I used to be a reader

June 30, 2010 at 9:59 am | Posted in Uncategorized | 4 Comments
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Friends, I have  a problem.  In 2010, I have read…not so many books.  There is no good excuse for this.  For the better part of the year, I have NOT been working 50 hours a week.  I have had more free time than I know what to do with, and yet, I haven’t been reading nearly as much as I did when I was working that much.
So far this year I’ve read:

  • Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout
  • The End of Overeating by David A. Kessler
  • The Help by Kathryn Stockett
  • A Reliable Wife by Robert Goolrick
  • Imperial Grunts by Robert Kaplan (started this, but only about 3 chapters in)
  • Let the Great World Spin by Colum McCann (reading now, about halfway through)

All in all, pretty pitiful, especially since I read about 3x as many books in the second half of last year.  Part of the problem is that it took me forever to get through The End of Overeating, because I just didn’t enjoy it and I had to force myself to finish it.  Same with Imperial Grunts. Oh, and I read The Help in one day.

I can see that part of the problem has been with my choices of books.  The other part of the problem, and I really think this is key, is I have so much free time I don’t prioritize. When I was working a ton, I would squeeze in a chapter here, a few pages there, at lunch, in between jobs, right before bed.  Now I just think, ‘Oh, I’ll have time to read later,’ and go back to watching Deal or No Deal re-runs on GSN or some other waste of time.

So please–I ‘d love some suggestions for books I won’t want to put down. I was thinking of reading The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo next, but I hear that can also be hard to get into.  (Other parameters: I refuse to read Twilight, I love foodie lit–have read most of Ruth Reichl’s books, but I’m open to almost anything at this point).

What’s the best book you’ve read this summer?

Wimbledon 2010

June 23, 2010 at 1:10 pm | Posted in Things I think | Leave a comment
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Forget the World Cup, friends.  The real excitement this summer is Grand Slam tennis!  I love the thrill of a close match, a fast serve, a winning volley.  I even love tuning in to see what Venus Williams will be wearing next (for the record, I love her Tina Turner-inspired Wimbledon dress).

In fact, I started this post several hours ago, but couldn’t finish it because I was glued to the TV watching the EPIC match between American John Isner and Frenchman Nicolas Mahut.  The match is currently in the 5th set with a record 59 games apiece!  If that isn’t exciting I don’t know what is.  Both men have exhibited top-notch physical fitness, playing for over seven hours with just one bathroom break. Better yet, both athletes have been excellent sportsmen throughout the match–no cursing, throwing racquets, yelling at line judges.  In fact, the only time Isner seemed peeved was when Mahut asked to stop play due to darkness.  I can understand his frustration–I wouldn’t want to play the same match for a third day in a row, either!  At the same time, I think Mahut’s request to suspend play was completely reasonable.

At this point, I can’t decide who to root for!  Both have played so well, it will be a little sad to see the match come to an end.  I really wish they could both advance to the next round.

I hope these two players will inspire more kids and adults to play tennis.  I, for one, can’t wait for my lesson tonight!

Which athletes inspire you?

My dad

June 21, 2010 at 12:08 pm | Posted in Family | Leave a comment

This is late, but I wanted to post it anyway.

Happy Father’s Day to my dad from 1800 miles away.

My dad is so many things: He’s a natural Mr. Fix-It.  He cooks.  He’s crafty (I could never have pulled off my wedding DIY projects without him). He’s musically talented. A natural tennis player.  He’s fiercely loyal to his family.  He works incredibly hard.

I haven’t always gotten along with my dad. We certainly had our rough patches, especially through those tumultuous teenage years.  I was the kid with the smart mouth, and I know I wasn’t always easy to be around.

But now that I’m quite grown up and have put some space between then and now, I can appreciate so much of what my dad has taught me.

Always check your work twice. As the queen of careless errors by the age of 5, I remember my father sitting me down at the little kid’s table in the kitchen and making me print out on tablet paper “I will check my work twice.”  Of course I still had to learn the hard way, but I try to be more mindful of my work , and I ALWAYS preach this to my students.

Always try something new at least once. I wouldn’t say we ate much exotic food growing up, but whenever the opportunity arose, Dad always urged us to try something new.  He loves to go to hole-in-the wall places, which frustrated me as a teen when Applebee’s was still a novelty that I adored.  Looking back, I can see how much he has influenced the choices I make when I eat out or travel.  Thanks to my dad, I look for places off the beaten path.

