Ender’s Game Series

Cover of

5/5 stars

Let me start off by saying, these books are Science Fiction. BUT. Before you run away (all you girly girls out there…) if you have any love for the human race, for people different from you, for military tactics, history, or even child development, these are definitely books for you. Ender throws all preconceived ideas of science fiction out the door – it isn’t overwhelming and strange – it’s us, 100, 300, 1,000 years from now, struggling to face those who are different. It’s pretty self-explanatory so you don’t have to go into it as a science geek – in fact, the more open you are the better – but isn’t that just how books are?

In my opinion, and that’s just what this is, Ender is one of the most likable characters I’ve ever come across in any book. Born a third child in North Carolina in a generation that prohibits more than 2 children, Ender was sanctioned by the government to be a military commander before he was even conceived. True, they didn’t know that he would be great – in fact, no one is sure of that, but he’s still their best choice of defeating a race much stronger than ours. And it’s all chance (and maybe some skill) that he’ll live up to the government’s hopes.

Throughout the entire series, Orson Scott Card does a remarkable job of telling Ender’s story from many different angles – the government, Ender’s own, and that from his family back in America. And Ender’s just the Third – his two older siblings are in no way less brilliant than he is – more in some cases.

Overall, I’ve found that the Ender Series has been read in universities as required reading, in High Schools, and for pleasure as well. It was originally conceived as a story by Card in the 70s, and has stood the test of time. Guys in particular love these books because they are intensely wrapped around military tactics, command strategies, and a rather hard look on life from the perspective of a young boy. However, that doesn’t mean girls don’t like it too – those who can handle the depth and intensity of the series are hardcore fans. So don’t let your notions of science fiction, or military history stop you from checking out these books – it’ll be well worth your time!

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Crazy Love

Crazy Love. Recently, this book “Crazy Love” came across my desk. At theGreater Frederick Church of Christ, we are currently involved in a “Crazy Love” campaign for the next month. Crazy Love isn’t preachy, but just presents life in a way that is hard to argue with. Sometimes when we put stuff in perspective it makes so much more sense than leaving it out of context and alone. Oh yeah, it’s also a New York Times Bestseller…for those of you who only read “those kinds of books” 😉

So often we get bogged down in the every day worries of life – how we can get to work on time, how to avoid getting speeding tickets, how to get our kids to shut up and listen, how to get dinner on the table, relax, and somehow still get to bed on time to repeat it all the next day – we forget to look at the big picture. It seems intimidating. For those of us who grew up Christian, we can put it in a box, to open on Easter, or Christmas, and every other time we forget it as though it shouldn’t affect our every day lives. What we don’t understand is that sometimes, by simply letting go and realizing we aren’t always in control, and that life is so much shorter than we think it is, we actually end up on top if we trust in someone bigger and stronger than anyone we know.

As a history major, I’ve always appreciated the bible as an ironically accurate picture of the life of people living in the Fertile Crescent, Israel, Babylon, and even the Roman empire. People remain the same throughout all of time, and so does God. He’s the only constant thing. We might lose our jobs tomorrow, or our life the next day, but only one person actually knows when that will be, and how we will get through it. I’d challenge you if you agree or disagree with God, the bible, or even religion as a whole, to pick it up and see for yourself. We can’t logically disagree with something if we don’t know enough to back up that argument.

If you’re too scared or lazy to check out the book (as I’m sure some of you are 😉 ) then check out the website: http://crazylovebook.com/

Books Galore!

Books, books, books galore! Now I know what you’re thinking – Who reads anymore?? Well…I do. A lot. In college I took a 3 year break because frankly, reading historical novels and biographies was just SO much more exciting – or just rather time consuming… so alas, here I am. Reading once more.

When I was an excited youngster, I used to read an average of 1 1/2 books a day. And no, this wasn’t because I had no friends..I swear! With all the health issues I had growing up, it was either that or watch mindless tv. So you can guess what my parents chose! It paid off though, gave me great insight into human nature, intellect, and various points of view.

Because it might be the history buff in me, but reading isn’t obsolete yet! You can watch all the TV shows or movies you want, but when it comes down to it, they are much less rewarding than opening a good book – notice I didn’t just say ANY book. Reading for the sake of reading, and reading to gain insight are polar opposites. You can read all the chick flick books you want, but unless you have an open mind, it’s all for nothing. If you continually challenge yourself either in the words or contexts of the stories, you’ll see a much greater sense of life.

