Thursday, 24 December 2015

End of Year Reading Rush

I don't know what's gotten into me, but right now I'm feeling the opposite of a reading slump. The end of the year 2015 is approaching and all I can think about is whether I'll manage to finish books that are on my currently reading list, simultaneously picking up and finishing other books in between. Right now I'm really struggling with myself to at least not start anything big in the week to come, because I have this ambition of finishing Gone with the Wind by the end of this year, which may or may not be achievable. I'm still a slow reader even if I rush.

I'm probably not making any sense right now, so I'll just make a quick list of some of the books I've read in December so far, and add a few words of praise.

Love and Friendship by Jane Austen (on Goodreads) It's a novel in letters, in which the main character writes to her friend's daughter telling the story of her life. This book really messed with my head. This novel was written when Jane was in her early teens, so I wasn't expecting a masterpiece. Halfway through the book I was thinking "not bad for a 14-year-old" or "that's so cute seeing Jane mastering the written word". But then I started suspecting something. Was it... sarcasm? Is this a humorous piece? And so it was! When I read other reviews of this novel, it turned out to be a parody on romance novels that were popular at that time. Jane was writing her novel to entertain her own family. Having found that out, I was able to enjoy the book a lot more. Yes, there are some harsh corners. You can tell that these are her first steps in literature. Still it was a pleasant read.

St. Clare's book series by Enid Blyton (on Goodreads) I'm only half way through the books, but I'm enjoying the stories immensely. These books are about the life of twin sisters as they attend the St. Clare's boarding school. I love boarding school stories. And these particular books are so full of kindness and good-natured humour. The twins and their schoolmates deal with all sorts of problems and seem to be getting into trouble all the time, but in the end they always try to own up to their mistakes and do what is right. I love how all the stories emphasise on how it's important for children to have their fair share of both hard work and play.

The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett (on Goodreads) I think, everyone knows this story. The main character Mary goes to live with her uncle, who turns out to have a deep dark secret. He's hiding his invalid son Colin from the world, unable to even look at him because he reminds him of his beloved late wife. It's a story with a miracle waiting to happen. Later in the book, when the kids make up a game of magic, I started feeling as if I was reading a book on psychotherapy. It was a bit awkward, but it reminded me of what I've once read about self-talk and positive thinking. In the end I couldn't read this as a children's book anymore. Maybe I'm too old for this kind of stories. I don't know.

I gave all of these books three stars out of five. Watch out for more blog posts from me. I've got another batch of mini-reviews coming soon. =)

Thursday, 19 November 2015

DIY Chalkboard Paint

I was supposed to write about this project ages ago! And I'm so-so sorry for slacking off. My excuse is that I couldn't figure out how to do formating on some pictures, so everything looked very crooked and just not nice.

So this is the chalkboard, that I've made for my cousin. Buying a normal board is too much of a hassle and it's expensive, so I've looked up some recipes of chalkboard paint online.

Here's what you'll need to make your own chalkboard.
  • board
  • roller paintbrush
  • acrilic paint
  • chalk
  • grout (that thing, that you put in between tiles; I had some Polish brand)
  • water
  • container and spatula for mixing the paint
  • soft cloth

Monday, 26 October 2015

Hummus and Moomins

I was looking through some old pictures and came across a photoset I once made for a hummus recipe back when I wanted to try myself at food blogging. I don't know if I should include the recipe, because the only few times I made hummus I used dry chickpeas, resulting in a long and overly hard process (I was peeling them by hand too, which was a nightmare). I know, that most of the recipes use canned chickpeas, but those are not available in my country, so I had to manage with what I had at hand.

Tuesday, 20 October 2015

Book Review | Saturnin. Zdeněk Jirotka

Saturnin by Zdeněk Jirotka
(on Goodreads)
My rating ★★★★☆

Saturnin is a humorous novel written by a Czech author Zdeněk Jirotka. It follows the adventures and misfortunes of the narrator and his servant Saturnin. The narrator is a regular young man who has this one quirk - he decides to hire a servant.

Saturnin makes the life of his master a lot more exciting and adventurous. He has a habit of making up stories about his master’s great achievements, and makes sure to support these stories with evidence, like the time when he stuffed their home with taxidermy animals and claimed them to be his master’s hunting trophies. Saturnin on a whim decides to move out from a comfortable old apartment and instead live on a boat. Ever the slightest hint of an inconvenience appears on the horizon, Saturnin comes up with a solution. Of course except for the times when he himself causes the inconvenience.

In the course of the story we are introduced to a few other characters. There are aunt Katerina and her son Milouš, the grandfather, narrator’s love interest miss Barbora, and the family doctor, who eagerly offers his advice on any given topic under the sun. Most of the story takes place at the grandfather's summer house.

The story in itself is very leisurely, but not at all boring. There are beautiful descriptions of nature. The subtle, almost English like humour, is very enjoyable. This book is often compared to Wodehouse's Jeeves and Wooster.

All in all, I liked the book and even watched a bit of the adaptation, which is a 4 episode mini series. I could only find it in Czech, and to my surprise half an hour into the episode I was even able to understand every tenth word or so. Czech is kind of similar to Polish, but I’d have to get exposed to the language a lot more, before I can understand it.

What I really liked about this book were these little bits of knowledge, usually offered as pieces of wisdom from doctor Vlakh. They were quotes about life and relationships, but what really struck me, was a passage on the importance of mental health, which said that it’s just as important as physical health. It’s a grave mistake thinking that mentally ill is the same as insane. Insanity is mental death. And it’s even worse that people tend to feel ashamed if a relatively young person struggles with mental health. Saying “How dare you be sick!” is just as ridiculous as saying “How dare you have appendicitis!”.

Saturnin is a brilliant book and I can’t wait to read other works by Zdeněk Jirotka.

Wednesday, 14 October 2015

My Bookmark Collection | Isn't it Romantic

I've decided to do something fun for this blog and start a new tag, where I'll be showing you my handmade bookmarks. Without further ado, here's the first bookmark from my collection!

It's a cross stitched bookmark with a simple yet lovely silhouette design. The pattern is from Page By Page collection by Cross My Heart Inc.

I used beige cross stitching fabric and DMC threads. I really like to use different shades of brown for blackwork cross stitch designs, but I think that other dark and deep colors will look great too.

P.S. The book is a collection of short stories by Anton Chekhov.

