Tuesday, December 31, 2013

"Crime and Punishment" by Fyodor Dostoyevsky (1866)


Raskolnikov, an impoverished student living in the St. Petersburg of the tsars, is determined to overreach his humanity and assert his untrammeled individual will. When he commits an act of murder and theft, he sets into motion a story that, for its excruciating suspense, its atmospheric vividness, and its depth of characterization and vision is almost unequaled in the literatures of the world. The best known of Dostoevsky’s masterpieces, Crime and Punishment can bear any amount of rereading without losing a drop of its power over our imaginations.

Dostoevsky’s drama of sin, guilt, and redemption transforms the sordid story of an old woman’s murder into the nineteenth century’s profoundest and most compelling philosophical novel.

Award-winning translators Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky render this elusive and wildly innovative novel with an energy, suppleness, and range of voice that do full justice to the genius of its creator.

This is one of my favorite classics ever; I watched the 2002 BBC version recently and was suddenly inspired to re-read the book again. Although I've always liked the book since the first time I read it, the story and the characters never cease to strike me as brilliant and I always notice something new each time.

  • This book is amazing. It's a psychological drama that goes fairly deeply into the philosophy of nihilism, expounds upon the nature of man and his morality, and gives us a glimpse of Russian culture and history. Reading the characters and the different viewpoints they present towards the relationship between crime and punishment was a lot of fun for me, and I felt that Dostoyevsky must have been very proud of this masterpiece.
  • The dynamic differences between the characters are extremely relevant to the story - each acts as a foil, in some way, to the main character, Raskolnikov. I absolutely loved how each contributed his or her part in the story, whether it's with Dunya's integrity, Sonya's selflessness, Razumikhin's openness, Luzhin's pretentiousness, or even Svidrigailov's sinister ambiguity.
  • Raskolnikov himself is an intriguing main character, and his descent into a guilt (and eventual redemption) brings to the audience a whirlwind of emotions and understanding in the cluttered city of St. Petersburg. He is portrayed as brilliant but extremely prideful and wrong on many accounts, particularly on his "extraordinary vs. ordinary" theory, which is an important part of the book, and the way the author brings this out with symbolism, juxtaposition, and religious allusions is brilliant.
  • The pacing and structure of the story also struck me as particularly interesting. The crime itself only takes up a few chapters, and the punishment resonates deeply throughout the rest of the book. It's also strange to think that all these turmoils and coincidences occur within the matter of a few days, and my sense of time gets very muddled and skewed when I'm reading the book because some of the developments seem to happen so quickly... The fact that Raskolnikov is ill and delirious throughout parts of the book doesn't make things easier (for example, he sleeps for four days after killing the old lady).
  • The character interactions are great. The "cat and mouse" chase, for instance, between the investigator Porfiry and Raskolnikov, is very suspenseful and clever. Marmeladov and his wife are both heavily flawed and unaware of the ironies in their own observations. Luzhin's pompous language, the contrast between Sonya's meek nature and base occupation, and Svidrigailov's contradictory impressions give the audience more to mull about.
  • My guess is that some people would criticize the epilogue because it doesn't quite match up with the style and pacing of the story. It features a flash-forward in time, and updates on how the major characters are doing. But I thought it was a suitable ending; the book would be good with or without it, I think. The epilogue is essential in reaching the final catharsis and enabling the audience to understand Raskolnikov's real redemption, whereas the chapter before that concludes on a very dramatic note, for the action that we all knew was coming. The epilogue is definitely much more sentimental, but not mawkishly so, and I felt like it was good to keep it in there.
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars!

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Teavana's Wild Orange Blossom Herbal Tea Review

Florida is calling with a sweetly soft combination of citrus paired with beautiful sunshiny flower blossoms, creating an orchard of flavor. A tribute to the plentiful citrus groves along the Indian River, this bright favorite blends orange slices and pretty rose petals.

Refreshing orange infusion with light floral undertones.

