Tuesday, January 31, 2012

House Rules

House RulesHouse Rules by Jodi Picoult
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

This is a hard book to review. As the mom of an autistic son, so much of it was like my everyday life that while I was reading, I was looking around to make sure I wasn't being watched. It was interesting to get the autistic POV. There is still so much that I don't understand about my son's world, this was a very clear and accurate picture for those who don't know. Reading the book was painful at times, I started to dread picking it up to read and finally accepted that I can't finish this one.

The writing was typical Picoult - very clean and full of plot twists. There were many things that she pulled out of popular culture that made the story seem familiar - not in a "done that" way, but in a way that made you feel that the story was real.

Synopsis: When your son can’t look you in the eye . . . does that mean he’s guilty?

Jacob Hunt is a teen with Asperger’s syndrome. He’s hopeless at reading social cues or expressing himself well to others, though he is brilliant in many ways. But he has a special focus on one subject—forensic analysis. A police scanner in his room clues him in to crime scenes, and he’s always showing up and telling the cops what to do. And he’s usually right.

But when Jacob’s small hometown is rocked by a terrible murder, law enforcement comes to him. Jacob’s behaviors are hallmark Asperger’s, but they look a lot like guilt to the local police. Suddenly the Hunt family, who only want to fit in, are directly in the spotlight. For Jacob’s mother, Emma, it’s a brutal reminder of the intolerance and misunderstanding that always threaten her family. For his brother, Theo, it’s another indication why nothing is normal because of Jacob.

And over this small family, the soul-searing question looms: Did Jacob commit murder?

Recommended Reading:
Keeping Faith by Jodi Picoult
Secrets of Eden by Chris Bohjalian
Big Girl by Danielle Steele
One Good Dog by Susan Wilson

Monday, January 30, 2012

January Review

It's close enough to the end of the month that I can post my review. January started out strong and energetic but then stalled out around day four. Pretty awesome, huh? Yeah, I'm kind of proud right now. [where is that sarcasm font when I need it?]

I read three books, kind of. All of them I started in 2010, two of them I finished. One I have to mark as uncompleted (which in my world still counts as being read).
  1. Keeping The House by Ellen Baker (Book Club Selection) Finished
  2. Lenz by Georg Buechner Finished
  3. House Rules by Jodi Picoult  - Marking as uncompleted. But I tried, oh man, did I try.
In the category of Old Books, I decided to take a look at what I had on my nightstand to accomplish this month and possibly do some culling. Some of these books... well, let me break it down. Here's the three that are going in the donation box and why:

My Name is Memory by Ann Brashares
Why? I cheated and read the first 30 pages. The writing felt mediocre, so I did some skimming to see if it improved at all... it doesn't. Very disappointing. I was looking forward to this book.

Skeleton Crew by Stephen King
No matter what I did, I couldn't start this book. The guy's name in big letters across the cover is awe-inspiring and intimidating in and among itself. The size of the book... I don't think I have it in me to be freaked out for 500+ pages.

The Lost Symbol by Dan Brown
A friend who's judgment in all things bookish I trust told me it's an okay read. For just "an okay read" I don't think I have the time to devote to a 500+ page book.

In some ways I'm sad to see them go, on the other hand, it's a sigh of relief that I don't have to figure out how to fit them back on my book shelf.

So what's up for February? [insert excited squeal here] I can't wait to get into this month's "genre": Favorite Books. There's very few books that I deem as keepers. Pretty much Harry Potter and Diana Gabaldon's Outlander series [low mumbling: and the Twilight series] are all I keep on that shelf. Which is crazy because I NEVER have time to re-read these books that I seriously love. So I'm making time. The two month goal is 6 books. This month I'll settle for 3. Unfortunately before I start I have the unpleasant business of reading the book club selection... The Notebook. I have a serious hate for anything Nicholas Sparks. I don't know how he became such a "great author" when the guy can't.write. If anything, he's my inspiration that I will some day be a published author. End rant.
  1. The Notebook by Nicholas Sparks
  2. A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens [fell in love with this book in high school]
  3. Outlander by Diana Gabaldon
  4. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
It's gonna be a good, good month. As soon as I get through the first book...

