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November 2013
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January 2014

What I'm Into (December 2013 Edition)

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A couple of weeks ago, I was talking with two kids in middle school. They noted time seems to be moving fast and I told them this only gets more true as you get older. And it's true. I cannot believe 2014 is around the corner, full of possibility, and yet where did 2013 go? I could swear it just started.

Even so, I'm ready to move on from 2013. While quite a few good things happened, difficult situations also arose and I'm ready to leave them behind. I'm ready to see what's next.


Read and Reading:

I loved Special Topics in Calamity Physics and couldn't wait to see what gifted writer Marisha Pessl came up with next. Night Film, while not perfect, was well worth the wait. Equal parts eerie (borderline creepy, which is not my thing) and captivating, I had a hard time putting it down. While there were a few moments in which I had to suspend disbelief, I let the plot unwind whichever way it felt like. Pessl contrasts reality and possibility, as well as our perceptions of both, and in this way, art imitates film. Or is it imitating life? As readers, we're always questioning what we think we understand. Is infamous director Cordova evil or a master of branding? Did his daughter kill herself because she was troubled or something more? Does magic exist? Mystery upon mystery, trapdoor after trapdoor, twists and turns abounding. All leading up to...not a resolution, per se, but you could say Cordova would have approved of the ending. So did I. (Side note: the book contains newspaper articles, photos of the director and deceased, print outs, and the like. Great bonus features. Apparently the e-book contains all manner of Easter eggs.)

Even if you aren't a dedicated reader of Allie Brosh's blog Hyperbole and a Half, you'll likely enjoy the book. The full color oages serve her drawings well. (May she always draw dogs. Always.) Many of these pieces made me laugh out loud, even the ones I'd already read. Adventures in Depression, parts 1 and 2, God of Cake, and her identity pieces are/were my favorites.


You can see all the books I've read at Goodreads


Currently reading:  Hazardous (Cyzewski), Written Together (Mallon), Comfort Me With Apples (Reichl), Thirst (Oliver), Eat With Joy (Stone), Feast (Lawson), A Million Little Ways (Freeman)


(I read 10 books this month. I don't have my book log with me but I believe my final tally for the year is 142. Assuming I don't finish anything between now and tomorrow night.)



Must-see TV: The Vampire Diaries, Reign, Once Upon A Time, The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills

I still can't quit them: Hallmark and Lifetime Christmas movies.



New discoveries: Anna Ternheim, Pharrell Williams (so not new but I've not paid much attention until Happy, which makes me want to DANCE)

I went to Andrew Peterson's Behold the Lamb of God show at the Ryman for the third time. It's one of my favorite Christmas traditions. Ellie Holcomb was part of this year's line up and I swear her rendition of Deliver Us is the best yet.

I also went to Over the Rhine's Christmas show. I went to their Christmas show in Chicago before I moved here and it was one of the best I'd ever been to. They didn't disappoint this time either. They played a few songs off the Christmas album they'll release next year (CANNOT WAIT) and a few of my favorites off of Snow Angels.


Listen to the What I'm Into 2013 Spotify playlist.


Things I Love:

  • My old roommate Jen was in town visiting her sister for Thanksgiving so I was able to meet up with her, her husband Jason (aka TM), and their baby for coffee. So fun catching up. So fun trading baseball banter with Jason. We'll never see eye to eye on Chicago baseball but I pray some day they'll see the light.
  • One of the best meals of my life at Husk with my friend Jennifer. I can't afford to eat like that very often but it's going to be my go-to place when I have something to celebrate.
  • Meeting up with Allison Buzard. Some of the best friendships start on Twitter. And then they're cemented when you witness a child puking in a coffee shop. Truth.
  • Catching up with my friend Amanda who is back in town from Rwanda. So great hearing about her work there.
  • Christmas in my hometown. I feel my heart and soul expand whenever I'm back amongst friends and family. I don't want to move back but a part of me has never left.

