My Grandma Lee


Today, my sweet grandma Lee went home to be with Jesus.

I'm so thankful that I got to see her just last week. She and my grandpa drove themselves from Illinois and spent the week in Texas and Oklahoma visiting my family. Grandma Lee's brother--my great uncle Bill--lives in OKC, and Jordan and I spent last Tuesday evening at their house. My dad was there too. 

We ate my great aunt Dorothy's delicious homemade banana cream pie and sat around the table telling stories and making fun of my dad because he and my grandpa have the same I-don't-want-you-to-take-my-picture-but-I'll-humor-you face. Or, knowing the two of them, it's an I-have-a-secret-joke-I'm-laughing-about-in-my-head smirk.

My grandma celebrated her 88th birthday earlier this month, and she and my grandpa celebrated 65 years of marriage this year as well. Can you even believe that? 

So many people lose a grandparent early in life. I am blessed to have known her for as long as I did. 

Love you always, Grandma. 

My Top 4 Books of 2011

{source via}
Throughout the year, I've been keeping a list of books as I finish them. For each, I've also posted a review. I'm so glad I did this, because now, as 2011 draws to a close, I can easily go back and see which books I've read this year and also whether or not I liked them.

I read every day all day at work, but occasionally I get in the mood to read for pleasure at home. In 2011, I completed 14 books (not including the 2 I have currently in progress). That's just under one book a month. Not bad considering that this year I also planned a wedding and got married.

One of my 2012 resolutions is to see if I can top this year's number. So I'm setting a goal to: read at least 15 books in 2012.

Here is my 2011 list in order, starting from January:

The Hunger Games
Catching Fire
False Victim
The Hobbit
Looking for Alaska
The Monster of Florence
A Game of Thrones
Water for Elephants
Pride and Prejudice and Zombies
Redeeming Love
If on a winter's night a traveler

[Currently reading:  
A Clash of Kings 
Love and Respect] 

As I look back through those titles, it's hard to pick the ones that particularly stand out, since they were all such excellent reads. But people who say "I don't know" when answering a question are annoying. Have an opinion already, right? As such, I give you,

My Top 4 Picks of 2011:
Read these immediately if you haven't already. 
(And if you have, just read them again.)

1. Unbroken

This was recommended to me by a good friend whose literary opinion I trust fully. (Until she read Twilight, but that's a story for another day.) This is the book that jump-started my interest in World War II and nonfiction in general (and probably the reason I was actually excited to read Bonhoeffer). My full review for Unbroken is here.

2.  The Hobbit

Even if you aren't a fantasy lover or a Lord of the Rings lover or, heck, a fiction lover, this is a book everyone should read at least once. This was my second time reading The Hobbit, and it was even better than the first. Plus, have you seen the new movie trailer? This is one bandwagon you're gonna want to be on in 2012.

3. The Hunger Games trilogy

Unless you've been living in a dark, smelly cave, you've heard of/seen/read these books. Books like these are the reason people think writing in first person is a good idea, which it isn't most of the time. (Another notable exception to this rule: Water for Elephants.) Talk about edge-of-your-seat, reading-till-all-hours-of-the-night good stuff. (At least, the first and second books were. In my opinion, the third just got crazy.) Just try not to freak out about the portrait painted of future America.

4. The Monster of Florence

Another excellent nonfiction. Don't be fooled by the scary-sounding title. It is a true story about a serial killer who roamed the hills of Florence, Italy. The movie character Hannibal Lector was loosely based on this real-life person. Still, the story itself was not scary. It was fast-paced, entertaining, and suspenseful. My full review is here

So there you go! Get to reading. 
Also, here are a few books that are on my list as I look ahead to the new year!

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo 
The Ragamuffin Gospel
The Devil in the White City
A Storm of Swords
A Feast for Crows
A Dance with Dragons 

*Also, if you have any recommendations for me, I'd love some!

when you run out of tape...


Jordan to me Christmas morning: Sorry, I ran out of tape after the first present.

Flashback Friday--A Christmas Memory


Sitting on the stairs, waiting for my parents to give us the okay to run downstairs and behold the pile of presents under our tree is one of my favorite Christmas memories. As the years went on and our family expanded from one child to four, we could no longer fit on just one step. But the excitement and anticipation was always the same. 

