Sunday, October 24, 2010

Thursday Book Questions, Pt. 6, NY-style

So, this post comes to you from my hometown of Elmsford, NY, where I am typing away in the house I grew up in. I am in town visiting my family, and will be calling this my home base for the next 8 days. This Tuesday I am flying to California for a business meeting with other librarians, and will be flying back on Friday--flying out of and into JFK, which made for a great excuse to spend time at my NY home. If you had told me 5 years ago that I'd travel this much as a librarian, I'd have thought you were nuts. But, clearly I would have been wrong... trip to Cali, paid for by my employer? I'll take it.

In other news, I am just coming out of one crazy busy week. It has been hard to keep my head screwed on straight, but thank God I have managed not to drop and shatter any of the plates I'm keeping in the air at the moment.

In a welcome shifting of gears (welcome because it was a shift from work to family, though for a reason that is sad and still hard to process...), today I attended a memorial Mass in honor of my grandma, Rosa, who passed away a year ago (may her memory be eternal). A good friend of hers, Phyllis, drove to the Mass with us in my mom's car, and in thanks she gave us some of her knitting, because she is kind like that. The knitting really reminds me of my grandma, because she used to knit things for us before it became too hard on her eyes. The knitting from Phyllis memorialized my grandma perfectly, for me. I also got to see and spend time with my uncles, aunts and cousins, which was a real blessing.

Leg warmers, a nifty pumpkin, a bright red scarf, a pretty multi-colored scarf and hat set, and a knitted Christmas wreath--all knitted by the lovely Phyllis. I believe I have another pumpkin like that somewhere, which my grandma knitted for me maybe 10 years ago. If I can find it, the pumpkins can be friends on my shelf, like Phyl and Rosa.

On to more bookish things, I am excited to report that on my plane rides to and from California this week, I plan to dive into Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, a much anticipated reread in preparation for the first Deathly Hallows movie, coming out November 19th (!!!). I also hope to post my impressions of The Hunger Games Trilogy sometime soon... I have a post in draft about it, just waiting for me to compose my thoughts!

And now, here are this week's Thursday Book Questions, Pt. 6. For previous installments, see Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, and Part 5.

26. Favorite cookbook?
Oh man, I don't cook often enough to have a good answer to this. Though, I have cookbooks which, in the past, have been very helpful to me, and so they are likely to be the ones I will return to when I manage to work cooking back into my lifestyle (ha). They are, Nourishing Traditions, 30-Minute Meals by Rachael Ray, and the blue Lenten cookbook, which is a staple in Orthodox homes. There is a Lenten pumpkin bread recipe from that book which is way too delicious to be considered Lenten.

27. Most inspirational book you’ve read this year (fiction or non-fiction)?
This is a hard one, because I read a whole slew of books last spring, which I didn't keep track of. In answer to this question, I guess I would have to say The Way to Nicaea by the Very Rev. Dr. John Behr, which I read over the summer as part of my graduate studies. The reason this is inspirational, though, is perhaps not typical: in this book, Fr. John does the kind of theology--or more precisely, he close-reads primary texts of the Early Church Fathers--in a way that I aspire to emulate. It's the kind of work I want to do whenever I attempt to reflect on theological matters by way of primary texts (the best kind of reflection, when done right, in my opinion). His methodology is impeccable and yields such insight, that both the insight itself as well as the methods he uses to get there, are very inspiring, at least to this theology geek. Eventually I'll post my specific impressions of this book as well (ah, all the posts waiting patiently for me to compose them).

28. Favorite reading snack?
A good cup of tea.

29. Name a case in which hype ruined your reading experience.
This is a tough one, since I'm not exposed to a ton of book hype, except in the YA fantasy realm, mostly because of the blogs I read. And in each YA fantasy instance, the hype was spot on--Harry Potter and The Hunger Games being the two best examples of this. I hope to read the Twilight series sometime in the next year, and there is so much hype, both good and bad, surrounding those books that it will be interesting to see how my experience aligns with the various schools of Twilight hype.

30. How often do you agree with critics about a book?
Again, don't generally read book critics. Whenever possible, I like going into an experience cold--whether it be a book, movie or piece of theatre.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Greek Yogurt Dessert, "with le-mon" (zest)

Today I was fortunate enough to get to celebrate one of my dear friends, Jamie, at a surprise birthday party that her sister Cindy threw for her. The party was Greek themed, in terms of the menu, so everyone brought their favorite Greek dish. I was at a loss as to what I would bring, not having ever cooked any Greek dishes. But then, my friend Kathy, who is Greek, told me about a dessert her mother makes, using Greek yogurt. 

Aside: I love Greek yogurt. I have been buying a tub each weekend and eating it throughout the week. I buy it plain, and then mix in honey to sweeten it. Sometimes I will add granola as well, but usually the honey is all that is necessary. It is now an essential part of the first meal of my day.

