ASK Musings

No matter where you go, there you are.



December 2018



What I’m Reading – 16 December 2018

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Horrific Actions by US Customs and Border Patrol

“The Border Patrol’s inhumane treatment of migrants predates the family separation policy, as well. In January, it was reported that Border Patrol agents routinely destroy food and water that humanitarian groups leave for migrants. “The practice of destruction of and interference with aid is not the deviant behavior of a few rogue border patrol agents,” the report read, “it is a systemic feature of enforcement practices in the borderlands.” Caal isn’t the first child to die after being held in DHS custody.” A 7-Year-Old Died in Border Patrol Custody, and No One Is Taking Responsibility (by Ryan Bort for Rolling Stone)


“Sterling was allegedly racially abused during City’s 2-0 defeat at Chelsea. “It is evident that he is often singled out and treated more harshly than his colleagues,” said a union statement. “As such, these stories are fuelling racism within the game, as reports of racist abuse continue to rise.” Raheem Sterling negative press coverage ’emboldens racist rhetoric’ – PFA (BBC)

Supporting Mothers

“Players coming back from childbirth, or injury, will now be able to use their previous ranking to enter 12 tournaments over a three-year period. But Serena Williams’ wish for returning mothers to be seeded in line with that ranking has not been granted. The WTA has instead decided to guarantee they will not face a seeded player in a tournament’s opening round.” WTA gives increased protection for returning mothers on tour for 2019 (by Russell Fuller for BBC)

Military-Industrial Complex

“The US Senate has voted to withdraw US military aid for Saudi Arabia’s war on Yemen and to blame the kingdom’s crown prince for the murder of a journalist. The historic vote is the first time any chamber of US Congress has agreed to pull US forces from a military conflict under the 1973 War Powers Act. Some of President Donald Trump’s fellow Republicans defied him to pass the measure with Democrats by 56-41.” Senators vote to end US backing for Saudi war on Yemen (BBC)

Religious Bigotry

“According to McAvoy, she was dressed in black slacks, a black shirt and a black hijab when President Joyce Meadows removed her from classes and sent her home with a notice the 21-year-old would need to provide a note confirming her hijab was being worn for religious reasons. McAvoy has refused to turn over confirmation and questions why she would be ejected from her classes for practicing her faith.” Muslim College Student Says She Was Expelled For Wearing A Hijab To Class (by Alexa Lisitza for Blavity)



December 2018



What I’m Reading – December 9, 2018

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Reproductive Rights

“If successful, the women in the lawsuit will each be entitled to millions of dollars of reparations from the Saskatchewan and Canadian governments and their health systems. While these women may only represent a fraction of the people negatively affected by forced sterilization in Canada, their lawsuit is recognition of the ubiquity of the practice—and its consequences.” Sterilized Without Consent: Indigenous Women in Canada File Class Action Lawsuit   (by Anna Kusmer for Rewire)


“There are calls for several Icelandic MPs to resign after they were recorded using crude language to describe female colleagues and a disabled activist. Icelanders were especially shocked that the MPs’ targets included ex-MP Freyja Haraldsdottir, a disabled woman and well-known disability rights activist. Iceland has long been seen as a beacon for women’s rights and has a female prime minister, Katrin Jakobsdottir.” Iceland scandal over MPs’ crude and sexist bar talk (by Laurence Peter for BBC)

Customs, Immigration, and Border Control Bad Acts

“MPs said it showed the government had learned nothing from the scandal. The Windrush scandal was uncovered earlier this year, after many people from Commonwealth countries who had legally lived in Britain for decades were wrongly classed as illegal immigrants and deported.They had been encouraged by the UK government to settle in Britain from the late 1940s until 1973. However, although they had been granted indefinite leave to remain in the UK, some immigrants did not have formal paperwork confirming their residency status.” Windrush: Home Office criticised after deportees not contacted (BBC)

Women in Sport

Six Sheffield United women players will miss Wednesday’s cup tie at Manchester City because they cannot leave work in time for the 19:00 GMT kick-off. The Blades, who play in the Women’s Championship, are a part-time set-up – and some of their players cannot make it to Manchester in time. The Continental Cup kick-off time was agreed at the start of the season. United’s attempts to delay it were turned down by City because they had sold tickets and booked stadium staff. Blades players to miss Man City cup tie because kick-off clashes with work (by Alistair Magowan for BBC)