My dad always took forever to get the camera ready, and my mom needed her coffee.
There would be a TV tray with a plate of cookie crumbs and a note from Santa, which I figured out a few years later was what my dad's handwriting looked like when he wrote with his left hand.

We don't have stairs now in our Texas house, and my siblings and I are old enough that we don't want to wake up before the sun comes up. We're happier to get a few more hours of sleep. But the memory of sitting on those stairs is one I will treasure forever.

That, and this image of Daniel in full-body white long underwear. 

10 Favorite Running Songs


I can't run without music. Okay, well I guess technically I could, and I have, but it's really no fun. I've talked to other people who hate running with music, and usually it's because they like the silence to think. 

But I think a lot, so while I'm running I'd rather not have time to think about how far I've run and how slow I'm going and when I can stop. 

Over the past few years, I've put together an excellent running playlist on my ipod. I like it because the songs that play are in no way indicative of the style of music I normally listen to.

Case in point: most of the songs on the following list.

But there are certain songs that have beats that are so in sync (no pun intended) with my pace. I get in time with the music, and suddenly I'm running faster for longer without even realizing it. 

So if you're the music-while-you're-running type, here's a list of my current top 10 favorite running songs (in alphabetical order):

1) Beyonce: "Irreplaceable"

I don't own any Beyonce records, but I do have this song on repeat on my playlist. The beat is fantastically perfect for a 10-min/mile pace. It also makes me feel powerful.

2) Britney Spears: "Piece of Me"

I'll reiterate my line from the previous song and tell you that I do not own any Britney albums. However, this song is great. It makes me want to run hard...and then fight someone.
3) Colbie Caillat: "Fallin' for You"

I know, you don't hear Colbie Caillat and think perfect running song, right? And the majority of her songs really aren't good for a workout. But this is the first song I played when I started my first half marathon, and it's carried me through some tough runs. 

4) Fort Minor: "Remember the Name"

This song is rated R and is in no way symbolic of the language I use on a daily basis. However, if ever there's a song I need to pump me up for the last mile, this is it. I blare this part of the chorus and suddenly feel like I'm running in the Olympics for all the glory: 

"It's 10% luck, 20% skill, 5% concentrated power of will, 5% pleasure, 50% pain, and 100% reason to remember the name." 

People will remember my name! That's what I shout in my head while I'm sprinting that last half mile home. Of course, they won't really, but that's beside the point.

5) Maroon 5: "Moves Like Jagger"

This is just a good running song. The end.

6) One Republic: "Everybody Loves Me"

If you've never listened to One Republic, you're missing out. I have a few of their songs on my running playlist, but this is the one with the best beat.

7) Taio Cruz: "Dynamite"

I don't even know who Taio Cruz is except to know that he's the person who sings this song. It's got a great beat, and the song itself is about blowing a club up like it's dynamite, which is obviously the sort of thing I love to do on the weekends.  

8) Taylor Swift: "Our Song 

Don't judge. Everyone has one guilty pleasure. This is mine. Her songs are so easy to sing, and the pace of this song in particular is more like an 8-minute mile. Let's just not discuss the absurd lyrics of Taylor Swift songs that really don't make sense, okay?

9) Tim McGraw: "Something Like That"

Obviously a Tim McGraw song is on this list. He's my favorite. And this is my dad and I's song. There's a home video of the two of us singing this together from something like 10 years ago. I've played this one on repeat a time or two to run a few miles at a quick pace.

10) Train: "Hey, Soul Sister"

Another excellent running song. I heard it on a commercial and then found out what it was and immediately bought it off itunes. I'm a song stalker like that.

* * * 

So that's it! Ten of my favorite running songs. I am always looking for new options, though, so shout out some of your favorites if you feel so inclined.

Locks of Love, Take 2


In the fall of 2007, I cut my hair and donated an 11-inch ponytail to Locks of Love. It was a drastic cut, but everyone said it looked great and they liked it and all those other things people say to someone when they cut their hair.

You know, those lies people tell when you've cut your hair and they tell you it looks good but it actually looks bad.

Because it did. Look bad, that is. 

