Cooking and Composition

adventures in discourse and dinner

Celebrating Bloggers with the Versatile Blogger Award — November 27, 2013

Celebrating Bloggers with the Versatile Blogger Award

This evening, the lovely Priceless Joy over at¬†Some Day I Will Get This Write bestowed upon me the Versatile Blogger Award. Thanks so much! This is a lovely honor and I’m excited to pass along the award to other blogs I follow/love.

As part of the deal, I have to both nominate 15 other bloggers and share with you seven things about myself. . .

I’m not sure which of these is going to be harder! ūüėČ

Fifteen Blogs You Must Check Out Right Meow

*Whew!* I follow a lot of great blogs, but these are the ones I read the most often, I think. And I’m always looking for more, especially about books, cooking, and composition (duh!).

Now, onto Seven Interesting Things about Me.

This is going to be hard. I’m not really that interesting.

  1. Although I haven’t danced formally in almost five years, I still self-identify first and foremost as a dancer. I’m always choreographing routines to music I hear, and I often do pirouettes in the kitchen, using our fridge as a mirror.
  2. My hair is currently the longest its ever been in my entire life.
  3. I didn’t see¬†The Dark Knight until 2011. I blamed it for Heath Ledger’s death and refused to watch it.
  4. I saw Catching Fire on Monday and busted my own lip in the middle of it.
  5. I have an unhealthy obsession with watching the Food Network. I particularly like the competitive shows like Chopped, Cupcake Wars, and Cutthroat Kitchen.
  6. I once watched a marathon of Doomsday Preppers. I got very good and predicting what the judges would say about the prep work, and it scared me.
  7. I am horribly, horribly bothered by the way shopping¬†encroaches on Thanksgiving. I am disgusted by the many retailers that have chosen to open for Black Friday at some point on Thanksgiving Day this year. Why can’t we let people have some time off and enjoy spending it with people they care about, rather than working for low wages and being treated rudely by consumers?

Well. Sorry for that soapbox there in Number 7. I’m watching a Thanksgiving special of¬†SNL with my mom, and it just kind of flew out of my fingers!

Another special thanks to my nominator! If you have questions about the Versatile Blogger Award (or you were nominated and you want to see the rules), visit the VBA Blog.

Review: Joyland by Stephen King —

Review: Joyland by Stephen King

Joyland by Stephen KingMy dad told me I would love this book, and even though I’ve only read three Stephen King novels (I’m not a fan of the horror genre, really), I decided to give it a try. Because if dad says I’ll love it, I probably will.

He was right.

Here’s the¬†Goodreads synopsis: “Set in a small-town North Carolina amusement park in 1973, Joyland tells the story of the summer in which college student Devin Jones comes to work as a carny and confronts the legacy of a vicious murder, the fate of a dying child, and the ways both will change his life forever.”

Short and. . .well, sort of sweet, right? My dad told me it was about a murder at a carnival, but it was a “guy telling a story from his past” and that was why he knew I would like it/be able to read it. That is pretty helpful for me, and even though there is some suspense about the Dev’s fate, it was comforting to remember that he¬†is narrating the novel the whole time, and jumping between his summer at Joyland and other things that have happened since then, either to him or his two colleagues and friends, Erin Cook and Tom Kennedy.

I thought I would like¬†Joyland when I finally got around to it, but I didn’t think I would tear through it as fast as I did and fall so head over heels with the plot and the characters. ¬†They were all just so real. This was one of the reasons I loved¬†The Stand–I liked being with the characters, even through the darkest moments of the plot. While I wouldn’t call¬†Joyland scary by any means, it is definitely a dark book with a lot of suspense. There were moments of concern and worry, of wonder and amusement. There were also a lot of really sad moments, as well as times when I could feel and understand a character’s frustration, like when Erin tells Dev what she’s discovered about The Funhouse Killer.

The best part about¬†Joyland for me, though, was how enthralled I became with it. I like to read in whole pieces, and the organization of the book makes that easy because most of the sections are only a couple of pages long, if that. However, Stephen King definitely knows how to write a cliffhanger, and every time I would reach a little heart to signify the end of a section, I’d find myself thinking “Just one more! One more section!”

When I started reading last night, I was shocked that I had only 80 pages left. Before I knew it, it was 20. Even though I had no plan to finish the book so quickly (which is kind of like rushing through a delicious dinner), I just couldn’t stop. I needed to know how Dev had figured out who the murderer was and what was going to happen.