So in college I gave up reading for fun because I was so overwhelmed with reading for school. Books like April Blood about the Medici plot, and Uncle Tom’s Cabin cluttered my shelves instead of Ender’s Game, Harry Potter, Mary Queen of Scots, the other Boleyn Girl…I could go on and on. While it was good to get outside my comfort zone, I find that choosing my own books is much more rewarding. Not in the sense that they’re easier reads, because most of them aren’t, but I find that I enjoy books with good, strong characters who are multi-dimensional. While reading a book for its historical significance is great, I find that if the characters are complex enough, most books will tell about society through them instead of though a long, lectured narrative.

I’ve read and have favorite books in almost every genre imaginable. Whether it’s historical, fantasy, science fiction, or the classics, people are still the same. But continually worth learning from. Each time I read a book or if there are ones that I’ve read that I feel are worth passing on, I’ll let you know 🙂

Holiday Food Saga

Holiday Food Saga is all about trying different recipes that are warm,inviting, and possibly worthy of using in holiday meals. The one problem with being mostly vegan is that the holidays can be a drag. Who wants to bring their own small container of Trader Joe’s soup, or a small plate of something that looks gross and unappealing (trust me, I know how all you carnivores think out there! 😉 ) but seriously…why not just volunteer to bring the sweet potatoes, stuffing, or side dishes that are healthy, tasty and frankly..appealing!

For the next couple months my goal is to bring a healthy touch to classic dishes. Saying that kind of made me sound like someone on Food Network. However…like I’ve said before, there are plenty of people who think that adding an extra veggie here or there counts as eating “healthy.” But that’s just not true. We think we can get away with eating Hot Pockets (ahem) every night, or eating out every lunch hour, but the fact is that our bodies catch up with us eventually.

In a way I think I’m lucky because I don’t really have a choice with my health – it’s either eat healthy or don’t get out of bed for a week. So I prefer that first option. Some people are too dependent on food..may in fact idolize it…to the point where they would rather wait until they have hypoglycemia, diabetes, food-induced celiac, IBS…I could go for days. Even GERD or acid-reflux is not caused by spicy foods (however it is made worse by these after you have it) as doctors used to believe, but specialists are finding that it is really fostered by eating fried foods, caffeine, and chocolate. Also eating large amounts and/or right before bedtime. Just like they’re now finding that eating animal products not only causes gout if in excess, but actually causes calcium to be sucked out of your bones – and we thought that was just soda!!

People used to think the health nuts were just that – crazy! But science is slowly but surely proving them right! My goal this week is to watch the documentary Forks Over Knives, which has been recommended to me by multiple people (both health nuts and not). While it’s always exciting to learn new things about health, I’ll be the first to admit that it IS scary.

For instance, one of my favorite foods in the entire world is Japanese Gyoza, or dumplings/potstickers, whatever you wanna call them. They’re amazing. In fact, I really love the Chinese ones, Korean ones, etc. They’re all good in different ways. However, the past 3 months I’ve been incessantly avoiding wheat gluten and this is the one food I’ve never been able to find. For those of you who are interested in eating GF, Feel Good Foods makes the only GF dumplings I’ve been able to find. They come at about $1/dumpling, but they’re very good and for me it’s definitely worth the trouble! I tried to find them online, and believe me when I tell you that paying $30 for a freezer shipping container so isn’t worth it unless you live wayy out of range of one of their carriers. Now normally I oppose this whole buying food out at the store…but I HAVE tried to make dumplings from scratch and without the gluten that works like glue holding flour together…this proves next to impossible. And very tiring. I might have made 15 in about 6 hours of being in the kitchen. So. Not. Worth it.

But I’m getting off-topic. Basically, my goal in the next 2 months is to post a recipe/day of holiday or feel-good-foods that are made healthy and possibly vegetarian and/or vegan…but no promises! Because I will say, finding foods that are tasty and comforting AND healthy is a good compromise – and usually cold-weather soups, stews, and pastas are super cheap! So I hope you join me on my saga 🙂

A Bit of Halloween

So I realize it’s not Halloween. Yes, I do have a working calendar. However..I was a little busy toward the end of October what with me turning 21 and all that jazz. Family was also in town so it was a lovely occasion. It was also snowing so…that was a little distracting. I must say, I’m so used to having the day after Halloween off from my school days that working was a little difficult – although it’s not like I went out and trick or treated in the freezing weather anyway!