Jordan agrees with me, so that's how you know I'm not making this up. I told him the cut didn't look good because my face was fat. And he, like a good man should, said something along the lines of, "No way. I'm sure it looks great. You're beautiful." Blah blah blah. 

But when confronted with a picture of the aforementioned haircut and fat face, he had no choice but to admit that yes, my face did look fat. And no, it was not the best look for me. And yes, I'm one of those people who should keep long hair for as long as possible, if not forever.

I was not in the least offended by this, because it was true. 

Since then, my hair had grown long again and was the longest it had ever been, to my recollection. I only get my hair cut on average once every 7 or 8 months, so there were split ends like you wouldn't believe, and the whole thing was getting to the point of no return. Either I chopped it off, or I accepted the fact that I was forever going to be a long-haired, frumpy girl and just started wearing long jean skirts and baggy sweatshirts.

I chose the former, obviously, but I'm of the sort to put off cutting my hair until the last possible moment. Something about hair salons makes me start sweating. I think it's the cape. (Oh yeah, and because I'm cheap. But that's not really the point.)

Anyway, I put it off until the moment I realized in a sudden state of panic that I must cut it now. (Even though I was experiencing major stress over the thought of returning to the 2007 hair era.)

This moment came on Thursday, so I booked an appointment, grabbed a plastic bag for the ponytail they were going to cut, and headed out. 

It wasn't as scary as when I donated the first time. I didn't cry. But it was super weird to feel nothing on the back of my neck. The ponytail she cut measured 13 inches, and then she cut at least another inch off to shape it into an actual haircut. It hasn't been this short since I've known Jordan, and he'd never seen me without long hair.

I didn't tell him I was cutting it. 

That was the best part--feeling all cute and bouncy (because of the hair) as I drove home to show him my new style. After staring at me for at least 30 seconds, he said, "I'm not going to lie... I wasn't sure how you'd look with short hair. I was worried. But I like it."

And I did too. That whole fat face fiasco was burned into my memory, but it seems I've slimmed down since college--at least in the face. So I can handle a shorter cut now, and I don't get the impression that people are lying to me when they say it looks good. 

So after the above picture was taken, I held up the ponytail horizontally, like this:

And Jordan said, "Hey, that looks like a mustache."
So clearly the next obvious step was to actually take pictures using the ponytail as a mustache.
Necessary? No. 
Awesome? Yes.

Also, did you know that it takes 6-10 ponytails to make one hairpiece? And they're custom made for each child. And the retail price of the hairpieces is between $3,500-6,000! Goodness.

So to date, I've donated one fourth of a hairpiece. Yay for me. 

I might just do it again in four years. Work my way up to one whole hairpiece. And then sell it on Craigslist for $6,000. Genius, I tell you.

Another added bonus to short hair: the tiny ponytail. It's so cute!

Why It's Important To Do Your Research


A few months ago, I thought of a great present to get my mom for her birthday:
tickets to the Trans-Siberian Orchestra. 

I was excited about the idea of going to see a nice orchestra performance to hear Bach and Vivaldi and Beethoven and all the greats. So I bought the tickets and eagerly awaited their arrival. 

Then, I looked TSO up on YouTube. 
"What the heck is this?" I shouted to Jordan, who was in the other room. 
"What's what?"
"This is the Trans-Siberian Orchestra?" 
"Uh, yeah. What did you think it was?"

Awesome. Turned out, I was the only person in the whole state of Oklahoma who didn't know that the Trans-Siberian Orchestra was actually more of a rock show than anything else. I knew within seconds that it wasn't the sort of thing my mother was going to like.

"Well crap," I said. "What am I supposed to do now?"
So began a month-long debate about whether or not to sell the aforementioned tickets or take Jordan to the show with me instead (sorry you're just finding this out now, Mom). But the date kept getting closer, and I eventually decided that Jordan and I should just go and see for ourselves what all the fuss was about. (TSO comes to OKC every year, and it's always a sell-out crowd.)

So we went.

There were lasers. 
Many, many lasers. 
And fire. 
And smoke.
And a lot of long-haired guitarists flipping their hair. 
And a violinist playing an electric violin. The violin was purple. I want one now.

