Weekend Reads and Watches

Hooray for Friday! I love not working on Fridays… it’s a whole extra day to get things done.

This weekend I’ll be busy with all kinds of fun activities: a community theatre audition tonight, followed by a movie night with our youth group kids. Tomorrow I’m taking my church choir on a little retreat so we can work on music for Holy Week, among other upcoming events, and in the evening T and I will be cheering on our local NHL team. And on Sunday, I’ll be avoiding watching the Superbowl (booooo Seattle) by going to dance rehearsal for the show I’m in.

In case you’re not as busy as I am (lucky you!) and need something to keep you entertained, here are my favorite articles and videos from the past week. Enjoy!

This is how I feel (and how I probably look) at dance auditions and rehearsals!

One husband’s moving story about his wife’s struggle with mental illness.

What a cute way to introduce children to Mozart’s opera The Magic Flute. Are there more of these videos out there?

The art of inventing an imaginary significant other has finally reached the 21st century.

Live-action Beauty and the Beast? Emma Watson as Belle? Yes please!!

Have a great weekend!

The List List

I am the queen of lists. I’m a chronic list maker. I love looking at a list and feeling like everything is all organized, all in order, right there on paper. In my life I’ve probably made almost every kind of list there is. (Maybe I should make a list of all the lists I’ve ever made…) You can even find some of my lists on this very blog: irrational fears of minewhat I’ve learned from working at a dental office, how to be awesome at public transit, reasons we’re not parents yet, my travel bucket listwhy my husband rocks, and even some surprising things you may not have known about me.

I might have a problem.

I might have a problem.

Inspired by Jen at That’s What She Read, I’ve created a list of lists I need to make.

  1. Things I should spend my afternoons off doing
  2. Books I want to read
  3. Goals for future months
  4. TV shows to get into
  5. Stuff I want to buy
  6. Adventures for T and me to go on on our road trip this spring (more on that to come!)
  7. Photos I want to frame
  8. Dream roles
  9. Lifetime bucket list (everyone needs one of these)
  10. Household projects to do
  11. Criteria for my future dream home
  12. Things I wish I were better at
  13. Blog post ideas (see previous twelve items)

That’s all I’ve got for now. Do you love making lists more than a normal person should?

Tamale Making

Every February for the past five years, our church has sent a team of people to Mexico for a week to work at an orphanage called Rancho Santa Marta. It’s a very successful trip each year because of the variety of projects available for people of all ages and skill levels. I’ve never been, but T is going for the first time this year, along with several of our youth group kids and many other multi-generational volunteers.

It costs a bit of money for each person to go on the trip, so in order to lower the cost for everyone, we do a fundraiser in January where we make and sell tamales by the dozen. We have one family in our church who are all expert tamale makers, and every year they coach the rest of us through the process of making them. It’s pretty simple, so even some of the younger kids in the church can come help out.

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Some of the leaders showing us all how it’s done.

To make tamales, there are a few items you need:

  • Masa, or tamale dough (plenty of recipes available online)
  • Some sort of pre-cooked meat (we used pork)
  • Corn husks (the bigger the better)
  • Plastic gloves (it gets messy)

The first thing to do is create a small pancake of masa on top of a corn husk. You want it to be thin, but it should cover about the upper 2/3 of the husk. Then place a small-ish amount of meat in the middle of the masa. You can spread it out a little, but not all the way to the edges.

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It should look something like this.

Once you’ve put the meat in, fold the whole thing in half or in thirds, making sure the masa seals on the open edge. Fold up the bottom (pointy end) of the corn husk and push the masa and meat towards the top, but don’t let it come all the way out.

After that, the tamales have to steam for a while. Food and Wine recommends an hour and a half, but I don’t think our cooks did it for that long. So sue me, I was helping with the preparation, not the actual cooking.

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Students working.

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More students (and T) working.

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A tortilla press, which you can use to make the masa flat and even on the husk.

It's a messy process.

