Friday, October 31, 2008

HAPPY HALLOWEEN!!!! / Weekend in Lyon

HAPPY HALLOWEEN everyone!!!!

I am SO sad that they don't celebrate it here in France. :-( I miss halloween! More than anything, I want to go trick-or-treating, but I guess at this point I am so big that the adults would all look at me funny and not want to give me candy. So I would sort of need a child to go with. But I could at least live in a neighborhood and have an awesome costume and all of the little kiddos would come trick-or-treating at my door and see my awesome costume. And then maybe the day before or something there could be an awesome Halloween festival with a (vegan) cakewalk and a haunted house. But alas, I am in France. So I guess this will have to wait until next year.

Anyhow, last weekend, Guillaume and I went down to Lyon just to see the city and to visit his friends Blondine, Anne-Laure, and Solene. Now, more than anything, my reaction to Lyon was that it was just another big French city with nothing special about it. This could be because I am sort of over big cities. The coolest thing was that there was this huge park that we walked through that had this sort of free zoo right in the middle of it. So we saw lots of cool animals!

I think my favorite thing aside from that must have been the cathedral, which was actually really cool and reminded Guillaume of Notre Dame.

I guess I can see how a little bit, but my favorite thing about it was the astrological clock inside. We just so happened to get there pretty much right on the hour, so we actually got to see all of the action. It actually sort of reminded me of the Glocchienspiel (or however you spell that) in Munich, but in miniature. Still, though, really cool.

On Sunday, a bunch of us went for a hike about an hour outside of Lyon. It was really amazingly beautiful, and I think it was my favorite part of the trip (aside from it being cold and a little bit rainy. I managed to catch a cold, which I am just now starting to get over. The only remnants for today are a sinus headache. UGH!).

But seriously, the view from the first viewpoint was fantastic and reminded me of a less amazing Lake Bled (from Slovenia - pretty much the most gorgeous place on the planet with Plitvice Lakes, Croatia in a close second).

On the hike on the way up, there were these cool caves that some French soldier guys apparently used as refuge during some ridiculous storm (according to Kenny's guidebook). That's a picture of Guillaume and I in the cave.

Then on Monday, our last day in Lyon, Guillaume and I explored by ourselves. We saw a cool fountain. And then we hiked up to this church thing. It was really beautiful and amazing, but it was also REALLY high up! After the hike from the day before, we were both glad when it was over.

After the church, we hiked a little bit more, and we came across some really cool Roman ruins. Because it was raining and a little bit cold, it totally reminded me of Rome, because when I was in Rome looking at ruins very similar to these, it was cold and raining. Also because it was cold and raining and Guillaume didn't have hood, I detached mine from my jacket for him to wear, and I have to say, it was pretty funny. It's funny thinking about how we're walking around these ruins basically just looking at old stones, but back in the day, it was a marketplace and people were there buying their vegetables.

Aside from that, we went to see the movie "Law and Order," which had Donnie Wahlberg (YAY NKOTB!!!!), Al Pacino, and Robert DeNiro in it. I LOVED it, but everyone else just thought that it was okay. We found three restaurants where we could eat. Toutes Les Couleurs, where the food was good, but WAY overpriced, Soline, where there was only one option, which was delicious, and Bar Natural, which had FANTASTIC smoothies and sandwiches. Lyon wasn't very vegan friendly, but we did alright for ourselves.

Okay, and one last thing. I know that this is already long, but my mother reminded me that there was a book I read during that time period that I forgot to write about, and since I LOVED it, and I going to do so here.

Memoir From Antproof Case - Mark Helprin
* * * * * (5)
I LOVED this book. Seriously, the only thing I didn't like about it was that there was no "an" before "case" in the title. The main character was funny and serious and quirky and extremely well-developed, and while most people would have probably thought him crazy, I sort-of fell in love with him. And understood him. And, while I never LIKED coffee, by the end of the book he had me feeling morally opposed to coffee. And now I can't stand the smell of it. This is really a book that I would recommend to anyone.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Audrey's Summer Reading List 2008 Part 2

Alright, so to make it a little bit less overwhelming, here's part 2!!!! And for those of you that asked me last time what YA is - Young Adult. Meaning that these are books for people about 10 years younger than I am. :-P

Big Boned - Meg Cabot
* * * * * (5)
It's Meg Cabot; need I say more?

