Book Review and Thoughts: MWF Seeking BFF

I heard of MWF Seeking BFF: My Yearlong Search for a New Best Friend by Rachel Bertsche a couple of years ago. I thought the premise sounded great and I stuck it into my “Want to Read” list and didn’t think about it much again. Jill of The Strawberry Blonde Life mentioned it the other day (like four months ago, whatevs) and jogged my memory, so I requested it from the library and devoured the whole thing in two days.

Bertsche moved to Chicago with her boyfriend-turned-husband from New York. She not only left her home, but her network of close friends, including her two BFFs. In noticing that she wasn’t spending time with anyone but her husband and mom (both people she loves and likes very much), she decided she needed to make local friends. The kind of local friends who you can call to get pedicures on a Saturday without a lot of lead time. To achieve this goal, Bertsche decides to go on a friend date with one new person a week. What ensue are Bertsche’s successes, failures, insights into friendship, its importance and thoughts on building a network.

I really connected with this book. My besties and I lived pretty close to each other two years ago. We could call each other at the drop of a hat and be at a wine bar or at karaoke in half an hour. It felt very much like our quiet girls’ version of the raging twenties. Now we live two hours away from each other in opposite directions. It’s not easy to plan things, and often, we’re looking at all day/weekend events. It’s just not easy until we’re together. Then, it’s as if no time has passed, and it’s quickly over. It’s so hard to even write this paragraph. I miss them so much. And that’s not even to mention my greater network of girl friends, all of whom are far away. I’m a girl’s girl and need that interaction just as much as I need quiet nights at home with my husband.

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personal photo

Even though I loved the book, I definitely had moments of wondering how I could be more friendly and make friends. The community we live in is very family-oriented, and I haven’t seen a lot of young, post-college, pre-children people around. But that doesn’t mean they’re not around. I’m putting feelers out there. I am going to try out a few book clubs to see which one works best. There’s one I really want to get into, but I had to fill out an application and haven’t heard back yet! I’m fun and I really like talking about books! Please like me!

Besides giving me impetus to try and make friends, I want to be friends with Bertsche herself. Her blog is pretty fun, even though it hasn’t been updated recently.

In short, I liked this book and I need new friends. 5/5

A Quarter Century, Part 2

Once we got back from Philadelphia, we had one more birthday treat planned: a party! But not just any party, a karaoke party! Cake and drinks with my favorite people busting out in a litany of awesome pop songs and ballads?! I’ll take it!

It’s pretty typical in Filipino culture for every party to have karaoke. My parents and aunts and uncles all have machines, and we often break into song at any family gathering. I wanted to bring a little of that fun to my friends.

This particular place was not your standard karaoke bar where everyone is grouped together and you sing in front of strangers, like in My Best Friend’s Wedding. This place had private party rooms, which I knew would help all of my friends and family feel comfortable enough to get up and SING. And sing we did!

With a little liquid courage:

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And neon lights:

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It wasn’t long before we were all up on our feet creating our own cover versions of hits by Celine Dion, Hanson, *NSYNC, Queen, and Journey. And most everyone got into it! We even had rappers in our group! E surprised everyone and led the whole room in a rousing rendition of “Bohemian Rhapsody,” and we Redlands alums just had to jump and belt out to “Don’t Stop Believin’.” My girlfriends from work all jumped into “Total Eclipse of the Heart” and my sisters and I all sand “Dancing Queen.” There were many many songs in between.

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And of course, as every birthday party must, we had a delicious chocolate cake from Porto’s. The whole cake was eaten!

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I’m so glad we threw a party because one of the things that I heard all night was, “I haven’t seen you since the wedding!” It’s very rare to be able to get all your friends and family together like that, and I’m so appreciative to everyone who took the time to come out and celebrate with me, and double points to everyone who sang!

I kept worrying that someone wasn’t having a good time. And at some point, I realized, I just had to take everyone’s word for it. It was awesome. I highly recommend you try to find a private karaoke place if you’re a little nervous about it. It’s definitely a little easier than singing in front of strangers.

Do you have any karaoke “must sings?” Mine are “Alone” by Heart, “Total Eclipse of the Heart” by Bonnie Tyler, and “I Wanna Dance with Somebody” by Whitney Houston.

