Thursday, January 1, 2015

Favorite books of 2014

I have seen LOTS AND LOTS of best books of the year posts.
I decided to be inspired to blog for the second time this year. 
Stupid low number of posts, I know.
BUT! BOOKS!!! I love to talk books! 
Let's go. I'll try to give my impression, rather than a synopsis of each book. 

Yes Please. I've said it before (not here, obvs) but I'll say it again. Amy Poehler is my spirit animal. I love love loved her book. Now don't read this, Mom. She's not tame, and she also uses wordy dirds. 

A Man Called Ove This debuet from Sweden just captured my heart. I got an advance review copy from Netgalley. (DID YOU KNOW THAT YOU CAN GET FREE REVIEW EBOOKS?) A grouchy old man watches his neighborhood change and he changes with it. It was just plain good. I cried.

Code Name Verity This book is considered YA. It's a book with heart. A very well written, book with heart. I love books that highlight great friendships and this one does. Again, I cried. 

The Invention of Wings Ok. I cried again. Maybe this is a thing with me and books I love. This is not an easy book to read. The scenes of mistreatment are hard to listen to and so much angry making, but it is such a good book. 

The Graveyard Book Not my first Gaiman. I listened to Oceans At The End of The Lane last year and was entranced. This one was perfect for right around halloween when it's getting colder and leaves are falling. My daughter listened with me and loved it just as much as I did. Maybe more. (Which makes a momma happy!)

The Bookman's Tale Books about books!! I think those are my favorite books of all books! How many times can I say books? This one goes back in time and solves the mystery about the identity of The Bard. The Author, Charlie Lovett has a new book, First Impressions, which takes on our favorite authoress, Jane. 

The Storied Life of A.J. Fickry Another book about books! This bookseller adopts a baby left in his store and becomes human again. He also reccommends many books that I have put on my wish list. 

All The Light We Cannot See Another Netgalley freebie. Yay for free, especially when it's so good! This story just transported me back in time and made me fall in love with the father willing to do so much to help his blind daughter and make her life happier, even in hard times. Really, so good. I know everyone has this on their list, it's that good.

You Are Now Less Dumb I like to sprinkle some nonfiction throughout my reading year. This one was really good. Sort of an explaination of why our brains do what they do and how to prevent the weird things we all do now that we know our brain is fooling us. Fascinating stuff.

Let's Pretend This Never Happened The Bloggess. She hooked me when she adopted a giant metal chicken and named it Beyonce. I loved the chapter on how she and her coworkers handled the various undesirables when she was working in HR. 

Fuzzy Nation I also sprinkle my reading year with scifi. I haven't earned the coveted badge of nerd, but I like to think that I'm nerd-curious. Unless this is a title that you can self-proclaim. If so, I'M SUCH A NERD! This is just your average other-planet-alien-species, obnoxious-hero-who-ends-up-in-a-courtroom story. You know the ones I'm talking about.

Off To Be The Wizard I really reccommend listening to the audiobook. The reader is just fabulous. I put this one on the list because, while I did enjoy it, my whole family loved it. This made a road trip so much more bearable. Boy, if you thought the last book was nerdy, this one ratchets the nerd up a level or two. It's funny, too, which always earns you points in my book. (BOOK! HA!)

A few honourable mentions: I did love these but I had to limit my list to 12 because reasons. (It's late and I'm tired.) In The Woods, The Hundred Year Old Man Who...had an entirely too long book title, What Alice Forgot, and The Rosie Project were all favorites too. 

I'm thinking of writing up a list of books where the cover outshone the book itself. A good cover really draws me in. Am I the only one who loves to look at the covers of books I've read? It's like a time machine. 

What were your favorite books this year? Did you blog the list? I want to know what I need to put on my TBR list for the coming year. Talk books with me!

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

For real the best french bread recipe ever

Alright, people.

This bread is my absolute favorite. This bread turns out with a thick, wonderful crusty crust. I love it.
I think it's the butter that makes it magical.
We all know butter just makes things better, right?
Betty Botter knows this.

I got this from a Sunbeam Bread machine manual years ago. The first several times I tried it, it turned out like a rock.
Many, many tries later, with some googling and chatrooming thrown in, I discovered that I just needed to add a bit more water. !!!
I have no idea why the recipe in the book calls for the wrong amount, or why it took me so long to figure out that if the dough didn't LOOK like good dough, I could use my common sense and tweak it.
Here's the corrected recipe.

That said, use your eyeballs to get a good dough. The amount of water could vary depending on altitude or weather.

Bread Machine French Bread

1.5 lb loaf            Ingredient               2 lb loaf
1 1/4 c                   water                    1 1/2 c
1 1/2 tbsp           soft butter                 2 tbsp            
3 1/4 c                    flour                       4 c
1 tbsp                    sugar                      5 tsp
1 1/2 tsp                 salt                      1 1/2 tsp
2 1/2 tsp                yeast*                     4 tsp                        
*I use regular yeast, that I get from Sam's for $4/lb, not fancy bread machine yeast.