Monday, 28 September 2015

Accepting your weird self

photo credit: Marta Ryfiak

In my previous post Individual in a Community I tried talking about all the weirdness that we carry inside of us, and why is it so hard to be accepted sometimes. But at some point I leaned into the direction of philosophical / psychological reflections, so now I’m not even sure if that post makes any sense at all. Go read it and comment! I’d love to know your opinion!

I wanted to make a list of all the weird stuff about myself, limited to what I’m not too embarrassed to admit for obvious reasons. But to be honest, I now try to speak my mind more clearly. If I can’t be sure of my own thoughts, then how can I even respect myself, least expect it from the society. Be proud of your weirdness! Normal is boring. And who is normal anyway?

So just as promised, here’s a list of all the weird things about me.
  1. I’m very weather dependent.
  2. I start reading more books than I can finish.
  3. My version of daydreaming is basically fanfiction.
  4. I’m sometimes too naive and honest. I want to think good of people. It really hurts every time I’m proven wrong.
  5. I can’t lie. I hate hypocrisy.
  6. I used to hold strongly to my opinions. But thanks to my perpetual truth seeking, I wanted my opinions to be right, so gradually I’ve learned to be more open-minded and not so pushy with my ideas of right and wrong.
  7. English is almost like my super-power. It gives me the courage to express thoughts, I would’ve never dared to voice in my own native language. Whenever I write a blog post for my other blog, I always proof-read it for opinions that could seem too offensive. It doesn’t help though. I once got a lot of hateful comments for writing that cheating in school is wrong.
  8. I like to explain things and sometimes overshare. I’m afraid that it makes me seem rude. So I often write overly long comments, just to delete half of them, ‘cause of the extra unnecessary information.
  9. My first impressions of people are usually wrong.
  10. I’m a bit hypochondriacal. At the same time, I don’t like taking strong medication or too much of it.
  11. I overanalyze everything.
  12. I regret that I didn’t drop out of university after first year. I actually have a traumatic story about what has happened then, but I’m not ready to share it yet.
  13. I have a horrible memory for names and faces. More than once I would get to know two people with similar names and/or appearances. I would talk to them almost daily but still couldn’t tell them apart for months. Thankfully, I have another weirdness to help me deal with that.
  14. I don’t like addressing people by names. It feels too personal.
  15. I mostly listen to soundtracks or musicians, that I’ve discovered through movies or TV shows or anime.
Are you a weirdo too?

Thursday, 24 September 2015

Mini Reviews | Graphic Novels

For a while now I've had this idea of writing mini reviews on books, grouped by certain criteria, like Russian or Czech literature, short stories, memoirs etc. So today I'll be reviewing graphic novels!

Smile by Raina Telgemeier
My rating ★★★★

Based on true life experience of the author. Raina is about to get braces and she’s not happy about it. But wait, it gets worse! One evening she accidentally trips and knocks out her two front teeth. The novel also deals with many other problems like friendship and bullying. As simple as it may seem, the story is truly heart wrenching.

Anya's Ghost by Vera Brosgol
My rating ★★★★

Anya is a Russian girl who immigrated to the USA with her mom and little brother. She is a normal teenager with regular teenage problems. Friends, boys, popularity. One day she falls down a well and meets a ghost of a girl named Emily, who died almost a hundred years ago. Well, actually she was murdered. Anya befriends Emily and promises to help her solve the mystery of her murder.

Chicken with Plums by Marjane Satrapi
My rating ★★★★★

Ever since I’ve read Persepolis I really wanted to read something else by Marjane Satrapi. So I was really excited when I finally got my hands on Chicken with Plums. For whatever reason, I thought that it was a story for kids, and oh was I wrong! Based on the life of Marjane’s relative, it narrates the last days of a talented musician Nasser Ali Khan. One day Nasser gets into an argument with his wife, who cruel heartedly breaks his beloved tar, which is a traditional Iranian musical instrument. Nasser tries to replace his instrument, but other tars just don’t sound right. Devastated, Nasser decides that he has no more meaning in life, so he lays in bed waiting for death. Over the course of the next eight days he reminiscences on his life and how he has come to his current situation. I don't always cry over books, but this one broke my heart into myriad pieces.

Which of these have you read? What other great graphic novels would you recommend? Tell me in the comments!

Wednesday, 9 September 2015

Blueberry Blondies Recipe

A while ago I was watching some vlogs on youtube, where they were making blondies, and decided to make some too, as it's been a while since I've baked something sweet. I used this Chocolate Chip Blondies Recipe as a base, replacing the chocolate chips with fresh blueberries. I also had to make some adjustments, as I don't usually use butter in baked goods because they turn out too greasy. I guess Ukrainian butter isn't the best quality and getting worse. In fact, I've noticed that many of the brands that I used to love, now barely resemble butter at all (not speaking of the price though). I also wasn't sure what was the size of my cake pan and only bothered measuring it after I've baked that sweet deliciousness.

Blueberry Blondies

1-1/2 cups granulated sugar
100 grams shortening, softened or melted
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
a few handfuls of fresh blueberries


1. Combine sugar, shortening, and eggs. Add flour, baking powder, and salt. Mix in the blueberries.
2. Pour the batter into a greased 9х9 in. cake pan. Bake at 180°C (350°F) for 40 minutes (or check if the blondies are ready by sticking a toothpick or a knife in the middle of the cake - if it comes out clean, it's ready!). Give it some time to cool down, cut into bars and enjoy!

Friday, 21 August 2015

Book Review | The Master and Margarita. Mikhail Bulgakov

The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov
My rating ★★★★★

I was supposed to read Bulgakov's The Master and Margarita in 11th grade. However I could never remember the end of the book, so I just assumed I never finished it. This was often the case with books I had to read for school. We never had book discussions or assignments, where we could express our own opinions of the books. Teachers rarely encouraged us to speak outside of the critical analysis from the textbook. So reading for school was never fun. In fact, at some point I was deeply convinced that fiction was just not my thing. I sometimes feel sorry for all the books I could have read in my early teens if only someone had encouraged me to give fiction literature another chance.