I'm glad I didn't take my mother. I am, however, not sad I went. It was pretty awesome and fortunately did not cause me to have a seizure due to all the lights (which was a concern I voiced to a friend of mine, who responded ever so kindly with, "What are you, eighty?" Let's get some perspective, mmkay?).

TSO is a great show, and I think it wouldn't be a bad idea to go at least once just for the experience of it all. The musicians are excellent, and there was this fantastic female vocalist, who I wanted to listen to forever. 

And did I mention lasers? 

As I said, it was an experience. 
I'm just so glad I looked them up on YouTube before going to a concert and thinking it was a traditional orchestra. 
Don't judge me. I promise I'm not always this uninformed. 
But learn from my mistake and do your research before you try to take your mother to a rock concert. Unless, of course, your mother's the type to love a good rock concert.

Black and White Wednesday

Easy Miniature Pies


Recently, two seemingly unrelated things happened, which ended up relating in a majorly good way.

Last month, I hosted a Pampered Chef party at my apartment. All the items were then shipped to me afterwards, and I put them in bags and delivered them to their owners. At the end of it all, I was left with one box containing 6 one-cup prep bowls. Being the conscience-driven individual I am, I immediately emailed my consultant and explained the oversight. She told me that sometimes that happens and Merry Christmas from Pampered Chef. Hurray for me!

For the past few weeks I've had a craving for apple pie. An intense I-need-to-bake-one-right-now craving. 

Those two things came together when I saw this blog post about homemade mini pies. The pies were made in mason jars, but I don't have mason jars. However, I then followed the Amazon link to the mason jars and discovered they were one cup. And what did I have lying around but a free set of one-cup jars! 

So I made my long-awaited apple pie. Personal sized, because then I didn't have to share. It was easy and delicious, and you're crazy if you don't make them immediately.

Step 1: Make the Dough 
(I refrigerated it for about 30 minutes before rolling it out.)
Put crust around the inside of the jar. 

The dough recipe I used was:
2 c. flour
1/2 t. salt
4 T. butter
2/3 c. vegetable shortening
5 T. water

[It ended up making enough crust for 10 mini pies with a smallish-size ball of dough leftover, so basically it makes a lot. But there are about a million ways to make pie crust. I just wouldn't recommend Pioneer Woman's recipe. I've tried it 3 times with no success.]

Step 2: Make the Filling

For apple pie:
6 Granny Smith apples, peeled and sliced
1 1/2 C. sugar
1/8 t. nutmeg
1/2 t. cinnamon
2 T. flour

[Again, there are about a million ways to make filling for apple pie. Sometimes I also include a squirt of lemon juice just for kicks.]

You can also use any pie filling if you're not that fond of apple. Cherry? Blackberry? Pecan? The choices are endless.

Step 3: Put crust on the top of the filling  
[and cut a hole or some type of indent in the top (for the steam to come out)]

Step 4: Place in Freezer or Bake Immediately

I actually made these twice. The first time, I forgot that I wanted to freeze a couple to make later. So I ended up with 5 cooked pies. I put them in the oven at 350 for about 50 minutes. 

I ate one, saved two, and brought two to work and made my coworkers guess my middle name to win a pie.

This time around, I just made four and froze them all. I like looking at them in my freezer and thinking about all that crusty apple goodness. (That actually didn't sound good, probably due to my use of the word crusty. But I do love crust, so I'm keeping it.)

NOTE: This is not actually how the jars are currently stacked in my freezer. After taking this picture, I closed the freezer door and went about my business. Then, I opened the door, and one of the jars slid off and fell to the floor with a large, frightening bang. Thankfully, it didn't crack. But I learned my lesson that jars should not actually be stacked like this in the door. They will fall.

So that's how my craving for pie ended up relating to my free one-cup bowl set. And they're so perfect! After you eat a few bites, drop a scoop of ice cream right in there. So. Good.

I would totally make more and give them away for Christmas gifts. But first I have to buy jars I wouldn't mind not getting back. Here's the link again to those mason jars. Who wouldn't love a personal pie for Christmas? No one, I tell you.

UPDATE (12/13): I looked in the freezer last night, and one of the jars did break! I'm very sad about this. Don't be like me. Be smart and don't stack!

