What I’m Into August 2013

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It’s the end of another month, which means that I’m once again linking up with Leigh Kramer to talk about what I’ve been into and up to this month.

Books:

I took two weeks’ vacation, so I got a lot of reading done, mostly YA lit…when you’re in grad school, it’s not vacation if you can’t read a few books that don’t make you think.

  • Raised Right by Alisa Harris. I was never raised to be quite as conservative as Harris, but I did empathize with her journey.
  • Grave Consequences by Lisa Bergren. I listened to this one on audiobook, because that was the only format the public library had.  I am never doing that again. Audiobooks expose romance novels for the bunch cheese that they are. I tend to read for plot and character development and skip the long descriptive passages in books (the sun glistened off her hair as she gazed into his eyes…), but the audiobook didn’t give me that option. Also, the story took place in Europe and the reader’s French and German pronunciation set my teeth on edge, it was so horrific. I do think I’d have enjoyed the book a lot more if I’d just read it.
  • The End of Sexual Identity by Jenell Williams Paris. Is straightsplaining a thing? You know, like mansplaining but straight people doing it to gay people instead of men doing it to women? Because it occasionally felt like this book lapsed into that. That being said, I think this book is at its best when speaking to a conservative audience and reminding them that equating heterosexuality with righteousness and homosexuality with sin is simplistic, harmful, and just plain wrong.
  • Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchietta. This was a YA novel set in Australia. I found it difficult to follow at first because it integrated two storylines about 20 years apart, but it wasn’t bad.
  • Defiance by C. J. Redwine. This was fantasy, but with some elements of futuristic technology. The heroine is a strong and capable woman in a very misogynistic society, which I can’t help but love (the heroine, not the society, obviously). My one beef with the novel is that the cruel warlord who serves as the chief villain is named Jason, which doesn’t fit him even a little bit.  I’m looking forward to the next book. Also, I’m pretty sure I got this suggestion off of one of last month’s What I’m Into posts, though I can’t remember which one. So if whoever read this last month is reading this post, thanks for the suggestion!
  • Legend and Prodigy by Marie Lu. Loved loved loved these futuristic dystopian novels. They’re set in a futuristic world in which America is divided into two perpetually warring countries.  I’m looking forward to the third book coming out.
  • Every Day by David Levithan. This one had a fascinating premise. A, the main character, wakes up in a different person’s body every day and falls in love with the girlfriend of one of their hosts. I enjoyed it.
  • The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness. I hated the narration on this one. It was supposed to mimick the thought process of a thirteen-year-old boy, or something? Anyway, not recommended.
  • The Chemical Garden Trilogy by Lauren Destefano. This series was set in a futuristic America where genetic experimentation has gone very wrong and the women die at 20 and the men at 25. The main character, Rhine, is kidnapped and sold into a polygamous marriage. The world-building isn’t always terribly plausible, but I still couldn’t put these books down. Destefano has a way of making you empathize even with characters you want to hate.
  • The Girl of Fire and Thorns and The Crown of Embers by Rae Carson. Again, kick-ass young heroine has adventures and shows everyone how capable she is. I really enjoyed those books, although I’m still trying to figure out the characters’ religion. It’s clearly inspired by Christianity (Catholicism, specifically) and its Scriptures are often straight paraphrases of the Bible, Old and New Testaments, but there is no Christ in this religion. It feels like a pretty significant omission.
  • Sneak by Evan Angler. This is book two in a series that attempts to merge end-times thrillers with YA dystopian literature. I still roll my eyes at the whole one world government and mark of the beast schtick, but it’s not bad.
  • The CIRCLE books by Ted Dekker. Not the original trilogy, but the six-part YA series. I remember loving the Circle trilogy when I read it in high school, but I did not care for these ones at all, and they kept getting worse. By books 5 and 6, one of the leads was possessed by a vampire woman who talked like Yoda and I pretty much lost all interest.
  • A Wideness in God’s Mercy: The Finality of Jesus in a World of Religions by Clark Pinnock. I loved this book. I read it on the drive home from vacation, and I kept stopping to read my favourite passages out loud to Aaron. Basically, I wish I had been born 10-15 years earlier and had the opportunity to study theology at McMaster under Pinnock.

