In Memory Of A Language Blogger

You guys, I found out something really sad this weekend. A language blogger, Ron, who used to write the excellent Language Surfer blog, passed away earlier this year, in March. He’d stopped writing on his blog back in January because he was busy with a graduate program. I’d always hoped he’d come back to his blog eventually.

Ron and I corresponded by email about language learning and we followed each other on Twitter as well. I never met him in person, but he was always encouraging to all language learners. He spoke Arabic, German, Spanish, and probably even more languages I’m forgetting. I’m sure his blog was just one (small) part of his life, but I know a lot of us in the language learning community will miss his posts and enthusiasm.

Вечная память.


New Theme: Libretto

Yes, I know I recently changed my blog theme… but I decided to change it again! I’ve been wanting to try out this new one for a while. Not only do I love what it looks like, I also love its name: Libretto. A libretto is the text used in an opera or other long work of music that has a vocal component. In Italian, it literally means “little book.” Whoever designed this theme must have some musical knowledge. (Or maybe they just really liked the word, which is a perfectly valid reason to choose that name!) Anyway, I like it because it’s refreshingly different from any other blog theme I’ve had for a while.

My Latest Obsession: Russian Craft Blogs

As you probably saw last year, I stopped following the news. It’s been an excellent decision and one that I cannot recommend highly enough. However, since I used news websites to help with my Russian learning, I realized I needed some way to fill this void because I need my daily dose of Russian content. It’s not easy keeping up with my Russian in a monolingual city, but it can be done.

The first thing I’ve done is resolved to read more books in Russian. I read novels really slowly and Russian novels are often really long, so I’ve been working on the same book for ages. That isn’t enough, though. To get exposure to some more easily read material, I’ve turned to blogs. I used to read some political blogs in Russian, but you know how that ended up.

Luckily, there are a ton of Russian people using the internet to blog, just as there are in the English-speaking world. (I read that internet penetration in Russia isn’t as high as it is in the US or Canada, but since Russia is so big, that’s still a lot of people online. Just saying.) And I’ve found a new niche of Russian blogs that I am completely obsessed with. I call them the craft blogs.

Right now, I’m following four Russian craft blogs: Дневник рукодельницы, Creative Living (despite the name, it is written in Russian), Матрёшкин блог, and Родом из мечты. The four lovely Russian women post about their lives and the craft projects they do, like sewing, knitting, crocheting, and needlepoint. I am totally addicted to these blogs because they’re fascinating. It’s so neat to see what everyday life is like in Russia. You see, not all of these bloggers live in big glittering Moscow. The first one lives in Penza, I think, and another lives in Samara. And yes, maybe their lives aren’t as conventionally exciting as some well-known journalist or politician living in Moscow, but that isn’t a bad thing. My life isn’t exactly that exciting either, sometimes. I’m certainly not meeting famous people or jetting off to exotic locations every weekend!

Plus I like reading about other people’s crafts. It’s a bonus that I get to learn some Russian words while I’m at it. 🙂

2016 New Year’s Resolutions: Reading, Writing, Blogging

This is Part 1 of a two-part series about my New Year’s resolutions for 2016. If you’ve written a post about your resolutions, leave a link in the comments!

My first set of resolutions concern reading, writing fiction, and blogging. I read a ton of books in 2015—seventy-seven to be exact—and this year, I’m planning on reading fewer.

Yes, fewer. I’m probably the only person who is actually planning to read fewer books this year. There are two reasons why: first, I want to have time for my writing. I have some pretty lofty goals for my writing this year (I’m not even sure I’ll manage to accomplish them!), so I might need some extra time to work on my books.

Second, I want to read longer books this year. I’m working on The Count of Monte Cristo right now and it’s going to take me a long time to get through it. I love it, but there’s no getting around the fact that it is very long. I also want to read more books in Russian this year. Not only do those tend to be long, too, but it takes me a lot longer to read in Russian than in English. (For more about my language-learning resolutions, check back here on Thursday!)

I have a lot I want to accomplish with my writing this year, too. I’ve mentioned that I finished a draft of my book. I’m still working on editing that and have started to outline the second book in the series. If all goes according to my plan, I want to finish two book drafts this year. There will be three books in this series and I’d love to have full-length drafts by the end of this year. Whether that will happen or not… well, we shall see. 🙂

Finally, about blogging: I want to blog more often and more regularly this year. There were a lot of times last year that I thought about blogging but just was too lazy to post anything, and then I would go for days without posting. I’d like to change that this year and get on a regular schedule so I can post at least three times a week. I’m planning to continue my Wednesday Music series, too. I don’t know how many people actually read the posts or listen to the music I post, but I like doing something that hopefully exposes people to classical music.

