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Waaaay too many books, not enough time

One of the things I love about Good Reads is that users can set reading challenges every year. This year I had to up my goal a few times because I read a lot of picture books. The challenge doesn’t make you specify what kind of books or number of pages; it just counts the quantity of books.

As of this posting, my “to-read” shelf is at 631 books.1 I can’t possibly read that many books in a year; I fall asleep when I read (hey, it relaxes me!). Still, on average it takes me a week to get through a 300 page book. So a realistic challenge for me would be to read 52 books in 2014 (not including picture books).

But what to read? With over 600 choices, I thought it would be best to put down the titles on a “short list” and read those first. I tried to get a variety of genres as well as finish up some series I started. So, divided by genre, here are the 52 books I will read in 2014:

Classic

A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court by Mark Twain

Brave New World by Aldous Huxley

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith

Franny and Zooey by JD Salinger

On the Road by Jack Kerouac

Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston3

 

Fiction

Lost Lake by Sarah Addison Allen

Snow Flower and the Secret Fan by Lisa See

Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion

Silver Linings Playbook by Matthew Quick

Ella Minnow Pea by Mark Dunn

 

Non-Fiction

The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins

Lucky by Alice Sebold

Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott

The Great Typo Hunt by Jeff Deck

Love You More by Jennifer Grant

College Girls by Lynn Peril

Homer’s Odyssey by Gwen Cooper

The Tao of Martha by Jen Lancaster

I am Malala by Malala Yousafzai

Unlikely Friendships by Jennifer S. Holland

The Good Girls Revolt by Lynn Povich

102 Minutes by Jim Dwyer

For Her Own Good by Barbara Ehrenreich

 

Young Adult and Teen

The Void of Mist and Thunder (13th Reality #4) by James Dashner

Reached (Matched #3) by Ally Condie

Divergent (Divergent #1) by Veronica Roth4

Lovesick (Ghostgirl #3) by Tonya Hurley

Delirium (Delirium #1) by Lauren Oliver

Hollow City (Miss Peregrine’s #2) by Ransom Riggs5

Shelter Me by Alex McAuley

The One (The Selection #3) by Kiera Cass

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

City of Ember by Jeanne DuPrau

Fever (Chemical Garden #2) by Lauren DeStefano

Sever (Chemical Garden #3) by Lauren DeStefano

Perfect Ruin by Lauren DeStefano

Horten’s Miraculous Mechanisms by Lissa Evans

Ascend (Trylle #3) by Amanda Hocking

Wonder by R.J. Palacio

Me Since You by Laura Wiess

The Impossible Knife of Memory by Laurie Halse Anderson

The Rule of Thoughts (Mortality Doctorine #2) by James Dashner

Unhinged (Splintered #2) by A.G. Howard

The Testing (The Testing #1) by Joelle Charbonneau

The Fire Chronicle (The Books of the Beginning #2) by John Stephens

The Curse of the Broomstaff (The Janitors #3) by Tyler Whitesides

The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

When Did You See Her Last? (All the Wrong Questions #2) by Lemony Snicket

Shutdown (Glitch #3) by Heather Anastasiu

Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Saenz

So, just over half of the titles I picked are young adult and teen. This really doesn’t surprise me since it’s what I read most of the time. A lot of the titles, from all the genres, were books that I bought on impulse6 because I HAD TO READ THEM RIGHT AWAY. Some I’ve had for years. Others, just a few months. Either way, I thought I should whittle them down first before trying to accumulate more, even if they are just digital. 

The ones I don’t currently own, I will rely on getting from the library. Now that I’m in a smaller town, access to free books is a bit more limited. Indy had over 20 libraries to pull from so almost everything I wanted was available. Here, not so much. There are only a handful of libraries at my disposal so my choices are more limited. Should I not be able to get a title through the library and am unable to afford to buy a copy, I will substitute the title for another in that genre.

And if when I get through my list, I’ll refill my coffee mug and start a new one.

 

1. To give you an idea, my “read” shelf, compiled over 7 years, is at 567. So, it would take me a good 8 years to read everything on my “to-read” shelf if I don’t add anything to it.2

2. Yeah, right.

3. I was supposed to have read this for a class in college. I don’t remember which class and the only thing I remember about the book was the beginning, which I liked, so I think that I didn’t actually finish it. Oops.

4. I want to read this before I see the movie, which is set to release in theaters in March.

5. It’s been over two years since the first book, Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, came out and left its readers hanging off a cliff!

