#13 AND #27 – Go to the MN Zoo & Go to an IMAX movie

I finished two 40 in 40 items in one day!

I don’t know the last time I went to the MN Zoo, or even if I’ve ever been, so 13 on my 40 in 40 was to go to the MN Zoo.

I’m often not a fan of zoos because I feel so bad for the animals. I don’t like when there isn’t a lot of space for them, so I really don’t enjoy Como Zoo at all. But I was pleasantly surprised with the MN Zoo. There was a lot of space for the tigers and buffalo, and I made sure to ask if the cows that were penned up were ever released into a pasture, and they assured me they were daily.

And the kangaroos! Kangaroos are apparently new at the MN Zoo, and the attraction is super cool in that there are no fences. We walk on a dirt path and mere feet beyond the dirt path are the kangaroos. There was a sign that said kangaroos can jump as far as 25 feet in one jump, so I’m sure they could take me out, but we didn’t see any of them jump. They were having a nice, lazy day sprawled out on the grass or walking. And have you seen a kangaroo walk on all fours? Their back legs are way longer than their front legs, so just imagine a T-Rex walking on all fours. I should’ve taken a video.

After the zoo, we then went to the IMAX, number 27 on my 40 in 40, and saw the movie Dunkirk. It was different than I thought it would be in that there really isn’t much dialogue. We’re just instantly immersed in the British soldiers stranded at Dunkirk and we follow some of them and what they went through to try to get off the beach. It was really intense and I understand the praise it’s getting.

I’m not sure what’s next on my list, but this was a really fun day. Thanks to Kristen, Heather, and Jennifer for making it so much fun!


#22 – See a play or musical at a new theater

I love the theater. Plays and musicals are totally my jam, but I feel like I sometimes go to the same theaters again and again, like the different venues owned by Hennepin Theatre Trust, the Chanhassen Dinner Theatres, the Ordway, and, of course, going with my family to Theatre L’Homme Dieu in Alexandria.

Number 22 on my 40 in 40 was to make sure I’d make an effort to seek out a new theater this year.

This past weekend one of my sisters was visiting me, as she was recuperating from a surgery, and we wanted a lazy weekend. We saw some movies (The Big Sick is so good!), ate yummy food, and decided to go to a play.

The Gremlin Theatre just moved to a new location, in the same building as Lake Monster Brewing, after three years of trying to find a home. To celebrate their new space, they’re redoing the very first play they ever put on as a theater company 19 years ago – Don’t Dress for Dinner.

Don’t Dress for Dinner is a comedy of errors, a mistaken identity farce, where a husband and wife are both trying to sneak their lovers into their home for the evening. Throw in a sassy caterer and her jealous husband and this play was just what we needed. I highly recommend it if you need a good laugh.

The only bad thing about the Gremlin Theatre is the location, which sucks because it’s their new location. It’s a little hard to find, because signage isn’t good, but you locate it by entering the doors to the left of Lake Monster Brewing. But it’s not really about locating it that’s the problem. It’s the smell.

Entering the building, you’re hit in the face with a pretty gross bathroom smell. It permeates the long hallway leading up to the theater, so instantly I felt gross. I swear I could still smell it a little bit in the theater, too, and whatever it is, the building needs to fix it. When I’m going to the theater, I don’t want it to smell like porta potty.

Overall: the play was good, but the venue needs some work.



40 in 40 Update

My 40 in 40 list has been out for a couple months now, and people keep asking me what I’ve finished on the list.

Unfortunately, the answer is nothing…completely.

Many of the items on my list are things that have to do many times: visit 4 new restaurants, buy flowers once a month, try 4 new ice cream joints, etc. And some are items that can’t happen until a later day, like going through a corn maze.

That being said, I’m making progress. I’ve visited a few restaurants, been buying flowers every month (look at those gorgeous May ones), and have tried an ice cream joint where the serving sizes are as big as my head (Nelson’s).

So I’ve done some things. I just haven’t completely finished one thing yet, but I’m getting there.

Next up: I’m meeting with a tattoo artist soon to start working on designs for my first tattoo!


RA Booklist 2017

Soon I’ll begin teaching my Readers’ Advisory Services course again. For you non-librarians, Readers’ Advisory (RA) is what we librarians call how we help people find books they want to read, so I help students figure out how to answer the question, “Can you recommend a good book for me?”

That’s a pretty simplistic definition of RA, because it does include more than just recommending books. However, one big part of the course is analyzing genres/categories of books so students are more knowledgeable and can feel confident recommending a variety of books.

To learn more about genres/categories of books, they read a variety of books in my course, and people always ask me for my booklist, so you’ll find it below. But just know, I don’t make students read every book on this list. They read a couple in each genre/category.

