What I Read | November 2016

Eight books this month, ranging from YA fantasy adventures to historical scandals in early Hollywood.  Oh, and I finally read The Little Prince, which was a LONG time coming.

anotherbrooklyn-hc-cAnother Brooklyn by Jacqueline Woodson

Woodson’s prose reads like poetry, which helps make her story more palatable.  I mean, it’s GOOD, but it is a devastating look at growing up female, black, and poor.  There is an thread of hope throughout, though, which left me feeling like the book was short and beautiful.  The main thing I took from Woodson’s novel is that I need to be more intentional about including diverse authors in my reading list.

26109391Highly Illogical Behavior by John Corey Whaley

The setup of this book made me assume that it would deal with its central issues of agoraphobia and panic disorders with casual flippancy, but I was so mistaken!  Everything was handled respectfully (and entertainingly, since it is, after all, a novel).  I really liked that the story revealed how messed up everyone was, whether they were diagnosable or not.  Well, except for Clark.  Just like our two main characters, I also fell in love with him.

the-little-princeThe Little Prince by Antoine de Saint Exupery

This story has existed in the periphery of my experience for years and years, but I was never interested enough to sit down and read it.  Until this month, when I bought a cute little hardback copy on Santorini and immediately read the whole thing.  It is so sweet, so sad, and so poignant.  I love the emphasis on childish creativity and love, and how valuable it is to cling to those things even as we become adults.  I especially loved the story of the fox and how we are responsible for the things (and people) we tame.

9780142180679_ScandalsofCl-CVF.inddScandals of Classic Hollywood by Anne Helen Petersen

It is a testament to Petersen’s writing capabilities that I have almost no knowledge of classic Hollywood or the actors and actresses that dominated tabloids in the 1910s – 1950s, but I still really enjoyed this book!  That because the book is not about the people specifically; it’s a fascinating look at culture, fame, and changing societal mores.  It asks why one person’s scandal was forgiven while a similar scandal ruined someone else’s career.  I could easily imagine modern equivalents to these situations, and I found myself wishing she would write a follow-up book!

annihilation_by_jeff_vandermeerAnnihilation by Jeff Vandermeer

I bought this at the recommendation of a bookshop worker, and wow was it weird.  It was genuinely creepy because everything was OFF in this indescribable way.  I was so unnerved by it that I could only read it during the daylight hours, but I had to keep reading because it’s story was so compelling.  I had decided to buy it because I was intrigued by its cast of characters including only women, and this remained its high point for me.

unknownThe Hundred-Foot Journey by Richard C. Morais

I wanted this book to be about the merging of two cultures (Indian and French) and how food brings people together.  It was not about that.  It was about how an Indian prodigy chef managed to rise to fame despite his humble background.  Which, now that I phrase it that way, is a compelling story.  Unfortunately, it was not the story I expected, so I found myself increasingly uninterested.

51t5lwxhdhlMagnus Chase: The Hammer of Thor by Rick Riordan

I am continuously amazed at how Riordan manages to take the same formula and finds ways to make it fresh.  I am especially amazed that the way he chose to make the Magnus Chase series fresh is by ramping up his level of representation.  This book is phenomenal, boasting a five person main cast that includes a practicing Muslim woman, a formerly homeless teenage boy whose talents skew feminine, a black dwarf devoted to fashion, a deaf elf, and a transgender/genderfluid person.  I LOVE that Riordan decided to take the fantasy trope of shape-shifting and use that to explicitly talk about gender fluidity.  That is total genius.  Oh, and the plot is super fun, I love how Loki is both very evil and very victimized, I love the giants and their illusions, I love the epic wedding showdown.  More, please!

the_thread_webThe Thread by Victoria Hislop

This novel tells the history of Thessaloniki specifically, and Greece generally, through the story of one family.  It helped me SO much to piece together all the holidays I’ve seen celebrated and names I’ve heard dropped while living in Athens for a year.  Finally everything was put together in a cohesive narrative, and I understand more than ever the pride and pessimism that makes up the stereotypical Greek mindset.  A lot has happened in this country in the last century, and I enjoyed reading its history within a novel.  Great sneaking education!

Workout Week #14


After church, I went out to a taverna where we got multiple entrees and even more appetizers, so I basically said, “Oh well,” and gave up on healthiness for the day.

Monday   FullSizeRender

It’s always easiest to stay healthy when I stay home the whole day, snacking a little bit at a time as I get hungry rather than eating a big meal.  Hermits = healthy!  Why is no one pushing this angle??

