Monday, December 31, 2012

Things That Kept Me From Doing Laundry Or A List Of Books I Read This Year

Why hello there! Merry Christmas! Happy New Year! Lots of other things that require exclamation points!

It seems I haven't written since before Christmas.'s like someone forgot she has a blog. Or perhaps it's like someone was busy with shopping and wrapping and cleaning and cooking and entertaining and laundry and eating and sledding and shoveling and laying about watching bad television. It's one of those things, anyway.

But before this year ends, I thought that I might share with you one of the other things that has kept me busy: reading. I have certainly done some reading this year, my friends. In fact, I'm quite certain that my reading has caused me, on more than one occasion, to neglect certain of my duties (hello laundry, I'm looking at you!) and possibly even caused me to hide from my children.

And so, because, as I have often stated here, I am a giver and I love nothing more than gushing over my new favorite book with a fellow book lover, I am sharing with you a list (some with commentary) of the books that I have read this year.

A Game of Thrones (book1)
A Clash of Kings (book 2)
A Storm of Swords (book 3)
A Feast for Crows (book 4)
A Dance with Dragons (book 5)
All by George R.R. Martin

Yes, I read them all last January. There are so many characters in this series, that I was afraid that if I tried to come back to them after an absence, I would forget the many characters and plot lines. This series is not for everyone. It's fantasy and sometimes quite, um, earthy. I understand that these books are now a series on HBO, but we don't have HBO and quite frankly, I'm not all that interested in watching it. I don't know if book 6 is out yet, and I'm not sure I'll be able to read it when it is. See: concerns regarding characters and plot lines after an absence.

The Fault in Our Stars by John Green
     This is technically a young adult book, but I have to say that I enjoyed it very much and appreciate Mr. Green's writing. While I read this book back in February, it has stuck with me all year. I will be encouraging my two older children (they are 16 and 14) to read it.

Sarah's Key by Tatiana de Rosnay

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer

Heaven is for Real by Todd Burpo

This is Where I Leave You by Jonathan Tropper
     After all the heavy books I read this month, this book was a welcome change. I laughed out loud several times by the situations the main character in this book found himself in and the dialogue as well. It was fast paced and funny and made me want to read more by this author.

Swamplandia! by Karen Russell
     I'm sorry to say that as many tries as I gave this book, coming back to it again and again, I just could not finish this book. As well received as it was by critics, I just couldn't fight my way through.

Plan B by Jonathan Tropper

The Dovekeepers by Alice Hoffman
    It took me a while to get into this book, but once I did, I was glad I stuck with it. I enjoyed this book--even though the subject matter (It's the story of 5 women on Masada. And we know how things ended on Masada.) was tough. Ms. Hoffman's writing is lovely.

Operating Instructions by Anne Lamott

Some Assembly Required by Anne Lamott
     Ms. Lamott could write laundry soap instructions and I would enjoy reading them.

Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Coast Trail by Cheryl Strayed
     I found this book by turns funny and agonizing. It kept me reading and it made me want to walk the Pacific Coast Trail, much the way Bill Bryson's A Walk in the Woods made me want to take on the Appalachian Trail.

The Hangman's Daughter by Oliver Potzsch

The Geography of Bliss by Eric Weiner
     Mr. Weiner's quest for the happiest place on earth was a joy to read and made me happy that I didn't have to travel but could enjoy his discoveries from the comfort of my own couch.

Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel
     A fictionalized biography about Thomas Cromwell's rise to power in the court of Henry VIII of England. I'm a bit of a sucker regarding books about ol' Henry and this book didn't disappoint. It was an exceptional book and won several awards. I haven't yet read its sequel Bring up the Bodies, but it is on my list.

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn
     If you have not yet read this tricky, twisty, twisted thriller, I'm betting you know someone who has. Enjoyment may be the wrong word for how I felt when I read this book, but if enjoying it was wrong, I don't want to be right.

Dark Places by Gillian Flynn

Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson
     Steve Jobs was a strange cat. Brilliant. Egotistical. Visionary. And strange. (But golly, do I love my Mac and iphone. Yes, I worship at the altar of Apple.)

Let's Pretend this Never Happened by Jenny Lawson
     Ms. Lawson is crude. Ms. Lawson uses bad language. Ms. Lawson writes about taxidermied animals and social anxiety and working in human resources. Ms. Lawson is terribly, terribly funny.

Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter

The Dog Stars by Peter Heller
     It's a post-apocalyptic story about a man, his dog, and his plane. And it's very, very good. (Okay, maybe it's about a little more than I said. But still, trust me: very, very good.)

Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn
    I just couldn't seem to get enough of Ms. Flynn's writing.

The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky
     This book has been out since the early '90s. Not sure how I missed it back then, but I'm glad I read it. And no, I haven't seen the movie.

The Light Between Oceans by M.L. Stedman
     This book caught me right away and kept me right to the end. Where I shed great big tears.

The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh
    In the Victorian era, people assigned meanings to different flowers and then communicated their feelings to each other through them. This novel follows a young woman leaving the foster care system who speaks the language of flowers better than she speaks her own feelings. I found myself frustrated with the main character and her flaws, but never frustrated with the book.  Loved this book and wish that people still communicated through flowers. I would send some to my neighbors. Heh heh heh.

Killing Lincoln by Bill O'Reilly and Martin Dugard
    Never been a fan of Mr. O' Reilly and was glad that I had this book on my Kindle, so that I didn't have to publicly show that I own a book with his name on it, but still enjoyed the book.

The Year of Living Biblically by A.J. Jacobs
     Funny and enlightening.

A Year of Biblical Womanhood by Rachel Held Evans
     Funny and enlightening but from a female perspective. If you've ever wanted to shake a fist at the Proverbs 31 woman, your perspective will change after you've read this book. And you will want to congratulate the women of valor in your own life. Eshet chayil!

Sutton by J.R. Moehringer
     A novel based on the life of bank robber Willie Sutton. I look forward to reading more by Mr. Moehringer.

I'm certain that I read stuff this month. I mean, stuff that wasn't recipes or Christmas lists, but it wasn't in book form. I was too busy. Well, until now. I'm getting in just under the wire here with starting to read Help, Thanks, Wow: The Three Essential Prayers by Anne Lamott and One Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are by Ann Voskamp.

I've just started Ms. Lamott's book and Ms. Voskamp's I've been into a little more, but have to keep putting it down to digest it and let it fully wash over me.

Okay, friends. There you have it. A rather long list of the books that have kept me from doing my laundry. Now I'm looking forward to 2013. And guess what? I'm looking for some books to read. Any suggestions?

Thanks for stopping by here at Que Sara Sara this year! May you and yours have a blessed and peaceful 2013!

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

It's Time

It's time.

Time for decorating a gingerbread girl for the second grade hallway. (Each second grader received a gingerbread cutout to personalize. Mary called hers "Holiday Glam".)

Time for Electric Bethlehem. (As ever, our house is the least decorated on the block. But I'm okay with that.)

Time for family rooms to be finished. (I think the paint color may work out okay after all, now that the new curtains are up.)

Time for Gingerbread House Wars. (It started out with the store bought kit, but Maggie's beau wanted to be able to eat it, which, no, those kits are NOT for eating. So I pulled out stuff for him to make his own.  And the smack talk began.)

Maggie's beau used scissors to cut the gable ends of his house.  There were several failures before he was successful. He made a beeeellion crumbs.

Maggie and her friend "Notorious." They were serious about their house.

They were slamming each other and trying to steal each other's decorations. 

Notorious and The Beau tried to look like they were about to brawl. This photo took several tries, as every time they looked at each other, they busted out laughing. 

Time for hellacious messes left after Gingerbread House Wars are over. (To be fair, they did clean it up pretty well. I had to wipe down the counters again, but it could have been so much worse!)

And you? What's it time for at your house?

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

A Short List Of Things That Induce Humbuggery And Their Antidotes

It's officially the Christmas season? Did you notice? Way back in October? It feels more and more like the Christmas season is a marathon rather than a sprint. I try really hard to enjoy the season and not to give in to negative feelings about worldliness and commercialism, but sometimes, even with my Pollyanna alter-ego screaming "HAPPY THOUGHTS!" in my head, I still fall into a Scrooge-like frame of mind that makes me want to say 'Bah! Humbug!'.

In no particular order, a short list of things that make me humbuggy:

Hearing Christmas carols before Thanksgiving. I like my holidays like I like my boobs. Firmly separated--the uniboob isn't a good look for anybody.  And running holidays together is like having a uniboob on the calendar. Or something like that. Whatever. You know what I mean. One holiday at a time, please! Humbug!

And while I'm speaking of Christmas carols, once we are past Thanksgiving and the stamp of approval has been given for the aural free-for-all of carols heard everywhere around the clock, nothing will cause me an irrational flash of holiday rage like hearing my least favorite carol in the history of ever: The Little Drummer Boy. There's so much about this "carol" that I dislike that I can't even list everything. Humbug!