Sexual Assault

“By contrast, under these new proposed rules, Michigan State University would have had no responsibility to stop Larry Nassar from sexually abusing girls and young women, just because his victims told their coaches and athletic trainers instead of the Title IX coordinator. The proposed rules would allow the majority of school employees to ignore students who report sexual abuse because these employees lack “the authority to institute corrective measures.” So, if an 8-year-old child tells a playground supervisor that his teacher is inappropriately touching him, the playground supervisor wouldn’t be obligated to do anything. If a college student tells her professor that she has been sexually assaulted, the professor wouldn’t have to help her at all. Students may not know where they could turn for help.” The Proposed Title IX Rules Make No Practical, Moral, or Legal Sense (by Shiwali Patel for Rewire)

The Screwed-Up US Insurance System

“Over the summer months, the women raised $12,500 and sent it to the debt-forgiveness charity, which then purchased a portfolio of $1.5 million of medical debts on their behalf, for about half a penny on the dollar. Ms. Jones, 80, a retired chemist, and Ms. Kenyon, 70, a psychoanalyst, are members of the Finger Lakes chapter of the Campaign for New York Health, which supports universal health coverage through passage of the New York Health Act.” 2 New Yorkers Erased $1.5 Million in Medical Debt for Hundreds of Strangers (by Sharon Otterman for the New York Times)

“That’s a message public health leaders aim to spread far and wide. “BE PREPARED. GET NALOXONE. SAVE A LIFE,” summarized an advisory from the U.S. surgeon general in April. But life insurers consider the use of prescription drugs when reviewing policy applicants. And it can be difficult to tell the difference between someone who carries naloxone to save others and someone who carries naloxone because they are at risk for an overdose.” Why You May Be Denied Life Insurance For Carrying Naloxone (by Martha Bebinger for WBUR)



December 2018



Work Like a Woman by Mary Portas

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3 Stars

Best for: People looking for a bit of a memoir mixed in with some genuinely good ideas about improving our workplace.

In a nutshell: Author Mary Portas details her career struggles rising through the ranks of department store marketing and shares her thoughts for ways to improve the workplace so it works better for all of us — men and women.

Worth quoting: “But the irony is that the whole thing is deeply emotional: wanting to smash the competition and be top dog isn’t exactly unfeeling, is it?”

Why I chose it: I’ve been working from home since moving to the UK for my partner’s job, but just started a new office gig this week. I figured I could both use a refresher on how offices work and thought this one on how they could be improved would be a good place to start. I wasn’t totally wrong, but I wasn’t right, either.

Once again, I feel as though I’ve just read a book that could have been great with the right editor. Or a better outline. The book is part memoir, part instruction manual, part argument for policy changes. In the beginning, it seemed as though each chapter would start with a bit of Ms. Portas’s life, following it with what can be learned from this vignette. But life isn’t neat and tidy, so about halfway through she seems to drop this layout, and the book suffers for it, I think.

The main premise is that the the Lean In concept is kind of bullshit — that instead of changing ourselves to fit into office culture, office culture needs to change to meet the skills and needs of women. Ms. Portas is clear in saying that she doesn’t believe all women act in certain ways though; instead, she points out that both men and women can benefit if our offices are less focused on things like competition and the bottom line and more on collaboration and balance.

There is a lot of good in this book – the chapter where she shares her company’s culture statement could be useful, and in the end she offers tips for women in each decade of life (which isn’t necessarily super helpful in some cases, because it assumes a bit of a linear career progression). But I found it a bit frustrating that so very much of the book focused on accommodating childcare. I’d say maybe 1/4 to 1/3 of the book was really focused on this, as though this is the only issue that women face challenges with. And it obviously is a huge issue, but there wasn’t any recognition that one might need work balance for reasons other than caring for children or elderly parents. It seems to be a common world view, and I find it frustrating, as though other life pursuits or challenges don’t matter as much.

I was hoping this would be one of those books that I’d be recommending everyone read, but alas, it is not. Wasn’t a waste of time, but it’s definitely getting donated to the little library at my tube station next time I head out.




