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December 2014

Endings and Beginnings

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"Often when you think you're at the end of something, you're at the beginning of something else."

                                                                                                   --- Mister Rogers

 

Happy New Year!


Year in Review: The Books

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This week, Carole asks us to list our Ten Favorite Books in 2014.  This task is so much easier, now that I use Goodreads fairly faithfully.  (I say "fairly" . . . because my list of books on Goodreads doesn't quite reconcile with the list I maintain in the sidebar of my blog, so I've clearly erred in the tracking somewhere along the way.  But.  Close enough.)

I just sorted my Goodread list for 2014 by "rating", which shows some of my favorite books in the past year.  

Voilà!

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(Because I'm setting my own rules for this post, I've decided to remove re-reads and poetry from my final list, including only novels I've read for the first time during 2014.)

My Ten Favorite Books in 2014 (minus re-reads and poetry):

  1. All the Light We Cannot See (Anthony Doerr) - My hands-down favorite for 2014!  The critics kept calling it "dazzling."  I'd have to agree:  This one dazzles.  (Read it!)
  2. The Spinning Heart (Donal Ryan) - This story unfolds as a kind of oral history, told by a series of narrators - all neighbors in a contemporary Irish town.  Compelling.
  3. The Luminaries (Eleanor Catton) - Don't let the page count keep you away from this New Zealand gold rush tale -- part love story, part mystery, part ghost story -- all told under an astrological theme.  (Winner of the 2013 Man Booker Prize.)
  4. Hunting and Gathering (Anna Gavalda) - A perfect weaving-together of lives; bringing wounded people together . . . finding that, together, they are greater than the sum of their parts.  Translated from French, this book is beautiful to read.  (The French title was "Togetherness is Everything," which seems more appropriate somehow.)
  5. We Are Completely Beside Ourselves (Karen Joy Fowler) - This one is worth the read for the narrator alone (such a witty and engaging character!) -- but there is so much more!  (This one is probably best read without any prior knowledge of the story, so that's all I'm going to say here.)
  6. The Children Act (Ian McEwan) - One reviewer compared this book to choreography, and I think that's the perfect description!  There are never easy answers -- even when it seems like there are.
  7. Americanah (Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie) - A truly global love story that covers so many topics your head might spin!  Race, feminism, immigration, emigration, interracial relationships . . . and natural hair.  Enlightening.
  8. The Secret Place (Tana French) - The 5th in the Dublin Murder Squad series, and probably not the strongest of the 5, but I love this series - and thought this was a terrific read.  
  9. Burial Rites (Hannah Kent ) - This is not a happy book (just sayin'), but it is stark and lyrical and makes you realize . . . how many stories are lost out there.  Because not every voice is heard.
  10. How to be both (Ali Smith) - Okay.  Technically this one probably shouldn't be on my list.  Because I'm not quite finished yet.  But.  I think it needs to be here.  Because up is down and down is up, inside is outside and outside is in.  I've never read a book like this one!

How about YOU?  What are your favorite books this year?

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Right Now . . . December 2014

It's one of my favorite times of year . . . After-Christmas-But-Before-New-Year's.  Break time.  Kickin' back time.  No-agenda time!

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What's happening . . . RIGHT NOW?

Watching . . . We tend to go to a lot of movies during "Christmas break."  So far, we've seen Into the Woods (not bad!) and The Interview (oh, brother. . .), and tomorrow we have reservations to see Wild.  (We went to see The Inteview out of "cultural curiosity," and because . . . well . . . because we could!  It's definitely not my kind of movie, but Tom offered to buy me "as many beers as it took" to get me through.)  I've also been iPad binge-watching Midsomer Murders, which I do from time to time.  (There are enough episodes that I can indulge in periodic binges.)

Reading . . . I just finished We Are Not Ourselves (Matthew Thomas), which was a bit of a slog (although the last 4 chapters pretty much redeemed the whole thing).  (This title is not to be confused with a book I read in November that was MUCH better - We Are All Beside Ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler.)  For Christmas I received (and immediately devoured) Mary Oliver's latest poetry volume, Blue Horses.  Excellent; I highly recommend it.  I'm now reading the second book in the Richard Monk, Victorian-detective-with-amnesia series, A Dangerous Mourning (Anne Perry) and diving into How to be Both (Ali Smith) which is intriguing and unique and completely unlike anything else I've ever read.

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Knitting . . . It's still All Hats All The Time for me.  As I binge-watch Midsomer Murders, I'm binge-knitting this hat.  (Easy and quick with a great fit.)  They aren't exactly Christmas gifts (although a couple of them were), but I'm sort of thinking that pretty much everyone in my family Needs A Hat.  (One more to go . . . after finishing the one in the photo that is 80% done . . . and I'll be Fed Up with Hats and ready to move on.)

Listening to . . . Anything but Christmas music.  (Please.)

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Dreading . . .  Running the One-One-Run on New Year's Day.  Not because it's going to be really cold.  (It is.)  (But this year I have appropriate cold-weather-running clothing!)  Not because of all the tu-tu-wearing, reindeer-antler-sporting, goofy-attention-seeking runners.  (Although they are a pain.)  No.  I'm dreading the running simply because I have a cold, and cannot breathe . . .

Needing to . . . Finish the laundry.  (It's reached That Point . . . where I'm actually wearing the itchy, flower-explosion bra AND my awful cheetah-print panties.  Now you know the truth of it.)

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Drinking . . . Orange juice laced with EmergenC.  And tea.  (Plenty of tea.)

Planning . . .  After all of the holiday planning, I decided to take a Reprieve From All Things Planning for at least a week.  So far, so good . . . although various ideas creep in once in a while.