Flashback Friday--The Year of the Cabbage Patch


Christmas Flashback #1

So I don't actually remember wanting or receiving a Cabbage Patch Doll for Christmas. I don't remember playing with one or ever having one, in fact. But apparently I did and I have, and little me looks pretty darn happy. 

This was the short-lived bang era and also clearly a time when I didn't mind wearing stripes. After this, I refused to wear stripes until about a year ago. Now, for some reason I keep buying myself shirts with stripes. I don't know what's going on. But that's really beside the point. The point being that this is me with a Cabbage Patch Doll at Christmas.

Flashback Friday

The Egg Roulette Game


This is the second time eggs have played a significant role in a post on this blog. 

The first was earlier this year in what turned out to be one of my favorite posts, when a blizzard hit Oklahoma, and I found myself wandering from store to store looking for 3 eggs with which to bake some cupcakes. (It might not sound like all that much, but I encountered more than a few ridiculous obstacles along the way.)

In that case, it all ended well, and I moved on from that incident, thankful for eggs and cupcakes and the blizzards that make life exciting every once in a while. 

This egg story ends a bit differently. 

I've not yet shared this story with you, because it makes my family look even crazier than we did during the pinata incident. But I feel the time has come. As such, let's flashback to our family camping trip a few weeks ago, and I'll tell you about a little game we invented: Egg Roulette

It all started with the carton of eggs pictured above. Every camping trip, my parents team up to cook a delicious breakfast of eggs and bacon over a tiny camping stove. My dad is egg master; my mom is the bacon queen. As such, for as long as I can remember my mom has packed a huge carton of eggs and a few pounds of bacon for our camping breakfast.

On Saturday morning (or maybe it was Sunday; I can't remember), we ate eggs and bacon until our stomachs protested, and then we ate no more. 

"Come on, you guys," my mom said, holding up the near-empty egg carton, "there are still 5 eggs left. You couldn't eat five more eggs?" 

She was slightly annoyed because there's a strange--but real--sense of accomplishment when you're able to condense the packing at the end of a camping trip and come home with less than you brought. It's understandable why mom didn't want to have to pack up the entire carton when there were only five eggs left.

"Why don't we just throw them at trees?" That was my bright idea. Apparently when you're camping, you revert back to being a twelve-year-old and come up with ingenious, age-appropriate ideas like throwing eggs at trees.

"No, we can't do that," my mother's voice of reason replied. 

"Okay, well why don't we stand in a circle, throw them up in the air, and see who they land on." 

That one was straight from my dad. 
Now you see where I get it. 

If you've been reading this blog for any length of time, it probably won't surprise you to know that as my mom's eyes widened in shock and the boys laughed, I was buying my ticket and hopping on the express train to Crazy Town. 

"That's a great idea!" I shouted. 
"What?" my mom said, looking at me with even wider eyes. "You can't do that!" 
But for me there was no going back. "No, it's totally awesome. We have to do it."
Then, my dad jumped in again with a brilliant and necessary addition. "Everyone should hold a plate over their head, so they won't get egg in their hair. It's like--"
"Egg roulette!" I'm not sure who the suggestion came from, but it was perfect. And so it was decided. 

My two brothers, Jordan, and I were all going to get an egg. My dad wanted to throw but not actually be in the "game," so he got the last egg. (A true evil genius he is to create the stupid idea but not actually participate.) My sister and mom were smart and offered to stay out of the way of the yolk and just take pictures. 

The four of us were each going to take a paper plate to hold over our head. On the count of three, we'd throw the eggs up in the air (my dad would throw one too), and then we'd put the plates over our heads and wait for the eggs to come crashing down. 

And since I can't do anything without a point, we made rules: 

Whoever got the least egg on them won.
Whoever got splattered the most, lost. 

At this point, I was still thinking this was the best idea ever. 
I now believe someone spiked my trail mix. 

So we set off across the road (because we didn't want egg pieces all over our campsite), seven people carrying cameras, paper plates, and raw eggs. The whole time my mom was trying to talk us out of it. Spoiler alert: she didn't.

And--another spoiler alert--I lost. Of course. Is anyone surprised?

