Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Answer Me This!

I'm so glad Answer Me This is back, at least temporarily! It's my favorite. Too bad I missed the linkup this round!

1. Any big plans for the summer?

I have my summer bucket list (updated!) to remind me of what I want to do this summer but no, I don't have any big plans. We *tried* taking a vacation a few weeks ago but the weather when we arrived at VA Beach was awful so after 30 hours, we packed it up and came home. We're going to try again at a closer beach sometime soon!

Summer is always one of my craziest times at work seeing as how I hire 30+ new people every single August, so whatever break I get it spent introverting it up at home on my couch with my cat and husband!

2. What was the strangest thing you believed as a child?

There are so many strange things I believed, it's hard to narrow it down. For starters, I thought that I had to be saved by Jesus on a daily basis, like salvation had a 24 hour expiration date. This meant that I did what my Protestant church taught and very deeply and seriously asked Jesus to come into my heart every single night before bed and then spent the next 30 minutes wondering if it worked. I never felt different, Jesus wasn't really talkative and didn't send any signs, so...

My paternal grandparents had this oversized photography book in their living room showing pictures and telling stories from the Great Depression. As a child, I absolutely did not understand what a Depression was (in the economic or psychological sense) but I knew it was something bad. My sister and I loved looking through this book and I would sometimes slide it underneath their couch so that no one would take it before I visited the next week to look through the same pictures again. I must have asked a question about the Depression and my grandfather quipped that his birth was what started it, and I really believed him for the longest time. I couldn't believe my own grandfather was so famous and influential to have started this event they made books about!

I have a greater understanding of jokes and economic events now.

This was the book!

3. What is your favorite amusement park ride?

I don't think I have a favorite. I haven't been on any rides in a very long time. I'm sort of terrified of them, but I force myself to ride them because FUN and I strongly believe in confronting things that scare you.

4. What's on your summer reading list?

I have been extremely grumpy this last week (my period is especially bad, I am growing a colony of cold sores on the bottom right side of my face, etc.) which results in me picking the silliest YA novel I can find and jumping in. I'm now on the 4th and last of this series and while I know intellectually I should be embarrassed to admit to reading these, I've really loved them. I've never been particularly interested in the Victorian Era before but these have sparked my interest and led me to research many of the social customs described fictionally in the book.

I'm also looking forward to:

I've been a Sara Benincasa fan since before she was writing and I'm excited about this one because
she personally gave me a signed ARC of "DC Trip" last week at a show!

5. Have you ever fallen asleep in public?

Absolutely! When I lived in DC, I had quite a commute in the morning on the metro. I'd get on, find a comfortable seat, and promptly snooze until I magically woke up right before my stop.

Awake on the Metro for once in 2008

Most recently, I was going on 4 hours of sleep before a friend's birthday dinner and took a nap in my car in a parking lot.

6. What is your favorite smell?

I love the smell of clean laundry and the Bath and Body Works bubble baths that I have stockpiled (Moonlight Path and their Energy aromatherapy scent). Also, my husband.

Monday, May 18, 2015

Teenagers are the worst: A Bat Mitzvah Review

Cousin Em was Bat Mitzvah'd this weekend in Chapel Hill. I've been looking forward to this for over a year now. Em and I have always been close; when the husband and I first moved back to NC and weren't working, we'd stay at her house for weeks at a time and babysit. I've been making jokes for awhile that I'll probably cry at some point because "Sunrise, Sunset" in Fiddler on the Roof:

I was *shocked* to find that Miss I-turned-13-last-week is suddenly a TEENAGER. And not just any teenager, but a teenage girl. And even worse, a spoiled teenage girl. She was a nightmare! Simpering one minute, playing hilarious "pranks" the next. Noodles in my hair. Wet paper towels thrown over the bathroom door. Sassiness out the hoohah. After dinner Friday, I was ready to skip the whole thing and just go home. I'd spent so much to make this weekend special and she didn't appreciate it or really seem to care I was there.