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  • Last Sunday was my only chance to hang out with my best friend while I'm back in town. I showed up at her house and she said, "want to go to Little Goat?" I squealed YES! and we hopped in the car and drove to the city. I've been wanting to go to one of Stephanie Izard's restaurants for ages (it's even on my Life List) and it was such a treat to go to Little Goat with Erin, especially since we watched Stephanie's season on Top Chef together. Amazing food, amazing service. An unforgettable night.
  • Time with too many dear ones to list. You know who you are. Grateful for my time with each and every one. I cannot believe how many friendships have remained since I moved out of state. (Family, of course, is stuck with me.)
  • Tiki-ing, followed by Frontera Grill with Brenna and Emily. A stellar night through and through.
  • Catching up with the Bogel family. I love having a Louisville oasis.
  • I've been using the PaperKarma and my junk mail is definitely on the wane. It's a free app and all you have to do is take a picture of the mail and they'll take you off the mailing list. Brilliant.
  • I'm now 3 months in to my Birchbox subscription and still loving it. I love being able to try various beauty products with minimal investment. I'm especially a fan of the lip and skin products they've been sending. Keep up the good work, y'all!



On The Blog:

As the Book Club Editor for SheLoves Magazine, I was thrilled to finally unveil our name and tell you our first pick. Will you be joining us in January?



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What I'm Into Link Up Guidelines:

1. Today’s link-up will stay up for one week. The next What I'm Into link up will be Friday January 31.

2. Link the unique URL of your post, not your blog's home page. Readers peruse link ups months after the fact and you want to make it easy for them to find your What I'm Into post.

3. Please include the What I'm Into button or mention you're linking up with What I'm Into at Leigh Kramer.

4. Visit at least 2 other posts in the linkup!



What have you been into this month?

Disclosure : Amazon Affiliate links included in this post.  If you click through to Amazon, any purchase you make supports this site.

Confessions of a Book Nerd: Vocabulary Woes

Confessions of a Book Nerd
Here's the thing. I have a big vocabulary thanks to AP English and years of consuming as many books as possible. Here's the other thing: I'm not always sure how to pronounce said words or whether I'm using them properly. This is the consequence of reading, instead of hearing, and gleaning definitions via context instead of consulting a dictionary.

I'm not above embarrassing myself so as to help a friend. I hope you'll learn from my example. A big vocabulary is grand but pronouncing and using words correctly is even better.


Exhibit A:

Senior year of high school, AP English, Dr. Langlas's class. The assignment: write a scene involving any two characters from the books we'd read that year. I chose Cyrano (from Cyrano de Bergerac) and Rochester (from Jane Eyre). After we wrote our scenes, we had to perform them in class. I loved this assignment and I still have my copy tucked away.

In any case, I included the word "façade", which made perfect sense given Cyrano's penchant for pretense. Except when I said my part, I pronounced it as fackade, insted of fuh-sahd. Sure, I'd heard the word before- though who knows when or where, I knew what it meant, but I had no idea the word I'd read was the same thing as façade. (In retrospect, I probably could have figured it out if I'd stopped to think about it.)


Exhibit B:

Last week I read Carolyn Weber's stunning new book Holy Is The Day. It's definitely one of my favorite reads of 2013. (Don't worry- lists are coming.) Caro is an English professor so it is no great surprise that literary references and big vocabulary words abound. Most of the time, no matter what you're reading, you can surmise what a word is intended to mean based on context. It's a great way to learn new words. They might not have every day use but I like to add them to my arsenal.

When I read, I generally don't think consciously about how a word is pronounced. But every once in awhile, a word will jump out at me and I'll wonder. In this particular case, Caro used the word "serpentine." Not a new word to me, not in the least. And yet I suddenly couldn't remember how to pronounce it. Serpen-teen? Serpen-tyne? I shrugged and moved on, merely grateful I wasn't reading out loud.

For the record, it's pronounced "serpent-teen."


Exhibit C:

When I was trying to come up with a title for this post, I thought I'd use "The Loquacious Vocabulary." But then I thought I should double-check whether "loquacious" meant what I thought it did. Good thing because it generally means "wordy or full of excessive talk." Not what I wanted to convey.