Avalon High
- Meg Cabot
* * * * * (5)
Again, Meg Cabot

Kabul Beauty School - Deborah Rodriguez
* * *1/2 (3 1/2)
This book was terrific; it was comedic but to the point about a very serious topic: Afghanistan. The story was heartfelt, touching, and amazing. Sadly, though, it was badly written, which took away quite a bit from what could having been an AMAZING book.

the Spell Book of Listen Taylor - Jaclyn Moriarty
* * (2)
Australian YA. I was expecting real magic, but instead I got quirkyness. :-(

the Man of My Dreams - Curtis Sittenfeld
* * *1/2 (3 1/2)
Curtis Sittenfeld is a wonderful author, and while this book was nothing compared to Prep, it was still a very enjoyable and thoughtful read. (Can a read be thoughtful?)

A Thousand Splendid Suns - Khaled Hosseini
* * * * * (5)
Now THIS is an extremely well-written book about Afghanistan. I wasn't sure if Khaled Hosseini would top "The Kite Runner," but with "A Thousand Splendid Suns," I really think he managed. Three decades of Afghanistan history, two very different women brought together through their struggles. . . I laughed and cried, but more than anything, I hoped.

Size 14 is Not Fat, Either - Meg Cabot
* * * * * (5)
I did mention before, I think, that Meg Cabot is just amazing.

A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian - Marina Lewycka
* * (2)
Don't get me wrong, I DID like this book, and it was well-written. I just didn't particularly like the WAY it was written. And the characters annoyed me. And if anything, it made me hate both Russia and the Ukraine. And yet I am for some reason oddly compelled to read other books by this author.

Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister
- Gregory Maguire
* * *1/2 (3 1/2)
If you read "Wicked" and liked it, you should also read this. I like Gregory Maguire enough to keep reading everything he writes, even though I don't really find anything special or impressive about his characters, his stories, or his prose.

I Am American! (And So Can You!) - Stephen Colbert
* * * * (4)
My brother gave this to me, and before that I had never heard of Stephen Colbert. And so while reading, I had NO idea if he was joking about things he actually believed in or joking about things he found ridiculous. Until I read the speech he gave to Bush at the end. I don't think I'll start watching the Colbert Report, but this book was HILARIOUS!

Never Let Me Go - Kazuo Shiguro
* * * * (4)
A colony of clones raised to be organ doners. This book could have gone either way, and it went the right way. Instead of focusing on the unbelievable or the ridiculous, he focused on the PEOPLE and the EMOTIONS, and in the end it made for a brilliantly touching book.

the Time Traveler's Wife - Audrey Niffenegger
* * * * * (5)
Kind of like "The Host," this book immediately jumped to my top 10. Don't let the cover fool you! This book is romantic (while making you believe that it's not), funny, sad, happy, original, scary, and everything else that a good book should be. (Yes, Kristen , I have read this book. :-P)

Pretties/Uglies/Specials - Scott Westerfeld
* * * * (4)
I loved this YA trilogy. Even though it was written for younglings, I thought it brought up some really interesting ideas and points that ALLOWED you to think without actually making you think. Which I thought was cool. The stories were great, and the characters were well-developed, even if the two main characters COULD get annoying from time to time. I'm looking forward to reading Extras, which makes these books not a trilogy despite still being considered a trilogy.

Spin - Robert Charles Wilson
* * * * * (5)
This book is an amazing modern day sci-fi creation. I really thought that sci-fi had just sort of gone down the drain. I still love fantasy, but when it comes to sci-fi, I had resigned myself to the fact that if I wanted a good read, it had to be an old read. This book proved me wrong. What would happen to the Earth if some hypothetical beings encased it in a sort of membrane inside of which time moves millions of times more slowly than on the outside? This book brings up many important and interesting issues and makes something that is really probably outside the realm of possibility seem, well, possible. AWESOME book!