The Master and Margarita tells a story of one day when Satan decides to visit Moscow. He calls himself  Woland and he is usually accompanied by a strange trio: Koroviev, cat named Behemoth, and Azazello. Woland's servants cause a lot of mischief and disturbance all around Moscow. For some reason, they mostly focus on the cultural elite, specifically the Union of Writers. It all starts when Woland encounters the union chairman Belrioz and a young poet Ivan Homeless. The latter two are discussing the poet's new poem, that is supposed to be a satirical antireligious piece about Jesus Christ. Woland joins the conversation and tells them, among other things, about the time when he visited Pontius Pilate's castle.

Berlioz and Ivan don't believe Woland and think that he is either a lunatic or a foreign spy. Woland continues their conversation and predicts the untimely death of Berlioz. His prediction comes true shortly after, thus unravelling a series of mystical and strange incidents. All the events seem to revolve around people who either knew or for whatever reason came into contact with Berlioz. All the characters are subtly linked to each other. And throughout the book are interwoven the memories of the day, when Pontius Pilate condemned to death a peaceful philosopher Yeshua Ha-Notsri.

Woland settles in Berlioz's former apartment, where he later holds his annual Ball. In the meantime, he entertains himself in all kinds of way. He orders his three servants to do a black magic show at a theatre. All sorts of people visit the 'wicked' apartment. People go missing. Even more so go insane or straightforward berserk.

Ivan Homeless is among the lucky ones to find himself in the safety of an asylum, where he meets a fellow lunatic, who claims to have no name or identity, and asks to be called The Master. He tells Ivan his tragic life story. The Master was working on a novel. But his masterpiece turned out to be out of place and time and brought him nothing but sorrows. That novel destroyed him and the woman, that he loved.

It is considered that Bulgakov described his own struggle with mental health in the character of The Master. There was a point in his life, when Bulgakov was so sick, that he was afraid to leave his house unaccompanied, he was scared to walk in the streets, and even resorted to the help of a hypnotist to cure himself of this illness.

Woland wants Margarita, who turns out to be The Master’s lover, to be the hostess of his Ball, and for that he later grants her one wish. I have to say, that the way everything resolved in the lives of The Master and Margarita, and how  they eventually found their peace and happiness, really made me think. I wasn’t expecting it to end the way it did, so maybe that’s why I could never remember the last chapters of the book.

It is a short, but exciting and emotional novel. Many of the allusions and mysticism are a way to reveal the cruelty and hardships people had to endure during Stalin’s regime.

Re-reading it years after I was actually supposed to have read it, I now have a completely different impression of this book. I remember how 16-year-old me was scared to keep it on my nightstand because the book was considered "wicked". But now I see it as an interesting story with many allusions, but most important of all, it is a story of true love. Love of a man and a woman, and love of a struggling artist for his magnum opus.

Monday, 3 August 2015

My Self-Help Psychology Reading List

Hi, guys! Sorry for the radio silence. I've been feeling a bit under the weather lately. Some days I don't even bother turning on my laptop, and I even picked up some of my old cross stitching projects to fill all of the unexpected spare time, but I'll leave that for another blog post. And this here is going to be a sort of a 'work-in-progress' type of post.

On my other blog I'll sometimes write a string of posts or reviews, all concerning a certain topic, and then make a summary post. But now I want to try doing it the other way around. This will be a kind of a reminder of what books I need to read and work with. I'll write reviews and extend the list as I read.

Okay, I know. I already did a similar summer TBR list. But those were leisure reads. This list will stay in the sidebar for good. And maybe later I'll add some other fun projects, like a Life Plan or a Bucket List.

Here it is! My Self-Help Psychology Reading List. The book in bold is the one I'm currently reading.

1. The Anxiety and Phobia Workbook. Edmund J. Bourne

2. Toxic Parents: Overcoming Their Hurtful Legacy and Reclaiming Your Life. Susan Forward

3. Existential Psychotherapy. Irvin D. Yalom

4. Muse, Where Are Your Wings? Yana Frank

5. Mindsight: The New Science of Personal Transformation. Daniel J. Siegel

Do you have any good mental health, psychology or motivation books to add to this list? I'd love to get some recommendations. <3

Sunday, 19 July 2015

Book Review | Paper Towns. John Green

Paper Towns by John Green
My rating ★★★★☆

With the movie coming out this month, I’ve decided that it’s high time to read Paper Towns by John Green. I’ve mentioned before, that I have a book abandoning problem, but I don’t hesitate to give a book a second chance, if I know that it’s gonna be worth it (or if I just want to have it done and off my list). I shamelessly admit that I had to give Paper Towns two or three chances, before I finally got into the story and loved it! I don’t know why it was so hard for me to get through the very first “adventure”. In the end I found the story very enjoyable.

The prologue gives us a glimpse at a past event, that was like a loose string hanging all throughout the story, but conveniently tied itself up into the plot in the last chapter.

Q and Margo were next-door neighbours and  childhood friends. Once grown up, they end up in different school cliques and don’t have anything in common, except for that one time, when they found a dead guy at a park. Margo is cool and eccentric, and at the same time enjoys her top spot in the school hierarchy. Q is a nerdy guy with perfect attendance and band geeks for friends.

One night Margo appears at Q’s window, asking him for a favour. They go around the town, breaking into people’s houses, spreading justice. Margo feels betrayed by her friends and wants revenge.

The next day she disappears.

The rest of the story is spread over the course of two or three weeks. Q tries to maintain his perfect attendance and at the same time find Margo, who has left him a string of clues. At some point he is sure, that his old childhood friend is dead, and that he’s actually looking for her corpse. The worst thing being, that Margo intended for him to find her like that. A lot of the story is Q analysing the clues, going to school or driving around, sneaking into abandoned buildings. And when he finally thinks that he’s solved the riddle, he and his friends go on a road trip to the place where they hope to find Margo.

John Green is known for his pretentious writing, and that’s why I sometimes have a hard time liking his books. It’s just too overwhelming. But after I got over the first bump, Paper Towns turned out to be quite an enjoyable read, with a satisfying ending.

I won’t give away any spoilers, but I’ll say that the whole point of the book could be summarised in the quote.

 What a treacherous thing to believe that a person is more than a person.

Q states that he was in love with the Margo, that only existed in his imagination. This makes me think of a story I’ve read somewhere on Quora. Someone asked, how he could teach himself to think like Sherlock Holmes. One of the best answers was from this guy, who once deduced a perfect sequence of events and guessed that his friend was playing music with some other friend the night before. The funny part was, that all of the perfect sequence turned out to be false, because real people don’t always fall into logical patterns and sometimes do things for no good reason at all.

