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More book gossip & recipes to come, but first a few photos from over Christmas (two things I’d like to do more of this coming year are writing and taking photos).

Ooh, and dust the house more often.

I love my parents’ creche – I wonder if they still make them?

There were lots of good eats (including these World Peace cookies).

And plenty of good company, too.

Now I just have to wrap my head around the fact that the year is almost over (and get ready for tomorrow’s first-thing-in-the-morning holiday party at the library – maybe some year we’ll go really crazy and have a party after the library closes instead of before it opens).

Happy New Year!

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Well, I’ve had quite a few (fun) distractions from reading in the last day, but am cramming in reading whenever I can.  It turns out I’m unwilling to sacrifice sleep (once I hit the sleepy point) but all the little 10 and 20 minute segments do add up.  Here’s what I’ve been up to since the last check in:

11:50 am – 12:10 pm – listened to The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane in the car.  I intended to go grocery shopping and get back to the books, but got a call from my mom and ended up at my cousin’s birthday party instead.  It was a gorgeous sunny day – a little miracle in weeks and weeks of endless rain – plus a birthday party, a combination I couldn’t refuse.

2:30-2:35, 2:50-3:10, and 3:15-5:05 – continued listening to Deliverance Dane while putting my two batches of sherbet in the ice cream maker, eating cherries, and playing solitaire.

5:05-5:50 pm – took a break from reading to put together a list of recommendations for a friend and choose the next Long Distance Kitchen recipe.

5:50-6:30 – started reading Chicks with Sticks (It’s a Purl Thing) by Elizabeth Lenhard, a fairly light, fun YA book about girls learning to knit.  Tons of descriptions of yarn and knitting projects, with a few patterns included in the back.

6:30-10:45 pm – another long break to get dressed up and go to the ballet.  I splurged on a pair of season tickets for the super-cheap seats last year, one of the best splurges I’ve ever indulged in – and I did the same thing for next year.  Not much more than going to an evening movie, plus a fun excuse to get fancied up and go out.  Plus I love the ballet.

10:45-11:30 pm – read more of Chicks.  Realized I’ve never timed myself on how many hours it takes to read a book – I generally look at it in terms of days, something like “I read 16 books last month, which averages out to about a book every other day.”  My eyes started drooping, so then I went to sleep.

7:50-9:10 am – woke up and continued with Chicks, then got ready for church.

9:40-10:00 am, 12:10-12:20 pm, and 12:30-12:40 pm – listened to Deliverance Dane on the way to church and home again, with a stop at the grocery store because the character ate doughnuts and gave me an awful craving.

12:50-1:15 pm – finished reading Chicks while tucking into the doughnut, coffee, cherries, and a fried egg.

1:15-present – calculated my hours so far and wrote this update.  If I did the math correctly, and I’m making no promises, I’ll be at 12 hours and 35 minutes once I finish this post.  Then it’s back to the books before I miss the last couple hours of my 48 by going to a bbq.  C’est la vie.

Out of the 158 books I read last year (sadly, 36 fewer books than in 2008), I’m trying to come up with a list of favorites.  These aren’t necessarily 2009 publications, but they’re books that I read during 2009.  This lets me include some oldies-but-goodies, and 2008 titles that I only got around to reading in January, and things like that.  It’s hard to do top 5 or top 10 lists, so I like to do the more entertaining random categories.  Here is my list from 2008, and from 2007,  and gosh, I guess I did 2006, too.  Hmm, I tend to forget how long I’ve had this blog.  I did not, apparently, do a roundup from 2005, my first year of blogging.  Oh well.

Favorite audiobooks: The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society (adult), The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian (YA), and A Season of Gifts (juv).  It wasn’t a fantastic year for me in terms of listening – I used to be able to listen at work, but that changed when I went full-time at the library.  I got bogged down in a few long ones that I enjoyed but didn’t love, and I filled in the gaps with a bunch of Maisie Dobbs.

Favorite use of a fairy tale or folk tale: Tam Lin.

