Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Book Report: Etiquette & Espionage

Let me be honest: September was kind of a hot mess. There were a lot of book shipping difficulties and some other snafus, but let's talk about the actual book, Etiquette & Espionage, because it was the star of the show!
What did you think about the book? A fun, steampunk adventure? The world too inapproachable? I'm curious to know!

Next month's book is Neil Gaiman's The Graveyard Book (which feels appropriately October-y/creepy!). I know many of you have asked about his stories before, and I couldn't wait to introduce you to his writing! I think you're going to love it :)

You can snag a copy on Amazon* (be wary of shipping times in the midst of all of Amazon's book disputes; Kindle versions should be safe, though!) or grab a copy from your local library. Don't forget to join the Facebook group to join in on the discussion!

*affiliate link

I can't wait to read with you in October!

Monday, September 29, 2014

For the Love of a Linguaphile v.123

( via Gary Robertson ) 

incipient adj.: beginning to develop or exist; initial stages (via)

His writing was not fit to be read in its incipient stage; it was full of blanks and nonsensical sentences.

For the Love of a Linguaphile is a weekly series celebrating the snazzy words we encounter, from those found in great literary works, to those pesky words that keep popping up in everyday life. Hopefully you can incorporate a new word into your vocabulary, or even share one of your favorite words!

Sunday, September 28, 2014

link love

♥ In honor of Banned Books Week these past few days, here's some banned books by the numbers. ♥ Mind Boggling Facts About Banned Books in America — Which book are you most surprised to see on any of these banned books lists?
What's your signature word?
♥ It's no secret the economy has changed, but is 4 jobs the new normal?
King Richard III Suffered Nine Blows to the Skull. Ah, science.
Your brain on metaphors
♥ Science has given us a reason to explain why we keep missing typos
♥ How to Be a Fan of Problematic Things (yes! Read this, I can't ask you enough!)
♥ Is there a way to skip college and still thrive? One Philadelphia-based student opted out of the traditional college route and recounts her story.
♥ 10 Ways to Make Waking Up Easier with a Seasonal Morning Routine
♥ Last week, a dad shared a story about his daughter's disappointment with the lack of female superheroes in DC's Axis of Villains game. I was so pleased to read DC's follow up to his criticism, and how understanding and open they were to their own errors.
♥ How Neil Gaiman Stays Creative in an Age of Constant Distractions
Women Who Want To Be Alone in Western Art History — genius.

What fun links have you found this week?

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Things I Love Thursday

I pretty much woke up one day this week and decided that I need to make some major changes to my blog. There are some things is just not excited about, and the more I procrastinate this site design update, the more ideas I think of to make this a truly awesome place. I've still got some planning and logistics to line up, but this is my public vow to get off my butt and make it happen.

♥ As sad as I was to leave my group of students that I started off the school year with, I'm glad to see some of the kids I first taught at my other school. Most of them have grown by a good couple of inches, so I hardly recognize them at first glance! It's bittersweet but still good to see all of my old co-workers and familiar faces too. 

♥ Growing up with divorced parents, I lucked out and got double holidays. Since doing 5,000 things in one day is just plain ridiculous, my dad's side of the family and I usually celebrate things like my birthday a week or two before (or after) it actually happens. This has always created a whole, practically, month-long birthday celebration and this year was no different! It was great to get to spend some time with that side of the family too. And can you say cake for breakfast?

♥ Friends of mine just moved back to town from California and I couldn't be more excited! It was nice to see hem after a few years, and of course watch terrifying game trailers, drink tea, and play some Mario Kart. 

little loves
Margaret Atwood's Stone Mattress stories ♥ bowls of soup ♥ how easy it is to throw dinner in the crockpot ♥ changing leaves Within Temptation is the perfect fall soundtrack ♥ the ridiculousness of Rainbow Road and the fact that, much like bowling, I need bumper rails or I drive off into space ♥ an amazing group of supportive, honest, likeminded bloggers and biz ladies! ♥ Birthday coupons! ♥ Justice League on Netflix ♥ organizing all of my binders of teaching papers! ♥ #30Lists (though I can't believe it's almost over!)

