Category Archives: 52 Books

Freaking out less


Jeez. If you thought I was waddling before (which you probably weren’t because you’re not here), you should see me now. I’m like a caricature of a pregnant lady. I groan and struggle to get out of bed (mind you, the bed is on the floor and about 6 inches tall) 4 or 5 times a night to pee. I can’t remember anything, it’s like the baby ate my brain. I did laundry today and forgot the last load in the dryer. I didn’t realize until hours later when I gave up finding the matches to 2 pairs of socks and went back to the laundry room to see if I left them there. I did not remember this load until I opened up the dryer to see if I’d left the socks there and found the whole bundle. It’s a good thing I found it, because if another person had taken these clothes, they would have got my only remaining pair of comfortable pants. I don’t really think it’s nice of me to assume another fellow Berkeley Student Family Housing Resident would steal my clothes, but in the first week here I washed a lovely flowered dishtowel that Mom got me at Powell’s Books for Cooks and left it folded in the laundry room, only to find it taken (or what, thrown away?) that evening.

So that’s a rambling paragraph to say my pelvis is uncomfortable. Jesse and I went to a childbirth class yesterday. He’s been studying so diligently that I think the 8 hours we spent together learning how to relax and how freaky birth is was like a little vacation for him. He kept saying what a good time he was having. The class definitely made me feel better about giving birth, but made me start to worry about the weeks after and being lonely. I think I’m going to need to be driving up to Redding every few weeks for some company. Jesse has some good friends here and we’ve seen them a few times, but they’re living a different lifestyle than we are. We’ve also met a bunch of other very nice fellow student families, but meeting somebody once or twice does not make them a friend to go to for comfort and reassurance. I’m glad the holidays are in the next few months so we have family vacations to look forward to. Also, Oakland airport is very close and a cheap place to fly into on Southwest. Come on over! San Francisco awaits your visit a short BART ride under the bay. Also, Berkeley has fan-damn-tastic food.

Thanks so much to Melissa and Megan for your reassurances after my last post. You’d think once a girl was 31, she’d have too many baby hand-me-downs than she knows what to do with, but you 2 are the only ones of my friends and family to have jumped on the baby train. Yours and all the other gifts we’ve received are not only kind, but extremely helpful. Thank you cards are coming! I just have to buy some stamps.

Also, my completed *52 books list* is up! I have got time, time, time on my hands tonight as Jesse is working at reading his 900+ pages of stuff and preparing a presentation for one class and a paper for another. (Hey, did you know in Grad school “classes” are called “seminars”? Whatever.)

So the booklist, in somewhat chronological order is available for your perusal. Questions and commentary welcome unless your question is, “Aren’t you embarrassed for reading all three books by Meg Cabot about a girl who is not skinny and also reading them almost straight in a row?” To which I would answer, “You try moving to China and only getting your hands on quality literature that is also interesting and being a bit lonely and also not skinny.” But still, don’t ask such questions, because I can only talk back so rudely to myself, not to you my kind friends and family.

And that is all for tonight.


Times Up


Ok, I did it, I’m done.  I left for China a year ago tomorrow (Tuesday, September 11th) and read my first book on the plane.  It was a Nora somebody book that was on a shelf in the back of the plane and the flight attendants said I could have it.  It was something like 2 or 3 of her shorter books in one and was quite fluffy.  I ended today by spending an hour and a half in Barnes and Noble reading the Tao Te Ching.  It’s 82 poems.  Ha!

It wasn’t so hard reading 52 books in 52 weeks.  I kept up without really trying most of the year.  The problem came with all the traveling this past month.  I was right on track when I left China, but then read one book in 4 weeks, which left me with 6 books to read in 2 weeks and we still had a week of company and traveling.  So what it came down to was me reading 4 books in the last 4 days.

