The Benefits of Joining a Book Club

Benefits of Joining a Book Club

I strongly believe in literature. The best way to pass time is with an iced coffee in the summer/hot latte in the winter, and a great book in your hand. When I was 5, I sat on the couch with my mom – who valiantly homeschooled me for two years before my dad begged her to give up homeschooling and ship my social butterfly self off to a public school – practicing phonics and learning to read. As soon as I started, I was “hooked on phonics.” Ha. Get it? Anyway, I love reading and can spend many an hour submerged in an alternate universe. In fact, I would get in trouble as a child for reading too much. If I was supposed to clean my room, maybe I would clean for a little bit, but then I would get distracted by reading. Whoops.

There was a time or two I legitimately was grounded from reading. Now that I’m an adult and married, I can read all I want – as long as I feed and water my husband daily.

Two years ago, I graduated with a B.A in English with an emphasis in creative writing. It is my lifelong dream to get paid to drink coffee, read, and discuss literature. Ever since I graduated, I wanted to start a book club. So as soon as life settled down (aka I wasn’t wedding planning anymore) I started the book club, A Novel Idea. I can’t take credit for the name; I googled clever titles.

Once a month/once every six weeks, between 6-10 women meet up at a local coffee shop, book in hand, caffeinated, ready to discuss our most recent pick.

I knew I needed intellectual discussion to enlighten my life, and I must say I leave quite invigorated from our book club meetings.

The Benefits of Joining a Book Club

The benefits of a book club are immense.

First of all, you discover new genres you didn’t know you liked.

Book clubs are a great way to pull you out of your literary comfort zone. While I love a good poet, I’m not one to pick out a collection of poems for a book club. But as some of the ladies in our group were going through finals week, we picked Milk and Honey one month and I found it to be one of our favorite reads. Each of us came armed with a poem and our analysis of it, and I was in awe of how we each picked apart our respective poems.

You see the world through multiple lenses.  

One of my favorite things about getting together in groups is the discussion that lights a fire under our idealogies. Because I come from a liberal arts background, I prefer to learn through engaging in discussion rather than a lecture based atmosphere. An aspect I enjoy about book clubs is that we see something one way, and someone else comes at it from a different perspective. Our personal stories shade the way we view the world, and the way which we view literature. We get to grow and honor each other as we learn to see through someone else’s lense.

Likewise, books open our eyes to see the world a different way. We recently finished Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. I absolutely adore her writing style, but even more so, I appreciate that she speaks so vulnerably about something like immigration and the cultural nuances between the American and Non-American Black. As a white lady in the South, if I’m not surrounded by diversity,  I’m not going to know or understand immigration or the cultures associated without opening a book (or a journal article, etc.)

Your vocabulary expands. 

For instance, I can now identify when a Coquette. Of course, I could always identify when a lady was particularly flirty, but if I had not read “Lady Susan” recently, I would not associate “coquette” with a flirt because I didn’t even know the word “coquette” existed until yesterday. Had I not taken the moment to look up this new word, I would have assumed “coquette” was the same as “etiquette” because they sound similar. Thank goodness for smart phones, because now we have a dictionary at the flash of a few typed letters. Back in the olden days, I had to get off my couch, pick up the dictionary and thumb through an actual hard copy of a dictionary.

(I am now envisioning Rory Gilmore’s dismay at the smart phone; no one appreciates the old OED anymore! Remember when her dad tried to buy her the entire Oxford English Dictionary set? I kind of drooled at that scene.)

You form deeper relationships. 

There are friends, and then there are book club friends. When you have traipsed through the emotional roller coaster of an intense 600 page novel, you emerge finding yourself in a deeper community. I loved all the ladies in my book club, but now that we have been together for going on six months, exploring the depths of our society, femininity, and racial tensions through the written word, I am acknowledging a relationship that can only come from sharing a love for literature and discussion of novels and the world around us.

Benefits of Joining a Book Club

I am, of course, feeling slightly romantic as I type because I signed up to audit a Jane Austen seminar for the next month. It will be like a book club on steroids and give me the nostalgia for my collegiate days. I set up in our dining room last night surrounded by notebooks, books, pens, high lighters, and of course potato chips, and coffee, and fell in love with learning all over again (much like I do each time I open a good book.)