Movies and Plays

  • The Little Mermaid. Twice. Because I just found a secondhand copy that didn’t break the bank (curse you, Disney vault, I still want Aladdin). Every song by Sebastian the crab is ridiculously catchy.
  • Saved. They added this on Netflix, so I thought I’d give it a look. It’s definitely a caricature of the evangelical subculture, but one with more than enough truth in it to provoke some uncomfortable self-examination.
  • Star Wars IV: A New Hope. I watched this for the first time because Aaron wanted me to. I’ll probably watch the others too. I’m not crazy about most things set in space (Firefly is the exception) but at least now I’ll know what people are talking about when they reference the movie.
  • Wizards of Waverly Place, The Movie. This show was my guilty pleasure during the last half of my undergrad. Don’t judge me.
  • All Shook Up. This play, which I saw with my family while on vacation, is an adaptation of Twelfth Night set in the 50s with all Elvis music. The cast was talented and the music was catchy, but it definitely wasn’t my favourite Twelfth Night adaptation. They had Natalie (Viola) cross-dress for the specific purpose of attracting the (presumably straight) male lead, which made absolutely no sense.
  • Lilo & Stitch. I actually hadn’t seen this one before. It was cute, and between this and All Shook Up I had Elvis stuck in my head for the better part of a week.
  • Blue Like Jazz. I haven’t actually read the book, so I can’t speak to whether or not it does it justice, but it was pretty good.
  • Hellbound? Aaron and I watched this documentary on Netflix. My favourite interviewees were Greg Boyd and Robin Parry. I’m not a universalist, but if I were ever to become one it would be because of Parry. He’s clearly chosen his position because it’s where he believes the biblical evidence leads, and I can respect that.

TV Shows

  • I’m still going with Drop Dead Diva, although I really hope they wrap it up by the end of this season. I don’t do well with unresolved plot arcs.
  • We also caught up on Modern Family and are looking forward to the new season in the fall.
  • Finally, I got into The Amazing Race Canada about midway through and I’ve been watching all the back episodes and enjoying them. I was disappointed when Brett and Holly got kicked off last week, although I’m not sure why. I think it’s because Holly always seems to be enjoying herself about as much as I would if I was on the show (read: not one little bit). So far, the only challenge I’ve seen that I think I’d do well at was memorizing four stanzas of Robert Service’s The Shooting of Dan McGrew.

Food:

  • I made my own chocolate chip cookie dough ice cream from scratch, which I was pretty darn proud of. Recipe here

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  • I gave these bacon peanut butter cookies a try. They’re not bad if you like sweet and salty together. They’re even gluten and dairy free.Image
  • I thought these meatloaf cupcakes with mashed potato “frosting” were absolutely adorable. The only downside: my silicone cupcake liners still smell a bit like ground turkey.

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  • Since it’s peach season here, I also took the time to make an old favourite: cornmeal-coated chicken with peach salsa.
  • We also did a fair bit of eating out this month, since it was vacation. My favourites were the lamb burger with brie and rosemary aioli and the steak and mushrooms on potato rosemary bread at the James Joyce Irish Pub in Fredericton, the breakfast skillet at Taste and See in Sussex, and the assortment of grilled meats at Boa Nova in Kitchener.

Music:

  • Rend Collective. Favourite songs include Build Your Kingdom Here from Homemade Worship by Handmade People and Movements from Organic Family Hymnal

  • Brooke Fraser. Brooke has such a lovely voice, and the title track on Flags is hauntingly beautiful.

  • Jesus, Firm Foundation. I’m always up for remixed hymn compilations, and overall I quite like this one. There are a few tracks where the new chorus doesn’t really fit with the verses, though.
  • Finally, I’ve been loving Gungor’s Beautiful Things album, especially Cannot Keep You.