Favorite book containing a natural disaster: Nation

Favorite book about plague/disease: The Air We Breathe

Favorite gritty historical fiction: Ten Cents a Dance,

Favorite use of Arthurian legend: Here Lies Arthur

The Glad I Gave Her Books Another Chance Award: Bog Child

Favorite spunky historical heroine: The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate

Most disappointing fairy story: Wicked Lovely

Best use of dragons: Eon: Dragoneye Reborn

Best fantasy landscape: The Lost Conspiracy

Fantasy I would’ve loved in middle school: Fire

Best is it or isn’t it fantasy: Heroes of the Valley

Favorite sequel: Sacred Scars

Best book about writing: Miss Buncle’s Book

Favorite new mystery series: Kate Ross’s Julian Kestrel books, starting with Cut to the Quick

Favorite new author for fluff and wit: Georgette Heyer

Favorite biography: Charles and Emma and The Trouble Begins at 8

Best gothic mood: The Forgotten Garden

Best tearjerker: If I Stay (even though I barely cried)

Best time-travel: The Time Thief

I could keep this up all morning, until I’d listed every book that I enjoyed in some category, but I’ll stop here.  I managed to work most of my favorites into some category, and I’m pleasantly surprised by how many titles from ’09 bring up positive associations.

This year I’m hoping to get my numbers back up, and to read more of the new titles that I order for the library – maybe I’ll set myself a specific number.  I tend to order at least 40 books a month, which would be impossible to keep up with.  I wonder if 4 is an unreasonable goal?  Let’s shoot for that.  Last year I read an average of 13 books per month, which leaves me with 9 adult/YA/older juv titles.  Now I need to go look at my January order (almost ready to send in) and try to pick my four.

Christmas was wonderful.  It was lovely to see lots of people at the Christmas Eve service, after last year’s snow keeping most people at home.  We feasted liturgically, then feasted on food, then refused to be shushed while the choir sang some carols afterwards.  Really, who wants to be shushed at 1:30 am when all you really want to do is catch up with your out of town friends?

Then off to bed for a few hours of sleep before getting up to make cinnamon rolls – something that I’ll hopefully manage to turn into a Christmas tradition.

We went through our stockings, and ate buttery cinnamon rolls, and opened gifts.  In the afternoon we packed the car full of sweets – chocolate gingerbread, blueberry strata pie, chocolate cheesecake, and a bonus pan of cinnamon rolls for the cousins – and headed over to have dinner with the other local branch of the family.

Fortunately for me, it was a lamb-tastic Christmas – yes ma’am, Greek-style lamb, potatoes, those delicious grape-leaf things whose name I can never remember.  Mmm.  My mouth is watering just thinking about it.

Gosh, now I’m finishing up this post a week after the fact and I don’t remember what all I was going to reminisce about – let’s just say there was good company and good food.

I got out my camera and went a little crazy, which I hadn’t done in a while – the camera or the crazy.  They were both great.  I always love looking back at pictures, but I don’t always remember to get out the camera.  Or I’m just not in the mood to document – I only want to sit back and enjoy the moment.  I don’t know what makes the difference between a photographed occasion and an undocumented one, but I do know that once I get in the habit, I keep it up.  Also, once I get out the camera, it’s easier to just keep taking pictures.

The next morning, I rolled and baked the rest of the cinnamon roll dough – I love how they looked before the frosting got drizzled on and ruined their nice Greek key look.  I also gave away two more pans, in case you think I sat around my house all day eating cinnamon rolls.  For your information, I only had them for breakfast and as an afternoon snack.  Ahem.

Then I kept up the baking theme with a cocoa-buttermilk cake for my god-daughter’s baptism, which was on Sunday.  I never actually got to try it, since I was too busy eating lamb stew (yes! more lamb!) and drinking glasses of wine.  Yes, yes, I did move straight from my first cup of coffee of the day to my first glass of wine.  It’s not everyday you get a wonderful new baby to see exorcised, blessed, baptized, and Chrismated.  She was very cooperative through the whole thing, sleeping right up until right before she was undressed and dunked, then (of course) kicking up a fuss when she re-emerged, then having a snack and sleeping peacefully to save up energy to focus on her Chrismation.  And focus she did – giving Fr. David and her godfather good hard looks before rubbing chrism into her tiny fists. 