It’s a messy process.

Pan full of assembled (but not yet steamed) tamales.

Pan full of assembled (but not yet steamed) tamales.

One of our students hard at work making it just right.

One of our students hard at work making it just right.

We sold the tamales in bags by the dozen, with instructions for reheating at home. Of course, T and I bought two bags, one of which was completely gone within 24 hours. They are always so delicious, and we raised a good chunk of money toward the Rancho Santa Marta trip.

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The finished product.

And they are even more enjoyable as a consumer!

And they are even more enjoyable as a consumer!

Have you ever made tamales before?

Weekend Reads (and Watches)

Happy Friday! I’m off to winter camp this weekend with the high school kids from church. We’ll be spending the next few days with youth groups from several different churches in our area, attending seminars and worship services, playing games, and learning what it means to be faithful to God in all aspects of our lives.

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To tide you over until Monday and keep you entertained this weekend, here’s a compilation of some of my favorite internet gems from the past week or so.

What one guy learned from his week of wearing makeup.

A fellow believer’s take on why people leave the church.

The cutest little seashell ever.

As a wife, am I treating my husband fairly?

A vending machine of sorts that gives food to stray dogs!

I don’t actually live in San Francisco, but I’ve definitely thought, said, or heard almost all of these things at some point.

Looking for a new job? Avoid these five cover letter clichés.

On the list of the 25 most amazing college concert halls, number one looks awfully familiar!

Have a great weekend, everyone!

A Birthday Ode to My Husband

Sorry ladies, but T is basically the greatest husband ever. On his 27th birthday, I would like to share just a few of the reasons why I think he’s the best.

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1. He’s a wonderful man of God and a strong leader in our church. Not only does he participate whole-heartedly in music, he is a fantastic youth leader and is even taking on a much bigger leadership role on the governing board of elders. It’s inspiring to see how passionate he is about his faith and helping others grow to know Christ.

2. He’s brilliant. For as long as I can remember, I’ve wanted to marry someone who was smarter than me. It always seems to me that T knows, well, everything. He teaches me things all the time without making me feel dumb, and that’s priceless.

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The mustache obviously makes him smart.

3. He’s great with all things smaller than him. He loves to snuggle our kitties (only on their terms, of course), and it’s so fun to watch him with little kids. Plus he knows exactly how to handle the not-so-little kids… by sitting on them, of course.

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Nora probably started meowing loudly and pushing his face away right after I took this picture.

4. He loves to play and often lets out his inner child. When he’s not being a technology master or reading books that are way over my head, he can usually be found playing video games from his childhood or watching old cartoons on a Saturday morning. Sometimes he’ll spontaneously tackle me or show me a YouTube video that end up with both of us scream-laughing. And of course, he loves Christmas more than almost anyone else I know.

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5. He’s thoughtful. Every year for our anniversary, he makes me a flower out of whatever material corresponds to that anniversary. So far I have one made out of paper, one of two-dollar bills (two years is cotton, get it?), and one made out of leather. How awesome is that? It’s a really special tradition that I look forward to every July 1st.

6. He’s always supportive of me. When I was pursuing a singing career, he was supportive even when it took me away from him. When I decided to give that up, he supported that too. I know he wants the best for me, even when I sometimes don’t know exactly what that is.

We're in everything together, even things that cause us to make these faces.

We’re in everything together, even things that cause us to make these faces.

7. He has taught me what it means to forgive and love unconditionally. Even on my worst days, he is an example of God’s great love and mercy. It’s only since we’ve been married that I truly understand how our relationships on earth should reflect our relationships with God, and what it means to be the bride of Christ.

Happy birthday, T! I love you!

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January Goals: Mid-Month Check-In

Let’s see how badly I’m doing on my goals for this first month of the new year!

1. Remove myself from any email lists I don’t use. I haven’t technically done this yet, but my intentions are good. What I have done is create rules for certain email lists to be filed directly into certain folders/inboxes. That way they don’t clutter up my main inbox, but I can still find them if I’m dying to know about the latest shopping deals. That’s something, right?

