Thursday, December 31, 2015

Best : December 2015.

Okay let's do this! I WILL get this done before 2015 finishes because that is definitely the most important thing to do on New Year's Eve!

December was the Month of Charcuterie. For our New Restaurant o' the Month, we visited Cheese and Crack off of SE 28th, and it was so damn good. And pretty. Very pretty. Inspired, we later bought a bunch of fancy cheeses and meats and chocolates and little pickles and stuff to make our own charcuterie for Christmas Eve. Herein we learned that when you assemble your own, there is no one to tell you when to stop and how to properly balance your small plates, and you will eat nothing BUT cheese and little pickles all night and then feel sick. But Cheese and Crack will not make you feel sick because they know what they're doing.

I'll be honest; December wasn't the best month. However, I DID read a lot of good books! The Walls Around Us is dark as hell, you guys, dark dark dark daaaark, and more than a little scary at times, but Nova Ren Suma just writes so damn well and creates that magical realism so, well, magically, that I enjoyed it a lot more than all the other dark "literary" YA I've read lately. Also, that cover! Gorgeous! Highly recommend.

I've also been reflecting lately about how I feel like I've been abandoning my middle school library at least mentally in comparison to the reading/work I've put into the high school this year so far. Did you know that trying to run two separate libraries is kind of a lot sometimes? Anyway, when I was asked to give some book talks this month at the middle school, I realized I hadn't read any new middle grade in a looong time. And even though The One and Only Ivan isn't new, I thought it would fit the reading level of the kids I was talking to well, and I should really be up on all those Newbery winners anyhoo, so I read it over a weekend and OMIGOD. Good middle grade fiction, man, it can just punch you in the gut. This one was based on a TRUE STORY of a silverback gorilla that was kept cooped up in a circus-themed MALL for over TWENTY YEARS. UGH. UGH. UGH. The book is told from the gorilla's point of view, and there are elephants, and a small dog, and a wise and compassionate little girl, and ugh. It killed me.

On a lighter note, let's talk about Felicious Day! She is just SO FREAKING LIKABLE, you know? And her book, You're Never Weird on the Internet (Almost) only confirmed that over and over. I mean, that title alone! How can you not like it! I do admit that I only knew of Day through the Whedonverse really, so I never watched The Guild and accordingly never REALLY knew the extent of her nerdiness, but man, it is DEEP. She's also able to be completely humble and human and enjoyably self-deprecating WHILE ALSO making clear that she is pretty much a genius who has worked freaking hard to accomplish the things she has. It was a thoroughly fun read and I think the book and Day herself are so inspiring for young people to have no shame about loving the things they love, and making amazing things happen because of that love. Also, because she is so golden and lovely and good, the chapter on #GamerGate will make you want to punch someone in the face. Actually, many people in the face. But I'm sure it wasn't easy for her to write or include, and I'm very glad she did.

Finally, March Book Two knocked me on my feet even more than the first volume of this non-fiction graphic novel series. I personally found the interweaving of the tumultuous 1960s time period events with John Lewis's attendance at Barack Obama's inauguration moving, even though I kept thinking it would be a turnoff for all the students who I know have been raised to hate Obama. And then I started thinking about how sad it is that so many children have been raised to hate Obama, and it's a whole 'nother spiral, but anyway. If I could make young people read ONE THING next year, it would be March. Just so well done.

Right, so I am not the biggest Star Wars aficionado in the world, but I do love witnessing other people loving something real hard! And the anticipation and excitement of our movie theater crowd when that logo came up and that magnificent John Williams score burst into our eardrums again! So great. I enjoyed the shit out of this movie. BB-8 and Rey! I love you!

When I scrolled through my Camera Roll to refresh my brain parts about what I actually did this month, I realized (as I normally do) that even though there were crappy parts of this month, there was also a lot of good things. One particularly good night was Kathy's work Christmas party. These parties are notorious for being hot drunken messes, and over the years I've learned that that mess can be a GOOD hot mess, but it can also be a baaad one. But good news is that this year's was good! One of the most epic White Elephants that was ever elephanted. For real.

For our friend Arielle's birthday, we went to a pottery-painting place, which I had never done before. And as happens sometimes with things you've never done before, I was sort of like "eh, sure" beforehand, but then once we got there, I was immediately like THIS IS THE BEST THING EVER. I also got sort of Surprise Drunk in the middle of the day, so, that could have also contributed to the enjoyment. Either way, would go back, four stars.

This week our friends Becky & Nick let me borrow their perfect dog Mixie and we went on a hike at Cape Falcon on the coast, part of Oswald West State Park. I should note that I wasn't planning on going to Cape Falcon, or even the coast at all; there were two separate hikes on the way that I had researched but I couldn't find the effing trailheads even though they're supposed to be RIGHT OFF THE HIGHWAY. Anyway, Cape Falcon was well signed so eventually I said SCREW IT MIXIE GIRL, LET'S GO HERE. And it must've been fate because this was one of the best damn hikes I've ever gone on. I'm hoping to write about it in full on my dorky hiking blog soon. I'm actually hoping to write in my dorky hiking blog a whole lot in the upcoming year because I'm prepping for possibly hiking the Oregon portion of the PCT next summer and I have some hiking muscles to hone like whoa. Did I mention that Mixie is a perfect dog?

Even though we haven't been able to spend Christmas with our families on the East Coast in a long time, I love Christmas in Portland, too. I love Peacock Lane and the large but random assortment of Christmas decorations we throw all over our little apartment. I love anxiously waiting for packages full of presents from our loved ones scattered across the country. I love opening one stocking gift and one real gift Christmas Eve. I love Kathy making breakfast Christmas morning. I love making Christmas cookies and I love Christmas songs and watching the same damn Christmas movies over and over again each year. I love Christmas and I love New Year's Eve, too. I love reflecting on the year gone by and planning and scheming for the year ahead. 

