The second blog I’m going to write about in the series on the blogs I love is Justin Lee’s Crumbs from the Communion Table. I actually graduated from Wake Forest University with Justin. We knew each other in passing, but weren’t really friends. I don’t know if he would remember me or not. Justin is the founder and Executive Director of The Gay Christian Network, a ministry serving Christians who are gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender. On Crumbs from the Communion Table, Justin writes about his work as well as answering questions on Christianity and homosexuality posed by readers.
Much like the reasons I elucidated in my post on Whatever, I really enjoy reading Crumbs from the Communion Table because of Justin’s reasoned approach in writing on a topic that is very polarizing. Though Justin does not believe that homosexuality is a sin he approaches the topic from multiple angles and addresses how even Christians who don’t share his view should be reaching out to the gay community in Christian love as modeled by Christ and not in the hate that is too often the basis for their interactions.
The first blog I want to highlight in my series on blogs that I love is John Scalzi’s blog Whatever. Scalzi is a science fiction author. I don’t really care much for science fiction, but because I am such a fan of his blog I gave one of his books a shot. I didn’t hate it, but it was still science fiction and I would much rather spend my time reading something I enjoy more so I won’t be reading any more of his books. His blog on the other hand I will continue to read until he stops writing it.
As is evidenced by the title of the blog, Whatever, Scalzi writes about whatever is on his mind. Sometimes the posts are dedicated to things in the world of science fiction writing. Those posts I tend to skip. He also allows authors to promote their books on his blog via his Big Idea series. It’s all the other posts that are the ones that keep me reading though. He often weighs in on issues occurring in the news. I often though not always agree with his views, which probably helps my enjoyment of his posts. However, what I really appreciate about his thoughts are how reasoned they are. Unlike the crazed vitriol that too often gets spewed around 24 hour so called news channels and the internet, Scalzi presents reasoned thoughts on the subject at hand. He’s willing to engage in civil discussions and not just try and brow beat people into seeing things his way. It’s for this reason I think that he has a lot of readers and many who request him to weigh in topics that they want to hear his opinion about. I suspect that even if I didn’t share his views I would still appreciate the way he approaches writing about often divisive topics.
In addition to newsworthy topics he also posts about just his life in general: his wife, his daughter, his pets, etc. I appreciate those posts as well as they provide a look into his life and make the blog feel human, which is something I gravitate towards. If you don’t already read Whatever I would highly recommend checking it out.
This is kind of an introductory post to the series of posts I’m about to write on the blogs I love. Thanks to the wonders of RSS I follow a lot of blogs, and there are a handful that I want to write about here. Don’t worry if you write a blog and you don’t see it included in my list, it doesn’t mean I don’t love it. At least for now I’m concentrating on blogs that have a wider audience. Thus no one reading this who writes a blog is going to be included because I can guarantee that none of the bloggers I’m going to write about read my little blog. I also read a number of libraryland blogs that I am not going to include because most of the people reading this won’t care about library themed blogs.
Putting together the list of blogs I wanted to write about was a fun little exercise in that I unhid all the feeds in my RSS reader to see a list of all the blogs I was subscribed to revealing to me a ton of blogs that are no longer updated. Many of them I had completely forgotten about. Some of them I don’t even remember what they are just based on the name. There are others like the short-lived blog my sister wrote after my first niece was born that made me smile. I did go back through that one and look at the really old pictures of my niece. There were some defunct blogs that made me sad because I really miss the voices of the people who were writing them. I understand why people quit blogging especially in the age of Facebook and Twitter when it’s so much easier to share quick thoughts or why they move on to other projects that I’m not as interested in, but I still selfishly hope that one day some of these bloggers will return. In addition to just being lazy, it’s partly why I haven’t culled the dead wood out of my RSS feed. If any of these blogs are resurrected I’ll be sure to know. Plus since I can hide any feeds that don’t have new content it’s no big deal for me to leave all these blogs that are no longer updated hanging around.
I’ll be doling out my list of the blogs I love in no particular order over the next week or so. Hopefully you will find some of these bloggers to be as wonderful as I do.
