June 2014

June. proper noun. According to Wikipedia, the sixth month of the year. Named for the Roman goddess Juno, the goddess of marriage. No wonder it’s wedding season.

 What I’m Into: June 2014

Image via Pinterest

Image via Pinterest

 

I’m switching things up this month and linking up with Leigh Kramer to share the things I’m loving right now.

 

Noteworthy Reads:

The Whistling Season – Ivan Doig

This delightful read follows the story of Paul, a boy growing up in early 20th century Montana. I adore historical fiction and coming-of-age stories, especially when they’re as well-written as this one. Bonus: This has a surprise ending that made me want to read the entire book over again.

Girl in Translation – Jean Kwok

In this semi-autographical story, Kimberly moves from Hong Kong to New York City. Kimberly and her mother work tirelessly in a sweatshop for very little pay, but they see Kimberly’s academic skills as a way to a better life. This book made me realize how easy my life is, but it never made me feel guilty – instead, it impressed on me the determination and work ethic of Kimberly and her mom.

Dakota – Kathleen Norris

In honor of living at home on the flatlands of northwest Minnesota this summer, I’m slowly working my way through this non-fiction work about life on the prairie and in a small town. So far, my favorite part of this book was Norris’s insights about how we need isolation to find out who we really are.

 

Jamming to:

J.T.’s latest, Not a Bad Thing. This is the song that I am most likely to belt out and car-dance to on my way home from work.

My mom’s Pandora stations… (One of the side effects of living at home for the summer. However, this is not as bad as it might appear, since she likes Audrey Assad, and my sister and I are introducing her to Us the Duo.)

 

Watching:

Saving Mr. Banks

I’m a little behind the curve and hadn’t seen this one yet, so I caught up on a long international flight. It was sweet and sad, just right for nostalgic days.

Numb3rs

One show that my entire family can watch together. Sometimes the nerdy math professors remind us too much of certain family members…

Random loves:

CeraVe lotion, the only reason my chlorine-dried, psycho-sensitive skin is surviving the summer

This woman’s art, made from flower petals and watercolors.

image via Love, Limzy

image via Love, Limzy

 

This boy band on Britain’s Got Talent. They may look like suspiciously like One Direction, but they are soooo much more. (Don’t get me wrong, I like 1D. But these boys can sing.)

 

This fascinating look at different ideas about beauty from around the world

Image via Elle.com

Image via Elle.com

Addie Zierman’s series about blogging, which gave me the kick I needed to get back in the game.

Sunny days. Because there have been approximately two of them for the entire summer and doing swimming lessons in cold rain is not my favorite and I am desperately in need of nice weather.

Keeping me busy:

My trip to China. Read all about it here. Further thoughts on returning to the U.S. of A.: my jet lag coming back was not even that horrible, and I miss eating with chopsticks.

Lots of lifeguarding and swimming lessons. Since coming back to Minnesota, I’ve jumped right into my summer job, and I have the sunburn to prove it.

Unpacking from college. Still. I hate unpacking. And my departure for China shortly after the end of school, combined with my small, storage-lacking room and excellent procrastination skills means that I may still be sifting through the last box of college crap…

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China

China. proper noun. A country in Asia that I have actually visited.

I’m back.

On this blog. In my hometown. At the same summer job I’ve done for forever. And, oh yes. From China.

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Golly. I still can’t quite believe that I went there.

And after being back for about a week, I still don’t know exactly what to say about it.

I’ve got the thirty-second recap of the trip down: It was a two-week tour of cultural sites and the church in China and international education. I went with a group from my university’s education department. We saw cool touristy stuff. We talked to real live Chinese people. The food was good. I did not get married or sick.

But you can’t summarize two weeks in China in thirty seconds. You miss so much.

You miss the rich red and gold and blue and green staining all of the buildings. Those colors covered everything, from the Forbidden City, the gigantic, show-offy imperial complex, to the Summer Palace, the royal resort with canals and covered walkways and dragon boats.

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You miss the intricacies of traditional tea-making. We tasted so many kinds, smelling and sipping green tea and oolong tea and red tea. As the tea master refilled our tiny blue and white china cups with tea steeped within seconds of perfection, we tapped our fingers twice on the table in thanks.

You miss the swarm of students at the college English class party we attended. In self-conscious English, they taught us to roll thin circles of dough for steamed dumpling wrappers and to nimbly fold stiff leaves into triangles over rice dumplings. They made small talk in their second language and snapped so many selfies.

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You miss the adrenaline of bargaining while shopping. Just asking the price of a scarf or picking up a scroll signals a potential purchase, causing aggressive debating over rip-off prices or a pouting salesperson asking “What’s wrong? What’s wrong?” as you run away. As a deal-hunter and an okay negotiator, this was simultaneously fun and the most stressful shopping I have ever done.