I know holidays aren't always happy for everyone, but I hope yours were as happy as they could be. Happy 2016!

Best : November 2015.

Well, on the upside, I updated this blog in 2015 more than I did in 2014--by a few more measly posts! Heck yeah, pathetic to slightly-less-pathetic! And this Best series was fun for me and helped me remember a lot of cool stuff. On the downside, I was TOTALLY POSITIVE that I had hit up the best of every month of this delicious year but in reviewing the facts today, I have discovered that I TOTALLY LEFT OUT March and April. Huh. Which is too bad, because who the hell knows what I did then? Those months are FOREVER ago. 

However, I am committed to starting 2016 fresh and clean clean, and closing up shop on the Best series for 2015 RIGHT NOW. So bam, November and soon December, here we GO go go go goooo--

For the last few months of the year, I've been trying to cram in as much reading from two book lists as possible--one, Young Readers' Choice Award (YRCA) nominees for this year, as I promote them at school, and two, Mock Printz 2016 nominees for an uber-nerdy library workshop I'm attending in January. Basically, one is full of books that teens thought were good over the last few years, and the other is full of books that adults thought were good this year.

Guess what?

The books teens thought were better are SO MUCH MORE FUN, KIDS.

In fact, most of the Mock Printz ones I've read so far have been so gloomy and tedious that I'm almost starting to be mad bout it. But it's okay; the YRCA ones are making up for it, and one of my faves so far is Mila 2.0 by Debra Driza, nominated in the Intermediate (7th - 9th grades) division. It's about a teen female android! Who doesn't know she's an android for the first like six chapters! (This is not much of a spoiler because the plot is outlined on the back cover.) I mean come on, that's fun.

The Port Chicago 50 is wayyy different in that 1) it's non-fiction and 2) it's not very fun at all. Well, it's fun in that it's a really fascinating and incredibly readable piece of youth non-fiction, as is all of Sheinkin's fantastic work, but not-fun in that it's about a grave injustice in our nation's history that still hasn't been totally rectified and that I previously knew NADA, ZILCH, NOTHIN' about. It tells the tale of African-American soldiers in the World War II-era segregated Navy, working at a port near San Francisco called (confusingly, imo) Port Chicago. You see, at the time, we allowed black folk to risk their lives by loading bombs onto ships (with absolutely no training), but we didn't trust them to actually, like, take a step onto a ship, or fight the enemy, or whatever other little things they ACTUALLY wanted to do. So then when, unsurprisingly, one of those freight ships full of bombs blew up in Port Chicago and killed a whole bunch of people, the black soldiers started saying oookayyy now, let's cut this out and STOP loading bombs onto ships without proper training, or at least give us the option of doing other things to help with the war effort because, you know, racism sucks. And the United States said nahhh, we'd rather charge you with mutiny! Good times. Not really, but a good read.

I've always liked Aziz Ansari, but after watching his greatest achievement to date, Master of None, I LOVE him. This show is just so good. It feels authentic and real without being pretentious or tortured; it is HILARIOUS while also being downright sweet at times and almost always touching somehow. His parents are AMAAAAZING in it and I am obsessed with Dev's friends Denise and Arnold. It also deserves all the awards for the Dudes Walking Home From a Bar v. Girl Walking Home From a Bar scene. Just watch it and you'll know the one. Aziz gets it, you guys.

After feeling perfectly neutral about a lot of music this year, some tunes popped up into my atmosphere this fall that are all pretty different but are all my JAMS, son.

S.O.B. by Daniel Rateliff and the Night Sweats (hahaaa, what a gross/great band name): Ugh, OK, so local radio has already started overplaying the shit out of this song so its magic has started wearing away for me, but the first few times I heard it! Hot damn! The chorus is just him yelling SON OF A BITCH and GET ME A DRINK! And it's all very gospel-folks-y complete with hand claps and background mmm-mmms and ohhhs that are just spot on with his gravelly voice. My wheelhouse completely.

Downtown by Macklemore: So this whole song is pretty aight, but what I really just LIVE for is the chorus where the singer just let this line RIP: "Have you ever felt the warm embrace of a leather seat between your LEEEEEGGGSSS" and it is just SO SEXY AND FIERCE. And up until this moment I always, stereotypically, pictured a fab black woman singing those lines. So I just went to look it up so I could give that fab black woman proper credit here, and I discovered that that fab black woman is actually...uh, a white dude. Named Eric Nally. So, boys and girls, this is what happens when you assume! AND when you are a victim of a gender binary society that taints your brain!

The Things I Regret by Brandi Carlile: Brandi's latest album, The Firewatcher's Daughter, contains so much joy and energy and kick-ass-ed-ness that her previous, more sorrowful releases were sorely lacking. Her latest single from it, The Things I Regret, is one of my faves, particularly because of the way it ends! LIKE A HOLY ROLLING STONE!!! - CUTTTTTTT, BOOM, MIC DROP, SO GOOOOOOD. 

WTF by Missy Elliott: I must admit that other than her huge '90s singles I don't know much about Missy. When hipper people my age were listening to her in her heyday, I was mainly listening to, you know, Simon and Garfunkel. And Hanson. But I am more than willing to start my education now because each time I listen to WTF I like it more. That beat! If this doesn't make you want to dance, well, I'm sorry for you.

I should note that one of my other normal favorite things to talk about each month is favorite food, but I think I just ate like shit all November (other than Thanksgiving, which I'll get to in a sec, but that counts as a whole separate thing, obvs), and life is too short to really comb through my memories for one decent meal to share. So we'll skip it and just start the Best Things of November 2015.