6. No, Mom, I don’t own ALL of the books on my list. Just most.

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Posted by on December 14, 2013 in About me, Literature

 

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This blog is brought to you by the letter ‘S’*

It’s great to see José enjoy the toys and movies that Jess and I loved growing up. Mom kept most of the books and toys from our childhood. Before Jess left for Colombia, she dug through the boxes of toys and books in Mom’s basement and picked out some for José’s room. His coloring table is a small round table that I used to host tea parties on for my Cabbage Patch Kids and most of my collection of Berenstain Bears books now have a home on his bookshelf. I can’t wait until he’s old enough so we can play with all my old Legos!

Bert and ErnieOne of Jess and mine’s favorite things was listening to the record Bert and Ernie’s Sing-Along. We would often put on the record player set up in our playroom and sing and dance along to the silly songs. The premise of the record is that Bert is taking a bath when Ernie comes in…with a piano! He wants Bert to participate in his sing-a-long, but Bert just wants to have a nice quiet bath. His bath is anything but quiet as more people and monsters from the Street come into the bathroom. The songs they sing range from classics, like Old McDonald Had a Farm and She’ll Be Coming ‘Round the Mountain, to songs written just for the album, like Living Hand in Hand (my personal favorite). Jess and I would keep ourselves entertained for hours listening to that record. But we grew up and moved out on our own and eventually the record player got packed up.

I searched for the record in CD format for years, but to no avail. Maybe at one point it had been recorded onto a tape but even those were a rarity. It wasn’t until just a few years ago when I was searching online when I found out that the good people who bring us Sesame Street was going to release the CD, along with two other Sesame Street oldies. I snatched a copy up the day it came out and called Jess. That’s how excited I was and I knew she would be, too.

Jess has the copy of the sing-a-long in her car and José asks for certain songs from it. He’s still working on his English, but he’s getting better about it every day and he tries really hard to sing all the words in English. He likes Old McDonald Had a Farm and at the end of the song when the Sesame Street gang slows down and sings, “E-I-E-I-O”, he closes his eyes and deepens his voice. It is both the cutest and funniest thing to see and hear.

Monster at the EndAnother thing that Jess and I loved growing up was the Little Golden Book called There’s a Monster at the End of This Book. It starred none other than Grover. It’s a pretty basic premise: Grover is afraid of the monster at the end of the book and tries to stop the reader from turning the pages of the book. It’s still in print and I am excited when I see parents buying it for their kids. I actually don’t know if José likes the book; I just know that it’s on his bookshelf.

One thing I knFollow that Birdow he loves, though, is a favorite movie of mine and Jess’ called Follow That Bird. It’s a musical about Big Bird being adopted by a family of Dodos. When he runs away to go back to Sesame Street, the gang takes different routes to try to find him. At the same time, the stubborn Miss Finch searches for Big Bird so she can return him to the Dodos and the Sleaze brothers (one of whom is played by Dave Thomas) want Big Bird for their carnival. What ensues is a lot of hijinks, including Bert and Ernie flying upside-down to get Big Bird’s attention. Much to the dismay of Bert, Ernie sings about an upside-down world:

Come fly with me in an upside-down world.

There’s so many strange things to see.

There’s upside-down people who walk down the street,

Upside-down shoes on their upside-down feet,

In an upside-down world.

In an upside-down world.

(Bert, talking) Ernie, I don’t feel so good.

(Ernie) Wheee!

It’s fun to be in an upside-down world

There’s fish that fall out of the sea.

There’s upside-down clocks that make everyone late.

Upside-down food that won’t stay on your plate

In an upside-down world.

In an upside-down world.

There’s so many strange things all over town,

It all looks so funny that I’ve got to frown.

‘Cause a frown is a smile when it’s turned upside-down,

In an upside-down,

What-side-down?

Oops-side-down,

Whoops-side-down,

Upside-down world!

It’s a fun song to sing, which Jess and I often did. As it turns out, not only does José like the movie, that’s his favorite part of it! It’s probably because it all takes place in an airplane and he loves airplanes, but we often hear him singing the song to himself. Well, we hear him sing the second verse over and over (and over and over) to himself. We even listen to the soundtrack in the car when José asks for it.

I love being an aunt and getting to relive my childhood through someone who sees all of it as something new and exciting!

*The letter ‘S’ is for singing, silliness, and Sesame Street.