Put your pan with blade in the machine.
Place ingredients in the pan, in the order listed. If you're setting the machine up for later, make an indention in the flour and put yeast in that, to be sure that it doesn't come in contact with the water before the machine starts.
Carefully insert pan into machine & close lid.
Choose French Bread option (if available).
Select desired crust color.
Select desired loaf size.
Press start.

Often, I've used the machine's dough setting, and shaped this to make baguettes. I'll even mix up this recipe sans machine when I don't feel like dragging out the machine.
In fact, it's rising on my stove right now.
I'll try to snap a pic of the deliciousness before it gets gobbled up.

To just mix it up, I really just combine the yeast & water, then butter, then everything else.
Knead until nice & elastic (3-5 min), put in an oiled bowl in a warm place to rise for an hour or so.
Cut dough in half, roll out each half, but just barely. You want to keep the gas inside the dough, so try to roll gently. If that makes sense to you, congratulate yourself. Heh.
Roll up the dough, to make a baguette, with the seam down. I rub soft butter on the top of the dough, then slit dough diagonally just to be pretty.
I put them on a greased cookie sheet and let them rise again for about 30 minutes.
Bake @ 375 for 35(ish) minutes.
Ususally I knock on the crust to try to see if it's nice and hard, sound hollow inside.
*I have no idea if this actually does anything.

Enjoy! I reccommend smearing your slice(s) with butter. So so good.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Less a review, more my story about a book that matters:

I'm cranking up the ole blog. 

I need you to know about this book. I just finished. I've been reading it and trying to get through it for weeks now. I have every available format. Audio, kindle, signed paperback. (EEK! I love signed copies!!) I'm a fangirl.

I'll tell you a bit about why this means so much to me. This book represents, for me, a journey.  From where? Back from the familiar shroud, from certainty, to questions that my heart has asked my entire life, that I once thought I  had answers for. You see, life smacked me in the face, and I reeled. I didn't know how I could get back.

As I sit here writing this, I can feel that familiar shroud creeping near. I can feel the tendrils of depression unfurling themselves at me. It's gotten easier to resist sinking.

Let me tell you why. I am learning to believe that I'm beloved. It's a hard lesson to accept, and I'm still working. 
I believe in Love. I know that God is love. I know he loves everyone. Blah blah blah. That's easy to accept for the world at large. Of course God loves YOU!! 
But to accept that I am loved, deeply, unattached to the stars on my behavior chart? Well. Phffffft.

Several years ago, after the darkest year I have ever had, I followed the author on twitter. It was during the week-long General Assembly for the Church of God. I was working nights, but I was nerd enough to come home from my shift and stay up to watch the live stream. With my tweetdeck #COGGA column up, I would rail at anyone I disagreed with, immediately follow and often retweet those that I connected with. I also regularly texted my husband not to come home if he voted certain ways. ;) I do believe the issue of the day was allowing women to become ordained and actually have a say in the polity of the church. Ooo. Dicy stuff! 

Jonathan Martin's tweets immediately struck a cord. 

Then about a year later, he tweeted something about God having to be at least as nice as Jesus. I stood up and took notice.

Then another year later, when my husband and I were facing some extremely difficult situations in church and work, he became my virtual pastor. I devoured podcasts of his sermons. 

Now, that may all sound creepy and Every Breath You Take, but I believe God sent this man's message my way because, well, I needed it. 

I wish you could see the highlights in my kindle. Their name should be Legion, for they are many. 

On Sunday, I had the privilege of going to Renovatus, Jonathan's church,  and getting him to sign a copy that I bought in the lobby. 
He preached on obscurity, specifically citing that chapter of the book. "The wilderness is the place where God courts his beloved." That one line blew me away when I read it, and then again on Sunday. 
I remember being in the middle of the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Year, and there would be little things that  made me think, (I kid you not) "God, you're wooing me." And yet, it still took me years to get to a point where I can say that I'm ok and not have to lie.

And I don't think I'm the only one. I think we all struggle with allowing ourselves to actually feel the love that God is literally dying to pour over us. I don't know why it's so hard to believe in love for me.

I do know this. I have so much more empathy and compassion and than I did before my shroud. My prideful disdain for "them and they" became a genuine longing to see from other perspectives, hear "their" story. 

The whole time in the wilderness, I wanted to get back to where I was before. Now I wouldn't go there for anything. I would never have believed it at the time, but I'm better off because of my shroud.

I haven't really told you anything about the book, have I? 

"Jesus is our prototype."
"When God called Jesus His beloved, Jesus did something truly remarkable: He believed him.... And unlike every other person in history...He never forgot."  -- The chapter including those two sentences is worth the price of admission. And the chapter on fear. Well. 

If you're feeling ragged, unloved, and lonely, I recommend it. If you're on top of the world and it's your oyster, you may want to invest. Tip-top oyster worlds don't last forever, you know?