I asked friends for a word that means "someone who has a big vocabulary" and the results were interesting. My favorites: lexicomane, vocabularian, and sesquipedalian. And yet, there's no way to be sure the majority of readers would know what they meant. Hence, I stuck with "Vocabulary Woes."


  Book Worm Problems

Linking up with #bookwormproblems at Quirky Bookworm

Do you have any vocabulary woes?

Disclosure : Amazon Affiliate links included in this post.  If you click through to Amazon, any purchase you make supports this site.

Coming to My Senses review

I couldn't tell you the name of my mother's perfume but I'd know it by scent. Saved for special occasions and date night with my dad, the perfume signified part of womanhood, this grown-up elegance and sophistication. I don't know the last time she wore it- it's apparently retired now- but it wafted its way through my childhood.

By junior high, I alternated wearing a few fragrances of my own. Love's. Debbie Gibson's Electric Youth. Bath & Body Works' Cucumber Melon.

And then my perfume days ended: my dermatologist told me fragranced lotion was further drying my eczematic skin out and I should probably avoid products with fragrance in them altogether. In retrospect, perfume might have been OK but it was easier to cut it out altogether. I still wore body spray occasionally but I sprayed my clothes, instead of my skin. That sums up my relationship with perfume for the past two decades.

When I first heard of Alyssa Harad's memoir Coming to My Senses: A Story of Perfume, Pleasure, and an Unlikely Bride, I was intrigued. I didn't realize perfume had a larger story or that perfume blogs existed or that someone would be anti-perfume or that perfume could change someone's life.

From Amazon:

Alyssa Harad’s affair with scent begins in secret, late at night, by the glow of her computer screen when she stumbles on a blog devoted to perfume. Bookish and practical, and a stranger to beauty counters, she is surprised to find herself lured into a sensual underworld of quirky characters that changes her mind about much more than perfume. Candid, elegant, and full of lush description and humor, Coming to My Senses takes readers from a private museum of rare essences in Austin, Texas, to the glamorous fragrance showrooms of Manhattan, and finally to a homecoming in Boise, Idaho, to prepare for Harad’s wedding. This deeply personal story reveals the intimate connections between scent, our senses, and the people we are and want to become.

Alyssa Harad emailed me a few months ago, after a recommendation from Katie Gibson (thanks, Katie!), and asked if she could send me a copy of her book. I couldn't say yes fast enough. Whenever a book on my To Read list arrives unexpectedly in my hands, it's as if the stars have aligned.

I had to set Coming to my Senses to the side until I traveled to Seattle last month. There, on the plane, I settled in. Harad whisks her reader away on a feast of the senses. I could have sworn I smelled amber and rain and honey and leather and vanilla solely based on reading her rich descriptions. I contemplated how each perfume would settle and what a heart note actually smells like. What scents have I been drawn toward all these years without really thinking about it?

I was fascinated by the association between perfume and memory. Or just plain scent and memory. We might not smell something for years and the moment we do, we have an instant association. Women have long been known for their signature scent and this can bring back memories of special occasions, relationships, and so on.

The perfume world is accessible while feeling remote. Perfume can be costly but I wonder whether it's a more affordable luxury than we give it credit. After all, one bottle can last years. Harad takes us along through the blogs, the history, the perfumers- giving us the information, while also flooding our noses, so to speak. Along the way, she adjusts to a transition in her career and decides to get married to her long-time boyfriend.

Perfume makes her come alive in a whole new way and it was absolutely lovely to witness that transformation. I'm not saying I cried a few tears on the plane. I'm just saying.

Coming to My Senses is an easy and mesmerizing read. I felt strangely bereft when it was done because I wasn't quite ready to leave the world Harad created. It appears I'm starting a new relationship with perfume.

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When I read the latest copy of InStyle magazine, instead of skipping over the perfume inserts, I actually opened the tab and inhaled deeply. I never do that! Not only that, I considered the notes and scents and my reaction to them.

The other day, I rubbed one of those perfume inserts on my wrists. Just to see how my skin interacted with the scent.