Something else that makes me want to crawl in a hole and wait for January: The Elf on a Shelf. Now, I understand how this little guy makes some people happy. In fact, when we first received him, I thought "how fun!" But that was before I was subjected to my subconscious awakening me in the middle of the night with a mental forehead slap because I forgot to move that damn elf. Then I would have to drag my bleary-eyed self downstairs before the younger children to make sure that the elf had "traveled" during the night. This was bad enough. But through the magic of the interwebs, I caught wind of some overachieving parents whose elves allegedly cause mischief in the night. I was seeing elves making "snow angels" in flour on the countertops, elves using a hanger as a zipline from the Christmas tree, an elf and a Barbie sipping syrup straight out of the bottle through straws like they were on some demented date, elves replacing the stockings hung by the chimney with care with dirty socks or underwear. Folks, I'm pretty sure that I have enough messes on my countertops because I am apparently the only one who knows how to wipe them down. So I'm supposed to fling four on my counter so that the elf can roll around in it? Nope. Nope. Nope-itty-nope-nope. And I've mentioned here before my childrens' fondness for taking their dirty socks off and leaving them where they fall. Who needs an elf for that?! I can't be certain, but I think the Elf on the Shelf makes the Baby Jesus cry. Humbug!

And finally, on this very ranty list: I hate having to do the majority of holiday preparation by myself. I do most of the shopping, all of the wrapping, organize the putting up and taking down of holiday decorations, and I bake and cook enough food to feed several families. Granted, my beloved works hard and travels a lot, making it hard for him to pitch in. Also, he wraps gifts like a drunken three-fingered gnome, (and that's being generous to him and disparaging to drunken three-fingered gnomes.) so other than whatever he buys for me, he is granted dispensation from wrapping duties. Okay, maybe "hate" is too strong a word, but it's only December 3rd and I'm already dreaming of drinking adult beverages all by myself on a tropical island somewhere.

I promise I'm more fun to be around than I just made myself sound. Mostly. And part of the reason is because whenever I start to get humbuggy, I have a short list of antidotes to Humbuggery that works wonders . Humbugginess? Humbugishness? Whatever. Here you go:

* I turn up some of my favorite music and dance. And I don't mean that I shuffle my feet anemically and snap my fingers. I dance. Now, understand that I'm no great dancer. I'm more Elaine Benes than Martha Graham, but what I lack in style and form, I make up for in enthusiasm. Let's just say that if the neighbors are watching, I'm confirming everything they ever thought about me. But it doesn't matter. When I'm dancing, there is no room for the humbug. Jitterbugging? Yes. Humbugging? Absolutely not.

* I turn up some of my favorite music and sing. I've been told that I have a nice singing voice. I used to sing solos in church. I'm not talking about that kind of singing. I'm talking about window-rattling. I sing loud enough to make dogs howl. And I sing badly. On purpose. For some reason, it releases something in me that makes me feel better. I'm pretty sure that if scientists somewhere studied it, they would say that all the feel good juices in your body pour into your brain and marinate it causing feel goodyness all over your body. Why no, I never taught science. Why do you ask? Anyway. Loud, bad singing. I highly recommend it.

* I head over to the Little Drummer Boy Challenge and read about others who hate the song as much as I do. I read the hilarious stories of how they were knocked out of the game and I feel a connection. I read about the avoidance tactics people employ to avoid hearing the song to stay in longer and I root for them. Even though I was knocked out of the game early on (like last week) from the unholy pairing of Little Drummer Boy and Bob Seger, (certain proof of Satan's existence) I pop over now and then to visit the Wall of the Fallen and see how people were slain by the boy with the drum. Misery loves company. Especially if it's hilarious company.

* Sometimes, I find a quiet spot where I can't be bothered--yes, I hide--and I close my eyes and just breathe in and out for five minutes. You wouldn't believe how often this occurs in the van in the garage. For some reason, no one thinks to look there for me. (Please don't tell. I'm begging you. They've hunted me down everywhere else.) But just five minutes of quiet, focused breathing sets me to rights again.

* And finally, every time I kvetch and complain about the many holiday tasks ahead of me, I stop and mentally shake myself. And then I make myself list three ways in which I am blessed. Believe me, it's hard to maintain any sense of humbugishness when you are listing blessings.

So now y'all, it's your turn. What makes you say "Bah Humbug!" and what do you do to keep yourself from becoming your family's version of Scrooge? Do share. We can help each other out. After all, it is the season of giving.

Also, I need you all sane and healthy so you'll keep coming back here. Apparently it's also the season for self-absorbed bloggers to pander for comments. Ahem.