32. Good in Bed by Jennifer Weiner – Why did I not read this book years ago? Several of my college roommates read it, but I assumed it was a romance novel and ignored it. I was stupid. If you have also been under a rock for the past 8 years, climb out and get this book. I really adored what she had to say about body image and relationships, even if the plot turns were a bit much at times.

33. Memoir: A History by Ben Yagoda – I was drawn to this book because of the memoir controversies in recent years (James Frey, anyone?). It is somewhat academic, but definitely accessible.

34. The Plot Against America by Philip Roth – This is an alternate history looking at what America might have been like if Charles Lindbergh had won the 1940 presidential election instead of FDR. The story focuses on a Jewish family in New Jersey dealing with burgeoning Antisemitism. If you like the idea of exploring other possible histories, I would recommend this book.

35. The Big Rich: The Rise and Fall of the Great Texas Oil Fortunes by Bryan Burrough – As a non-Texan living in Texas, I found this book fascinating. Burrough gives the history of the big Texas oil men and how they changed the state, and in the process shares a lot of fascinating historical bits about Texas in general. I particularly enjoyed learning about local Dallas history along the way (though for most of the time period this book covers, my neighborhood was an empty field). This is a big ol’ book, but if you’re at all interested in  Texas history or the crazy, corrupt power structure of oil money and politics, read it.

36. Love, Cajun Style by Diane Les Becquets – This is a YA novel I picked up at the local library book sale solely based on the title. And yes, Cajun husband laughed at me for getting it. If you’re into YA books, this is a quick, fun read that includes all the teen crises – friendships, relationships, and family. The Cajun flavor isn’t particularly strong, but it is woven into the details.

37. The Ship Who Searched by Anne McCaffery and Mercedes Lackey – One of the many sequels to The Ship Who Sang that I read in July, and I won’t go into descriptions for each of them. Each of these books tells the story of a ship inhabited by the brain of a person whose body couldn’t support them. Depending on when the person lost their body (many were infants), they either think they’re far superior to humans or they miss human connection. These are quick, interesting sci-fi reads about space exploration and the relationship between the brainship and its “brawn” – the ship’s human partner.

38. The City Who Fought by Anne McCaffery and SM Stirling

39. The Ship Who Won by Anne McCaffery and Jody Lynn Nye

40. The Ship Avenged by Jody Lynn Nye

41. The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest by Stieg Larsson – Book three in Larsson’s Millennium trilogy. I enjoyed this one and zipped through it more quickly than the first two, but I still think these three huge books could have been consolidated into ONE novel. But they’re all international best-sellers, so what do I know? I found the first volume a bit tedious, especially in the first half as it set up the story. The second volume really got into the meat of the story and made me appreciate the series more. Some reviewers have complained that this third volume is set after all the real action has taken place, but Larsson still worked a lot of action and twists into the story.

42. Certain Girls by Jennifer Weiner – This sequel to Good in Bed is set years later, and the narration alternates between Cannie and her rebellious pre-teen daughter. I understand that motherhood can change someone, but I found many of the changes (and the extent of the changes) in Cannie unrealistic. The central plot line appealed to me as they dealt with the delayed aftermath of the novel Cannie wrote about the experiences described in Good in Bed, and I would recommend this sequel to Weiner fans. Definitely don’t read it without checking out Good in Bed first!

43. The Ship Errant by Jody Lynn Nye

44. Scott Pilgrim Vol. 1: Scott Pilgrim’s Precious Little Life by Bryan Lee O’Malley – Between the combined influential forces of Cajun husband and lovely book bloggers, I finally gave in and read the SP books. This was the first graphic novel I’ve read, and I enjoyed it enough to speed through all the sequels and watch the movie. Hubs was afraid I wouldn’t understand all the video game references, but I’ve spent enough time around him and his sister soaking up video game jokes and terms to enjoy the books and movie. You don’t have to be a comic book or video game expert to get into these, but an appreciation of geek culture would be good.

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I am currently relearning what it’s like to juggle courseloads, but this time with house and pets and husband in the mix as well (not necessarily in that priority order). Last week was particularly crazy because my parents were heading into town for Labor Day weekend, lots of people were joining us for a holiday dinner last night, and I still had all of those summer cleaning projects left to wrap up before the house would be guest-ready. So what did I do? I worked myself sick, of course. Nothing like making yourself sick before it’s even two weeks into the semester, right? Luckily after getting tons of sleep and then finding a bar stool to cook from (and putting my family to work on prep for last night), I pulled it all off. Woo!

My apologies if posts are few and far between this fall, but I’m hoping that once I get into a routine I’ll have some time to set aside just for talking to yall.  Hope you enjoyed the long weekend!