Board Games

  • Pandemic. I love this because it’s a cooperative board game. Players team up to cure four pandemics that are sweeping the globe, and you need to finish before time runs out or there’s widespread panic across the globe. Aaron and I play this a fair bit by ourselves, and we’ve also introduced several friends to the game. Also, I feel like the premise of this game would appeal to my parents. When I was little, my parents made us call Battleships “Rescue Mission” instead, because they didn’t want us pretending to bomb each others’ ships. This is a very nonviolent game.
  • Bohnanza. This is a card game in which players plant and harvest beans. It sounds lame, but it’s really a lot of fun.
  • Also, while I was home from vacation my sister and I had the chance to play a round of dominoes with some of the ladies from church, which I always enjoy. I’m convinced that I’m secretly a senior citizen in a 22-year-old’s body.

Blog Posts:

  • I loved this piece from Micah Murray about how being a “friend of sinners” (as opposed to a friend of, you know, people) can be problematic.
  • I also agree with this list of reasons why paper books are better than e-books. That’s one bandwagon I intend to avoid as long as possible.
  • I also encourage you to look up the hashtag #onetoanother on Twitter to find some great posts on mutual submission in marriage, a topic I’m passionate about.
  • Christena Cleveland had a two part series on what she learned about racism and reconciliation in the church.
  • I loved this post by Tara Woodard-Lehman on why she needs Church.
  • I’ve been struggling lately with the penal substitutionary atonement paradigm and what it implies about God’s character, so I really appreciated this study by Morgan Guyton about what Scripture actually claims Jesus’ blood does.
  • I’m seriously encouraged by Preston Sprinkle’s work on nonviolence. It’s nice to see someone from the Reformed camp seriously consider the practical implications of Scripture’s command to love your enemies. Here’s a short piece summarizing what he’s been learning,
  • I cheered when I read what Ashleigh Baker over at Deeper Story wrote about her son who loves ballet.
  • And finally, just for fun, enjoy these sculptures made from old books and these flags made from countries’ traditional foods.

IRL:

  • Aaron and I got to go home and spend vacation with family for two weeks. Our visit even coincided with a visit from an aunt and uncle from Germany whom I hadn’t seen in 10+ years. It was so great to see everyone and catch up (and spend more time in New Brunswick than in the car this time).
  • Happily, the visit coincided with the arrival of a brand new niece, who is absolutely gorgeous :). It’ll be interesting to see how much she’s changed when we go back at Christmastime.
  • We also celebrated our second anniversary during the trip, and had a day to ourselves visiting St. Andrews by the Sea. Our last anniversary was rushed because we were about to move cross-country, and it was nice to relax a bit more for this one. We may even have spent part of the evening watching game shows and yelling at the television in our hotel room. Like I said, senior citizen in a 22-year-old’s body.
  • A friend of ours from New Brunswick just moved to Waterloo to do her Masters. It’s so nice to have her in town. My secret evil plan is to convince all my friends to go to grad school here.
  • And, speaking of grad school, I defended my thesis on the 29th! It’s so nice to be done, sort of. I have this deadline-free weekend to enjoy, and then I start orientation for my PhD next week.

That’s it for me for this month. Feel free to head on over to Leigh’s page and browse the other submissions!

What I’m Into July 2013

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I think I may be starting to mark the passage of time by these blog posts.  Once again, I’m linking up with Leigh Kramer for a recap of some things I’ve been into this month.

P.S. the name of this link-up always makes me think of my favourite Corner Gas Scene.  “I’m not up on that new stuff.” “You’re not up on it? Or you’re not into it?” “I might be into it, if I was up on it. But I’m not up on it, so I’m not into it. What I’m into, I’m up on.”