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Apple Brickle Dip

This is one of the first recipes I posted, and honestly I haven't made it since then. It was time for a face lift and a recipe tweak. I've been on the hunt for a fruit dip to encourage The Spawn to eat more fruit - possibly even a bigger variety of fruit.

I remember this recipe being really thick and hard to scoop up with the apples slices, so I thinned it with a bit of milk. I also cut back on the amount of toffee bits used, I felt it was too much. The final verdict... the kids didn't like it, but I loved it! This may make an appearance at an office treat day, but probably not at home.

1 pkg (8 oz.) softened cream cheese
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 cup white sugar
1 tsp vanilla
2 tsp milk [can be adjusted if you want a thicker or thinner dip]
1 pkg (7-1/2 oz) almond brickle chips, or 10 oz English toffee bits [that said, I used 1/3 cup Heath toffee bits]
apple slices

In a mixing bowl, beat cream cheese, sugars and vanilla. Add milk if desired. Fold in brickle/toffee chips.

Chill for 1 hour before serving with apples. Keep leftovers refrigerated.

Recipe from Taste of Home Good Food Kids Love Oct 2006

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Sausage and Lentil Soup

I made this but haven't eaten it yet. It was a rough weekend in the kitchen, nothing was turning out right, but I desperately wanted to try this soup recipe. So, I made it (and let me tell you, from the smell of it, it's going to be amazing when I do get to eat it) and promptly popped it in the freezer.

I think soups are an excellent idea for stocking a freezer, so I'm sure you'll be seeing more around here. I packaged this one up in two single-serve containers for grab-n-go work lunches and one big container for a family meal. If I make this again for freezing I'd skip adding the spinach (it doesn't freeze very pretty), but I needed to use up what was in my fridge.
1 medium onion, chopped
1 celery rib, chopped
1/4 lb smoked sausage, halved and thinly sliced
1 medium carrot, halved and thinly sliced
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 14-1/2 oz can chicken broth
1/3 cup water
1 cup dried lentils, rinsed
1/2 tsp dried oregano
1/4 tsp ground cumin
1/4 tsp pepper
14 oz (approx) can stewed tomatoes, cut up
1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
1 cup chopped fresh spinach

In a large saucepan coated with cooking spray, cook and stir onion and celery over medium-high heat for 2 minutes. Add the sausage, carrot and garlic; cook 2-3 minutes longer or until onion is tender.

Stir in the broth, water, lentils, oregano, cumin and pepper. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat; cover and simmer for 25-30 minutes or until lentils and begetables are tender.

Stir in the tomatoes, Worcestershire sauce and spinach; cook until heated through and the spinach is wilted.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Teriyaki Beef Stew (Crockpot)

Go make this right.NOW! I'm not kidding. This is one of the best meals to EVER come out of my crockpot. I was, honestly, skeptical because I am not a fan of peas. I was willing to overlook the peas because the meat was so tender and flavorful, although next time I am going to cut down the amount of peas.

I made this on a weekend because I didn't think it would work well during the week due to the extra cooking time for the sauce to "gravy up". I actually forgot to turn the crockpot to high after adding the cornstarch mixture and peas and by the time the rice was done it had a very nice gravy going. I think this would also be great as a freezer meal, thawed and re-heated in the microwave while cooking the rice.
2 lbs beef stew meat
12 oz ginger beer or ginger ale [used ginger ale]
1/4 cup teriyaki sauce
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 tbsp sesame seeds
2 tbsp cornstarch
2 tbsp cold water
2 cups frozen peas, thawed
Hot cooked rice

In a large nonstick skillet, brown beef (in batches if necessary). Transfer to a 3 quart slow cooker.
In a small bowl, combine the ginger beer/ale, teriyaki sauce, garlic and sesame seeds; pour over beef. Cover and cook on low for 6-8 hours or until meat is tender.

In a small bowl, combine cornstarch and cold water until smooth; gradually stir into stew. Stir in peas. Cover and cook on high for 1 hour or until gravy is thickened. Serve with rice if desired.