If none of these books appeal to you, don’t worry, I don’t like all of them either. Each of them represents the genre/category in a certain way so students learn about the variety in each group. If you don’t like cozy mysteries you’re not going to like the one under Mystery / Thriller (Mission Impawsible).

Literary Fiction / Short Stories

Wintering by Peter Geye
The Refugees by Viet Thanh Nguyen

Mystery / Thriller

Charcoal Joe by Walter Mosley
All the Missing Girls by Megan Miranda
Before the Fall by Noah Hawley
Mission Impawsible by Krista Davis

Historical Fiction

The Chilbury Ladies’ Choir by Jennifer Ryan
News of the World by Paulette Jiles
Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi
The Last Days of Night by Graham Moore

Science Fiction

Dark Matter by Blake Crouch
Underground Airlines by Ben H. Winters
All the Birds in the Sky by Charlie Jane Anders
The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet by Becky Chambers


Sorcerer to the Crown by Zen Cho
A Darker Shade of Magic by V. E. Schwab
The Everything Box by Richard Kadrey
The Invisible Library by Genevieve Cogman

Romance / Women’s Fiction

The Hating Game by Sally Thorne
If I Only Had a Duke by Lenora Bell
I Almost Forgot About You by Terry McMillan
Before We Visit the Goddess by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni


Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City by Matthew Desmond
The Fire This Time: A New Generation Speaks About Race edited by Jesmyn Ward
Irena’s Children: The Extraordinary Story of the Woman Who Saved 2,500 Children from the Warsaw Ghetto by Tilar J. Mazzeo
The Song Poet: A Memoir of My Father by Kao Kalia Yang

Graphic / Comic

Saga, Vol. 1 & Vol. 2 by Brian K. Vaughan
The Best We Could Do by Thi Bui
Rolling Blackouts: Dispatches from Turkey, Syria, and Iraq by Sarah Glidden
Patience by Daniel Clowes
The Art of Charlie Chan Hock Chye by Sonny Liew

Young Adult Crossover

Naked ’76 by Kevin Brooks
The Steep & Thorny Way by Cat Winters
American Street by Ibi Zoboi
The Bone Witch by Rin Chupeco

If you want other book recommendations, let me know.

Happy reading!

39th birthday

It’s my 39th birthday, the final year before I turn the big 4-0. I have no real reason why, but I’m not looking forward to 40.

I should be ecstatic. I feel more stable in life, with a home, wonderful family members, a job I love, and some fantastic friends who are like family. I’m not in my 20s and scrounging to make it, or in my 30s and still trying to figure out where I belong. I feel more stable than ever before, and it’s a great, satisfying feeling, but 4-0 still weighs heavily on me.

I still remember when my mom turned 40. It was old. It was really, really old. And back then she looked old. Of course, I was only 8 at the time, so 30, even 20, looked old, but something about 40 seemed exceedingly old.

But how can I be exceedingly old? I’m not old. I still feel like I’m just about to hit 30, so how in a year will I be 40?

It’s silly, and I know it’s silly, because my mom was not exceedingly old at 40 and neither am I, but this unrealistic fear of the number hovers over me.

To help me try to embrace 40, I decided I needed to do something to celebrate it, so I’m stealing an idea. My friend Megan did a 40 in 40, 40 things to do during the year leading up to 40, and I thought it was such a great idea. I’ve been so excited trying to come up with my list of 40 and I’ve been talking about it with everyone. Even yesterday I got my dentist excited about the idea and she’s stealing it to do a 30 in 30 with her husband to celebrate their 30th wedding anniversary.

So I’m going to do a 40 in 40. 40 fun things leading up to me actually turning 40. These are things I haven’t done in a long time or  I’ve never done. Some are bigger, like taking a trip somewhere new, and some are more simple, like baking bread from scratch, but I’m hoping if I do these things in the year leading up to the big 4-0 it won’t look so grim.

Check out my 40 in 40 list. Want to do any of them with me?

This year, for real

Last year I said I’d blog more. Even though I don’t really do resolutions, I declared blogging was mine.

So, about that. This is my first post since last May.

But this year is going to be the year because this year I’m doing a 40 in 40.

At the end of February I turn 39. I have not fully accepted the fact that I’m this close to 40, but I decided I’m going to embrace it. To help me embrace it, I’m going to come up with 40 things I need to do in my 40th year. Some things will be silly, like sending $20 to different people and having them tell me how they spent it. Some things will be more elaborate, like visiting a state I haven’t visited before. But there will be 40 of them and I will blog about all of them.

Now, to start that 40 in 40 list…

TV focus group

I recently participated in a TV focus group. It paid $125, but I did it more for the experience of it than anything.

I was contacted about a TV study and asked multiple questions about whether or not I watched certain TV shows and how much of them I watched. For more than half the shows they asked me about I hadn’t watched them at all, like “Modern Family” and “The Jim Gaffigan Show,” but when I said I had seen all the episodes of one TV show, “Younger,” I was in.