On Thursday, I’ll talk about more resolutions I have concerning language learning and music!

2015 Overview!

Well, it’s four days into the new year, which means I’ve been reflecting on how last year was. It started off kind of bad due to job stuff, but after March everything got much better. I finished a draft of a novel early in the year, and then another draft of a different (and much better) novel. I’m actually considering hiring an editor to work with me on this draft because I’d love to get an independent, objective opinion from someone who doesn’t know me personally.

I also stopped reading the news in 2015, which was perhaps the most significant change I made. Overall, the results have been fantastic and I would recommend this change to everyone. I’ve started reading a few news items in Russian here and there, but I don’t read English-language media at all anymore, unless someone specifically sends me a story.

So yes, 2015 was a good year. I read a lot of books, did a lot of writing (see my forthcoming writing report later this week), and even finished making an afghan for my living room. I also started a blog series called Wednesday Music in which I write about a different piece of classical music once a week.

One thing that I wish were different about 2015 was the amount of violin playing I did. I didn’t play nearly enough, unfortunately. (Playing more will definitely be a resolution for this year.)

Want to know what my 2016 resolutions are? Check back on this blog on Tuesday and Thursday for more detailed posts.

How was 2015 for you? Did you accomplish your goals?

Lost In Hitler-Land

This is Volume II. The cover is a lot less offensive than Volume I, trust me.
This is Volume II. The cover is a lot less offensive than Volume I, trust me.

You guys, I feel really bad. I inadvertently took a blogging break and haven’t blogged at all since last week! My last post, prior to this one, was a Wednesday Music post.

I do have a good reason, though. Sort of. You see, I had a two-volume biography of Hitler sitting on my bookshelf. I’ve had these two books for years. I even lugged them in a recent move away from where I used to live, the Balmy Tropics. Considering how many books I gave away before the big move, that’s impressive I kept them so long.

Fast forward to this year. One of my resolutions—I actually started working on this in the second half of 2014—was to read a lot of the books I have that I hadn’t read. I’ve been slowly working my way through a stack, watching it diminish bit by bit. I’ve read a ton this year. It’s actually kind of crazy (in a good way). I think I’ve read seventy-five books as of this evening, if I remember correctly. Anyway, the massive Hitler biography was finally due to be read.

I finished Volume I last weekend. It had a ton of interesting details about Hitler’s early life, despite being dryly written. Then, I moved onto Volume II on Saturday. Since it focused on 1936 onward, it was a much heavier read than the first volume. There were a lot of descriptions of people dying in World War II, people dying in concentration camps, and in general, just a lot of death and destruction. To say it was depressing would be putting it mildly. I wanted to finish it as soon as possible, so I spent a lot of the weekend, Monday, and Tuesday reading it. (Keep in mind it’s over a thousand pages long!) I finished late last night, thank goodness.

If you want to learn about Hitler, this biography is very comprehensive. I’m not saying I wouldn’t recommend it, because some people who need a of detail, either for research purposes or simply general knowledge, could benefit. But dang, it is long and the writing style is hard to read and it’s just really heavy material. I for one am very glad to be done. I didn’t read very much today. Mainly, I cleaned my apartment (company is coming! ❤️) and worked on editing my novel. I’m afraid my poor novel was neglected as I read about Hitler. And obviously I neglected my poor blog as well.

I’m not sure if I’ll do a Wednesday Music post this week (if I do, it’ll probably be posted on Thursday), but at least I am back in the blogging world. I still have some unread books left in my stack, but it looks a lot less intimidating without the infamous Hitler biography. And I feel like a great weight has been lifted from me now that I’m finished.

Top Ten Tuesday: Bookish Wishes


Through Melanie’s blog, I found a cool thing called Top Ten Tuesday hosted on a blog called The Broke and the Bookish. It’s a weekly feature of ten things inspired by a prompt. (Of course, it doesn’t have to be ten if you don’t want it to be.) Today’s theme is 10 Wishes I’d Ask The Book Genie To Grant Me. Without further ado, here are some of my random bookish wishes. I didn’t make it to ten, but that’s okay.