Put family first. Despite working very hard at his job and completing both a masters degree and a doctorate while working full time, Dad has always done his best to leave work at home and to make his family a priority.  I’m thankful for the time he made to spend with us, when, I know if I worked as hard as he does, I would want a lot more time to myself.

I’m so grateful for the ways in which my dad has positively influenced and shaped who I am.  I know I grumbled a lot, but when the time comes for us to have kids, I know I will take many cues from my dad and raise my kids the way I was raised.

Thanks, Dad, for everything.

I need a crystal ball.

June 9, 2010 at 6:25 pm | Posted in Life, Things I think | Leave a comment
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Yesterday I had a job interview. Ever since I got back from Korea, I’ve had a hard time finding a steady full-time job. Much of that has to do with my profession–teaching, the subject I teach (not a core subject), the timing of our moves (twice in the middle of the school year!), and the complications with licensing between states. I’m open to doing something else besides teaching, but since that’s pretty much all I’ve done since graduating, I’ve found it hard to break into a new field without experience, especially in this economy.

So, this interview was a pretty big deal. It’s not a teaching job, but it’s in the education field, and I feel that I would truly be a good fit for the position. But of course, I was not the only candidate for the position. In fact, it’s my understanding that they were interviewing all day for the position. So I fully understand that if I do not get the job, it could just very well mean that there was someone with more experience (or maybe someone who was a little less nervous than me!).

It won’t be the end of the world if I don’t get the job, although I have to admit that I’m fantasizing about how much money we could save if we went back to two incomes. But there’s also the reality that another job like this is not likely to come along again, and the chances of finding a teaching position in my field for the coming school year are not looking good.

If I don’t get the job, it will make my decision to go back to school for a Master’s a little bit easier. I know in the long run getting a Master’s will give me a lot more flexibility, especially because there is relatively high demand for the field I’m interested in. And I love school, so I would definitely be excited about going back. But it’s three years of school, which is tricky when you move as much as we do. And let’s face it–I’m not crazy about the thought of adding to my student loan bill.

I think this is one of those times where God is trying to teach me to rely on Him–because at this point I have no idea what the future looks like, and that makes me very uncomfortable.

Have you gone through something similar? Feel free to share!

Chocolate Cherry Heart Smart Cookies

June 7, 2010 at 4:08 pm | Posted in Deliciousness | Leave a comment
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A few good things have been happening around here  lately (more about them soon), but one of the best has got to be these cookies.  My manager at Fancy-Schmancy Cooking Store shared them with me, and I can’t believe it took me so  long to get around to making them!

Cast of characters incomplete

Very easy to make.  First, mix together your dry ingredients.

Melt butter and add brown sugar. Beat with a hand mixer to combine.  Beat in dry ingredients.  Add cherries, vanilla, and eggs. Fold in chocolate.

This kitchen scale changed my life.

Fold in that chocolate!

Scoop onto a silpat or parchment with your favorite scooping utensil, bake for 10-12 mins (my oven always runs hot).  Let the cookies cool on the sheet for a few minutes before transferring them to a cooling rack.  I highly recommend them warm out of the oven!

Just out of the oven!

Enjoy!

Here’s the recipe:

Audee’s Chocolate Cherry Heart Smart Cookies

1.5 ounces all-purpose flour (~1/3 cup)*
1.5 ounces whole-wheat flour (~1/3 cup)
1 1/2 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
1 t. baking soda
1/2 t. salt
6 T. unsalted butter
3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
1 c. dried cherries
1 t. vanilla extract
1 large egg, lightly beaten
3 ounces bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
1.  Preheat oven to 350
2.  Weigh or lightly spoon flours into dry measuring cups; level with a knife.
Combine flours and next 3 ingredients (through salt) in a large bowl;
stir with a whisk.
3.  Melt butter in a small saucepan over low heat.  Remove from heat; add
brown sugar, stirring until smooth.  Add sugar mixture to flour mixture;
beat with a mixer at medium speed until well blended.
Add cherries, vanilla, and egg; beat until combined.  Fold in chocolate.
Drop dough by tablespoonfuls 2 inches apart onto baking sheets lined with a silicone baking mat or parchment.  Bake at 350 for 10- 12 minutes.  Cool on pans 3 minutes or until almost firm.  Remove cookies from pans; cool on wire rack.
Yield: 30 cookies
*I highly recommend using a baking scale.  The recipe calls for 1.5 oz flour; when I used my 1/3 measuring cup, I ended up with around 2 oz.  I’m not sure if the extra half-ounce would make a huge difference in this case, but I find it better to be more precise when it comes to baking.

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