Recipe from Taste of Home Contest Winners 2011 Recipe Book

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Blech

In case you haven't noticed from the lack of reviews... I'm not making very good progress on reading. I have lots of excuses. Ya wanna hear 'em? Aw, you're a good sport...
  1. Let's see, my return to work coincided with a new procedure [blah blah blah] that results in me having more work. In a good way.
  2. Also my kids and I have had multiple appointments the last few weeks - nothing serious, dentist and counselor appointments - between those and the new workload, I've been working through lunches (and when I'm not I'm doing yoga). Hopefully the next two weeks will straighten things out so I can steal some reading time during lunch.
  3. After a full day of work and kids, I've been climbing into bed exhausted. I haven't needed to read before falling asleep because I'm practically snoozing by, oh, dinner time.
  4. When I do have downtime I'm zoning out with my NetFlix queue or FarmVille. And cooking. I've been cooking alot.
  5. Probably the most important... I'm struggling with the book I'm reading. The book is about a high functioning Asperger's kid. As the mom of a son with higher functioning Asperger's than the kid in the book, it reminds me that things could be so much worse - and yet so much of it is eerily familiar. It's been an emotional read for me.
I am going to try to finish the book by next weekend. I'm not sure if I can sneak in another or not before month end, if I do it will likely be the book club read for February.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Pizza Crust II (ABM)

I have several recipes for pizza crust and while this one holds a spot as a favorite, I recently made the one I'm about to tell you about. I've been lazy the past year (or more) and haven't made homemade pizza. I'm embarrased to admit that I've been buying the pre-made frozen pizzas for Family Pizza Night. Not even the good frozen pizza, but the cheap $2 pizza. *Sigh*

In a moment of desperation, I picked up some pre-made pizza crusts at [gasp] the dollar store to make fun individual pizzas with the kids during vacation. And then I had a real "duh" moment... why not make a batch of pizza crusts to the point of topping them and stock them in the freezer? Some times it's the simple things that escape me. It also gave me a chance to try out this recipe.

I make all of my doughs (pizza crust, bread rolls, etc) in the bread machine. Why? Because I can load and walk away and the machine does the mixing, rising, kneading and second rise without any interference from me. This is a good thing, believe me.

Another thing to note about this recipe, the day I made it I was a cup short of bread flour, so I replaced it with wheat flour and all-purpose flour. (Place 1 Tbsp wheat flour in measuring cup, fill remainder of cup with AP flour.) Good to know if you ever run out of bread flour, but I would still use bread flour when the recipe calls for it.

For a 1-1/2lb machine:
1 cup water
2 tbsp cooking oil [I used half canola oil and half olive oil]
3 cups bread flour
3/4 tsp salt
1 tsp active dry yeast [I used 1-1/2 tsp]
cornmeal (optional)

Add the first 5 ingredients to machine according to manufacturer's directions. For my machine, all liquids should be added first and yeast should be added last. Select dough setting.

When cycle is complete, remove dough from machine. At this point, you can freeze the dough to be used later if you choose. In the past I have had limited success with getting pizza dough to rise after it's been frozen, and I wanted to make it more convenient to make a pizza on a week night, I continued on. If you choose to freeze at this point: divide dough in half, wrap in plastic wrap and transfer to a freezer bag. Seal, label, and freeze for up to 3 months. To thaw, let dough stand at room temperature for about 2-1/2 hours or till thawed. Or, thaw overnight in the refrigerator.

I split the dough in half and from each half made 3 thin crusts and 6 thick crusts. If I did this again I would do only 3 thick crusts. (I had the mistaken idea that the crust would rise much more than it did, so my thick crusts are much smaller than the thin. My bad.)

For each thin crust pizza, grease a pizza pan or large baking sheet and pre-heat oven to 450 degrees. If desired, sprinkle with cornmeal. On a lightly floured surface, roll the dough into the desired size. Transfer to pan or baking sheet and lightly prick top of crust with fork. Do not let dough rise. Reduce oven heat to 425 degrees. Bake for 12 minutes or until lightly brown. At this point, I allowed the crust to cool and put in a freezer bag with the following baking instructions:
     Thaw crust.
     Top with pizza sauce and toppings.
     Bake at 425 degrees for 10-15 minutes or until toppings are bubbly.

