Monday, May 31, 2010

Reading Challenge of 2010: May

3:47 PM
Five months into my great reading challenge of 2010 and I've completed 22 books! Almost halfway through my total and we're almost halfway through the year. So far so good. Check out my May reads!

Dead in the Family by Charlaine Harris

I’ve been so excited for this book to come out! It’s the tenth installment of Harris’ Sookie Stackhouse series. It’s your typical human girl loves a vampire story, but throw in fairies, telepaths, werewolves, werepanthers, and more and you have Sookie-verse. I was hooked from book one. Nine books later, Harris’ does not disappoint. As Sookie continues her vampire “marriage” with hunky Eric, things seem to be going well in her personal life. Her fairy cousin, Claude, has moved in for company and she’s spending some time with her telepathic newphew, Hunter. But of course, all is not well. Fresh dead bodies are appearing on Sookie’s land, and it appears someone has it in for her. To make matters worse, Eric’s maker returns and starts some trouble of his. One of the reasons I love this series is that I just love Sookie. She’s smart and sassy. She says what she thinks and genuinely cares for people. She just has the bad luck to be attracted to the undead. It’s a great series, and just a fun read.

Weight of Silence by Heather Gudenkauf

My book club selection this month was Weight of Silence. It’s the story of two little girls who meet tragedy. Callie has been silent since she was four years old. Petra, her best friend, became her voice. The two girls were of one soul. When one early morning both girls go missing, the parents fear the worst. The small town of Willow Creek is turned upside down, searching for the girls. Blame is placed on everyone. And no one knows the truth. Weight of Silence is told from the perspective of several characters, which I felt really moved the story along. When one character’s first-person narrative would end, another character in that scene would pick up their own first-person narrative. I felt invested in each character. I felt this book was everything Into the Woods wasn’t. A story of missing children, the search for a killer, it’s all there, but Weight of Silence leaves the reader with a payoff and closure, not necessarily a happy ending, but an ending nonetheless. While dark and emotional at times, I really enjoyed this book. It was a very entertaining read.

Faceless Killers by Henning Mankell

This book is the first in a long series by Mankell featuring detective Kurt Wallander. A series I’m sure to be reading more of. Faceless Killers is the story of a sleepy farmtown in Sweden that is struck with a brutal double murder. Wallander and his team investigate, hoping for quick justice of a needless crime. Their wish does not come true, and months pass before Wallander is able to find closure on this case. The story weaves beautifully through twists and turns of the investigation, ups and downs of Wallander’s personal life, and the final payoff of justice. I’ve become quite a fan of the Swedish crime novel, and Henning Mankell is revered as one of the best. Having read this book, I can see why.


Monday Morning Loves

12:50 PM

1. Charlaine Harris books. Vampires, werewolves, and fairies, oh my! No, I'm not talking about Twilight. The Southern Vampire series by Charlaine Harris is a paranormal romance precursor to the Twilight saga, and in my opinion, much better! Sookie Stackhouse is just your average telepath barmaid, until she falls in love with the vampire, Bill Compton. Bill and Sookie tumultuous romance is at the heart of the series, as is Bill's sheriff, Eric Northman. It's light and funny, passionate and romantic and sometimes bloody. The supernatural world that Harris creates makes for compelling character and fantastic plotlines. The series is also the basis for the hit TV show, True Blood.

2. Scene It? This board games combines two of my loves...movies and trivia! It's a fast-paced, DVD driven trivia game that makes for great group fun. Although most groups have refused to play with me, as I keep beating them. Recently, I got FRIENDS Scene It? and that's just as enjoyable!

3. datz Deli. This South Tampa deli is one of my favorite stops. Their diverse sandwich menu and delicious drink options really make it a gold mine! From beer and wine tastings, to lunch time cook-it-yourself meals, datz also has a great selection of social events for the South Tampa scene. And I would drive across town for their homemade potato chips alone. Seriously.

4. Starburst Jellybeans. Best. Jellybeans. Ever. So flavorful, and no bean gets left behind because of weird flavors [like JellyBellys]. I can eat these all the time. And it's probably a good thing that I don't! They keep popping up around Easter, at tea parties and baskets, and I'm glad. I get my years fill, and then I'm done. Because I could eat them year round! So yummy!

5. Etsy. Etsy is your one-stop shop for anything and everything homemade. From jewelry to clothes to furniture to accessories, Etsy has it all. And everything is so unique, because it's handmade and usually one of a kind. It's the first place I look for the friend that's tough to shop for. My Etsy purchases have ranged from necklaces to knitted coffee cup cozies to decorative flowers made from recycled computer parts. I've had several creative friends put their craft up for sale on Etsy and have discovered some great creativity on there as well. Check it out, and be's addicting!