Shoe Addict's Anonymous - Beth Harbison
* * * * * (5)
This is what a chick lit book should be. Seriously. It was the best and most refreshing book of the genre that I had read in ages. All that was missing from the experience was a comfy couch next to a fireplace with a steaming mug of vegan hot chocolate.

Keeping the Moon - Sarah Dessen
* * * 1/2 (3 1/2)
I normally love Sarah Dessen. When it comes to emotional, lesson teaching YA books, she really is the queen (I could be saying this, though, just because she wrote the books that were the basis for "How to Deal," one of my favorite movies of all time). Sadly, though, I didn't feel that this book lived up to most Sarah Dessen standards. It was good and touching and predictable, yes, but I just felt that there was something missing.

Playing With Boys - Alisa Valdes-Rodriguez
* * * (3)
This was TRYING to be everything a Mexican chick lit book should be, and that was just the problem. It was trying way too hard. It was a quick, fun read, but there were often things I just wanted to rewrite for the author.

the Shadow of the Wind
- Carlos Ruiz Zafon
* * * * 1/2 (4 1/2)
This book was FANTASTIC! It was a mystery with mysterious subplots. And those mysterious subplots had more mysterious subplots. But in the meantime you sometimes wonder if what you are reading is actually a mystery. This book was really perfect. And hello, a Cemetery of Forgotten Books. I MUST find one of these! Aside from the fact that I would have ended it differently. And that there was one thing (which would give away too much of the book for me to say) on which pretty much the whole story was based but that didn't actually make sense to me and was never explained. Which is why it only gets 4 1/2 stars. I still HIGHLY recommend it!

And presently reading:
The Gravedigger's Daughter - Joyce Carol Oates

I've just started it, but so far it seems good, aside from the really erratic punctuation. It's my first Joyce Carol Oates, but I hear she is amazing and that when I am done, I will want to read everything by her.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Audrey's Summer Reading List 2008

Since reading is basically my favorite thing in the world to do (with the exception, perhaps, of sleeping, but only when the book I am reading is not the best book ever), I decided to compile a list of books that I read over my summer/beginning fall(i.e. the months of July, August, September, and October until now) , with ratings and one or two sentence reviews. Perhaps this will help some of you who may be having trouble finding something to read. Or it might give you an idea of books that you could recommend to me (you'll see I have very varied taste, so it's not that difficult)!!!!
N.B Some of these books might have been read before that date but accidentally gotten mixed in, but for the most part, this is the list! Also, there are a lot, so I've decided to separate it into two posts. Please don't feel too overwhelmed to read them all. :-)

Your Big Break
- Johanna Edwards
* * * * (4)
Great chick lit! Not the BEST, but still a very satisfying and diverting read!

The God of Small Things
- Arundhati Roy
I would give negative stars here if I could.
This is possibly the WORST book I have ever read. The author was trying to hard, and it seem like she was deliberately trying (but failing, actually) to confuse the reader (maybe into believing that there was a point to her ridiculous prose). I persevered thinking the end would maybe save it; it absolutely did NOT!

the Almost Moon - Alice Sebold
* * * (3)
Certainly not "the Lovely Bones," but still a well written, interesting story (that only bored me a very little bit).

A Lesson Before Dying - Ernest J. Gaines
* * * * * (5)
A story about how a life can be changed for the better, even in the worst of circumstances. Heartfelt, well-written, powerful!

Before I Die
- Jenny Downham
* * * (3)
She has cancer, she dies. I cried and cried. It was good, but I didn't actually LIKE the main character, so not great.

Wicked Lovely - Melissa Marr
* * * * (4)
The best kind of YA fiction - YA fantasy fiction! I loved this book, really! And I'm looking forward to reading others by Melissa Marr!

Eat Pray Love - Elizabeth Gilbert
* * * 1/2 (3 1/2)
A wonderful, descriptive book that makes one want to take off and explore the world for as long as necessary. Even if sometimes it got repetitive and long. By the end I was ready for it to be over, but at the same time not. As there were still life lessons and amazing experiences to be had by the author.