This is perhaps not her most flattering angle, but I was a bit busy doing god-parenty things during the actual baptism and will have to rely on others to furnish me with pictures.  Needless to say, I’m completely smitten and honored to be her godmother.

Since then I’ve gone on to bake two pans of brownies (coworkers birthday) and Dorie’s Orange Berry Muffins (holiday party at work), which might be my new favorite blueberry muffin recipe.  In fact, I’ve got more buttermilk and more blueberries (the last of the measly quantity I froze last summer) so I just might make more this weekend.  And now that the Advent fast is over, I can eat whatever I please – it’s so fun!  I’m roasting a chicken to close out 2009, and I have three kinds of cheese in my fridge.

And it wasn’t until I started hearing lots of “best of the decade” lists that I even realized that we’re at the end of a decade.  I have a hard enough time with best of the year!  I haven’t been keeping good track of my reading for the whole decade, so I’ll probably just stick to my usual end of the year lists in random categories, unless I get really inspired.  But the whole decade?  Sheesh, I was 18 when it started.  I graduated from high school and started college.  But I will come back soon with my usual year-end round-up, and an update on my mock awards reading the status of my to-read shelf, and what I’m thinking of getting with my Powell’s cards.

If I’d spotted this last year, I would have looked at the calendar, realized that October 12 is a Monday and thusly I would be working all evening, and then I would have wept bitter, bitter tears.

Instead, I look at the calendar, realize that October 12 is a Monday and thusly I am FREE in the evening, and there was much rejoicing and I ran over to my neighborhood library and picked up some tickets.

You’re too lazy to follow the link and feel jealous?  Behold:

2009 Teen Author Lecture

photograph of M.T. Anderson

M.T. Anderson, National Book Award and Printz-winning author of The Astonishing Life Of Octavian Nothing, Traitor to the Nation; Feed, and many other titles.

On October 12, 2009, at 7 pm, M.T. Anderson will deliver the 2009 Teen Author Lecture at The Old Church, 1422 SW 11th Ave.

Sweet mercy in a firkin, we’re going to go see M.T. Anderson!  Now I don’t feel so bereft about missing all of Wordstock (because I’m working this weekend), including Sherman Alexie (!), Karen Cushman, Jennifer Holm, Laini Taylor, Scott Westerfeld – and a bunch of other people who don’t happen to write for children.  Good thing I’ve got Mr. Anderson’s lecture to console me.

Whenever I have a day-long baking project, or bake multiple things, I always (okay, often) think of Ma – Caroline – and her baking days. And washing days. And ironing days. I can’t remember all of them, and I still haven’t gotten around to stealing the boxed set of Little House books from my parents’ house, but you get the idea. Each domestic activity has its day.

Most chores aren’t so time consuming these days, which I’m certainly grateful for, but every once in a while it’s nice to do something which requires a time commitment. Ten minutes of kneading by hand. An hour to rise. Another hour to rise. Baking time. I wouldn’t necessarily want to go through that for every loaf of bread I consume, but I want to do it more often. I want to be a person who bakes bread. Today I’m using it to fight the blahs, and it’s working pretty well, along with a quick walk during one of the risings. It’s about to go into the oven, and now I feel like I’ll have something to show for my day – two loaves of Oatmeal Maple-Honey Bread.  It’s also a good excuse for cranking up the heat – it’s not for me, it’s for the bread!

From the King Arthur Flour Baker’s Companion:

Vermont Oatmeal Maple-Honey Bread

makes two sandwich loaves

  • 2 1/4 to 2 1/2 cups (18-20 ounces) boiling water
  • 1 cup (3 1/2 oz) rolled oats
  • 1/2 cup (2 3/4 oz) maple sugar or brown sugar (4 oz)
  • 1/2 teaspoon maple flavor (optional)
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 4 tablespoons (2 oz) butter (I used canola margarine)
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 tablespoon instant or active dry yeast
  • 1 1/2 cups (7 3/4 oz) whole wheat flour
  • 4 cups (17 oz) unbleached all-purpose flour

In a large mixing bowl, combine the water, oats, maple sugar, maple flavor, honey, butter, salt, and cinnamon. Let cool to lukewarm.

