Saturday, June 30, 2012

Review: Destination Unknown

Destination Unknown
Destination Unknown by Agatha Christie

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

When I think of Agatha Christie, I usually envision the setting in the twenties or thirties. What fun that this book was published in the 1950s, amongst general fear about communism. Though no murder took place and the lead detective wasn't as personable and memorable as Poirot, Destination Unknown is a great amount of fun and highly recommended.

And now I'm off to watch a Poirot on Netflix... because that's what Saturday night is for.

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Friday, June 29, 2012

Weekly Menu

Weekly Menu
Peppered Lamb Burgers with Hot Tomato Jam, grilled zucchini, and corn on the cob
Japanese-Style Grilled Fish, sauteed tatsoi, and steamed rice
Mushroom, Rajas, and Corn Tacos with Queso Fresco 
Spring Minestrone with Chicken Meatballs, fresh bread
Roasted Beet Salad with Beet Greens, Pecans, and a Basil-Lemon Vinagerette

Grilled Nectarines with Honey Balsamic Glaze
Oatmeal Muffins

The Rory Gilmore Reading List

I confess, I'm a Gilmore Girls fan. It's been ages since I've watched any, but I was pleased to see the official Rory Gilmore Reading List on today. Anyone else feeling really nerdy and actually want to read all of these? I counted through and I've read 31 of the list. Not so bad, right?

And speaking of the beloved GG, I wonder if Ian minds if I slightly adjust our Netflix queue... and by slightly, I mean I really want to watch the whole series again. Now.

• A Month Of Sundays by Julie Mars
• The Razor’s Edge by W. Somerset Maugham        
• Small Island by Andrea Levy 
• My Sister’s Keeper by Jodi Picoult 
• A Quiet Storm by Rachel Howzell Hall 
• My Life in Orange by Tim Guest 
• Truth & Beauty by Ann Patchett 
• The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon 
• The Polysyllabic Spree by Nick Hornby 
• How to Breathe Underwater by Julie Orringer 
• The True and Outstanding Adventures of the Hunt Sisters by Elisabeth Robinson 
• Nervous System by Jan Lars Jensen  
• The Meaning of Consuelo by Judith Ortiz Cofer 
• The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini 
• How the Light Gets In by M. J. Hyland 
• Oracle Night by Paul Auster  
• Quattrocento by James McKean 
• The Opposite of Fate by Amy Tan 
• Holidays on Ice by David Sedaris 
• Sacred Time by Ursula Hegi 
• Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers by Mary Roach 
• The Five People You Meet in Heaven by Mitch Albom 
• The Fortress of Solitude by Jonathan Lethem 
• Old School by Tobias Wolff 
• The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri 
• The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon 
• The Bielski Brothers by Peter Duff 
• Brick Lane by Monica Ali 
• Reading Lolita in Tehran: A Memoir in Books by Azar Nafisi
• The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger  
• Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood  
• The Song of Names by Norman Lebrecht 
• Property by Valerie Martin 
• Rescuing Patty Hearst by Virginia Holman 
• The Devil in the White City by Erik Larson 
• Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress by Dai Sijie 
• The Kitchen Boy by Robert Alexander 
• Just a Couple of Days by Tony Vigorito 
• Bee Season by Myla Goldberg 
• Fat Land : How Americans Became the Fattest People in the World by Greg Critser 
• Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West by Gregory Maguire 
• Unless by Carol Shields 
• Autobiography of a Face by Lucy Grealy 
• When the Emperor Was Divine by Julie Otsuka 
• Songbook by Nick Hornby 
• Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides 
• Extravagance by Gary Krist 
• Empire Falls by Richard Russo 
• The Song Reader by Lisa Tucker 
• Bel Canto by Ann Patchett 
• A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole 
• The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay by Michael Chabon 
• Me Talk Pretty One Day by David Sedaris 
• Life of Pi by Yann Martel 
• The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy 
• The Red Tent by Anita Diamant  
• The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd 
• The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold 
• Ella Minnow Pea by Mark Dunn 
• Seabiscuit: An American Legend by Laura Hillenbrand 
• The Nanny Diaries by Emma McLaughlin and Nicola Kraus                 
• A Passage to India by E.M. Forster 
• Frankenstein by Mary Shelley  
• Ethan Frome by Edith Wharton 
• Siddhartha by Hermann Hesse 
• Speak, Memory by Vladimir Nabokov 
• The Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco  
• David Copperfield by Charles Dickens 
• The Lottery: And Other Stories by Shirley Jackson 
• Little Women by Louisa May Alcott 
• One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest by Ken Kesey 
• Song of the Simple Truth: The Complete Poems of Julia De Burgos by Julia De Burgos 
• The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne 
• Vanity Fair by William Makepeace Thackeray 
• Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury 
• The Picture Of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde 
• Night by Elie Wiesel 
• The Code of the Woosters by P. G. Wodehouse 
• Hamlet by William Shakespeare 
• Complete Tales & Poems by Edgar Allan Poe 
• Beloved by Toni Morrison 
• A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith 
• A Separate Peace by John Knowles 
• Pygmalion by George Bernard Shaw 
• Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes 
• The Story of My Life by Helen Keller 
• The Awakening by Kate Chopin 
• Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank 
• Time and Again by Jack Finney 
• Brave New World by Aldous Huxley 
• The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas 
• Uncle Tom’s Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe 
• Sybil by Flora Schreiber 
• Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson 
• Cousin Bette by Honore De Balzac 
• Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad 
• Galapagos by Kurt Vonnegut 
• The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov 
• The Jungle by Upton Sinclair 
• Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck 
• Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen 
• The Hunchback of Notre Dame by Victor Hugo  
• 1984 by George Orwell 
• The Portable Dorothy Parker by Dorothy Parker 
• The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway 
• An American Tragedy by Theodore Dreiser 
• Death of a Salesman by Arthur Miller  
• Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky 
• Lord of the Flies by William Golding  
• The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger 
• The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald 
• Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte 
• The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath  
• The Sound and The Fury by William Faulkner 
• The Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka 
• The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain 
• Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy  
• Emma by Jane Austen  
• On The Road by Jack Kerouac 
• The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand 