We got to see Carrie Brownstein do a reading/interview/talk thing on her promotional book tour for Hunger Makes Me a Modern Girl and originally Tig Notaro was supposed to be her interviewer, but at the last second she couldn't make it so instead Janet and Corin were there. Because OF COURSE. It almost felt like this was inevitably going to happen always. We learned that Carrie has a very large and impressively nerdy vocabulary and that Janet is hilarious and sort of rambly and Corin is very Corin. It was a way too brief event but also felt like a once-in-a-lifetime thing. It was also very, very Portland-y. I still haven't actually sat down to read Hunger Makes Me a Modern Girl but I already know it is going to make feel a lot of feelings.

Kathy and I took a super quick but super great day trip to Seattle one weekend to see Sam (who I still refer to as Sam M., even though she's technically Sam L. now) who was in town for a conference, and then a "quick" visit to Kelly and Ash's, which Kathy was originally convinced we could make last only 20 minutes so we wouldn't get home too late, hahaha. Late arrival at home = worth it. God, Seattle, and all of the people I mentioned in this paragraph, are the best.

Food! Food! Fire! Food! While we normally spend Friendsgiving in Eugene at Kim and Cliff's, for multiple reasons this year we opted out and had a Kathy-Manda-Jill-sgiving at home instead. And if you're wondering just how much food the three of us can whip together for, you know, just us three, well, it is a lot. Thanksgiving also commenced Kathy's Obsessed With Fire period, an affliction which is still ongoing, but does make the apartment rather cozy.

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Best : October 2015.

My privileged and luxurious five-day Thanksgiving break comes to a close tonight, and while I've gotten some errands done and spent good time with good people, the majority of it has been a festival of lazy. I'm not always good at being lazy, a term which for me usually involves reading, eating, and watching depressing documentaries. Party animaaaaaaaal ovah here! And all those super awesome things are what I absolutely in my head wish I could be doing all the time. And for the first day or first few hours of doing these things, I am always SO HAPPY. And then it's like after that honeymoon period of Jill Alone Time Bliss, less oxygen begins to be pumped to my brain and heart and I almost start to be annoyed at all the books I need to read, all the media I need to consume, all the self-reflection I need to revel in and I'm like oh yeah, this is why having a job where I'm required to leave the house is so much better for me. At this point, on Sunday night, the oxygen has almost cut off completely, and I want to murder that last sentence I just wrote on account of its annoyingness.

One good thing has come out of this current stint of laziness, though, and it's thinking about, as the year winds down, how I'm going to be better next year at this. Work right now for me is very good. Personal life, very good. But there are the two things that I've always done Just For Me, that make my brain and heart actually tick and expand, and those two things are words and pictures. I still don't quite know how to fit them in to my current life, but I know I need to. This Best of the Month thing on my blog this year has been fun to work on, I think, and good for me in terms of recording and remembering things, but I think in the future it will be more meaningful (and perhaps more interesting to other people? not that that really matters) if I complete them, in fact, at the end of each month in real time. And I need to do more than JUST these lists. But ah, the end-of-the-year resolutions about writing more and taking more pictures, what is new here? Nothing, but it always feels new; it always feels important, and so it is.

Thanks for that space to think out loud, Blogger. You're a real peach. More soon.

For my birthday this month, I requested a dinner at Montage, whose technical name is Le Bistro Montage but how snooty is that, a restaurant I was obsessed with during our first few years of living in Portland but which we hadn't returned in a long-ass time. And guess what. I'M STILL OBSESSED WITH IT.

Montage is a Cajun/Creole restaurant in this shabby building that is literally UNDER A BRIDGE (the Morrison Bridge, just as an FYI) with long communal tables and they have all kinds of gross seafood like oysters and alligator--okay, I guess alligator isn't exactly seafood? right?--but the reason I love it is for their macaroni. Their macaroni is worthy of all the best emojis in the world, from the shiny hearts to the black leotard clad twins kicking their legs in joy. There's always the difficult option between their Spold Mac, a blend of their spicy mac and their "old" (read: heavy cream and garlic) mac, and their new(ish) addition of a Buffalo Mac, which is notable because of the 20,000 pounds of blue cheese that comes with it. (I went with that one this time.)

Okay, I just checked to see if I'd already written about the Montage mac on this blog before, and as suspected, I was all over it in 2011. In a blog post that made me cringe glancing through it but which somehow had SIX enthusiastic comments on it. Gosh, people really liked me back then.

Anyhoo, I have no foto of the Montage mac from anytime I've eaten there, apparently, probably because I scarf it down so quickly, and the lighting is so dim in that joint it'd probably be a horrible foto, anyway. But here's an Instagram of the front stoop of Montage that I took a long time ago. Here is what Google Translate reports that it says:

Come to me, you who labor the stomach, and I will restaurebo you.

Seems legit, Google Translate. Seems legit.

There wasn't a single 5++++ star book standout for me in October, but these are two really solid 4 - 4.5 star ones that I really enjoyed. The Unlikely Hero of Room 13B is realistic YA about a group of kids who meet in an OCD therapy group who take on pseudo superhero identities to help cope. They also sometimes visit a Catholic church, whose somber rituals soothe their OCD tendencies, and sometimes they fall in love. There was a lot of sweet romance here but there was also a lot of fascinating stuff about mental health. I only read this because it's a nominee for the Young Readers' Choice Award, an award I promote at school. I love this award for a lot of reasons, but an unexpected one so far has been that since students from British Columbia and Alberta also participate in the award, there's always at least one stellar Canadian title in there that I wouldn't have previously heard of because apparently stellar Canadian titles can run under the radar in the US because the US is stupid. Anyway, each one I've read so far, like Toten's, is eloquent, sensitive, and interesting.