 
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Posted by on August 2, 2013 in About me, Everyday Life

 

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Awww au jus!

I used to live on roast beef sandwiches and au jus sauce. Any time I saw French dip listed on the menu of a restaurant, I ordered it. I loved taking the two slices of soft warm bread, stuffed with slow roasted beef, and dipping it until it was soaking in au jus sauce. My mouth watered at the mere thought of getting a French dip sandwich.

But then I became a vegetarian. It wasn’t always easy, especially in the first few years as my body adjusted to my new diet and I learned how to curb my cravings. I started eating meals made with meat substitutes, like tacos made from Morning Star Crumbles and fajitas from Smart Ones Chik’n Strips. Not only did it satisfy my body’s need for protein, I took comfort in the familiar tasting food* without sacrificing my principles.

When I meet new people and they learn I’m a vegetarian, they often ask if I miss meat. My answer is always the same: I miss French dip. There’s no substitute for beef drenched in hot beef broth. I can get a fake turkey for Christmas and Thanksgiving. I can have “bacon” and eggs for breakfast. I can even make “meat” loaf.** But I can’t find anything to replace the taste and experience of French dip.

Until now.

I was recently in Whole Foods, searching for Tofurkey Deli Slices when I saw they had a variation that I’d never seen before. I don’t know if it’s new or that my grocer in Indiana never sold it, but either way, I was happy to see it. It was their roast beef flavor. Roast beef! I couldn’t believe it! I grabbed a few packages, resisting the urge to buy up all the stock. After all, what if it wasn’t any good?

Later, when I was getting ready to make my first roast “beef” sandwich in 15 years, I flipped the back of the package over and read the suggestion to try it with vegan au jus sauce.

WHAT?! Au jus sauce can be made vegan? HOW DID I NOT KNOW ABOUT THIS?

I grabbed my keys and headed back to Whole Foods, bent on finding this sauce. Surely, if the Tofurkey people were suggesting vegan au jus sauce, then someone out there must be producing it. And if someone was producing it, then Whole Foods would have it.

But I couldn’t find it. I walked up and down the soup and broth aisle three times before it occurred to me to pull out my phone and search the internet. Thankfully, there were recipes for what I was looking for, including one that mentioned eating the Tofurkey Roast Beef slices with it. So, after much more searching through the store, I got the right stuff, went home, and made my first batch. As the sauce heated up on the stove, I took my hoagie bun and put several slices of roast “beef” on it and stuck it in the toaster oven.

After a just a few minutes, I sat down with my toasted sandwich, the bun warm and soft, and the vegan au jus sauce steaming up my glasses. I’d been waiting for this moment for the past 15 years and hoped that it wouldn’t disappoint. I dipped my sandwich and pulled it out soaked. I took a bite and closed my eyes.

Oui!

*Some meat eaters have tried these meat substitutes and say they’re pretty spot-on, but not all meat substitutes are created equal.

**I never ate real meat loaf when I did eat meat, so I don’t know if the recipe I have even tastes like the real thing. Also, if fake bacon is called facon, then wouldn’t fake meat loaf be called feat loaf?

 
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Posted by on July 29, 2013 in About me, Everyday Life, Food

 

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Holá, José

After a day and a half of driving (well, mostly it was Mom driving and me sleeping in the car), we finally arrived at my sister’s – and nephew’s – doorstep. It was finally time for me to meet my nephew, José. I’d talked with him on the phone a few times, even Skyped with him. But soon I would see him in the flesh. My desire to hug him was already overwhelming, though I knew to wait for him to come to me. When my mom went down to Colombia to help out Jess, it took José a couple of days to warm up to abuela. (It didn’t take so long with abuelo – my father – but we figured that was because he’s also a dude.)

So, when he greeted me at the door and then ran away, shrieking happily, I didn’t take offense. Jess was there to give me a big hug, which I always enjoy. Right away, José was eager to show me all the surprises he and Jess had for me. First, there were presents. Of course, if there’s a kid around presents, it doesn’t matter who they’re for, the kid should be the one to open them. So I asked him to help me open them and even though he’d help Jess wrap them, he still acted surprised at what was inside. Everything was from his birth country: a journal, a mug, and a purse with Colombia’s flag colors on it. He tried to put the purse on my head like a hat, unsuccessfully.

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José looks over the coloring pages.