  1. More books in the Vampire Academy/Bloodlines universe. Seriously, I can’t get enough of Richelle Mead’s Vampire Academy series and the spin-off sequels, Bloodlines. One thing I like about Richelle’s books (I haven’t actually met her, but I’m pretending like I’m on first name terms with her because she’s just that awesome) is how vivid the characters are. I feel like they’re real people I know—and in some cases, want to be friends with. I want another six books set in this universe because I completely love the world she’s created. Come on, Richelle: I know I’m not the only fan who feels this way, so help a sister out and write some more books with Rose and Dimitri and Sydney and Adrian, okay? 🙂
  2. More Enderverse books from Orson Scott Card. I’m kind of obsessed with Orson Scott Card. I was hooked on Ender’s Game in eighth grade and have read it many times since. I love it because it makes me think something different every single time. Now, this wish may actually come true: I’m pretty sure Orson is working on another set of books to go with these books, but I want that series right now. I need to find out what else happens!
  3. Going off that prior point, I’d love for Orson Scott Card to read some of my fiction and offer advice/criticism. He’s one of my favorite writers, so that would be OMG AMAZING if it ever happened.
  4. More time to read some classic books I haven’t read yet, such as The Count of Monte Cristo. My job tends to take away from my reading time, so I’d ask the Book Genie to supplement my days a bit so I could fit everything in.
  5. A massive library. As much as I love the public library, I want my own personal library. Since the Book Genie can do anything, according to our prompt, I’m going all out. I want something huge and multi-story and full of books I read: genre fiction, academic books on Russian linguistics, and other good stuff like that.

Yes, I know that’s only five, but my bookish wishes are simple. Basically, just give me more books in series I enjoy reading and I’ll be pretty happy. Oh, and an email from Orson Scott Card. Because he’s awesome and basically everything I want to be as a writer.

One Lovely Blog Award


Thank you to Melanie Noell Bernard at her eponymous blog who nominated me for a blog award. Here are the rules:

1. You must thank the person who nominated you and include a link to their blog.
2. You must list the rules and display the award.
3. You must add 7 facts about yourself.
4. You must nominate 5 other bloggers and comment on one of their posts to let them know they have been nominated.

So here goes… 7 facts about me!

1. When I was sixteen, I wanted to be a Dante scholar. We read The Inferno in English class and I really liked it, apparently. Obviously, that didn’t pan out. I’m working in a bank and can’t speak a word of Italian.

2. When I was little, I used to write stories featuring my family’s pets. Our two cats made it into a novel I was working on. Said novel also had vampires. The cats could talk and yes, it was as awesome as it sounds.

3. I speak two languages fluently. I’d love to add another to the mix, but I haven’t had the time recently. Plus, I love my current foreign language (Russian) so much that spending time with other languages feels like wasting time since I could be using that time to improve my Russian more.

4. I’ve played violin since I was eleven. I picked it up for school, started taking private lessons, and have never stopped playing. I haven’t had a private lesson in a few years, though, and that’s something I’d love to get back into.

5. One of my favorite things to do is knit and crochet. I don’t talk about it on this blog very much because I feel like it doesn’t fit with my blog’s material very well. Admittedly, I’ve been changing what topics I write about recently, so maybe this would be a good time to introduce some crafts on here…

6. I’ve lived all over the United States, including places in the northeast, southeast, midwest, and Texas. I don’t know if Texas counts as the southwest or not, so we’ll just leave it at that. Out of all those places, I think the midwest was my favorite and Texas was my least favorite. (Sorry, Texans!)

7. My dream is to be a published author someday. I’ve written quite a few novels, most of them bad. I’m revising the least-bad one right now.

And now for nominees:

1) Jennifer at Tales from the Terminal

2) Jennie at Jennie n’est plus en France

3) Christina at The Rolling Writer

4) Zsuzsi at Zsuzsi’s Playground

5) Kiera at Chapters in Flux

I look forward to reading everyone’s responses!


Q: What do Natalie’s blog in 2015 and the Soviet Union in the 1970s and early 1980s have in common?

A: They both were in an era of stagnation during these periods!

I couldn’t resist putting in a little Soviet Union joke/reference there… but really, it does make my point. I’ve had the same theme on this blog for ages. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, as it was a good theme. I may even go back to it at some point.

Right now, I need a change. Hence the new theme you should see right now. It’s called Lovecraft. I’m not sure if I like it or not, but I’m giving it a try. I’m hoping to end this period of stagnation and I’d like to do it without bringing in a new person to this blog. (That’s supposed to be a joke, as stagnation in the Soviet Union is considered to have ended in 1985 when the dynamic and (relatively) young Mikhail Gorbachev rose to power.)