The Name of the Star is pure fun--a modern-day Jack the Ripper tale in London--but I was pleasantly surprised by it because I was less-than-enthusiastic about the only other Maureen Johnson book I've read, 13 Blue Envelopes. Envelopes was also very fun, but also sort of meandering and pointless and I felt there were so many character elements that weren't fleshed out. This was sad to me because I looove Maureen so much on Twitter. But in terms of plot and character and tension, The Name of the Star felt so much more solid. It is also the PERFECT book recommendation for middle and high school kiddos in October (spooky, but not TOO scary), so A+ timing for me!

Project Runway is just the best, you guys. I've already made my love for this show apparent on this blog, but goshdarnit, I love it. Other shows will languish on my DVR queue for months but this fall Kathy and I would watch each episode every Thursday night in practical real time. [collective gasp from the audience] I feel like some fans were real grumps about this season, but I loved Ashley's final runway show SO EFFING MUCH. Is the overall quality of design as high as it was in the early seasons? Probably not. Are all the designers still more talented than I could ever be with some cloth and a needle? Absolutely. Plus, other than Candice most the time, and that one horrible Bitchfest episode, a lot of folks on this season were just genuinely nice people. And when it seems like the world is full of not-so-nice people more and more lately, sometimes it's stress relieving to just watch nice people make cool stuff on TV.

Okay, now for the Best Stuff. I dragged Kathy and Manda to the middle of nowhere, Washington State, to go on a hike for my birthday. And I mean real middle of nowhere. Probably the most middle of nowhere I've dragged other people to for a hike, ever. Lower Lewis Falls is in the Gifford Pinchot National Forest on the outskirts of Mt. St. Helens land, and even with its middle of nowhere-ness, this was a real nice day. The weather was nice, I got to play all my favorite music in the car, the hike was interesting and cool but not TOO strenuous, there was fall color, JP got to come with us, we had a really cool viewpoint of Mt. St. Helens on the way back, it was just nice.

So. Let me tell you. We saw Hanson this month, but I really wasn't THAT enthused about it beforehand. First of all, Hanson are all kind of assholes now. Second of all, I haven't listened to any of their new music in years (and yes, they ARE still coming out with new music--like, all the time--like, probably too much--for those people out there who are somehow NOT in tune with the Hanson universe). Third of all, this was a weird ass tour where they came to each city for two nights in a row and you HAD TO BUY TICKETS FOR BOTH NIGHTS. It was their "Roots of Rock and Roll" tour lololol and one night would be mostly cover songs and another would be "classic Hanson hits" lololol. And the combined ticket price was pretty pricey, way more than I'd normally pay for a concert these days.

BUT, because it is our legacy, we went. And oh man. Oh man oh man was I SO FUCKING HAPPY for the duration of a few hours for both of those nights. CURSE YOU HANSON, YOUR MAGIC STILL WORKS. I'm such a loser for even trying to be sarcastic about this because for instance, I just mocked their pretentious title of this tour, but it comes from an actual line in one of their songs, "Been There Before," and when I screamed along with it on one of those nights: "Does it fill your heart and soul with the roots of rock and roll?"  all I felt was YES! YES IT DOES!

On the second night, while dancing and drinking and singing along, I spent a lot of time writing a letter inside my head to my current favorite high school students, a letter that I was firmly planning on writing as soon as I got home but never sending, to the ones who love One Direction and Twenty One Pilots so fiercely. I was going to tell them--never be ashamed of your fandom, because I know what it feels like, and that feeling is so necessary when you're young. And one day, when you're in your 30s, maybe you'll still be going to One Direction shows, and you'll remember that feeling, of freedom and joy and being alive, and it will be just the same, and you will be so, so grateful for it, because for so many 30 year olds--for you, most of the time--it is a feeling that is almost entirely forgotten. I never wrote the letter, of course, which is a shame because I know I said it all so much better in my head when I was there, when it was all right there. But now I'm back to being a normal grown up, and the forgetting happens so quickly these days.

I feel like I don't normally include so many selfies in these Best Of posts, but I had a lot of really happy selfie times this month. Apparently my go-to happy selfie pose is to open my mouth really wide. Which I'm okay with. Because why not?

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Best: September 2015.

On this day when the world seems scary and awful (which is the way the world looks most days depending on who you are), I am going to selfishly focus on the good stuff. Good stuff from September, which already seems ages ago. I've been labeling the date as "2016" for like a month. As far as I'm concerned, after Daylight Savings hits, the world has shifted and we are MOVING ON, FOLKS. But September was really good so I'm happy to make this slight timey wimey exception and go back to it.

This lemon pepper chicken orzo from my fave, BB, just SLAYED it for me this month. Instead of using whole chicken thighs as Beth did, I just used biggish chunks of chicken breast because HELL-O that is my white girl initiative. I also was able to use up the last of my fancy lemon pepper blend that my mom sent me for Christmas a long time ago, and I used a LOT of it, and I used a LOT of feta, DUH. My orzo turned out PERFECTLY which soothed my Orzo Anxiety, born after making a recipe earlier in the summer with Fancy Organic Orzo From the Organic Bins Aisle, which turned out slimy and mushy and gross. But this recipe proved that it wasn't me! Just get the mass produced shit in the box and everything will be fine!

Seriously, I could eat this recipe forever.