Thursday, May 27, 2010

It is Finished

5:49 PM

One of my favorite TV shows of all time came to end this week. I’ve been an avid LOST fan since the beginning, and just this week, it aired it’s last episode. And a part of me ended as well. I watched this show faithfully, through the years and I loved it and I hated it. It was more than just a plane crash, and more than just a spooky island, but a story of good vs. evil, science vs. faith and reality vs. fantasy. Probably the best part of the show was the development of the individual characters. Each of the characters were flawed when they crashed on the island, and as a result have a “second chance” at life. But as we soon realized, this was no ordinary island.

Smoke monsters, hatches, 4-toed statues, polar bears, temples, others, training films, electromagnetic energy, time travel, and who knows what else. The island not only healed a paraplegic, and a cancer patient, but also threatened the life of pregnant women. We discovered another community of life, formed out of a group of scientists, called the Dharma Initiative. I remember the shock of realizing Jack’s downward spiral was not a flashback, but a flashforward. I spent so many hours theorizing about this show, about Dharma, and what in the world was going on. I rooted for characters as they fell in love, and cried when they died.

In the end, it wasn't the island that mattered, it was the people that mattered. The sixth season introduced us to Sideways world, which was a purgatory the characters had created to find each other before moving into the afterlife. As Demond helped each character “remember”, I cried. Their experiences on the island changed them, and they were better because of it.

LOST has been and will be one of my favorite shows of all time. Even despite all the unknowns…


Monday, May 24, 2010

Monday Morning Loves

11:44 AM

1. Flowers in my hair. I know, it sounds silly, but I really do. I have several headbands and clips with flowers on them, and I love to wear them. Now that it's summer, I'll probably wear more, because I bought a few extra this spring. Flowers in my my hair just makes me happy!

2. Chick-Fil-A. Seriously. Love it. I eat there at least once a week. It doesn't help that my office is in walking distance of one either! Their sweet tea is legendary. Ironically, my first job was at Chick-Fil-A. Who would have thought an addiction was being created??

3. LOST. I really really love this show! Since the first episode, I was hooked. From the high points [the hatch, Desmond, Juliet & Dharma-ville, Sawyer dripping wet, Ben Linus, etc...] to the low points [Nikki & Paulo, Ana Lucia, quantum theory, and Jack's tattoos], I loved it all. I also loved the community the show created. I remember going into work on Thursdays and discussing LOST for the first hour of our day. It was a show that became a phenomenon, and they took their final bow last night. Six glorious seasons. I now have a LOST-shaped hole in my life...

4. Vespas. I love these because they are cool. I really don't have a better reason. Makes me want to move to Europe just so I can drive around a Vespa. I wish my town was better suited for one of these. But my future home in Cambodia is definitely suited for one. Maybe I'll just own one there!

5. Twitter. It's the social networking tool that makes you sound like a stalker. I'm "following" hundreds of people on Twitter. But I promise I'm not a stalker! I'm really not in it for the minute to minute updates of my life, because I don't think anyone cares about what I do from minute to minute. But I do really enjoy the organizations, bands, and celebs that use Twitter as a promotional tool. For example, Switchfoot organized a world-wide hide and seek game of their latest single via Twitter. Ellen DeGeneres does Twitter follower giveaways. GLEE cast members post behind-the-scenes pics of episodes they are filming. It's just another way the Internet is bringing us closer and closer together. Scary. Oh, and I couldn't get this video to embed, but it's a hilarious video on Twitter. Check it out!


Saturday, May 22, 2010

Love is in the Air

8:59 PM

I feel like I'm living a quote from Love Actually, which says "Love actually is all around". Wedding season is upon us, and for the next three weekends in a row, I'll be attending 3 [actually 6, because I'm friends with the B & G] friend's weddings. I'm always blessed to be invited to someone's wedding, and to share their in joyous union. I can think of few better reasons to celebrate than for love. So here are my friends that are joining in wedded bliss in the coming weeks....

Luke & Sarah, I know this awesome couple because of my church, and I don't know if I know two people better fit for each other these two. For a couple so young and innocent, they know who they are and have been in relationship together for 7 years. Also, Luke and Sarah are some of the most talented/creative people I've ever met. I can't wait to celebrate with them tomorrow!

Dallas & Ali, I adore these two! Another pair of church friends, I couldn't be more excited to attend their big day! Dallas & Ali both have been part of my house church/small group for awhile, and I love seeing their faith active in their relationship. These two love life and each other so much, and are the epitome of working hard and playing hard. Next Saturday is going to be awesome!