My new current obsession is the game SongPop. You can download the app to your phone, tablet, or Facebook. It’s a name that tune kind of game though not exactly like the old Name That Tune game show. As you know I love music, so this game is right up my alley. Basically there are playlists with various types of songs. You start off with a handful of playlists (80s, 90s, Love Songs, Modern Rap, Classic Rock, Today’s Hits) and are presented with a random selection of the 3 of them to choose from at the beginning of your turn. Then you get 5 songs in that category that you have to guess either the name of the song or the artist. You earn points for each one guessed correctly, earning more points the faster you guess the correct answer. Then whoever you’re playing against has to answer the same thing and whoever earned the most points wins that round.
I just like playing because it’s fun, but the game creators have also built in extra game type things that make you want to keep playing. Aside from the satisfaction of being whoever you might be playing you also earn coins for each round you play (1 if you lose, 3 if you win). You can use the coins to buy things like additional playlists. I’ve earned enough coins to buy a couple new playlists and have my eye on a few more. Also the more you play in each playlist the more songs you unlock, so there is an incentive to keep playing.
I also like the fact that I sometimes get reminded of songs that I like and forgot existed. Though there is also the reverse of that when the game earworms you with a song you don’t like. It’s also not the most convenient game to play due to the audio nature of it. For instance your husband may get mad when you play while he’s watching television. Also I can’t really play on my phone in public like I do other things like Words with Friends. But all in all I’m really enjoying the game and welcome new opponents. My username is dwhren if you want to play.
This weekend I got to hang out with friends I met during my undergraduate years at Wake Forest. It barely feels like I know my friend Karen from Wake Forest, but it’s true. We lived on the same hall our Freshmen year and became great friends. She wound up transferring after that year, but we always stayed in touch and weirdly now live only about a mile away from each other in Baltimore. That’s less weird for her since she grew up in Maryland, but I can definitely say that when we met I never would have guessed we would both be living so close to each other in Baltimore. Despite the fact that we live so close, life and the significant travel she does for her job often mean that we still don’t see each other as often as one might think.
We finally found a time to hang out this past Friday night though. She, her husband, my husband, our friend Alison, and I all went down to the outdoor movie in Little Italy. My husband and I have been trying to make it to a Little Italy movie all summer, but it apparently a rule that it must rain every single Friday night in Baltimore this summer. This weekend was no exception. We braved the ominous looking clouds and went anyway. As per usual we ordered take out from Amicci’s. It started to rain just as we walked out the door with our food, but we persevered. We went and picked up our dessert from Vaccarro’s while it was raining, and by the time we got out it had stopped. We then got to enjoy our food and half of The Talented Mr. Ripley, which was the movie that was showing before it started raining again. At that point we decided to leave. It would have been better if the rain had just stayed completely away, but getting in the dinner, dessert, and hanging out time was the most important and we accomplished that.
Last night I also got to hang out with another one of the friends I made while at Wake Forest. My friend Emma moved to Maryland last fall, and we finally just got around to getting together with each other. That is a little more excusable since she still lives about an hour to an hour and half away depending on traffic. Emma and I had mutual friends in common and so met sometime during our first couple years at Wake, but didn’t really become friends ourselves until our Senior year when we wound up sharing a living space. The dorm we lived in had 4 single rooms and 2 bathrooms with a common living area and kitchen. We became great friends that year and often joked about being the same person.
After graduation we both headed off to graduate school, me in Maryland and her in Indiana so we’ve only seen each other a couple of times in the past decade. Yesterday we met up in Laurel, Maryland which is about halfway between where we each live. I had purchased a Living Social coupon for mini-golf at a place in Laurel so I thought it would be a good excuse for us to get together. My husband and I met up with Emma and her girlfriend Laura, who I was finally getting to meet after many years. We played some mini-golf and then had dinner a sushi restaurant. They weren’t very busy so we didn’t have to feel guilty about sitting at the table and chatting for three hours. It was great to see her and now that she’s living closer hopefully we’ll be able to see each other more often.
I made some great friends during college and I’m always happy when I get the opportunity to hang out with them.
