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!!