Her party was fancier and larger than my wedding. Her parents rented out an entire museum for the occasion and had the party full catered (including, awesomely, dinner from local food trucks). There were hundreds of people in attendance. Em was dolled up (the old lady in me wanted to scold her for the blue eye shadow) and outfitted in a fancy dress.

As I watched her interact with her friends, I begin to think about my own eventual children and how this is not what I want for them. I know that 13 year old girls are probably rarely delightful, but think about how much worse it is when you give them EVERYTHING THEY WANT plus some. Of course the family is proud of Em becoming a bat mitzvah, and of course there should be a celebration. But renting out a museum and inviting hundreds of people? It's a bit extreme.

I don't know if my children will even be bar or bat mitzvah'd... but I do know that if they are, we won't be using Em's weekend as a template. Except for a hour we spent at the synagogue Saturday morning, there was no meaning attached to anything except gimme, gimme, gimme for Em. Even her mitzvah project, helping coach her little brother's sports team, didn't seem significant. Was Em ever taught to give back in a meaningful way during this experience? Did she understand just how lucky she is to belong to a community that loves and supports her, and a family that shows their love in such a public and expensive way?

I imagine a low key bat mitzvah experience. I see a celebration, but not one that costs the same as my graduate degree. A small dinner with family and close friends, a mitzvah project that will have a lasting impact on the child, and a limit on gifts. Perhaps the child could pick a nonprofit and donations could be made instead of the kid getting another piece of jewelry that she won't be allowed to wear until she's older.

Cynical is my middle name and all, but I'm feeling morose that I was left with such a bad taste in my mouth after a family event. Em has a wonderful family and I adore her mother. I know that she felt very special all weekend and that she'll never forget this experience. I just want more than that for my kids, if they choose to participate in Judaism.

Plus, a party that size on a social worker's salary? Never happening, sweet child of mine.

Further reading:
"But I am a little concerned about the big picture. What’s the point of having a bat mitzvah—a symbolic ceremony marking the time when a girl becomes a Jewish adult, fully responsible for her own actions and choices—if she’s going to focus more on the clothes and the party than the ritual? Why choose to do exactly what everyone else does, with the only individualization being the theme colors, the degree of showiness, and the amount of pupik shown by both the bat mitzvah girl and her mother? The ungapatchka same-sameness seems particularly sad when you consider how hard individual girls and women worked to win the right to celebrate this milestone at all."
From Tablet Mag

Million Dollar Bar Mitzvah Parties

Friday, May 8, 2015

{7QT} Things My Cat Should Get Me For Mother's Day

This is the love of my life, Giles.

He's not quite a year old, sassy, snuggly, bitey sometimes, and so freaking adorable that it's our favorite topic of conversation. "Isn't Giles soooo cute?" "He's SO cute." "I just want to eat him, he's so cute." Andddd, repeat.
I've been asking the husband for days what Giles has planned for Mother's Day for me. I might not have human babies (yet) but I'm definitely his mama. I have a feeling this isn't enough to warrant a card and gift, but here's 7 things that my cat should get me for Mother's Day if he wants me to continue dealing with his vomit and antics.

1. A custom illustrated portrait... how adorable is this?
InkLaneDesign on Etsy
2. A hot stone massage... but a good one. Not from a chain like Massage Envy, no way. I want the spa experience. I really love Hand and Stone Massage in Greensboro/Winston Salem.

3. A tiny embroidery necklace... I love Call Her Happy (Etsy) and even purchased a custom rosette necklace for my grandma for Mother's Day. This cat necklace is so sweet and would remind me that despite his obvious goal of infecting me with cat scratch fever, Giles loves me.

4. An "Avengers" skirt... no, this movie wasn't as good as the last, but I for whatever reason am super into the Avengers. I especially love Black Widow and it pains my heart that we don't have a Black Widow film because I need to see it. I need to know her story! I guess I could probably just google it. This cheery print would make me feel happy and silly and like I too am a crime fighting superhero.