What are you thankful for this week?

Monday, September 22, 2014

For the Love of a Linguaphile v.122

( via blakjakdavy ) 

rivulet n. [ˈri-vyə-lət]: a small stream water or liquid (via)

The rain streamed down the windshield in rivulets, obscuring her vision as the storm continued to beat down.

For the Love of a Linguaphile is a weekly series celebrating the snazzy words we encounter, from those found in great literary works, to those pesky words that keep popping up in everyday life. Hopefully you can incorporate a new word into your vocabulary, or even share one of your favorite words!

Sunday, September 21, 2014

link love

♥ Many of you asked about my apple cider chicken recipe this week. This is the one I use and it's delicious!
♥ Tell anyone you're an English or Creative Writing major and — gasp! — how will you ever get a job? A sad but true reality of Creative Writing's Job Problem and the Magic Building Where English Majors Work
♥ I'm still newly navigating the waters of video editing, so I found Being Geek Chic's roundup of the Best Video Apps for Every Situation immensely helpful!
♥ I hadn't heard about McGraw Hill's Smart Books until Mia mentioned them a few weeks ago, but it sounds like a wonderful way to personalize how you study!
24 Books You Should Read Now, Based on Your High School Favorite
♥ Monday kicks off Banned Books Week 2014, and this year's focus is graphic novels!
♥ Not sure if you're a writer? Read this.
8 Book Historians, Curators, Specialists, and Librarians Who Are Killing It Online
♥ Tiffany Han is on a quest to gather 100 rejection letters. What happens when she's told 'no'? What happens when she's told 'yes'?
♥ Preserved Moments of Historical Sass. I've got some exploring of the archives to do...
♥ Sometimes I have trouble explaining the magic of Haruki Murakami to others, but this post does quite a wonderful job
15 Career Tips from Smart Women
♥ I know I just got done whining about how I don't like anime, but Gekkan Shoujo Nozaki-kun does a lot of gender role expectation reversal that has me itching to check it out for its commentary.

What fun links have you found this week?

Friday, September 19, 2014

Geeky Confessions

Mariko of Gamerwife wrote about her geeky confessions the other day, and I was so inspired by her honesty and that of others who joined in to share their geeky confessions that I knew I had to put together my own list.

Being a "geek" is a strange phenomenon, even though the journey hasn't been strange at all. I grew up on sci-fi movies, video games, and "nerdy" pursuits like reading. While I had never viewed myself as "geeky" at the time, I knew that there were some things that just weren't acceptable in mainstream culture, especially for a girl. I never felt attacked for my own interests, but I also never felt as if I could openly indulge in those things that I loved.

And then the Internet happened, and "geek" culture came to the forefront. It's had — and is having – it's ups and downs, but overall I'm glad that it's easier to connect with others about "geeky" things. Whether it's comic books, video games, superheroes, Harry Potter, or anything at all, the general consensus about what it means to be a geek is to feel immense passion for things that are of interest to you.

Yet despite feeling as if I can talk about my geeky interest more openly nowadays, there are certainly some opinions which I tend to keep to myself. Some are unpopular opinions. Some are just guilty pleasures (which I am having my own inner battle about the term as I type this). Some are confessions, because let's face it — no human being can know everything about everything. I'm only human and there are some things I don't like. Some movies I haven't seen. Some books I haven't gotten around to. Some games that I probably wasted my time on. But I want to share my confessions today. They're not confessions I'm ashamed of, even though I might feel hesitant to share them at first, for a plethora of reasons.

But when it comes down to it, if you don't have opinions about things, then why bother with the thing at all? We're not all the same, and it'd be pretty darn boring if we were.
I hate Kingdom Hearts. I only play it out of spite. I think the gameplay is horrendous, I think the storyline is too complicated, I think the "halves" in between releases is totally BS. And frankly, I think Square got money hungry and ruined an otherwise awesome concept. Do I still enjoy Ariel's "Under the Sea" singalong? ...yes. Will I buy the third game when it if it ever comes out? Probably, but again, so I can beat it out of spite. For some unknown reason I just feel like I have to finish this ridiculous game.

