Sunday, December 30, 2012

Books I Read in 2012

Every year I post a book list. (Well, every year since 2008.)

Want to read those posts? Good lists.... 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011.

Unlike incredibly motivated people who set themselves a particular goal for how many books to read, I But keeping track of the books has become one of my favorite things to do! And it does motivate me to see how many I can read in one year. In 2010, I hit my highest number (since I've been keeping track) when I read 100 books. But I haven't quite hit that since. I'm giggling as I read back over the previous years' posts. Each year I say that I'm really not about the quantity...but I am! I get such a little thrill when I add another book to the list.

Things were a little different this year. I didn't read as much as I usually do...I was distracted.

I've been cramming at the end of the year - reading like crazy! The librarians had forgotten what I looked like but now I'm back to my usual borrowing habits.

  1. 11/22/63 by Stephen King
  2. Graceling by Kristin Cashore
  3. The Always War by Margaret Petersen Haddix
  4. The Breadwinner by Deborah Ellis
  5. Reality is Broken by Jane McGonigal
  6. Tempest by Julie Cross
  7. When She Woke by Hillary Jordan
  8. Fire by Kristin Cashore
  9. Wither by Lauren DeStefano
  10. Blackout by Connie Willis
  11. All Clear by Connie Willis
  12. Linchpin by Seth Godin
  13. The Art of Non-Conformity by Christ Guillebeau
  14. Home Front by Kristin Hannah
  15. Pathfinder by Orson Scott Card
  16. The Dovekeepers by Alice Hoffman
  17. Alice's Piano by Melissa Muller
  18. The Shape of Desire by Sharon Shinn
  19. Tomorrow's Synagogue Today by Hayim Herring
  20. Where Justice Dwells by Jill Jacobs
  21. I am Forbidden by Anouk Markovits
  22. The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern
  23. My Russian Grandmother and her American Vacuum Cleaner by Meir Shalev
  24. Bloom by Kelle Hampton
  25. The Dressmaker by Kate Alcott
  26. House of Velvet and Glass by Katherine Howe
  27. 97 Orchard by Jane Ziegelman
  28. Unorthodox by Deborah Feldman
  29. An Invisible Thread by Laura Schroff
  30. Fallen Angel by Daniel Silva
  31. Next Year in Israel by Sarah Bridgeton
  32. The Books of Rachel by Joel Gross
  33. Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn
  34. Summerland by Ellin Hilderbrand
  35. History of a Pleasure-Seeker by Richard Mason
  36. Operating Instructions by Anne Lamott
  37. Chains by Laurie Halse Anderson
  38. Forge by Laurie Halse Anderson
  39. Lord of Mountains by S.M. Stirling
  40. Sown in Tears by Beverly Magid
  41. Midwife of Venice by Roberta Rich
  42. The Timekeeper by Mitch Albom
  43. The Next Best Thing by Jennifer Weiner
  44. The Casual Vacancy by J.K. Rowling
  45. Every Day by David Levithan
  46. A World Away by Nancy Grossman
  47. Fire in the Ashes by Jonathan Kozol
  48. Sipping from the Nile by Jean Naggar
  49. Road to Valor by Aili and Andres McConnor
  50. Hot Mamalah by Lisa Klug
  51. Whispers in Autumn by Tricia Leigh
  52. The Last Song by Eva Weisman
  53. Arcadia by Lauren Groff
  54. The Lawgiver by Herman Wouk
  55. A Yellow Raft on Blue Water by Michael Dorris
  56. Daring Greatly by Brene Brown
  57. The Giving Quilt by Jennifer Chiaverini
  58. Mountains Beyond Mountains by Tracy Kidder
  59. Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter

So what did I like best?
Hmm. I loved Gone Girl. I know it was one of those controversial-love-it-or-hate-it books but I was in the "love it" camp. When She Woke was a great one, and so was The Dovekeepers and The Night Circus. I've recommended Arcadia, and I also have suggested that people read Unorthodox and I Am Forbidden (I actually think they complement each other nicely). The newest Wouk book about Moses (actually about a film about Moses, but let's not be picky) was fabulous, and I can't say enough amazing things about Brene Brown's writing and Kelle Hampton's photography & words. I'm so bummed that I was not a fan of J.K. Rowling's new-and-so-not-Harry-Potter book because I really wanted to be. (I was pleased to slip in an Elm Creek Quilt book at the end of the year - I do love those!) But I did enjoy almost all the books on this list!

And what am I going to read next? I have a whole list. Plus I have other people's lists and it never seems to end. There's always a great book just around the corner waiting for me. But most of the time I just read whatever comes my way...what do you think I should read?