To Have and To Hold - Jane Green
* * * * (4)
Jane Green is one of chick lit's best, and this was a refreshing change from most chick lit in that it really made me feel that I was watching the characters instead of just reading about them.

Peony in Love
- Lisa See
* * * * 1/2 (4 1/2)
I would give this 5 stars, except that it's Lisa See and it's not "Snow Flower and the Secret Fan." I really can't get enough of this author and everything by her.

Airhead - Meg Cabot
* * * * *(5)
Predictable but at the same time not predictable and different. I literally could NOT put this book down, and I will be buying the sequel the DAY it comes out and most likely reading it then. I would recommend this book to any YA fan.

How to Be Bad - E. Lockhart, Sarah Mlynowski, and Lauren Myracle
* * (2)
I was expecting a lot more from this book. Don't get me wrong, I ENJOYED reading it, but by the end I sort of wanted to shake the authors and ask them to do things differently. If you like YA, though, don't listen to me, as most people seem to be giving it 5 stars.

Twilight - Stephenie Meyer
* * * * * (5)
When it comes to vampire love stories, this is as good as it gets. Romance, suspense, excitement, and VAMPIRES all packed together. . . I wanted more, and thank goodness, there was more to come.

New Moon - Stephenie Meyer
* * * * * (5)
As if romance, suspense, excitement, and VAMPIRES weren't enough, let's throw in
WEREWOLVES! While not as fantastic and riveting as Twilight, this is still one of the best books I have ever read. Seriously. And y'know what - maybe it was actually better than Twilight, as this one also made me feel sad.

the Host - Stephenie Meyer
* * * * * (5)
I'm still thinking about this book. I've had dreams about this book. It's riveting, tantalizing, and emotional, and it left me questioning myself and the world and civilization. This easily jumped to the top of my top 10 (which may actually contain more than 10 books, but in no way takes away from the validity of what I am saying about the awesomeness of this book).

Ender's Game
- Orson Scott Card
* * * * * (5)
HOW had I not read this book before? A sci-fi classic and with reason! It left me LONGING for more!

Les Thanatonautes
- Bernard Werber
* * * * (4)
This was an AMAZING book that only gets 4 stars from me. Because when they stared putting ads up on the road to heaven, that just got to be a little too much for me. It was cheesy in a book that was trying to be serious. Aside from that, though, this book was next to perfect, and it left me wondering if some day humans will find a way to explore the afterlife.

Hyperion - Dan Simmons
* * * * * (5)
Another 5 stars, another sci-fi classic that slipped by me in my youth. It's the story of seven very different pilgrims on the same quest for seven very different reasons. The telling of the story and the story itself was original and magnificent!

Sunday, October 19, 2008

I've Got the Whole World in My Hands

This is a puzzle I did a little while ago. I LOVE puzzles! Especially 3-D ones!!!! But not especially the one I am doing now, which is really cool, but I'm about 20 pieces away from the end, and I just can't seem to get it done. All of the pieces look EXACTLY the same. :-( Boo!

Friday, October 17, 2008

Abbie's Wedding

First and foremost, I apologize for my inability to correctly format the previous entry to make the pictures seem like they are in some kind of nice order. If anyone has any formatting tips, please, GIVE!!!! Now, on to better things.

YAY!!!! Congratulations, Abbie!!!! On October 12, 2008 (exactly a year and a day after the wedding of Shawn and Kristen), Abbie Mullaney became Abbie Patterson.

And last weekend, I flew out to Boston for the wedding. Alex picked me up from the airport,

and we went directly to his friend Sara's house, as it was her birthday. I was super jet-lagged, but we were playing charades and celebrity (this fantastic game that is like charades but has three rounds and involves only well known people), and they were active, so it kept me awake. I had a great time - it's rare that I get to play games like that.

Then Saturday, I got to spend the day with Alex. :-) We hung out and went to see the movie Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist, which was way less good than I thought it would be, but still alright. And there is a vegan ice cream parlor in Boston, so we went and got yummy ice cream. That night we drove down to Rhode Island for the rehearsal dinner, and by the time we got back, I was DEAD. It had been good to see Abbie and talk to Evan and to see Asha and Joe, though.

