Monday, January 11, 2016

Catching up on Christmas Break

So. We're back. After being off work for two weeks, getting up at 5:40 AM last Monday morning was a tad rough, but the adjustment back to work has been otherwise smooth.
Over break, I did the usual Christmas stuff: tracked the last of my online purchases, hoping they'd make it here by Christmas Eve, wrapped piles and piles of presents, watched Christmas movies, etc. We had my stepson, daughter-in-law, grandson, and my stepson's mom over Christmas Eve as usual. We ordered pizza from Godfather's (it's a Butler thing--my husband used to manage a Godfather's in Nebraska), and generally had one of the best Christmases together we've ever had. I got to take loads of photos, everyone enjoyed their presents, and we had a nice time playing, talking, and eating together.
After everyone left, my husband and I opened our presents to each other (awkward to do when my husband's ex is over), and we both loved everything the other choose. I got three Life Is Good shirts as well as a sweatshirt, a couple red Pioneer Woman colanders, Erin Bate's Christmas CD, as stuffed Dachshund who's wearing a sweater and stocking cap (I love a good Doxie), and other miscellaneous treasures.
Christmas Day we headed to my mother's to have a quiet day with my brothers, nephews, and the cats.
And, of course, I read to my heart's content. I finished six books over break, five in 2015 and one in the new year. So I thought I'd give a little wrap-up here so they don't get completely lost in the shuffle. 
Leah Remini's Troublemaker is about her life in Hollywood (on TV, mostly) and in Scientology, which she eventually left. It's sort of a dark book, and she does swear a great deal. (She's much more like her "The King of Queens" character than I'd anticipated.) If you're looking for a dishy book on Scientology and Tom Cruise, this is for you.
Caroline Kennedy edited a book of poems that her mother, Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, had loved best. It's a good collection of (mostly) American poetry, including poets from Robert Frost to Langston Hughes. I listened to the audio which was well-presented.
I had both of William Alexander's previous books, The $64 Tomato and 52 Loaves, but I've yet to read either of them. I'd added his newest, Flirting with French, to my 2016 book list, but ended up reading it early. It was a good book about learning French as well as language acquisition in general. I enjoyed the book, but I also thought it lacked direction. Most of these "project" books have a culminating event, but this one really didn't, so there was little to look forward to. Still, it was well-written.
Gretchen Rubin's The Happiness Project is one of my all-time favorite books. I was dying to re-read it this year, and the end of the year was a great time to do so. Rubin offers a good mix of research and application and is forthright about what worked and what didn't. She's oftentimes almost humorously practical, but her honesty makes her easy to relate to. If you're looking for a book to help you make/keep your new year's resolutions, try her books. 
I love The Pioneer Woman's recipes. I also love her show. I love her photography. I also adore her cheerfulness. I've enjoyed almost every recipe I've tried from her site and books. This one, The Pioneer Woman Cooks: Dinnertime, is no exception. I especially enjoyed the chapter on freezer meals where she presents easy-to-freeze recipes that can be used in multiple ways. There are a number of meatless options, and she uses a wide range of ingredients, but her food is never too weird like so many cookbooks these days. It's a hefty cookbook, with lots of things to try. I recommend it especially for families looking for new favorites.
I finished a re-read (audio) of another of my favorite books of all time, Coop, and this became my first book finished in 2016. I sincerely adore every word of this book. It's like Perry is describing my childhood and talking about my people. The book is about Perry's life as a farm boy, and now farm owner, who's trying to raise pigs, chickens, and two little girls. It's a great family book with Christian values and lots of humor.
And on to 2016!

Over break I finished my December book list early, so I was able to tuck into Barbara Bush: A Memoir. I've been dying to start it for months. It's a long book (about 550 pages) and a comprehensive account of her days as the Vice President's wife, then President's wife (as well as a bit on her early years and raising her children). It really is a wonderful book. Mrs. Bush comes across as generous, friendly, and witty. I recommend it highly.

This week, I began In the Heart of the Sea, about an 1800s whaleship tragedy, which is now a movie. I'm not terribly far into the book, but it's already action-packed. It's not necessarily my favorite subject, and I'm biased about any ship tragedy since reading the fabulous In the Kingdom of Ice, but I love reading about real-life adventure-tragedies for the writing alone.

I'm listening to another adventure story, Matthew Goodman's Eighty Days, about Lizzie Bly and Elizabeth Bisland's race around the world in 80 days or less. It's a little slow-going at first, but now that the two women are on their way--one going west, one going east--it's really quite arresting. The book has been on my TBR for a long time, and I think I made a good decision choosing the audio version for this one.

I also finally got a chance to begin Ruth Reichl's My Kitchen Year about the year following the loss of her job when Gourmet magazine folded. It's full of recipes, but also part memoir. I have to admit I'll likely never try any of the recipes, but I'll read anything Reichl writes, esp. after last year's reading of Garlic and Sapphires, which I adored. Also, the photos throughout the book are gorgeous.

This weekend I finished The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, because it needed to be back at the library tomorrow. I admit, I had to force myself to pick it up each time, but when I did, I invariably got into it. And I ended up liking it fine, though I don't think it will ever be a favorite.

Whew! So that's an update of what I've been up to.

What are you all reading?

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