One of my favorite meals during the summer is a simple tomato, mozzarella, and basil sandwich. We used to buy rosemary focaccia from one of our local grocery stores to make these sandwiches on. However, that grocery store has since gone out of business. The remaining grocery store in our neighborhood has also started selling rosemary focaccia, but pretty much everything that comes out of their bakery is sub-par. Their bread is really dry and detracts from the sandwich rather than adding to it, so after a few failed attempts with that we gave up on focaccia bread. There are three different local bakeries that sell bread at the farmers’ market we go to every week, but for some reason none of them sell focaccia bread. We’ve tried various other types of bread from the different bakeries, but none of it worked out really well. It’s not that the bread didn’t taste good. It’s just that the bread is not appropriate for use in these types of sandwiches. It has all been far too chewy and crusty making the sandwich super difficult to eat.
After yet another disappointing sandwich last week, I decided it was time to take matters into my own hands and give making my own focaccia bread a shot. I googled around a little bit and found this recipe for rosemary focaccia. It seemed simple enough, so yesterday I gave it a try. The results were excellent if I do say so myself. The bread was exactly what I was looking for and made a superb sandwich for my dinner last night. It was very simple to make though time consuming. Most of the time needed is hands off, but because the bread has to rise twice, you really need a good stretch of 3-4 hours from start to finish. Thus it’s something I’ll need to remember to make time for on the weekends if I want to have any during the week, but I’ll definitely be baking this again. The one adjustment I would make is to use a finer grained sea salt. The recipe calls for course sea salt, which I used. We also have a slightly finer grained sea salt in stock as well, and I think I’ll try that next time as I occasionally hit a big chunk of salt with it as is. I might try and play around with different toppings for it as well at some point. It was definitely a successful experiment that will bring joy back to my tomato, mozzarella, and basil sandwiches.
Anyone who has spent any time on this blog knows that music is a very big part of my life, so the other day when I saw this story on NPR about the Six Songs of Me Project I was intrigued. I spent a lot of time thinking about the songs I would use to answer these questions. It was a really difficult exercise mostly because how do you choose just one song? Most of these questions I could have answered with dozens of songs. Here’s my best effort though.
What was the first song you ever bought?
I actually am not sure what the first song I ever bought was. I remember a number of the cassette tapes in my house from when I was a child, but which one I first spent my own money on is not something I remember. Thus, I am actually going to alter this question a little bit to what I do remember, which was what was the first CD I ever bought. I saved my babysitting money to buy myself a stereo that had a CD player in it. This was probably when I was in 7th or 8th grade back in 1991. The first CD I bought to play in it was Salt N’ Pepa’s Blacks’ Magic for the song “Let’s Talk About Sex”. I’m not sure what that is supposed to say about me, but there you go.
What song always gets you dancing?
This question was the one I had the hardest time answering. I’m liable to dance to anything that has a good beat to it, but whether or not I actually would dance is more situational than song related. Thus I came up with Shout by The Isley Brothers. It’s a song that gets played at almost every wedding, and a wedding is always somewhere I will dance. This song will get me out onto the dance floor at any wedding I’m at. There you have it a song that always gets me dancing.
What song takes you back to your childhood?
This question could have had a million answers. There are tons of songs I love from when I was a kid and take me back in one way or another. I thought of a lot of different songs I could answer this question with, but settled on one that has a story I like to go along with it. The song is “Jump” by The Pointer Sisters. My mother absolutely loved that song when it was popular on the radio. She could definitely answer the previous question with that song because she would always get up and dance to it. My sister and I being the lovely children that we were and knowing that she loved that song would instead put a song that we knew she didn’t like on one of our Walkmen, hand her the headphones, and tell her “Jump” was on. I’m sure we thought it was terribly funny. My mother probably did not. I still like that song though. I don’t hear it very often, but whenever I do I think about that story.
What is your perfect love song?
This was an easy one for me. “In Your Eyes” by Peter Gabriel. I was sold on this song the second I saw John Cusack holding up a boom box over his head with song playing on it in “Say Anything”. 20+ years later I stand by that answer. If I didn’t think it was such a lousy song to dance to it definitely would have been my choice as the first dance song at my wedding. We went with Billy Joel’s “Just the Way You Are” instead, but I made sure to include “In Your Eyes” on the playlist for the cocktail hour.
What song would you want at your funeral?
It took me a little while to figure out how I would answer this question as well, but once I decided it seemed so obvious that the song had to be “Seasons of Love” from Rent. The lyrics for the song are pretty self-evident about why this song would be the perfect choice. Also it puts a Broadway song on my list, which necessary if this list is going to be somewhat representative of me.