Price: $6.98 per 2 oz/$3.49 per oz
Preparations: 1.5 tsp, 208 degrees F, 5-6 min.

  • The hue is a very pretty dark pink/light red... The color and the citrus smell made me associate it more with grapefruit.
  • The lovely thing about herbal teas is that you can steep it for as long as you want, and the tea leaves don't release an astringent taste. In fact, this tea only has a stronger citrus flavor if you accidentally leave the tea leaves in for longer than 5 minutes, which I really like, so I've been deliberately leaving the tea leaves in the pot.
  • The tea leaves smell really nice too, if you like fruity and sweet smells.
  • The tea, however, isn't as sweet as it smells. I don't add any sugar since I don't particularly like sweet tea, but if you do, you may have to add one or two spoonfuls.
  • If you pour the tea out a little before its full recommended steeping time (at about 3 minutes), you can definitely taste the light floral undertones. Otherwise, it'll be almost completely concealed by the orange flavor. I happen to enjoy the citrus flavor more than the floral flavor, so I steep the tea longer, but this is for if you prefer a lighter, more subtle flavor.
  • It's great as a sweetened iced tea!
Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars!

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Happy Holidays!

Apparently we're going skiing with our dear childhood friends! This will be an awesome winter break. Hopefully I can return to Austin earlier too and pick up a job as a pharmacy technician, in case I get that interview for pharmacy school.

In the meantime... I'm going to just relax and watch a crapload of movies and read a crapload of books! Merry Christmas, everybody, and have a happy new year!

Oh, how I've missed Singapore Rice Noodles!! Thank god for Dallas and being home again...

Monday, December 9, 2013

Manicure Monday and Finals Week

 Waffle Wednesday from last week! Yum!!

I made myself a huge plate of pasta :( It ended up being way too much so I ate it for both lunch and dinner haha. So good though! I love bell peppers and mushrooms, I think next time I'll try putting some salmon in it too!

Went to The Domain with my two besties, A and M! We ended up spending the rest of A's extra $12 gift card, awesome day.

At California Pizza Kitchen! (Which has great service at the Domain, I'd highly recommend it! Last time, our pizza was slightly burnt at the bottom, and not only did they not charge us for it, they baked us a whole other batch! Great people there, that's why I always try to come back and support them.)

 This nail polish was only $1. I got it from Dallas's local Korea-town during Black Friday. I'm in love with it right now. The brush and formula is awesome, and the color is so elegant. I only applied one thick coat (if you apply thinly, it may come across as a little streaky), and as you can see, the tips are a little opaque, but other than that, it covers quite well!

S.he Makeup's Pearl Natural! I think this would look amazing on darker skin tones too!

Monday, December 2, 2013

Thanksgiving Break

Cooked a small portion of syrup-glazed sweet potatoes for a Thanksgiving dinner!

Made old-fashioned Chinese noodle soup on a cold day, yum~

Regular stir-fry, with mushrooms, bok choy, tomatoes, rice, ginger, garlic, and scallions.

I've been spending a ton of money on food lately, and so I'm trying to cut back by buying more groceries and cooking... It's cheaper, albeit time-consuming. Especially for college students with unsteady schedules. But it always makes me feel better (therapy cooking, anybody?) and I hate wasting food, so... Plus now there's more flexibility! I can make food that I really like. I'm not a picky eater, but I do have some weird preferences (like veggies over meat and sour vinegar over salty soy sauce), so that's nice too!

Froyo with A and S!

Finally made it back to Dallas... I thought this picture of Daisy was especially poetic.

A long walk with my mom and my dog! (Who refuses to look at the camera... bahaha)

Yay, got to meet up with my childhood friend, H, and my brother, K! We ended up hiding away from all the other screaming Chinese toddlers and watching Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.

Went Black Friday shopping with H! We spent a large portion of that time looking through cat books haha.