Add the yeast and flours, stirring to form a rough dough. Knead (about 10 minutes by hand, 5-7 by machine) until the dough is smooth and satiny. Transfer the dough to a lightly greased bowl, cover the bowl with lightly greased plastic wrap, and let the dough rise for 1 hour; it should double in bulk.

Divide the dough in half and shape each half into a loaf. Place the loaves in two greased 8 1/2 x 4 1/2 inch bread pans. Cover the pans with lightly greased plastic wrap and allow the loaves to rise until they’ve crowned about 1 inch over the rim of the pan, about 1 hour.

Preheat the oven to 350 F. Bake the loaves for 35-40 minutes. Remove them from the oven when they’re golden brown and the interior registers 190 F on an instant-read thermometer. (I don’t have a thermometer – I’ll have to use the old-fashioned tap method – should sound hollow when tapped.)

Well, I managed to read 17 books in February. And all month I kept thinking “I’m not reading enough!” Hmm.

The other day, Kitri and I were each trying to think of the last adult book we’d read, and we were both having trouble, but it turns out I read a lot of them (for me) in February

  • 6 books published as adult titles
  • 4 YA
  • 7 children’s (although, as always, where is the line? A few of these were borderline YA)
  • 1 classic (Emma)
  • 4 historical fiction
  • 3 fantasy
  • 4 audiobooks
  • 2 Newbery medalists
  • 1 Printz and 1 Printz Honor
  • 1 book given up on – I just couldn’t get into Click and chucked it after 3 chapters. I don’t do that often, but both the first and the third chapters irritated me, and with a different author for each chapter, those weren’t good enough odds for me.

Other than that one book, I enjoyed most everything I read in February. I read Meg Rosoff’s newest right at the end of the month, and I think I need to reread it before I try to put my thoughts into words. She’s an author where I’ll read anything she puts out, and she didn’t let me down with What I Was. It’s interesting to follow the whole trend of how her books are published in various places – as adult, young adult, both – but I still think of her as young adult, but the kind of young adult that adults should be getting their hands on. As an example of what is right with the world of YA (there are, of course, lots of other examples of this – Rosoff is just one).

I finally tallied up my reading for the year, and here’s the run-down.

Grand total: 172 books.

That’s up from 147 last year, so I feel reasonably accomplished. Apparently I read more for fun when I’m in school. A little thing called procrastination.

  • Adult fiction: 46
  • Adult non-fiction: 9
  • Children’s/YA fiction: 115
  • Children’s/YA non-fiction: 2

Hmm, I’m noticing a distinct lack of balance. Let’s make that look a little less lopsided.

  • Audio-books: 34
  • Graphic novels: 4
  • Rereads: 17
  • Newbery winners/honor books: 10
  • Printz winners/honor books: 6

Authors/series that I fell in love with:

  • Sandra Gulland’s Josephine series, starting with The Many Lives and Secret Sorrows of Josephine B.  Excellent historical fiction.
  • Megan Whalen Turner’s smart, smart series starting with The Thief.  In last year’s round-up I half-jokingly said that I could start rereading now that it was a new year, and I didn’t waste any time – I’d reread all three by April.  I would gladly pick them up annually while I wait for a fourth installment.  Don’t think they’re beneath you because they’re children’s fiction.
  • Jo Walton’s Farthing and Ha’Penny – brilliant combination of mystery and alternate history.
  • Catherine Fisher’s Oracle series, starting with The Oracle Betrayed.