I will do my darndest to be consistent with posting in this little corner that I love so much, but if you find that I’ve fallen off the earth, never fear, I’ve fallen into the arms of Mr. Darcy. (Mr. Darcy, consequently, being my super supportive husband who encourages me to chase my dreams and is very appreciative of this course I’m auditing because it means I will be holed up in our dining room, allowing him more FIFA time.)

Until then, I bid you adieu.

Have you ever participated in a book club?
What are your top 3 favorite reads?

3 Meals to Feed Your Vegetarian Friends

3 Meals to Feed Your Vegetarian Friends

This weekend my best friend came to town and I had the privilege of hosting her. According to the spiritual gifts test I took this week, one of my spiritual gifts is hospitality. I would like to thank my mom. Growing up, we were like a revolving door. I remember feeling sad, lonely, and never knowing what to do when it was only the 8 of us in the house. LOL.

Hosting people is one of my favorite things. Pai and I love to have people over for dinner often, and when you have a big community, you have some people in there who are just . . . weird. And by weird I mean they don’t like to eat meat. I don’t understand those people. HOW do you go without the beauty of Chickfila nuggets on the reg? But while I don’t understand my herbivore friends, I totally respect their decisions and sometimes I’m envious. Because they actually like vegetables. I’m not going to lie, I’ve considered doing something like the Daniel Diet or no meat for a summer just to force feed myself food that is good for my body. But rather than going that extreme, I’ll just settle with trying to do 1-2 meals a week without meat.

Hosting vegetarians or vegans for dinner used to intimidate me because I genuinely did not know how to cook a meal that wasn’t breakfast or centered around chicken. But over the years, I have added a few recipes to my repertoire and I’m excited to introduce them to you today!

3 Meals to Feed Your Vegetarian Friends

Chickpea Tacos

My Aunt is pretty healthy, and she always tried to get me to eat brussels sprouts when she would come in from California to visit and I always refused. There was one sure fire way to get me to eat veggies, though, and it was if we put it in Mexican food. Chickpea tacos are one of my favorite go-to if I’m having a meatless Monday because it is quick, cheap, easy, and low maintenance for a low maintenance gal like myself I have put it in hard shell tacos before, but over the years, I’ve found it easier to just make it a taco bowl.

Ingredients:
Garbanzo beans (chickpeas)
Spinach Leaves
Tomatoes
Tortilla Chips
Taco Seasoning
Olive Oil

*Optional
Plan Greek Yogurt (or sour cream(
Cilantro
Avocado

Directions

I meant to photograph the entire process when I made the tacos this weekend, but I completely forgot so we are going to have to go off our imaginations here.

(1) First, I preheat the oven to 400 degrees. While the oven is turning on, I drain my chickpeas and toss them in a bowl with taco seasoning.

(2) Next, I spread the chickpeas out on a jelly roll plan. You don’t want the chickpeas sitting on top of each other, so make sure to get a pan big enough to spread the chickpeas out evenly.

(3) After I have laid out my chickpeas, I spray them with vegetable oil or olive oil. Olive oil is my preference, but you do whatever floats your boat.

(4) I bake the chickpeas in the oven until they are crunchy. I like to bake them for 15 minutes to start with, and if they’re not crunchy yet, then I will broil them on low for about 5 minutes.

(5) Layer your bowl with chips, spinach, tomato, chickpeas, and any other toppings your heart desires!

All in all it took me about 30 minutes from start to plate.

Tex Mex Casserole

Once again, my aunt from California introduced me to my favorite no-meat meal. She got this recipe from Party in my Plants who got it from the Oh How She Glows cookbook. Rather than re-write the whole recipe and directions here, I’m going to send you over to Talia. She brags about taking the Hell out of Healthy eating, so I would trust any recipe she puts on her site. Except for anything to do with kale. Because kale freaks me out. (And I threw it up once.)

I like to Tex Mex Casserole because it is so fulfilling that you don’t even miss the chicken. It can be as spicy and flavorful as you want, or as bland as you want. It can even be a good option for your vegan friends as long as you’re willing to try vegan cheese – which I am not. But I am willing to sacrifice the cheese in solidarity with my vegan friends for just one meal.

Peanut-Butter and Jelly

If all else fails, fix ’em a pb&j. No meat = no problem. Throw an apple on that plate, grab a glass of milk and sit outside and you’ll feel reminiscent of your childhood days.

What are your favorite vegetarian meals?