But it’s done now and I’ll write up a complete book list for y’all in rough chronological order.  Later.  Right now I’m busy making black bean soup and resting my wimpy pregnant body.  I could never have imagined that sitting could be this uncomfortable.

Also, baby alien has the hiccups.

Goodness, gracious


Oh jeez.  I know it’s been about a month too long since I last wrote.  I’m good!  Jesse’s good, baby alien is good (actually sticking a knee in my ribs right now) and we’re attempting to settle into our awesome (and expensive) new apartment.  There are kids running around everywhere and our apartment backs up on a park-like patch of grass.  The weather in Berkeley is just as perfect as we’d imagined and all is quite well.  There are quite some characters hanging around town and it all seems a bit big city-ish to me just now.

I’m afraid I can’t write a whole bunch for another week.  I have to read 4 more books by next Tuesday to finish up my 52 books in a year thingy.  I was all caught up when I left China, but all this traveling messed me up and I have had to really buckle down the last few days.

Everything is going great, though, and I love and miss you all!



Hi! I know I haven’t written in a while, but I’m fine. I’m good! I’ve actually been really busy doing a lot of…well…not much! And it’s nice to do not much. We had a lazy weekend. We went to the Urban Planning Museum, which Momm and Dad saw when they were here and Dad felt it was rather more like an “Urban Propaganda Museum”. We agree, with the added comment that it gave us much cause for yawning. Not that it was all that boring (it was definitely not that exciting, mind you), but it had that “museum air” that I remember from working at OMSI. Something to do with recycled air, maybe less oxygen, the same thing happens in a big mall, I think. I definitely do not find shopping boring, but it is yawny.

I have spent a good amount of time on the phone the past few weeks, catching up with some friends, finally. I’m terrible at keeping in contact with people and I’m lucky that my friends aren’t so great at it either, because they don’t fault me for it. I can get on the phone with Emily or Mary or Heidi after not speaking to them for a year plus and it’s no problem. We all hope one day to live close enough that we don’t have to rely on email/phone type communication and can just get together now and again. If anybody wondered, they are all well.

I also have very exciting news in the form of BIG PLANS being made and plane tickets bought for assorted visitors planning to come to Shanghai. So far, the plan is Heidi in April, Erin and Adam in May, and Nick and Abby in June. There may also be a cousin or two in there somewhere. I feel so lucky!

OK, I’ve got to go out a get a little something to make for dinner. I am still reading and plan on updating my 52 books list soon. I’m a bit afraid to find out how behind I am.

Not Toasty


Shanghai is famous (at least among the expat population) for being freakin hot and miserable over the summer and bone-chillingly cold and miserable over the winter. This means I have nearly endless (and boring) writing material about the weather. All that to say, folks! It’s cold outside! It’s been down to about 4 degrees C at night and up to, maybe, 9 C during the day. Yes, I know that doesn’t make sense to any of you back home, but it doesn’t to me, either. Jesse always computes it in his head for me. He’s not here, so you all get is the TV’s version of the weather. The real problem with this cold (which is not so cold, I know) is the same issue we had up north in Japan in winter. Houses aren’t insulated or provided with sufficient air-warming devices. Our “heater” is actually our air-conditioner, and unfortunately for it, when the weather reaches it’s typical extremes both in summer and winter, this device fails to either cool or warm up the apartment. It’s just too “breezy” in here. I can feel the air wafting in even 8 inches away from each window. Where all the pipes – be they water, fan, or AC related – exit the apartment, there are large holes in the house around them, like the workers misjudged the width of the pipe by 3 times. On the gustier days, there is literally a breeze through the apartment. So, anyway, it’s cold!