It was not necessarily a “twist,” but it was definitely a resolution I did not see coming. Maybe if I read it again, I would see the pieces fitting together. But I would probably still be too wrapped up in Dev’s girl problems, the heartbreaking story of Mike Ross, and the bitter ending for Erin and Tom.

I’d like to end this review with a quote from Joyland’s 93-year-old owner:

‘This is a badly broken world, full of wars and cruelty and senseless tragedy. Every human being who inhabits it is served his or her portion of unhappiness and wakeful nights. Those of you who don’t already know that will come to know it. Given such sad but undeniable facts of the human condition, you have been given a priceless gift this summer: you are here to sell fun. In exchange for the hard-earned dollars of your customers, you will parcel out happiness. Children will go home and dream of what they saw and what they did here. I hope you will remember that when the work is hard, as it sometimes will be, or when they people are rude, as they often will be, or when you feel your best efforts have gone unappreciated. This is a different world, one that has its own customs and its own language, which we simply call the Talk. You’ll begin learning it today. As you learn to talk the Talk, you’ll learn to walk the walk. I’m not going to explain that, because it can’t be explained; it can only be learned.'” — Bradley Easterbrook,¬†Joyland,¬†page 59

Isn’t that so very true? I may not be learning to talk the Talk but there are certainly talks and walks that I’m still new to, that I am learning every day. We should all take a few minutes to remember not that our world is full of tragedy, but that sometimes our smile is the only smile someone gets that day. That sometimes our own kindness can ¬†make a huge difference in another person’s life. That sometimes, our own daily tragedies and personal struggles and hardships may be nothing compared to what another person is going through. We may not be here to “parcel out happiness,” but we certainly can contribute to our own and each other’s, whether they be family, friend, colleague, or rube.

. . .We have a Winner — November 26, 2013

. . .We have a Winner

LOOK AT THIS YOU GUYS! I basically spent all day today working on my novel, and it is still far, far from done. But that still doesn’t negative the fact that I wrote over 50,000 words this month.

I’d like to give a big shout out to my favorite coffee shop, Java Haute. I spent close to five hours there today while writing the last 6,351 words to meet my word count. It was a great time and I enjoyed my favorite sandwich (with eggs and feta cheese!), tea, and my staple, the Turtle Mocha. So thanks a bunch, Java Haute. You rock!

Even though I’m kinda basking in winnerdom, it was not without it’s frustration. Not all word counters are created equal.

I decided to validate with 50,005 words. What a nice palindrome! I almost just called it a nice, even number. But it is not, in fact, an even number. It is, though, a palindrome and those are awesome.

But when I exported the scrambled version to MS Word, my word count was at 49,798.


But I wrote wrote a few hundred more and called it a day. My final word count varies depending on which counter I look at:

  • Scrivener (where I wrote it): 50,737
  • MS Word: 50, 529
  • NaNo Validated Work Count: 50, 463

I suppose it doesn’t matter because all three of them are over the 50,000 words. But it is a little strange that there is about 300 words of variation between different programs.

Anyway, I know that I need to keep working on this book, but I’m very excited to say that I officially have “won,” and I don’t have to worry about writing over the next few days of my break. Instead, I will be focusing on grading papers.

Other WriMos, how are you doing?

Happy Birthday, Doctor Who! — November 23, 2013

Happy Birthday, Doctor Who!

If you’ve been checking my blog lately, you’ve seen that I haven’t posted much lately. . .or been working on my novel much, either. The truth is it has been a bad few days for writing.

Today has only been marginally better. I’ve written 981 words today, with the hopes of doing some more. I only need to write like 800 something words a day, so I am still on track to finish in plenty of time.

I’m honestly surprised I got much work done today at all, considering all my excitement about the 50th Anniversary of¬†Doctor Who.

I might have DVR-ed it even though I was watching it. And I might have cried a lot.

I also wore this super cool t-shirt I bought just for the occasion.

Save the Day!It says “Hello Sweetie” and it’s pretty awesome.

I also painted my nails this pretty pink color and used a matte topcoat to make it look really pretty.


This is OPI’s Mimosas for Mr. & Mrs. with a matte top coat on it. I actually really like the matte look, and it feels pretty cool when I touch my nails. I’m not sure how much I like the color. It looks really pretty in the bottle, but I think I need to practice a bit more at getting even coats. I’ve always been¬†really, really horrible at painting my nails. So I’m pleased with how it turned out overall.

I don’t want to ruin anything about the 50th special in case anyone hasn’t seen it yet, but let me just say: Awesome.

Now, I guess I better get writing.