Review: Lord Edgware Dies

Lord Edgware Dies
Lord Edgware Dies by Agatha Christie

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Lord Edgware Dies was a decent read, but probably my least favorite Agatha Christie yet (and I've read in the neighborhood of 10-15 of her books). Of course it was well written, Christie is dependable as always for excellent dialogue, enjoyable characters, and an overall engaging read.

However, I found the plot and actual murders a little more confusing than usual. I've never had to reread the ending of an Agatha Christie before because it didn't seem to make sense the first time. This lack of comprehension could be because I read most of the book after midnight when unable to sleep this week, but still.

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Relaxation & Meditation

It's been awhile since I've posted anything about the Finding Joy / Happiness Project. Truth be told, I've not be doing much (save making the daily goals charts for myself and Ian, which we will start tomorrow). I have some books from the library to go through, but everything has been on hold.

No longer.

I have been thinking about meditation recently, especially because I feel anxious so much of the time. I grew up in an evangelical Christian household, where the word 'meditation' was unfamiliar, and the practice, not exactly acceptable. Too New Age, too cult.

That said, it's taken a little bit of mental adjustment to see meditation as something that could be beneficial to me. And what is meditation, really, besides the quieting of the mind and relaxing of the body?

I did two things today:
  1. I downloaded three mp3 tracks from for guided relaxation; they all have the same vocal instructions, but one has no background noise, one has waves, and one has some zen music. 
  2. I ordered Beginning Mindfulness: Learning the Way of Awareness by Andrew Weiss. This book is a ten-week instructional on how to increase mindfulness and learn to meditate. I also picked up a copy from our local library, because I'm terrible at waiting for things I'm really excited about.
I just finished a twenty-minute segment of the guided relaxation/meditation, and it felt amazing. Have you taken a yoga course? If not, I'll let you in on a secret: at the end of any decent yoga class, there is this magical time where the lights are dimmed, you recline on your mat, and you relax your entire body. The instructor has you close your eyes, and verbally works through different muscle groups in your body, helping you to completely relax. You feel like butter.

This track was twenty minutes of this, and I feel a little blissful afterwards.... if feeling like butter is blissful (it is). I was so relaxed, I lost my bladder control! (This didn't actually happen).

Ian has agreed to do the ten-week awareness project with me, and I'm trying to talk someone else into doing it with us. Want to join? Order the book, and let me know you're interested. I'll be blogging as we go and it would be nice to get a discussion going.

Thursday, June 28, 2012


Parenting: Not being able to find your own keys in your bag, but finding the baby's plastic "keys" instead. Helpful, baby, helpful.