So, Kathy told me that her mom would add all sorts of yummy, sweet things to the yogurt, transforming it into a dessert dish, but a healthy one. It sounded perfect, and doable for me, so I gave it a go! Here below is the recipe, though I warn you, I am not including any measurements since all you're doing is mixing things into the yogurt. Choose the amounts that you think you will like. Also, there are many variations on this, and I will include some of the variations in parentheses. The ingredients not in parentheses are the ones I used.  


Plain Greek yogurt (I use the Fage brand)
Vanilla extract
Poppy seed filling (the moist mixture used in baked goods)
Lemon zest (you can also use orange zest, but with the poppy seeds I found the lemon zest resulted in a lemon poppy seed kind of flavor, which was fabulous)
Golden and red raspberries (this is where you can really mix it up--pun intended, ha--by using any kind of berry you choose, though be warned that blueberries will stain the yogurt; another option is peaches, either uncooked or baked with brown sugar, mmmm)
Shaved chocolate (as a topping)

Basically, all you do is mix in each ingredient. I did each one individually, and in the order listed above. I waited until I served it to add the chocolate which, by the way, was an amazing addition and worth the work of grating it. Also, another variation on the ingredients would be to add nuts. 

With chocolate added, just before serving.

A delicious helping.

Yeah, that disappeared fast. 

It came out scrumptious, and I'm so thrilled I discovered an easy-to-make, healthy dessert!

Friday, October 15, 2010

Thursday Book Questions, Pt. 5 + knitting frenzy

Not surprisingly, I stated last week I would try to post more regularly...and it didn't quite happen. I still have posts in draft that I want to finish, but this week has been one of the busiest I have had this semester at the library. I will get to the draft posts soon enough, I am sure. Plus, I have begun knitting again, thanks to a knitting circle of lovely ladies which began last Sunday. Here are two images that capture where I'm at, not just with my knitting but with everything (note the haphazardness that is my beautiful, nutty life right now):

The green work-in-progress will be, I hope, a halfway decent hat. The black finished project (on the right, hard to see clearly) is also a hat, but it's a bit too big to wear, And the gray hat between the two (looking rather crumpled) is store-bought and machine made--it's in the pile as a point of reference. Even if it takes imperfect hat after imperfect hat to perfect a knitting pattern for my signature slouchy hat (and no, the person in the picture at this link is not me), I am determined. I will eventually knit for myself a hat that fits, is my style, and which is wearable--oh yes I will.

Onto Thursday Book Questions, Pt. 5. Jenna just posted this week's installment, and the questions are getting more and more interesting. For my previous answers, see Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, and Part 4. Here is Part 5:

21. What will inspire you to recommend a book?
I will recommend a book to someone if I know their reading tastes and the book is one I know they, in particular, will love. Another situation where you will find me recommending books is when I love a book so much I can't stop talking about it--in which case, not only won't I stop talking about it, but I'll try to shut myself up (many times, though never quite successfully) by saying, "Well, you should just read it yourself so you know what I'm talking about!"

22. Favorite genre?
Fantasy, usually the YA variety, though as a teen I read "non-YA" fantasy as well. These days I find that (good; read: not trite and overly formulaic) YA fantasy tales get to the point more succinctly than their "adult" counterparts. For instance, as much as I love Robert Jordan's Wheel of Time series from my teen years (a non-YA fantasy series), it is taking me literally years to finish reading the series, which will finally be completed sometime in the next few years. Why, you might ask? Because the plot is so complicated with so many characters, I don't remember the details about each character enough to just dive in where I left off and know what is going on. Some day though...

23. Genre you rarely read (but wish you did)? [And yes, I am the grammar geek that just corrected the placement of the question mark in this question.]
Probably science fiction. Besides spending a summer reading this genre for an undergraduate course back in 2005, and my all-too-brief inhalation of Orson Scott Card's Ender Wiggin books* earlier this year, I haven't read much sci fi, but I definitely want to read more.

24. Favorite biography?
Yeaaa.... if I'm honest, I'm not a huge reader of biographies. I suppose one that really, really affected me deeply is an English translation of the biography of St. Nektarios of Aegina, called Saint Nektarios: The Saint of our Century. Talk about a life lived in complete humility and love.

25. Have you ever read a self-help book?
Hmmm, I don't recall ever having read one, though perhaps I have and I just don't remember.

*Okay, wow, in the Wikipedia list of Ender stories at the link I just dug up and posted here, there are a slew of stories that Card published only online. I had no idea about these! Talk about happy discoveries! I know what I'll be reading whenever I need a break from my usual Internet reading over the next few weeks. (And yes, the Ender universe Card created is so rich, any tale he tells within it is worth reading to add to the tapestry that is his sub-creation.)

Update: It turns out all of the Card short stories that were published online are behind pay walls. Drats.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Thursday Book Questions, Pt. 4 (Happy Fall!)