You miss the crowds of people, and my blonde head blazing above their dark ones. Our rather vanilla group attracted many stares, Kodak moments with strangers, and not-so-subtle paparazzi pictures from the soy-sauce people of China.

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You miss the sensory ambush. China hits hard and strong, with the red pepper and garlic taste of spicy green beans and the heat trapped in Beijing by encircling mountains and the aroma of public toilets and the stretching views of the Great Wall and the honks of jammed cars and motorcycles and tuktuks.

You miss the language, the bubbling of unknown words that rarely sort themselves into meaning. I took Chinese last year, but being immersed in the language jabbered at 100 miles an hour made me realize the limits of my communication abilities. Throughout the weeks, forgotten words from my one-year foray into the language came floating back, but never before have I wanted so much to know and understand more.

If only I could read this...

If only I could read this. Or copy it accurately. Or do anything with characters.

You miss the crazy kiddos in the fourth grade international school class I visited for a week, who grooved to the YMCA and chattered way too much in both Chinese and English. They reminded me that no matter where I teach, I do it for the students, for the kids who capture my heart with Rainbow Loom bracelets and answer when I ask them questions and tell me they don’t want me to leave.

You miss out on the feeling that you should book your plane ticket to China as soon as possible, because it is swell. And because I would rather like to tag along in your suitcase.

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This pretty much sums up my feelings about the trip.

April

April. proper noun. The fourth month of the year, thought to be named for Aphrodite, the goddess of love and beauty. (Now the whole ring by spring thing makes sense…)

Otherwise known as What I Learned: April Edition.

Image via Pinterest

Image via Pinterest

1. April (and heck, this school year) flew by ridiculously fast. I have like 2 weeks of school left. I don’t know what to do with this fact.

2. I have much smaller veins in my left arm than in my right. Apparently drawing blood from them is more difficult (and painful) as well.

3. Further lessons in tea experimentation: Adding lemon to will lessen tea’s intensity. I prefer darker teas in the morning and lighter teas in the afternoon. Cinnamon tea tastes like Hot Tamales, in a bad way if brewed too long and in a delightful way if brewed correctly. Brewing tea correctly while simultaneously eating cereal and finding shoes that match and packing a sandwich and running into class two minutes late is difficult.

4. The record for the longest book domino chain is 2,131 books. Watching them fall in the video below makes me smile every time.

 

5. Loose patterned pants are trendy. Ones that cinch at the bottom are even trendier. You also must be a supermodel or Jasmine from Aladdin to look attractive in said pants. Apparently I fit in neither of those categories. I only know this because in preparation for my trip to China, I am striving to find summery pants or capris that 1. Are more culturally acceptable for a blond, long-legged Westerner than shorts; 2. Are more lightweight than denim; 3. Do not look like they were made for elderly people; 4. Are cheap; 5. Actually fit the aforementioned long legs. With the success I’ve had thus far, I may be wearing skirts for the entire trip.

6. According to a spring issue of Real Simple magazine, guys reduce their walking speed by 7% when walking with a romantic interest as opposed to a just-friends kind of girl.

7. My grandma knows what a selfie is. On their 50th anniversary, she and my grandpa tried to take one. It was apparently unsuccessful. But this celebratory photo turned out nice. (Grandma and Grandpa, I am exposing you on the Internet – I apologize! It’s only because you’re too great for me to keep to myself. 🙂 )

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8. Twinkies have been resurrected, and they are not terrible. On the road trip home for Easter, my road trip buddy and I decided to try them, because you do strange things after driving for 5 hours. We were surprised by how not-bad they were. (My sister was a loser and did not participate. We have sworn to hold this over her head for the rest of her life.)

9. Parks and Recreation is one TV show that both my brothers and I can actually enjoy together when I’m home on break. This amazing, considering they generally like shows where everyone dies. Thank you, Leslie Knope. I’m liking you more and more all of the time.

What did you learn this month?

 

As always, I’m linking up with Emily Freeman at Chatting at the Sky. Click here to visit the site and read about what other people are learning!

March

March. proper noun. The third month of the year, named for Mars, the Roman god of war. In normal states, it’s the first official month of spring.

Image via Pinterest

Image via Pinterest

 

Welcome to What I Learned in March. As always, I’m linking up with Emily Freeman at Chatting at the Sky.

1. There’s an app called Spritz to help you speed read. According to this, 80% of reading time is spent physically moving your eyes across the page. To counteract that, this app takes a text and rapidly flashes words on your mobile device. Head here to try it. My thoughts? It makes me a little dizzy. I would never use it for fun reading, but I might consider it for textbooks.