Oh my god, I'll Give You the Sun. This book gut punched me and I loved every second of it. Actually, this isn't true. For the first chapter or two, the artsy fartsy hyperbole of Noah's mind caused lots of eye rolling on my part. But when it drew me in, it drew. me. in. The writing, the structure, the yearning romance, it all held me in its rapture. It deserved every ounce of that Printz Medal. One of my favorites of the year thus far.

Anna and the French Kiss, on the other hand, was pure romantic fun, but such a GOOD romantic fun! Not as artsy fartsy as Jandy Nelson but I loved every second of this, too. St. Clair is the swooniest of all the swoony YA male romantic leads, but Anna is great, too--relatable and funny and interesting. I read Lola and the Boy Next Door after this, which, I should note, is the one book I received multiple complaints about last year at my library, and it was okay but just not as good as Anna. (Was it worthy of the complaints, though? My personal opinion: nah.)

September brought the return of new TV (THANK GOD) and the best season premiere of them all was Black-ish. Kathy and I started watching this at the tail end of its first season at the beginning of 2015, and quickly fell in love with it. I think I fell in love with the kids first, but now I am fully OBSESSED with the mom, played by the incandescent Tracee Ellis Ross. The first episode of this season WENT THERE by being all about the n-word, and without drawing any concrete or preachy conclusions at the end, was full of discussion that was poignant at the same time as it was HEE-LAR-IOUS. I have learned that teens at my high school have VERY strong opinions about the n-word; several classes have held Socratic Seminars about it. I can only cringe when I imagine the things that are said by all of our white students. I almost wish that instead of having to hear their peers' uneducated teen brain opinions about the word, they were just required to watch this episode in class, instead.

But really, this show is the best.

Manda's birthday is in September, and in celebration this year she wanted to go to the coast and blow some glass. Blowing glass is something I've never had a huge desire to do myself, but I was pumped about a road trip--which we spent almost the entirety of blaring P!nk and it was perfect. When we got there, though, and I watched Manda and Kathy mold their molten globs of beautiful, fiery glass [I was the documenter], I was FASCINATED and taken over by the uninhibited glee of being really awed by something you weren't expecting. It was the coolest thing ever, you guys. THE COOLEST. EVER.

Plus, we went to a burger place that wrote your name in ketchup in your fry sauce, and visited this weird geology store that had a huge animatronic dinosaur that roared and flailed its tiny T-rex arms at you. In short, it was THE PERFECT DAY.

While we missed the tulip festival this year for the first time in many, many years, we did make it to the dahlia festival in September. And while the pure scope of the tulip festival is the most impressive, the actual badassery of dahlias is far superior, and hence my favorite festival. What, you don't think flowers can be badass? I suggest you look at the fine specimens in these here photographs and think about how dumb you are.

These two lovely souls visited from SoCal this month for a friend's wedding, and it felt like we hadn't seen their faces in SO LONG. It happened to be a cold and wet weekend they were here, which was somewhat shocking to their SoCal-adjusted systems, but we went on a lovely hike anyway, because that's what Pacific Northwesterners do! Ellie and Matt are as thoughtful and genuine and kind and funny as ever and I am very glad to know them.

Brandi Carlile. ~hearts for eyes emoji~
Edgefield. ~hearts for eyes emoji~
Kathy. ~hearts for eyes emoji~

My second year at work swung into full swing in September and while it's somewhat hard for me to talk about school here because I'm trying really hard to maintain a school / personal life divide, it'd be wrong for me to summarize my September without mentioning it. The start of my second year was so much better in many ways than my first because I already knew so many of the students, and it was so lovely to see them again, and staff already trusted me. At the same time, I feel more pressure than ever because staff and students do trust me, and I know there's so much more to be done to really advance student learning via the library. I also feel a lot more exhausted working at two buildings than I did last year. Last year I was probably just running on the fumes of the excitement of having a full time library job; this year, I'm feeling more and more that to really accomplish things at both schools, I need more time than a couple days a week at each one.

I also started GSAs this year, and while at this point, I don't think the middle school one will really get off the ground, the high school one has been completely awesome and gratifying thus far.

We also started a comfy reading corner at the middle school, and I'm making progress in making the high school library my own, and I have a decent budget, and my staffs like me, and I have an awesome new principal at the middle school who really supports us and what we do, so I should just shut my trap about any complaints. 

My life is good, and I'm very happy to be alive. I'm not going to pretend to say anything in French, because I have always sucked at French and always will, but I am very, very happy to be alive.

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Best : August 2015.

August was a good/bad, weird/wonderful month for me. I've been struggling with how to accurately describe it, because it was so full of excellent, fun, exuberant things, make-you-feel-alive things, all while (mostly) being on Summer Break, a thing that most adult humans don't get to experience, and complaining in any way about it would make me seem like a selfish privileged bitch.

But the thing is, this is my blog so I can say what I want, and the truth is that I was so ready for this summer to be over. I am much more of a social being than my navel-gazing lonely teen self would have ever imagined, but at the same time that quiet navel-gazer is still at the heart of who I am. I think none of us ever truly leave who we were as teens. I like doing fun things but I also like being by myself. In fact, I NEED to be by myself. I need quiet. I need time to process all the fun things I've been doing in order to actually appreciate and process them. This quiet time usually results in me being my happiest, fullest self and ready to go out and live more life.

I had very little of that alone time this summer, and it was hard for me. I think it's okay to be honest with yourself when things are out of balance, and to say that things have been weird/wonderful, even if outwardly it really seems like you should only be wonderful.

So now that I've acknowledged the weird, let's do the wonderful.