25 Before 25: Camping in the Desert

I haven’t really fallen off my 25 Before 25 list, but I am starting to wonder if I’ll be able to do all of it by my 25th birthday. Nevertheless, here’s one big thing off my list.

A couple of weeks ago, E, Bestie C, Bestie’s pups and I made our way to Joshua Tree for a one-night camping trip. We had originally intended for a longer stay, but when it came down to sleeping in a bed Friday night or setting up camp in the dark after a loooooong work week, the bed won. We set out early Saturday morning, the same weekend as Coachella Week 1, to find a camp site, and enjoy a short trip to hike, climb big rocks and see the army of entirely weird, but so cool Joshua trees.

Bestie C's photo

Bestie C’s photo

We miraculously found a camp-site. It was a miracle because April is the perfect time to go to Joshua Tree. And Coachella was that weekend. And all the Joshua trees from Big Bear to the Mojave Desert had bloomed this year, which is very rare. Unfortunately, for us, they were no longer in bloom when we got there, but also, unfortunately for us, most people hadn’t gotten that memo. The short story is always check the little yellow tag when you see an empty site. It doesn’t always mean reserved.

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With camp set up, we were able to relax a little and enjoy the outdoors. We went on a great hike on the Fortynine Palms trail which starts in a place that looks like everywhere else, but after a couple of miles, you end up in an oasis of palm trees. Some dogs were really into hiking. Some couldn’t be bothered.

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personal photos

After our lovely hike, which had a nice breeze to it, we discovered that a nice breeze on our hike meant gusty, blow-your-tent-over winds back at the camp site. We placed everything heavy in it, since the sand didn’t really keep the stakes down, and went for another little walk to explore the rocks. Unfortunately when we came back, our tent had still been uprooted, and now almost everything was wet from the cooler falling over inside the tent. We came up with some creative solutions for drying sleeping bags.

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personal photos

Thankfully, the gusty wind and the sun in a clear sky really dried the sleeping bags quickly. I did have to take a break from the wind and sit in the car for an hour or so to get away from the howling wind. The wind negatively affected our dinner, but there’s nothing like a hot dog cooked over the fire as a backup plan. And as is required, we each had a Reese’s peanut butter cup s’more (the best kind of s’more) before turning in for the night. When I woke up the wind was gone and the stars were shining, I could see the worth of sleeping outside. The next morning was gorgeous and we packed up and headed out for a little more rock exploration.

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Notice the Joshua tree in the top left. Isn’t it so cool?

By this time, Bestie C and I were ready for burritos and some ice cream, so we started our journey back. E could have explored all day, though. He is truly an adventurer and explorer. Bestie C is also a great camper. She provided most of our gear and the cute dogs to cuddle with. I would say that camping in the desert was a success and it’s certainly a big to-do off my list! My feelings for camping might be growing, but I think that has mostly to do with the people I’m camping with and less with the camping itself. Thanks, Husband and Bestie for helping me accomplish this goal! There aren’t any two people I’d rather go camping with.

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Book Review: Flight Behavior

My book club choice was Barbara Kingsolver’s latest novel, Flight Behavior.

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I selected this book because Barbara Kingsolver wrote what might be my favorite book, The Poisonwood Bible, and the book that introduced me to the wealth of contemporary literature, The Bean Trees. I know that Bestie C enjoyed her books as well. So, I picked up 3 copies and sent them off.

Flight Behavior follows Dellarobia, a young mother and wife from Appalachian Tennessee, after she finds a large migrating colony of monarch butterflies at the top of her in-laws’ property. Dellarobia is a smart woman who feels trapped by her overbearing in-laws and her husband’s overly pleasing demeanor. She was supposed to get out, go to college, and never look back at the poor town she came from where she no longer had any family. But then, she got pregnant, married young, and didn’t try to leave again. The outlook is quite bleak when the butterflies arrive and attract all kinds of attention that the young family isn’t quite prepared for. Why’d they come to Tennessee? Was this a blessing or a curse?

With the arrival of a research team and an opportunity to intern with them, Dellarobia starts to find the answers to her questions and answers to the questions she hasn’t dared to ask yet.

This story started off a little slowly and a little sadly. But the more I got to know Dellarobia, her precocious son Preston, and her best friend, Dovey, the more I was enjoying myself. Dellarobia has a snarky side that makes sharp observations and tries for irony even though her family doesn’t appreciate her wit or humor. Preston keeps Dellarobia excited about life and learning, and Dovey keeps Dellarobia laughing, even though Dovey has no understanding of how poor Dellarobia and her family really are. I liked seeing Dellarobia develop from a bitter and self-pitying to ambitious and goal-oriented.