Here's how you play: 

Step 1: Get in a circle

Step 2: Throw eggs in the air

Step 3: Point and Laugh
[This step is vital to the success of the game. 
If you can't laugh at yourself and the other players, then you're just a circle of sad idiots throwing eggs at each other.]

Step 4: Determine a Winner
It clearly wasn't Austin.

Or me.
You can't see it, but I also had egg yolk trickling down my right pant leg, the rest of my shirt, and my entire right arm.

And the winner was... Jordan!  
He found the tiniest bit of egg on his arm after a thorough search.
I don't know how he escaped unscathed.

Step 5: Help your fellow players when they find yolk in their hair.

Step 6 (if necessary): Search for wounds

We all rushed over after my brother Austin shouted, "It drew blood!"

And the 7th and final step: Gather the idiots competitors together and take a picture

After this, we cleaned ourselves up and busted open a pinata
Cuz that's how we do it on the Reese Family Camping Trip.

Book Review--If on a winter's night a traveler


This was easily one of the strangest--if not the strangest--book I've ever read. 

Once a month, my office spends half the day out of the office at a local bookstore, browsing the shelves and discussing--what else?--books. Each editor brings an excerpt from a book they've read, and we break into small groups and talk about the pros and cons of the excerpt and ways it works or doesn't, as well as whether or not we should even attempt to suggest such a writing device to our authors. (Usually the answer is no.)

It was on one such occasion that a coworker introduced me to If on a winter's night a traveler by Italo Calvino. I was immediately intrigued by the title. I wondered what sort of author would make the title of his work an incomplete sentence.

Then, my coworker went on to give a brief synopsis, and it only served to further arouse my curiosity. Basically, she said, it's about someone reading a book. 

Now, I realize that to any normal person, a premise of this sort would sound horribly boring. But I wanted to know more. 

"What's it really about?" I asked, sure there had to be something else behind such a simple idea.
"It's about someone trying to read, only he keeps getting interrupted. It's about his quest to finish the book," she replied. 

Then she read the first paragraph of the opening chapter, and it was so unique, I knew I had to read this book immediately: 

You are about to begin reading Italo Calvino's new novel, If on a winter's night a traveler. Relax. Concentrate. Dispel every other thought. Let the world around you fade. Best to close the door; the TV is always on in the next room. Tell the others right away, "No, I don't want to watch TV!" Raise your voice--they won't hear you otherwise--"I'm reading! I don't want to be disturbed!" Maybe they haven't heard you, with all that racket; speak louder, yell: "I'm beginning to read Italo Calvino's new novel!" Or, if you prefer, don't say anything; just hope they'll leave you alone. 

I was, as any astute reader would be, surprised--no, shocked--by the use of second person.  It's not something I see often in a book; and if I do see it, it isn't done well.

The first chapter goes on to narrate the ways one should sit while reading, the things one should think about before reading, and the things one should expect during reading. It was extremely odd and yet also humorously entertaining and the perfect hook to draw me into the second chapter. That's where another surprise was waiting.

I found out that the entire novel is not, like I originally believed, in second person the whole time. It switches back and forth, with every chapter alternating between discussing the Reader in second person and the story itself, which is told in third person. 

The whole thing was strange but easy to get used to, and I was glad for it in the end. As interesting as I found the second-person narration, I realized the immediate action that second person requires (ie., doing things in the now) can get tiresome after a while, and the chapters in third person were a comforting relief, enough to give me a breath and get me ready for the next chapter. 

If I haven't confused you already, well done. I'll reward you by moving on from second/third person to talk about the plot itself. On the most basic level, it really is just about someone reading. There's the Reader (who is never given a name but solely referred to as Reader), who begins reading a book called If on a winter's night a traveler. The beginning of this story is chapter 2 of the book and is titled as such. The problem is that at it's most suspenseful moment, the book suddenly ends, and the Reader discovers that the book he's reading has been accidentally spliced together with a different book. 

In the following chapter, the Reader heads back to the bookstore to purchase a new copy of the book that got interrupted, only to discover that the store is out of that particular book. And not only that, but there's another reader (named later in the story but at the beginning is just referred to as Other Reader), who is at the bookstore looking for the same book, because her copy is also defective.