Oh my GOD was the food this month wonderful! Like OH. MY. GOD. When Kathy's parents visited this month, we were tired of our regular haunts that we'd already taken everyone else to this summer, so we decided to try some new joints. Two of those joints were Podnah's Pit and Gravy. Now listen, we really weren't thinking outside the box or anything here, as these are both verrrrry established North/Northeast Portland restaurants, but somehow in our eight years of living here we had just Never Made It There, and how I am regretting that now. I ate all of my Podah's plate so fast that I felt so sick but it was so worth it oh my god. At Gravy, this is perhaps self-explanatory, but I really could've eaten that gravy forever.

I also made a meal for Kathy's parents at our apartment one night, an event that is becoming something of a tradition when they visit, and I think this might've been one of my finest ones yet. I finished the meal off with a peach cobbler that was especially excellent, and I felt SO PROUD OF MYSELF, like a real live adult!

Kathy, Manda, and I also chose Pacific Pie for our New Restaurant of the Month, an Australian themed place that specializes in "pasties," savory handheld pies, in addition to actual sweet pies. I had the Pulled Pork Pastie. It was good. How could a pie themed restaurant be bad?!

We saw Spy with Kathy's parents at my favorite second-run theater, The Academy, and enjoyed it 176213 times more than I expected to. If you like fun and funny things you will like it. If you don't like fun and funny things, you are doing something wrong and should stop trying so hard.

Couldn't narrow it down this month so here's the run down:

March is a graphic novel about Congressman John Lewis's life and the story is important and the art is just lovely. Book One focuses on Lewis's early life; Book Two focuses on the march from Selma to Montgomery and the March on Washington. Eager to get my hands on Book Two soon.

Nimona is a very different graphic novel, from one of the genius minds behind Lumberjanes, Noelle Stevenson. I have to say that Nimona took me a little while to get into--this is going to sound stupid, but Nimona was actually a little too violent for me even though this is essentially a comic for children, hahaaaa I am the wimpiest wimp--but by the end, I loved her SO MUCH and didn't want to leave her.

Brazil's Dance with the Devil is by Dave Zirin, a sports writer who frequents the Melissa Harris-Perry show. I'm filled with glee every time he's on the show because his anger and disgust with injustice and stupid people is so unapologetic and awesome and sometimes hilarious. I could listen to Dave Zirin rant about shit every day for the rest of my life. This was the first book of his I've read, and I swear I could hear his voice jumping off every one of these pages. I feel like I learned a lot from this book--about Brazil, about soccer, about international sporting events as a whole--and learning a lot from books is my favorite thing. Thumbs way up.

Lastly, I know that some avid YA readers take issue with some of Rainbow Rowell's writing and choices, and I get it, I do. But reading Fangirl confirmed that I'm on the Rowell train full steam ahead. Her romances just make me feel so good and warm and fuzzy, and her boys are always so sexy! I did feel like Cath could've fangirled harder, really--this story focused on fan fiction and fan fiction only, when fandom can really mean SO MUCH MORE!--and there were only a few Simon Snow excerpts that really drew me in. But the real story, of Levi and Cath and Cath's dad and writing in college being weird, I was totally there for.

And now for all the other stuff that occupied this month:

As you have surmised, Kathy's parents were here for a long visit, and so many things we did were fun and Portland-y and good. Particularly, we went to a fireworks show for the opening of the new Tilikum Crossing bridge downtown, and it was........amazing. AMAZING. THE MOST AMAZING PORTLANDY THING EVER. And we ate a lot of good food and Kathy's parents were very hilarious and Kathy's parents-y. This paragraph is very vague to anyone who isn't me. You're welcome.

Amester came to visit and in a relatively short amount of time, we managed to do a LOT of stuff. Like a LOT. Beer and donuts and street fairs and waterfalls and Mt. Hood and the coast and explosion of Pacific Northwest goodness!

Right after saying goodbye to Amy, Kathy and I hopped on a plane to DC for some family time, and it was so nice, from getting to hug babies and talk about numbers and letters with Genius Nephew Evan to getting to be a tourist in DC for the first time in forever to getting to eat and drink Dunkin Donuts. My mom helped arrange the whole trip and I am so grateful to her. Thank you, Mom! I love you!

One of the best parts of this summer was getting to go to multiple Portland Thorns games. Portland is Soccer City USA, and while I love going to Timbers games, too, there is something special about the Thorns. A ladies' soccer team is a force to be reckoned with. Next year we're going to be actual season ticket holders and true hardcore Riveters. I love the game, I love the chants, I love our stadium, I love our players, I love the fans. BY ANY OTHER NAME BITCHES.

It's such a cool thing to see people you love evolve their life into the best possible life for them, and that's exactly what Scott and Kelly are doing--buying their own farm where they can see Mt. Hood from their backyard every day, raising goats and pigs and a million chickens. And at their wedding at said farm this month, Kelly rode into the ceremony ON HER HORSE, the coolest wedding entry there ever was. We got to meet up with a bunch of good people that we haven't seen in too long at their wedding, and it rained but it was perfect. As I wrote in their guestbook, I can't imagine our lives in Portland without Scott and Kelly.

Thank you for all the good stuff, summer. I have somehow stumbled into the luckiest, best life.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Best : July 2015.

Today is the last day of my summer vacation, the first real summer vacation I've had since middle school, and to be honest, I'm a little relieved. This has been an absolutely wonderful and full summer, but it's also been exhausting. I'm looking forward to having a regular, boring, consistent schedule again, being able to just veg out in front of the TV at night. I'm ready to get back to my libraries and my kids, ready to contribute to something larger than myself again. 

But seriously, it was a good summer. Here's some highlights from the first part of it: Julio, Julho, Luglio, Juli--the most summer-y month of them all!