I also enjoyed learning a little bit about the monarchs and their migration patterns. It was interesting to get so much information from a novel, which is a testament to how much research Ms. Kingsolver did to make her story believable. I not only learned about monarch butterflies, but I also came to understand how poor some families in America are. Bestie C nailed it right on the head when thinking of her hometown: “There, they have the luxury to think about the future, and in Dellarobia’s town there are so many who are just trying to get through each day.” It’s a story about our consumption of the environment, humans v. animals; humans v. humans.

I am so happy I stuck with this book. Though it was a little long, it was very much worth it at the very Barbara Kinsolver-like  end.

I give this book a 3.5/5.

The Best Book Club Ever

I once heard that the only thing that made book clubs last was the wine.

Well, my best friends and I decided to kick that up a notch. We don’t get to see each other often and we all love to read. So, Bestie C came up with this idea for us to each select a book for annual book club. We would read our books and all meet for a vacation weekend to hang out, drink wine, and talk about our books.

So, we all selected our books (which I will review next week), and then worked on our weekend away.

Since it is our first annual Bestie Book Club Weekend, we decided to go big.

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And if the location isn’t enough, guess what our special activity will be? My life is about to get one step closer to being complete.

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CELINE DION! Celine Dion! I am so excited. Besides my regular belting of “All By Myself” and “The Power of Love” at karaoke outings, I grew up listening to Celine Dion with my parents. Even my friend who didn’t think she was a big Celine fan said she shed tears at the show. So, yeah, I’m excited.

We’re on our way this weekend! Coming up next week will be the reviews of our book club books.

Does anyone else do similar little book clubs? Any concerts you’re looking forward to?

 

#WeVerb12: Chronicle

Did you have a perfect day this year? Describe it.

I feel that this is a no-brainer question. My perfect day this year was the day we got married. I know that everyone says that something always goes wrong on your wedding day. But when I look back at the day, I really can’t think of anything going wrong enough to throw me at all. Really. If you don’t know me, you should know that I am a complete planner. I pored over timeline templates, websites, and consulted the photographer and our day-of-coordinator to make sure that everything would go smoothly. 

And it really went so smoothly. It was perfect. And the day was just joyous. We were surrounded by our closest friends and family. We promised ourselves to each other. I felt no stress (a rarity for me), only giddy nervousness. I remember joy. 

And after eating a few bites of a yummy meal, we danced the night away. 

Personal photo; Feel free to caption this below

Personal photo; Feel free to caption this below

It was honestly the perfect day from the morning bagel run to the first look to the “I will”s to the cheesecake dessert.

Perfect.

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#WeVerb12: Communicate

Describe a conversation that you had this year. Why was it memorable?

I always have a great conversations with my friend, H, in Boston. We typically spend lots of time on the phone when we can set aside time to talk, but when I went to visit her on a work trip, I don’t think we stopped talking the whole time. We talked about everything from books read to attempting new fashion trends to the more personal things. When I left Boston, I spent a lot of time thinking about our conversation. And I felt so good after we spent time together. It reminded me of this time in college when H’s car actually died while we talked for hours in the parking lot in front of the music hall. It also reminded me that we can pick up right where we left off, and that friends like H are hard to come by.

Before Instagram was a thing

Before Instagram was a thing

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#WeVerb12: Fellowship

What community has engaged you most this year and what did you get out of your participation?

My family and friends mean a lot to me. I try to make sure that I make lots of time for family outings and chatting with friends each month. And when planning  a wedding, I realized that it would involve our family and friends, but I didn’t realize just how excited they would be for us. I didn’t realize how touched I would be by their presence and happiness at both of our nuptial events. Especially, the Bengali wedding. Because I spent so much time working on the traditional Christian wedding, I wasn’t as focused or excited at the prospect of the Bengali wedding until late in the process.

But when the week of the Bengali wedding hit, and my family started arriving from all corners of the world, I realized how important this event was, not just for E and me, but for them also. It was so overwhelming that when presented with all of our wedding gifts, from my aunts in Bangladesh, I burst into tears. My family can be very frustrating when it comes to events and obligation, but there was no doubt that they truly wanted to be at our wedding. When I was looking at the Bengali wedding as a low-key party, to them, it was the main event. And I think I felt it most when we were getting ready for the party. My photographer likened the ladies to little birds who would swoop in to adjust this and pin that whenever something moved out of place, which was often.