For each thick crust pizza, grease a 9x9x2 inch baking pan or large baking sheet and pre-heat oven to 400 degrees. If desired, sprinkle with cornmeal. (for large pizza) With greased fingers, pat the dough into the bottom and halfway up the sides of prepared pan, or for individual pizzas, roll out dough into desired size on a lightly floured surface and transfer to baking sheet. Cover and let rise in a warm place for 30-45 minutes. Lightly prick top of crust with a fork. Reduce oven heat to 375 degrees. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until lightly browned. At this point, I allowed the crust to cool and put in a freezer bag with the following baking instructions:
      Thaw crust.
      Top with pizza sauce and toppings.
      Bake at 425 degrees for 10-15 minutes or until toppings are bubbly.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Delicious Ham and Potato Soup

Technically, this is a chowder. The rest of the name is true though, it is delicious! I froze the leftovers in single-serve portions for grab-n-go work lunches.

3-1/2 cups peeled and diced potatoes [I did 5 small red potatoes]
1/3 cup diced celery
1/3 cup finely chopped onion
3/4 cup diced cooked ham
3-1/4 cups water
2 tbsp chicken bouillon granules [I used 2 cubes]
1/2 tsp salt or to taste
1 tsp white or black pepper or to taste
5 tbsp butter
5 tbsp all-purpose flour
2 cups milk

Combine the potatoes, celery, onion, ham and water in a stockpot. Bring to a boil, then cook over medium heat until potatoes are tender, about 10-15 minutes.

Stir in the chicken bouillon, salt and pepper.

In a separate saucepan, melt butter over medium-low heat. Whisk in flour and cook, stirring constantly, until thick, about 1 minute. Slowly stir in milk as not to allow lumps to form until all of the milk has been added. Continue stirring over medium-low heat until thick, 4-5 minutes.
Stir the milk mixture into the stockpot and cook until heated through. Serve immediately.
Recipe from Florence WIA 2011 Cookbook

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Stocking the Freezer

For some reason "stocking the freezer" sounds like something one should only do around Christmas time, but really, if you have the time and resources it's something everyone should do. (And if you don't have time, make time. In the long run, you'll be way ahead of the game.) Especially if that someone is me - I work full-time, I'm a single mom of two kids, I commute 45 minutes to work one way every day and I'm pretty sure I'm not alone in the world in that aspect. Lots of people do what I do, but they're selfish and won't share their secrets to success. Lucky for you I am not selfish and I like sharing. Unless it's my last piece of chocolate, in which case, if I haven't given birth to you (and even that's iffy) don't bother asking.

Since moving to the house, mealtimes during the week have been a struggle. We walk in the door a few minutes after 6 p.m. and the kids are starving. And while they're whining about starving, they also want me to turn on the T.V., or show me stuff, or are raiding the fridge because the five seconds it takes me to take off my shoes is just way.too.long. and they might starve to death waiting for me.

A lot of nights we eat quick foods - canned soup and sandwiches, spaghetti, pancakes... McDonald's before leaving town. The kids themselves also pose some challenges with menu planning. The Diva is 4 years old and pretty much fearless when it comes to food. She is always willing to try a new dish, a new food, and very rarely does she not like some thing. (We have "normal" eating phases where she isn't interested in eating much for about a week and then will eat anything that holds still long enough.) The Spawn poses most of my meal planning challenges. He is picky and resistant to trying new foods. Pretty much if it doesn't fall under Pizza, Hot Dogs, Bologna, McDonald's or Spaghetti, he isn't interested in it. Many things he passes simply on principal - he has high functioning Asperger's so not eating Hamburger Helper because the commercials are annoying is perfectly logical and reasonable to him. I keep trying to find things that he likes, with limited (read: no) success. I keep trying and once in awhile, he tries to like something too.

When I moved into the new house there was a large deep freezer in the basement, in working order. It's old and probably not as energy efficient as newer models (probably even less so because I keep it barely stocked), but it's in already in the house so I started using it. Up until a few weeks ago, I barely kept anything in it. Mostly sandwich meat, cheese, bread, pizza and ice cream. The last few weeks I have really done some looking around (on the web and asking friends for recipes that freeze well) to figure out how to make this freezer work for me.

The game plan going forward is to start compiling a list of items that my family uses (or would like to use) frequently and when time allows, to make batches specifically for the freezer. I'm going to attempt to make one extra meal every shopping trip (I'm on a bi-weekly pay schedule and do my grocery shopping only on payday) to specifically stock the freezer.

A few things I have coming up for you are:
  • pizza crusts
  • Sausage and Lentil Soup
  • pita bread
  • hamburger buns
  • beef stroganoff
  • beef and bean burritos
I will also be noting in more recipes when I think some thing would work well as a quick freezer meal. We'll meet up in July to see how my freezer looks - okay?

