Friday, December 30, 2011

The Year In Books-2011

Oh this was a bad year for reading. I read only 28 books this year, my lowest number since I began keeping track of what I read. I could say it was because I had a job. I could say it was because I crafted more than usual this year. But the truth of the matter is that the one thing that cut into my reading time more than anything else, was......Law and Order: Criminal Intent. I know. It's really embarrassing. I was cleaning out the DVR the other day, deleting all the L & O's I'd already seen. I deleted over 100 episodes. That's over 100 hours of my time. And if I'm being totally honest, I watched a bunch of episodes more than once. So yeah, I might not have been well read this year, but I do know that if I ever need to dispose of a body I should plunk it in a bathtub and cover it with lye, which will dissolve all of the organic material. And I cannot forget to fish the jewelry out of the drain, because if I leave even one shred of evidence, the detectives are going to find it and then I have a one way boat trip to Rikers.

Without further adieu, the paltry list:

1. Every Last One by Anna Quindlen
2. Bright Sided: How the Relentless Pursuit of Positive Thinking Has Undermined America by Barbara Ehrenreich
3. What It Is by Lynda Barry
4. Feminism and Pop Culture by Andi Zeisler
5. Asterios Polyp by David Mazzucchelli
6. Whiter Shades of Pale: Stuff White People Like by Christian Lander
7. The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants by Ann Brashares
8. Last Child in the Woods by Richard Louv
9. The Idiot Girl and the Flaming Tantrum of Death by Laurie Notaro
10. Winter's Bone by Daniel Woodrell
11. White Oleander by Janet Fitch
12. Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro
13. A Short Guide to A Happy Life by Anna Quindlen
14. Haunting Jasmine by Anjali Banerjee
15. Icy Sparks by Gwyn Hyman Rubio
16. Simple Times: Crafts for Poor People by Amy Sedaris
17. Ramona Quimby, Age 8 by Beverly Cleary
18. Just Kids by Patti Smith
19. The Anti Romantic Child by Priscilla Gilman
20. The Last Time They Met by Anita Shreve
21. Love is a Mix Tape by Rob Sheffield
22. Faith by Jennifer Haigh
23. The Violets of March by Sarah Jio
24. Bossypants by Tina Fey
25. We Need to Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver
26. Empire Falls by Richard Russo
27. The Monsters of Templeton by Lauren Groff
28. Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Cabin Fever by Jeff Kinney

Of Note:

* Best Book: Definitely, hands down, no doubt in my mind, We Need to Talk About Kevin. (Review here.) I still find myself thinking about this book. At my work we sell something called a Faux bow that is a Nerf-type bow and arrow, I cannot even look at this product without thinking about Kevin. I wish I had never read this book just so that I could read it again for the first time. Really, if you haven't read it yet, DO SO!

* Worst Book: Icy Sparks. (Review here.) Just bad. But honestly, I get a certain amount of joy from those awful books. In fact, in the new year I may purposely work in a few awful books just for fun.

*I read a lot of really good non fiction this year: The Anti-Romantic Child, Just Kids, Love Is a Mix Tape, and Last Child in the Woods. It was a good year for non fiction.

*On the flip side, a lot of the fiction that I read was quite dull. The few stand outs (aside from Kevin): Winter's Bone, Empire Falls, and Never Let Me Go. I find myself thinking about those books quite often, especially Never Let Me Go, which was about a group of young people who were born for the sole purpose of being forced to donate their organs. They donate as much as possible until they can no longer survive. I know, it sounds totally gruesome, but the book was more about the friendships between the donors. It was fascinating and has stuck with me.

*Biggest Disappointment: Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants. Even though this is a Young Adult book, I expected it to blow me away because I know a lot of really smart gals who love it. But instead I got poor character development and a story that I couldn't care less about. I haven't bothered to read the rest of the books in the series.

Despite the fact that I got off to a great start by reading seven books in January alone, I'm definitely disappointed by books this year. Not only was most of what I read completely forgettable, but a lot of those books made me not want to read for a while. They turned my favorite past time into a chore.

Reading Goals for 2012:

*Definitely read more than 28 books. I really like to keep a loose goal of fifty books.

*Devote just a bit more time to researching books and hunting down ones I'll love, so I don't waste time reading clunkers.

Now I need some suggestions. What are you reading right now? What was your favorite book of the year?

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Saturday

This Saturday I:

*Ate about seven clementines.I go through phases with these little guys. Sometimes I can't get enough of them, other times they rot on the counter.

*Made Rum Balls. I had made them last week for the holiday party for work. I didn't think they had gone over real well but yesterday my boss offered to pay me to make more for a Christmas gift for her husband. I'm just happy someone likes something I've made. (This is the recipe I use, although I've been known to add a splash or two more of the rum.)

*Went to Michael's and stood in a very, very long line to pay for the last (hopefully) of this years Christmas packaging ( to package said rum balls).

*Finished reading a book, The Monsters of Templeton. It was okay but not great. I wanted to like it more but it was kinda pretentious. I wouldn't recommend it.