Friday, 10 July 2015

What I dreamt of last night

I woke up somewhere around 6 a.m. today to the weirdest dream ever. I wasn’t going to share it with anyone at first. But then I scribbled it down in my journal, and it turned out to be quite an interesting, weird and a bit disturbing dream.

So here it is.

It was late at night. I was waiting for a bus. The driver for some reason gave me a chair (just like one of those we had in school). He called for us to get on the bus, but it was farther down the street. As I was running with this chair, a guy started talking to me. At some point he offered to help me. As we were approaching the bus, he said that I’ll have to pay him. I was expecting that, ready to give him a twenty. But he said that I owe him something like “twenty… or one hundred thousand, or ten thousand. If you don’t have that much, then a thousand would be enough.” I said that I don’t have that kind of money. He said, that it’s my problem, pulled out a gun and shot me in the head.
I remember falling to the ground and feeling funny, as if all the air was suddenly pushed out of my lungs, and I flew away with it. And I was thinking “This is it. Now what comes next?”.
I was expecting my consciousness to switch off. I was waiting to die. I actually thought “So this is what it feels like to die”. I felt myself die in this dream.

I tried googling dream interpretations. Not that I believe in that. I was thinking more about the psychological side of dreaming. The interpretation (here) said something along the lines, that I feel victimised or hurt by someone, who forces on me responsibilities that I don’t like and/or need. I’m afraid that I’m not meeting someone’s expectations. I struggle for survival in my lifestyle, social status and career.

I've also read, that people actually often dream of dying. I sometimes have weird dreams, but nothing too bizarre. So this time I woke up a bit shaky, thinking what's wrong with me? What is my brain trying to tell me?

I don't have dreams every night. In fact, the last few times that I've dreamt of something, was during naps. It could be that I wasn't ready for the night's rest yet, so my brain just continued processing information on his own pace, giving me these dreams.

If dreams are just our brains dealing with excess information, that was absorbed during the day, that would explain why I dream so rarely. I overthink everything. I usually sort out my worries during the day, by constantly running them through my head. Writing and journaling also helps with information overflow. And that is exactly what I failed to do yesterday. I just didn't feel like dealing with my worries, so I stuffed them into the back of my consciousness. And they found their way out through a dream.

Now I've started reading the Dream wiki page, and just look at all the theories about why we dream! I'll have to read more into it.

How often do you have dreams? What was your weirdest one? Tell me in the comments. <3

Tuesday, 7 July 2015

Book Review | Ready Player One. Ernest Cline

Ready Player One by Ernest Cline
(on Goodreads)
My rating 

It took me way too long to finish this book, and I really don’t know why, because it was such a fun read. There were many parts, where I rushed through the pages, just to find out, what was going to happen next. And then there were days, when I would completely forget about it and read something else instead.

Ready Player One is a dystopian novel, which shows us the world of 2044. In this world computer technologies and virtual reality have penetrated every aspect of human life to the point, where people no longer care about the real life. And why should they?  The whole world is drowned in poverty, overpopulation, pollution and lack of resources. James Halliday, a computer nerd and genius, has created a global computer simulation, known as OASIS. People use it to study and work, but first of all it’s a multi-player online computer game.

The book starts with a shocking announcement, that disrupts OASIS. James Halliday has died and left his whole fortune to one lucky player, who will complete his final quest. The player has to find three keys, open three gates and finally get the Easter Egg, hidden somewhere in the OASIS. Halliday has left riddles and hints that lead to the Egg, which all have something to do with his favourite games, movies and books from back when he was a kid.

After the prologue, we fast forward five years since the start of the hunt. Wade Watts spends all his time in the OASIS, trying to escape the morbid reality and find the Egg. This proves to be almost impossible, since he’s too poor to go anywhere in the game world, except for the planet, where he goes to school. But I don’t think, I’ll spoil you anything by saying that he indeed gets the game going and finds the first key (he’s the main character, of course he’ll eventually find his way to the big prize). And so the game begins!

The story had many intense sequences and I actually really enjoyed the final battle. At times it seemed that Wade was too lucky or over prepared, when he had to crack yet another riddle, and “immediately knew what it was all about”. But then again, he’s a nerdy recluse and he has dedicated his whole life to this game. These moments of his brilliantness were somewhat annoying, but they’re at least partly justified. I was quite happy with other gunters (egg hunters), except for a few times when they acted a little out of character. Thankfully they were brief enough, so I didn’t let them disrupt me from enjoying this book.

I’ve seen a lot of negative reviews, saying that this book is like nostalgia porn, and only people who’ve experienced life in the 80s can truly enjoy it. But this was never an argument for me. I grew up watching foreign TV shows, which weren’t even close to what my everyday life looked like. Even now what most people have in the first world countries, is completely alien to those living in second, and I don’t even mention third world countries. Even the most basic things. Still this doesn’t mean, that they won’t be able to understand it. Besides isn’t this what fiction is for? Experiencing things, that you don’t get to see on a daily basis.

Tuesday, 30 June 2015

End of June. Life update

I know, I’ve promised myself to get a grip on my life. Get organized, care more about my health, read and write more. I still want to be a better person to myself and to the world. I’m not giving up. Not yet.

For the last two weeks, I think, I’ve had a couple of my “moments”. It’s a weird combination of bad weather, nothing to do and feeling sorry for myself. In addition my second molar, which was playing hide-and-seek until last year, decided to torment me with excruciating pain every time I stay in the same position for longer than an hour (hello, sleepless nights!). And should I mention, that I’ve got a ridiculously high pain resistance, which is probably a result of my unreasonable fear of overdosing myself on medication, which means, that I tend to ignore the pain and don’t take any painkillers… sometimes for hours at a time. Why am I doing this to myself? I don’t know.

Maybe I still haven’t settled with the thought, that I may feel bad sometimes, and that there are things, that’ll make me feel better. It all comes from my childhood. The way of thinking, that a discomfort will go away on its own, just because I’m young, and young people by definition can’t have any problems. This way of thinking is self-destructive. It also may be that this fear of medication comes from the culture of self-diagnosis and self-treatment. I’ll write a separate post about this, because I’ve got some interesting stories to share.

Either way, I need to remind myself, that I don’t have to feel bad, just because I’m young and “it’ll go away on its own”.