Once again I’m feeling bored with the workouts I’ve been doing for over three months now, so…YouTube!  I searched “20 minute workouts” and this was one of the first that came up.  I liked it quite a bit, and I’ll probably cycle around to it again sometime in the future.  But not too soon, because…boredom.

Tuesday   Continue reading

Workout Week #7

THIS WEEK’S GOAL:  17 minutes at least 5 times a week.

WorkoutWeek 1.16.16

Workout Notes

Six days out of seven! (I didn’t work out on Sunday because….I had just arrived in a new country and didn’t feel like it.)  I think I’m actually….enjoying it??  Ugh, I kind of hate myself, because “those” kinds of people always seemed horrible and showoff-y to seven weeks ago lazy Tricia.  But several times this week I thought, “I could just not workout today” but then thought, “Nah, I want to.”  WHAT EVEN IS HAPPENING.

Partly it’s because there is a very slight indentation above my knee where I think I am developing a thigh muscle.  And my shoulders look more like shoulders and less like slopes extending from neck to hand.  Now that I can see some (tiny) tangible changes, it makes me want to keep going.

icon175x175Oh, and I discovered a new app!  Hah, if I’ve learned anything from this, it’s that I really do need constant change to stay interested.  I’m still doing the 30 Day Challenges (which are getting ROUGH), but I’m currently obsessed with Sworkit.  Four workout types are offered for free (stretch, yoga, cardio, strength). You can choose whether you want to work out for 5, 10, 15, etc minutes, and then it gives you random exercises in 30 second intervals.  I like to turn on some pop music and then do 10 minutes of light cardio.

Food Notes

I was going to give myself a pass, since 90% of moving to Greece was about the food (and, uh, the work I’m preparing to do).  But I don’t think it’ll be a problem.  Greeks don’t really overeat.  We have a big lunch, and then breakfast and dinner are small, and I haven’t really gotten hungry.  I do tend to snack on pistachios, which are very healthy AND super cheap here in the Mediterranean.

Actually, who knows?  I could eating horribly, because I’ve been guessing on a lot of the calories.  I can’t read the nutritional information on food bought here.  I’m googling most things and guesstimating, but I feel okay with that.  I’m being thoughtful about the things that I eat, and that’s what I care about most.

Plus: SLOUVAKI.  I’m not going to NOT eat that.

NEXT WEEK’S GOAL:  20 minutes at least 5 times a week.

Eating My Way Through New Orleans

New Orleans is an excellent place to gain weight, but with so many options of decadence, it’s wise to have an idea of which restaurants are worth indulging in.  In preparation of your trip to New Orleans, here is a list of places I ate, in order from best to worst:

IMG_47751.  Eat (French Quarter)

There is no better brunch in New Orleans.  The pain of waiting to be seated outside (which is unfortunately common in the city) is immediately remedied by a cute atmosphere and stunningly delicious food.  The must-have item on the menu is their Banana Fritters, which are fried, rolled in cinnamon and sugar, and served with chocolate and peanut butter dip.  I could have eaten those for the entire meal, but I had also ordered Eggs du Provence.  Served in a skillet with a truly massive biscuit on the side, it was the savory complement to our sweet appetizer.  Continue reading

Places to Eat in Old San Juan

  1. Barrachina -You can’t eat in Old San Juan without going to the birthplace of the piña colada!  The drinks are a bit different than they are in the States; they are creamier, smoother, and more delicious.  And don’t worry, the food is excellent too!  Make sure you check their website before planning your evening, however.  Some nights they close earlier than others.
  2. Waffle Era Tea Room – Have you ever wanted gourmet waffles?  Of course you have.  This is a must-stop breakfast location while you’re in the city.  Their menu is divided into savory and sweet waffles as well as by size (small wafflitos and plate-sized waffles).  I suggest you get two wafflitos – one savory and one sweet!  You won’t regret it.
  3. Caficultura – For a nice afternoon coffee, there’s no better place than Caficultura.  They’ve got all the fancy coffees Americans are spoiled with, and a lovely hipsterish atmosphere.  Be forewarned!  This is definitely the coffee place for tourists.  Not a bad thing, but if you’re aiming for cultural immersion, I suggest you go to #4.
  4. Café Manolín – Suggested by our hotel clerk as “where Puerto Ricans eat breakfast,” we visited this place twice, once for breakfast and once for lunch.  Breakfast was both delicious and cheap.  We sat at the diner counter and watched Puerto Rican businesspeople drink coffee before heading to work.  We returned another day for lunch, which was a little disappointing.  The food was not as great, and a cruise ship full of tourists had also found the spot.  I suggest you go early, and make sure you order coffee!  It was wonderful.

