Friday, June 22, 2012

Review: Fallen Series (by Lauren Kate)

Those of you who know me know that I've never read a love story. Well, that was last month, and now I've read two! The first one was Suddenly a Spy by Heather Huffman, a story about a girl who marries someone she doesn't know is a secret agent and ends up joining him in combating human trafficking rings. The second was Fallen (2009), a supernatural love story in four books (Fallen, Torment, Passion, and Rapture).

The story begins when a mysterious fire kills Lucinda (Luce)'s boyfriend. Luce is blamed and sent to a reform school, where she meets the love of her life, whom she is inexplicably drawn to. The reform school is dank and drab, but it's clear from the beginning that there's something about the love story that transcends time: Daniel is doomed to see the love of his life die over and over again every time they have their first kiss. This time, the curse is about to be broken. Captivating and mysterious, the story constantly leaves you asking questions and turning pages.

I was afraid I'd see too many Twilight themes in the series. It's undeniable that there are similarities, but there are also marked differences. Firstly, it's not nearly as dark. Secondly, the whole series is about Luce's character development, something that seems lacking in Bella. In addition to Luce, the angel Daniel is also more mature than his Twilight counterpart, and not as possessive and borderline abusive. I feel that the relationship between Luce and Daniel is more emotionally mature overall, which makes the story a lot more comfortable for me to read. Plus, I think angels are just so much more awesome than vampires. What can be more epic than angels and demons as characters? Even Lucifer and God make an appearance in the fourth book.

There were definitely some similarities to Harry Potter in the second book when we are introduced to a school for Nephilim (the children of angels and mortals) where they can harness their special powers and learn angel history. We encounter Harry Potter's same confusion when Luce arrives and everybody knows her story but her.

The last two books are when the story really picks up, action-packed and full of epic angel battles and time travel—and a love story that transcends it all.

It was a great read—I read all four books in less than a week! Disney is apparently prepping for a movie to come out in 2012, so look out—this one will be a blockbuster.

Who needs wedding gifts when you can donate to the Obama campaign!?

Every once in a while, along comes a gem that you just can't make up:

I don't know about you guys, the most important thing to me on my wedding day was the upcoming election. In fact, it was all I could think about. If my future family-in-law decided that instead of buying us wedding gifts they would donate to the Obama campaign, I would have been ecstatic. I wouldn't have even thought about the fact that we didn't even have furniture. For America.

Yeah, right—and I don't care who's running. 

Here's the message from those running this campaign: Obama is more important than you. And that's the most constitutionally accurate way to view the highest executive office...right?

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Review: "My So-Called Life as a Proverbs 31 Wife" (Sara Horn)

This book certainly wasn't what I was expecting. I admit I've never really read a "Proverbs 31 Woman" book before, and I was eager to pick one up. I kind of assumed it would be half Bible study and half imparted, practical wisdom about how to treat your husband and children, with some personal stories and maybe some mistakes peppered in. That wasn't what I got.

The book began with an expression of the author's distaste for the Proverbs 31 passage and a question of what King Solomon, a man with hundreds of wives, would have known about good women anyway. I got a little worried at this point. Although I consider myself a casual Bible reader, even I knew off the top of my head that Proverbs 31 was written by King Lemuel. I considered putting the book down, but I chose to press on. It wasn't a great book, but the last half was a little better than the first half.

The book is supposedly a yearlong Proverbs 31 experiment the author tries. But until the last half of the book, the author never delved into the Biblical passage aside from just quoting it at the beginning. I soon realized that it was nothing more than a journal about her life, in which she wrestles more with how she perceives the Proverbs 31 woman rather than what the Bible actually says about it. And her life is pretty normal, which I guess makes her relatable, but the unfortunate casualty of that was that I found the book pretty boring and hard to get through. Furthermore, I was often frustrated at the book because it seemed like the author spent a whole year doing everything but just reading the passage. 

Here are the positives: the author learns during her Proverbs 31 experiment that you don't have to be perfect in order to be the Proverbs 31 woman—whom she affectionately (yet somewhat contemptuously) names "Martha 31." No female mortal can be at a loss to understand this. She compares her to Miss America at the beginning of her experiment, which I was a little confused about, but I can see how a lot of women might be intimidated by this hypothetical person. She learns that being Martha 31 has more to do with loving your husband and kids than keeping an immaculate house. It's about your heart, not your cooking skills. The most notable part of her story is that her Proverbs 31 experiment leads her to go out and get a job in order to be a better wife and mom, something that surprised her that it actually falls in line with the Proverbs 31 passage, yet contrary to Christian culture. 