December 2018



What I’m Reading – December 2, 2018

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Abuses by Border and Immigration Officials

“At Monday’s press conference, advocates revealed previously unknown details surrounding Hernández’s death. “According to an independent autopsy report, Ms. Hernandez endured physical assault and abuse while in custody,” according to the wrongful death tort claim. “Specifically, forensic evidence indicates she was handcuffed so tightly as to cause deep tissue bruising and struck repeatedly on the back and rib cage by an asp or similar instrument while her hands were restrained behind her back.” Lynly Egyes, TLC’s director of litigation, said in a statement that the autopsy report by an independent board-certified forensic pathologist suggests Hernández was “shackled for a long time and very tightly, enough to cause deep bruising on her wrists.”” Legal Advocates Seeking #JusticeForRoxsana Announce Lawsuit (by Tina Vasquez for Rewire)

“The group, among thousands of migrants heading towards the US, was rounded up after trying to cross the border “violently” and “illegally” on Sunday, said the interior ministry. Video footage shows dozens of people running towards the border fence near the city of Tijuana. US border officers used tear gas to repel them and said some threw rocks.” Migrant caravan: Mexico deports group that stormed US border (BBC)

“The migrants’ presence has drawn demonstrators — for and against them — and threats from President Donald Trump to close the US-Mexico border. Meanwhile, Tijuana’s mayor has called on the Mexican government and the international community for help. The melee closed one of the world’s busiest international crossings, San Ysidro Port of Entry, to vehicle and pedestrian traffic for several hours. By Sunday afternoon, CBP reopened crossing lanes in both directions to pedestrians and vehicles.” US authorities fire tear gas to disperse migrants at border (by Emanuella Grinberg and Mariano Castillo for CNN)

“Oh, is it bad to compare the GOP to Nazis? Well, if members of the GOP do not like being compared to Nazis, they should consider not behaving exactly like Nazis. Hispanic U.S. citizens, some of whom were in the U.S. military, are not being allowed to renew their passports. This is reportedly happening to “hundreds, even thousands” of Latinos, according to a report in the Washington Post. They’re getting letters from the State Department saying it does not believe they are citizens. The government claims their citizenships are fraudulent. “I’ve had probably 20 people who have been sent to the detention center—U.S. citizens,” Jaime Diez, an attorney in Brownsville, told The Washington Post.” Why Stripping U.S. Citizens of Their Passports Is a Precursor to Genocide (by Jennifer Wright for Bazaar)

“Scores of people in Britain’s only women’s removal centre have launched a hunger strike to protest against their indefinite detention, describing living in the centre as a form of “hell”. Forty-three women are said to be taking part in the protest in Yarl’s Wood, which began on Sunday. They are boycotting the dining room and refusing to eat ahead of an impending charter flight to Nigeria and Ghana, which is set to remove at least 10 residents from the UK.” ‘It’s like hell’: Yarl’s Wood women launch hunger strike against their indefinite detention and imminent charter flight (by May Bulman for the Independent)

Sexism in Sport

“A gala to celebrate FC Basel’s 125th anniversary has caused controversy after the women’s team was not invited – but asked to work at the event instead. The Swiss football club’s female side were selling tombola tickets to more than a thousand guests while the men’s team had a three-course meal. After finishing their work, the women were given sandwiches to eat in a different room, CNN reported.” Women’s FC Basel team not invited to club anniversary gala (by Sarah Jenkins for BBC)

Sexual Assault

“A female fan claims she was sexually assaulted at a German Bundesliga game and told by a steward to “go home and watch on TV” if she did not like it. The woman says she was repeatedly groped by a man who also tried to open her bra during Schalke’s match against Nuremberg at Veltins Arena on Saturday.” Schalke and police investigating alleged sex attack at Bundesliga game (by Jonathan Jurejko for BBC)

Gun Violence

“The middle schooler addressed listeners across the state and said, “All you hear about is somebody dying and somebody getting shot. People do not just think about whose father or son or granddaughter or grandson was just killed.” Parks’ mother and sister were present when she was hit with the bullet that took her life. “She just walked into the room and said, ‘Mama, I’m shot,’” her sister Tatiana Ingram said. “She was only hit one time, in her chest. The bullet wasn’t even for her.”” 13-Year-Old Who Wrote Award-Winning Anti-Gun Violence Essay Killed In Her Home By Stray Bullet (by Sean Collins for Blavity)