Do you have a favorite restaurant in Old San Juan that I missed?  Comment and let me know!

Travel Tip – Make Your Own Food

In general, I choose the easy way out.  Is it more expensive and less healthy to buy fast food than it is to make your own dinner?  Yes.  Will I continue to eat fast food anyway?  Yes.

I’m an idiot, but you don’t have to be!    DSC00945

Last year my brother and I roadtripped around the Washington and Oregon border.  One of our AirB&B choices included the use of a kitchen, so we stocked up on eggs, potatoes, and zucchini.  Before leaving Portland for a drive along the Gorge to explore waterfalls, we cooked everything on the stove.  The rich salty smell filled the apartment, and we…looked for somewhere to store our breakfast feast.  Here is the travel tip sub-tip:  when making your own food for a trip, make sure you have something in which to transport itContinue reading

Oishii! Japanese Food for the Sushi Averse (Guest Post)

Elizabeth Waibel is a friend from college who became even closer after we graduated.  We share a love of literary analysis, snarky humor, and now, the country and culture of Japan.  She currently works as a journalist for The Gazette in Maryland.

I did not particularly want to go to Japan. My limited experience in sushi restaurants that smelled like seaweed did not earn it the same place on my travel priorities list as those countries famous for crisp baguettes or cappuccino, and I have never been a fan of rice.

“They eat tepid fish!” I complained to my sister in between looking for plane tickets, which were unjustly more expensive to Japan than to places known for pasta and cheese.

My best friend has lived in Japan since 2011. For about a year, ever since I realized she wasn’t coming back, I had been promising to visit. So, prodded by the thought that few are so lucky to have a friend in such an interesting place and reassured by the thought that, if necessary, I could live off tempura (breaded and deep-fried shrimp or vegetables) for a week, I brushed up my chopsticks skills and booked a knee-numbing flight to Tokyo.

In retrospect, it was horribly unfair to judge an entire country on which of its dishes had happened to make their way to suburban America. There is so much more to Japanese food than sushi, and I could have happily spent at least two more weeks exploring the flavors and ingredients of a cuisine almost entirely new to me.

So, whether you are planning a trip to Japan or are tired of faking a fish allergy to avoid sushi restaurants with friends, here area few Japanese food recommendations that do not involve raw fish:

1. Tonkatsu – A breaded and fried slice of pork often served with rice, cabbage, and a delicious sauce that (to this American) tastes similar to teriyaki. Recommended for fans of cornflake chicken or schnitzel.

2. Ramen – This is NOT the same as the 20-cent instant noodles you ate in your dorm room, although you can buy things like that in Japan too. One of my favorite things I ate in Japan, ramen is a soup of wheat noodles in a savory broth topped with things like pork, bean sprouts, onions, and a boiled egg. It was oishii (delicious)!

3. Okonomiyaki – Cabbage is mixed with a simple, smoky-flavored egg and flour batter and fried into a thick, savory pancake. Then, it is brushed with a sweet and smoky sauce and topped with bits of dried, smoked fish that seem to be Japan’s answer to bacon bits. Okonomiyaki often has other ingredients mixed in, such as shrimp and noodles. Some restaurants in Tokyo also serve monjayaki, which resembles a goopy stir-fry and tastes like a comfort-food casserole. I recommend trying the kind with cheese.

4. Kakigori – This is basically a gourmet sno-cone. Kakigori is shaved ice that can be topped with strawberry (ichigo) syrup and condensed milk or, for those seeking more uniquely Japanese flavors, green tea syrup, red beans and mochi (rice paste). Ichigo kakigori with milk served with hojicha (green tea whose leaves have been smoked) might have been the best thing I ate in Japan.

If you ever do make it to Japan, be sure to get food at one of the many conbinis, or convenience stores. Food at the 7-Eleven in Japan is wildly better than food at the 7-Eleven in America. You can get a wide selection of refrigerated lunches, drinks and fun snacks. I also recommend visiting a place that sells sushi (preferably the cooked kind) on conveyor belts that run past all the tables, delivering a steady line of food. This is the future of dining.

So yes, there is more to Japanese food than sashimi, and it is possible to visit there for a week or more without eating tepid fish. Enjoy!


Me (right) and my friend enjoying iced coffee from a cobini on the shinkansen, or bullet train.


The culinary genius behind my first Japanese ramen experience.

Keep up with Elizabeth via her Twitter account, @lizwaibel.  I suggest you also look into Ishinomaki Christian Center if you’d like to donate to an organization that supports community rebuilding efforts after the 2011 earthquake and tsunami.