Books:

I went on two road trips this month, so my book count is higher than usual

  • The Lamb among the Stars trilogy by Chris Walley: I’d call this a postmillennial Left Behind, but that’s really insulting to Walley.  Let’s call this a sci-fi exploration of postmillennial eschatology. It was slow going at first, and much longer than my typical fiction read, but I enjoyed it. I was also pleasantly struck by the egalitarian nature of the society Walley depicted.
  • Divergent  and Insurgent by Veronica Roth: I could not put these down.  They’re not the convicting punch in the gut that the Hunger Games was, but they’re a good read.  I’ve already put a hold on Allegiant at the Public Library.
  • An Everlasting Meal by Tamar Adler: I didn’t love this one.  It was all right, but not my favourite food writing.
  • Are you Waiting for “The One”?: Cultivating Realistic, Positive Expectations for Christian Marriage by Margaret Kim Peterson and Dwight N. Peterson: You guys, this was seriously the first Christian marriage book I read that didn’t suck.  It’s now my go-to recommendation for engaged or soon-to-be engaged friends.  The authors also get props for seriously addressing the reality of domestic violence.  If you’ll indulge the longish block quotes, I think you’ll see why I love this book as much as I do.

“Given the obstacles posed to the development of intimate relationships…perhaps it is not surprising that people feel tempted to throw up their hands and look for ways to have relationships that do not require the tedious business of actually getting to know one another.  One response to this impulse is books that purport to describe the supposedly fundamental differences between men and women, and advise the members of each sex on the proper care and feeding of the other sex.  Following these instructions is supposed to result in relationships that are easy rather than hard, and that are free of misunderstandings and hurt feelings.

It doesn’t actually work. Yes, it is possible to make generalizations about men and women, and some such generalizations have merit.  But generalizations tell you nothing about any particular man or woman. When people try to build relationships based on gender stereotypes, those stereotypes can easily be used an excuse not to have to get to know one’s partner.  Instead of paying attention to one another and learning to talk or work together as the particular people they are, she just treats him as “a man” and he treats her as “a woman,” and they develop no sense of one another as individuals or of their own relationship as arising out of the unique combination of their individualities.  Whatever such a relationship is, it is not friendship.”

“It is no wonder that people find themselves casting about for a strategy to ensure that conflict can be resolved easily and reliably. A strategy adopted by some Christians is so-called traditional gender roles, a primary feature of which is the allocation of decision-making authority to the husband. As one young woman explains, ‘If a husband and wife are in conflict, the Bible advises that the husband should make the decision.’

Does the Bible really teach this?  And does this way of structuring the relationship of husband and wife really foster peaceable marriages? We don’t think so. Construing scriptural teaching on marriage as having to do primarily—or even tangentially—with the allocation of power is fraught with interpretive and theological problems. And practically speaking, it just doesn’t work. At best, assigning decision-making power to one partner in the marriage serves to short-circuit conflict, not to address it. At worst, it sets in place an ideology of control that can serve to underwrite and reinforce abuse and violence in intimate relationships.”