Then Sunday morning we had to wake up RIDICULOUSLY early for the wedding. It was SOOOOO beautiful!

Abbie was, of course, GORGEOUS! And she and Evan wrote their own vows, and Abbie was crying, and it almost made me start crying as well. The ceremony was fairly short, and I did a reading of a Bob Dylan song that took up at least half of the ceremony. I hope I did a good job.

The reception afterward was fantastic! For a while, the music wasn't so great, but then the DJ realized that no one was dancing, and he started playing GOOD music, and we all started dancing, and it was SO much fun. They even played that song "Everybody Walk the Dinosaur," and so I walked like a dinosaur, which I for some reason interpreted as sort of limboing without a pole, and I am sure that I looked ridiculous. Great times were had, though.

It was especially good to see Asha and Joe. They seem so happy together, and I hadn't seen either of them for ages (well, I guess I did see Asha at the bachelorette party), and it was great to catch up. They seem to be doing really well. And of course it was great to see Abbie, and she just seems SO happy.

A funny story Abbie told me: Abbie's sister Mollie is a nurse, and one day, she got a phone call from someone who was setting up an appointment for her son D'Jean. Well, Mollie, unsure how to spell D'Jean asks the woman if she can please spell that for her. So the woman responds "D up comma J E A N." And Mollie was like "Um, by up comma do you mean apostrophe?" And the woman claimed to have never before heard the word apostrophe in her life. She was all "Dang girl, I didn't know there was a word for that. I always thought it was just a comma high up." Soooo funny!

Anyhow, after the wedding, Alex and I drove back to Boston, and we got delicious vegan calzones, and then we were going to watch the movie "Blood and Chocolate," but I fell asleep within the first 2 or 3 minutes of the movie. And then the next day I had to leave. Sadness.

And now that will make this two posts in one day. Awesome!

While I Was Home: the triathlon

Okay, so this will be my last writing about while I was home. My last day in Louisiana, David and I drove up to Natchitoches to watch my Dad and Tina run/bike/swim their first full triathlon. They did super awesome! I was incredibly impressed, not only by them, but by everyone else there. There was one incredibly HUGE man whose gut kept bumping into his legs. I don't know how he even managed to stand, much less do a triathlon. But do the triathlon he did, which is more than I can say for myself, and he did it in good time, too! I was inspired to some day try to do one myself, but unfortunately Paris really isn't the best training ground. So for now I am contenting myself with preparing to try to start training by playing Wii Fit (which my mother gave me as part of my birthday gift! I love it! YAY!!!!).
Sorry there are no pictures of swimming. I have some pictures of the water, but they don't really show much, so they're not that exciting.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

While I Was Home: Lafayette

So, I am getting behind myself here, unfortunately. So much has happened, and I really want to write about it, but I also really wanted to write about my whole trip home. And I just keep having so much trouble finding time to write.

So first - Lafayette. On Saturday, Mom and I decided to go down to Lafayette. Donald has moved there for school, and since Russell was in Baton Rouge, he and Miranda were going to be able to meet up with us there. And of course Aunt Debbie lives there, so we were hoping to be able to see her as well.
We met up with Russell, Donald, Miranda, and Missi for lunch - a sushi restaurant. For some reason, the WHOLE family seems to just adore sushi, with the exception of me. Which is weird, because I'm the one who LOVES Japan. It was sooooo good to see everyone! And it was great to get to spend some time with my mother in the car on the way there and back.

Living in France, we hardly ever get to see each other, and I pretty much only get to talk to her while she is at work because of the time difference. I miss her! :-)
At the sushi restaurant, the brothers, of course, decided to eat baby octopus:

It was really the most disgusting thing ever, as you can see from the picture. I really don't know how they did it.
But oh, they did.

Maybe I am wrong, but I really think that Russell enjoyed it more than Donald.