Humming . . .  (I WILL SPARE YOU ALL!!!)  Firework by Katy Perry.  (If you've seen The Inteview, you will totally understand.)

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Wondering . . .  If it will ever snow again???  After a wild, snowy November, we had an unseasonably mild December.  (See that hideous scene above?  Christmas morning.  Green. Brown.  Dreary.  And SO not like usual.)  (Made even more . . . sad . . . by the tempting photos each of my children are posting from their holiday adventures down in Florida.)  (They are there separately, and in different beach locations.)

Itching to . . .  Knit a sweater!  I've been spending way too much time on Ravelry, looking at sweaters.  So far, I seem to be drawn to simple pullovers.  Maybe this one?  Or this one?

Organizing . . .  Nothing.  But after I "put away Christmas," I'll be tackling my sewing room.  And then, I need to get into the rooms that Brian is vacating (as he moves into his new apartment).

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Delighted by . . .  My new yarn bowl!  (A gift from my sister.)  (I'm just charmed.)

Inspired by . . .  Turning over the fresh pages of a new calendar.  Welcome 2015!

Celebrating . . .  Happy New Year!  I wish you all the best for the coming year.

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How about YOU?  What's going on for you . . . right now?

 

 


Countdown to Christmas

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I am nearly ready for Christmas festivities this week.

(Nearly.)

I've . . . Shopped.  Decorated.  Wrapped.  Shipped.  Partied.  Mailed.

What's left on my To-Do List?

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Baking and cooking and getting ready to eat!

Here's what I'll be doing today:

  1. Swedish meatballs
  2. Rice pudding
  3. Pepparkakor
  4. Cardamon bread
  5. Lingonberry sauce
  6. Shortbread
  7. Digging out my recipe for glögg
  8. Sending Tom out for liquor
  9. Setting the table
  10. Assembling the smörgåsbord 

(Now I'm hungry!)

How about YOU?  What's on your to-do list today?

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Bringing Light to the Darkness

Last night was Winter Solstice . . . the darkest night of the year.  

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To celebrate, Tom and I lit candles and turned on our Christmas twinkle lights.

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Then, we went in search of Christmas lights in Kalamazoo.  First we found this house . . .

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Bright.  A bit over-the-top.  But kind of charming.

Then, we found this one . . . 

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It's hard to capture the . . . experience . . . of this home light display with a mere iPhone camera.  Because there is animation.  And flickering.  Lots of twinkle.  3-D everywhere.  And music.

Also . . . this is only part of the display.  Here's the rest . . . 

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Now THAT is bringing light to the darkness!

 


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Special song . . . for a special day . . . 

 

Happy Birthday, Tom.

This song was pretty "new" when we first met and started going out.  Whenever it played, I always thought of US.   It was romantic and thoughtful and reflective -- and, even though I knew Stevie wrote it for Lindsey, I always liked to pretend it was MY song.

I took my love and took it down
I climbed a mountain and I turned around
And I saw my reflection in the snow-covered hills
Till the landslide brought me down

K and T circa 1979

Oh, mirror in the sky, what is love?
Can the child within my heart rise above?
Can I sail through the changing ocean tides?
Can I handle the seasons of my life?

Tom on Carousel 1994

Well, I've been afraid of changing
'Cause I've built my life around you

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But time makes you bolder
Even children get older
And I'm getting older too

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Well, I've been afraid of changing
'Cause I've built my life around you

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But time makes you bolder
Even children get older
And I'm getting older too
Oh, I'm getting older too

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Well, Tom.  Here we are.  All these many years later.  This song still resonates with me - only even more so.  Happy birthday.  I love "getting older, too" . . . with you!

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. . . Till the landslide bring us down!

 


Random Stuff on a Friday

My blog posts this week have been rather . . . meager.  (It's a busy time of year, and I'm pretty much winging it in every corner of my life at the moment, truth be told.)  I've collected a whole-lotta-random this week, though, so I thought I'd share it all with you today.

Here goes some RANDOM on a Friday:

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Tom was visiting Mumbai last week.  When he's there, he always has a driver to get him where he needs to be (and if you've ever seen traffic move in Mumbai, you'd totally understand why a driver is a necessity).  This time, Tom took a photo for me -- of this sign in his car:

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(Right.  Doesn't everyone need a . . . hammer. . . in their car????) (Such luxury!)

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I got a little going-away gift from the folks in my office today.  It looks like some sort of . . . handbag.  Or maybe a piccolo case.  Round.  Hard-sided.  LOTS more sparkly than the photo shows.

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Any guesses????

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Yep.  It's a wine-bottle-purse!  It holds one bottle of wine AND a corkscrew.  Perfectly.

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Earlier this fall, I ordered my sister and I a special Venice advent calendar.

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It's been great fun to open the various windows -- because it's a perfect reminder of our trip last September.  It's so cool to open a window . . . 

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and say, "HEY! I saw that!!!"

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It's time to sign up for One Little Word 2015 . . .

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If you've been thinking about joining the One Little Word adventure, I just want to let you know that sign-ups are open for 2015.  Just click here to learn more about the year-long project -- and take advantage of a temporary class fee discount.  

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And that's a wrap. . .

Happy Friday!

 

 


Christmases Long Long Ago: Dear Santa

Not long ago, as I was going through some files, I found this . . . 

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Erin's letter to Santa dated December 2, 1995!  Erin was in first grade that Christmas -- missing her front teeth and everything.

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Lucky Girlie!  Santa delivered -- and Erin found Kirsten under the tree on Christmas morning. 
(And, really . . . how could he resist, since she "bin good" and all???)