Book Review! China in Ten Words

Well this was NOT what I was expecting when I picked up this little yellow book. Not that it’s a bad thing, it’s good to have surprises once in a while. So this is what I thought I was getting when I ordered China in Ten Words: an overview of Chinese history in 10 thematic terms. What I got however was a full and incredibly in-depth understanding of China during the Cultural Revolution through the lens of these words. These two versions don’t seem that far off but I was looking for a book to give me a short intro to China to help me teach AP World History, not just a few decades of Chinese history…so yeah its pretty different.


BUT THIS BOOK WAS AWESOME! It moved me in so many different directions and the author, Yu Hua, expertly uses humor to convey some dark topics and periods in China’s and his childhood. He does not gloss over the terrors of the Cultural Revolution and openly analyses its effect of his life, but he does not make the reader feel hopeless for humanity. Overall a fantstic balance between little ancecdotes and historical data!

Each word is also an individual chapter so it’s really easy to move through the book in small chunks. At first I set a goal of one chapter a day and then Hurricane Irma hit us and I suddenly had a LOT more free time (without AC or power mind you) to read. Therefore, I finished the book pretty quickly.


This post contains affiliate links, which means that if you click on one of the product links, I can receive some compensation. 

TEMPLATE_ Book Review!


Book Review! The Sabbath World

I was struggling a lot this past year to find a work/life balance. I was burning out fast, tired, grumpy, and overworked but I didn’t know what to do besides leave my job. I did eventually move to a new school but I knew that these problems could crop up again if I was not careful.

I love teaching but I wanted to find someway to make a balance that worked for me. This is an ongoing journey and I am nowhere near finished figuring it all out. However, I am doing some research! As a practicing Catholic, I gravitated towards the ritual of a Jewish Sabbath, and after having the lovely opportunity to go to an Orthodox home for a Shabbat meal I knew I wanted to search in that direction.

Sabath world-close up

Read more: Honoring the Sabbath

I picked up this book, The Sabbath World: Glimpses of a Different Order of Time by Judith Shulevitz, while at the Jewish Heritage Museum in NYC. It was quiet different from what I was expecting but refreshing nonetheless. The book is not a “how to” manual on the Sabbath and the author herself admits she struggles to keep it. The book is more of a sociological and psychological study on the Sabbath throughout history. It travels from the acts of Creation to the establishment of the Fourth Commandment to how modern people have adapted (and abandoned) the day of non-work.

One lovely concept I took away from the book is the misnomer of the Sabbath as a “day of rest,” when instead the Jewish version is a “day of non-work.” A minor distinction, but not-working does not necessarily mean 100% rest. This subtle distinction has allowed me to see the idea “keeping the Sabbath” in a new light.


Read more: Jewish Holidays: The Sabbath

I still don’t know what I’ll do (or not) do on my Sabbath day, or even which day I will keep it, but I do know that this book has allowed me to grow on this journey to find the right balance for happiness, fulfillment, and joy in my life. If you are searching for a way (religious or secular), I highly recommend this intellectual read.


Book Review! Sabbath World

Museum Madness: Making the Most of your Museum Visit

Ok so not everyone loves museums, they find them dusty old places that are pretentious and no fun. Unfortunately, many people enter into these sacred halls less than enthusiastic and then they continue to perpetuate those negative thoughts. However, I have to admit that some people will never be “museum people” (my sister being one of them), but that does not mean you should ignore museums completely while traveling.


Museums are literally the temples of knowledge of our past achievements and, as human beings in the 21st century, I think it is imperative we learn about these awesomely talented ancestors. That being said, there are ways to make museums more fun for everyone. Although there are a million of types of museums, but I am going to focus on art museums since, you know, art history was my degree and all! Hopefully, this post changes the way you look at art museums for ever.

Tip 1: Don’t Overdo It


Some museums are just too big, even for the most ambitious art-loving person. I too get museum fatigue: that feeling of just not caring how great or beautiful the next painting is because your hangry/tired/sore/bored. That being said, if you are entering a mega-museum choose a section/floor/theme to focus on and stick to that until you decide if you want to continue or not. Personally, it’s better to see less of the museum and enjoy it than “see it all” and not remember or care about a thing.

When Will and I go to museums we try to make sure we highlight exhibits we’d both like to see (I for one love medieval art), that way we each have something to look forward to. Additionally, I always make sure I google the museum in question to find what their “can’t miss” art pieces are and make sure to swing by.

Read more: Germany: AP Art History Hunting!

Tip 2: Comfortable Clothes


Will and I both have minor back issues so comfortable shoes (that are totally not geriatric!) are a must. Museums tend to aggravate my back even more because you stop and go and shift your weight side to side a lot. I try to make sure I pay attention to my body’s signs before pushing myself too far and ruining our vacation. More museums are putting in benches and lounge chairs, make use of them if you want to spend some extra time gazing at the artwork.

Read more: Thanksgiving Trip: Art History Hunting!

Tip 3: Don’t Take Too Many Photos


As an art lover and blogger, I do take a fair amount of photos but don’t forget to LOOK while you are there. In all honestly, a Google search will come up with a close-up shot much better than anything you can take, so instead focus your time looking at the paintings: discussing them and engaging with the art. That is the beauty of museums – you are face to face with history! Don’t take that for granted!

Tip 4: Do a Tour


If you don’t know anything about history or art, my best advice is to do a tour or get an audio guide. It’s really the best way to get a crash course on the significance of things in the museum and will really help you to get more out of it. Sometimes museums will have tours based on certain themes (read History in High Heels review of the Baddass Bitches of the Met tour).