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Lenz

LenzLenz by Georg Büchner
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Hmmm...well, first I should have found out a little more what this book was about before I picked it up. My excitement over the fact that it's in German with the English translation over rode all other facts about this book. That aside, I did read the book in German up to page 40 before I switched to the English translation. I will be hanging on to the book to read again.

I enjoyed the story Lenz. I would have enjoyed it a little more if I had known it was bio-fiction. I didn't discover this until the end of the book - my copy includes a note from Goethe (a frienemy of Lenz)as well as a note from the translator describing the life events preceding and following the events in the story. I would have liked to read these before reading the story (think of it as reading the book before seeing the movie).

Overall, it was poetically written and highly entertaining.

Synopsis: Set against the beautiful backdrop of the Vosges Mountains, this chilling novella tells the tale of the real-life writer J.M.R. Lenz’s 19-day stay in Waldersbach in 1778. It describes his wanderings around the mountainous surroundings and his worsening fits of madness that eventually culminate in his removal, under guard, to Strasbourg. Valued both as a chilling exploration of paranoid schizophrenia and an influential forerunner of literary modernism, this existential drama boasts a prose style startlingly ahead of its time.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Mom's Banana Bread

My mom makes the best banana bread. Hands down. The recipe is a family secret, so this may be my last post as I'm sure I will need to go into Witness Protection - if my mom doesn't kill me first. Joking aside, this really is the best banana bread ever. My Aunt Pickle will break her "meat only" diet for this bread. I'd also like to apologize for the overdone appearance of the bread, I heard the timer go off and was in the middle of something else... 15 minutes later, I remembered...

1/2 cup shortening [mom uses Blue Bonnet, I use butter if I don't have BB]
2 mashed bananas
2 eggs
1 cup sugar
2 cups flour
1 tsp baking soda
pinch of salt
1 cup milk

Preheat oven to 350 degs. Grease and flour bread pan.

Mix ingredients in order until smooth. [Fine, if you want to, cream the shortening, bananas, eggs and sugar then gradually add the flour, baking soda and salt, slowly add milk during each flour addition.]

Pour into bread pan and bake for 1 hour.

Cool on wire rack.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Creamy Corn Chowder

I was skeptical about this recipe because it has creamed corn in it (I'm not a fan), but I gave it a go to round out my menu options. I'm glad I did because it truly turned out like chowder and other than a slight sweetness the creamed corn didn't distract me from inhaling this soup. This chowder is versatile as cooked chicken could be added to it to make it a meal or it would be great served as a first course to grilled chicken and asparagus. Changes to original recipe are noted in brackets.

Cooking spray [omitted]
1 tbsp. light tub margarine [used butter]
1/2 cup chopped onion
1/2 cup diced celery
1-1/4 cups water
1 small baking potato, peeled and cut into 1/2" cubes, about 1 cup
14 oz. (approx) can no-salt-added cream-style corn, undrained [no idea how you would drain it anyways and I used regular creamed corn]
1-1/2 cups frozen whole-kernel corn, thawed
1-2 tsp sugar [used slightly less than 1]
1 tsp salt-free powdered chicken bouillon [used 1 cube]
1/4 tsp salt [skipped because creamed corn and bouillon was not salt-free]
1/8 tsp white pepper [used black, would use more for personal taste]
1 cup half and half
1 tbsp all-purpose flour
2 tbsp minced fresh parsley [used 1 tbsp dried]

Lightly spray a medium saucepan with cooking spray. [skipped because my pan was teflon coated] Melt the margarine over medium heat. Add the onion and celery. Cook for 5 minutes, or until soft but not brown, stirring occasionally. Stir in the water, potato, both corns, sugar, bouillon, salt and pepper. Increase the heat to medium high and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer, covered, for 20 minutes, or until the potatoes are just tender, stirring occasionally.

Pour the half-and-half into a small bowl and whisk in the flour. Stir into the soup. Sitr in the parsley. Simmer for 15 minutes, or until the soup has thickened, stirring frequently.