*Started reading a new book, Dance Upon the Air by Nora Roberts. I've never actually read any of her books, but this trilogy was recommended to me by a couple of gals, so I figured I'd give it a shot. Have any of you read it? (Hmmmm.....I see that Amazon has given it a "Sensuality Rating" of 6. What does that mean?)

*Played some of my son's video games. Because sometimes I just want to shoot something.

*Mailed out most of our holiday cards.

*Was annoyed by the laughter of children. (I know, I'm a monster.) My downstairs neighbors are moving out and I've had to listen to the gleeful squealing of their two pre school age daughters all day long as they clanged around on the metal ramp of the moving truck. They're a nice enough family but there is just something about all of them that kinda bugs me. I'm glad they're moving, now I don't have to pretend to like them anymore.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Random Thoughts

* This morning I find myself in the kitchen making cookies for Lucy's class holiday party. I jumped at the chance to do this since I don't have as much time to volunteer in the class as I used to. But I had to cancel a trip to Ikea with a co-worker friend in order to have the time to bake. By the looks of what I'm using as a rolling pin, I probably should have gone to Ikea first.

*I'm drinking wine at 10:00 AM. It's a glass I didn't finish last night. It's my morning wine.

*Truth be told, I'm feeling a bit over extended lately. Work has been insane (as a toy store should be this time of year) and I've had a lot of social type things to do. A homebody such as myself doesn't quite know how to handle it. Plus, there are all the things I haven't done that I've wanted to do like the Ikea trip or the fact that Visty and I have been trying to get together for about two weeks now and despite the fact that we live mere miles from one another, we just can't seem to make it work. At this rate the Christmas gift I have for her may end up being a Valentines Day gift. Also, I think I've forgotten what my husband looks like. As busy as I've been though, it's a good busy.

*I work this afternoon (which means that my morning wine is also my pre-work wine!) and then I'm off for the next two days. I may spend Saturday in my jammies watching cartoons.

*Daphne is coming over the day after Christmas. Gosh, I love her. It will be a short visit but we have a lot to chat about. Fondue has been bought.

*The girl's birthday is coming up right after Christmas. I'm trying to find a way to keep the whole thing very low key yet still make her birthday wishes come true. She's requested a Sonic the Hedgehog cake. Tomorrow I'm going to see about enlisting the help of the professionals on this one.

Off to go finish my pre-work wine.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

The New Wheels

I am now the proud owner of a 1989 VW Cabriolet. We got an amazing deal on it from a broke college student who needed some quick cash.

It has a few minor things wrong with it, but nothing that will keep me from driving it to and from work. And frankly, I think Jay is a bit excited about the prospect of having something to fix up. He likes projects. He makes nightly visits to Ebay and a bunch of parts are already on the way, including the replacement for the small side window that was smashed out when, as the girl puts it, "some jerk stealed the radio."

No worries though, as Jay says he can get me the original AM/FM/Cassette Player for about $30.

Now if I could only find my box of cassette tapes.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Tuba Christmas

Tuba Christmas.

Because who wouldn't want to go into the city,Sit with hundreds of other people in near freezing weather,Maybe catch a glimpse of this guy,And then listen to 225 tuba players perform Christmas tunes?Okay, apparently the answer to that question would be: my kids, because they spent a great deal of the afternoon grumbling. But Jay and I had fun. The young ones in our family need to just quit clinging to the notion that they're cooler than a tuba concert. They are not.

But those frowns were turned upside down when we stopped at a few of the Portland Food Carts. Poutine from Potato ChampionSavory Mac and Cheese pie (shown half eaten 'cause it was so damn yummy) from Whiffies. I also had a sweet peanut butter and chocolate chip pie but there are no pictures of it because, again, damn yummy. Pizza from Pyro Pizza

Shrimp Po' Boy and Blue Cheese Cole Slaw from Bubba Bernie's. Why has no one ever offered me blue cheese covered cole slaw before in my life? It was amazing.

Since the day ended with everyone smiling, I'm considering it a success. Plus, since the girl is now in her room singing songs from the Tuba Christmas song book, I'm thinking she may have enjoyed it more than she'll admit. Sometimes they just need convincing.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

A Random Act of Knitting

A while back I read about Guerrilla Knitting and always thought it seemed like a very Portland thing to do but had never actually seen any in person.

Which is why I may have squealed with excitement when I saw this:
I wish someone would knit pole warmers for the poles in my neighborhood.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

The Elf on the Shelf

Have you heard of this guy?In case you're unfamiliar with him, throughout December he sits on a shelf during the day watching all of the children and then at night he reports back to the North Pole to tell Santa how the boys and girls are behaving. Upon his return, he sits on a different shelf, because, well duh, that's how you know he actually left.

I have some thoughts on this.

*First off, people are really into this. We sell the kit, which includes The Elf and the book, for $30 and have a hard time keeping them in stock. I'm amazed that people are that committed to this idea and can keep it going all the way until Christmas. My motivation for such a project would definitely fizzle out after a few days and I would have to tell my kids that our Elf is so good at his job that he could tell after only a short time how they were behaving and he decided to take the rest of the month off.