It's Fall in NEPA (that's Northeastern PA for those who don't know), and the weather is crisp and invigorating. The changing leaves here are so beautiful--the kind of beautiful that makes me giddy and distracted, in a good way of course. This weekend is Fall Break at my school, which means the library is closed Saturday through Monday. I am looking forward to spending time enjoying the season with my friends: a dinner party on Friday evening at a friend's house, a Harvest Festival on Saturday morning (if I can wake up for it!), and hopefully a knitting circle on Sunday afternoon after church. By the end of the weekend I hope to have enjoyed some fresh apple cider and good times with good people.

On time this week, here below are my answers to Jenna's Thursday Book Questions, Pt. 4 (love the questions this week!). For previous editions, see the following links:
Part 1
Part 2
Part 3


16. Do you ever dog-ear books?
Yes, I am embarrassed to say I do. Not often though! I have an arsenal of bookmarks that rotate throughout the handful of books I am reading at any given moment. But sometimes, I admit, when I need to close a book just for a moment, I will dog-ear the page I am on, knowing I will be returning very shortly. I think, being a librarian, I have become more and more aware of the wear and tear books can put up with, so I am a little less squeamish about these sorts of things.

17. Do you ever write in the margins of your books?
It's funny: I used to do this all the time. For instance, all of my Madeleine L'Engle books (including the Time Quartet) and many of my C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien books have my marginalia (in pencil of course!) preserved from late high school and early college when I first read them. I am rereading The Problem of Pain right now, and I am reading my 18 year-old commentary as I go. Which brings me to the reason I don't write in the margins anymore... As a reader, I find it distracting. The marginalia tends to guide my thought process as I read, and that limits my own/present reading of the text. It's especially interesting when my 26 year-old self is battling with my 18 year-old self over what is important in a passage and what is not. As a result, I no longer write in the margins, even when I am doing research: I use little post-it flags for every line I think is noteworthy. My books often have a rainbow of post-it flags hanging from the pages as a result, but so be it.

18.  Not even with text books? [Hey, wait a minute... that seems to presume a negative answer to the previous question! Stand fast against such nonsense and answer #17 any way you want.]
Haha I appreciate Jenna's bracketed comment here. ;) I suppose if I was in a course of study that actually used textbooks, I wouldn't have a problem with writing in the margins. But my courses use stand-alone books which I anticipate revisiting again and again in the future, so for that reason I avoid writing in the margins for the reasons I cited above.

19. What is your favorite language to read in?
English, as it's the only language I'm fluent in.

20. What makes you love a book?
Wow, this is a good question. If the book is a story (i.e., fiction), then understanding myself better for having read it, causes me to love it, because it means I am someone new (and hopefully better) by the end of it. In a way, even with the theological texts I read and love, I think this is the case as well--by understanding God better, I understand myself better. I should also add, really lovable characters cause me to love a book as well. For instance, I am itching to pick up the Anne of Green Gables books again because I miss Anne Shirley terribly and can't wait to spend time with her again.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Thursday Book Questions on a Sunday (while sick), Pt. 3

This week I traveled to Savannah, GA for a library conference, where my research partner and I gave a presentation about Facebook and the ACRL Information Literacy Standards. I am incredibly pleased with how it went. It was well-received, and I observed that enough of our audience had what I call "light-bulb moments" during the presentation, that I feel like my goals with the presentation were achieved.

In other news, I devoured (om nom nom) Suzanne Collins' The Hunger Games trilogy early last week. I really liked it. It's a complex sort of "like" though, and at some point I hope to post a detailed reflection on the complexities of why I like this story. Hint: It has something to do with my ability, as reader, to relate to the psychological and emotional journey of the main character, Katniss. More on that later.

I have been home all day today, sick with what I think is a cold, or perhaps a sinus thing. It started as a really bad allergy attack while still in Savannah, but did not go away upon returning to Scranton. As such, I am going to dive right into Jenna St. Hilarie's Thursday Book Questions, Pt. 3, this time offered up on a Sunday, so I can go back to vegetating.

Click the following links for Part 1 and Part 2 of Thursday Book Questions.

11. How often do you read out of your comfort zone?
I am not sure I know what my comfort zone is. If my comfort zone is defined by books I read effortlessly, then I read a fair amount out of my comfort zone due solely to my graduate studies. Many of the texts I read for school are very challenging and require a certain amount of discomfort (at least insofar as I struggle with their meanings not being obvious to me).

12. What is your reading comfort zone?
Going with my definition above (i.e., books I read effortlessly), these tend to be books with a good and spiritually edifying story, and well-drawn characters.

13. Can you read on the bus?

14. Favorite place to read?
Sitting up in bed, in the time before I go to sleep.

15. What is your policy on book lending?
I generally lend books when asked. If the book means a lot to me and is difficult to replace, I will state as much when I lend it and ask the borrower to please take care with it. I have never really had any problems along these lines.