Read more: Top 8 Berlin Museums 

Tip 5: Play a Game


Will and I can make anything into a competition and museums are no exception! One game in particular I LOOOOOVEEE to play is “Name that Saint” (I actually teach this to my Humanities students too).

Here’s how you play: you and your partner go up to a painting and try to name as many of the saints as possible and explain how you know who they are based on their symbols, without looking at the information plaque. If there is someone you missed, read up on that saint to add to your arsenal for next time. Honestly, I win this game 99% of the time but Will still likes playing and boy is he getting better!

If you are not as knowledgeable in Christian mythology as we are you can totally make an “I Spy” game and make score sheets ahead of time. Anything to make looking at thousands of religious paintings more entertaining!

We’ll those are really all the best tips I have for now. Do you have any tips to add? What are some of your favorite museums?


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Dorm Life @ the Seminary

So while on my Religious Worlds on New York summer program I opted to stay in the dorms at the Union Theological Seminary choosing the cheapest option … which meant I was sharing a bathroom. Butttttt I didn’t realize it was a hall bathroom (totally different from what I was expecting when I heard the word “shared”). I, however, survived the trip and had a great time in the dorm! (mostly because I found a private bathroom available near my room yay!)

So here’s a sneak peek of my dorm life for three weeks! The photos below are the room I was assigned, which was still decorated with its owner’s stuff, and made it feel extra homey while I was there!

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And then there were the common spaces: our floor had two communal kitchens where I cooked a couple of nights, the hall bath, & a common living room. I enjoyed meeting with the other program participants and Union students watching crappy TV, cooking, and talking.

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The views expressed in this blog do not necessarily reflect those of the National Endowment for the Humanities or the Religious Worlds institute.  For detailed information about the institute, see

guide to surviving a summer roadtrip

Summer Book Swap!

Every summer my husband and I have this fabulous tradition where we swap books and we each pick out a book that the other person HAS to read. It really forces you to go out of your comfort zone and provides great topics of conversations as we read through the books.

Here are the books he’s made me read:

Here are the books I’ve made him read:

Think about starting your own swap with family, friends, or loved ones!


Prepping for the Course

Tomorrow starts my 3-week summer program: Religious Worlds of New York. In anticipation for this whirlwind academic adventure, I have been doing some intense reading (all provided by the Institute thank you very much!). The reading, notes, and research is what I miss most about university life – but certainly not the papers & exams!


These books and articles were incredibly interesting and really helped to expand my mind on the concepts of approaching the topic of world religions before teaching.

Here’s the general reading list I’ve been working on for the past few weeks:

  • “From World Religions to Lived Religion: Towards a Pedagogy of Civic Engagement in Secondary School Religious Studies Curricula” by Henry Goldschmidt
  • A Model of Christian Charity by John Winthrop
  • The Bloudy Tenet of Persecution for Cause of Conscience by Roger Williams
  • The Flushing Remonstrance
  • Letter to President George Washington by Moses Seixas
  • Letter to the Jews of Newport by George Washington
  • Abington v. Schempp by the U.S. Supreme Court
  • Taking Religious Seriously Across the Curriculum by Warren Nord and Charles Haynes
  • Religious Worlds: The Comparative Study of Religion by William Paden
  • “Everyday Miracles: The Study of Lived Religion” by Robert Orsi
  • “Is the Study of Lived Religion Irrelevant to the World We Live In?” by Robert Orsi
  • Teacher’s Guide to Religion in the Public Schools by First Amendment Center
  • Guidelines for Teaching About Religion in K-12 Public Schools in the United States by American Academy of Religion
  • Go Tell it on the Mountain by James Baldwin
  • “Teaching Lived Religion through Literature: Classroom Strategies for Community-Based Learning” by Henry Goldschmidt
  • “Naming Hinduism” by John Stratton Hawley
  • “Feeding Hungry Ghosts” by Daniel Stevenson (ed.)
  • “What is at Stake? Exploring the Problems of Pluralism” by Ellie Pierce
  • The Pluralism Project by Harvard University
  • “Putting a Face to Faith” by Charles Haynes
  • “From Safe Space to Brave Spaces: A New Way to Frame Dialogue Around Divesity and Social Justice” by Brian Arao and Kristi Clemens
  • Before Religion: A History of a Modern Concept by Brent Nongbri
  • Authentic Fakes: Religion and American Popular Culture by David Chidester

In addition to the reading above, the program also sent an excellent packing list and schedule for our program. I am really excited to finally visit Hindu and Buddhist temples along with attending a Friday service at a mosque. Proper attire is certainly required!

I’ll be blogging more on my experiences through the program as I encounter the rich and diverse religious worlds of New York City.


The views expressed in this blog do not necessarily reflect those of the National Endowment for the Humanities or the Religious Worlds institute.  For detailed information about the institute, see

One-Year Anniversary


Well it’s the one year wedding mark for Will & I! Today we’re going to recreate the best parts of our wedding feast: Ceviche for some paella and a cava toast then P is for Pie Bake Shop for my favorite pecan pie. Yum!

I am making it a point to keep to the “traditional” wedding anniversary gifts: year one is paper! I got my hunny a copy of the poster we had at our wedding day (because we lost the original) from BuffyWeddings on Etsy with the opening quote from Pride & Prejudice that he proposed to me with.


Want more wedding posts? Read a funny wedding dress blog post by one of my best friends at theadventuresofbeka: “How I said ‘No’ to the Dress.”



P.S. Thank you Scott David Photography for all the gorgeous life-long memories!