I'm also a chronic video game starter, but I rarely finish a game. I've gotten better lately, but growing up on Final Fantasy I just kind of assumed that all games took 40+ hours to complete and found myself ditching games because I didn't have the time. It wasn't until later that I realized not every game is as long and daunting as the RPGs that I love, and I can easily complete a game if I build it into my schedule and just go for it. I've gotten a lot more confident and comfortable in my non-Playstation, non-RPG game-playing abilities too.
I didn't start reading comic books until last year. I had my little bits of exposure to superheroes over the years, enough to know who they were and appreciate big blockbuster movies, but I was always scared of comics. I didn't know where to even begin, and with so many different arcs and reboots and writers and teams it all seemed incredibly daunting. Not to mention I'd run out of just about every comic book store I had ever set foot in. I'm still learning how things all fit together, and while it's still daunting, having friends that enjoy them makes me feel like I have a much better understanding. Finding your own tastes and likes always helps, too.
I used to be fairly into anime in middle school, but over the years I just lost interest. As a Japanese major, people assume that I must like it, and there are certainly anime I've seen and enjoy. But I don't keep up to date with anime (the last "wave" I really even heard of was Chobits/Nana/CLAMP/Death Note stuff). If it's not Sailor Moon, Card Captor Sakura, Angel Sanctuary, Cowboy Bebop, Rurouni Kenshin, Gundam-era anime, I probably don't know it. And honestly? I probably don't care.
A slow appreciation for Doctor Who seems to be fairly common. I'm not the only one I know who didn't fall in love with the show right off the bat. Some friends on mine would marathon it, but it took me a good two seasons before I cared enough to do so. Not that I didn't enjoy the show, but it just wasn't marathon material for me until a ways down the road. My biggest Doctor Who confession, though? I don't particularly like the Ponds. I found Amy to be a forced love interest for the Doctor, and just generally kind of boring. Perhaps I owe them a rewatch, and maybe they'll grow on me more (they did a bit by the end of their run, but still, I felt like they were overhyped).
I loved, loved, loved Anne Rice books growing up. I've always been solidly in the vampire camp, over zombies and werewolves and other supernatural creatures, however I came to know the Southern, exotic, dangerously old and beautiful with a hint of modern rock style of vampires. I haven't read all of her books, and I haven't read a lot of more recent vampire fiction, but I've always loved the old-world Romanticism she brought into her stories, no matter how ridiculous they sometimes were. I still refuse to read the fourth Twilight book (another confession: I've read 1-3, but they just really bug me), but vampires do hold a place in my heart.

I could certainly go on about my infatuation with Victorian England; my belief that The Mummy (starring Brendan Fraser, of course) is the greatest movie ever made; my admission to not ever have read any Mark Twain, nor having any desire to; my ridiculous crush on David Hasselhoff in Knight Rider as a means to being able to have a car as cool as K.I.T.T; or my elaborate plans to become a mermaid. But I think that's plenty for now.

What are your geeky confessions?

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Things I Love Thursday

It took me about halfway through this week for it to finally hit me: my last day at this long-term sub assignment is this coming Monday. Time has flown and I can't believe my time with these kids is up so soon. It'll be sad to leave, but they're in good hands. Here's to hoping something permanent is on the horizon.

The big thing I'm thankful for this week is...