Dan & Krysta, this couple I actually know not just because of church, but through my job. Dan is a former Summer Staffer from his high school days, and I met him as a grad volunteer at some events. This wedding makes me especially excited because this is a couple that preached and practiced abstinence until marriage. In a culture where that lifestyle in not common, finding a couple so committed to their purity is rare, and I have the utmost respect for Dan & Krysta.

So that's what will be filling up my free time in the next few weekends! And I don't know if I could find a better way to spend it...


Thursday, May 20, 2010

Ten Percent

4:36 PM

I've been kinda down about my fundraising lately. I've sent out some letters, had an event or two, and still hadn't seen an increase in my funds. I really wasn't stressing out about it, I have still a few months until I need all the money, and I know God will provide. But it was just, well, not encouraging. And as usual, God knows my concerns before I even speak them, and just this week I received funds that put me over 10 percent! Obviously, still a ways to go, but just passing that first marker was reassurance enough. God then gave me this verse to remind me that He is in control:

"Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us," Ephesians 3:20

He will provide, in His time, and I will just do my part in allowing Him to provide. I even made this handy little thermometer as a visual guide as to where I am, funds-wise. Heck yeah.


Monday, May 17, 2010

Monday Morning Loves

3:11 AM

1. FRIENDS. If anyone were to ask me what my favorite TV show is, it would be FRIENDS, no contest. Even though the last new episode aired over 5 years ago, it's still my go-to television show. I own all 10 seasons on DVD, and regularly have an episode playing. At least once or twice during a day, I make a FRIENDS reference, either in my head or out loud. Some people have "comfort food", but I have "comfort TV". I have seen every episode countless times, so don't bother challenging me to FRIENDS Scene It [which I own], unless you want to lose. Because I'm pretty much awesome!

2. Nickel Creek. This band is what happens when bluegrass meets awesome. Nickel Creek is amazing. With Chris Thile's vocals and mandolin playing skills, not much else can compare. Super siblings, Sarah and Sean Watkins, make up the other two parts of this trio, and add vocal depth and musical perfection. I saw Nickel Creek live a few years ago, and it was one of my favorite shows. Here's a great video of the band on PBS with a classic, I Should Have Known Better.

3. My car. It's true, I love my car. It's only the second car I've owned. I got my 2005 Saturn Ion back in 2006, and couldn't have been happier. It's taken me to alot of great places, and we have a few more planned before we part ways next year. She's been good to me, despite all my use and abuse. I swear, most days I feel like I spend more time with her than anyone else in my life. So this pic is the day I took her home, and said goodbye to my 'Stang which I had throughout high school. Bittersweet!

4. Texting. OMG, do I love to text. I didn't really jump on this bandwagon until I got my job with Teen IMPACT 2 years ago, and realized that the only way I can get a response from a teenager, is to text them. My life was changed. Now, if I can't text, email or Facebook someone, chances are, I won't contact them. I'm an awful friend as a result! My thoughts have condensed to 160 characters or less, and my spelling/vocabulary has been reduced. idk srsly, y use xtra lttrs. i kno what u mean! jk :) lol

5. Harry Potter. I was a latecomer to the Harry Potter bandwagon. I had several friends that were Potterheads, and I never could see past the "magic" and "wizards" to really give a try. Then finally I did, and I discovered what my life had been missing. Some of the best writing and story telling I've ever read, first of all! The whole series is just so clever and so entertaining, that I went out and bought the whole series, so I can read them again and again. I didn't watch any of the movies until I had read all the books, so when I finished, I planned a huge Harry Potter movie marathon, invited friends and made snacks! It was so fun! I even did the midnight showing of the sixth movie, and dressed up! And I CANNOT wait until the theme park opens over in Orlando next month! Potterhead...why yes, I am!


Friday, May 14, 2010

Chasing Shadows

9:03 PM
I thought I saw you today
At least I thought it was you
It was just a glimpse, but it was so beautiful
I ran to be sure
Through the city streets, between buildings and doorways
Faster and faster I ran, but you never slowed
Until I got tired, and stopped running
And I slept

I thought I heard you today
At least I thought it was you
It was only for a second, but it was so soothing
I ran to be sure
Through the trees and the branches, into the clearing and pastures
Faster and faster I ran, but you never slowed
Until I got bored, and stopped running
And I left

I thought I smelled you today
At least I thought it was you
It was only for a second, but it was so fragrant
I ran to be sure
Through the hills and the valleys, along the side of a raging river
Faster and faster I ran, but you never slowed
Until I got scared, and stopped running
And I backed away