My dad with Yael a few years ago....READING!
P.S. This whole keeping track of what I read thing has inspired my dad. Okay, that's not quite the right word. It challenged beat me! (Which, by the way, he did.) Not totally sure about the fairness of the fight but luckily he is my dad and so it's a friendly competition!

P.P.S. If you want to follow along with what I'm reading, I update on the right-hand sidebar of this blog, and I also have a Goodreads account but I'm not quite as good about updating that.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

{36 Reasons} Cute Teeth

 I totally imagined that this project would be all about ME and doing new things for these days leading up to my birthday.

Instead, I seem to have had a lot of firsts with my kiddos.

Like Solly's first trip to the dentist, which was so adorable it almost doesn't need any words:

Blessed are You, O God, Ruler of the World, who creates milestones for our children, who gives us the energy to revel in the milestones, and who has brought me to this day.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

{36 Reasons} Family Rules

Have you ever seen these beautiful "family rules" canvases and prints?
I am always adding this to my "to do" list. Maybe I'll make one out of a quilt. Maybe I'll do some decoupage. Maybe I'll buy of the reasons I haven't done it yet is that I can't quite decide exactly what rules I want on the list. And do I discuss with the family? Do we all decide what rules to choose? Frankly, I have been paralyzed with indecision.

Yesterday, I reframed some pictures and I had one frame left that was originally set up to have 3 4x6 pictures in it. I suddenly realized that I didn't need to use the mat that had been included with the frame, and I could just use the frame in its whole. Silly me.

So I began to muse on what to put in the frame, and this is what I created:

It's 10x20 - a very odd shape.
I made it so simply - I used Picasa (which I love) to add the text on a blank picture, and had the three pictures (the text, and the two family shots) printed zip-zip at Walgreens. Voila! And because it was simple, inexpensive, and just get-it-done, I didn't worry too much about the choice of words. I picked the ones that seemed right today. And that's all I can ask for.

Blessed are You, our God, Ruler of the World, who has given us creative energy and skill, who has caused inspiration to strike, and who has brought me to this day.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

{36 Reasons} Goals Delayed

On the wall in my kitchen hang triptychs of my children eating cake at their first birthdays. It started with just the one, of course, and then as each one turned one...a new set of cake pictures. They love these pictures. They love to talk about who has the messiest cake, who seems to be enjoying it the most, and, for the last year, when will Solly's pictures be added!?

I did have a goal to get it up there before Solly turned 2. Admirable, right?

I bought a frame.
I printed the pictures.

It all sat and waited. About a week before Solly turned 2, I went to put it all together and then I realized that the frames on the wall had 4x6 pictures, but the new frame was 5x7. (oh, and the pictures I had printed? Yep, 4x6.) Arrrrgggghhhhhh.

So the 2-year-old goal? Missed it.

But only by a little bit. Eleven days to be exact.

Because today was the day.

I could NOT find a matching frame to the ones I had, so I ended up reframing them all.

And they look gorgeous.

Yes, in my kitchen also hang all the fun school things like handwriting charts, Spanish letter sounds, and number grids.
(Now I'm waiting to see who will notice...)

Blessed are You, O God, who gives us family traditions to work with and through, and who sometimes makes us try harder than we imagined we would need to, and who has brought me to this day.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

{36 reasons} Words Fail

I had planned, on Friday, to write a post about my purple hair dye experience. (It's pretty cool....)

But with the events of the day, I couldn't bring myself to write about such a silly personal thing.

I am still struggling to find words to process the trauma of Friday's events. I'll keep working on it.

Until then, I'm over here today, with today's blessing of ordinary.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

{36 reasons} Latke Fail (ish)

True confession: I love latkes.

True confession: I hate making latkes. I hate being in a room where latkes are being made. I hate the smell. I hate the oil. I hate the way that the house feels and the way that my hair smells and the way that it sticks to my coat and socks and even my undergarments.

True confession: This makes me buy latkes from the grocery store. It's just not worth the trouble, the oil, the mess, the SMELL. I am a DIY gal but when it comes to latkes I would rather they spring up, fully formed, with no origin story that I can smell.

This year, I decided to make latkes.

I was seduced by the idea of fresh, crispy, hot-from-the-pan latkes such as I'd seen on all my friends' Facebook posts.

And then I was reminded of my friend LeighAnn's post about oven-fried latkes. I had never tried them.

Sounded too good to be true.

And, of course, you know what they say about things that sound too good to be true.

They are.


I am clearly not the homemaker that she is.

It all started out so well. I do know how to make latkes. My dad and I grated the potatoes and onions (food processor, I'm no purist) and mixed in the eggs, the matzah meal, the garlic and salt and pepper.

We heated the oven according to her directions...and preheated the oil in the pan.