♥ Finally feeling caught up on THINGS! Sure, I don't feel 100% (or 120%, like I prefer to feel), but it's nice to not feel like you're drowning in stuff to do. Tasks seem manageable, even though there are a lot of them, and the ones that are hard are challenging but not impossible. My book pile is a little thinner. My blog to-do list has been pulled out rather than pushed to the backburner. It's a good feeling!

little loves
apple cider chicken that melts in your mouth ♥ cookies fresh out of the oven ♥ when students use words like 'bogus' in their papers ♥ warm drinks on cold mornings ♥ impromptu forts ♥ Justice League ♥ pumpkin goodies ♥ new winter boots ♥ flannel shirts ♥ hearing that you're appreciated ♥ people who feel like they've been your friends for years, yet don't even live in the area! (curses, Internet!) ♥ news of hockey season popping up here and there...

What are you thankful for this week?

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Smitten: Pumpkin Spice Everything

Pumpkin Spice
Pumpkin Spice Lattes. Pumpkin pie. Pumpkin candles. Canned pumpkin. Pumpkin mac & cheese. Pumpkin muffins. Pumpkin bread. Pumpkin hand sanitizer. Pumpkin this and that and everything in between.

The autumnal equinox doesn't mark the beginning of fall anymore, the sudden appearance of Pumpkin Spice Lattes does (and I'm okay with that).

Everywhere you look, people are eagerly sipping on pumpkin drinks, eating pumpkin-inspired foods. While I once dismissed foods that were pumpkin flavored, saving my annual helping of pumpkin for pie at Thanksgiving dinner, I too was quickly won over. To me, pumpkin spice lattes are like the autumn-specific chai tea; they have similar notes in their spices that make me think of comfort and warmth and that very delicious pie.

Pumpkin Spice
Sure, I get a little sick of pumpkin coffee and food by the time December rolls around (probably because I pile the pumpkin high during the autumn months). But it marks the transition from summer to fall, a time that I love dearly, and makes me feel like I'm pouring all of the sights, sounds, and smells of autumn into a big steamy cup to drink in day after day.

What's your guilty pumpkin-flavored pleasure? The craziest pumpkin-inspired item you've seen?

Monday, September 15, 2014

The Best Places to Find Inspiration

Best Places to Find Inspiration
Believe it or not, I do not wake up and feel instantaneously inspired. Not to write a novel, not to write a blog post, not to draft a lesson plan, not even to go to the gym or get out of bed. That's not to say that there aren't a few errant days here and there where I wake up, bound out of bed, throw open my windows and shout, "HELLO WORLD! TODAY I'M COMING FOR YOU!", but those strokes of creative genius are few and far between.

Yet as a blogger, as a writer, what I do demands creativity and inspiration. Some days I just have to create it myself.
Best Places to Find Inspiration
Inspiration comes in the littlest of forms, the most unexpected of places. I'm no expert, but I've learned enough along the way to at least know where to look. Sometimes I find inspiration when I'm least expecting it, and other times I turn inspiration-seeking into a game. More often than not, inspiration comes to me from the little quips, the happy accidents lurking in unsuspecting corners and catch me completely by surprise. It may not be ideal or efficient, but I wouldn't have it any other way.

This post was inspired by my contribution to the 30 Days of Lists challenge. You can read the full post at the exclusive 30 Days of Lists blog! 

Where do you find inspiration?

For the Love of a Linguaphile v.121

( via Massimo Bairati ) 

desultory adj. [ˈde-səl-ˌtr-ē]: not having a plan or purpose, dragged out; disappointing in performance or quality (via)

The desultory shopping trip threatened to take up half of Amy's day, where she would rather have spent it seeing a movie with friends instead.

For the Love of a Linguaphile is a weekly series celebrating the snazzy words we encounter, from those found in great literary works, to those pesky words that keep popping up in everyday life. Hopefully you can incorporate a new word into your vocabulary, or even share one of your favorite words!

