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Archive for March, 2012

It’s time for everyone’s least-favorite blog topic!  The not-so-triumphant return of Book Reviews You Won’t Care About!

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In BRYWCA, I will review the latest history-based book I’ve had to read for class (or chose to read, because I’m me and I love that sort of thing.  BRYWCA books will always be nonfiction, and will always be historically factual (or theoretical).  This week, we have two books (and have I been reading.  Sheesh.)

ImageKing Leopold’s Ghost; A Story of Greed, Terror, and Heroism in Colonial Africa, by Adam Hochschild, is a sad and compelling tale of a Belgian king whose dreams of owning an empire lead to tragedy and genocide.  In the 1880’s, King Leopold II of Belgium decided that he wanted a colony of his own, and snatched the opportunity in the Congo.  From his throne in Europe he commanded forces to enter the Congo, commandeer it, and maim, torture, and kill the inhabitants, while compelling them to harvest ivory and rubber to line Leopold’s own pockets.  The eccentric and ruthless king ruled his “empire” with an iron fist, while cagily manipulating the mass media, still in its infancy, until his death.

This book is, and there’s no better way to put it, depressing, but thrilling.  The stories are incredibly sad, especially because, as the author admits, many of the victims of the Belgian genocide in the Congo are nameless and faceless.  The photo section in the middle of the book is horrifying — children whose hands have been hacked off, a father crying over the hand and foot of his baby daughter, a man being beaten (most likely to death) by a chicotte whip — none of them are easy to look at.  The only part of this book that restores the reader’s faith in humanity, is the latter half, where Hoshschild writes about the media moguls who attempted to raise awareness about Leopold’s atrocities in the Congo.  Still, it’s a terribly sad, if wonderfully written, book.

Woman of Valor: Margaret Sanger and the Birth Control Movement in America, by Ellen Chesler, was one Imageof the books I was looking most forward to reading this semester.  This 500-page biography is more about the life of Margaret Sanger, the founder of Planned Parenthood, than it is about the birth control movement in the United States.  Yet the two are forever entwined; Chesler shows that from an early age Margaret was pushed towards the mass market and social acceptance of birth control in the United States and even across the world.

I liked this book, even though it was super-long and took me FOREVER to finish, mainly because Chesler really does attempt to paint a fair and balanced portrait of Margaret Sanger, a woman who is usually either revered or maligned.  Although she does tout Margaret’s successes and strides in the birth control movement, she also does not sugarcoat Margaret’s “collateral damage” — her failed marriages, partial estrangement from her children, and the areas where she fell short.  Chesler claims in her afterward that she was trying to give Margaret “the biography she deserves”, and I do feel she hit the mark right on the head.

King Leopold’s Ghost: ***

Woman of Valor: ****

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Step One: Complete

ImageAnnotated bibliography: done.  

Ten pages, word count unknown.  Seventeen sources cited, cut down from the original twenty-five.  I am proud of it.  It was a labor of love.  Well, apreliminary labor of love…the paper will really be the finished project (and clock it at fifteen pages longer).

Let’s cross our fingers and hope it’s enough for the History department.

(BTW, if you think I’m overselling this, it’s my first real graded paper since 2008.  So it has been awhile.)

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Back in February, I wrote an entry about how I was cutting sugar out of my diet — both for Lent, and also for health reasons.  Aside from the fact that, post-wedding, I developed quite a stomach pudge (ugh), I spent a few weeks reading up all the ways that sugar is pretty much poison, or if it isn’t quite poison, it certainly isn’t doing you any favors.  So I decided to cut it entirely out of my diet.

I started small.  On February 22nd, I switched from white sugar to raw sugar.  (I know, I know — careful not to trip over that HUGE leap there, NH).  After two days of obscene migraines, I finally managed to go a whole day without feeling like I wanted to shoot myself or anyone who had the misfortune to wander into my office. 

It’s been about a month, and while I didn’t feel the need for sugar, I desperately felt the desire for it.  I had a Dunkin Donuts coffee on Sunday with cream and sugar (Sundays don’t count in Lent), and OMG, I had forgotten how delicious it was.  And what a freakin’ crash I got after having it.  Sunday was also the day of my friend’s bridal shower, so it was not the smartest day to cheat on my “no sugar” diet.  Back to the grindstone I went on Monday.  And then things took a turn for the more interesting.