“Why did I choose to participate in this docuseries? One main reason: because I could. Throughout history, women have been traduced and silenced. Now, it’s our time to tell our own stories in our own words. Muriel Rukeyser famously wrote: “What would happen if one woman told the truth about her life? The world would split open.” Blair Foster, the Emmy-winning director of the series, is testing that idea in myriad ways. She pointed out to me during one of the tapings that almost all the books written about the Clinton impeachment were written by men. History literally being written by men. In contrast, the docuseries not only includes more women’s voices, but embodies a woman’s gaze: two of the three main editors and four of the five executive producers are women.” “Who Gets to Live in Victimville? Why I Participated in the New Docuseries The Clinton Affair” (by Monica Lewinsky for Vanity Fair)

Reproductive Health

“HB 565, which was introduced in March, would allow criminal charges against both doctors and pregnant women seeking abortions. It would characterize an “unborn human” as a person under Ohio’s criminal code, meaning abortions could be punishable by life in prison or even the death penalty. There are no exceptions even in cases of rape, incest, or danger to a woman’s life. Jaime Miracle with NARAL Pro Choice Ohio says the bill would punish both women and doctors. NARAL and Planned Parenthood are spending money on advertisements opposing the bill.” Ohio Legislature Considers Total Abortion Ban (by Jo Ingles for WOSU)

Financial Crimes

“Earlier this month, CNBC tracked down one of the first people to qualify for student debt cancellation under the public service loan forgiveness program, which allows certain not-for-profit and government employees to have their federal student loans scrubbed after 10 years of on-time payments. “I feel pretty lucky,” Kevin Maier, a tenured professor at the University of Alaska Southeast, had said. He really should. The Education Department just released data on how many loans it has forgiven under the program. The results are grim. Just 96 people across the country have been released from their debt, thanks to public service loan forgiveness. Last year was the first year of eligiblity, since the program was signed into law in 2007 and it requires at least 10 years of payments to qualify. Nearly 30,000 borrowers have applied for the forgiveness, according to the Education Department’s data. That means less than 1 percent of people who’ve applied for public service loan forgiveness actually got it.” Just 96 of 30,000 people who applied for public service loan forgiveness actually got it (by Annie Nova for CNBC)



December 2018



Forced Career Examination

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“So, London it is?”

“London it is.”

Austin and I were sitting in the guest room of our Seattle home at 5:30 AM, debating between job offers he’d received from companies in Copenhagen and London. We had to let London know by end of business that day; with the time difference, that meant by 8 AM we had to have a decision, and we’d only just received the offer from Copenhagen 30 minutes prior.

We were tired, but we were talking about moving to a new city together! It was a fun conversation.

Much more fun than the one that led to it, which started with a phone call from my husband on a Tuesday six months earlier.

“So, I got laid off. They’re calling us into a conference room so I’ll know more in a bit.”

We knew it was a possibility, but hearing the words was jarring. I had a good job, and we’d been careful when we bought our house 18 months prior to make sure we could afford it on one person’s salary, at least for a bit. So we weren’t in financial trouble, but still. Getting laid off isn’t usually on one’s bucket list.

For a couple of weeks, Austin spent some time just thinking about what he wanted to do. He probably wanted to stay in his field of video game programming, but was open to other opportunities. He began applying to companies in our area, but soon asked if I had any issues with him looking at jobs in other countries.

When we first started dating, Austin told me about his desire to live abroad at some point. I get the appeal; it’s fun to live somewhere new (especially when that somewhere has functional public transportation). I also wasn’t happy in my job. I adored my boss and my colleagues, and I was good at what I was doing. But I hated the added stress that came from being in the field of emergency management.

Some people thrive on that call in the middle of the night; I was finding my heart rate rising every time I heard multiple emergency vehicles speed by (which was often, since we lived off of a busy arterial). And that wasn’t irrational stress — for the past seven years one of my areas of responsibility was mass fatality response. When there is a mass shooting daily, it’s just a matter of time before it happens in one’s own town.

And yet even with that stress, I had spent a dozen years of my life becoming good at my job. Really, really good at it. I made a tiny bit of a name for myself in a very specialized component of the work, and leaving that felt weird. I would possibly be giving up my career with no fall-back, no plan, no safety net. For a few months at least, I would be a grown woman with no children and no job, being supported by her husband. I didn’t get married until I was almost in my mid-30s; I’ve been independent most of my adult life. So now, being reliant on a partner for money? I didn’t like the feeling.