As for reading update, I’ve finally finished Ready Player One! I hate it, when I love a book, but can’t make myself finish it for months! Review coming soon.

I’ve started reading a self-help book The Anxiety and Phobia Workbook by Edmund J. Bourne. Loving it so far!

As for my next fiction read, I’ll pick something from my summer TBR list tonight.

Thank you for reading! Here's a picture of my cat! :3

Thursday, 25 June 2015

Versatile Blogger Award

Yesterday Martha Bowen made my day by nominating me for the Versatile Blogger Award. Thank you so much! I'm really excited! <3

The Rules
  • Thank the person(s) who gave you the nomination.
  • Include a link to their blog.
  • Select 15 bloggers to pass the award on to.
  • Tell the person(s) who nominated you 7 things about yourself.

My Nominees
  1. Carlisa
  2. Bria Lou
  3. Marianne
  4. L.
  5. Erin Lea
  6. Rachel
  7. Jenna
  8. Emily
  9. Skylee
  10. Ari
  11. Kate Louise
  12. Nevermind
  13. Lorenn
  14. Chantal
  15. Harvey

7 things about me
  1. I can't keep a hairstyle for longer than a few months. I either cut my hair short or grow it out (currently growing out).
  2. I don't know how to swim, ride a bike, and whistle (I know, it's sad... but I'm trying to learn).
  3. I take out books from the library, but forget about them till it's three days before they're due.
  4. I can type without looking at the keyboard, and I've been complimented on my skill a few times, which made me ridiculously happy. :)
  5. If I get to know two people, who have similar looks and names, I may and will mix them up.
  6. I feel awkward addressing people by name and often try to avoid it (it feels very personal).
  7. I once tried growing cherry tomatoes and herbs on my windowsill.

Wednesday, 24 June 2015

Book Review | My Japanese Husband Thinks I'm Crazy: The Comic Book by Grace Buchele Mineta

I've been following Grace's blog and youtube channel for a while now, so of course I was very excited to finally read her book My Japanese Husband Thinks I'm Crazy (on Goodreads). Do I have to mention, that I've binge read it in one day?

Grace from the blog Texan in Tokyo is a freelance writer and artist, living and working in Japan. She blogs and draws comics about her daily life and all the cultural differences, that she experiences, while living in a foreign country. And her husband Ryosuke accompanies her along  the way.

What I like about this book is, that Grace gives you an insight on what the daily life in Japan looks like. These are real stories and experiences, that happened to real people. And even though it’s non-fiction, the “spotlights”, which are occasional longer topics and explanations, are written in such a way, that it’s easy and fun to read.  But of course the majority of the pages are comics!

While reading the comics, I noticed that I would remember many of the stories from blog posts or videos. Because of that it was easier to understand some of the jokes. So it might seem like a problem for those, who don’t read the blog, but still want to read the comic book. For me personally it just made the book even more enjoyable. Every time I recognized a story from a comic, I would get really excited.

Some of my favourite comics and spotlights where those about language learning. As you probably know, I’m not a native English speaker. Still I try to be a part of the English-speaking Internet. That's what this blog is for, right? I want to write something, that a native could read and understand without the nagging feeling, that it was google translated. I want to know, how the English-speaking brain works.

Learning foreign languages is my passion. My mother tongue is Ukrainian, which comes from a different language family than English. I know, what it’s like to learn both closely related languages (like Russian or Polish) and those, that look more like alien talk (English, German, Japanese). English and Japanese came from completely different language families. These languages differ in sense of grammar and syntax. If a native English speaker wants to learn Japanese, he has to memorize a whole set of new words. He can’t even associate many of these words with Latin roots or morphemes. So when two foreigners try to communicate in either of the two languages, being misunderstood is something to expect.

I think, I got a little carried away with that linguistic analysis. But my point is, that my favourite part of the book was about these little misunderstandings and cultural differences, that come from the language. There was a spotlight about, how it makes no sense to drop hints and argue, because of misused words. And I liked, how Grace said, that in intercultural relationships we expect to have these misunderstandings, but we should do the same even within one country and culture. Even people, who speak the same language, can sometimes fail to communicate and understand each other. So instead of assuming, that they understand, just because the words are the same, why not try to be a little more forgiving and thoughtful of other people. Why not remind ourselves, that words not always correspond to thoughts and feelings. If a person says a hurtful word, it doesn’t mean that he had this intention to hurt you.

There are two more books to read, but I’ve decided to savour them, and finish what’s on my currently-reading list first. Well, okay. I know, that'll never happen, I'm not that disciplined with my reading, but at least I'll try. <3

Friday, 19 June 2015

Book Review & Favourite Quotes | Waiting for Godot

Some time ago I had a phase, when I would write out, underline and highlight every interesting or inspiring line in a book I’d be reading at the moment. So I ended up with quite a collection of quotes and nowhere to put them, until now.

I’ll try to sort everything out and use these amazing quotes in my blog posts. Maybe they’ll be in book reviews, or maybe I’ll just post a random assortment of quotes from all the different books I’ve ever read. I’ll figure it out as I go. And sorry in advance if some of the quotes are not accurate. A lot of the books I read, are in translation, but I’ll try to find the right English versions of the quotes.

So today I’ll share with you some of the precious words, I’ve picked up from an absurdist play Waiting for Godot written by Samuel Beckett (on Goodreads).This is a truly amazing work of literature. It seems like it has been written ages ago. In fact, I’ve tried looking it up on the Gutenberg Project website, not realising that this play wasn’t even in the public domain, as it was written somewhere in the late 1940s (first premiered in 1953). But the wisdom of this play gives the feeling of something I might read in ancient texts.

He who can do more, can do less.

The first quote is actually an English saying, but I’ve first read it in the play Waiting for Godot.

Three or four years ago I saw this play performed at a local youth theatre. It was so bizarre and thought provoking. Most of the time it seemed like nothing was going on, yet the characters would startle you every time they spoke. Each line of this play is a quote of its own. As I’ve read in the synopsis, Waiting for Godot is a play, where nothing happens twice.

Nothing happens, nobody comes, nobody goes, it's awful!

It might sound boring, but the suspense of the play made me hold my breath till the end of the performance. I’ve heard people say, that it’s hard to read plays, because you can’t really follow the story with all the characters. And partly it’s true, because you just read the dialogue, and all the action is supposed to be acted out on stage. But that’s not the case with Waiting for Godot. First of all, because there are only four or five very distinct characters, so it’s impossible to mix them up. And the second reason you might guess yourselves.

