Hodgepodgeing Again [Finally]

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Well, I did say that I was going to try and blog again with some sort of regularity. So, here goes: I'm returning to the HodgePoge with Joyce over at From This Side of the Pond because she has some great questions this week - and I needed some inspiration to write! 

Let's do this!

1. Tell us about a time you found yourself in the 'middle of nowhere.' Was this deliberate? 
I like to spend time 'in the middle of nowhere' - especially at night. It's usually deliberate for me.  There's something beautiful about being out of the city and in the world. The last time for me with this was probably either at my friend's wedding a few weekends ago or the last time I was up in Maine for work. 

2. What's something you're 'in the middle of' today or this week?
Everything? Packing, setting up a new bank account, VISA applications, TSA PreCheck Applications, etc, etc, etc. Also in the middle of The Darkest Minds by Alexandra Bracken which is phenomenal already! 

3.  At what age do you think 'middle age' begins? What does it mean to be 'middle aged'?
I'm going to go out on a limb here and say that middle age is a made up period of life that only happens when you've decided that it happens. 
Act young, live young, be young - at 10, 50, or 100... 

4. What's your favorite food from the list with something yummy in the middle? 
I love me some perogies stuffed with potatoes and cheese. 
Not on the list would have to be

5. Albert Einstein is quoted as saying "In the middle of difficulty lies opportunity." Would you agree? Have you found this to be true in your own life?
I'd have to agree with this man, he's pretty smart.
I think that out of adversity some of the most amazing things that can happen.
And I think I've lived to see that happen for me and others enough to believe it. 

6. What's a song you remember loving from your middle school years? Do you love it still?
Anything by *Nsync. And, yes, of course I still love it all today! 

7. May 18th is National Visit Your Relatives Day? Will you celebrate? Who would you visit if possible?
Unfortunately I can't head home today (though my dad was here this morning and left to drive home, does that count?) but will be soon! I would probably visit my parents - even though I visit them a lot, they're my favorite people on the planet and no amount of time with them is ever enough.

8. Insert your own thought here.
I cannot believe that in just over a month I will be wrapping up my time here in Montreal! It feels like I just moved here. But, moving to Italy will be amazing in ways that I can't even begin to understand right now. And I cannot wait for that adventure to begin. 

TTT: I LOVED These Books (And You Should Too)

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

So, I've been gone from this for a while (both participating in Top Ten Tuesday from  The Broke and The Bookish and binge-reading fiction in general), but I thought, since I started back up with this blog a few days ago, this might be a good way to flex my fingers and write some more. Totally noncommittal style.

And probably to embarrass myself in the minimal amount of for-fun books I've been reading (seriously, I had to dig back to 2013 to fill out this list).

In any case, this week's topic seemed like an easy one to get back into the groove, Ten of My Most Recent 5-Star Reads. Which is likely to expand into my all time favorite books, with an emphasis early on in the list of recent books that I love. Who knows how this will go, so buckle your seatbelt, let's try this out.

Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell
I finished this book in a day. I cannot tell you how long it's been since I last did that, but this book was worth it. Cath is every one of us who has ever become a part of an online community - be it through a fandom or book blogging or any other means of connection. How many of us haven't felt awkward in social situations but then thought, man if only these people would meet me online. And there are Emergency Kanye Dance Parties, and a goofy boy named Levi, and a realization that you can be loved and liked for who you are, that you don't have to lose sight of you to expand and grow. I loved this book.

Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo
I knew I loved Leigh's writing when I fell for Nikolai in Shadow and Bone. I knew I loved who Leigh is as a human being when a series of fun & encouraging tweets were exchanged with her during my very!stressful! comprehensive exams were taking place. And I knew I would love Six of Crows when Leigh told me I would (when I went to Toronto to buy and have it signed by her just after completing my exams and she covered a page of the book with a huge CONGRATS!). Leigh hasn't let me down yet, and this book is such a fantastic and wonderful start to a series that I was already anticipating book #2 a few chapters into #1. What a cast. What a story. I think I love this series more than the Grisha Trilogy already - and that's saying something.

The Book of Life by Deborah Harkness
In true Courtney fashion, I put off reading the conclusion to the All Souls Trilogy for a year. A. Year. Because, despite wanting to know how Diana and Matthew's story would play out, I did not want to see it end. I was not (and am still not) ready to let go of these characters. I still think that In some not-so-far-off parallel universe I am Diana Bishop and that my current pursuit of a History PhD aligns quite nicely with her career. Someone just send the intelligent and dashing eons old Vampire my way, okay?

Queen of Shadows by Sarah J. Maas
Truth be told it took me a little to warm up to the 5-stars that I gave this book. Perhaps it was because I put off reading this one for a long time (are we sensing a pattern here?) because I knew it would be a while before the next book came out. It was also probably because this book has a whole lotta stuff going on in it and there were times when I had to stop and reassess what I knew and what I didn't yet know. Maybe I was reading it too fast, but dangit I wanted to know. In the end, after the book hangover haze cleared away I realized just how wonderfully this book came together. That despite feeling like I was sometimes stuck inside a tornado of words and stories, that all of the pieces fit together in this insane and beautiful installment of this series. That's a good book.