Ok. I'm not going to go quoting the entire book to you, you need to do some highlighting for yourself.

Go on.....
I'll wait here, so we can compare notes.
You know how I love talking books.


Sunday, December 2, 2012

Maybe that waterfront property in Egypt wasn't such a bad investment.

To understand the title, you will need to have been a reader from way back. Or an author of this blog. Or, you can read this post

The Caravans by Vincent van Gough

Well. This is a turn of events. You may or may not know that my family are a tribe of nomads. 
It's true. 
We move every year.
Well. Not every year. But close. 
Let's see.....(counts on fingers) this will make 4 since 2009. 4 in 4 years. 


Ok. So I stand corrected. 
Every year. 

Looking back at that, I marvel at how incredibly ridiculous that seems.
Stupid, almost.

So. Where was I? 

Oh. New move. Gotcha.

We are going back to Charlottesville. Yay!
We are going to start a church there. 

Dave and I have known for a long time that this was our path, eventually. We just didn't expect it to rush at us like it has done. This is going to be a HUGE leap of faith for our entire family. Dave and I both have jobs, making sure that we have enough to survive in a place where rent will be double what we pay here.
We are looking for a miracle house. We need something that is around $1000, 3 bedrooms or more and in a very specific area. One of the conditions of moving was that the kids could go to school with some of their friends from when we lived there before.
So, if you pray, please pray for us to find the home for us.

Pray for me and my kiddos, too. Right now, I'm going and spending Monday-Thursday nights with my BFF, Pam. Yay for BFF time, boo for missing my kiddos. But I'm working for some Christmas money, and moving money. Deposits and moving trucks add up quickly.

So this journey has taken many twists and turns. I never would have guessed that we'd end up back in Cville. It's funny, seeing how I reacted so graciously to leaving there. I also never would have believed what I'm about to say. I'm richer for having left. I made some very dear friends along the way, and can't imagine not having them in my life. 

So, If you , like me, are moving and trying to transition during is season, I wish you Happy Journeys and Happy Holidays from this travelling family. 
Heck, I wish you that, even if you're not.


ps. I need you to know that I'm sitting here with my earbuds in. My office is full of boxes and I can't get in there. I have to sit in the living room. While they watch The Walking Dead. I can't handle that mess. I'm listening to Trans-Siberian Orchestra Holiday station on Pandora. I just needed you to know that. ;)

Monday, November 19, 2012

Math Anxiety

Math gives me the hives.  Seriously, I don't understand it.  I don't like it.  I returned to college four years ago, and finally this semester I'm making myself take my first math class.  And the semester is almost done.  Sing Hallelujah!

Part of my issue is I haven't had a math class in over 20 years! (Trig as an 11th grader--way back in 1992 people.)  The other is that my teacher is an adjunct professor.  His first time teaching.  Oh, yay, me.  And he's an engineer by trade.  (Hello, left brain trying to teach a right brain.  It's not really working.)

So we began last week with a quiz on the material we were getting ready to do that day. New material.   That I had never seen before.  That's why this is called math anxiety.  Ugh.

So during his "lecture" this is what I wrote at the bottom of my paper.  And, yes, I know I'm a goofball.

Here's the right column, full of a pep talk to myself:

And here's the left column, which slides into reality and then catapults into plain old silliness (one of my coping mechanisms):

Full disclosure, this was last Tuesday and I totally skipped on Thursday.  Wanna know something else?  I really should be doing math homework right now.  Its a designated "Math Monday" on my iCal.  But guess what?  I haven't even cracked a book yet.

{And why yes, those are pictures with my new DSLR.  Please don't judge me.  I'm learning.  Indoor shots still have me a bit befuddled.}

Happy Thanksgiving!


Saturday, November 10, 2012

Mary had a black sheep

My mother said that I need to put up a new blog post. She had read the Halloweenie one a few times.

Hi Mom!

I guess she got spoiled by our posting for 31 DAYS STRAIGHT!

So. Here  you go, Mom. In honor of the laughs we had this afternoon.

I'm trying to remember how this all came about. Somehow we talked about going to hell in a handbasket. And my brilliant self beat my sister to getting that on Facebook.

Well, this took its natural course. Which is, of course, nursery rhymes.
We laughed about the morbidity of them.
Then we did the ultimate Nursery Rhyme MashUp.

I give you .... a product of our twisted minds.

Little boy Blue come blow your horn,
how does your garden grow?
London Bridge had a great fall.
One a penny, two a penny!
Jack fell down and broke his crown,
and a spider sat down beside him.
They all ran after the farmer's wife.
Ashes, ashes, and the cow jumped over the moon.


UPDATE: My mother in law had a handbasket for me at Thansgiving! We laughed and laughed over that Facebook status. Then, whenever we would wander into a conversation about someone that has done our family dirty, or is just plain ole' mean, we would say that we have a handbasket to give them.

It was funnier in person, I promise.