In the meantime, nothing happens.

Still the dialogues are so dense with thoughts and ideas. It’s been awhile, since I’ve read it, and watched the play on stage, so I might not remember the exact thoughts that it brought up in me, but I do remember, how it made me feel.

We always find something, eh Didi, to give us the impression we exist?

On Goodreads I’ve found a lot of other interesting quotes, that didn’t catch my eye, while I was reading, so maybe this play is asking for a re-read? I don’t know. It might be.

The whole point of the story is, that there are two men, Vladimir and Estragon, standing at the side of a road and waiting for a guy named Godot. Then two other men appear, Pozzo and Lucky, who seem to be a master and his servant. They talk about seemingly random things, but all their little remarks add some deeper meaning to the conversation, as if they aren’t really talking to each other.

Let us not then speak ill of our generation, it is not any unhappier than its predecessors. (Pause.) Let us not speak well of it either.

There’s a lot of waiting in this play.

Pozzo: I don't seem to be able… (long hesitation) to depart.
Estragon: Such is life.

The first act ends with a boy showing up and telling the men, that Godot is not coming today, but he is sure to come the next day. So they decide to come and wait for him again, but stay motionless as the lights fade.

The next act partly repeats itself, the characters and situation are the same, yet the details are different. And they once again are waiting for Godot.

As I’ve mentioned before, this is an absurdist play, so it doesn’t really have to make any sense. But there are many different interpretations of the meaning, so maybe everyone is free to decide for himself, and Beckett does give you a lot of space for though wandering. So you can think whatever you want to think - it’s all there.

What is my interpretation of this play? I can’t say, what were my initial impressions, I don’t remember anymore. But judging by my favourite quotes, it’s about life and existence. Why are we here? What are we doing? What is the whole meaning of this? It all makes no sense, never did, never will. But this meaningless has its own beauty.

The same way as chaos has its own spontaneous order. But that, I think, is from a completely different play.

Thursday, 11 June 2015

Individual in a Community

photo credit: Marta Rifyak

I was commenting on Lou's post about what we consider normal, as opposed to weird, and thought that this actually deserves a separate blog post.

So what is normal? Why do we pick from all the possible opinions and behavioural patterns just a few limited options and say "Okay now, people. From now on this is what you're supposed to be, look, and act like." Where does this concept of normal even come from?

We are considered to be social creatures. Right? The need to interact actively with other people is what gave us language and civilisation. But at what point does this urge for human communication collide with the inability to accept opinions, that differ from our own? What evolutionary advantage do we get from cherry picking only what we like and agree with, while shunning any alternative point of view, not really caring about looking at the other side's arguments? Where we always like this?

Well, it may be, that I'm looking at this from the other way around. As I've mentioned before in my Persepolis review, the humanity is becoming more and more peaceful. The willingness to accept and support each other helps make the community stronger. People are just tired of destructive behaviour. Ruining someone else's happiness is no longer enough to make ourselves happy. We let go of our imperial ambitions. It's not about "divide and conquer" anymore. The psychology of "create and unite" is what seems to be on top now.

If you put a bunch of crabs in a bucket of water, they all want to get out right away. So they push and pull on each other, drowning one by one. And then there's just one left, but he can't even reach to the top of the bucket, because all of his fellow crabs have sunk to the bottom.

If we by now have managed to notice this correlation in our own actions, and recognised it for what it is, then maybe this world is not doomed after all.

But back to the "weirdness" thing!

Weird is not wrong, nor is it bad. It's just not accepted by default.

We may be wise enough to have stopped building walls and digging ditches around our "castles". But people cannot change overnight. There are so many different opinions, that it's kind of hard to look at them all with an open mind and say no more than "Okay. So this exists."

My personal philosophy is that you can be and do whatever you please, as long as it doesn't hurt anyone else. Well, the understanding of "hurt" may be different for every person, so maybe that's why?

We need to work as a community in order to survive and make this world a better place for us all. At the same time we need to respect and accept every single person in this community as an individual. So yes, there's probably a bit of contradiction here (no, not really), and not everyone is able to understand this concept of Individual in a Community yet. But we're getting there. One step at a time.

I'll stop here, before I've bored you to death with this philosophical babble. And in the next post I'll do something fun, and tell you all about my weirdness! Stay tuned! <3

Monday, 8 June 2015

How to get into the habit of writing every (other) day

On several occasions I've tried to get myself into the habit of writing every day. You now what they say about repeating an action for 21 day to set it as a habit? Well, apparently that doesn't work for me. I've tried different websites, that would send me daily reminders "Hey! This is your writing time! Ready! Set! Go!". I once managed to go, I think, two or three months straight without missing a day, until I did.

"Don't break the chain" is a method that I often see people using in order to build a habit. It's when you take a calendar and cross out every day, when you did your thing. The point is to have every single day crossed out. This method works with the 21-day concept, except that you don't just stop after 21 day. But I'm already familiar with the disappointment of missing one day or a few days in a row. It's stressful! What do you have to do then? Start over or continue your chain, which isn't even a chain anymore? This might work for some people, but I lack the discipline, and I can't deal with this visualisation of my own failure.

Allow yourself to miss a day. If you want to write every day, start with every other day. Work it up.

I did BEDA on my other blog this year, and pretty much nailed it. Some days I posted right after midnight, so technically it didn't count for that day. But then I'd have some days with two posts. I decided to bend one rule in this competition with myself, as long as I still ended up with 30 posts at the end of April.

If I don't feel like writing, I won't, unless I force myself to sit down and get the first line out of the way. Once I do that, I start gaining speed and don't stop at least for another 30 minutes. Words rush out of my head one after another. I don't think I've ever managed to write more than a 1000 words in one sitting though, but I think I'm getting there. That won't happen every single time I write. But it's nice to have some of these productive days once in a while.

I did actually write somewhere around 8000 words in a single day once. I wouldn't recommend doing so. It's really physically exhausting, and I couldn't normally function for the next few days. I did it just because I was miserably failing at NaNoWriMo, so hopefully that won't happen again any time soon.

It's okay to pace yourself. Writing is just as much a job as any other.