The Smart One  by Jennifer Close
I absolutely adored Girs in White Dresses. So when I saw that she had another book, I knew I had to have my hands on it and my brain immersed in it. It's one year in the life of a family. It's about expectations and what happens if and when you don't meet them. Or when someone you have expectations doesn't meet them. It's about accepting a person for who they are and allowing them to do and be what they need to do and be. It's about how we never really succeed at growing up (but get pretty good at faking it), coming home, and accepting that we're all a little flawed - and that's okay

Let's Pretend This Never Happened  by Jenny Lawson
This book gave me all the laughs. From taxidermied squirrels playing poker to colon cleanses gone wrong, this book is such a true and unashamed picture of what real life is, or what it could be. Lawson doesn't hold back any punches and she doesn't skirt around the harder issues that we so often try to sweep under the rug of our day-to-day lives. If you need a laugh, but you also want a book that raises - and discusses - a number of real-life problems, you need to pick up this book. 

 So, what about you guys? What books have you read recently that get all the stars? Which ones have really knocked your socks of that you just can't stop recommending? Have you read any of these? 

Let's talk! 

It's (Almost) Time To Pack Up (Again)

Saturday, March 26, 2016

I'm hoping this picture of me thumbs-upping with a Yeti
will distract  you from the time-stamp of my last post.

Yep, I read that right.

It's been over six months since I last posted.

I cannot believe how forgotten this little blog of mine has been since I moved to Montreal. Things have been crazy over the past two years.

Two. Years. I cannot believe that I'm almost done with two years of my PhD. In some ways it feels like I've been doing this thing forever. In some ways I still feel so brand new at the whole process.

In a lot of ways I feel the same way about this city. It's started to feel like a place I sometimes call home. You know in that way that you get jaded about your hometown that you feel like you've done everything there is to do, eaten at all the cool places to eat, and seen all the fun things to see. Except in this city I feel like there's still a million and six restaurants I still have to try.

Which is why now is the perfect time to pack up and move.


Because that's apparently what I do.

Oh, you're starting to feel at home here? Pack your bags, kid, we've got moving to do.

No, I'm not done with my PhD (either actually, as in graduating, or metaphorically, as in quitting).

Me at the Montreal Botanical Garden's 
Jardins de Lumière  back in October
It's just that I need to head overseas to do my research (in my head I've said that so blasé and you're probably sitting there going: "wait, need to head overseas" who is this chick?) because apparently the Middle Ages didn't really happen the same way over here as they did over there. And Europe is all "these are our documents, we're gonna keep them on this side of the pond, thanks." Which makes doing research from North America a little bit difficult.

So now you know why I study medieval history - it means traveling is pretty much non-negotiable. And we all know how much I love to travel.

And, well, you know that old joke about graduate students being poor as dirt? Well, it's not a joke, thankyouverymuch, and I simply can't justify paying rent in Italy and rent in Montreal in the same month. 

So, after two glorious years of having my own kitchen and my own bed and a door with a lock and key and a closet instead of a suitcase to keep my clothes in (and unwrinkled) (oh, who am I kidding, my clothes are always wrinkled, much to my mother's displeasure - sorry mom), come June I'll be packing up my things and again trying to fit my life into two suitcases.

And I really, really, really love my apartment. So sending in that "hey, appartment rental people, I'm not renewing my lease this year" email was absolutely heartbreaking. Seriously. I'm pretty sure I had an anxiety attack as soon as I hit send to the tune of: What if this all falls through? What if I can't get to Italy? Then I just gave up this SWEET apartment for nothing.  And I'll be homeless in Montreal. Because there are clearly no more apartments in this city other than this one. NONE. And I won't be able to do any research, so I'll never finish my degree because you can't write a research dissertation without research. I wonder if you can send in "JK apartment rental people, I'm not really moving, April fools! Oh? It's still March, my bad. Let's just forget this whole thing and I'll be keeping the apartment, thanks!" email? I love this apartment. I love my yoga studio. OMG WHAT AM I DOING.
This view from my balcony is one of the things I
am going to miss most about this apartment

And then I made myself some tea and told myself to calm down while watching Fuller House and I was immediately glad I waited until this moment to spend a day binge-watching this show. Because what better way is there to deal with the stress and anxiety of moving than a reboot of a beloved 90s sitcom? Nothing, I tell you, nothing.

Other than maybe finding a $100 on the street corner. But that has yet to happen to me, so I can't really be the judge on if that or a Fuller House binge is better.

All this is to say, maybe I'll be better at blogging again now that there's adventure on the horizon. I wrote a lot more and put up a lot more pictures when I was abroad last time. And maybe I'll even write a review or two about some books I've read recently (the few fiction ones I've gotten to, I'm sure you're probably not that interested in my thoughts on any historiography. Especially if you just had to google historiography to see what I was talking about).

No promises though, we all know what happened last time I did that (re: the 6 month hiatus I artfully didn't apologize for a the beginning of this post). But I will try. Of that we can be sure.