2. Minnesota weather is bipolar.

3. How to cross country ski. Not well, but I can make forward progress, at least. My roommate came up to my house for part of spring break, and we decided to have a small adventure at the state park near my house. This included many small lessons, including 1. My grandma used to cross country ski; 2. Decades-old ski wax is remains ridiculously sticky for weeks; 3. When going down small, steep hills, I should walk sideways rather than attempting to tackle them downhill ski style (because I will wipe out, guaranteed).

4. During World War II, the Nazis plundered thousands of artworks, both to expand the gigantic private collections of Hitler and other officials and to destroy the cultural relics of the supposedly “inferior” people groups. After the war, thousands of these pieces were found perfectly preserved in a salt mine. This, and much more interesting info, comes from the documentary The Rape of Europa, which sounds far more scandalous than it actually is. If you enjoyed The Monuments Men, I suspect you’ll like it. (I haven’t seen it, but I have a reputable source backing me up on this.) Bonus: it’s on Netflix!

5. A London Fog is Earl Grey made with milk and vanilla. It is also one of the most wonderful hot drinks I have ever tried. I’m working on being adventurous with tea drinking, and it’s paying off.

6. Under the right conditions, flour can be up to 50 times as explosive as gunpowder. (Thank you, Mill City Museum.)

7. Some people get married in libraries or bookstores. I didn’t even know this was a thing, but according to the highly reputable What Kind of Wedding Should You Have? quiz on Buzzfeed (I’m slightly ashamed to admit that I actually took that), it is. Some day, this could be valuable information.

8. Getting an itinerary for a trip makes the anticipation said trip far more exciting.

9. A number of Chinese words. In preparation for my trip, I’ve been reviewing the Chinese I learned last year, and I remember more than I expected (and am having more fun relearning than I thought I would, too)!

What have you learned this month?

February

February. proper noun. The second month of the year, named for a purification feast that used to happen this month. Considered by most to be the last month of winter. (Except if you live in Minnesota, where the weather is crap.)

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Image via Pinterest

Here’s what I learned in February. If you want to see what other people across the Internet are learning, head to the link-up on Emily Freeman’s blog.

  1. By the end of February, I am desperate for spring. I am so dang sick of snow. I want to choose footwear based on factors other than warmth and traction. I want to go outside without putting on a jacket. I want to see colors other than white. I want to not worry about crappy road conditions. Okay, forgive the rant. On to less whiny things.
  2. I am officially going to China this spring! For the girl who has a bit of wanderlust and learned to speak Chinese last year, this is a big deal. I’ll be in Beijing for close to three weeks this May and June with some other students from my school’s education department. Our agenda includes checking out an international school and doing some pretty spectacular sightseeing. I’m pumped.

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    I will actually get to see this in person.
    Image via Pinterest

  3. Drinking a glass of water immediately before you go to bed is supposed to help you remember your dreams. I don’t remember where I read this, but it actually worked for the week I tried it. However, this gets exhausting when you have weird dreams for multiple nights in a row. For example, one night, a wolf came running at me while I was stuck in a snowbank in my yard. The next night, people sitting around a campfire were whispering about me and taking pictures of me because I was sitting next to some guy. It was very strange. You should try it and tell me what happens to you.
  4. How to make baked potatoes. (It’s not hard. I’m kind of ashamed that I had to Google it first.)
  5. The TV show Parks and Recreation is actually funny. I was anticipating a variation of The Office, a show I don’t like. (Oh, the shame. But it’s true.) I’ve been pleasantly surprised. Leslie Knope is winning me over. Watch this clip and you’ll see why. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o0MKUXNzvDE
  6. On a closely related note, I have an obsessive personality where I either never watch Netflix or want to schedule my entire day around watching Netflix. It’s a problem.
  7. These are the traits of highly sensitive people. I think I’m one of them.
  8. There’s this website called Feedly that is free and awesome and makes reading blogs way easier. You enter the blogs you want to follow, and the website compiles all of the new posts for you. I get stressed out by getting lots of email updates and I am not techy (as in I have heard of RSS feeds, but I don’t know what they are or how they work), so this user-friendly website is golden. It is also way more effective than the bookmark-a-million-blogs-and-forget-to-check-them strategy I have used up until now.
  9. You can have a cold for over three weeks. Over this time span, you may blow your nose through at least an entire roll of toilet paper (if you are unprepared to be blindsided by illness) and almost two boxes of tissues. It will suck.
  10. Nice people at college coffee shops sometimes give you hot water for free. This is beautiful if you are sick and carry your own tea bags with you.
  11. Walgreens-brand Sudafed has more cold-fighting power than Target-brand Dayquil.
  12. How to do some swanky new swing dancing moves. I got to take some informal lessons and go dancing a few times this month, and it was swell.
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    This is me. Ha. Not. Image via Pinterest

    What have you learned in February?