I thought I tasted you today
At least I thought it was you
It was only for a second, but it was so sweet
I ran to be sure
Through the busy intersections, by the flashing signs and shop windows
Faster and faster I ran, but you never slowed
Until I got distracted, and stopped running
And I chased something else

I thought I felt you today
At least I thought it was you
It was only for a second, but it was so comforting
I ran to be sure
Through the streets of my neighborhood, and the rooms of my house
Faster and faster I ran, but you never slowed
Until I got angry, and yelled
“Why won’t you stop for me?!?”
And I hear you say, “Turn around”
When I did, you were there
By my side the entire time
And I had been chasing a shadow.

inspired by a sermon in Colossians 2 by Tommy Phillips at Watermark Church on May 9, 2010


Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Pampering with a Purpose

3:37 AM
Tonight, me and some friends got pampered. Free consults...pita chips & hummus...mmmm. It was a good night. The best part was the fact that it was all benefiting a great! A friend of mine who sells Mary Kay help me put together a party to pamper some of the women in my life. And each of their purchases benefited my fund raising efforts. It was a win win. I also had some super generous friends donate some pampering services [haircuts, massages, etc...] for a raffle which brought in some extra cash as well. Every one had a good time and I got a little closer to my goal.

If you are interested in purchasing some Mary Kay products to help benefit my trip, visit Katie Valdez's Mary Kay page here. Thirty percent of your purchases will be directed to me from now until the end of the month!


Monday, May 10, 2010

Monday Morning Loves

3:25 AM

1. Musicals. I love live theater, the stage and especially musicals! I've seen about fifteen shows, from Wicked to Spring Awakening to Sweeney Todd to RENT to Phantom, and they all just spectacular! My first show was Guys & Dolls, and I knew I was hooked. I've even seen shows more than once, like Movin' Out, Wicked, and Mamma Mia! I just have such amazing respect for talent on the stage, it's so raw and real, and nothing is edited. And sometimes I wish my life would break out into a musical montage at any moment...

2. Unhappy Hipsters. This clever site takes pictures from Dwell magazine, and writes witty captions from an unhappy hipster. The caption on this photo I've featured is It cost him a lot of money to look this predictable. This site just makes me laugh...alot.

3. Zachary Levi. This hottie is known from his starring role on NBC's Chuck, a show I am sure to watch weekly. His character is lovable, geeky, smart, funny, and a hopeless romantic...qualities which I translated to Zac himself. I'm always confusing celebrities for their characters! But then I across a cover story of him in Relevant Magazine [one of my favs] and he opens up about his newfound stardom and his relationship with God. I can imagine that Hollywood is a tough community to thrive in, and to be a Christian, it's gotta be even tougher! So my admiration for Zac skyrocketed. Is it possible there are celebrities worth having as role models?? Plus, his singing voice doesn't hurt either. Seriously. He can sing to me anytime he wants...

4. Daisies. I'm a girl, and I'm a sucker for bright colors and flowers. To me daisies are the most romantic and whimsical flower there is. It's simply and elegant. It's plain and white, or vibrant or hot pink. When I was in New Zealand, I found these gorgeous purple daisies, and they just made me happy. So there you go, my favorite flower is a daisy.

5. Poladroid. I love taking photos and editing photos. This Poladroid app I found for my Mac has been so fun to play with! I think Polaroids are so classic and vintage [but so costly!] and this app allows the modern use of a digital camera to merge with the retro Polaroid look. Tons of pictures on my blog are edited through this app, but here are a few of my favs.


Sunday, May 9, 2010

Happy Momma's Day!

4:50 PM
Happy Mother's Day to all you momma's out there! I am not a mom, but I do have a mom to love. I've been blessed with a great mom, so showing her some love and appreciation is no hard task. My mom and dad have been married over 30 years, and have been examples to both me and my sister of commitment and love in a marriage. She's overcome has got to be the most tragic things for a mother to overcome, the loss of a child, when my brother Andrew passed away 17 years ago. A few years ago, she got really motivated and lost over 90 pounds through diet and exercise...and that's no easy feat for a woman over 40! She's been a preschool teacher for 15 years and has more enthusiasm and passion for her job than most people I know. I meet people all the time who hear my last name, associate me with her, and tell me how great my mom was to their child. In addition to teaching full-time, she's working on finishing her AA degree in Early Childhood Education to make her an even better teacher. I'm quite an independent [unique] person, so sometimes it's hard to see what traits I've picked up from my parents. My mom is known for her "theme" parties. Every day in her classroom, it's a new "day". From "Hat Day" to "Silly Sock Day" to "Pajama Day" to "Ladybug Day", each day is the best day ever to her and her class. I have some of that in me too. I love planning an event, a theme party, and making things special. My mom puts alot into birthdays, holidays, and traditions, which made for a very memorable childhood. I am very blessed to have her in my life. Happy Mother's Day Mom!