Being an aunt, I had presents for him and Jess as well. José received a Thomas the Tank Engine, coloring pages drawn by my friend Burt, and many books, including one that he and Jess had read down in Colombia. He recognized it right away and made a happy noise. Jess’ presents were a little less exciting but much more sentimental. One was a picture frame I’d made with the word “family” in big letters and the “gotcha date” stamped on it. The picture I put inside the frame was the first picture that Jess had sent me from Colombia, the two of them grinning to finally be with their family. Her other present was a set of watercolor paintings done by my friend Veruca, who is married to Burt. I’d commissioned her to make a watercolor map of José’s hometown. As a surprise, she also made a watercolor map of José’s new hometown. I framed them and Jess hung them up in the living room. They look great and I enjoy seeing them every day!

Even though José kept asking for mas, there were no more presents, but there was another surprise in store for me. I followed him into the kitchen where he showed me the torte he and his mama made together. We all sat down and had a slice. Yummy!

Swimming

José lets me hold him as abuela laughs at his adorable smile.

The next few days went by in a blur of playing, laughing, and being utterly exhausted. I knew that new moms got tired a lot; I didn’t know that new aunts did, too! By my third night, I passed out on the couch as Jess put José to bed. I slept for 12 hours that night and felt as if I could have slept even more.

We all went to the pool one day and abuela and I played with him while Jess took a well-deserved and much needed nap in the sun. He doesn’t know how to swim yet, but he knows how to hold his breath under water and kicking his legs. He likes to be submerged in the big pool, but is too scared to go by himself (he refuses to use the floaties). But that first day we were at the pool together, he let me hold him as I walked around the pool. He clung to me but he had a huge grin on his face and I relished in the time I got to hold him. I also got to sneak in a kiss. It meant so much to me that even after not knowing me for very long, he trusted me enough to let me carry him through the “scary” water.

And here’s our first family photo with Tia Liz (notice the creepy abuelo in the background?):

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(left to right) Abuelo, Tia Liz, Mama, José

 
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Posted by on July 12, 2013 in About me, Everyday Life

 

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Goodbye Brickyard – Part 2

The following evening was my third and final going away party. I called it the “Drink/eat this so I don’t have to move it” party. I wanted to get rid of as much stuff in my kitchen as possible so I wouldn’t have to move it or throw it out. I also wanted one more chance to play Cards Against Humanity before I lived with a four year-old and would have to watch my language.

If you haven’t heard of Cards Against Humanity, then you are missing out. Ever played Apples to Apples? It’s like that, but wrong. Just check out their website.

Two of my best friends from high school drove 3 ½ hours to come see me, which blew me away. But that’s what great friends do, right? Also a college friend, Sally, came by. I’d seen her by coincidence a few years ago, when we were both at the Butler bookstore during the basketball team’s second Final Four appearance (in a row!). But we just briefly chatted then. This gave us an opportunity to catch up a bit more and just hang out, something I wish I’d strived to do more with Sally while I was still in Indy. Patti also came, though not her two young girls, who I’d babysat a few times before. After all, it was a grown up night and no one under the age of 18 should be exposed to Cards Against Humanity. But she told me that when the girls heard I was moving away, they said, “I thought she was going to babysit us forever!” It was very sweet, but I have my own family to babysit for now.

When the crowd was down to just a handful of us and the game was getting old, we switched to another one of my favorite card games: Anomia. Basically, everyone has a stack of cards and they each take turns to flip one up in front of them. Each card has a symbol and a subject, like “Mystery Novelist” or “Famous Ghost”. If the symbols from two cards match, the players must name something from the other person’s card first. The first person to correctly name something, gets the other person’s card. In the end, the person with the most cards won, wins. It sounds pretty easy, but if you play it, you will find that thinking on the spot and under pressure makes for a lot of “uhs” and “ums” and will make even the smartest person look stupid. For example, I had to name a famous astronaut. Not hard: Neil Armstrong. But then I had to name a famous inventor. Because this card was with the same player as the previous one, my mind automatically went to my last answer and I’d blurted out, “Neil Armstrong!” So, after a few rounds and many, many laughs with that game, the party dispersed.

The next morning my mom arrived to help with final preparations and take my cat to her new home. Dad arrived a few days later and the next day we packed up the truck* and hit the road, leaving the Brickyard behind.

*Actually, I hired people to pack the truck for us. Best use of my money ever.