At the end of the day it's all about the result. You may stress about how you have to write more, or count down your words. But as long as you are not looking at a blank page or a nicely written in calligraphic letters "The", you're gonna be okay. So don't beat yourself up if you don't meat your word quota every time you sit down to write.

Even a hundred words count.

It's not even about the quality. Quality comes after you start editing, at this point you're just teaching yourself to write.

There's just one question you really need to ask yourself.

Do you want to write? Then do it! No "buts". Don't overthink it. Just sit down and write.

Even if at first it'll all look like nonsense. Once you get that gibberish out of your head, thoughts will start falling together into ideas.

It all comes with practise. Train yourself into it.

Do you ever struggle with your writing? What are your habits and tips for fellow writers?

Saturday, 6 June 2015

Book Review [☆☆☆☆☆] Persepolis. Marjane Satrapi

Persepolis (on Goodreads) is one of those stories, that make me awe at how real they are, and how much they resonate with my own thoughts and experiences.

Now let me explain. I’m from Ukraine, and in case you don’t know, there is an ongoing conflict in the east of the country, where it borders with Russia. It’s not as much scary, as confusing. The information I have on the topic is not more than occasional snippets of news, that pop up on my news feed. You see, I don’t understand politics and I don’t want to, at least right now. That little understanding of the situation that I have, I try to keep to myself for various reasons.

So whenever people ask me for my opinion on the matter, which thankfully is very rare, I just ask them if they’ve read Persepolis.

“This! This is pretty much what’s going on and how to perceive it.”

I don’t go into detail, drawing parallels, as I don’t like getting into political arguments, and it all just makes me feel even more sad and panicky.

I do have an opinion, but I lack the means and support to not be afraid to voice it. Not now. Not yet.

Persepolis is an autobiographical graphic novel by Marjane Satrapi, that focuses on events of her childhood during the Islamic revolution in Iran in 1979 in the first part of the book. The second part follows Marjane, as she goes to study abroad and has a lot of personal issues growing up, and how she later comes back to Iran etc.

The novel is showing the historical events in the perspective of 10 year old Marjane, who was from a middle class family, that actively participated in the revolution. At the same time we are introduced to characters with different family backgrounds and hence standing on different “steps” of social ladder, like their neighbours, relatives and friends or just accidental encounters. In that way we can get a pretty much complete picture of the situation, described from all possible points of view.

Wednesday, 3 June 2015

Being better to myself

photo credit: Marta Ryfiak

I let myself get lazy.

Last year I would wake up every morning at 6 a.m. and go on a run.
Last year I would use any spare moment I had to read.
Last year I would stick to my daily routine and make sure that I don’t skip meals.

So why is it so hard for me right now?
Why did I let myself slip back to not taking good care of myself? Not feeling as good as I could feel.
I stay up late, eat irregularly and forget to take an extra sip of water now and then.

Why am I not taking good care of myself?

Sometimes I think that it all goes back to the time when I got sick, and sticking to those routines was my only option. Back then I thought they were bounding me, even though I was feeling better. Not great, just better. I wasn’t healthy even then, but at least I could function.

I was in a trap. I didn’t choose to exercise and eat clean. I had to, because otherwise I would feel too sick to even get up in the mornings.

So I sort of forced myself to the point where I could slip back into not caring about my health. I needed to see, that my life was back to normal, that I could once again choose for myself. The problem was, that my choices were never good for me.

Now, when I’m slipping once again to feeling bad, I feel like that kid, who won’t put on his sweater, when it’s cold, just to prove that he can. He has the choice, but he’s not choosing what’s right for him.

So I’ve been thinking, that this time I want to make another choice. But this time I want to choose to be healthy, strong and happy.

I choose to get enough sleep.
I choose to eat healthy.
I choose to drink lots of water.
I choose to exercise.
I choose to go outside more.

Because this is what's good for me.

And I choose this good for myself.

Wednesday, 27 May 2015

Home-made Strawberry Jam

It's not really a jam, because jam is something you preserve, right? This strawberry deliciousness barely lived to see the next morning, so I actually had to make a new batch to go with breakfast.

I like strawberries, but I never really associated them with late May. That's why I was a bit surprised, when my mom brought some from the market the other day. What month is it? Isn't it too early? I grew up believing that fruit and berries in particular only come in season. I still have to remind myself that fruit and vegetables from the greenhouse were not grown on pure poison (a common stereotype here in my part of the world, when it comes to greens out of season or bigger than average and not covered in dirt or bugs), and that it's okay to eat them.

This time the reason for this early treat was the warmer than usual weather.

'Tis the rainy season

May showers suddenly kicked in yesterday and have been going strong ever since. The soothing sound of wind and rain behind my window blends with the noise of traffic, reducing the latter. I love how calm and focused it makes me feel. It's somewhat strange, that rainy weather gives me this semi-sleepy productiveness, when I feel like there's no extra energy to get distracted and all I care about is what's on the to-do list from the top down.

I just got a phone call from a man trying to buy a fridge. We're not selling a fridge.

I don't know what else to say. Not really...

Tuesday, 26 May 2015

Book Review [☆☆] If I stay. Gayle Forman

I've started reading the novel If I Stay by Gayle Forman, expecting it to be something completely different. Maybe because of all the great reviews I've seen, or the high Goodreads ratings, but my expectations for this book were higher than average. What can I say, now that I've finished it?

First of all let me say, that I'm happy to finally have finished a book after my long reading slump. And I can understand, why so many people like it. The story was nicely written and emotionally satisfying, but not for me.

You see, I like stories that make sense. I mean logically. Someone once asked me, what my superpower would be, if I had one. I replied - logic. I like books, that like puzzles gradually fall into one picture. No matter the genre. It can be a fantasy novel or a romance. Even when the story ends with a cliffhanger, if the author gives me enough hints and strings to tie together, so that I could still finish the course of events in my mind, I will like it.

If I stay sort of finished with a cliffhanger ending, but I'm guessing that's because it has a sequel. But the story itself had a lot of moments, that to me didn't make much sense.

This story is about a girl Mia, who's very different from other girls. She's a passionate musician and all her life revolves around music. Funny thing is that Mia is surrounded by musicians, but even there she stands out from the crowd. Her father, family friends and even her boyfriend Adam are all hardcore rock musicians and punks, whereas Mia has devoted her life to classical music and the cello.