Accepting that we’d be moving and I’d be leaving my job also became a stark reminder of how much of one’s identity is tied up in work. I haven’t ever defined myself by my work (I’d say I worked in emergency management, not that I was an emergency manager), but I still could say I was doing something. Once we moved, my answer would be ‘helping us get set up in a new country,’ which was true, but that only works for so long.

After three months in London, my old boss said she had some work for me. We’d talked about that possibility when I moved; she made it a reality. Thanks to her and my new boss, I was able to work 20-30 hours each week, remotely, doing the planning work I enjoyed, but without the stress of response. It was nice, but I still looked for work. I quickly learned that continuing in my field would be nearly impossible, because I didn’t have experience working in the parameters set by UK parliament. Which was frustrating at times, but also forced me to look at options. I was right – I had no fall-back. I would have to switch fields.

I started applying for jobs in March; I received an offer in early November. All told, I applied for 27 jobs. In 19 cases, I received an email telling me I hadn’t moved on to the interview stage. I heard nothing from seven organizations. Two requested more information, one requested an in-person interview. Lucky for me, I got that job. Which I start on Monday.

I’ve been wanting to leave emergency management for awhile, and now it seems like a real possibility. My new job is fairly entry-level, in higher education. I’ve wanted to work in higher ed for a long time; when I was in graduate school the first time I contemplated focusing heavily on higher education administration but the courses weren’t available when I needed them. But now is my second chance, and it probably wouldn’t have happened, or at least not this way, if Austin hadn’t been laid off last year.

It’s funny how things work out.



November 2018



Nightblind by Ragnar Jónasson

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Three Stars

Best for: Completionists. Although if you’re not familiar with any of the characters in the series but like mysteries, you’ll probably enjoy this.

In a nutshell: A police officer (not our protagonist) is shot at an abandoned house. Had he stumbled upon a drug deal? Was the mayor involved? Or was something else going on?

Why I chose it: When I read the first in the series, I immediately bought the rest. And now I’m done. Woo!

After the new police inspector is found shot by the main character police officer Ari Thor, an investigation ensues, taking Ari Thor and his old boss, Tomas (assigned to assist the investigation) back to old possible crimes and new political ones. Throughout are excerpts from a diary of someone who had been committed to a psychiatric facility after a suicide attempt. But we don’t know who is writing the diary, or when.

This book focuses a bit more on Ari Thor than I’d like. I’m just not a fan of the character, or his girlfriend, really. In fact, I’m not sure I really like any of the characters, but I still enjoyed the story as it unfolded. I’m not sure what that means about the author — that he’s good at writing less than admirable characters and great at pushing plot forward? Or that he has a talent for plot but doesn’t realize his characters are pretty unlikeable? Unclear. But I enjoyed the book nonetheless.

I see that the author has moved on to a different series, focused on a different police officer, which I’ll probably check out at some point.



November 2018



30 Days of Thankful

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I’m thankful every day for so many things, but this month I decided to make a point of publicly recognizing something I’m thankful for every day. Below are all of those posts, in one place, including the final one: Today, I’m thankful that I found an outlet for my creativity in writing. I’ve written a book (still in search of an agent), maintain a couple of websites (How Not to Be a Jerk When, Seattle to London), and participate in the Cannonball Read, which forces me to write reviews for all the books I’ve read. Writing brings me joy, frustrates me, and just generally improves my life.

November 1: Today, I’m thankful for the partner I have in Austin. He’s thoughtful, he’s kind, he wants to make the world — and himself — better. Plus, he makes me laugh every day.

November 2: Today, I’m thankful for The Good Place. Yes, the TV show. It is thoughtful, sweet, and always puts a giant smile on my face.

November 3: Today, I’m thankful that we were able to get an apartment in London with an office / guest room. We’ve hosted friends and family in it, and it serves as an excellent place for one of us to sleep when the other gets sick (feel better Austin).

November 4: Today, I’m thankful for supportive teammates and a manager willing to take extra time to help me be a better goal keeper.

November 5: Today, I’m thankful for cafes that serve delicious hot drinks and provide space for studying, writing, reading, and quiet conversation.

November 6: Today, I’m thankful that Washington state has vote by mail, and that it has a super easy way for us folks living overseas to still exercise our right to vote.

November 7: Today, I’m thankful that we took back the House.

November 8: Today, I’m thankful that, after three months, the repairs to our house in Seattle are complete, and our tenants totally just rolled with it.