Sunday, September 14, 2014

link love

♥ Need a soundtrack to the book you're reading? I didn't even know this existed!
Sneaky Cleaning Tips for People Who Hate to Clean. YES.
♥ In the Pittsburgh area and want to explore? Look no further. My Guide to Oakland will make sure you don't miss any dinosaurs. Yes, dinosaurs.
The 14 Absolute Creepiest Places to Visit in the United States
♥ Literary fabrics!? Who would like to make me a twirly skirt of books!? Pretty please?
♥ How to Be Alone: An Antidote to One of the Central Anxieties and Greatest Paradoxes of Our Time
♥ I haven't had good, homemade guac since I visited friends of mine in California years ago. Megan's guacamole recipe may change all of this, however
♥ What's Right with Hermione, from a 14-year old girl's perspective.
♥ I don't always actively follow football for my own reasons, but no one can escape the recent news and even PittGirl Declares She's Breaking Up with the NFL.
Need a new book? Here are 10 Victorian novels you should pick up next.

Find anything good online this week?

Friday, September 12, 2014

A Guide to Pittsburgh: Oakland

I've spent my entire life in Pittsburgh, and I still don't know all of the nooks and crannies, the hidden gems of spots that this city holds.

I do know some awfully good spots to see the dinosaurs, however.

My Pittsburgh looks a lot different from my best friend's Pittsburgh, from my father's Pittsburgh, even from Marissa's Pittsburgh. The city holds so many different spots and vibes and secrets that no two people experience Pittsburgh in the same way. Or at least that's my theory.

Pittsburgh is comprised of so many diverse neighborhoods. So when Xandra asked if I would write a guide to Pittsburgh for her Heroine Training project, I panicked — how was I going to fit all of the amazing things Pittsburgh has to offer into one post!?

So I didn't.
Carnegie Library
For some reason there are a lot of dinosaurs in Oakland. I had to actively try to not take more pictures of various ones about town.

It was a compromise, but I instead decided to focus on Oakland, the pocket of Pittsburgh that houses my alma mater, The University of Pittsburgh, and a plethora of cultural and academic sights to see. Come on now, you didn't think I was going to write a guide to my city that was devoid of intellect (and a library mention), did you? Especially when Heroine Training aims to help women become the adventurous, classy, well-rounded, and well-read heroine of their own story!
What are you waiting for? Pop on over to read my full guide to Oakland (and find out how you can be in the library and see a stegosaurus at the same time!)

What do you love most about your city?

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Things I Love Thursday

What a week. I feel like all I've done is run around and try to stay afloat!

♥ It's not natural to feel like your computer is an extension of yourself, I'm sure. While most people feel naked without their phones, I feel naked without my laptop. Even my iPad doesn't cut it; I feel like I'm not running at full capacity. So when my computer decided to just not turn on again, I rushed it to get fixed at the Apple Store. Which it did, but this is now the second time I've needed the entire motherboard replaced. But here I am, still with my computer, and things feel a bit more right.

Being organized from the start. With so many new systems in place for everyone at work, we're all trying to get a feel for how to best run day-to-day tasks to manage it all. I've resigned myself to just taking things as they go and it always pans out in the end. Staying on top of things and doing my best to organize even the simplest of things, like taking attendance or color-coding the special sign-out sheets, is proving to be useful. The deeper we get into the school year, the more I'm thankful for the time I put in earlier to set up some pretty detailed things.

♥ Some of my students from last year stop to visit at the end of the day, and it's so nice to see them and hear about how this new school year is going for them! I realize that a fragmented school experience can throw anyone off, and I hope that I was able to arm them with some tools that have paid off in the short and strange amount of time that they had me. 

little loves
birthday feasts from Noodles & Co. ♥ amusing stories ♥ darlingly decorated table settings (bonus points for woodland creature decor) ♥ catching up on Breaking Bad ♥ time to make a home-cooked meal ♥ being invited to tour the new Pittsburgh West Elm store ♥ color-coded planner systems ♥ morally ambiguous superheroes ♥ Justice League before bed ♥ hazelnut coffee ♥ cozy sweaters ♥ a place for everything (and maybe a binder too) ♥ keeping up with #30Lists ♥ being brave and asking for help ♥ helpful and charming tech assistants (that have British accents) ♥ flannel

What has made you happy this week?

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Book Review: The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender

A lot of you had been asking about my thoughts on The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender since you spied the cover on Instagram back in July. Between vacations, the start of school, and a dysfunctional computer, it's been more of a wait than I intended. But here we are, and here is the review I promised you!