Aunt Debbie came and joined us at the restaurant for a bit, and it was good to see her. Afterwards, we went to see Donald's new apartment, which was awesome. It seems like he is doing SO well, and I was so glad to see it. He put on awesome music (some Operation Ivy, oh yeah!), and the apartment was covered with posters of Bob Marley. We talked about Russell and Miranda's potential move to North Carolina and looked at houses that they were going to be looking at. Apparently they have now found a house, but I actually have no idea where it is. As in North Carolina or Louisiana or some other state. Hmmmm. . .

So after the apartment, Russell and Miranda went back to Baton Rouge, and Missi, Mom, and I went to Target, and I found seasons 4 and 5 of Smallville on mega sale. Happiness. I also discovered that they are rereleading L.J. Smith's the Secret Circle. More happiness.

Anyhow, great times were had, and it was fantastic to see Mom and the brothers. And now, it is Guillaume's birthday (HAPPY BIRTHDAY, GUILLAUME!!!!), and there is celebrating to be done.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

While I Was Home: San Antonio

On Thursday morning, I drove to San Antonio to spend the day with Cathryn. We had SUCH a great time - it had been FAR too long since I last saw her, and we had an amazing time together, even if both of us were dead tired me because I was super jet-lagged, her because she had just started working the night shift.

We ate at the one restaurant in San Antonio with vegan options: Green It was delicious, and we both ate too much, so we were all doing jump'n'jacks (HOW do you spell that?!?) and push-ups to try to be able to fit all of our food in. In the end, though, there was sadly no room for cake and ice cream.

Then she brought me on a brief tour of San Antonio, showing me the prison and where she reports in now for work (she's a cop, if I didn't mention that before), and she showed me the obstacle course where she trained with the police academy. It was SOOOO cool! I tried to do it, and was able to to pretty much all of the obstacles, although not up to cop standards at all. I am a weakling. Cathryn, however, was AMAZING! Notice from the pictures how awesome she looks compared to me.

So, it was awesome to see my police officer best friend, even if we really didn't have all that long to spend together. I miss her lots and lots! She has started to carry a gun everywhere she goes, which for her makes sense, but I have to admit that *I* would be freaked out to do such a thing. I would probably accidentally shoot my leg off. We made a voodoo doll and had a little ritual (white magic, bien sur) that night before she had to go off to work, and it reminded me of old times. We have so much fun together!

While I Was Home: Pineville and Alexandria

So, Alexandria now has a new restaurant. . . WITH VEGAN OPTIONS! My mom picked me up from the airport upon arrival, and we went over to the new little Greek restaurant in town (I can't remember what it's called - Mom, if you read this, any help?), and the guy actually KNEW what a vegan was. Yeah, he knew what a vegan was in a RESTAURANT in CENTRAL LOUISIANA!!!! This never happens!
He said that he was going to make me up something special, but I just wanted bread with hummus and falafel. And I actually got to HAVE bread with hummus and falafel. Because it was VEGAN! Our world may be dying from the inside out, but at least it is also trying to survive. People are becoming more and more conscious of the things that matter and the things they can do to help. As Miley Cyrus says "It's our home, so let's take care of it." I think the fact that veganism is becoming more common and more understood is a great sign. So YAY for that!
Aside from that, it was GREAT to see my mother! I arrived on a Tuesday, and then on Wednesday night I went out to her house for dinner. I got to have BRUSSELS SPROUTS for the first time in over a year. Guillaume can't stand them, and the smell makes him want to gag, so they are not allowed in our apartment. :-( We also had delicious rutabagas with pasta with garlic sauce. Deliciousness! My mother outdid herself! And her house was LOVELY - it's starting to look and feel very much like my mother. And I got to meet her dog, Sugar, who is the most hilarious and greedy dog ever, and I loved her (even if she didn't seem to love me)! I wish I had taken a picture.
So, it was great to hang out with my mother. I also bought more pink hair dye, and this weekend my little hairs are going to be dyed. And I bought lots of books, and I got to hang out some with David. Good times were had.
I am going to continue writing about the rest of my trip, but I will do it in other posts so that it does not get too overwhelming. To leave you, pictures of my father's pier after Hurricane Gustav.