Hahaaaa so, July was a month of attempting to make a lot of new dishes and...failing miserably a lot. I tried to make baked beans from scratch for the first time and after almost three days of cooking, half the beans were still hard. I tried to make a bunch of slow cooker recipes that all ended up pretty terribly and all made approximately 298273208 servings. In the end, I think the dish I made that was tasty enough that I'd be likely to make it again was Pineapple Fried Rice from my Budget Bytes cookbook. I added some chicken to make it more of a full meal. This proves to me once again that no matter how I try to stray and experiment, Budget Byte meals are always the most satisfying. Which probably makes me a pretty mediocre and stereotypical cook, but I'm fine with it.

Say hello to two of the best recent YA reads I've had the pleasure of absorbing my eyeballs into--both with such pretty covers! But both so different! Shadowshaper is just so fun, while also being creepy and slightly scary--I was NOT a fan of some of these spirit creatures. While a totally different story, my reading experience of this reminded me a lot of Alex London's Proxy--short chapters, lots of action, a quick-moving and really unique plot, all with--gasp--diverse characters. So essentially, the type of book that teens will love. Plus, art! Caribbean inspired legends! New York! Diverse, urban fantasy like this is where YA needs to go.

As much as Shadowshaper might suck in reluctant teen readers, The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender might repel them. The writing here is so lovely--it is genuine magical realism in YA, perhaps the best I've ever seen in the genre--so lovely and epic that this book will probably appeal to advanced readers, or adults. Anyway, even though the writing in this epic might seem whimsical at times, do not let it fool you! Shit turns real serious real fast in this thing. It is devastating, but still so very wonderful.

Okay, I don't know if this totally counts for this category, but goddamn was the Women's World Cup the best thing I watched on TV this month. My feelings about this team are too big to even put here.

And now to the real world stuff, the best things I did this month, or at least some of them:

Kim & Cliff came up and there was barbecuing, Drunk History watching, distillery tastings, Hopworks eating, Dairy Queen blizzards, and sparklers. And a heat wave. Way too much of the heat wave.

The most stressful part of this summer was that our dog got real sick, but before she was too weak, we went on lots of hikes together. She appears to be in recovery now, so I'm hoping we can continue going on weekend hikes this fall. I love that stupid goober, and I love this stupid beautiful state.

Cousin Brian and his wife Ann and their dog Charlie Bucket stopped by Portland for a few days on their epic road trip summer, kicking off our Summer of Visitors. I will feel eternally sorry for people who don't have cousins like mine.

Then Kathy's brother Jon stopped by for a few days. He got to experience the coast, Ground Kontrol, a Timbers match, our car breaking down on the side of the highway, and meth-fueled confrontations on the bus. Whatta lucky guy!

Chapel Hill friends Anna and Reiko ALSO stopped by for a few days! I know! Most of their short visit was consumed solely by eating and drinking...the way it should be.

The one Manda-Kathy-Jill vacation we made happen this summer was a weekend trip to Bend and Crater Lake and it was awesome and very much needed at the time. The weather at Crater Lake was perfect, the cider at Atlas Cider in Bend was so very very delicious, and the "hotel" we stayed at in Gilchrist was so very very strange. Other highlights included taxidermy, seeing a deer on the wrong trail, a weird Scrabble game, and the cider. I already mentioned the cider, but yeah, it was good.

Perhaps the most amazing thing to happen all summer was that after many many miles and many years of people telling us we needed a new car, we a new car. (Thanks to help from my mom, who was moved to my action by apparent concern for my safety. Thanks, Mom.) I thought I'd be all sentimental about the good ol' dusty red Corolla, and envisioned writing a nostalgic blog post about all the places she took us, and that might still happen one day, but to be honest, I've been so overcome by feelings of OMG MY NEW CAR IS SO AWESOME that it's hard to really concentrate on anything else. Our new child is a 2010 Honda Fit and let me tell you! The AC works! The engine is so quiet and smooth! Its paint is shiny! It is all a little too much to take in.

Love you, summer in Oregon. Thank you for the good times, but no thanks about the heat waves and drought. Let's do better about that next year, yes? Yes.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Best : February 2015.

I made two dishes in February that have ended up being some of my favorites this year that I've since made and enjoyed again. One is almost exceedingly simple: Baked Italian Eggs from the Budget Bytes cookbook, the yummiest breakfast you can make yourself if you're obsessed with Italian food, and also an excellent use of the ramekins I got for Christmas last year!

The other is much more time consuming, what with the cutting of the chicken strips and then the breading and then the frying--always an extremely messy affair--but mmm, this lemon chicken is delicious.

The ALA Youth Media Awards are announced each January and are always a Big Deal for youth librarian folk such as myself. I still haven't read a lot of the winners from this year, but one I was glad I picked up was El Deafo, which earned a Newbery honor. A graphic novel that dramatizes author Cece Bell's own childhood growing up deaf in the '70s and having to wear a ginormously embarrassing hearing aid, this adorable book also deals with all the other stuff that comes along with being a young girl, particularly when you are "different"--figuring out which friends are real friends and what makes you happy. I also heart when graphic novels win non-graphic-novel-specific awards, especially big ones like the Newbery! Perfect for fans of Raina Telgemeier. 

Even though I don't write about TV on a professional level anymore, it almost means more to me than it ever did. Being able to just let my mind go blank and be taken over by a crew of characters after long days at work or just long days of whatever is such a privilege, and anyone who knows anything knows that TV > Movies x 1000 these days. And hands down, Brooklyn Nine-Nine has been my favorite new TV experience so far this year. Which is shocking, because when Brooklyn Nine-Nine won at the Golden Globes last year for best comedy series I was like whuuuuuut and I feel like a lot of other people were also like whuuuuuuuut. Maybe it's because I never considered myself a huge Andy Samberg fan in the past, and the ads for it never exactly drew me in. But after hearing some good things--specifically, a bunch of gif sets on Tumblr that always made me laugh--I Hulu-ed a couple episodes and then couldn't stop Hulu-ing more and more episodes in many winter Friday nights of bliss until I realized there have only been two seasons and I had watched all of those two seasons and I was very sad.