I used Wet n Wild's Sugar Coat on my nails! Didn't really like it that much :( The formula and brush was terrible - the color is so pretty and elegant with just one coat, but it comes off as really streaky, and it took me a long time to cover it up, with like four coats. And then it takes forever to dry (at least with four coats), and so a few individual nails were messed up since I got impatient and wanted to do stuff and I had to redo them a couple of times.

I don't think I'll be using this one again! Even if the color is so pretty...

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

The Republic of Tea's Blackberry Sage Black Tea Review

An enchanting blend of black tea, fruit and herbs. Finest quality Indian leaves mingle with sweet, fragrant blackberries and cool, soothing white sage. The mild, head-clearing character of the white sage herb contributes to a wise tea mind.

Price: $10 per 3.5 oz/$2.86 per oz
Preparations: 3-5 min
  • Again, I am not particularly fond of black teas. They usually have a very strong, almost bitter flavor as compared to the lighter white and green teas or sweet herbal teas. But I actually enjoyed this one, to an extent - it was appreciated as a pick-me-up replacement for coffee in the morning.
  • The sage was what really did it for me. The blackberry pieces were very few, but it wasn't particularly refreshing, so I didn't feel like I missed much. The sage, however, adds sort of a kick of flavor, especially if you like the herb. I happen to love sage very much, so that was awesome.
  • The color is nice, typical of most black teas with its reddish hue. The fragrance was also not bad, but it didn't exactly leave me wafting over the canister the entire time either.
  • This tea is ten times better brewed with honey/sugar and allowed to cool down. I had accidentally let it cool down too much once, during winter, and then took a sip, and it was amazing! After that incident, I started drinking it as an iced tea instead, because it was really nothing special as a warm cup of tea.
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars!

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Victoria's Secret Pink Nation School Spirit Rally @ UT Austin

 Me at the mystery box... DUN DUN DUN.

Yesss!! Such a win :) I got the Pink UT jacket from the Collegiate Collection, which is always so expensive... It was funny, because that very morning I had been freezing my ass off and telling myself, "It'd be nice if I had brought a jacket..." Well, didn't see that one coming.

M also got a really nice prize (sweater and leggings collection), but B got the shiny eyeless stuffed dog. I think I was pretty lucky! Thank you, Victoria's Secret, for such giveaway events! It was awesome.

Speaking of awesome, my ochem TA gave me back four points on my last exam because apparently whoever had graded it (not him) accidentally took off four points for no reason. I just went up to him after class to ask why my answer was wrong, and he was super nice about it, explaining patiently and then effectively changing my grade right after. I love seeing that sort of efficiency in the education system; prompt and ready feedback. I wish that occurred more often. Makes me remember why I had such a huge crush on him last year (just kidding! - but not really).

Yesterday, I also made a new study buddy, which I could always use no matter how late in the year it is. Apparently, we were both in the same Genetics and Ochem class this entire semester (two best subjects for studying with friends), and he just sort of plopped down next to me and started a conversation with me about our Genetics class - right before Ochem began. LOL I had no idea, but I guess he'd seen my face from around the FB groups or something, and we ended up checking our Genetics homework super last-minute in the one hour break between Ochem and Genetics.

And then J and I have made an agreement to start preparing for the finals at least two entire weeks beforehand... I'm having a good feeling about this arrangement. Hopefully, I'll get through this semester with mostly A's (could tolerate a B+ here and there though).

Today was another victory. J (a different one) and I played doubles against R's team, AND WE WON! The earsplitting roar that came out of us was just amazing. No words can explain it... Bahaha this is our first decisive victory, we really needed that ego-booster.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Sunday Nails

So I finally tried out SpaRitual's Emerald City! (I had gotten this nail polish as a free giveaway from some Toyota vendor during Pecan Street Festival, but had never used it until now.) Honestly, I didn't think I would like it because it's not my typical choice of nail color (I prefer neutral and pastel colors), but after the third coat of jelly-ness, I was really beginning to feel it. It's got a very fun-loving vibe to it, and the creamy smooth texture is amazing.

Matches with my scarf... Erin approves!