And then there was the SMOKE. Too close to the bottom of the oven, perhaps? Either, did the house fill up with smoke. We opened windows and doors, and silenced the smoke detector.

But it all seemed okay so we put the latkes onto the heated pans....

Some of them came out great. Almost perfect.

Some of them came out terrible. The oil didn't spread out enough? They were dry...or mealy...or undercooked. We changed the temperature, we added more oil, we set and reset the timer.
I am making my best McKayla impression.
We got quite a few yummy latkes. So, in reality, this isn't a total failure. But we threw away quite a few as well. Sigh.

On the upside, there is no oily residue anywhere in my kitchen...except the inside of the oven.

On the downside, there is still a smell....not quite as bad as fried latkes, but definitely a strong smoky cooking smell.

On the upside, we had delicious latkes to eat.

On the upside, everyone liked them a lot.

Next year, I'm back to the grocery-store-deli-counter latkes.

Blessed are You, O God, Ruler of the World, who has created inspiration through the internet, and who has created stores to provide pre-made oily foods, and who has brought me to this day.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

{36 reasons} New Mixer

Blessed are You, O God, who has created butter, sugar and flour, and who has helped us to put them together in delectable concoctions that taste even better when made with someone you love.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

{36reasons} Faces

When I put up the pictures of Solly's first haircut this week, it reminded me that I had the pictures of MY first haircut. 

 And while I was browsing the pictures, I found this one:
I am quite sure that I saw that face on Yael just yesterday.

Blessed are You, O God, Ruler of the World, who has created us as creatures of memory, who has stored those memories in our minds to help us to see where we've been and where we are going, and who has brought me to this day.

Friday, December 7, 2012

{36 Reasons} Two!

From this:

to this:
to this....
The fourth child seems to come to things so much more quickly. He has three eager teachers who are so proud when they can teach him a new word or skill. It's hard to believe that he's been a part of our lives for two years....

Happy birthday, Solly!

Blessed are You, O God, Ruler of the World, who has created us, formed us, and brought us to celebrate this day of honoring birth.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

{36 Reasons} Hair Today

There's a Jewish tradition to keep a child's hair uncut until the age of 3. (Okay, it's really a tradition for boys, but I'm an equalitarian.) Except I haven't ever made it to that age with any of my kids.

Too. Much. Hair.

I thought for sure that Solly would be the one who would make it.

After all, who can resist those gorgeous blonde locks!? Not me.
But I was stymied. Halted. Thwarted.

Poor kiddo. He kept trying to brush the hair out of his eyes. And he inevitably woke up with a rat's nest of dreadlocks in the back of his head, no matter how much brushing or conditioner we put into it.

And while a ponytail might seem like a reasonable solution, it just wasn't in the cards.

So a haircut was in the offing. (Actually, I just learned that one sect of Hasidim cut their boys' hair at age 2, but I'm not too keen on modeling myself after various sects of Hasidim.)

I might have shed some tears. After all, this is my baby! My beautiful long-haired baby.

One last look....

Along the way...(he wouldn't wear the apron, so we thought we'd make it easier for the stylist)
 And the finished product...
He looks fabulous. But grown up.

Am I imagining things, or is he now standing up taller? Speaking more clearly? Acting older?
(But no, I'm not deluding myself, not more reasonable.)

I think it is true.
Two years old IS very grown up.

Especially when compared to this:

Blessed are You, O God, Ruler of the World, who has created us to grow and change, who has helped us to see both progressive and sudden growth, who has given us tissues to wipe away our tears, and who has brought me to this day.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

{36 Reasons} Cheesy

I am a big fan of "fad eating."

You know, restaurants or foods that become "all the rage."

Silly, but I think it's fun!

Last January, I spent 10 days in New York. While I was, theoretically, there for a class, I seemed to do a lot of eating in my off time. We tried a mac and cheese restaurant, every cupcake spot in a 5 mile radius, and a rice-pudding-only establishment. (I might have missed something, but you get the idea.)

So I was pretty excited to hear about a Grilled Cheese Restaurant.

Remember, I'm from Wisconsin.

Today I ventured out to Evanston for lunch. For grilled cheese.

Cheesie's did not disappoint. (Good name, huh?)

I went with a friend, who was more than willing to order 2 different sandwiches to share. Truthfully, I wanted to order three, but then she pointed out the tater tots, and so we skipped a third sandwich in favor of an order of tater tots.

One was called "The Mac." You can guess - it was a sandwich with macaroni and cheese on it, served with a side of tomato-soup-like sauce.

The other was "The Popper," a jalapeƱo-popper in a sandwich - cream cheese, cheddar cheese, and jalapenos. (We skipped the optional bacon for obvious reasons.) It came with a chipotle mayonnaise, which was also delicious for dipping the tater tots.