November 9: Today, I’m thankful for first responders. Right now, I’m thinking about the folks who were at the shooting in Thousand Oaks and then spent the next night fighting a fire and evacuating people.

November 10: Today, I’m thankful for Cannonball Read. Being part of this community for the last six years (!) has opened me up to new genres and pushed me to read at least a book a week.

November 11: Today, I’m thankful for Jameson and Tigger. They are sweet, loving, annoying little shits and they make life better.

November 12: Today, I’m thankful for modern dentistry. Just had my fourth root canal (my teeth hate me) and while it was mildly uncomfortable near the end, it was no worse than a run-of-the-mill filling.

November 13: Today, I’m thankful for family recipes that remind me of home. Made banana bread today and it was delicious.

November 14: Today, I’m thankful for crisp and sunny fall days. This is my favorite time of year.

November 15: Today, I’m thankful for friends willing to watch our kittens when we’re away for longer stretches of time. It feels good knowing the buddies are with extended family.

November 16: Today, I’m thankful for the kind man at Primark who was able to figure out that when I said tank top I meant what is known as a vest in British English. (Also thankful for all the other British folks who are able to understand and translate my US English.)

November 17: Today, I’m thankful for long walks through fascinating cities with Austin.

November 18: Today, I’m thankful that I’ve never had to worry about having a roof over my head. As it gets colder here, I’m thinking about all the people who aren’t as lucky as I’ve been. (To support an org helping those without homes in Seattle: Aurora Commons.)

November 19: Today, I’m thankful I live in a place with free museums. The ability to pop into a building and spend an hour looking at fantastic art for just a small donation is kind of unbelievable.

November 20: Today, I’m thankful for umbrellas. I know I part ways with my Seattle friends here in my insistence on using them, but screw it. I like being dry.

November 21: Today, I’m thankful for family vacations. When I was a kid, we’d travel to L.A. to visit family over Thanksgiving, with a stop at Disneyland on the day before. I have so many great memories from those trips.

November 22: Today, I’m thankful for everyone who has ever welcomed me into their home for Thanksgiving.

November 23: Today, I’m thankful for my parents. I had a great childhood, and I’ve never doubted their love for me, which I know isn’t a guarantee in life.

November 24: Today, I’m thankful for the means and opportunity to travel. A weekend in Berlin? Yes please.

November 25: Today, I’m thankful for Stephanie, a.k.a. the best sister ever. Missing you as we explore Berlin – that was such a fun trip (and shockingly long ago)!

November 26: Today, I’m thankful for the composers and lyricists who can bring out amazing emotions in a three minute song (or two hour musical).

November 27: Today I’m thankful for a new opportunity. Starting on Monday I’ll be working in higher education and I could not be more excited! Emergency management has been so good to me, but it’s time for a change.

November 28: Today, I’m thankful for my friends. Pretty generic statement, I know, but I’m lucky to have friends all over, and you’re all fantastic.

November 29: Today, I’m thankful for all the health care workers and caretakers out there. Whether they care for people or animals, I appreciate how much they add to our lives (literally and figuratively).

November 30: Today, I’m thankful that I found an outlet for my creativity in writing. Writing brings me joy, frustrates me, and just generally improves my life.



November 2018



48 Hours in Berlin

Written by , Posted in Adventures

One reason Austin and I were so excited to move to a new country was the opportunity to travel. So far we’ve been to France, Portugal, and Iceland this year (and he’s been to Malta with work). So when our friends said they were going to be in Berlin and did we want to meet up, we found some absurdly cheap flights and a great hotel deal and booked a weekend away.

I first visited Berlin the summer after high school, when my choir went on tour. I didn’t remember much when I returned 12 years later with my sister. She and I had a wonderful time exploring the city and even hopping over to Potsdam for a day trip. Since then it’s been a city I remember fondly. Now, eight years later, it’s just as lovely as I recalled.

It was also so cold. So very, very cold. Not sure if autumn is a thing in Berlin but, if so, it ended well before we arrived. A quick bus to our hotel (which was literally next door to the Tacheles, which sadly is being torn down) and we were off. We hoped some Christmas markets would be open, but they were still in set-up mode. We ended up getting dinner at a tourist-y beer hall that still had delicious food. (The service was borderline hilarious though – took like 20 minutes to order, and another 15 to find someone who would let us pay our bill when we were finished). I even drank beer, as I tend to do when I’m in Germany.

