Approaching Ulysses

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Something I’ve been working on inadvertently for a while now is reading the Modern Library’s 100 greatest novels and non-fiction books.  I have not really been actively pursuing it, but rather just crossing some off my list when I finally got around to reading them.  One thing that I want to do within the next year is to start actively trying to cross more books off the list and finally read the ones that I’ve been avoiding.

Last weekend, I opened the list and of course, the first book, glaring me in the eyes is Ulysses by James Joyce.  It’s the end of the semester and I do seem to have a lot more free time, so I decided, okay.  I’m going to tackle this one now.  No more putting it off.  So I went to the St. Cloud Public Library, borrowed the book, along with a few others (wishful thinking), and set off to finally read Ulysses.

I started off by reading some reviews on Good Reads.  The reviews are some of the most varied I’ve seen regarding a book on the site.  There were a lot of “5 stars” with people siting it as a literary masterpiece (of course).  Then again, there were a lot of “1 stars” with people saying they dropped it in the bathtub and weren’t upset about it.  Literary masterpiece or not, I was quite intimidated.

I sat down and opened up the book.  First episode: so far, so good.  I understood mostly everything, but I had to look up a translation of the Latin phrases.  While I was searching, I found some online resources specifically related to the book where I could get a episode synopsis and a list explaining the allusions.  So there I sat, with the book open, my laptop open, and an online dictionary open for some of the more obsolete vocabulary.  I was well armed.

On one of my reading breaks, I was googling through some further online resources about Ulysses and came across a few websites that cited the fourth episode as one that usually turned people away because it was such a confusing stream of consciousness.  Oh no.  I was almost to the fourth episode.  Was it going to turn me away from this obstinate book?  Further googling brought me across a blog that totally changed my view of Ulysses.

The blog confirmed that yes, the fourth episode is the most intimidating.  But, it said, why not just skip over the fourth episode if it is really dragging you down?  Why not just put away all of the reading guides and translations, why not just enjoy the book for what it is and don’t worry if you don’t understand all the allusions?  Hey, I said to myself, they’re right.  If I’m enjoying what I read, and I can make some sense of it, isn’t that the point?  Not to understand every word and get muddled in the intricacies of the thing, but to really just read it and enjoy it.  That made the 700 plus pages seem more manageable.

Guess what… I made it past the 4th episode!  With my new philosophy, its really not too bad.  I’m just trying to enjoy it and gleam what I can from it.  There are 18 episodes in all (I am told from online sources) and if I try to read one every couple of days, reading this book will not take my entire lifetime to complete.  Thank you random reading-positive blogger.  You made my goal seem within reach!

Lentil stew

Happy Sunday! Aren’t Sundays usually a day for cooking delicious food to eat through the week? Well they are for me. Today was a very relaxed day for me, as I woke up this morning with a sore throat. I blame it on the fact that I subbed in the elementary school last week. One day with the kiddos and my immune system just can’t handle it. So today was a day for resting up and hopefully getting rid of this sore throat. 

Since there was a light dusting of snow on the ground when I woke up this morning, I decided to make some warm and hearty lentil stew. The recipe comes from Forks over Knives. It turned out really nicely and was just what the doctor ordered on this cold Sunday. 

Interestingly enough. To make the stew, you begin by blending 1/2 cup water with 5 dates. This makes a nice thick base for the stew and doesn’t make it overly sweet. 

Be sure to take the pits out first! I chopped up my dates a bit to make it easier on the blender, but if you have a food processor or really tough blender, this probably isn’t necessary. 

The next step is to mix all of the ingredients in a large stock pot. This is what I love about making soups, you just throw everything together and something great comes out of it! 

I included: one finely diced red pepper, half an onion, 1/2 pound of lentils, garlic, tomato paste, and diced tomatoes.

I seasoned it with: chili powder, red pepper flakes, parsley, and basil. 


Then I let it simmer for about an hour and a half until the peppers were soft. 

This dish would be perfect for Christmas because the seasonings, and the lentils are green! So it is bright red and green, beautiful!

I served the stew with a hearty chunk of French bread and some vegan butter. Delicious!

The making of a lifestyle blog

Hello to my readers! This blog started out its life as a travel blog, but now I think it will be better suited as a lifestyle blog. Sure, there will be some travel-related posts, but since I’m not traveling as much as I once was, and I would still like to use the blog, I’m going to change course a little. Maybe I will lose some followers, but maybe I will gain some as well. In the end, I’m mostly writing for myself anyway. I would like to enjoy the little things in life and flesh out some of my insights here to have a nice record of my life. So here goes. 

If you are a return reader who remembers me as an English teacher in Prague, let me update you on my life a bit. After leaving Prague nearly a year ago, I moved to Minnesota to peruse a masters degree in teaching English as a second language. I have an assistantship where I teach one undergraduate ESL class a semester. It keeps me pretty busy, but being in a state so far from home, I also have plenty of time to explore and search within myself to determine what really defines me. I am about to finish up my second semester (out of 4) and am looking forward to a trip home for the holidays!