B99's ace ensemble cast begs comparisons to Parks & Rec, yet I can't think of another show where I acutely love each and every character so much so equally. Obvs I love every character on Parks & Rec, but we also all know that Leslie Knope is our heart and soul and reason for being. While I enjoy Jake Peralta, Samberg's leading character, a lot, I don't watch the show for Jake Peralta. Some days Captain Ray Holt is what I live for, other times it's Rosa Diaz; sometimes I can't get enough of Amy Santiago, and I can never, ever get enough of Terry Jeffords! You guys, I just love them all SO MUCH!

The real story of February 2015, though, is all about these badass bitches who sneakily, out of nowhere, got together again and released a record for the first time in a decade, kickstarting my almost dormant riot grrrl heart. I mean, my volcano of feminist punk rock love will never actually be extinct, but feeling that magma rise up to the surface again felt all kinds of empowering and right and good.

My Top 5 No Cities To Love tracks as of 7/15:
  1. A New Wave
  2. No Cities to Love
  3. Bury Our Friends
  4. Price Tag
  5. A tie between Surface Envy and Fangless sorry I know that's cheating but they're both really good!

Along with releasing a new album, Sleater-Kinney also had the audacity to go on tour. While their Portland and Seattle shows, after first being non-existent, sold out in seconds, we trucked ourselves all the way to Spokane to see their very first show in almost a decade, which felt special, as Kathy and I had seen one of their very last shows in NYC way back when. Spokane is a kind of a weird town and ended up depressing me a bit but once the show got in full swing everything was adrenaline and Carrie Brownstein and nothing hurt. They played so many good songs and their energy was just the same and we had a perfect view and they were so happy too and I can't put into words how it made me feel other than a true and 100% alive and better version of myself.

The next day before the looong drive home, we did stop by a few of the more uplifting Spokane highlights that we had missed the day before, such as a diner inside of an old train car and the world's largest Radio Flyer and the Garbage Goat. So on second thought, Spokane isn't that bad after all.

February may be the shortest month, and looking back I can't remember at all what I did at work then, but man, it was a good one this year.

Monday, July 6, 2015

Best : June 2015.

One Man Guy by Michael Barakiva was not particularly deep--although as the main character is Armenian-American, it does delve into some Armenian Genocide history--but geez, was it cute. And romantic. And gay. It was the best romantic cute gay YA book I've read in a long while! And reminded me that reading not-particularly-deep romances is just FUN and good and I'm vowing to spend more time reading them this summer.

This One Summer is a graphic novel about friendship and family and growing up and (obviously) summer. In fact I loved this one so much because I felt it wrapped up summer, and summer when you're a particular age as a kid where you feel kind of adult but also very much not, so very well. The art is gorgeous, and I liked the story a lot more than the previous Tamaki collaboration I read, Skim, even though Skim is a lot gayer.

Our new-to-us-restaurant-of-the-month in June was The Whole Bowl, a Portland vegetarian institution that started as a food truck but has had a brick and mortar location on Hawthorne forevah, where we enjoyed our lunches on a day that I remember as being pleasantly warm, before the hot-as-Hades heat wave enveloped us for the rest of the month. The concept of The Whole Bowl is pretty simple--it's just a lot of healthy stuff in a bowl. This is a concept that also forms the basis of Cafe Yumm, although Cafe Yumm takes it to a much more expanded and commercial level. Both bowl concepts also really depend on the secret sauce that forms the base of the bowl--in The Whole Bowl, a lemon-garlic concoction known as Tali Sauce, and in Cafe Yumm, Yumm Sauce, a more creamy and tahini based sauce.

My conclusion was that I like Cafe Yumm bowls more, but that The Whole Bowl undoubtedly tastes healthier and more, you know, whole-some for you. Yumm Sauce is...not good for you. Which is why it is SO DELICIOUS. But in general I am a big, big fan of bowl-based meals. I hope you enjoyed this bowl meal analysis! Bowl bowl bowl bowl!

Inside Out, Pixar's newest, was essentially made for me. It is about FEELINGS! And memories! It is so good! I cried so much! Ahhhh I LOVED IT! Leslie Knope as Joy and Phyllis From The Office as Sadness was also the most perfect casting I've ever seen.

One day this month I walked into the Kennedy School and as I waited for Kathy and Manda and Manda's parents for dinner, Rosalie Come and Go started playing from the speakers above my head and I was suddenly swept into that slightly bittersweet but comforting place that hearing a certain song you haven't heard in a long time takes you to, where you remember a person you used to be. And I realized that even though I haven't actively listened to any of his records in ages, and even though the critical part of my brain dismisses the age of my Ryan Adams obsession as melodramatic, and even though I am devastated that he and Mandy Moore broke up and am certain that it was his fault because he is kind of an asshole, in the end I will always, always love Ryan Adams.

Some songs that I will always love the most that I made myself remember this month: To Be Young! Let It Ride! Easy Plateau! So Alive! Rescue Blues!

Pride is always the best thing. It really really is. Made sweeter this month by the Supreme Court, but I've already told you all about that.

To celebrate finishing my first year as a full-time teacher-librarian, I also completed the whole hiking loop at Silver Falls this month, something I've wanted to do for quite a while, which I wrote about on my dorky hiking blog.

<3 you, summer. Here's to more of you.