Further Attempts at Organization

It's now after 1:00 am, and I've spent the last... while, shall we say, creating this little document. I know, I know, I'm (seriously) not the most tech-savvy person, and it's not perfect. But I'm thrilled with this and am going to have Ian print out a handful for me tomorrow, or maybe just one I can laminate for daily use (what with the environment in mind, and all that).

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Men at Home and Feminsm

Here's an interesting article from regarding the "mancession" and feminsm by J. Victoria Sanders.

I think it's valuable that Sanders points out that even as more dads are staying home now, the respect for what is considered "women's work" is still quite low. The general attitude is that men shouldn't have to be stay at home parents (poor men, having to cook and clean and take care of children!), and, if going back to work, these men shouldn't have to be competing for "pink collar" positions (those that are typically filled by women).

Oh to be in a world where this is equal respect for all types of jobs, especially those caring for children, our future. Personally, I think teachers should be required to have more education themselves, and should be compensated as well as doctors (and really, that physicians should earn less, but that's for a different day - who really wants to talk insurance and inflation now?).

Looming Thesis Topic

I have two things left to finish my degree:
  1. Write a 20-30 page paper for an independent study.
  2. Write a 80-100 page thesis.
I've been working somewhat consistently since January, taking a few hours a week for reading, note-taking, and thinking. I'm not registered for classes right now, so I have some time. I was originally going to graduate at the end of the Fall 2012 semester, but the professor I wanted for my chair is on a research leave, so it's being pushed out to the Winter 2013 semester.

In meeting with B. last night, I am even more perplexed about what my actual thesis topic should be. I have all of this reading I've done on queer identity and heteronormativity, which are great places to start, but she emphasized the need to "ground" the theory - interviews with participants focusing on specific questions, reviewing a host of blogs or seasons of a television show, a statistical survey, you get the idea.

I hadn't even considered this a part of what I needed to do, but I see the value in it. And I have to have a list of ideas to her by Friday (two days!). This is good - I need a swift kick to the rear to really get moving and have direction, but eeks McGregor!

I am also very interested in the juxtaposition of feminism and attachment parenting. B. suggested an alternative project of looking at the intersection of queer parenting and these two topics.

So maybe I should start working on both papers, and see what they each develop into. Or maybe I just need to make a decision and stop putting off the inevitable.

It's like buying a wedding dress though - something might feel really right, but by committing to it, you are saying "no" to every other possibility, even if you see something later that is a better value, or more figure-flattering. I suppose the wonderful thing about research is that you can always work on whatever you want, one does want ones thesis to be outstanding and special.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Happy Shrieks and Sleep Training Attempt #2

Here again after an almost three-week silence, in which we relocated ourselves to Michigan for the summer, after a brief trip to California to visit family.

Remember that sleep training that was starting awhile back? You do? Great. My child doesn't!

The week in California really wasn't too bad for small Felicity, now six and half months old. She mostly fell asleep in her car seat driving home from various late dinners, and we'd quietly transition her to a make-shift baby bed: a large arm-chair pushed up against the bed. We did try the roll-away crib in the first hotel, but I'm so short I couldn't even lift my baby out if she was laying down. This leads me to believe I'm going to have to get a stool or step to place next to our crib at home once she's able to pull herself up and stand in the crib, and we have to lower the mattress. Just let me start browsing on now to drive myself crazy....

Anyways, California wasn't an issue, and she did her very baby best for her plane rides. On our first plane ride, a direct flight from New York City to Los Angeles that was a 'short' five and half hours, Felicity re-discovered her the high range of her vocal cords. She spent the first hour or two at a high, happy shriek that would not be quelled with a pacifier or soft hushes from parents. (We've since started praising her "indoor," quieter shrieks when she makes them inside, and she actually has learned to moniter her volume depending on if she's outside or inside, clever child!).

On the two plane rides from California to Michigan, Felicity was all about the raspberrying, especially fun to do on mom's shoulder when mom is wearing a tank or tube top! I believe our fellow passengers found this not as annoying as the shieking, albeit a bit gross. One never minds the spit of their own baby though, does one?

It was after we arrived in Ann Arbor that things took a turn for the worse. Going West is no problem for sleep - put in an extra nap, and a baby adjusts just fine to the time zone. Going East? Not so much. The first night she took a nap from 11:15-12:00 am, then was awake until after 2:00 am. We moved it back a little the next night, and then the next, and slowly find ourselves with a bedtime between 8:00-10:00 pm, about two hours later than she was going to sleep in New York. She seemed to have a really hard time falling asleep in this house (as do I, I'm not sure why), most likely a combination of being in a room by herself, new sounds, smells, temperatures (central air, hello Gorgeous!), and sleeping in a Pack'n Play, which is not nearly as cushy or nice-smelling as her organic mattress at home. Nor are there floral birds on the wall to admire.