 
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Posted by on July 10, 2013 in About me

 

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Goodbye Brickyard – Part 1

After my first going away party, I had a second, smaller party at one of Indy’s best pizza places: Bazbeaux Pizza. When Jess learned that I was going there before coming to Virginia, she asked me to bring her some (like it would last that long!). That’s how good Bazbeaux is.

I first experienced Bazbeaux my sophomore year at Butler University, when a group I participated in went out to Broad Ripple, the strip of bars and restaurants frequented by students. A few people in the group were vegetarian, like me. Having not been to Bazbeaux before, I thought that I was in for just some plain ol’ cheese pizza (which I enjoy, don’t get me wrong, but it’s not very exciting). Low and behold, they had just as many specialty vegetarian pizzas as they did for the meat eaters. There was a Chipotle pizza with black bean sauce rather than marinara, a Greek pizza with feta cheese and spinach, a Spring pizza with carrots and broccoli. There were so many choices, I didn’t know where to start! Thankfully, another vegetarian helped me out, as we would have to split the pizzas between several people. That day I tried the Chipotle pizza. It was different and a bit unusual, but I liked it.

The next time my family visited me, I insisted that we go to Bazbeaux. They instantly loved it, too, and it became a regular place for us to dine when they were in town.

So, after more than a decade of decadent pizza, I naturally had to give the place a proper farewell. When a coworker suggested dinner when she couldn’t make it to my first going away party at Mediterra (also in Broad Ripple), I picked Bazbeaux to be the place. The branch we went to was in Carmel, though, close to work. The group was smaller, but it consisted of people who couldn’t make it to the first party, so it turned out perfectly.

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After dinner, I asked if someone would help me with another tradition that Jess and I partook in: posing with the statues in the Arts & Design District. Everyone decided to come on the outing. There was a fairly new statue that Jess and I never got a picture with because we couldn’t think of anything to do with it. The statue was a lady walking a small dog. I thought it might be funny to pose as if I were peeing on the dog:

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Of course, it just looks like I’m trying to kick them at a weird angle, but that worked as that was my signature move for many statues over the years. Then someone suggested that I make it look like I was about to slap the woman:

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And that was the end of my second going away party and the last time I’ll have Bazbeaux pizza (until I save up enough money to go visit!).

A few days after the Bazbeaux outing, I had my final shift at the store. A few friends popped in to say goodbye, which was great. Toward the end of my shift, though, I was ushered into the back to enjoy some gourmet cupcakes (I had a cream-cicle flavored one! Yummy!) and to open my going away present from the staff. One of my coworkers and great friend Burt is an illustrator (a great one at that!). He’d drawn a picture of me and my nephew donned in Hogwarts outfits and holding hands. We each had a wand, spraying out hearts, and above our heads he wrote, “Have a ‘magical’ time with your nephew!” The matte around the illustration was signed by my coworkers, wishing me luck and saying goodbye.

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I currently have it sitting on the nightstand to I can see it as I lay down at night and wake up in the morning. When I get my own place, I will hang it on the wall and display it proudly. My friends’ words of love and support are very precious to me.

Once my shift was over, I went around to the staff that was there and got some more pictures to remember them by:

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Posted by on July 8, 2013 in About me, Food

 

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Goodbye friends

Yesterday was my first goodbye party for former and current coworkers. We were at Mediterra Restaurant in Broad Ripple*. I started the night with the passion fruit Sangria and the pesto flat bread (pesto, feta, Kalamata olives, and red onion on flat bread – perfecto!).

Of course, the company was fabulous and I was able to catch up with some friends I hadn’t seen in awhile. I was also able to get pictures of everyone before I left so I can have a scrapbook full of my friends’ faces!

Here’s a group shot:

Group shot before a fond farewell!

Group shot before a fond farewell!

I am in the first row, second from the right. The picture I’m holding in my hand is one of my nephew. Since he is the reason I am moving, I only found it fitting that he be in the picture as well.

My favorite part, though, had to be when someone was taking a photo of me with another person and said, “Is it just me or is this blurry? I can’t tell; I’ve been drinking wine.” It was, in fact, a blurry photo, but it was still funny!

All together it was a great night and only a few tears were shed on my part (after almost everyone was gone). I have a spectacular group of coworkers because they are also my friends. I will miss them all!

*Broad Ripple is in Indianapolis and it is where many 20 and 30-somethings go for dining and drinks.

 
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Posted by on June 3, 2013 in About me

 

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