  • Torn by Justin Lee: I’ve already recommended this book to 3 different people.  Justin writes with a grace that’s often missing in this debate, and it’s all the more remarkable given how personal it is for him.  Incidentally, I kind of have a friend crush on Justin Lee.  I just want to have him over for an evening of Dinner and Dr. Horrible.
  • Homeward Bound by Emily Matchar: I read this one on the car ride back from Montreal.  I expected to be a bit offended by her criticisms of the New Domesticity, but she makes very salient points.  I’m particular struck by her point that society suffers if the upper class merely try to make their own households safe rather than lobbying to increase quality of life across the country.
  • The Blue Parakeet by Scot McKnight: I’m in awe of Scot, because he is such a prolific scholar and I don’t know how he does it.  However, I somehow missed the page where he explained the blue parakeet metaphor on my first read-through, so I spent the first half of the book really confused.
  • MWF Seeking BFF by Rachel Bertsche: This book reminded me that, as much as I miss my friendships back in New Brunswick, I really need to be more intentional about building friendships here in Ontario. I don’t think I’ll go anywhere near as all-out as Bertsche, though.
  • Sacred Word Broken Word by Kent Sparks: There was a lot to think through in this one.  I’m still chewing it over.  Mostly, it’s an ever-useful reminder that the the value of Scripture lies not primarily in the text itself but in the Christ it points to.
  • Out of a Far Country by Angela and Christopher Yuan: I’m a sucker for a good conversion narrative, and this one is intense.  Yuan is gay, but I’m not sure how relatable the average gay person will find his testimony, since it’s complicated by a history of drug-dealing and promiscuity.  At any rate, he’s definitely in a much better place now than before Jesus found him, and that’s always encouraging to read about.
  • Does Jesus Really Love Me by Jeff Chu: I waited months for this to come into the library and I’m so glad it finally did.  I’m impressed by the grace and fairness with which Chu shares the stories of men and women who made choices very different from his own.
  • The Meaning of Marriage by Tim and Kathy Keller: As far as complementarian marriage books go, this one wasn’t awful.  I found much of it good and challenging, and there was a healthy focus on mutuality.  The book floundered a bit when  it got to gender roles, though.

Movies

  • Monsters University: I haven’t actually seen Monsters, Inc., but for a 5 dollar movie night this seemed worth a try.  I wouldn’t have paid full price for it, but it was a fun evening.
  • Joss Whedon’s Much Ado About Nothing:  I wanted to see this so badly, I paid a full 10 bucks to see it, which is rare for me.  It was absolutely worth it, and Aaron and I enjoyed playing name that Dollhouse/Firefly cast member.

TV Shows

  • Our favourite show of the month is definitely Modern Family.  We’re about halfway through season 4 now, and I think I can safely say that Manny is my favourite character.
  • I also started on Mike and Molly at a friend’s recommendation, and I’m loving Melissa McCarthy as the female lead.
  • Drop Dead Diva uncancelled!  I found this out 2 days ago and binge-watched all 6 new episodes in one sitting.  The show is kind of my guilty pleasure.  Two complaints, though: 1) please resolve the Greyson arc already and 2) can we please bring Fred back?  The guardian angels have only gone downhill since him.

Music

  • I saw the following amazing Youtube video, which reminded me how much I loved the Dr. Horrible soundtrack, so I listened to a lot of that.

  • Also, because I backed Audrey Assad on Kickstarter, I got her new CD 2 weeks early.  It’s a bit of a departure from her previous style, but as beautiful as ever.
  • Finally, I realized that I still know all the words to this rap.  I’m not sure if that’s awesome or sad.  Probably both.

Food:

  • We had a heat wave earlier in the month, and I discovered that Teavana’s Sevenberry Sangria Roibos and David’s Tea Pink Lemonade Roibos make fantastic iced teas
  • I made this sausage and potato pie with new red potatoes from the market and it was phenomenal
  • I also turned a basketfull of fresh cherries into a lovely cherry cobbler.  You have no idea how hard it was to find a recipe that didn’t begin with “take a can of cherry pie filling…”  I ended up landing on a recipe in the Betty Crocker cookbook that was simple enough, and actually called for the cherries I had just spent an hour halving and pitting.

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  • I made this Turtle Trifle for my husband’s 24th birthday. It calls for an embarrassing amount of sugar, but I was proud of how beautifully it turned out.
  • I also made this nectarine pizza with basil and balsamic reduction and I’ve decided that nectarines apparently go with everything
  • Continuing on my baking with fresh fruit kick, I may need to add plum kuchen to my regular repertoire.  It was so good, and plums are plentiful here
  • I brought this lemon feta cucumber orzo salad to a barbecue and loved it.  It was even better the next day.
  • I also tried this black tea cake with honey buttercream frosting on a whim and was shocked at how delicious it was, since I’m not that fond of black tea.  It also garnered the approval of 7 children under 10, and that has to count for something.
  • Our in-laws came for a visit and, since my mother-in-law loves the combination of chocolate and raspberry, I revisited this chocolate raspberry trifle recipe, this time halving the ingredients and laying them out in four individual trifle bowls.  Everything was just as delicious the second time around.
  • These oven fries are the most delicious ones I’ve ever tasted.  Be warned, though, they call for so much oil they’re hardly healthier than deep-frying.
  • Finally, I was on snack duty at church last week, which I always enjoy.  This time I gave chocolate chip banana baked donuts and mini whoopie pies (which tasted exactly like Joe Louis, as it turns out) a try and liked both