On a less sentimental note, here's a few Mother's Day theme videos that I quite enjoy! Happy viewing!

For all you mommas out there rockin' the mini-van...this one's for you!

This is one is censored, but still a PG-13 rating! SNL, you slay me.


Monday, May 3, 2010

Monday Morning Loves

3:41 AM

1. Crime Fiction. I am such a reader, and this is my go-to-genre of choice. Everything from Michael Connelly, to Douglas Preston & Lincoln Child to Steig Larsson. I love trying to figure out whodunit, before the characters in the book do. My absolute favorite are the authors who have the reoccurring character novels, like Connelly's Harry Bosch or Child's Jack Reacher. I love a book that I can read super fast and entertained the whole way through. And for me, it's crime fiction.

2. Ray Lamontagne. Hands down, one of my favorite artists. I love love love his voice! It's smooth and soulful. The guitar and piano accompaniment really just bring it all together in the perfect package. I saw him live and he did not disappoint. Here's one of my favorite tracks by him, Empty.

3. Blogs. Clearly, I love to blog. I enjoy having a place to put down all my thoughts, feelings and experiences. And I love to be able to share them with the blogosphere. I was always a journaler, but blogging has been a fun transition to journaling for an audience! And I love finding and connecting with bloggers too. I'm part of the 20 Something Bloggers network, and have found some great travel, justice, and pop culture blogs like Chase's The Drift or Lindsey's La Dolce Vita. Community is such a part of our culture, and blogging is just another way to find it!

4. Criminal Minds. Since I already shared my love of crime fiction, and so now I will share my love of a certain crime TV show, Criminal Minds. I always said in another life I would have been an FBI profiler, because I've always been fascinated with their work. Criminal Minds has a great cast, from the brainy hottie Dr. Reid to the smart kitschy analyst Penelope Garcia. The season finales leave you with huge cliffhangers that seem impossible to wait for closure. I'm luck though, because I watched 4 seasons in about a month, so waiting for me! I'm not alone in my addiction either, criminal procedural shows [Law & Order, CSI, Crossing Jordan, NYPD Blue, and others] have captivated audiences for years. Criminal Minds is top-notch.

5. My Chair. I picked up this chair at Urban Outfitters a couple years ago, and its the one piece of furniture I refuse to let go! It's moved with me 3 different times and will stay put when I move overseas. It's comfy...and it looks amazing! The bright colors and mismatched patterns have inspired my entire bedroom's decor, just like these curtains I made!


Sunday, May 2, 2010

How I Re-Learned English

6:34 PM

One of my favorite ministry aspects of time in Cambodia last summer was teaching the girls English. They were so eager to learn this language of foreigners and movie stars. And I was more than willing to help them! But after like three lessons of things I could act out and point to, I was out of ideas. Teaching English to someone who has never heard it is very challenging! So I knew that I would want some kind of training before I went back.

Through a work event about a month ago, I found out about 3 day certification class in Teaching English as a Second Language. I was so excited! I signed up and anxiously awaited the weekend. As it turns out, it fell on the busiest weekend of my life. Just like Satan, trying to keep me from something worthwhile. But no worries, I survived [barely] and picked up some great skills this weekend!

Learning English after already having a native language is no easy task. Take a look at some examples at why English can be confusing to foreigners:
- The bandage was wound around the wound.
- The farm was used to produce produce.
- We must polish the Polish furniture
- He could lead if he could get the lead out.
- The soldier decided to desert his dessert in the desert.
- Since there is no time like the present, he thought it was time to present the present.
- I did not object to the object.
- The insurance was invalid for the invalid.

Confused yet? This course also helped remind me of some grammar that I forgot! We talked in depth about how to write lesson plans for speakers of all levels, and how to use the class as a ministry tool. As first I hesitant, not wanting to force Jesus onto people and into everything. But as the class went on, it became clear how organically Scripture and truth can fit in the class. I can’t wait to put my new skills to work! I even found myself in the church nursery today correcting a 2 year old on the fact she was not holding a “cookie” but a “cracker”, and then repeated myself 5 times and she repeated after me!

So English classes will just be one way I will be serving the girls in Cambodia. Even more important, I won’t just be giving them a practical skill, but life-changing truth as well. I’m stoked.