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

"The Poisonwood Bible" by Barbara Kingsolver (1998)

Poisonwood Bible.jpg 
The Poisonwood Bible is a story told by the wife and four daughters of Nathan Price, a fierce, evangelical Baptist who takes his family and mission to the Belgian Congo in 1959. They carry with them everything they believe they will need from home, but soon find that all of it—from garden seeds to Scripture—is calamitously transformed on African soil. What follows is a suspenseful epic of one family's tragic undoing and remarkable reconstruction over the course of three decades in postcolonial Africa.

  • Remarkably deep, thought-provoking, and emotion-stirring... Really broadens your views on the world. Most of the story is centered in the 1960's, in the midst of the Cold War years where tension is running highest, deep in the heart of Central Africa. There's a lot of history in there that has to do with imperialism, religion, communism v. the ideal "free world," etc, and it might shatter your naive notions about how things should be conducted in a government and answer your questions as to why Africa has never been economically prosperous.
  • The story itself is also intriguing. I read this over the course of the month and fell in love with the characters pretty quickly. It's very easy to get attached and yet so frustrated at each one. There's Leah, who's begging to be loved by her negligent father; Adah, smart but emo with an overwhelming amount of self-pity; Rachel, who is spoiled and shallow and hilarious (in my point of view, anyway - her abundance of malapropisms and inability to spell very well always makes me chuckle), and many other characters with their endearing quirks or unfortunate situations, allowing you to hold sympathy for them.
  • Of course, the prick of the family drives me nuts. (Hint: it'll be the father.) He's very obstinate and arrogant and just... UGH. What happened to him at the end was an absolutely brilliant twist of fate though, and very ironic.
  • A lot of the themes center around the guilt of the women in their family and moving forward. I absolutely loved it, how they are strong enough in their own ways to pick themselves back up even after a tragedy occurs, and it struck me as a book with some sort of feminist... vibe. Nothing explicit, of course, or too overboard (it's not like they're portraying all guys as pathetic or anything), but I loved how they made the female characters strong in different ways.
  • Beautiful ending. Really ties everything together again. I hadn't read such a satisfying book in such a long time, so I was really thrilled and eager to write a review for this one. Would highly recommend to anyone!

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars!

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Halloween on 6th Street

 Great view of downtown :)

 Lovely candid shot provided by M, who was trying to get the Pedo-bear behind me (you can still sorta see his white sneakers). I had to make-do with a quick DIY costume since it was too cold for my nurse outfit, and just wore a flowy artsy dress with a mismatching headband to proclaim myself a hippie.
Oh yeahhh some of the finest characters you'll ever meet.

Mario and Luigi bros!

Oh yeahhh the Sith Lord!! My favorite Darth ever.

 A headless man who couldn't walk two feet without getting a picture taken.

Halloween was a blast! It sucks that it was on a Thursday night since the streets went on forever and it seemed like we could just wander around without getting bored... But S had an 8am class and A had an exam the next day, so we headed back around midnight.

The original plan was to go with a good-sized gang of girls (another A, M, I, and E) and eat at Fuzzy's Taco beforehand, but not surprisingly, things did not go as planned... College students are so irresponsible (I admit, I'm guilty of this too sometimes, but not for fun events!). "I" wanted to go after 2AM (which is too crazy for me and would completely pulverize my sleeping schedule), M said she was too tired after her lab and would rather just eat and watch movies in bed, and A fell sick that night.

But then S, my underclassman from high school, texted me, asking about 6th street (he had never been there before) and then A, a friend from last semester's Stats class, messaged me on FB asking about my plans for Halloween and whether or not she could squeeze in. So I invited them both to come out with me for Halloween.

We almost got caught in the middle of a fight between drunk guys (good thing S knows how to plow his way through a crowd) and had to hold hands not to get lost... It was THAT packed! But there were just so many interesting things to see all at once, and so many great costumes.

Next year I want to coordinate my outfits around a group of people (that Gotham group was pretty badass). We could all dress up from some nerdy anime show or a TV show, and it'd be a lot of fun. I bet the pictures would turn out great too!