My boss is obsessed with losing weight, and discovered Skinny Muffins on Dr. Oz’s website.  He cooked one up the other day and let me try it.  The recipe is simple — you mix all the ingredients in a mug, cook it on high in the microwave for 50 seconds, and then eat.  I hit up the grocery store yesterday in search of the ingredients that I didn’t have — ground flax, coconut oil, and Stevia.

Well, I seriously balked at the coconut oil ($8 a jar!), but relented when I remembered that people on a message board I frequent had been talking about its uses for skin and hair as well as consumption.  But Stevia was expensive, and came in a tiny little jar.  As I roamed the shelves looking for a substitute, I noticed blue agave nectar, and remembered that one of my friends had recommended it to me when I first gave up sugar.  I had made a mental note at the time to try it, but it had completely slipped my history-fried mind until yesterday.  It was also half the cost of Stevia, for about triple the amount.  So I threw it in the basket, went home, and made myself an altered Skinny Muffin.

Neophyte Historian-Altered Skinny Muffins
1/4 cup ground flax
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. coconut oil
2 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 – 1 tsp. agave nectar
1 egg
1 handful Craisins (or raisins, blueberries, any fruit)

Mix together in a mug, microwave for 60 seconds (I like mine slightly firmer).  You could probably eat it right out of the mug but I prefer to flip mine out onto a plate and let it air cool for a few minutes before eating.  It’s definitely filling, and is touted as an energy-booster.  I definitely felt the energy yesterday afternoon!  This is pretty delicious.  It looks like crap  but has the consistency of a slightly-denser muffin.

My feelings on agave?  So far, I LOVE it!  It’s sweeter than sugar, so you can get away with using a lot less of it.  I’m going to have to experiment with it in cookies and baking and whatnot, but for use in coffee and tea, I don’t plan on going back to sugar ever again.

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* Weirdly enough, I’m excited for school this week!  Mainly because we’re getting down to the wire and there are only six more weeks of school!  I’m behind on my Thursday reading, and I just discovered last night that I’m missing two books of required reading (one for each class), so a trip to the school bookstore is in order, but…that’s okay.  We’re getting there!

* David and I bought a NEW CAR (well, new to us) on Saturday.

ImageTechnically, it belongs to both of us (both names on the insurance, etc.) but it’s going to be primarily David’s car, since he drives so much more than I do, and my old car has over 165K miles on it.  But it’s beautiful, it’s new to us, it’s a 2007 Camry and I love it.  We love it.  Life is going to get a lot easier to manage from now on, no more juggling two schedules and one car!

* I went to my friend Tina’s shower yesterday.  It was good times, and I’m getting really excited for her bachelorette party at Foxwoods Casino next month.

* Came home last night to find out that David got us tickets to Wildfire Retreat in May!  Wildfire is a fire-spinning convention/camping trip that takes place in May, August, and September of every year in Connecticut.  We went to August 2011 Wildfire, and it was amazing, definitely the best part of the summer.  We weren’t sure if we’d be able to get tickets to the May Wildfire (they sold out in a record-breaking 8 minutes online yesterday), but David managed it while I was at the shower.  May is going to be an incredibly busy month, but hey, they’re all fun things!  I am so excited.  We have to get a tent (we  borrowed one last year but it’s really time we get one of our own), and David needs a new water bottle (his shattered last year — don’t ask), but other than that we’re raring to go!  I can’t wait.

* Dave is working 78 hours this week between both jobs.  I’m going to have a lot of time to finish that annotated bibliography.  I’m thinking tomorrow is going to be the night that gets done.

* I’m making crock pot pulled pork for dinner tonight (best meal ever).  I’m trying something new — instead of just piling the pork with BBQ sauce I added a little Woodchuck ale to it.  I’m hoping it comes out all right.  David improvised gravy with Sam Adams last week for St. Patrick’s Day and (supposedly) the shepherd’s pie he made came out magnificently (I don’t eat shepherd’s pie — no ground beef — so I wouldn’t know).

Monday’s shaping up to be pretty damn good. 🙂

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Today I have nothing to share for Book Reviews You Won’t Care About.  This is mainly because I’ve been spending my Spring Break mostly reading articles, and the two books I have to read for next week have largely fallen by the wayside (although I need to crack down this weekend because I still have over 400 pages to go for one of them).  And although I’ve been doing a lot of reading, and highlighting, my focus has generally been on journal articles.

