art print by Evie Seo)

Monday, July 04, 2016


// What I Saw in Syria: A reporter's photographs and cellphone videos from a road trip in one of the world's most violent war zones.

// I think I've shared this before, but Tony and I made it last week and it was delicious! Spicy Asian salmon noodle salad.

// Crazy photo coincidence. (As someone who lives in China: woah!)

// How Privileged Are You? It wasn't really eye-opening for me; I already know I'm very privileged, but maybe it would be eye-opening to some?

// A hair tutorial I wasn't too intimidated to try! 

// "How to Be Less Controlling" (but really, it's just how to be less anxious).

Friday, July 01, 2016

happy friday!

It's been awhile since I've written a happy friday post, but I was reading through some of my archives the other day and I remembered that there's value in these quick posts as well. This blog has taken the place of the journaling I used to do (although I started keeping a Line a Day journal this year and haven't missed a day yet), and I should do a better job of noting the mundane parts of life, because in the end, that's sometimes what matters most.

T and I came back from our trip to Xi'an, and have been staying in Melissa's apartment this week, while ours was painted. That was a whole ordeal itself, but it's done finally and we should be moving back in today. We just had it repainted white but it was worth it for a fresh start and our apartment looks so bright again. We're going to wait a while before we put anything back up on the walls, partly to let the paint fully dry, but also because I want to think a bit about what to put up. (You can see peeks of our home here.)

T and I had a few dates this week. We went for dinner at Great Leap #45, our first time, for pizza. It was good! I'm already planning another visit soon. We also had a couple of lunch dates. It's so nice to get out for lunch, a change in our usual routine.

I've connected with a few teachers who will be coming here to teach and I'm excited to get to know them more. Teaching at an international school is bittersweet; there are lots of goodbyes, but lots of hellos, too.

I made progress on my summer goals: the apartment was painted; I washed the curtains (and our couch cushions!); I got my pap test and saw a dermatologist (both with good results!). I didn't read the books on the list yet, but I did read 2 novels (look for my June book report next week).

I'm looking forward to getting our apartment back in order this weekend, hopefully sitting on a patio somewhere with good food and drinks, and one of my best friends is returning to Beijing for the summer!

Happy Friday! And to my fellow Canadians, happy Canada Day!
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