Friday, May 3, 2013

Liebster Award

So my wonderful friend Melissa over at Researching San Diego has nominated me for a Liebster award. She and I first met at my recruitment weekend for graduate school, and we immediately clicked and have kept in touch despite an almost-constant ocean between us (she spent 4 years in Paris and moved back to the States a mere 3 months before I made my way to Zurich). She's a wonderful, warm-hearted soul and her blog definitely reflects that - it tends to be positive and much less snarky than my own writing. 

I'd never heard of the Liebster award, so I poked about online and it seems to be of uncertain origin, but it is intended for blogs that have fewer than 300 followers (I officially have 1) as a way of bringing attention to other small blogs. I thought it apropos, since "liebster" is actually a German word meaning "dearest." The earliest mention I found online is at this German blog - although the limit there is fewer than 3000 followers (!). It's not so much of an award as a way of getting to know other bloggers and also telling them about yourself.

Share 11 things about yourself:

1. From the age of 6 until 2 days ago, I never had or paid for cable television. From 6 through the end of college, I didn't even have the "free" channels; my parents turned off our television on purpose (although we had an extensive collection of videos for Friday family movie night and when we were sick or doing mundane things like snapping beans), and my roommate in college never had a television. In Boston, I lived by myself and couldn't bring myself to pay so much money to watch television, although I did watch ABC, CBS, etc (and I later paid for Netflix and Hulu Plus to stream through my Xbox). If B and I ever have kids, I'd follow my parents' example.

2. I drink almost nothing but water and the occasional tea, orange juice when I am sick, or milk with cookies. I've probably been doing this for almost 8 years. I will occasionally have a ginger ale or root beer on a special occasion or as an indulgence. I don't miss other drinks, although here in Zurich you pay just as much for water as anything else, so it's no longer done out of cheapness. When I read health articles or suggestions, almost always one of the first suggestions is to cut down/out on sugary beverages, and I get unreasonably grumpy because I have totally already done that. 

3. I inherited both poor sinuses and strange eyesight from my mother. When I was younger, I had one eye that was far-sighted and one that was near-sighted. My mother recognized the squinting and headaches and took me to an eye doctor when I was 8 or so - her near/far-sightedness wasn't noticed she went for her driver's test at 16. Over the years, both eyes have continuously gotten more nearsighted, so I no longer make eye doctors re-check their diagnoses. My favorite part was for a few years in college, where I had only one contact because my far-sighted eye had reached 20/20.

4. I have a tattoo on my lower back (as in a "tramp stamp" - I enjoy the irony of this). I got it for my 25th birthday and have never regretted it, but I have also never seriously considered getting another one.

5. I have two sisters, both older. My mother also has two sisters (and one brother), as did my grandmother. Out of my sisters, I am the shortest, have the darkest hair, the only one with grey/bluish eyes (my sisters have more green/hazel), and the only one that can't roll my tongue.

6. I was probably 12 or 13 before I realized that the small coffee-colored mark on the inside of my right wrist was actually a birthmark. Until that time, I used to tell people that I didn't have one.

7. I am convinced that every person has at least one "fact" we believe that is actually incorrect. Most likely something from our childhood that we were told by our parents or siblings, accepted it without question, and have never had it challenged as an adult (examples: I had a friend - a biologist - who absolutely "knew" that humans lost 90% of their body heat through their head. When I inquired why, she said it was because her mother said it all the time - right before her mother told her to wear a hat. My dad used to say that most vitamins in an orange were actually contained in the pith - the white part - and later admitted he had no idea, it was just something his mother used to say to get him to eat the entire thing).

8. I love board games! I make my friends play them when I have birthday parties, and my family always plays several when we get together for Christmas or other gatherings. My favorite is Trivial Pursuit. I don't understand why most people aren't as enthusiastic about them as I am. 

9. Usually, I have no regional American accent, but I lapse into a West Virginian one when I am very tired or angry. Or when I visit any part of the Appalachians. 

10. I regret not keeping in touch better with many, many people from college - my classmates are truly amazing women. I am glad that I have Facebook so that I can still see all the wonderful paths their lives have taken. This month will be our 10-year reunion (I'm missing it), and I will definitely prioritize making our 15-year one.

Mount Holyoke College
11. I find it ironic that, starting in middle school through beyond college, I spent years studying French and trying to become functional in it, even living in France for 8 months between a job and entering graduate school. However, I ended up marrying a Spanish-speaking man and living in a German-speaking city. There's probably a moral in there somewhere, but I don't know what it is.

Answers to the 11 questions I was given:

1. What is your go-to, most comforting meal? Definitely my mother's recipe for hamburger stroganoff. It is a family favorite and I'm still convinced that she hasn't fully revealed how she does it, since my attempts to recreate it are always just slightly off. 
2. Top 5 destinations you hope to travel to some day? I would never turn down a trip any where, any time. In no particular order, here are some destinations that have been on my mind recently: Cinque Terre in Italy, Angkor Wat, Japan, New Zealand, and Machu Picchu. (Are you reading this, B?) 
3. Top 5 places you have already visited? I feel like I haven't actually gone that many places, which is depressing (and needs to change now that I am in the middle of Europe!). Again, in no particular order: Paris, St. Malo (a small walled French town in Bretagne), Quebec, Costa Rica, and White Pine, Tennessee. The last one may not seem exotic - and it certainly won't make any travel guides. But growing up, my family would make the drive to White Pine at least twice a year to stay at my grandparents' house. We usually stayed for at least a week, and it was always a huge gathering of family - cousins, aunts, uncles, random peoples. Typically we went down in July for a large family clan reunion ("Meet your sixth cousin twice removed!") and Thanksgiving, a more "intimate" gathering of around 15-20 people. The house was always bustling, and my cousins and I always made it our goal to avoid the adult relatives as much as humanly possible by hiding in the basement. Now that my grandparents are gone, I don't have much reason to return to that area of the US, although I would like to show it to B at some point.
4. What song takes you back to your senior year in high school like it was yesterday? I'm afraid I don't have many strong memories associated with my senior year of high school - I was very, very eager to leave West Virginia behind. I did enjoy Baz Luhrmann's Class of '99: Wear Sunscreen, since I was in the high school graduation class of '99 (and my high school had 99 graduates, actually). However, during the summers between high school, I worked at a Girl Scout camp near Knoxville, Tennessee, and I have many memories of driving around in a camp van with other counselors singing "Bitch" by Meredith Brooks at the top of our lungs.
5. What was your first car? Technically I have had only one car with its license in my name, but the first car that I was "in charge of" was an '89 white Subaru that an older sister and I shared (we went to college within 15 minutes of each other). The car was inherited from my aunt, and my sister named her "Sweetie" because we had to encourage her to go places - particularly up hills. She couldn't go above 72 mph without significant shaking.
6. Coffee or tea? Definitely tea. Usually herbal. I don't drink caffeine in any form very often, and the only way I will drink coffee is if it has been seriously sugared and milked up beyond recognition.
7. What is your favorite thing to cook? Can I only choose one? Generally, I would say cookies. I love to bake lots of things, but cookies are usually quick and not very labor intensive (vs., say, cupcakes, which are also delicious but a bit messier). And so tasty.
8. Favorite thing about blogging? I enjoy telling stories and entertaining. I also love my family and friends. This blog is like writing dozens of emails at a time to let everybody back home know what I'm up to and how I'm feeling. I am really, really horrible at keeping in touch with people, so I love that I've finally found a way to do it, although I'm afraid it is a bit impersonal. (A close second: I find that this blog has worked well as a personal motivator, either to try things that otherwise I would be nervous about, or just as a reminder to get up and out of the house.)
9. Three pieces of advice you would give younger you? 1) Getting a PhD is a worthy goal, but it should be considered a means to an end - reflect on what you want your end to be. 2) Your parents always told you that you'd eventually find like-minded people and be happy - and they were totally right. Also, being an adult doesn't automatically mean that you are as wise as your parents - there are stupid adults out there. 3)  Take more chances. Try not to be so afraid - it's a lifelong struggle, but start now.
10. What would be your perfect date? I think this answer would probably change hourly, depending on my mood. But right now, I would say a tasty meal that I don't have to make or clean up, then fancy clothes and going out - probably to the ballet - then off to a restaurant for dessert (somehow involving chocolate and berries, please), then coming home, switching to some yoga pants, and spend a couple hours curled up on the couch playing Xbox games with B (cooperative ones, not ones where he beats my ass).
11. Could you recommend 2 books that moved you (any genre)? I have many books that I adore or would recommend. But (to me) books that moved me suggest books that had an impact, changed my outlook, ones that stayed with me after I put it down. I would say Little Bee, by Chris Cleave. Along the same lines (in terms of a book that has its moments of triumph but not necessarily a "happy ending") would be Girl in Translation by Jean Kwok. On the other end of the spectrum would be The $64 Tomato: How One Man Nearly Lost His Sanity, Spent a Fortune, and Endured an Existential Crisis in the Quest for the Perfect Garden by William Alexander. It's non-fiction and really very funny - one could compare it to Bill Bryson. It moved me because I read it at a time I was feeling very disenchanted with my life, and it reminded me of the garden my family had growing up. It inspired me to start my balcony garden in Boston last year, and that in turn caused me to start baking/cooking more, and then I picked up crocheting again....basically, I blame that book for the spiral that turned me into a wannabe '50s housewife. And so far it's a lot of fun :)
Nominate other bloggers:

1. No Goat's Going to Lick That Off

2. Dubious Hausfrau

3. Gegenwart Bewältigung

(Lesson: I need to interact with more bloggers)

11 questions for others to answer:

1. What is your dream home and where would it be?

2. Favorite thing about blogging?

3. What are your top three most-visited websites?

4. Name a book you would recommend.

5. Favorite vacation you've taken?

6. Any plans for the summer?

7. What's the best way to spent a Sunday?

8. What gives you a sense of accomplishment?

9. Favorite Olympic sport to watch?

10. What is your go-to meal to make (either for yourself or company)?

11. What's your favorite season?

Thanks again to Melissa for the nomination, and thanks for anyone who made it through this entire post!


  1. Fantastic! Thanks for playing along - this was so fun (even for someone I consider a close friend, I learned so much :) Plus, doing the Liebster research was awesome!

  2. Oh, a nomination?? Never heard of this either... I will consider.

    As a fellow newbie in blogging, the concept seems appealing. Getting to know the community of bloggers and such. Had to laugh at your comment "I officially have 1 follower." Right there with you. :p

    For me, most blogs I've encountered are on blogspot and I've found it difficult to officially "subscribe" to them, but unofficially follow several (including yours!) using the Netvibes reader, which is very nice.

    Enjoyed reading your responses. I like to play board games too - the newer gen ones like Catan, Pandemic, and Betrayal.

  3. As a fellow MHC'er (who just spent the last week or so playing Donkey Kong on the Super Nintendo with Andrea!), you should read the book "I Capture the Castle" if you haven't already. One of my all-time favorites, since when I read it the first time, I was only a little older than the heroine.

    1. That is so funny, because I had never heard of the book before last year, when I saw it and picked it up for my sister for Christmas. Unfortunately, I didn't get a chance to read it before I gave it to her. Maybe it's available on Kindle!