To get a respite from the cold, we wandered into the Ritter Sport factory store and holy crap. I love chocolate, but have never really picked up any of their bars. We decided to get a few samplers and became pretty obsessed with the one with Speculoos cookie bits in it. So good. And of course we found a book store with a HUGE English language section and bought books, because even on vacation we’re the same people as we are at home.

Near our hotel was a delightful cocktail bar, with high ceilings, low lighting, and (probably intentionally) distressed decor. I had an elderflower gin and tonic, which is quickly becoming my favorite cocktail. We returned with our friends the next night.

The next day was apparently Totensonntag, which is a day of mourning before all the Christmas festivities commence. Probably explains the cheap hotel room — very little was open. Austin and I decided to spend about three hours wandering Tiergarten, in the bitter cold. Our friends arrived but needed a nap, so we relaxed and warmed up at our hotel until we met up for another delicious German dinner. As a vegetarian I wasn’t sure I’d be able to find things to eat, but each of my meals was delicious.

Monday was our last day, and we finally got to see Christmas markets! We ate so much – pretzels with cheese, these bread toast thingies with toppings, gluehwein, egg nog, cocoa, waffles with nutella. I know a lot of places in the US have Christmas markets, but those to me end up feeling like Farmers Markets hopped up on sugar. German Christmas markets are just something else entirely, and need to be seen in person.

It was such a short trip that we didn’t end up doing much else, so I know we’ll want to return. And probably when it’s a bit warmer.



November 2018



Self-Care for the Real World by Nadia Narain and Katia Narain Phillips

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Three Stars

Best for: Someone looking for a few more tips and suggestions on how to really take care of yourself.

In a nutshell: Sisters Nadia and Katia have ideas that they’d like to share with you, ostensibly organized into six categories (but not really).

Worth quoting:
“It’s not so much about what you’re eating as how you’re eating it. Are you eating from a place of love and nourishment? Or out of punishment, or ideas of good and bad?”

Why I chose it:
It looked pretty. But I should have known it might not be the best choice given the three blurbs were from Reese Witherspoon, Kate Moss, and Sienna Miller.

This book is definitely fine. It’s not offensive, it’s not pushing absurdity or dangerousness like GOOP. But it’s not really … held together with anything.

Theoretically it is divided into five sections: Love, Hope, Peace, Joy, and Light. But honestly, any of the suggestions could have been in any section. Some sections have recipes – why weren’t those all in the same place? I guess I just am not sure how the editing process worked, and maybe this is the best it could have been, but I see more potential here.

There are some ideas in here that I think are useful, and some tips and tricks. But I’m not really sure it needs to be an entire book. Maybe a website would have been better? With different categories? Unclear, but unless you’re a big Reese Witherspoon fan and you follow her recommendations to the letter, you can probably skip this one.



November 2018



Whiteout by Ragnar Jónasson

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Four Stars

Best for: People who enjoyed his first three books.

In a nutshell: A young woman has fallen off (or jumped? Or been pushed from?) cliffs in the north of Iceland. The twist? Her sister and mother died at those same cliffs 25 years ago. So … what happened?

Why I chose it: I clearly have found a genre I love — Icelandic mysteries. And since something like 10% of the population of Iceland will write a book at some point, my guess is once I finish with his last book (sadness), I can move on to another similar author.

Asta has decided to return to the home she lived in when she was younger, when her father managed the lighthouse. When she was seven, her mother fell from the cliffs. Or perhaps was pushed? Then soon after, Asta’s sister falls from the same cliffs at only five years old. Asta’s father ends up in psychiatric care, and she is raised by an aunt.

At the home near the lighthouse, two older folks live, having kept the house for over 40 years, since their own mother was housekeeper there. The owner is a prominent businessman who inherited it from his father. A neighbor helps out as well, and all are together when it is revealed that Asta has died.

Was it an accident? Did she jump, following in her mother’s and sister’s footsteps? Was she pushed for what she may have known? Police officer Ari Thor and his wife travel to the town just before Christmas at the request of Ari’s former boss down in Reykjavik, as he needs help, and Ari doesn’t want to leave his pregnant girlfriend behind right at the holidays.

Really the only thing I didn’t enjoy in this book was the absence of Isrun, the journalist who has featured fairly prominently in the previous two books. But even with her missing, the book was a quick and enjoyable read.