7 Ways to Bring Sun into your Day

7 Ways to Bring Sunshine Into Your Day

WOW. It’s already May. Can you believe it or can you believe it?! May 1st always holds a special place in my heart because this is the day my handsome man asked me to be his girlfriend. 2 years later and boom. He put a ring on it. Sometimes I still don’t feel like we’re old enough to be married. Who gave us all this responsibility?! Oh right. We did this to ourselves. And boy am I glad we did. :)

I know that the beginning of May can be a cuh-razy stressful times. College students everywhere are preparing for finals, so if you see a frazzled 20-something in flannel with unwashed hair, give them a machiatto and a smile. For those of us who are not in college, we may  not be stressed per se, but we are certainly getting antsy to get out in the almost-summer sun. But for those of us who are blessed with a job and are stuck in an office all day, we’re not always out and about to have the sun grace our pasty pale legs. So today I’m going to share a few things you can do to this week to bring some more sunshine into your life!

Buy a small plant

This weekend I went to the farmer’s market with my friends and not only was it good for my soul, but it was good for my office space. I got a succulent to keep on my desk because it is supposedly low maintenance. We’ll see how long it takes me to kill this little guy.

Drink sparkling water

I’ve recently jumped on the La Croix train. I love how it can almost feel like I’m drinking a soda without all that extra sugar. And it’s so refreshing! Even if you’re sending emails at 3pm, slurp a little refreshing soda water, put on a beachy playlist and take a little sunny moment for yourself.

Go on a walk!

If smokers can get a 15 minute smoke break then you should be able to take a little 15 minute walk break. Getting up and walking around actually makes you more productive. Plus a little fresh air is good for your lungs, skin, and soul.

Pineapples

Pineapples everything. Pineapples to eat, Pineapples to drink, Pineapples to decorate your office. If anything says summer and blogger, it’s a pineapple.

Get you some coconut lotion

Take a few minutes in the morning to slather some coconut lotion (or mango, or peach, or pineapple) on your arms and enjoy how refreshing you smell and feel the rest of the day!

Paint your toenails

This is just summery to me. When it’s the winter time my toes never see the light of day so I let them get NASTY. It makes the people who pedicure my feet a little scared, I’m sure. But when it’s summer time I’m in open toed shoes as often as I can be, and a little pop of pink brightens my feet (and my day!)

Eat light foods

Lately I’ve been craving the most unhealthy things – hot dogs, potato chips, smores. OK so basically bonfire food. I’d like to blame the 3 or 4 bonfires we have already had this spring. But when I eat such heavy foods I feel so yucky. When summer time comes around I’m all for the turkey/spinach wraps, fresh fruit, and raw veggies. HA. I almost said veggies without cracking a smile. I mostly just want wraps and fresh fruit. I’m getting better about the veggies though, promise.

Now here’s to hoping I can bring some summer sun into my day during this gray and cloudy week! What is your favorite way to bring some freshness to your day?

#MyBigFatZimWedding: The Bridal Shower

Now that I have been married almost 5 months (!!), it’s about dang time I fill y’all in on all the happenings of wedding season 2016. Over the next 10 weeks we’ll be celebrating Friday Brideday and I’m SO excited because I’ve been planning these posts for months. Today’s first segment in My Big Fat Zim Wedding is the bridal shower recap. All in all, I had a total of 4 bridal showers. I was amazed, astounded, and overwhelmed with love from our dear friends and family who came together to support our new life together with pots and pans and gift cards. Oh the gift cards. You can keep those things forever (so long as they don’t expire!) and you’ll be set for whenever you get the urge to go to Target and buy some decor and your husband questions your judgment/budget and you say “But we have gift cards!”

We had four wedding showers – each a month apart right before the wedding. Because I wanted to wait until Pai moved in to truly unpack/move everything in, my dining room was overrun with stuff for weeks. And it still is. We just cleaned our office out from the actual wedding day and Christmas last week. While we removed all the wedding shower gifts from the dining room, it’s still overrun with wedding decor. I don’t think we’ll ever officially move into our house until we move out into another house. Can any other brides relate?!