2. Organize miscellaneous areas in our house. I have been working on this, hooray! I’ve come up with new solutions and bought storage bins, and so far I’ve reorganized our hodgepodge collection of tools, overflow of desk and office supplies, and plethora of lotions and bath items that I inevitably get as gifts. Still on the to-do list are the “junk drawer” in our laundry area containing mostly lightbulbs and batteries, blank CDs and empty cases, picture frames, and lots of T’s random tech equipment. #takeittoworkplease

3. Meal plan and grocery shop once a week. This has actually gone fairly well. I did great the first week and we ate way better than we have been. This past week I didn’t do as well with sticking to a schedule, but we managed to cook at least a few meals at home. I will be heading to the grocery store tomorrow to stock up for the coming week.

Are you sticking to your goals this month, or have you already fallen off the bandwagon? Let me know!

Gone Girl (Spoilers!)

Note: This post contains spoilers!

I think I’m probably the last person to get on the Gone Girl wagon, but now that has been righted! I finished reading it in a mere ten days, which is ridiculously fast for me if I’m not on vacation. It was that good.

Like everyone else who has read this book (or seen the movie, I assume), my attachment to the various characters can be summarized thus: I liked and/or sympathized with certain characters until I didn’t, and vice versa. It was a sudden, 180-degree turn. If you’ve read the book, you know exactly what I’m talking about. Nick is a thoroughly unlikable character throughout the first part of the book, due partly to the chapters in his point of view and partly to the way Amy describes him and their relationship in her diary entries. Author Gillian Flynn does a fantastic job of making the reader hate Nick right off the bat by hinting (in no uncertain terms) that he played a major role in Amy’s disappearance and potential death. From what we know of his character, this seems more and more likely as we read on, and we hate him more and more, until we get to Part 2 and turn the page and everything changes in about two sentences.

At this point, of course, the tides completely turned for me. All of a sudden I saw everything in a completely new light, which was obviously Flynn’s strategy all along, so kudos to her. As I continued reading and even as I finished the book, my overwhelming thought was (and still is), “Amy Elliott Dunne is freaking psycho.” What kind of disturbed sociopath would you have to be to fake your own murder, sending your husband to prison and ultimately the death penalty, because you found out he was cheating? Don’t get me wrong, he’s a terrible human being himself, but STILL. Plus she obviously has no trouble offing Desi Collings later in the book, but only after she forces him into having sex with her so she can accuse him of rape when she returns home. And all this because she decides that Nick will forgive her after all and that she can force him into loving her again. Are there actual human beings in the world who are this cold, unfeeling, and utterly insane? I sincerely hope not.

In a way though, the complete psychosis of the story and the characters, particularly Amy, made the book that much more fun to read. Not fun in a light hearted, easy-beach-read way, obviously, but in a gripping way that made me not want to put it down. I haven’t felt like that since I discovered Dan Brown’s books (but before I realized they were actually all the same book). The way Nick and Amy constantly try to outsmart each other and predict each other’s next move is jaw-droppingly twisted.

I haven’t decided yet if I will see the movie. To be honest, I feel like this is the type of movie that would freak me out even though I already know exactly what’s going to happen. Also, while I did spend the entire book picturing Ben Affleck as Nick, I couldn’t bring myself to envision Neil Patrick Harris as Desi Collings. In my mind, NPH plays the classy gentleman, whereas Desi struck me as an extremely weak, whiny child who would go to extremes to get his way just for the sake of getting his way. But maybe I’ll be surprised.

In case you haven’t gathered, this is a book I totally recommend, if not for the faint of heart (Mom, this book is not for you!). And it allows me to check off the first book of the 2015 Reading Challenge: A book that’s currently on the bestseller list!

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Have you read (or seen) Gone Girl? What are your thoughts? I’d love to chat more about it with you!