Review: Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell — November 21, 2013

Review: Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell

This morning, I finally finished Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke. It took me much longer to read this book than I expected! I started it in, like, August or something ridiculous. This is not a short read, and the historical/academic tone of it almost makes it a sometimes tedious read. That being said, I did really, really enjoy it.

I actually tried to read this book once before, several years ago, and I did not get very far into it. In fact, when I picked it up again at the recommendation of my boyfriend, I couldn’t actually remember most of the beginning of it, even though I¬†knew I had read it.

I read (most of)¬†The Ladies of Grace Adieu and Other Stories before I started this one, and I think the short-story format helped get me more accustomed to Clarke’s style and the kind of world she creates. Many of the stories in¬†Ladies¬†are connected to the plot of¬†JSMR in some way, and they provided a nice frame of reference as I was reading.

JSMR was one of those books that I knew I would love when I finally gave myself the chance to get into it. Clarke provides a wealth of backstory to help understand sometimes even minute aspects of the novel. I am thankful I read this in Kindle version because it ¬†made reading the footnotes (and porting the book around) much easier–that is, once I figured out how the footnotes worked in the app. If you just touch the screen wrong, you will end up leaving yourself highlighted notes rather than engaging the hypertext.

Clarke writes a number of compelling characters that kept me interested in what was happening despite the often dry language. She has mastered the tone very well. I particularly like the way all of the seeming subplots link back together in the end. Overall, this book was well written and enjoyable, and the ending was incredibly satisfying (unlike most books I tend to read). I would recommend this to someone who is a fan of the 1800s style of writing or someone really into texts that seem historical, but if you are unsure, I would pick up her short story collection before making the decision to jump into this book. My Kindle version came in at 846 pages, not including all the footnotes, and my boyfriend’s print version is in two volumes. This book will take anyone a while to read, if only because it is sometimes hard to read more than a few paragraphs without falling asleep when you are a right-before-bed reader like me.

Top Ten Tuesday: Recommendations — November 19, 2013

Top Ten Tuesday: Recommendations

OH HEY GUYS. Before I get to Top Ten Tuesday this week, I just need to share some excitement. I just found out I won a copy of Diane Setterfield’s new novel,¬†Bellman & Black: A Ghost Story¬†through¬†Goodreads “First Reads” contest. I stumbled upon it a few weeks ago when I was looking up the book to add to my shelf, and I never imagined I would win one of the 20 available copies.

I might have even jumped up and down in the department kitchen while making my lunch.

Luckily, no one saw me.

If you are interested in checking out some of their current giveaways, you can do so by clicking here.

Thanks for reading about my geek out. Now on to. . .

This week’s prompt is recommendations, and I’m going to split this into two lists. First: Five Books I’d Recommend to high school girls and new adults.

5.¬†Uglies (and¬†Pretties,¬†Specials, and¬†Extras) by Scott Westerfeld. I read this book as a junior in high school and I still love it. It’ s one of those stories that we need to tell to remind ourselves that some things are not worth the hype. There are some excellent messages in this series about beauty, self-acceptance, independence, and survival.

4. The Robber Bride by Margaret Atwood. This is maybe a little intense for some high school students, but the way Atwood depicts female relationships is just so perfect. Tony, Charis, and Roz may not be perfect role models, but they showcase a variety of strong characters that most women will be able to relate to.

3. My Year of Meats by Ruth Ozeki. This is another book I wish I had read sooner. It is startling and a bit unsettling, but is made me think a lot about representation, the food industry, and the way that our beliefs and identities can and are manipulated by other people, often for negative purposes.

2.¬†The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch. Sure to be a tear-jerker, Pausch’s last lecture reminds us why we need to live life to the fullest and appreciate all that we have.

1.¬†The Handmaid’s Tale¬†by Margaret Atwood. Sorry, she’s just gotta have two shout-outs on my list!¬†The Handmaid’s Tale is so important for women readers, and I wish I had read this book sooner than I did. Atwood makes us pause to think, to consider questions of rights, censorship, and many of the daily activities that we take for granted. This is what happens when many beliefs are pushed to their extremes. Young women should read this if only to help them appreciate the world we live in and understand why we need to work to better it for men and women alike.

And Second: Five Texts I’d Recommend to someone teaching composition. Because I just can’t limit myself to books here.

5.¬†Reflection in the Writing Classroom by Kathleen Blake Yancey. Yancey’s book was foundational for me as an instructor and a scholar. It provides ideas and strategies for using reflection to help teach writing at various points in the writing process.