I recommend the book to anyone who enjoys personal narrative and needs to know that you can be normal and be the long-idolized Proverbs 31 woman at the same time. I hate to give a negative review, but the book really wasn't for me. It's more for people who are uncomfortable with the idea of the Proverbs 31 woman, or for those who see her as unattainable or un-feminist. The takeaway for me was, "It's easier than you think—anyone can be the Proverbs 31 woman." Overall, it had a good message. I applaud her honest seeking and hope she inspires her readers to do the same.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Pie: Take 2

Last week's blackberry pie came out of the oven the consistency of soup. I don't know how that happened, and I still haven't figured out what I did wrong (maybe I should have added some cornstarch when working with frozen—thawed—berries?) I would love to show you a picture of how fantastically inedible it was, but the truth is, it hid out in the freezer because I was afraid it would melt and stain my clothing purple. Even my husband—who loves pie—only ate just over half the thing (ok, he can't refuse pie, but pie in my house is usually gone in 2 days, and this one had to be cut frozen and then eaten out of a bowl. He was a good sport.)

I knew I had to make another pie to make up for that catastrophe, so I settled on the most trustworthy pie recipe I know: The Old Boy's Strawberry Pie from This pie always comes out amazing. As you can see in the picture, it looks pretty good.

It's probably the best pie recipe I've ever come across. It's made with fresh strawberries and topped with crumb topping (made by combining almost a stick of softened butter with equal parts sugar and flour using a whisk, potato masher, or pie mixer). I've recently begun making all my pies with crumb topping. The great thing about this is that you get double bang for your buck on pie crusts because you're only using one each time (I use Publix brand pie crust from the refrigerated section, by the way). Plus, it's delicious and crispy. The combination of strawberries, sugar, and butter make this pie amazingly sweet and savory. If you're looking for a summer pie recipe, do this one while strawberries are in season!

Being married to a pie lover means that I'm always looking for great pie recipes. If you have one to share, let me know in the comments!

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

New Project: Polka-Dot Cowgirl Skirt

A new sewing project is up on my BurdaStyle!

Polka-Dot Cowgirl Skirt
It's for a friend who really wanted a version of my Turquoise Polka Dot Skirt. Unfortunately, they sold out of that cute turquoise brown dot fabric I made it out of, so I had to improvise. I added a bias binding as a waistband that continues into a bow you can tie, and a couple of hearts, that way we'd keep the brown theme. This is the first time I've ever made something for someone else, and she lives in Pennsylvania, so let's just hope it fits.

I like the bow idea, and it wasn't hard at all, so I'm thinking about making one for myself in some bright colors!

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Free Will and Psychology

Psychological research is supposedly all about predicting people's behaviors, but the one thing that so ubiquitously exists yet is so conspicuously absent from psychological literature is the issue of choice. Choice—or free will, or agency—is something so basic in our existence that even animals have it. For example, I can give my cat negative reinforcement in order to limit undesirable behaviors, and most of the time it works, but sometimes he decides to look me straight in the eye and disobey willingly. Those of you who have children understand this to the utmost degree. There is no possible way for an outside force to stop the train of free will—the brakes are only at the controls.

Animals are much simpler than humans, so it's much easier to gather information from a behavioral standpoint from them than from us. Humans are fickle, their behavior so difficult to control or predict. We don't make very good behavioral archetypes. But even if simpler animals like cats exhibit choice, then the human brain isn't near as simple as we thought. Our actions are not dictated indefinitely by outside events, like behaviorists claim. Rather, outside events merely influence us to make choices about our actions.

The complexity of this is astounding. Even if we are mere animals, as evolutionists claim, we still have free will, and behaviorism gets thrown in the trash receptacle.

This is gospel to anyone who has ever been abused or mistreated. Even the cognitive behaviorism I was exposed to in college ("behaviorism lite") would have me believe that the actions of the abused party are already decided by some sort of gravitational fate. Maybe in the world that's true, but not with Christ. Christ gives us the power to choose. He doesn't steal our free will, he emboldens us with it. The message of choice is empowering.

Michael Behe wrote about the "black box" of the cell—how back in Darwin's day, cellular organelles and their functions were virtually unknown. With increasing technology, however, we have come to understand the vast complexity of cellular functions. Our understanding no longer only covers the tip of the iceberg. Since the 1950s, we have opened the door to a whole new world. Today's black box is undoubtedly the human brain. The more I learn about it, the more I realize how little we know. In the '60s, psychologists thought that computers would help us understand more about how the human brain works. No, not by their use—by understanding how they work. But studying the created's created will get us nowhere!

I have been astounded at how simple psychologists think the brain is, when we're over our heads even learning what a neuron does, let alone how they all work together. Choice is in there somewhere. We may not ever find proof of a soul, but I know there's got to be something more there than just neurotransmitters. This does beg the question of whether the metaphysical can be evidenced by the material. That's an uncomfortable thought in a time when psychologists serve empiricism, but empiricism has not adequately served us.