This past May I didn’t think much about it being 10 years since high school graduation. Sure, it was weird to get the invitation to the reunion that will be this fall, but I didn’t spend time reminiscing about the good old days.

But right now I’m going back to school, and as I get ready for my first class tonight I can’t help but think of when I started college 10 years ago this month. I can’t for the life of me remember anything about my first week of class, but I have vivid memories of packing up my car (with the help of the boyfriend who I thought was THE ONE at the time), driving down with my family, setting up my room, and meeting the friends I had made at freshman orientation, the friends who are still some of my favorite people. That first fall was fun and exciting and traumatic, full of late nights studying at Waffle House, of hiking down 3 flights of stairs into a creepy basement to do laundry, of going to class in pajamas, of sitting on the dorm steps with one of my best friends until all hours, writing and talking and writing some more.  I doubt I’ll be able to make it to the 10 year high school reunion thanks to my current classwork, but if there were a leaving for college reunion? If I could spend a weekend sitting on our favorite step and reminiscing with those dear friends? I’d be there in a heartbeat.

This trip to college won’t be the same. My first turn through grad school certainly took me by surprise, as I spent two years focused only on schoolwork while I dealt with a school and a town I couldn’t stand. But this time won’t be like that either because I’m married now and not moving off to start somewhere new. I’ve got my hubs and some pretty awesome cats and dog to come home to, and I have a few more years of school and work and life under my belt. It all feels pretty good this time.

Wish me luck!

29. Juliet, Naked by Nick Hornby –  Not my favorite Hornby, but still full of his signature quirk. Hornby leaves behind his usual 20- or 30-something boys in the city for an aging reclusive rock star, his biggest fan, and his biggest fan’s frustrated girlfriend. While parts of it frustrated me (the obnoxious fan character is, well, obnoxious), I enjoyed the story.

30. South of Broad by Pat Conroy – Apparently this was lesser books by good writers month. I loved Prince of Tides and several of Conroy’s other earlier works, but his past couple just haven’t been as good. I actually picked this book up, read the first two pages, and sat it down for a week because I was drowning in the saccharine ode to Charleston. Conroy’s one of those who sells enough books by being over the top that his editors will never rein him in. (Or perhaps they DO rein him in and he’s actually even MORE excessive? ::gasp::) He weaves in many of his usual elements (Charleston as central character, lead male with woman issues, dangerous figure that haunts the good guys…), and I suppose he’s successful at it. Just… ehh… When an author writes the same thing over and over again, eventually you stop reading even if you loved that thing the first few times.

31. Dixie Lullaby by Mark Kemp – This is a must read for fans of southern rock, but it’s also more. Kemp digs into his complex feelings about the South and its messy past (and present), making this as much a history of the author and southern society as of the music.  Yes, I know I’ve knocked other books for being unsure of their identity, but in my opinion Kemp balanced it well.   I’ve already waxed poetic a bit about this one when I wrote about my trip home because Kemp stirred up my own issues with my southern heritage.

(My June reading list is short, but just wait until you see July… I more than made up for it once I went on my unemployment vacation!)

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When I realized how much free time I would have this summer, I wrote up a huge list of projects and goals to accomplish (the list below is just a fraction of them). I was worried about the length of the free time as it tends to make me a little batty. so I was carefully spacing these projects out over my two month break. Suddenly that two month break became one month, and not even half of the items on my list had been checked off. I can’t complain about the break ending since it meant work! and a paycheck! but it’s incredibly frustrating to look around and see all the things that still haven’t been done. Now class starts in THREE DAYS and my parents are visiting in two weeks, and I’m not sure if or when any of it will happen.

  1. Finish sewing kitchen/sitting area curtains (they’ve been half done for longer than I care to admit. Done! Kitchen curtains are FINISHED, as well as a curtain for the office. Fabric has been bought and cut for the guest room, then the whole house will be lovely. Unless of course I decide to go back and rework the den…

  2. Learn to perfectly poach an egg (even if I have to resort to a poach pod). Well… Poach pod mastered. Over easy egg mastered. Poached egg without training wheels? Not yet attempted. Oops.

  3. Sew through my stash. Not even started. I even bought fabric for a new outfit, failed miserably, and still have the mangled parts sitting next to my sewing machine.

  4. Lose the newlywed nine (but no, this will most definitely NOT become a weight loss blog). So if we’re being honest, the “newlywed nine” was actually fifteen. Five of which are now gone. So: yay and boo. 

  5. Beat Workout 3 of the 30 Day Shred. I did Workout 1 to get ready for the wedding, but when I moved up to Workout 2 it was too demoralizing. Now I’m determined to kick its tail, even if my arms fall off from exhaustion in the process. Major fail. I have mastered Workout 1, but no more. My problem is the stupid arm workouts. You really can’t advance to level 2 unless you can do real push-ups, and I’m still doing what we called “girl push-ups” in middle school. 