And this book:

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I bought this book as required reading back in 2008 (not really reading so much as reference), and it has become my pseudo-Bible for this semester.  You see, before I can write the paper, I need to do an annotated bibliography.  For those of you who chose not to click on that link (can’t say I blame you), an annotated bibliography is a fully-cited list of all the sources you plan on using for a paper, with a little summary or abstract about each one.  This paper is due a week from yesterday.  It’s three pages long, and I’m not even half-done with it.

You see, back in the day (in undergrad, a full 10 years ago…ugh), I wasn’t a History major.  I was an English major.  And English majors use the MLA method of citation.  So I spent four years of undergrad memorizing MLA.  By the time I wrote my senior thesis, I knew MLA so well that I could bang out a citation without double- or triple-checking it.

And then I became a history major.  History majors, btw, don’t use MLA.  They use the Chicago Method.  I do not know the Chicago method.  Therefore, I spend a LOT of time flipping through that book up there (also known as “that horrible Turabian book”.

I really, really don’t understand why there are multiple methods of citation.  Couldn’t the whole academic world get together and agree on ONE method?  Wouldn’t that be so much easier?  I will admit I felt slightly vindicated when I checked out Turabian’s profile on Goodreads and saw the following review:

“Why does this Turabian lady get to say how I document and cite my history papers and why, why, why can’t English, History, and Education people just get together and pick one style they can all agree on?! (frustrated sob)”

I feel your pain, I really do.

Fortunately, this weekend, the husband and I are going to have an absolutely delicious Saturday!  He’s promised to cook pancakes on Saturday morning, and then we’re going car shopping with my dad.  Then it’s off to see the Hunger Games movie (!) and then out to dinner.  I’m very much looking forward to an exciting, relaxing afternoon.

With no Turabian.

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I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, school is leaving me very little time for knitting.  This project isn’t going quickly, and if it wasn’t for the yarn, it would be utterly boring (variegated yarn always thrills me for some reason; I’m probably simple-minded).

Hat is a standard, roll-brim baby hat with variegated yarn knit on US 4 DPNs.  Hopefully for my upstairs-neighbor’s baby girl, due next month.

The book is Woman of Valor: Margaret Sanger and the Birth Control Movement in America by Ellen Chesler.  It’s an easy read, but it’s almost 500 pages, so this was the book my teacher required as reading over our Spring Break.  I’m about a fifth of a way into it, and I’m liking it thus far.

Hooking up with Ginny over at Small Things…

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Random Historical Fact of the Day — March 19: In 1941, the Tuskegee Airmen, the first unit of the United States Air Force comprised of all African-Americans, was activated.

I didn’t blog this weekend because I was, in all honesty, too busy.  And I’m ashamed (sort of) to say that nothing I was doing had anything to do with my homework, or research, or papers.  Time to buckle down this week and work, I say!  Instead, I spent my Saturday cleaning everything in sight and making Irish soda bread and Car Bomb Cupcakes for our St. Patrick’s Day get-together.  Which IMO was a rousing success.

Image(My Irish-American husband, an expat from north of Boston, agrees)

Exciting things happened of the sewing variety this weekend as well.  First off, I’m almost finished with the pink skirt for my outfit for Connecticon.  I worked on it Friday afternoon at my parents’ house.  It’s show here (not a great picture), missing only a hem and a waistband.

Image(Sorry for the poor photo quality.  I really have to start taking pictures with my camera and not my cell phone.)

Other exciting news — my father found me a temporary sewing machine!  He found a used 1960’s model on Saturday and brought it home for me.  It’sancient, it’s huge, it weighs about 60 lbs…and it’s mine 🙂  I’m so excited.  My mom says that for all its years, it works perfectly, and she just needs to remember how to thread the bobbin on it and show me before I take it home.  Yay, my first grown-up sewing machine!

ImageIt’s awesome and ancient and mine, all mine.

It’s been absolutely beautiful up here in New England lately, and I hope it lasts.  Spending the afternoon at my parents’ house yesterday meant a lot of walking around outside, helping my mom wash her car, just enjoying the sunlight and warmth.  I managed to get a picture of their single lone crocus.

ImageSometimes I wish spring could last forever.

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