Online

  • Related to the Trayvon Martin verdict that dropped this month, I loved this piece Christena Cleveland on things privileged people can learn from the verdict and this letter from a mother of a black teenage boy
  • As a Christian feminist who’s not always sure what to make of the Christian feminist blogosphere, I loved this reminder from Sarah Bessey that I’m called to be a feminist the way Jesus would be one and this reminder from RHE not to give up hope.
  • This retelling of the story of the loaves and the fishes by Katherine Willis Pershey took my breath away
  • Joy Bennett’s post on Time-Share Charity and God’s Scandalous Grace really resonated with me.
  • I was nodding in agreement to virtually every sentence of this post by Micah J. Murray on why he rejects the Calvinist view of unconditional election.
  • This post on how a man named Kim discovered the reality of gender discrimination was a real eye-opener.
  • These words from Brenna d’Ambrosio are a healing balm for anyone who’s ever been that person who just can’t speak in tongues.
  • The makers of Miss Representation are taking on the messages our culture sends to men!  The trailer looks amazing.
  • Edward Fudge answered two of my questions on conditionalism as part of RHE’s Ask A series.  I was so excited to read his Q&A, because I find the idea of conditionalism fascinating.
  • I thought this reminder from Rachel Marie Stone that rendering unto Caesar what is Caesar’s means being willing to pay for things that go against your religion was very much needed.
  • And finally, I kind of love Feminist Taylor Swift and Google Poetics‘ Twitter accounts.

IRL:

  • Friends of ours got married this month and my husband was a groomsman, and we went both to the reception in Montreal (it was my first Vietnameses reception and I have never in my life seen so much food–10 courses!) and the wedding itself.  Both were lovely, and we’re so glad to see what a good match our friend has found.
  • My parents and two of my siblings came up for a visit mid-month and finally got to see our apartment.  My mom has wanted to see it since we moved 10 months ago.
  • I road tripped to Fredericton for one day to attend the wedding, and I squeezed every possible thing I could out of that trip.  Church in the morning, a lunch date, a froyo date, a coffee date, and, of course, the wedding itself.  I may have spent more hours in the car than I did awake in Fredericton, but it was totally worth it.  I’m looking forward to spending a bit more time back next month.
  • My in-laws were up for a visit at the end of the month and we took the opportunity to catch a production of Romeo and Juliet in Stratford.  It was my first time there and, despite the fact that Romeo and Juliet is easily my least favourite Shakespeare play, I really enjoyed myself.  I’m hoping to catch Fiddler before it closes in October.
  • My thesis is slated to go out to my committee pretty much right now.  It’s crazy and a bit nerve-wracking how soon my defense is coming up.
  • I proved conclusively that I have a problem when Leigh Kramer challenged readers to take a picture of their unread books stacks.  At 162, my stack made everyone else look self-controlled by comparison.  Confession: I’ve since drawn down the stack by 1 only to grow it by 2 more…

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  • I’ve been on a baby-bib kick lately with my cross-stitching, and I finished three more.  They’re mostly, but not all allocated.  I still like the owl I finished last month best.

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I think that’s it for July–I do apologize for the length, I spent a lot of the month looking for things to do between thesis drafts and I think it shows.  As usual, for more What I’m Into Posts, head back to Leigh’s blog and browse through the other submissions.