On a positive note regarding the coldness, Jesse and I have been spending more time in at night, with me cooking, rather than eating street food, so our bowels have been a little less disturbed (only a little less, though. I believe I will not be regular until we’ve been back home for a few months). Especially fortunate is the wintery, bone-padding food I’ve been making, which is adding to our bulk to keep us a bit warmer at night. Seriously, I made Alfredo sauce last night! I’m hoping all summer it will be too hot to cook or eat, so we can lose this weight. I really need to stop making dessert. In the month since we bought the (glorified toaster) oven, I’ve been industrially proving to Jesse just what I CAN do with a little butter, flour and more butter. My latest best-dinner-ever was Chicken Chili Verde and beer bread. All made with random interesting substitutes that are possible to find in China – no poblano peppers or tomatillos here. The beer bread was awesome and easy. Very yeasty and dense and I used dark brown sugar, so it was extra tasty.

I could talk about all the decadent dishes I’ve made over the past few weeks, but that’s probably only exciting for me. I have updates to make on my 52 books list but haven’t gotten around to it. I am currently reading Prep by Curtis Sittenfeld and can’t put it down, so I think I’ll go back to the book!



I’m at the tail end of a pretty darn nasty headache this morning and that’s a relief. Yesterday was Jesse’s day off, which means it’s not a day we want to just sit around, but the longer the day went, the worse I felt. Sometimes all I want to do is lay down, but I just hate giving up and giving in. I never took anything for this headache, some stubborn part of me wants to stop relying on ibuprofin and soldier on through.

I have a little exam today, “for fun”, in my Chinese class and the competitive part of me is angry that I haven’t studied enough, don’t know the vocabulary, and won’t be the best in the class. Humph. I was having fun learning Chinese until this whole test thing. I tried studying yesterday and it was just frustrating and made my head worse. Grump.

I finished a new book this morning, Breathing Lessons by Anne Tyler. It was good, absorbing, but a bit unfulfilling in the end. Now, don’t get me wrong, it was good, but it won a Pulitzer and I have to say, I’m not sure why. It didn’t seem to break new ground or smash stereotypes or even make me think a whole lot. It was a lovely story, though.

I started a new book today, the cheapest one at the store, and it’s, ta da, The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants! I’m looking forward to reading a bit of nonsense, actually. I’m trying to get over my shame at reading girly books and this includes admitting when I do. So there! I’m going to update my books read list and also would like to give a shout out to Mary, Heidi and Erin, who have all said they’ll see of they read 52 books a year. I’m sure we all do.

Did you all check out those pictures linked to on flickr on that sidebar over there? I added some of Jesse and I about town, and some food pictures, including our less than spectacular “thanksgiving turkey”. There are also a few shots of that old Chinese canal town I visited.

OK, that’s all, bye~

2 Dumb 2 Use Internet


I’ve been having the darndest time with my computer lately. I think it’s so terribly infected, it makes me sad. I’m actually having a hard time completing work (the kind I’m paid for), too, which is what really makes me angry. I feel like they’ve gone out on a bit of a limb, having me work from China. Now something, either in my computer or because of the Great Firewall of China, blocks me from transferring from one document to another, a crucial part of the beginning of my work day. It means I get a slow start, trying over and over, until it suddenly does go through. By this time I’m nearly hurling my laptop across the room.

I finished Gone With the Wind and am a little flabbergasted at the ending, but it was a fantastically absorbing 1000 pages. I’m ready to read something else, though.

Jesse and I have plans for thanksgiving tomorrow. They revolve around eating a lot of starch-based foods and maybe also chicken. There will be a lot of sitting around and, hopefully, figuring out how to post a few pictures up here with my woefully bare-bones version of WordPress. Usually, there’s a simple button you push – “link picture” – put in it’s address and it pops right up. The firewall blocks WordPress now and my access to it is through a secret hole, using an address out side China or some such nonsense. Anyway, when taking this curving road through cyberspace to get here, wordpress loses all it’s handy, fancy buttons and I’m left in figure-out-html-for-yourself-land. So I’ll work on it and bring you some visual updates of China. UP NEXT!! My hair looks longer! Look how messy our apartment is! Small tourist towns in China (that cost $10 to enter) are very pretty!