Such begins Calvino's novel, and the two Readers continue on, trying to finish the story they'd started but finding only the beginnings of new stories they are unable to finish. 

I moved through the first half of the book fairly easily. Once I got the hang of the pattern and what the general plot was about, it was interesting and fun and many times made me think. There was, however, a point in the middle--as happens with some books--where I got stuck and had to put it down for a few days. I just wasn't excited to keep going, and the narrative had started to bore me. Still, the plot was intriguing enough to keep me moving, because I really wanted to know how it was all going to end. So I pressed on. (It's a fairly short book, and after reading Bonhoeffer, nothing appears long to me anymore anyway.)

The last third was where the plot lost me, and I finished the book at a bit of a loss. I'm still not sure what exactly Calvino intended, though I suspect I was trying to look deeper into the narrative than he meant. You'll see what I mean if you read it.

I realize this review does not shine the best light on If on a winter's night a traveler, and you might be wondering why anyone should bother to read it if it was so confusing and odd and boring. Well, confusing and odd, yes, it was; and though I did say I got bored in the middle, I would not call the book itself boring.

Overall, I'm certainly glad I read it, and I did not feel that it was a waste of time. (Like I did after finishing Love in the Time of Cholera. Terrible book. Save yourself.) This novel was clever and thought provoking and well written and unlike anything else I've ever picked up. I don't think I'll read it again, but--at the risk of sounding contradictory--I would recommend it. 

After finishing it, I looked back and realized the book itself speaks on various themes, all related in some way to writing and reading. The relationship between author and reader is one. The relationship between fiction and real life. How one reads and what the material means to the reader is discussed in the final chapters by four readers in a library and proved to be an interesting discourse. 

The ending itself reveals a hidden element, which I won't spoil for you (though some disagree with me that a reader of any review should be prepared for spoilers), proving that Italo Calvino's book If on a winter's night a traveler is even more than it appears and is one of those books that keeps you thinking even after the conclusion of the final chapter. 

So read it, please. And quickly, so we can discuss what I was confused about before I forget.

Crown of Thorns


This past weekend my family went camping, and this lovely bush was surrounding our campsite. You can understand why I was nervous walking around after dark. Didn't want to be stabbed by one of these long, sharp thorns.

At one point someone brought up Jesus's crown of thorns and how horrible it would feel to have a lot of those digging into your forehead.

I learned that camping in Texas can be both frightening and theological.

Linking up with Heidi this week for black and white Wednesday.
And Rachel for Wordless Wednesday (with words).

{Also, for another camping story, go here. It's good. I promise.}

The Murder of Tweety


Twelve years ago, I made a paper mache pinata.

It was a project for Spanish class, and it was one of those ridiculous assignments where neither parent nor child is entirely sure what the point is. But meaningless busywork never did stop me from being the straight-A student I was, and I immediately got some newspaper and glue and went to work.

Too late into the process I realized that I'd either blown up the balloon too much or had just used too large of a balloon in the first place, because I ended up with an oval that was twice the size of a normal human head. 

I debated about what to make out of it, because I knew I was limited due to the intense size and odd shape of my final product. In the end, I used white, blue, and a lot of yellow tissue paper to make a Tweety Bird head. To this day, my parents and I can vividly recall the uncounted hours we spent gluing yellow paper all over the gigantic balloon. I'm a perfectionist and insisted that we get the right look, so the paper had to be as close together as possible. And that head was large, so it seemed like to took forever.

It was also slightly disappointing, because after all that, the Tweety head was just sort of ugly and large and, I'll be honest, a bit frightening; but I turned it in on time, and my teacher hung it up in our classroom with the rest of my classmates' artistic, attractive pinatas. 

Eventually the time came to bring the bird home, and the question immediately arose about what to do with dear Tweety. Throwing him in the trash would obviously not do justice to the time it took us to bring him to life in the first place. But we couldn't put him anywhere he might be seen by anyone, especially after dark. 

So Tweety was attached to a rafter at the back of the garage, and there he hung for the next nine years. His bright yellow fur collected dust and, over time, turned his color to a pale yellow, almost white, proving that even cartoon birds eventually turn gray with age.