Recipe from American Heart Association Heart-Healthy Recipes, 2011

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Orange Fruit Dip

This went together very quickly. The kids and I tried it with apples, vanilla wafers and Liebniz crackers (cookies. biscuits. whatever). I liked it best with the wafers and crackers - so I think it goes best when paired with sweeter fruit such as bananas or strawberries. The dip did seem runny, I'm not sure if that's my inability to boil things for the required amount of time or if there's too much liquid in the recipe. Next time, I'm going to decrease the orange juice just a bit, as well as the orange and lemon peel, I felt it was too overwhelming. As far as fruit dip goes though, it didn't make the kids favorite list.

1 cup sugar
2 tbsp plus 1 tsp cornstarch
1/4 tsp salt
1 cup orange juice [try 3/4 cup next time]
1/2 cup water
juice from two lemons
1/2 tsp grated orange peel [next time cut amount in half]
1/2 tsp grated lemon peel [next time cut amount in half]
Assorted fresh fruit, crackers, etc. for dipping

In a small sauce pan (not over heat), combine sugar, cornstarch and salt; stir in the orange juice, water, lemon juice and orange and lemon peel until blended.

Bring to a boil; cook and stir for 2 minutes or until thickened.

Cover and refrigerate until chilled.

Serve with fruit or other fun dipping foods.

Recipe from Taste of Home Good Food Kids Love Oct 2006

Monday, January 2, 2012

Keeping the House

Keeping the House: A NovelKeeping the House: A Novel by Ellen Baker
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Technically, I read 75% of this book in 2011. Minor detail aside... I was intimidated by the size of this book and the switching timelines of the story. Under normal conditions I wouldn't have chosen this book, but it was the selection for book club so I sucked it up. I was glad I did. This story had rich characters set in an active history period - through WWI, WWII and the aftermath of the war. The shifting timeline was well done and worked with the multiple storylines running through the book. The story climax was well done and the ending well satisfied. A very good read on so many levels.

Synopsis: When Dolly Magnuson moves to Pine Rapids, Wisconsin, in 1950, she discovers all too soon that making marriage work is harder than it looks in the pages of the Ladies’ Home Journal. Dolly tries to adapt to her new life by keeping the house, supporting her husband’s career, and fretting about dinner menus. She even gives up her dream of flying an airplane, trying instead to fit in at the stuffy Ladies Aid quilting circle. Soon, though, her loneliness and restless imagination are seized by the vacant house on the hill. As Dolly’s life and marriage become increasingly difficult, she begins to lose herself in piecing together the story of three generations of Mickelson men and women: Wilma Mickelson, who came to Pine Rapids as a new bride in 1896 and fell in love with a man who was not her husband; her oldest son, Jack, who fought as a Marine in the trenches of World War I; and Jack’s son, JJ, a troubled veteran of World War II, who returns home to discover Dolly in his grandparents’ house.

As the crisis in Dolly’s marriage escalates, she not only escapes into JJ’s stories of his family’s past but finds in them parallels to her own life. As Keeping the House moves back and forth in time, it eloquently explores themes of wartime heroism and passionate love, of the struggles of men’s struggles with fatherhood and war and of women’s conflicts with issues of conformity, identity, forbidden dreams, and love.

Recommended Reading:
The Gin Closet by Leslie Jamison
I Gave My Heart to Know This by Ellen Baker
The Marrowbone Marble Company by Glenn Taylor
Apart from the Crowd by Anna McPartlin
Doc by Mary Doria Russell
Gone with the Windsors by Laurie Graham

January's Books

I've been off work since Dec. 22nd. I go back tomorrow, as painful as it's going to be, I'm looking forward to having a structured day again. I had big plans for my time off: finish Christmas shopping, Christmas at two houses, cleaning my house thoroughly, stripping the wall paper in the laundry room, washing light fixtures and reading, reading, reading. I had hoped to get through the books I was currently reading, and possibly read the Stephen King book that has been on my night stand forever... but I was derailed by death. I mean sickness. At one point I was pretty sure I was going to die. Or at least everyone around me was wishing that I would.

When I came back to life three days later, I had to play catch up on a few things. I successfully crossed most things off my list - pretty much everything EXCEPT thoroughly cleaning my house, although I did make a nice dent in it. I even replaced a kitchen faucet. By myself! So now I can use my dishwasher again. I'm feeling kind of spoiled right now - The Boyfriend bought and installed a garage door opener AND a remote car starter for me. What am I going to do with all this free time?!