Both were delicious, but I was a bigger fan of the Popper.

I will go back. I need to try other ones! Anyone want to meet me for lunch?

Blessed are You, O God, Ruler of the World, who has made creative chefs and entrepreneurs to offer delightful combinations of food, who has enabled me to take a friend out for lunch, and who has brought me to this delicious day.

P.S. I couldn't resist eye-bombing the parking meter.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

{36 Reasons} Make a Mess

(I definitely didn't take into account the "other" bloggy business that I wanted to accomplish during this 36 Reasons to Say Shehecheyanu project. So there's quite a bit of personal creativity involved to get other things to fit into the whole thing...)

I received two products in the mail recently, both involving a whole lot of craftiness.

The first is this Chanukah House from Manishewitz. They are so excited about this product that they're offering big prizes in their decorating contest...check them out on Facebook for contest info.

We are, um, not going to win.
In fact, I feel like we're in a Pinterest-fail-type situation here.

It looked so easy!

Totally not so easy.

We were given wise advice from a friend who has done this before - she told us to make it a multi-day project. Put the house together and then let it sit for a day or two to dry and harden. Good advice.

With my two able-bodied and pajama'ed assistants, we embarked on the building.
Quite a few of the pieces were broken in the box. Oops.

Then, a few days later....we decorated. That was really hard! We didn't quite have the right tools, I think, and we weren't quite prepared for how difficult it would be to make it look pretty.

David wanted to try and make it look like he was eating it.
It looks NOTHING like the box design...which, as I pointed out to my kids, was created by a computer artist. The stuff in the box...eluded me.

Okay, so here's my thoughts on this one.
I just don't get it. I posted about it to Facebook and got mixed comments from friends, some who thought it was really cool and others who were with me in their confusion.

Here's what I don't get:
Gingerbread houses are a tradition that has always eluded me in general. I think of Hansel and Gretel, and I know that they are a traditional Christmas decoration. They don't seem to have any religious significance, so that's certainly not my issue. I tend to shy away from projects that seem to be wasteful of food - I've never really met anyone who eats their gingerbread house. They're pretty but...

Here's the other thing I don't get. Aside from the Chanukiyot (menorahs) that we frosting-glued to the windows, what makes this house different from a Jewish house at any other time of year? I was so excited to affix the little mezuzah (we didn't say the bracha but we talked about it) which isn't just a Chanukah thing. I can't wrap my brain around the question...why a house? If this were a Sukkah kit, I'd get it. If it were a make-a-menorah-out-of-cookie kit, I might get that too. But a house? I'm a little lost on the significance.

In all fairness to my food-wasting concern, we did taste the house after building it. The kids really wanted to and I couldn't see any reason why not. They thought the frostings were awful and the cookie was super hard but tasted like graham crackers. We didn't eat all of it.

Overall, it was a fun project but again...I just don't get it.

The second product that we received in the mail was from Kiwi Crate.
What a fabulous idea - you pay for a monthly subscription and you get a "crate" of projects. If the monthly projects are anything like these - we literally had everything we needed in the box. I added newspaper and a scissors.

There were two projects in the box. We only ended up doing one because it was so much fun! I am planning to try out the other one during Chanukah.

We did Dreidel Spin Art - oh, it was so much fun! Messy, but awesome.

I loved loved loved that we used the crate itself for the spin space - no waste at all. My kids loved it.

Here's how it looked when we opened it.

Then we used up the rest of the paint to make the box beautiful...why not?
This was a fun and messy-but-contained and overall awesome project. All three of my big kids loved it.  (And yes, we did this one in our pajamas too! We only have limited time when Solly is asleep!)

My only complaints? The directions were simple and easy to follow, but there were no "suggestions" or "tips" - as we got started, I suddenly realized that we should put down newspaper. I didn't realize the kids might get paint splattered all over them, and while it did wash out of their hands easily, nowhere have I found information that it actually is "washable" paint. These are minor complaints, we had so much fun! (There is a "messiness meter" on the instruction booklet but it was awfully tiny.)

The other project is a menorah made using modge-podge and (included) LED tea lights. I'm sure it will be beautiful when we make it.

You can send gift subscriptions, or buy it for your own family! You can sign up by the month or for a yearly subscription. There are other holiday crates available too, and plenty of non-holiday stuff.  RIGHT NOW you can get $5 off gift subscriptions (3, 6, or 12 months), the code is GIFT.

Blessed are You, O God, who gives me the opportunity to have fun with my children, to create and do and learn and try and celebrate, who has made soap and water for cleanup and who has brought me to this day.