  6. And the big poppa: Excavate the home office (I’m ashamed to show this, but I’m hoping that putting my absurdly scrappy desk out there will inspire me to get cleaning…). So this one is 85% done. All the piles and piles of publisher papers are GONE, but the “to be filed” stack is leaning precariously and threatening to swallow my desk whole. Did I mention that school starts in THREE DAYS? Yes, it’s time to get this done. 

23. The Best American Short Stories of the Century ed. by John Updike (audiobook) – I love the Best American short story collections, but this one was just not up to par. I assumed it would be exponentially better than the single year volumes because these stories are supposed to be the best of the best of the ENTIRE CENTURY. Meh, not so much.

24. Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver – Excellent! Highly recommended. I saw some griping here and there online that Kingsolver isn’t providing practical steps, but she does complete an incredible experiment and share a lot of helpful/fascinating information along the way. If you’re at all interested in eating locally and avoiding nasty stuff like CAFO beef, you should read this.

25. The Apron Book: Making, Sharing, and Wearing a Bit of Cloth and Comfort by EllynAnne Geisel – This was a gift from my mom as thanks for the apron I made her. I felt like I’d time-warped to 1950, but it was a pleasant quick read and even included some good recipes and apron patterns.

26. The Possessed by Elif Batuman – I had such high hopes for this book! It sounded so quirky and interesting, and I loved the idea of a book that explored both life in academia and Russian lit. Quirky? Yes. Otherwise? No. It was unfocused to me: one minute literary paper, the next travelogue. I had a hard time connecting to the non-story.

27. A Trailside Series Guide Bicycling by Peter Oliver – Great guidebook if you want tips on selecting a bike, improving your form, shopping for gear, and basic maintenance. I enjoyed it, but if you’re only going to buy one bike book, I would instead recommend The Bicycling Guide to Complete Bicycle Maintenance and Repair .

28. Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry – A Texas classic. I struggled a bit in the early chapters, but once the cattle drive got going I enjoyed the story. If you can’t stand for author’s to kill off characters that you like, you might struggle with this one. I haven’t read many westerns in my day, but I gave it a try after several people I trust told me this was their all time favorite book. It’s not on my fave book list, but it is good.

Six years ago today I moved to Texas. As a matter of fact, that was also a Friday the 13th! I wondered at the time if the date might be an ominous sign, and during my two miserable years in the uber-conservative college town a curse didn’t seem unlikely. At the time I intended to power through my Phd and get out, which would mean that I’d be out looking for a tenure-track position now. Instead I hightailed it out of town with a Master’s, killed a little time, sold a lot of textbooks, married the best Cajun husband ever, and now I’m back to school again. I dug around for pictures from the past few years to share here and suddenly realized that the only pictures I could find from my first two years in Texas were of graduation. Sorry, yall. But you’re in luck: thanks to my three years as a wandering textbook rep my collection of Texana pictures is huge. I never carried my camera with me, so you’ll have to suffer through the awesome cell phone picture quality. Enjoy!

Plainview, Texas, is full of cows. Well, lots of Texas is full of cows, but Plainview is full of painted cows that advertise for the Dairy Queen, the car dealership, etc. I love them.

Yes, that says Moonopoly, and appropriately enough it sits in front of the bank.

Speaking of cows: Stephenville, Texas, has more cowboys per capita than any other city (at least according to their signs), and a cow statue downtown advertises their milk sales. (I promise this won’t ALL be about cows. Really.)

I also see some amazingly strange bumper stickers.

Lots and lots of bumper stickers concerning the superiority of one’s political beliefs. I will admit that I do see bumper stickers for the left end of the spectrum on occasion, but they are definitely in the minority.

The billboards are also pretty awesome. As if naming a restaurant Big Fatty’s wasn’t enough, they come up with the “El Farto Grande.” I’m afraid to ask just what that might be.

Speaking of “afraid to ask,” if you don’t know what a calf nut is, I don’t want to be the one to tell you. If you’re really curious, it’ll be cross-referenced with “Rocky Mountain oyster.”

This, my friends, is my all time favorite strip mall ever. Don’t you want to run in and pick up some guns or crossbows while you’re out for donuts?

On my Mom’s last visit, I took her to visit South Fork Ranch, of Dallas fame. We discovered on our tour that they only used this house for external shots and they used special camera tricks to make the house look bigger and the swimming pool appear twice as long.

Austin is an oasis of cool and funky in the midst of central Texas. Hubs would love to move there, and I can understand why.