When I came away from the event, I was so glad that we had done it. I was so glad to have so many family members together, having a good time. I realized that when my older cousins got married, we traveled to them, and when my sister and younger cousins get married, we will all travel to be together again. I look forward to these events. They are full and happy reunions, and only happen every few years. I truly cherish them. And I am so glad that I was able to share how great my family is with my friends and Erik’s family. I have shown everyone where I come from and they understand a little bit more about me. And I wasn’t expecting any of that, but I am so thankful for it.

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All of our people together; image by Coco McKown Photography

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Book Review: Commencement

I bought Commencement by J. Courtney Sullivan on super sale over a year ago. As my “to read” collection grows so quickly, I didn’t get to it until last month. But I’m glad I did!

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Four girls meet at Smith College and form the bond that only living together in college can create. The girls navigated through school together, and as they move into adulthood without each other, they find themselves reaching out to each other. A fight at a wedding threatens to destruct their bond, but in the face of tragedy, the girls find that they need each other more than ever.

I think I really related to this book as a “recent” grad from a liberal arts college, and as a girl’s girl. It’s no secret that I am attracted to books about sisterhood and girl bonding. This book fulfilled my need for that. It was also written in a very smart, observant style, and the story kept me going. My only complaint is that the girl’s lives seemed a little too put-together career-wise five years out of college. I guess I haven’t been out of college for five years to know if I will be that successful yet, but it felt a little fake to me. But, then again, I didn’t go to a prestigious East coast school. So, I might be a little jaded by my own position in the world.

I liked the story. I related to different bits of each character. I saw my friends in some of the characters. I recalled similar conversations in life. I liked the book for all those reasons. It was a good summer read that allowed me to walk away from stress and just enjoy a story. For that, I am thankful.

I give this book 3/5.

 

“Bread. Butter. Cheese. Victory!”

Caitlin and I took the one free weekend we both had and immediately filled it. And what was on the top of our Bestie Saturday list? The Grilled Cheese Invitational in Pasadena!

That’s right. Grilled Cheese galore. There were free samples from Cabot Creamery, Izze, Boulder Canyon Chips, and Fuze.

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Pepper Jack makes my life, kids. Especially all melted and delicious like in wheat bread. They also gave us an extra sharp Cheddar sample. That was very tasty, but the cheese was a little dry at that point. The Pepper Jack won this round.

After we were done with the free samples, we walked around and tried to decide which samples from which trucks we should try, all while listening to a guy play bass with a balloon and one string. It was kind of fascinating for the two music nerds. Whie everyone was in line talking about what sandwich they wanted, we were talking about the unique Midi-like tone of the balloon and string. We refocused and got two sample from the Rebel Bite: a shitake mushroom and blue cheese sandwich, and the meatier Karl Marx, which featured short ribs, bolognese sauce, caramelized onions, and cheddar. The Karl Marx was actually too sweet for me. I much preferred the tangier bite that came with the mushroom sammie. And I don’t even like mushrooms! It was so good. Karl Marx by the Rebel Bite pictured below.

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We sampled one more sandwich, at a stand whose name I don’t remember (blogger fail). It was a scrumptious mozzarella, tomato, and pesto grilled cheese sandwich. We sat in the shade and listened to original (read: questionable) poems about cheese and grilled cheese. There were several rounds of cooking competitions, but Caitlin and I weren’t judges, and we didn’t think it would be worth it to stand in the sun in a crowd where we would see less than we were seeing sitting down in the shade.

We ended our visit to the Invitational with ice cream from Cool Haus! Caitlin was a little intimidated by the flavors, but I think she liked it. Fresh peanut butter cookies make most things less intimidating. =)

All in all, it was a great day. We didn’t eat too much, and what we ate was great. I would have liked to try more, but I was comfortably full. I didn’t want to be so full that I felt sick. I was drawn to the trucks that offered a $2 quarter sandwich sample rather than only a $7 sandwich option. It made it easy to try more, and share with my best friend.

It’s definitely an event I would return to in the future. What’s your favorite grilled cheese sandwich? All “recipes” welcome. Thanks!