Bridal Shower Recap

August

My Aunt Cassie threw a Pampered Chef shower for me at my mom’s house. It was a small get together where our good friend and Pampered Chef lady did a cooking show to display some of the new products at Pampered Chef. I had “circled some items” in the catalog that I could use/ were of interest to me. My favorite item was our bakeware. . .which I sadly cracked five months later when I turned the wrong burner on the stove. It was sitting on top. It was a crazy night and I texted our Pampered Chef lady several cry emojis.

bridal shower cards

September

Pai and I were blessed by our church family with a fun Jack & Jill shower. It was Pai’s first time really stepping into wedding world, and by the end of the afternoon he was overwhelmed and his face hurt from all the smiling. I said, “If you’re tired of smiling now, just wait until December!” Our church family shower was full of delicious treats and fun games. They played the “bride” game where you can’t say the word “bride.” I stink at any and all of those games, so I automatically resolved that I would never win. Instead one of the girls from our college ministry gathered around 7 or 8 rings. It was insane.

party games for bridal shower

October

Pai’s mom threw a wedding shower Zimbabwean style. It was really neat to see how the Zim women party it up when they’re getting ready to get married. She called on all her friends from church and women from the African community to come and shower us with love and toasters. But before we could get to the presents, there was a program to follow.

We each picked out a card when we came in that had a question about marriage. Everyone filled out a question whether it was “How can you express love to your husband if it is physical affection?” or “How do you prepare a budget?” <– A budget queen extraordinaire accidentally picked up this card. She had budgeted and saved so much that she had retired by her mid-40’s. #LivingTheDream. We went around the room, and each of the ladies shared their wisdom. I eventually got to keep all the index cards to file away for a rainy day.

For a typical Zimbabwean wedding shower, the focus is more on imparting wisdom and worshipping. Before we ate a late lunch and opened presents, a few ladies led in a few worship songs and then one of the pastors shared a sermon on marriage.

bridal shower sign

November

The ladies at my home church threw our final shower just a few weeks before the wedding. I went home for the weekend and found myself loved on by all the ladies who watched me start off as an awkward 10 year old. My sisters came up with some fun shower games including “Guess the Age” where there were several photos of me from baby until the not-so-cute bad hair middle school years. S/O to my childhood bestie for getting almost all of the ages right.

We played several more games (including mad libs which my bestie and I tried to make a liiiiittle dirty at our nice church shower) and ate delicious cake and more chips and salsa than my belly could bear. Evidently the Mexican restaurant I worked at a couple summers ago donated chips and salsa to my shower and gave us way more than we could handle. We ate jars of salsa and several bags of chips at our house for weeks afterwards until blisters formed on our tongues. It was so comforting to step back into my hometown to be showered upon by giggly, Southern Baptist women and be loved on by so many people in my home church.

wedding dress cupcake

Wedding showers were something I was looking forward to most in the wedding season – not because of all the gifts/attention, but because it served as a great reminder that there were so many people supporting our marriage, loving on us, and surrounding us with prayer and pots and pans.

bridal shower

bridal shower

*all photos courtesy of AK Wills Photography
**all photos are also from the same wedding shower because I couldn’t find any of my photos from all the other showers. Woops.

Celebrating Color

 

We need to see color. We need to celebrate color.

I didn’t grow up thinking white people were better than any other race, but I never grew up around anyone who wasn’t white. When I was in middle school, I discovered the Fresh Prince of Bel air and crushed hard on Will Smith. In high school I befriended the two black guys in my high school. One of whom reminded me of Will Smith. I knew they were black, but I didn’t think anything else of it. I’m sure the words, “I don’t see color” fell out of my mouth a few times.

It wasn’t until I was in college and started dating my now-husband that I realized how many things I had done in ignorance could be perceived as racist. When my husband, Pai, and I started dating, I had that safe place to ask the ignorant questions. I learned about systematic racism, I learned about the white savior complex. I learned that saying “I don’t see color” whitewashes the incredible experience and story each person of color carries.

 

I could feel the eyes. A couple of times I noticed (mostly from the older generation) people staring at us as we walked, hand in hand. And in my lack of graciousness, would look them dead in the eye as I held on tighter to my handsome chocolate man. Once, when we went home to see my family, I noticed someone staring at us as we were stopped next to each other at the stoplight. I turned to Pai and said, “Kiss me” and then made sure I kissed him passionately. He thought I was being sweet. I was being rebellious against the ill-conceived notions that races shouldn’t mix. . .

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Today I’m guest posting at Sage the Blog, by Cassie. She is a lifestyle blogger, grad student, and mama-to-be.