4.¬†Teaching Writing in High School and College: Conversations and Collaborations. Edited by Thomas C. Thompson. It’s very easy for college instructors to be unaware of the challenges of teaching high school, and vice versa. Although this book is kind of dated now (it was published in 2002, and I’m sure there are a lot of new concerns), the authors of individual chapters provide important perspectives that can help aid college instructors and high school teachers alike.

3. College Writing and Beyond: A New Framework for University Writing Instruction by Anne Beaufort. I waited too long in my academic career to read this. It should be required reading for all first-year composition instructors. It challenged some of my own teaching methods and helped me to think about new approaches to teaching and researching writing.

2. “Teaching About Writing, Righting Misconceptions: (Re)Invisioning ‘First-Year-Composition’ as ‘Introduction to Writing Studies'” by Douglas Downs and Elizabeth Wardle. Publish in¬†College Composition and Communication in 2007. Composition scholars and researchers report on some of the data they collected while teaching a new curriculum in first-year-composition courses. This article was fairly controversial (and the topic, really, still is), but was formative for me as an instructor and scholar.

1. Agents of Integration: Understanding Transfer as a Rhetorical Act by Rebecca Nowacek. This book reassured me that I was, in fact, where I needed to be. Although not always specifically about writing or composition, Nowacek follows honors students and professors in linked courses. As a writing instructor, this book is helpful in considering the institutional context of a particular writing class and thinking about how our own teaching of composition fits in with other courses at the university.

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More Casting Announcements for Fox’s remake of Broadchurch — November 18, 2013

More Casting Announcements for Fox’s remake of Broadchurch

Most people that know me will not be surprised in the slightest that I am a huge fan of Broadchurch, which aired early this fall on BBCAmerica. I love a good mystery, and especially one that can keep me on my toes! While there were some things I “saw coming” in the show, in general, I enjoyed being along for the twists and turns and debating with The Boyfriend which characters were good and which weren’t.

David Tennant in Broadchurch (Photo credit: jwatari, via Flickr)

I am not excited that Fox will remake Broadchurch in the US, starring David Tennant¬†in the same role, that of disgraced and strung out DI Alec Hardy. He was phenomenal in the original, and his presence alone might make me tune into¬†Gracepoint¬†(the new title of the US remake) even though I don’t think we need an American version of an already wonderful, popular show. I’m not even sure that I’m excited that there will be a second series to the original. I honestly wonder what more there is to be said about the small, seaside resort town left grieving and confused after Danny Latimer’s death.

Today, TV Guide announced two more casting choices for Gracepoint: Anna Gunn as Detective Ellie Miller and Jacki Weaver as Susan Wright.

I have a few thoughts on these announcements. First, I wonder why the producers/writers aren’t changing character names. If it’s truly an “adaptation” and not a straight-up remake (which the change in location name and title seem to suggest), there’s no sense in keeping the original character names. If anything, it’s going to make viewing the new version a lot less interesting for people who have already seen¬†Broadchurch.

Which brings me to my second point. . .there will be literally no mystery for the many people who tuned into the original when it aired on BBCAmerican unless they make some changes to the plot, which I really don’t want them to do. One thing that I loved about watching¬†Broadchurch was that I constantly had to challenge my assumptions and beliefs about who could commit such a murder, why, and how. There were many stereotypes that the series resisted buying into and engaging. It will be hard to keep fans of the series involved in¬†Gracepoint if they are simply porting over all of the characters and plot and changing only the location. However, I think there is a serious risk to enact or engage the stereotypes and assumptions that¬†Broadchurch¬†seemed to challenge if the producers and writers do attempt to make the plot more original.

Finally, it’s hard to get hyped up about a remake of something I love when I feel¬†completely neutral about the recently-announced casting choices of two characters who have such strong and important roles. I’ve seen both Gunn and Weaver, and while I don’t dislike either of them, I can’t say that I feel very strongly about them either way. Perhaps this will be the show in which they impress me, but it will be hard to not compare them to Olivia Coleman, whom I have adored since I saw her in¬†Peep Show and who handled some very challenging moments incredibly well in¬†Broadchurch, and Pauline Quirke, whose positively charming IMDB photo makes her seem nothing like her¬†Broadchurch¬†character, who I both despised and loved at various points in the series.

On my drive home today, I also realized I’m just not satisfied with the new name they have selected (Gracepoint). Wouldn’t it make much more sense if we just called it¬†New Broadchurch?

Any other fans out there? What are your thoughts on the upcoming “adaptation” set in the US?

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