So I’ll be the first to admit I’m not the hugest fan of Halloween. It just seems…overdone. When you have to spend upwards of $60 every year for a costume…it seems that the whole point of the holiday has gone by the wayside. But I suppose that happens as traditions mix, cultures change, and time goes on. So I’m not writing this to slap anyone on the wrist for not being super-Halloweenish. Because that’s okay. In fact…if we skipped the whole holiday I personally wouldn’t miss it! I mean, no one really needs pounds of candy, right!?

I think though, there is something special about Halloween. In lieu of All Hallows Eve, our culture certainly doesn’t overlook the thin line or small break in the rift of time, of the dead and the living. It’s a holiday where we delve into perhaps the most frightening thing of all – death and what it means to us. Zombies and Vampires show us that we fear death to such a degree that we would perhaps do anything, sell our souls to have one more day on Earth. This is a sobering thought. For a country that is known as a Christian Nation…we certainly do take this fear to an unspiritual level.

That’s all the thoughts I really have off of the top of my head about Halloween. I told you..not my favorite holiday, but I do like it because it’s in the fall 🙂 And I couldn’t very well skip a holiday!

p.s. what’s all this blasphemy about trunk-o-treating!?!? talk about just giving kids candy for the sake of giving it away. let them dress up, go out and about! If you’re neighborhood’s not safe, take them to a nice town – I saw people in old Ellicott City going into the shops downtown all dressed up, like a parade, it was adorable!

Braving the Elements: Unique Travel Beds

The other night I was surfing on StumbleUpon and I’m not sure why all of these travel sites started coming up. Maybe life is trying to tell me something. Maybe the other sites just didn’t seem interesting. Or…it’s just one of my interests. Either way, it gave me an idea: let’s write about places to sleep on the road!!

Why fight the elements when you can live in them?

The most expensive mobile home in the world

The eleMMent palazzo, Australian’s Marchi Mobile’s newest mobile home is complete with a bar, rainfall shower, pop-up roof terrace and working fireplace. It also glows in the dark! Now the asking price is over $3 million, so I suppose that’s all to be expected.  Now this is a car I’d take on the road with me – it’s worth more than 3 decent sized homes in our area. And it moves!

Ice Hotel, Sweden

One night in this hotel is upwards of $1,000 per person per bed. It’s only open during the winter and summer seasons, but man! They have their own chapel in the hotel because of the amount of weddings that take place there all season long. The hotel is remodeled every year when the waters freeze and it represents a type of Swedish art project for the year, creating the hotel around the Swedish landscape, Northern Lights, and nearby rivers.

Treehotel, Sweden

Wow. I don’t know what it is about the Swedes, but they certainly know how to build the most original hotels. The Treehotel is a set of rooms attached to trees in the middle of the woods. Fully furnished, they’re quite expensive, ranging around $1,500 per night per room. Britta’s Pensionat is open for Treehotel’s guests, serving breakfast, lunch and dinner in an authentic 1930-1950’s setting. There’s a restaurant, bar, sauna and relaxation area, TV, and internet.

The Uchisar Rock Castle and the Serinn House

Get a sense of Turkish hospitality at the Uchisar Rock Castle and Serinn House. These rooms are hidden in the caves but are delightfully furnished. Uchisar was recently highlighted in the Washington Post, which I read this past weekend. Amenities include a full breakfast every morning, an orthopedic mattress, guest laundry, custom toiletries, and reclining reading lights, as well as all the usual. The castle once hid the early 2nd century Christians from persecution and now houses an amazing chapel. In fact, one Muslim guide claimed that even he would worship there, given it’s beautiful magnitude. Get a look here:

Palacio de Sal, Bolivia

Earlier I posted about the salt flats of Bolivia in my “Wonders” post. As I was searching for more interesting or unheard of (as far as I was concerned) hotels, I found Palacio de Sal, or the Salt Palace hotel. Located on the salt flats, this hotel is entirely made out of salt, including most of the furniture and its 18-hole golf course. Absolutely amazing.

Utter Inn, Sweden

Sweden again? Jeez. Well okay, this looks pretty cool, but I have to say I’m a little skeptical. Or scared of water. Anyway, it’s an underwater hotel! Pretty cool stuff, you enter the house, go down a ladder, and you’re in the room – fully equipped, with the windows displaying your very own live aquarium.