The first full week here, she would only fall asleep nursing, and then would wake up every 5-10 minutes for an hour or more (one night this went on for three hours!) crying. She would sleep a little better in our bed, but then wake up and go through the whole cycle again when we moved her to her bed in the next room.

You may recall our initial sleep-training guidelines involved picking the baby up to comfort her if she was crying, but not unless she was crying. As our pediatrician pointed out, this can be tricky, and it's almost impossible to be consistent with (if the baby is asleep for fifteen minutes and we leave the room, then hear whimpering or crying that is on-again-off-again, it's really difficult to say exactly when to wait it out or pick her up). It also sends the message If I cry loudly enough, Mom or Dad will hold me... which can lead to extra crying (though I don't believe a baby is old enough to be "manipulative" at this point, all babies are smart enough to learn such patterns, and their behaviors will adjust to what they're learning). This and, at least by the time we arrived in Ann Arbor, Felicity would scream every time we laid her back down again after comforting her in our arms.

So, the new method:
  1. Full bedtime routine if we're home: baby has dinner with us, bath, lotion, bedtime nurse with dimmed lights, story with dad, and a duet of Go to Sleep Little Baby. (At least all of this has been consistent for a few weeks, save the eating dinner with us, which she is now old enough to do).
  2.  Shortened bedime routine if we've been out (Ian and I are just not willing to compromise all socializing, especially as we are the only couple with a baby in our social circle): shortened storytime, bedtime nurse, and her song.
  3. We hold/rock her until she's drowsy, then lay her in her bed, and don't pick her up again. All calming comes from small pats, a hand on the chest, soft words, and singing. If she's calm, hands off, but staying in the room if she's at all fussy.
  4. Encouraging attachment to her blanket/lovey to find comfort in.
We've been using this method for a little over a week now (using the shortened method three nights when we had activities with friends, or a nice dinner out) and I am proud to report that Felicity is once again a fantastic little sleeper! She is able to fall asleep by herself, often without us even in the room. 

For those of you who have used sleep training methods, what has worked or not worked? Were you able to follow through with the sleep training?

Thursday, June 7, 2012

One of the Most Offensive Ads I've Seen.... Ever.

Addendum June 26th, 2012: Sorry the original link went down; I re-linked the video. 

We're traveling, which means hotel rooms, which means.... cable. Ian and I don't have a TV set and wouldn't pay for cable if we did, but we're all for watching a little television once the little lady is asleep for the evening.

Last night, we saw an ad for Klondike Bars:

This makes me want to throw up.

Apparently wives are boring and only talk about shades of yellow and decorating, and "listening" to a woman talk for five seconds means a man deserves a reward. Seriously? When he receives his reward, notice that it's younger, more attractive women who emerge to give him the ice cream, and see how relieved he is not to have to pay attention to his spouse.

Apparently I'm not the only one who noticed this atrocity of an ad. What stereotypical bullshit.

Ian and I vowed to never buy from Klondike again (unless they apologize for the ad... and start making their ice cream out of real ingredients), and I hope you'll do the same.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Breastfeeding & Eliminating Foods/Dairy

As yet another mom bemoaned giving up dairy and "gassy foods" (broccoli, potatoes, etc.) in my mom's support group last week, I had to really bite my tongue to avoid blurting out, "It probably won't change anything!"

It's another of the many controversies surrounding breastfeeding: does what a mother eats and drinks cause gas and discomfort in her breastfed baby? I liked this post by Secrets of Baby Behavior, and Kelly Mom (always an excellent source of information) writes that if there is a problem, it's more than likely a food allergy, which are rare and almost always have accompanying symptoms.

I didn't change my diet at all for breastfeeding. I try to eat a balanced diet (which may involve slightly too much Thai takeout and ice cream, but we're doing our best), but I wasn't willing to give up anything because it didn't seem worth it. As much as I could tell, Felicity had some gassy days, and some non-gassy days. They didn't seem to be tied at all to what I was consuming, and we conquered all with cuddles, belly rubs, and gripe water (or the occasional dose of Mylicon). While she may not be as fussy or gassy as many babies, and may respond more positively to the interventions I named above, I simply cannot believe that over 50% of babies (as evidenced by the number of moms that I know that have eliminated dairy and/or other things from their diet) have food allergies or an intolerance for milk.