When we first see Mia, great changes are about to happen in her life. She's expecting a letter from Juilliard, a conservatory in New York. Her parents try to get her mind off that letter, so they all decide to go visit some friends, since it's a snow day and they don't have anything else to do. On their way to their friend's house the family gets into a car accident. Suddenly Mia finds herself standing out in the road. She notices the wrecked car and injured bodies lying on the cold asphalt - her parents' and... her own.

We follow Mia to the hospital, where she spends the next night,  reminiscing everything that has happened in her life so far, trying to figure out how to "stay", wondering if she even wants to stay.

So that is the general idea of this story. What I liked about it is that there were no "follow the white light" or conversations with spirits. Something that I almost expected, when I realised where the story was going. But there were so many little moments, that I found really annoying. I wouldn't really mind them if they weren't repeatedly dumped into the plotline.

The next two paragraphs might be filled with spoilers! Why? Why were all the family members, friends and first of all the boyfriend so obsessed with the idea of marching into the ICU and saying their own version of the 'message' that supposedly was to bring Mia back? Convince her to stay? Because obviously the only reason she couldn't decide whether to stay or not, was because someone didn't say the "magic word". No-no-no. That was just silly.

There were some other little episodes that bugged me, but this particular obsession with having a parade or a concert in the middle of the ICU was just not right. I got the feeling that they weren't doing it for Mia, but for themselves. There was one particular moment, which made me furious. It was when Adam the boyfriend said "Don't make me write a song". It might sound romantic and metaphorical (no, not really), but I felt that it was cruel. There is an episode, which explains this part, but the reasoning still was not good enough. It was as if they were trying to pull the blanket to their side. But it's not about them. She's not dead yet.

In counclusion If I Stay by Gayle Forman was an okay read, but not something I would care about enough to re-read. And I still haven't decided if I want to read the sequel. Maybe. I don't know. I'll let you know, if I do. <3

Sunday, 24 May 2015

Summer To-Do List 2015

In a week or two I'll enjoy a lot more free time, but that doesn't mean, that I can get lazy. Quite the opposite, as I've got some plans for this summer. And some of them I'll be sharing on this blog. So here's my Summer To-Do List in no specific order.

Read more! And get that reading organized!
First of all I'll need to get myself out of this reading slump. I'm not good at making TBR lists and sticking to them. But I want that to change. Right now I have a bad habit of picking up too many books at the same time. I let myself get disinterested too quickly. That's the reason I have such a hard time joining a reading club, which is kind of sad. So this summer it will change! I'll make a TBR list and actually stick to it. I'll choose something from different genres, but try to stick to titles with more good reviews and recommendations, as I don't want to risk falling back into the reading slump again. So here goes nothing. This summer I'll be reading:
  • The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern
  • Golden Calf by Ilya Ilf, Yevgeni Petrov (I've read the first book 12 Chairs ages ago and have been meaning to read this one ever since)
  • The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
  • Paper Towns by John Green (need to read this before July 24th!!!)
  • smth by Stephen King (book title coming soon)
  • Saturnin by Zdeněk Jirotka
  • smth by Jane Austen (need to check, what I haven't read yet)

Sit down and write!
I need to write more! As I've mentioned before, this blog is where I practise my English. Or at least that's what I should have been doing all this time, instead of ditching it for six whole months. So here's one thing I need to be serious about, but wait there's more.

Last year I participated in the NaNoWriMo 2014 and got down on paper (or computer screen) about 35 000 words, raw and disoriented. I wanted to do Camp NaNoWriMo in April to fill in the gaps in the plot and start editing the whole mess, but never got to that. Good thing there is summer! Right?

This part of my to-do list is a bit intimidating, but I know, that that's for my own good. Do I want this book finished or not?

What? That's it?
Well... Yes and no. I'm not specific about the other plans, as they are very 'general'. And maybe there's too many of them? I don't know. I haven't tried counting. So these are plans, that I set for myself every once in a while, like eat healthier, work-out, sleep more etc etc.

Can't wait for this summer to start!

Friday, 22 May 2015

Rice baked with apples (almost step-by-step recipe)

Here's the promised recipe of Rice baked with apples from that old Polish book, I've mentioned in the previous post. I actually combined two different recipes, because I wanted it to be a subtly sweet and milky rice dessert with apples. I've found two recipes of baked rice in that cookbook. One was with apples, but no milk or eggs, and the other was rice baked with eggs and raisins (I didn't have any) but no apples.

So here is the recipe, I've come up with.

Tuesday, 19 May 2015

On reading books in foreign languages

I was sitting in my sister's room yesterday, working on her computer, because that's what I do, when I don't feel like cleaning up my working desk. While I was waiting for something to download (or upload... I really don't remember), I started browsing through her bookshelves. My sister has a whole shelf dedicated exclusively to books in foreign languages. These are mostly either old Polish books, owned by my father and grandmother, or everything, that we've managed to get our hands on in every second-hand store in our district, that had any books to offer.

And I saw this old Polish cookbook, that belonged to my grandmother. Over the years I've looked through this book more times than I care to remember. Looking at old bleak pictures, trying to figure out how to read familiar words. I know Polish good enough to watch TV shows and news, but reading is on completely another level. So right there and then I've decided, that I need to start reading in Polish. Right now!

I went to the bookshelves in the hallway and picked up a bunch of old Polish detectives. I've been meaning to read these for ages! Maybe I never did, because I felt too intimidated with the language to even start.

I also noticed, that I've never tried cooking anything from this Polish cookbook. I'm sure, I've meant to at some point, but never got to doing anything. So yesterday I chose a few recipes I liked, and combined them into something sweet and delicious!

Funny thing I've noticed about this cookbook, especially the desserts section. There are mostly recipes of puddings, custards and sweet porridges. I had to skip a lot of pages, till I finally got to the baking part. I've found this hilarious recipe of cheesecake with potatoes, which I'll try to make next time. But yesterday I made something more simple - Rice baked with apples. Recipe coming soon!

I'm also trying to figure out, how to edit pictures for my blog. I'm kind of torn between colorful and pastel. So tell me what you think? Do you like the bright or the pastel version of this picture?

As for the fiction books, I'll be reading a detective novel Pieczen Sarnia by Zygmunt Zeydler Zborowski. I'll tell, what this story is about, once I've read more into it. But the first few pages were not as scary as I anticipated (as in reading and understanding). This book is not on Goodreads yet, so I'll make sure to add it and rate it once I finish reading.

Let's read!