What song makes you, you?
I surprisingly didn’t have much difficulty coming up with what song should answer this question. I chose Tom Petty’s “American Girl” for several reasons. First off the obvious, I am an American girl. Second, this song is representative of so many things I love about music. I definitely could use this song to answer the dance question as well because it’s got a great beat. It’s got a great hook that draws you into the song, which I’m always a huge fan of in music. It’s from the 70’s rock era that gave birth to a lot of the rock music that I love while also having threads of folk rock that I love and seems to be making a bit of a resurgence these days much to my delight. If I had to make a list of quintessential songs this one would definitely be on it.
And there you have it, the six songs that apparently make me who I am. What songs would you answer the questions with?
I am a very big Mumford & Sons fan. I flew across the country to Arizona to see them play as part of the Railroad Revival Tour with Old Crow Medicine Show and Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros. I also saw them in concert much closer to home here in Maryland but suffered through nothing less than scary, drenching thunderstorm featuring pelting hail to watch them perform live. So needless to say, I was very excited this afternoon when they released “I Will Wait”, the first single from their upcoming album, Babel, due out on September 24. Their previous album, Sigh No More, is one of my favorites from the past several years and I have eagerly been awaiting their sophomore release. “I Will Wait” definitely lives up to their previous music. It has that same distinctive (or what was distinctive–I’ve noticed more bands copying it now) Mumfor & Sons sound with slower parts of the song bursting out into some rapid-fire banjo picking. If you loved their previous album, you will love this song too. Now excuse me while I go listen to it on repeat.
I started this blog one year ago today. Last year around this time I found myself in kind of a funk that I didn’t like. I was tired of dwelling on negative things and wanted to force myself to concentrate on all the good things in my life, of which there are many. I decided that writing this blog would be a great way to help me do that, and I was right.
At some point in the past couple months I tweeted that the best thing about writing a blog about things that make me happy is that I always have way more things making me happy than I actually have time to write about. I am never at a loss for things I want to post here but often don’t get a chance to write about something before something else comes along that I write about instead.
This blog has also forced me to give much more thought to the things that make me happy rather than the things that make me angry, sad, unhappy, etc. You have no idea how many times I have started composing a ranting blog post about something in my head before realizing I have nowhere to actually post it. It would be very easy for me spend time writing about things that annoy me, but that would just feed those feelings. Since I have deemed this a space to only write about happy-making things, I am limited to complaining about things that make me unhappy in short Twitter or Facebook updates. I am forced to distill my thoughts into a couple sentences and then move on. Not much time to dwell on bad things or get caught up in all the details that will just increase my awful feelings. Instead I get to spend time writing about the things that I love and remind myself that every day is full of little things that make this life worth living.
I look forward to spending another year focusing on the things in my life that are much more than meh.
There are many things that I love about summer, but one of the best is access to fresh, in-season stone fruit. If you don’t know what I’m talking about what I refer to stone fruit think about any kind of fruit that has a pit in it. I pretty much love them all: cherries, nectarines, peaches, apricots, plums.
I used to not be a huge fan of peaches, except in pie form (which reminds me it’s really about time for me to bake a peach pie). I found them to be almost too sweet and much preferred the similar nectarine. However, in recent years I have discovered that while I’m still more partial to other fruits over your typical yellow peach, I really do like some of the other types of peaches out there. This includes both white peaches and also the oddly shaped donut peaches, which are not nearly as sweet.
Although I’m happy to eat any kind of cherry, my favorite are the short-lived Rainier cherries, which only pop in stores for a month or so each summer. Sadly their time has already passed this year. I find them to be slightly sweeter and more tender than the Bing cherries you usually see at stores.
It can be tricky to find a good plum, but when you do the contrast between the sweet inside and the tartness of the skin is excellent. Too often though the skin is tough and tart and the inside is just kind of mealy. Thus, I don’t buy plums that frequently, but am always happy when I come across good ones.
I must make the most of stone-fruit being in season for soon summer shall pass away and I’ll be stuck eating apples for the next 6-7 months. I like apples too, but it’s nice to have the variety and the soft, juicy fruit that just screams summer while it lasts.