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Hula Hut with Pops

Random outfit of the day: Forever 21 sweater (size S), M.S.S.P blouse (size M), Old Navy jeans (size 1), and Michael Kors boots.

So much food! I had a great time with my dad :) Sometimes, you forget how much the simple things in life matter... I've been caught up in so many pharmacy school and registration worries lately that I haven't been able to treasure time with the things I love, like family and food. And of course, the great scenic view that Lake Austin presents.

The fact that my dad and I are so like-minded (or I guess I should say that I'm like my dad... not the other way around) also makes it so easy to have a good time with him. I hadn't realized before how much I missed him. I'm so glad he came down to Austin for that business conference! (And of course, he also treated me out to dinner... That's pretty cool too!)

Oh, and... CAN'T WAIT FOR HALLOWEEN! It'll be so much fun! :D

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Run for the Water, Longhorn Halloween, etc

So that was a great run in the morning~! Really makes you appreciate Austin downtown, which is big but nowhere as big as downtown Dallas and much cleaner. The view by the bridge was breathtaking, especially as the sun rises. I'm a little sad that only 49 people from our class showed up (50 people need to show up in order for us to get extra credit!), but regardless, waking up to get there at 7:15 in the morning was still worth it. I got free breakfast taquitos from Whataburger and free pizza for lunch too.

Then, for Longhorn Halloween, I got to work in the candy room! Couldn't be more thrilled over the selection. And I made a new friend too, who is currently trying to convince me to join CSA (which I probably won't anyway because I don't care to join a group based on ethnic ties). But it's nice to meet new people and try new things.

Later on, I went to the Buzz Mill to study. Unfortunately, I wasn't feeling very well so I didn't take on any of their heavily caffeinated drinks and ordered a simple cup of green tea instead, but I still got a lot of work done regardless. The music was pretty cacophonous (who in the world thought it was a good idea to put screeching cars and terrible acoustics together?!), but the atmosphere is just right if you plug in a good, working pair of headphones in to your own study music.

Next time I go there (probably some time soon again), I will try out one of their coffees and see how that goes.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Night Market and Gourdough's

 Outfit of the day: Dress (from China), J. Jill cardigan (size S), Dicky's jeans (size 1), and Ecco shoes (size 8).

Shaved ice from the TASA Night Market!

I was a little disappointed, to be honest, because I've been craving decent Chinese food all week and was so looking forward to free food... But the 葱油饼 was dry and flavorless, and I wasn't fond of the other street-style food. The fact that they didn't have 油条 either was also disappointing, but I guess I wasn't really expecting that, since that's more of Beijing-style food and the organizations hosting this event never made the claim that they'd bring that. Bahhh but whatever. I really wanted to show R 葱油饼 that doesn't taste like Jewish bread (in his words, anyway) and let A and M eat some good food too.

Anyway, it was still fun with M, A, and R, probably my three favorite people as of this moment. So yayyy, even if we ended up going to Coco's Cafe later (I could tell M was completely unsatisfied - she's always been the pickiest eater out of all of us, so I felt really bad about that).

On Saturday night, R and I ate at Gourdough's Public House. Introducing... Flying Pig! Filled with artery-choking deliciousness.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Costume Social at Plucker's

It was for Longhorn Pre-Pharmacy Associaton. I was a modest nurse. Don't judge me.

Official picture for the costume contest.

Won second place in the trivia competition with this cool cat! (I answered the biology/chemistry-related questions, she answered the pop culture questions, and it somehow worked out really well.)

First time having Plucker's... Ordered the sesame sauce boneless chicken wings with a side of macaroni and cheese, yum.

Awkward picture at the end of the night. I closed my eyes, but I guess she thought my eyes were that small so she took the picture anyway. And how do you tell the photographer that the picture they took isn't flattering at all?! I flubbed for a minute trying to fish around for words to ask for a redo, but then decided it wasn't worth it. Oh well.