Occasionally I'd catch a glimpse of him back there, swaying peacefully back and forth between a bike and an old fishing pole with a sad look in his huge blue eyes, and someone would mention getting rid of him. But then my parents and I would remember the hours we spent that we could never get back, and we'd tell each other that the perfect time would come to pay homage to our hard work and give our wingless friend a death he deserved. 

That time came in the summer of 2008, when a semi-truck pulled up in front of the "for sale" sign that had been sitting in front of our house for almost a year. My family was moving to Texas, and we decided to fatten Tweety up with candy and then beat him to death with a baseball bat to celebrate our last night in our Illinois house. 

Unfortunately, we ran out of time to kill Tweety. It took us much longer than anticipated to get everything in order, so we packed Tweety in our suburban with the rest of our most prized possessions (everything we didn't trust with the driver of the semi), and headed sixteen hours south.

Upon our arrival at our new home, Tweety was unceremoniously tied to a rafter in the garage and left to the dust and old age. That was three and a half years ago. 

On Friday, Jordan and I arrived at my parents' house with our sleeping bags ready and our bags packed for the 2nd Annual Texas November Reese Family Camping Trip (I made up that name; we don't actually have shirts made up with a logo for that or anything). 

We had barely walked in the door when my dad approached with a suspicious grin on his face. 

"Guess what?" he asked.
"Ummm, I don't know... what?"
"Guess what activity we have planned for this weekend?" He paused. "We're going to kill Tweety!"
My sister burst out laughing. "And we're going to fill it with my Halloween candy!" she shouted.
"That's awesome!" I said. Then I turned to Jordan and explained what was going on so he wouldn't think he'd secretely married into a family of ax murderers.

When my brothers heard, they were excited as well, and the die was cast.
 Tweety's days were numbered.

We arrived at the campsite on Saturday morning and found the perfect place to hang Tweety--on a pole by the picnic table.  In his final hours, he protected us from campsite creepers (though we took him down at night, because no one wanted to get scared by the whites of his huge eyes). 

{Here he is watching Jordan carve some wood.}

The next day, we prepared for the assassination. 

First, Jordan carved a flap into his skull for sticking the candy. Poor Tweety didn't even put up a fight.

Then, we fattened him up with Reese's and Heath Bars and Snickers.

After that, my mom forced Jordan and I to take a picture together because we accidentally wore the same shirt. 

{Then I changed because I hate matching, which isn't relevant to this story except to explain why I'm wearing a different shirt in the following pictures.}

Then, the main event.
We gathered our materials: bat and bandana, which Jordan luckily had in his truck. 
And my brother found the perfect (thought slightly perilous) spot from which to hang Tweety.

 I was elected to take the first hit, and though Tweety had hardly made a squeak when Jordan knifed him, it was clear he wasn't going to go down as easy this time. (Or perhaps it's just a fact that twelve-year-old paper mache folds more than cracks when hit.)

 It took four of us to bring him down.
{Pictures courtesy of my sister}

During the beating, there were two injuries other than the holes we were putting in Tweety. Somehow, both Jordan and Austin ended up on the ground--Jordan because he got so dizzy he fell in the dirt and literally rolled down the hill until he could stabilize himself; and Austin because Daniel accidentally hit him in the eye with the bat.

When it was all over, there was nothing left but pieces of bird and yellow feathers scattered amongst my sister's Halloween candy.

{Side note: it's not as much fun to break open a pinata when you have to pick up the candy and hand it all over to your little sister...which probably explains why we stood looking at it instead of rushing to pick it up.}

We collected the various pieces of Tweety's head that we found lying around the campsite and threw them in the trash. There was no sadness, though, because we all felt that this murder, premeditated though it was, was justified and a long time coming.

As our last hurrah for our fallen fowl friend, we read snippets from the paper I used for the mache part. We also talked about Tweety being like a time capsule. Except who knew we'd keep him for 12 years? No one. As such, there wasn't anything cool inside except yellowed newspaper dated from 1999 and the broken balloon I'd blown up all those years ago.

And here's some food for thought: you haven't been on a successful camping trip until you've busted open a 12-year-old Tweety Bird head pinata.

So concludes the story of the murder of Tweety. 
May he rest in peace.