Some favorites:

  • Favorite old-fashioned suspense: a toss-up between The Woman in White and Rebecca.
  • Favorite audio, adult: Giliad – because I don’t think I would have appreciated the book half as much in print, where I would be tempted to skim.
  • Favorite audio, juv: The Wednesday Wars.  I didn’t think it could be possible, but the audio version made me an even bigger fan.
  • Favorite historical fiction, adult:  Year of Wonders
  • Favorite historical fiction, juv: A Northern Light
  • Favorite graphic novel: Laika
  • Favorite wordless book: The Arrival (okay, it’s the only wordless book, but it’s worth mentioning all the same)

Top Five Adult:

  • The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay
  • Middlemarch
  • Peace Like a River
  • Gilead
  • Bel Canto

Top Five Children’s/YA

  • The Wednesday Wars
  • Laika
  • Tamar
  • Emma-Jean Lazarus Fell Out of a Tree
  • The Arrival

Shouldn’t Have Bothered Finishing:

  • A Pure, Swift Cry
  • Half Life
  • Enduring Love
  • Lullabies for Little Criminals
  • The Nature of Monsters

(Not that any of these are BAD – I just resented a good chunk of the time I spent reading them.)

Books I Almost Gave Up On (but am glad I didn’t):

  • The History of Love
  • Peace Like a River

I feel like I ought to end on a hopeful note, since it’s the trendy thing to do,* and all I’ve got after staying up past 1 am compiling this list is that it was hard to narrow things down.  Which is a good thing.  Out of 172, there were only a few titles that felt like a waste of time.  Sure, some were fluff, and there were some books I started and put down quickly, but overall, the list of titles makes me happy and content.

The painfully annoying YA audiobook I just finished, Thirteen Reasons Why, threw in a note of hope at the very last instant and it almost made me gag.  In general, I’m a fan of the hopeful ending, but this was just obnoxious coming on top of the rest of the book, which saw me frequently yelling at the characters and the author.  I’m just glad it’s over, and hopefully there will be someone at the mock Printz tomorrow to commiserate with.

The first week of September recipes will be forthcoming (it’s under preparation – this month is fish) a day late due to:

  1. the holiday or
  2. my laziness or
  3. possibly both.

In the meantime, if you were me, and you had a week’s vacation in October, and you were going to visit all your friends in Northern California, would you:

  1. fly to California, then rent a car and drive amongst them
  2. rent a car and road-trip all the way (my car not being up to such a trip)

The cost is approximately the same for either option.  And none of the friends live particularly close to airports or each other.

I’m still reading Middlemarch, chugging along and enjoying myself as long as I’m alert enough to really pay attention.  It’s no beach book, Middlemarch, which is why I cheated on it and brought The Off-Season with me to Hug Point on Saturday.  It was all lovely lovely let’s spread our blankets in the warm sand and apply some sunscreen and munch down on a delicious picnic, running back and forth from the waves to the blanket when we needed cooling down.  Until, of course, ominous drops of rain starting falling.  Okay, it was just a mist for a while, and I thought “I can handle this” and kept on reading, but then it reached the point where I had to decide whether or not to preserve the integrity of my library book, plus the blankets were wet, plus we were all starting to look like drowned rats, plus it was raining a lot harder.  So we packed up and drove into Cannon Beach for a couple of pints.  And some fish and chips.

Anyway, The Off-Season had much the same feel of Dairy Queen, to which it is the sequel, but the plot was no copycat and the ending was not what I expected in one department, in a completely realistic and character-growth sort of way.  I totally want another sequel.   Perfect for laying on the couch and trying to read away a headache, perhaps a result of two much beach or not enough water or not eating until after church.   It was not a result of too much birthday, because that was still to come (the two much part, as the actual birthday was long past), and too much birthday will result in me running around using coffee cards and Powell’s cards and cash gifts for a new bookshelf.

New!

Bookshelf!

I really need one.  Kitri really needs one, too, given the way books sort of spill off the one in her room.  Hopefully we won’t, between us, fill this one up and then think we need yet another.

Sunday was all barbecues and cake and ice cream and badminton and more picnic, I even have two cupcakes left, waiting patiently for me, and chocolate bar that made its way into my bag in the course of the beach trip.

Having an actual weekend off is just too exhausting.

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