Oh, anyways, back to the book thing. Instead of finishing the books I was currently reading, I dove into the Book Club selection for January. Because it was HUGE (500+ pages) and I was worried I wouldn't be able to finish it in time when I got back to normal life. Anyways, the point of this is... I forgot. Oh! Yeah. January's reading may not go quite as planned because I have three books to finish and I didn't read the Stephen King book, which is HUGE, so now I'm going to read these in January. The Stephen King book totally qualifies as old because it's been on my shelf for 2-1/2 years. Same for Lenz. The Jodi Picoult book is a little harder to justify, but because I started the book in the "old year", I'm making it work for me. So, without further ado... here is the adjusted book list for January:
  1. Keeping The House by Ellen Baker (Book Club Selection)
  2. Lenz by Georg Buechner
  3. House Rules by Jodi Picoult
  4. Skeleton Crew by Stephen King
  5. The Lost Symbol by Dan Brown
  6. Her Fearful Symmetry by Audrey Niffenegger
  7. The Starlet by Mary McNamara
  8. The Gifted Gabaldon Sisters by Lorraine Lopez
  9. If You Lived Here You'd Be Home By Now by Claire LaZebnik
  10. My Name is Memory by Ann Brashares
Obviously this is the full list to be split between January and July, but I can pull any book I want out of this list in any order. It's going to be a controlled chaos.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

File This Under...

Book Challenges. I've done a few in my day. Generally I fail at them. Case in point, last year's Self Challenge. Heck, I can't even ban myself from buying more books. The last few years I've challenged myself with a goal of books to read, starting in 2006 with a 104 book challenge, I've tweaked it over the years depending on what's going on in my life.

This year I'm going to try something different. An idea I got, believe it or not, from a book I didn't really care for. The Happiness Project was a book about a woman's twelve month journey to find what made her happy. I know that books make me happy. I also know that I get anxious when my TBR shelf gets out of hand. So, I'm combining the two goals to get things back to Happy All The Time. So, here's the basics:
  • a genre for each month
  • a set number of books for that month
  • one little exception: I will have one book each month that is different than the genre for book club
January and July: The genre is Old Books. (In my world, this is a genre, deal with it.) I'll be reading the books that have been around the longest on my TBR shelf. The goal is 10 books total for the two months.

February and August: The genre is Favorite Books. I'll be reading books that have been on my re-read list for some time: Diana Gabaldon's Outlander series, Harry Potter, and Charles Dickens. The goal is 6 books total. (Dude, the Outlander and HP books are HUUUGE. Six books are going to be a challenge.)

March and September: The genre is Self-Help. I'll be reading books either from my personal shelf or from the library at work. The goal is 8 books total.

April and December: The genre is Trashy Romance Novels. I used to read these books exclusively. Now I read them sporadically. I have quite a few of them hanging around, most of them quick Harlequin reads. The goal is 12 books total.

May and June: The genre is Oddo. I can read any genre book as long as it's on my Nook (named Oddo). These will mostly be books that I have purchased but may also include library books. The goal is 8 books total.

October and November: The genre is Writing. I have quite a few books that I picked up for research and reference for writing my novel. October I'll spend reading those books. November I'll spend writing for NaNoWriMo. The goal is 3 books.

This brings my total goal to 47 books for the year. This should be completely do-able, even with taking a month off to write.

In a Quandary

I have a little bit of a dilemma. No, maybe that's too dramatic. It's really more of a puzzler. Or maybe it's just my OCD flaring up... I have three books from 2011 that I haven't finished. THREE. One book is dangerously close (within 100 pages) to being done, but the other two are, well, no where near close. They are so far from close that if they were arranged alphabetically, they'd start with the letter Z. I don't want to put either of these books down, but I also have a little book challenge going on [details coming later today] and finishing these two books would seriously derail the challenge. Oh what to do what to do! Sigh.


quan·da·ry/ˈkwänd(ə)rē/

Noun:
  1. Perplexity or uncertainty over what to do in a difficult situation: "Jim is in a quandary".
  2. A difficult situation; a practical dilemma.
Synonyms:
perplexity - embarrassment - dilemma - puzzle

"Quandary" is a funny sounding word. I had to look it up to check my spelling. I thought I'd include the Dictionary entry.