Friday, December 31, 2010

2010 In Review

Max watching PSU win the Capital One Bowl

Made the library into a comfortable reading room.

Tried deep fried bacon at the rodeo (it was gross!)...

...and visited Austin with my parents

Camping at Brazos Bend State Park

Welcomed Layla to the family

Brewed our first batch of beer...

...watched The Netherlands in the World Cup...

...and went skydiving!

Went to the Philadelphia Folk Festival

Went to New Orleans to celebrate my first anniversary with The Dude!

Returned to Pennsylvania for the wedding of a great friend (photo below courtesy of the Dude not leaving us alone)

Spent a great Christmas with family and enjoyed real snow! (the handsome fella in this photo is my parents' dog, Duke)

2010 was a fun year for me. I have so much to look forward to in 2011!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Christmas Cheer

In my house growing up, we traditionally spent Black Friday and the weekend after Thanksgiving decorating the house. Since we bought a live tree we wouldn't get that for another few weeks (and it often stayed up until it was needle-less in February) but the Christmas season started at the same time as the leftover turkey.

Now that I have my own house (and a fake tree), I have had to start my own traditions, but I still decorate on Black Friday. It's a great excuse to avoid the shopping that I can't stand. While I have lots of my old traditions, it's been fun to look for new ones as well. For the first time this year, the Dude and I made gingerbread houses (albeit from a kit we bought from Target). They turned out pretty well...that is, until the Texas weather went from almost-winter to almost-summer in about 12 hours and all the icing melted. We'll try again next year!

After talking about it the last few years, the Dude hung Christmas lights outside this year and I think they look great! ...even if my pictures don't reflect that. We are definitely not in the running for the most Griswold-ish house in our neighborhood, but we aren't the Grinches either.

Since I'm still making my own traditions, I've enjoyed looking at what others do. I've always kept most of my decorating in the living room, dining room, and kitchen, but after I saw this picture I think I may move it in to the library next year!

Has anyone else started their own traditions when they moved away from home?

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

A Non-Holiday Book

This one gets its own review because it really affected me. Up front warning: this book is not cheerful. I promise to get back to holiday joy in my next post!

Room, Emma Donoghue

In Emma Donoghue's second novel, Room, the author shows once again that she is not afraid to dive headfirst into truly awful situations and turn them inside out. Room is a story told by Jack, a 5 year old who lives in Room with his Ma and his friends Bed, Duvet, and Wardrobe. As far as Jack knows, everything outside of Room is Outer Space and everything on tv is not real. When I say everything, I mean everything...rain, dentists, even other people. This is because Jack's mother was abducted before his birth and has been held prisoner in an 11'x11' room for the past seven years. As circumstances with their captor change, Ma realizes that it is time to try to escape if she and Jack are going to survive. But how do you explain escape to someone who doesn't understand there is a world to escape to?

Telling the story from Jack's point of view makes the story easier to read but also strips away much of the convention we associate with these types of situations. There is very little graphic violence or external input. What is left is an emotional tale that forces you to re-evaluate everything you think you know about the world and how you interact with other people. I knew going in that reading this would be difficult for me, but I'm glad I picked it up anyway. I was utterly absorbed from start to finish. This is not to minimize how disturbing and painful the book is at times, because it is both. However, it also brings a fresh, innocent perspective to a cynical situation.

I would cautiously recommend Room to those who think they could handle it. If nothing else it will force you to sit back, take a deep breath, and think.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

A Dog's Life

I think a lot of you already read Hyperbole and a Half but if you don't, start now. I love it when she blogs about her dogs. This recent post about "simple dog" and "helper dog" made me laugh out loud and snort. Layla is definitely simple dog. I also liked this older one where she tested simple dog's intelligence. Then Becca did the same test on her dog, which led to hilarious photos of a lumpy blanket wandering around her living room.

I realized I haven't been blogging about Max and Layla as much as I used to. I think part of that is because Layla is really difficult to photograph; she tends to come out as a big black blur, sometimes with scary green eyes, sometimes with no eyes at all. It doesn't really do justice to her cheerful, floppy demeanor in real life, especially since I know the best part of a post about dogs is pictures of said dogs. I did get a few decent ones though...can you tell what a sweetheart she is?

Despite my laziness in posting their pictures, the dogs are doing well. Max got a cold last week, which he generously shared with Layla, so I have had the pleasure of listening to dogs sneeze for the past few weeks. They both excel at looking pathetic to get whatever they want from me then running away acting normal. Dogs 1, People 0.

Last night I watched the old Claymation "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer" special. I had forgotten that whenever Rudolph's nose lights up it makes an odd high pitched whining sound. This intrigued both dogs. I love it when they hear a strange sound from the tv. The ears perk up and the head cocks to the side. Even better is when one of them actually walks over to see where the noise is coming from. The Dude has a birthday card which features dogs barking "Happy Birthday to You" and used it to mess with them quite a few times. I did the same with Rudolph. Dogs 1, Alicia 1. It's a tie! I'll call that good for now.

Well by now I figure I have bored and/or alienated pretty much all of my readers so my work here is done. I hope you're all enjoying the Christmas lights as much as I am now that I don't have to resent them!