Now that we are all caught up, I can tell you a bit about what I am envisioning for this blog from here on out. As I said, it’s mostly for me because I enjoy writing and want to remember things from my daily life. But that’s not to say readers can enjoy the contents and maybe even learn a little something too. 

I know that a blog should try to write for a niche. But when I tried to decide on a niche, it was way too hard. There are lots of things I like, and nothing that I’m a total expert in (besides maybe ESL, but I really don’t feel like studying and teaching it all week and then writing about it! Maybe a few posts here and there). Okay, I’m not going to become rich and famous from this blog, but it can be what I really want it to be. You will occasionally see posts about the following things:

  1. Vegan cooking – I’ve been vegan for about 4 months now, and I absolutely love vegan cooking! It is so nice putting together a hearty meal using no animal products. I would like to share some insight into the vegan lifestyle as well as recipes and meal ideas. 
  2. Book reviews – I decided to cancel my internet in hopes of reading more books. I want to read Modern Library’s list of 100 best novels and non-fiction books. So when I finish one, I’ll write what I thought of it here. 
  3. Running inspiration – I’ve done several 5ks and one 10k and would like to improve my status as a runner and do even more races! I will share training plans, meal ideas, and general inspiration for running. 
  4. Lifestyle tips – as I try to live a more focused, driven life, I will share some ideas of things that work well for me here. 
  5. Adventures – I will share some of my everyday adventures as well as special trips I take. After all, this started as a travel blog and I love writing about and visiting new places!

There will probably be some other random things that I post about too. I hope you’re with me on my next phase of blogging!!

Iceland is for Lovers

Day 1: We got our rental car from the airport, then got groceries and had Taco Bell for lunch. We drove 4.5 hours to the glacier lagoon, a huge lake with floating glaciers big and small parading through it.

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We hiked around for two hours and then found a spot to camp for the night.

Day 2: We woke up early today because we were a bit cold and uncomfortable in the back of the car. We got up and drove to the Svartifoss nature area and hiked to see basalt formations and some waterfalls.

IMG_6663  We left there and headed to the Fjadrárgljúfur gorge. It was so beautiful to see.  IMG_6707 IMG_6716

Next we pulled off at a stop we saw on the road. It happened to be the best part of our day and one of the best hikes I’ve ever done, the Hjörleifshöfdi mountain. IMG_6852 IMG_6855 IMG_6743 IMG_6747 IMG_6769We were the only people there except for one other couple. We saw the burial of the 2nd inhabitant of Iceland and some other truly stunning views.IMG_6752

It was only a 3km hike. We made some food at the bottom of the mountain and camped out there for the night. It happened to be one of our best sleeping locations as well.

Day 3: we woke up around 8:30 and got ready for the day. We left our camping site and headed to the town of Vik to get some coffee. While in Vik, we found the entrance to to black sand beaches so we went there and enjoyed seeing the waves crashing. IMG_6875The sand was so fine and very black. After we made our way to the Reynisfjall sea cliffs. IMG_6880There was a very windy steep hill that we tried to drive up but decided to give up half way and walk the rest. When we got to the top it was so windy I had to sit down a few times because I was afraid to be standing. We couldn’t do the whole hike but we still got some great views of the black sand beach from above.

IMG_6938 IMG_6925 IMG_6917 IMG_6905 IMG_6902Next we headed to Reynisfjara and saw the sea cave and walked along he beach for a bit. IMG_6985Next stop was Halsanefshellir a huge archway cut out of rock in the sea, and a bird estuary.

Afterwards, we drove to the Skogafoss waterfall and found that there was a nice long hike there. We hiked for two and a half Km and then turned around. IMG_6997 IMG_7022We stopped in a town and looked around a shop with locally made things. I couldn’t believe how expensive the famous Icelandic sweaters are 🙂 We drove to our next stop looking for a place to camp for the night. We are clearly getting more intl civilization because it was harder to find a spot to camp! In the middle of the night we saw the aurora borealis.

Day 4: We woke up next to the side of the road where we were parked and got ready for the day. Our first stop of the day was Gullfoss, the golden waterfall. IMG_7037 IMG_7052 IMG_7060It is more powerful than Niagara falls. Next we went to geyser and saw one erupt a few times and it was amazing.IMG_7078 IMG_7102 There were lots of hot springs in the area too that you cold wander around and see. Next we headed to Selfoss and picked up a few things we needed and checked out a second hand store and a handmade craft store. Lastly, we headed to Thinglever National Park and saw tectonic plates that Are above ground. IMG_7138 IMG_7141

Day 5:

We woke up and headed into Reykjavik. We checked out possibly taking a tour, but instead decided on a plan based on what the tour bus would have taken us to. We walked around the city for a bit and saw lots of really trendy shops and restaurants. We also saw the tallest building in the city which is an interesting looking modern church. IMG_7151After exploring, we left and went up north of the island, a place we had yet to explore on our trip. To get there we had to go through a really long underwater time that cost about 7 dollars U.S. Our first stop was Deildartunguhver hot springs which are the most powerful hot springs in Europe and they are used to heat many houses. It was hot near them.IMG_7157

And there was a lot of steam being given off, but they were actually pretty small and not that impressive. Our next stop were the Hraunfossar waterfalls. IMG_7170 IMG_7176 IMG_7185 IMG_7196This is a series of many waterfalls that are actually falling over lava rocks. It was beautiful and less crowded than the other waterfalls we have seen on our trip. Our last stop of the day was one of my favorite parts of the entire trip. We saw the Langjökull glacier. We had to drive down a crazy ‘road’ that seemed like we were driving on the moon. IMG_7210When we got almost all the way to the glacier we had to get out and walk because the road was way too bumpy. We walked right up to he glacier and touched it!! It was amazing and invigorating.IMG_7220 IMG_7227 If I ever come back to Iceland, I would definitely like to take one of the glacier tours they do with hiking, snowmobiling, or even going inside the glacier. Afterwards, the day was getting older so we headed back to Reykjavik for the night. We stayed at a camp sight directly inside the capital city. It’s the first time we paid for camping, and let me tell you, it is quite an experience. There are kitchenettes that look like a science lab from high school and there are people everywhere! There is a lounge with tons of people, some outdoor eating areas, nice bathrooms, and tons of people camping here. It is like nothing I’ve ever seen before and it costs about 12$ per person per night.

Clearly, our experience in Iceland is something I will remember forever.  The scenery was stunning, and constantly changing everywhere you looked.  Each stop had something unique, awesome hikes abounded, and the place is so natural and untouched by humans.  Now, I’m back in Prague, and looking back through all my pictures of the last month of adventures.  I will treasure them (the pictures and adventures) forever.

Day 20; prep for Iceland

Today was all about getting prepared for Iceland. We woke up early and left our air BnB. Then we headed over to the bus station to catch a 7am bus to Lyon. I slept the whole time on the bus – really practicing for sleeping in the car in Iceland! We arrived in Lyon 6 hours later and explored the city a bit. It was pretty quiet but also nice. 

   
Jordan bought me some ice cream and we hung out for a bit using free wifi. Then we left to go to the airport. The shuttle was expensive – it cost 13€.  We made it to the airport and had a nice last meal. Fresh salad- we won’t be having that for a while because we’re going to mostly be eating non-perishables in Iceland out of the car. Anyway, Iceland here we come!!

Day 19; Paris 

We did another bunch of sightseeing today on our second and last day in Paris. We started with going up the Eiffel Tower. We walked up to the second floor and then took an elevator to the top.  

    
   
After that, we went to the Louvre and saw some of the interesting artwork. It is so big, I wish we could have seen it all. 

   
The outside of the Louvre. We went around 6 and there wasn’t much of a line. 

 
The Mona Lisa. You wouldn’t believe how pushy people were in front of her. She must see some interesting things all day. 

   
Sitting scribe. A classic example of Egyptian art because of the proportions, colors, and being cut out of one block. 

 
We saw lots of different kinds of mummys and tombs. 

  Winged bull. 
 
Venus de Milo. People think it is Aphrodite but it’s impossible to know because the arms and other distinguishing features are broken off. 

  
There was a whole room dedicated to michaelangelos sculptures. This is the dying slave. 

  
The winged victory of samothrace. 

Once we had all of the ancient beauty we could take, we left to go to sacre coeur. The sun was going down and the place was packed with people watching the city turn its lights on.  

   
I love the cathedral from the outside and we also got a chance to see its beauty inside too. 

After that I was pretty exhausted so we grabbed a quick bite near the air BnB and headed back!

Day 18; Paris

Today was our first real day in Paris and although I have heard pretty terrible things about the city, and especially its people, today was an amazing day. 

We started out at notre dame. The outside of the church was quite amazing and we waited in a short line to see the inside too. 

   
  

Next we went to the catacombs. We got there a bit early and had crepes! Mine was chocolate and banana.  

 Next we toured the catacombs. In Paris’s history, at one point someone said all the bones from burial sights need to be moved, so the result was the catacombs. It seemed to go on forever. I couldn’t believe how many bones there were. 

   

  

 Back above ground, we wandered around a bit searching out a place for dinner. 

  We walked through this park.

We found a nice place for dinner where we had fondue and some meat that you cook on a hot plate in front of you. 

   

 After dinner we caught a subway ride up to a different area and went to a Tanlines concert. It was so much fun, and also at a very cool venue.   

 After the show we saw the Eiffel Tower at night. It was breath taking. I can’t believe I got to see the Eiffel Tower!

   
   
It also sparkled for five minutes at 11pm. 

We bought some beers from the vendors at the tower and enjoyed the view!

That’s all for today. I hope tomorrow is just as nice in Paris!