Now I'm contemplating visiting a perfume counter and finding a signature scent of my own. Maybe I'll help my mom find a new signature scent, too. It's the daughterly thing to do.


Do you wear perfume or have a signature scent?

Disclosure: The publisher provided me with a complimentary copy of Coming to My Senses but all thoughts, opinions, and reactions are my own. Affiliate links included in this post. If you click through to Amazon, any purchase you make supports this site.

Snapshots of the PNW

My flight got in later than planned. It was pitch black and cold when my friend's car pulled up to the terminal. I threw my weekender bag in the back and jumped inside, hungry for warmth, thrilled to be here at long last.

We first met at a grammar school volleyball camp in junior high. Several years ago we reconnected at church. We've been friends ever since.

We'd talked about this visit ever since Linda moved to Seattle four and a half years ago. I'd been to Spokane and the Oregon coast and wanted to experience more of the Pacific Northwest. The stars hadn't aligned until now.

Her car zipped us toward her home, past the city skyline, past the glow of the Space Needle. It was strange to finally see the landmark in person. Neither of us could remember the Frasier theme song but we laughed about it anyway.


The time zone change threw me off but the silver lining was time to read in the early morning hours while my friend and her roommate continued to sleep. An introvert's vacation dream.

A chance to rest and recharge. A little extra time to dream.


We shopped at Buffalo Exchange and the biggest, most ginormous Goodwill I've ever seen. I stopped at the Book Larder, which will forever be known as cookbook heaven. We walked through Pike Place Market and I left my mark on the disgusting yet fascinating Gum Wall.

We tucked into scones and crepes and tea lattes and molten chocolate cakes and one of the best sandwiches of my life. I didn't spy Molly Wizenberg anywhere but I sure did delight in pizza at Delancey and drinks at Essex. 

We walked the beach at Golden Gardens Park and the wind whipped through my hair and my eyes watered from the chill. But I wouldn't trade that beauty for everything. I couldn't get over the mountains, seemingly everywhere I looked in Seattle.

I had mentally prepared myself for gray cloudy, rainy, frigid days. (On the other hand, I chose not to bring my winter coat. I'm in a bit of denial.) And instead we feasted on the sun and weather in the upper 40s or 50s. One gift after another.


One morning we sat at Remedy Tea and talked for a couple of hours. Faith, community, callings, work, singleness, social justice. I swear we covered it all. We heard each other's hearts. We offered solidarity. We offered a listening ear.

My tea steeped and her coffee brewed and we tucked into muffins. But the star of the show was the conversation. It always is.

It's amazing the gifts we unknowingly give one another when we take the time to be still. To sit, unhurried and unhindered. To let words meander. To let ideas sink or swim. To truly see one another.


Toward the end of the week, Linda's car pointed toward British Columbia. We crossed the border and there I was on Canadian soil for the first time.

We headed to Claire's house and later to Idelette's. It was surreal and magical to see these Amahoro friends for the second time this year, especially since Kelley and her daughter flew up for the occasion.

Kelley asked about the Enneagram and the words scarcely left her mouth before I yelled, "I've got the cards!" and popped out of my chair to retrieve them. We took those first steps in figuring out everyone's type and then let the conversation fly free.

I sat on Idelette's famous red couch. I drank tea. I talked with my friends. They got to know my friend. Did I mention it was surreal?

For American Thanksgiving, our Canadian friends made a feast. Two delicious turkeys and we all contributed the rest. I walked in the door and Sarah barely let me set down the green bean casserole before hugging me. When sister-friends reunite, it doesn't matter if you've seen them a couple of months prior. You're going to milk every moment you can before you have to go your separate ways.

I met husbands and kids and the house was chaotic and exactly as it should be.

We gathered around the table and by the end of the night, my cheeks hurt from smiling and laughing so much. We traded stories and talked about our callings and even what we're grateful for. We teased each other. A few found a way to joke about the Enneagram and I thought my heart would burst.