From the Etsy shop PicknMix
5. Uninterrupted time to watch Orphan Black... I'm in the middle of the second season (streaming for free on Amazon with Prime!) and it's one of the best series I've ever seen. Cults, bioethics, clones... it just keeps getting more and more interesting.

6. Expensive beauty products that I don't really need... specifically, I want Blinc mascara. It's more expensive than I spend on mascara typically but it also creates LITTLE TUBES AROUND EACH EYELASH. I don't even understand what that means, but I want to try it.

7. Snuggles without scratching... if you have a kitten, you understand. He's cute but deadly.

Happy Mother's Day to all the moms! I'm taking my mom, grandma, and aunt to dinner Saturday and to the movies Sunday. Then I have another grandmother to visit who is in rehab after surgery AND the husband's side of the family. It's always a busy day!

Linking up with This Ain't the Lyceum.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

What We're Reading Wednesday

I recently finished a Veronica Mars binge. I somehow missed watching it as a teenager/younger adult but I still found it hilarious and oddly charming today. In the span of a few weeks, I watched the entire series, the film, AND read the two books.

If you watched the show, then you need to read the books. Each book was like watching an episode of Veronica Mars! I was actually impressed; I expected them to be lacking but they really weren't. I could really *hear* the characters through the dialogue and writing. Now I'm just recovering from learning that there won't be a third book. WHYYYYY?
Currently reading:

I want to like this book. It's written by Lorelai Gilmore Lauren Graham, who I loved on Gilmore Girls and Parenthood. But... I've had it for 2 weeks and I've only read a few pages. For some reason, I'm just not excited about it. I'm going to try to finish it, I owe Lorelai that much.

This novel, on the other hand, has my full attention. It's a really interesting concept, and one that would have shaken my world if I'd read it as a young adult (you know, like it's intended). Vivian Apple is a unbeliever in a world that is obsessed with a made-up religion. Everyone from the President of the US, to her parents, to her former friends are believers and anticipate the rapture in the near future. The story explains what happens after the rapture actually happens. So far, Vivian has moved to a different city with her grandparents (also unbelievers) but I sense she's going to leave. What I found interesting from the beginning is that in a world of 90% believers, only a few thousand are raptured. What a smart point the author is making!

Linking up with the lovely House Wife Spice!

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Summer Bucket List

Hello, there. I used to blog here, and I blogged here a lot last year when I was going through a particularly unpleasant bout with depression. Hopefully one day I can write in detail about it, but for now, I'm relishing in simply feeling SO! MUCH! BETTER! and working on rebuilding a few things I let slide during my depression- namely, my marriage and my career.

I've reverted all my old posts to drafts and hope to go back through and republish a few that I feel comfortable sharing. Maybe!

The truth is, I miss blogging. It's fun, and it's really helpful for me to share my brain and life with the lovely people of the Internet, and I missed it.

It's finally summer and here are a few things I insist on doing while the sun is still shining until 8:00 pm (also known as... an hour before my bedtime).

1. Spend a few days at the beach. (VA Beach, July) Not to get all cheesy, but the beach is really healing for me. There are nothing but good memories of the beach and spending time there with friends and family. My poor husband doesn't love the beach (he's a freak that way) but he'll suffer through a few days of sand and heat for me. I don't even have a particular beach I want to go to... I just want to go! Whatever is closest to us will probably be it.

2. Visit Grammy in the mountains. The husband's grandmother, affectionately named Grammy, spends her summers in Western North Carolina. This is the first time she'll be packing up and moving her home base hours away since her husband, our Poppy, died last Thanksgiving. So, I want to visit her for us (because we love Boone) and also to check in on her.

3. Read at least one nonfiction book. I read about 100 books a year, and I'd say 70% of them are young adult fiction. I used to be really into nonfiction, but it can be hard to read when you use books as a means of escape. I'd like to start and finish at least one this summer! I've checked out my Goodreads and found the following on my list of To Reads but I'm definitely open to suggestions!