But the best things I’ve found in Texas? Other than Cajun hubs, this is also where I found my pup dog, Bella (who I SWEAR was named long before I ever heard of Twilight).Texas also gave me Dorian Gray (aka Dory, aka the cutest kitten in the world), who immediately latched onto Bella despite her feelings about cats (they were previously only for chasing, barking at, or cowering from).

We also have two other cats. Have I ever shared them here? Oh dear. I’m a BAD cat-stepmama. Meet Bailey and Emma.

Did I just disappear for a couple of weeks? Oops. Since we talked last, I’ve spent a weekend in Houston with some of the husband’s relatives and their 5000 dogs, grown totally sick of summer heat (the high hasn’t been below 101 in days… I may melt), bought a new (used) car (a Matrix christened Neo, even though I can’t stand Keanu), handed over the company car and a ridiculous stack of boxes full of books and files and supplies to the new rep for the publisher, met the prof who I will be TA’ing for the next year, and given up my last weeks of freedom before school starts to early TA work. I have a huge list of things I wanted to accomplish before my summer of unemployment ended, and less than half of them have been checked off. I’m home today and should be chugging through the list while I can, but it’s so much nicer to sleep in and relax instead. Besides, I’ve been attacked all day by needy animals who have been spoiled to me being home this summer and now want a week’s worth of attention to make up for me being on campus the past few days. It’s nice to be needed 🙂

I definitely like the prof who I’m going to be working with — she’s energetic and passionate about her job. And she has asked me to start early so that I can pick the brain of her TA who’s about to graduate. I’m losing some summer project time, but I get paid. Who can argue with that? I spent most of my week pre-grading research papers, which would have taken a lot less time if my brain weren’t trained to MLA standards instead of APA (to which my goofy husband said “I prefer ABBA” ). I’ve spent the past few years on my feet all day every day, running around campuses and talking. This week, I sat at a desk. For hours. With no window. Staring at a computer. This will most definitely be an adjustment. But… I’m excited. Really excited. Some very cool opportunities have popped up in the past few days (maybe some funding? maybe a trip?), so it feels like things are moving in a really good direction.

Have a good weekend!

Because we fully expected our year old wedding cake top to taste like damp styrofoam, I decided to make some anniversary cupcakes based on the ridiculously yummy ones served at our wedding.

We had a traditional bride’s cake, but instead of a groom’s cake we had a spread of goodies. Is that showing my southern side? Do you even know what a groom’s cake is? If you’re not from a groom’s caking part of the country, this would be a more fun cake to give people a choice besides the big white traditional one. It’s typically chocolate, and if you’re lucky made into a crazy theme shape. For example: someone found my blog by searching for “bryant denny stadium groom’s cake” and I once went to a wedding with a World of Warcraft cake.

We didn’t get to eat much at the wedding, but they packed up a picnic basket with goodies for us to take with us for a late night snack. Our #1 favorite thing was the Caramel Mocha Sea Salt cupcakes. WOW. So for our anniversary I knitted together a collection of blog recipes into some incredibly good cupcakes. We may need to make these for every anniversary for the next 50 years. And possibly for family get-togethers too. And birthdays.

All you need are this chocolate cake and this mocha frosting. Then drizzle some caramel sauce on top (yours won’t look as weird as mine because you won’t run to the CVS at the last minute only to discover that they only sell half and half, not cream, which will then make your caramel go wonky because of the difference in fat content), sprinkle a bit of sea salt, and stick a chocolate covered espresso bean on top. SO GOOD. And I won’t even tell anyone if you cheat and make them with a cake mix, a tub of frosting, and a jar of ice cream caramel. Promise.

We were thrilled to discover ACTUAL WATERMELONS growing in the garden! Last year the plants never took, and so far this year they vines had grown and grown (and grown and grown) but never made any sort of fruit. We have two – one about the size of a baseball, the other a little bigger than a softball. Yay!

And to continue creeping you out with bugs, here’s a less scary caterpillar who decided to eat all of our curly parsley. We don’t even eat the curly parsley, but so far it has refused to die. I’m happy to let caterpillars eat plants that I’m not going to use, as long as they stick around once they’re butterflies.

Twitter Updates

  • @nodakademic Congrats on her arrival! Hope you both are doing much better and that she's home very soon. 4 years ago
  • @hubbit New twist on aspirational baby naming ;) 4 years ago
  • In a somewhat ironic twist, I'm using my real name twitter account again because I have a new alias. 4 years ago
  • Is muscadine wine supposed to taste like Fun Dip and Pop Rocks? 4 years ago
  • Apparently I'm a hypocrite for believing in same sex marriage but not in incest. You learn so much on facebook... 4 years ago