*My pal, Dawn, has the Elf. She named him Jimmy after a character on Boardwalk Empire. (Things like that make me love her even more.) But she just told me that on the show Jimmy recently had sex with his mom and now she's having a hard time looking at her Elf.

*The Elf has a song. "The Elf on the Shelf is watching you, what you say and what you do." Creepy. Really, really creepy.

*At work we have a store Elf. Every night we have to hide him and the first kid to find him the next day gets a candy cane. The problem is, that at the end of the night we're all ready to skedaddle out of there with the quickness so we usually forget The Elf. Then one of us will get a late night text saying something to the effect of, "Shit! I forgot to move The Elf! Will you do it for me in the morning?" Because we have had kids who come in and say, "Hey! The Elf was in the same place yesterday!" (It should say something about the community I work in that kids are actually in a toy store two days in a row.)

*When I'm in charge of hiding The Elf, I carry him around the store swinging him by his scrawny Elf legs until I find the best possible place to hide him. Kinda ruins some of the Christmas Magic, doesn't it? Confession: I don't want kids to find him. I want kids to get agitated and frustrated when looking for him. I don't want them to cry, I just want them to learn the hard lesson that not everything in life is going to come to them so easily.

*If I know that adults are looking for The Elf, I like to give them vague, cryptic, and mostly unhelpful hints such as "The Elf is by a box." I also like to tell them if they're Hot or Cold. Especially if they are Cold. Last week I said to a Grandpa, "Wow! You are freezing cold. You're never gonna find The Elf over here. Come on, you can do better. A toddler found him earlier." (Note: This type of talk only works on men, who think that I'm being playful and possibly slightly flirty. Women think I'm being a bitch. They may be right.)

A Thought and Daddy's Little Buddy

At the beginning of this year I made an agreement with myself that I wouldn't blog unless I had something to say. I did this because I wanted to challenge myself to put more thought into what I write, and in some ways I think I have. The downside to this little experiment though was that I wrote less, mentally talking myself out of writing about certain things if I didn't think I could get more than three paragraphs out of it. That, combined with the fact that I just don't have enough time to devote to writing long posts everyday, means that things have grown kind of quiet. And that makes me sad. There have been so many stupid little observations I've had the past year that I chose not to write about because I didn't feel as if it would really be bringing anything to the table, so to speak.

But this morning I saw this post of Heather's and it was such a good reminder to me. All of those stupid observations I've had are a part of my life, and by not chronicling them, I run the risk of forgetting about them. So I think I'm going to go back to the way things were. I'm going to go back to blogging even when I don't have anything to say.

Starting now.

A few weeks ago Jay brought this home after finding it on the floor of his store:
He keeps trying to tell me it's a penis head cozy but I'm not convinced.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Holiday Decorating 2011

A few days ago I was thinking about the post I wrote last year about our Christmas ornaments. I came home from work and reread it and the comments you all had left and it put me in such a cheery mood. I loved reading everyone's thoughts and feelings about ornaments and why certain ones are special. I really think that the tree is my favorite part of the holiday season so I thought I'd take a few moments to share some of our most recent ornament additions.

These dog portraits were purchased at Goodwill but I think they originally came from Target.Jay was pulled towards these because of the Ryan Berkley feel they have, since Berkley is an artist we both love. Plus, we thought they would go nicely with our dog balls (see post). They are totally corny and totally us. We've actually amassed quite a few dog related ornaments. I was thinking that maybe next year we'd have a smaller table top tree. Possibly it could be dog themed? (If so I may need to purchase these dog ornaments as well.)

These quail were also found by Jay at Goodwill:They're quite large, just a tad smaller than an actual quail. They sit on the branches so nicely and give our tree a bit of class.

These wooden Russian doll-type ornaments were bought after the holidays last year.The girl loves Russian Dolls so these ornaments are her favorites.

As we were digging through our ornament boxes I was surprised that the following one had made the cut last year because I really don't think it even is a Christmas ornament. Just because something has a red string on it, does not mean it has to be hung on a tree.
The note on it reads:

1. Place block on floor.
2. Walk around it twice.
3. SIT DOWN! RELAX!
4. You now just walked around the block twice!

Yeah, I know. It's idiotic. BUT, when the boy saw it he grabbed it from the box and excitedly yelled, "My exercise block! This is my favorite ornament!" So I guess it's here to stay.

One more way in which I've decided to decorate for the holidays is with deer. I have some deer ornaments and I've picked up some figurines at thrift stores, Etsy, and various other places. I'd like to say that I have them tastefully set up around the apartment but the mischievous elves who live with me have taken to rearranging them:
Bad Santa indeed.

What are your thoughts on ornaments? Do you bring new ones in yearly? If so, do you get rid of ones you aren't loving anymore or can you not part with them?

(For other, more spiritual, thoughts on the holiday tree, please visit my pal Jessie who has a lovely post over at Rhythm of the Home.)