4. Protest something at a... protest.
5. Whitewater raft at the US National Whitewater Center in Charlotte.

6. Spend a day at the museums in Raleigh.

7. Try at least two new restaurants. (July!)

8. Get some purple in my hair. Purple is my favorite color and I wish I was brave enough to have beautiful lavender hair. Alas, I am not and I'm also not wealthy enough to deal with the upkeep! But that isn't going to stop me from putting some purple in my hair at some point this summer!

9. Go two consecutive days without spending any money. I'm out all day from 9ish-5ish. It's hard to remember to bring everything I could possibly want to eat and drink during that time... so I spend a lot of money. It's really terrible! Today, for example, I've had lunch out and I'm having dinner out. It needs to stop!

10. Attend 3 different places of worship. As the "skeptical" in my name suggests, I'm an atheist. We're Jewish atheists, to be exact. I've always been interested in and fascinated by different religions and I've been to all kinds of places of worship. It's been years since I've been to a Catholic mass (and there's a lovely church down the street from work) so that's a given, and I would *love* to attend a service at Word of Faith Fellowship. They've been in the news recently for being batshit crazy and kidnapping a gay teen. Right up my alley. (Bat mitzvah service, 5/16/15)

11. Have a hotdog at a baseball game. I don't even like baseball or hotdogs, but something about the two together is magical. (Work event, May)

12. Learn something new. A fact, a skill, whatever.

13. Attend at least one book signing. I collect signed books and need to add to my collection! (Sara Benincasa, July)

14. Go to a drive in movie. This used to be a monthly activity during the summers of my youth. I want to bring this back!

15. Have a picnic.

Thanks for stopping by!

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Answer Me This!

1. What is your favorite thing on Youtube?

I am SO GLAD YOU ASKED. Let me introduce you to... the Beyoncelogues.

Actress Nina Millin performs Beyoncé the only way she knows how: in dramatic monologue form.

I might have watched this video more times than anyone else in the history of the world. I haven't gone through all of her videos yet; Single Ladies is just too good.


it's a very positive, uplifting atheist children's song. Adorbs.

2. Who taught you to drive

A combination of people taught me to drive. It was a family affair. I didn't start driving until I was in my 20's and by that time, I had developed a huge complex about driving and not killing other people while driving. I used to have the worst nightmares.

Anyway, it started out with my sister-in-law. She's about 5 years younger than I am and liked cruising around at night with the windows down and the music loud. I spent hours and hours on the streets of our neighborhoods. Then, Mr. Skeptical practiced with me a bit but that didn't work out well because he stresses me out. It was similar to that time in college when we thought we should be lab partners in Biology and almost killed each other/I almost broke down from the stress of our different work styles. And finally, my dad took me around a bit and actually drove me to the DMV for my license. I scored 100% on the test.

3. What's your favorite thing to cook?

I don't like to cook, but I do love to bake! My absolute favorite thing to make is Chocolate Coca Cola Cake. It's a southern thing. Make it! Trust me. It's so moist and delicious and even my husband who doesn't like chocolate likes this cake.

(Tip: it needs to be a cake, not cupcakes. They just never turn out.)