I left Idelette's house that night nourished. By the delicious food, yes, but more so by the company. I don't know when we'll be in the same room again. Maybe in the spring, maybe the fall.

These are my people. My long-distance friends. There's never enough time together. And yet, there's always just enough time to ask a necessary question, share a word of encouragement, a hug.


What incomparable gifts: forever friends, sunshine, amazing food, a soul reset.

Dating at Christmas

Patient People
Two years ago a friend and I grabbed one of the last tables at 3rd and Lindsley. We ordered fried pickles and the hot salt perfectly melded with cool ranch dressing. A few feet away, Andrew Ripp belted out an a capella rendition of Joy to the World and the whole crowd clapped along. Christmas spirit descended in to our midst and there was no containing our joy.

Drew Holcomb & the Neighbors took the stage and it should have been enough but there my thoughts went wandering. All over a boy. Not much else would take my mind off of music. A few weeks prior, a much anticipated second date transpired. The kind of evening where you sense a third date will emerge. Only one hadn't. We'd fallen back in to the "will he or won't he" dance that permeated our interactions for months.

Sure, I became frustrated when it seemed the banter was going nowhere. But then he'd reference something obscure I'd told him and something told me to be patient. 

Patience isn't my strong suit, despite its recurring theme in my life.

I rationalized his caution. I so rarely meet intriguing single men that I had a hard time sticking to the conflicting dating advice I received. If he's into you, he'll pursue you. Don't say yes if he asks you out over text message. Ask him where it's going. Let him set the tone. And on and on it went.

I was confused but mostly accepted that a third date looked unlikely. I didn't want to wait for him to make up his mind. This unknowing had gone on long enough. (If you only knew how long.)

However, it didn't keep me from wondering about him as Drew and Ellie sang. The room teemed with reminders of my singleness- song lyrics, Drew and Ellie's chemistry, couples at surrounding tables. It was bittersweet to have experienced the promise of a relationship so close to Christmas. It may only been a couple of dates but that first date was unlike others I'd been on.

It made me think this guy would be different, that this could be my bright light in a year marked with uncertainty and loss. When the inevitable question arose at holiday gatherings, I could practically picture myself leaning in to tell an aunt, "well, there is this one guy..." But it apparently wasn't meant to be.

It was a great show, despite my distracted thoughts. My friend and I agreed it should be a yearly tradition. Once home, I puttered around, my thoughts racing back toward him. The "what if's?" had their say and then the "why me's?", followed by "I'm going to be alone forever."

I surveyed the wreckage of my dating life and could only come to that conclusion. A couple of dates dashed my contentment to pieces. With Christmas around the corner, I felt alone. Not lonely, mind you. But alone.

A few weeks prior, my younger brother married. A few weeks before that our grandmother died unexpectedly. The landscape of our family would look markedly different this holiday season but I stayed the same. No boyfriend or fiancé to speak of. Just me.

All these thoughts flooded my mind.

I didn't want to be single for another Christmas. Not because singleness is awful- I'll fight anyone who says that- but because I want to share my life with someone. I want to hold my husband's hand as we sit around the tree. I want to experience the magic of the season in a whole new way.

It hadn't happened two years ago and it hasn't happened now. A good man is hard to find and it only seems more difficult at Christmas.

I'm used to navigating life by myself. Most days I scarcely notice I'm alone because this is simply life and a glorious one at that. But there are moments when my aloneness screams at me: Christmas, weddings, funerals, family gatherings.

I know I'm not truly alone. I am connected to all manner of family and friends. They ground me. I may wish to share my life with the man of my dreams but I am already sharing my life with people who love me as I am.

The other day I read Henri Nouwen's words on waiting in the Advent book Watch for the Light. He says, "patient people dare to stay where they are." Hopeful waiting is patient and open-ended and oh is this my struggle when it comes to dating and so many other things.

So I circle back to the lesson I've been learning the last few years: I'm tethering my hopes and dreams to the present. I'm daring to see what else is left to learn about being alone.


I don't share much about my dating life but this story kept nagging me as the holidays drew nearer. This post was originally published at  A Deeper Story.