It truly was a wonderful read and just delightfully enchanting overall!
This is probably the first book I picked up by cover alone and fell in love with! Do you usually have good luck judging books by their covers?

Monday, September 8, 2014

For the Love of a Linguaphile v.120

Disney - Hang On Roo!!
( via Joe Penniston ) 

bluster v. [ˈbləs-tər]: to blow loudly and violently (of wind) (via)

It was a blustery day and no matter how hard Roo tried to hang on, he was too light and easily carried away by the wind.

For the Love of a Linguaphile is a weekly series celebrating the snazzy words we encounter, from those found in great literary works, to those pesky words that keep popping up in everyday life. Hopefully you can incorporate a new word into your vocabulary, or even share one of your favorite words!

Sunday, September 7, 2014

link love

Even though my computer is still out of commission, I was able to scrounge up some of my favorite links found this week!

How to handle an overwhelming to-do list right now
Filler words tell us a lot about our relationships with one another.
The 6 Reactions Book-Lovers Have to People Who Don't Read 
♥ Do you have a writing routine? A look at the psychology of writing
Why Tech CEOs Want To Hire Employees with Liberal Arts Degrees
♥ It's always interesting to see different educational systems throughout the world. What the Best Education Systems Are Doing Right
♥ Leo Babauta posted these '7 Rules That Keep My Life Simple'. While some are a little on the more strictly prescribed side for my taste, I realized I have my own set of 'rules' that I generally use in my life
You're not a haphazard has-been
♥ Tired of stuffy literary criticism from the publishing gods above? Why book criticism and literary culture need a poptimist revolution

Find anything good online this week?

Friday, September 5, 2014

West Elm Bakery Square Preview

This is a true test of my blogging-on-the go skills! I've been computer-less for a few days now, a blogger's worst nightmare, and spent most of Wednesday in a tizzy as thing after thing proceeded to go wrong (having to tote half of my electronics to work/get repaired hindered me from bringing along my big camera, so iPhone photos will have to suffice). But knowing that I would be spending some time later that night with the company of Marissa and Angelica at the West Elm preview at Pittsburgh's new Bakery Square store kept me smiling through the day.

via The Modern Austen
via The Modern Austen

Nicole kindly gave us a tour of the store, which was beautifully styled. I've always loved West Elm's ability to mix patterns and styles in a way that feels authentically eclectic, but go together perfectly. Whenever I try to mix patterns on my own, the room ends up looking like a four-year old was left unsupervised for ten minutes. Seeing all of West Elm's accessories and large pieces alike styled in different ways was inspiring and made me realize just how versatile the pieces are!
Versatile pieces also mean that it's easy to achieve a number of vibes depending on your design inclinations. My mother, for instance, is into the modern, where I like more of a hint of rustic/kitschy/traditional/too many things. Yet we both find things we love in the store. Not many places can have us nodding in agreement.
After snapping some photos, touching everything we could (for, you know, testing purposes. I mean really, soft blankets are too tempting!), and smelling every candle on display, we made our way over to perhaps my favorite part of the entire store - West Elm's LOCAL initiative, which features items from designers and craftspeople in the region. Pittsburgh-themed prints, rustic servingware, and delicate geographic-themed mugs? Oh yes.
I'm so glad to have had the opportunity to see the store in person. Shopping online is one thing, but seeing it all in person brings the inspiration to a whole new level!

Also note this fabulously sleek rocker (that would make a killer reading chair!) complete with slanket - what's a slanket? I'm glad you asked. Sweater + blanket + a side of swank = a slanket. This is what happens when I have post-work brains.
A big thank you to West Elm to inviting us to tour the store!

While West Elm extended the invitation and provided us with a complimentary tour, tote, and gift card, none of this is sponsored by them. I just had a really awesome time perusing their collection and learning about their new initiatives! All opinions are my own.

What's your decorating sensibility?