  • 1 cup coca cola
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) salted butter
  • 3 heaping-ish Tablespoons dark cocoa powder
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Frosting:
  • 1 stick salted butter
  • 3 tablespoons dark cocoa powder
  • 6 tablespoons milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 4 cups powdered sugar
  1. Preheat oven to 350. Butter and flour a 9x13 pan and set aside.
  2. In the large bowl of a mixer, stir together sugar and flour and set aside.
  3. In a saucepan, bring cola, oil, butter and cocoa to a boil. Pour into the flour mixture and beat on medium low for about a minute. Add eggs, buttermilk, baking soda and vanilla and beat on medium for a minute more. Spread batter into prepared pan and bake for about 30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Immediately upon removing cake from oven, prepare frosting.
  4. In a saucepan over medium heat, bring butter, cocoa powder and milk to JUST boiling. Remove from heat and whisk in powdered sugar and vanilla. Pour over cake and quickly spread. Let cake cool to room temperature, then cover and refrigerate until serving.
4. Are you a hugger or non-hugger?
I am such a hugger. I hug everyone and everything. I love hugs. I especially love being hugged by people taller than I am (not difficult, as I'm barely over five feet). I have never felt safer than when I'm being bear hugged by certain people in my life.
5. Where do you pray best?
I don't pray, but when I did I always prayed best in bed. As in, right before I fell asleep or right before I woke up. I was never comfortable praying in groups, but I did very frequently on my own. It just wasn't something I wanted to experience with other people.
6. When is the last time you saw/spoke to your grandparents?
I saw my Grandmother exactly a week ago. The last time I saw my other grandparents was Father's Day. I am terrible about seeing them, especially during busy times. I need to work on that, and I know it. I value them but it feels really hard sometimes to make the time to visit with them. That is a problem with ME, not them.

Monday, May 26, 2014

Answer Me This!

1. Beach or mountains? Where would you rather be?
I live in the middle of a state that has mountains to the west and ocean to the east (any guesses where I am?). The mountains are a second home to me, thanks to Mr. Skeptical's grandparents who have always kept a summer house there. For over 10 years, it's been our free vacation spot. We're locals by now; we know where the best restaurants are, where to shop, and the best places to hang out (er, at home. Always at home.). So, while I love the mountains, they aren't special to me anymore. They aren't a vacation really, because we go so often.

So, the beach it is. Mr. Skeptical isn't a fan of the beach because he is the lamest person on earth, after me. He hates heat, sand, the ocean itself, swimming, and basically everything fun about the beach. He does like seafood. Anyway, we go very rarely so it's a freaking treat to go. I love the beach!

Earlier this year with a friend.
BUT as much as I love the beach, I am so not getting into the ocean unless my dad is around. In a pinch, Mr. Skeptical's dad will suffice. There's something about our dads that makes me feel safe, like sharks are so not going to bother me with dads around. I used to love the ocean, and then I saw this picture and NEVER AGAIN.

Do you see those 2 little boys splashing around? Their mom took a picture, looked at it later

2. Which is more fun, Christmas Eve or Christmas morning?
We celebrate Christmas in a totally secular way. It's the only Christian holiday we do celebrate, because I grew up with it. We don't do anything Christmas Eve, except work on getting pumped for opening mounds of gifts. Christmas morning definitely wins, for the food and cheer and gifts. It's really the only time during the whole year my side of the family goes all out for each other and it's always worth it.

3. What's the most embarrassing childhood outfit you remember wearing?
Oh man, I have the perfect answer for this. My mom was always HUGE in dressing us up and having pictures taken. She purchased these outfits one time that were so hideous my sister (younger, stubborn as hell) refused to wear it. There were tears, there was yelling, there was general unhappiness... but eventually my sister was stuffed into her CLOWN OUTFIT and we had our pictures taken. My mother still claims the outfits were cute. I wish I could find a copy of our picture but here's a very close version but we had more buttons and no hat:

When I dressed myself as a kid, there was always tights with shorts. Why, Julie? WHY?

4. Your house is quiet, you don't have to do work. What do you do?
I read! I am always reading. It's my thang. The only thing that can drag me away from a good book is a Netflix streaming TV show that I'm in the middle of... such as Gossip Girl. I am too old to be watching Gossip Girl, right? I can't stop. I have 1.5 seasons out of 7 left and then maybe I can move on with my life, or maybe I'll start again from the beginning.

The clothes. I need all the clothes.
5. What movie do you want to watch when you're feeling under the weather?

6. Did you have an American Girl when you were little? If so, which one?
I was born in the mid-80's and when I was a kid, the dolls weren't popular with my friends. The books, however, were the shit. I can still remember details about the original 4 and how my sister and I would argue over which girl we were. I loved Samantha and Felicity the very most.