Season Two Group Shot

Season Two Group Shot

Let me first tell you about “Younger.” It’s a half-hour sitcom on TV Land that is from the creator of “Sex and the City.” I loved “Sex and the City,” and since “Younger” started on a Tuesday night in January, when I’m in hibernation mode, and when I didn’t have any other show I watched on Tuesdays, I checked it out. It’s about a 40-year-old woman, played by the fabulous Sutton Foster, who gets a divorce and needs to head back into the workforce, but she was a stay-at-home mom and hasn’t been in the workforce for awhile. Interviewing in the book publishing industry, she tried to get entry level jobs, but they weren’t hiring her because of her age, so her best friend, the amazing Debi Mazar, told her to pretend she was 26. She gets a job and then has to carry on the facade of being 26, and you can imagine that a lot of silly situations happen because of it.

It’s not a great, award-winning show. It’s sweet, with some funny and touching moments, but it’s pretty fluffy. We all need a fluffy show from time to time, so I do enjoy it when I watch it, but I don’t have to watch it. It’s not like “Orphan Black,” which I can’t miss, but if I’m home and it’s on I’m going to watch it.

At the focus group, it was me and about 8 or 9 other women between the ages of 25 and 50. We were ushered into a boardroom where one whole wall was a two-way mirror, a TV was on the other side of the room, and a camera system was at the end of the table, right behind where the moderator sat. The moderator told us there were people watching us and that we were being recorded so we should speak up and make sure not to interrupt each other.

She first started asking us questions about what TV shows we really loved and I was surprised at some of the shows the women mentioned. Women in their late 30s/early 40s loved shows on MTV, like “Awkward,” which I had heard of, but they mentioned a ton of other shows I had never heard of that were on MTV and E. The only show I can say I’ve watched on MTV is “Catfish.” I can’t help it. It’s fascinating. But I can’t think of any E show I’ve watched, except for “Chelsea Lately” when that was on.

Anyway, it really surprised me that a bunch of 40-year-olds watch MTV shows. When I was younger I was big into “Real World” and “Road Rules” on MTV, and I have no idea if those franchises are even in existence anymore. I suppose I could find out easily if they are, but I really don’t care, so it surprised me that women around my age loved shows on MTV.

So since that surprised me, I shouldn’t have been surprised about their answers to some things on the show “Younger,” but I was. One thing you need to know about “Younger” is that there is a love triangle between the woman pretending to be 26, the 26-year-old boy she starts dating as she’s pretending to be 26, and a 40-year-old executive at the book publishing place where she’s working who thinks she’s 26.

The 26-year-old she’s dating is very good looking, as is the 40-year-old book publishing guy, and when we were asked whose team we were on, as in which man should our main character end up with, almost every woman said the 26-year-old. Only me and another woman who was 31 said that she should be with the book publishing guy. Seriously? The 26-year old who lives in a dirty apartment with roommates and plays video games? The 26-year-old who wants to go to overnight outdoor festivals that are muddy and dirty and full of bad music? The 26-year-old who isn’t the sharpest tool in the shed?

I am team 40-year-old book publishing guy all the way. I told them that the 40-year-old guy would take you to nice restaurants, maybe a play, and you could fly off to Paris together and stay in nice places. If the 26-year-old took her to Paris they’d be staying in hostels.

But no matter what I or anyone else said, they were team 26-year-old all the way. I honestly thought that we’d be split by age, that the women in their 20s and early 30s would want the 26-year-old, and those of us in our late 30s and 40s would want the book publishing guy. I still think those women are totally crazy, but hey, to each her own.

Another thing I found interesting is that I was one of the only people in the room to say they watch live TV. Most of these women watch TV shows using their DVRs, Comcast’s On Demand or services like Hulu, Netflix, and Amazon Prime. Only a couple other people said they’ve watched the show live. I don’t always watch things live either, especially not for shows I don’t love, but for shows I love I try to watch them live. I guess I’m in the minority on that one.

But one of the biggest things I found doing this focus group: I do not watch as much TV as I thought I did. These women watched a lot of TV. They were going on and on about “The Bachelorette” and “Dancing with the Stars” and a ton of other shows I wouldn’t watch, and then they started talking about shows I’d never heard of. There was a big portion of the focus group where I just watched and listened to everyone else talk about TV.

Or maybe it’s not that I don’t watch a lot of TV, but I don’t watch the TV they watch. Only one other person watched “Orphan Black” and “Game of Thrones” with me, and they all hadn’t heard of “Mr. Robot.”But one thing is crystal clear after the focus group: I’d much rather date a 40-year-old than a 26-year-old. Most definitely.