Back when we last talked books, I said I'd come back again at the end of the year and talk about the other books I'd read. Well hey, it's the end of the year! Time to talk books.
This Is How You Lose Her, by Junot Diaz
So when I want to find a good book or when I hear of a book but want to vet it, I usually go to Elizabeth's site, type the book title into the search bar, or type "books I read this month," and see if Elizabeth has read the book in question or troll her lists for possible books to read. This book came about because (I think? I can't quite remember now) Elizabeth loved it (Elizabeth, did you love it?) I did not love it. But I also did not hate it! It's a bunch of little stories of love/sex/relationships/family and while all were compelling, it was confusing to me at times. Like, I couldn't keep up with all these different stories and situations and I had trouble figuring out who was who sometimes. Also I felt like there was one story that got brought up once and then never got brought again I was like, wait, what happened to that one couple?! I feel like this book is maybe a little autobiographical. I'd totally read his memoir.
The 10th Anniversary, by James Patterson
I'm sure this was like every James Patterson I've ever read. I can't remember.
What Alice Forgot, by Liane Moriarty
Behind Rules Of Civility, this is probably my second-favorite book of the year. Like the title says, Alice forgot some stuff...And then she tries to remember and the whole book is funny and sweet and it has a very nice ending. Boom.
Last Night At Chateau Marmont, by Lauren Weisberger
So this is the same gal who wrote The Devil Wears Prada and I had higher hopes for this book than it turned out because I do remember The Devil Wears Prada as being pretty good. I mean, Meryl Streep was in the damn movie; was the book really that bad?! I still maintain that no, it was not. This book, on the other hand? This book was kind of painful (AND YET I KEPT READING IT). It was about your average Jane whose husband gets a record deal and then all the problems that ensue from that. Mostly what pissed me off was that this woman was supposedly a nutritionist and so the book would describe what she ate and it was always very non-sustainable stuff. Like, half a whole wheat English muffin and a quarter cup of cottage cheese and I'm sorry, that is not enough food for someone who's supposedly a runner. It's just not. The best friend in the book was much more compelling. I'd have rather read a book about her.
Title and author withheld
I rarely read books on my Kindle app, but I needed something to read in bed that I didn't need to turn the light on for and this book was $.99 and the author is the wife of a former California State Senator who randomly started following my (work) twitter one day and then I heard her pimping the book on our local public radio, so I thought I'd give it a go. Words cannot explain how awful it is (which is why I am not giving you the title or author -- I'd prefer to not kill my chances of getting a job in this town because you never know, BUT if you want to waste a dollar of your fortune and a few hours of your life, then let me know and I'll email you the details.) It is truly one of the worst books I've ever read in my life and it is way too inside baseball for the average person who is not knee-deep in California politics to read and understand. Instead, it just seems really dumb and unbelievable (even though there are some ripped from the headlines-type stories, they are just not that interesting to anyone who, say, didn't work for the people involved in those headlines and thus don't translate well into "fiction.") Does that make sense? Like, who would ever care about a State Senator (not even a U.S. Senator!) who sleeps with a lobbyist and then talks about it in a committee hearing room (is there a more boring place?!) with his mic on? No one! I barely cared and I lived through it. I think (minus the awful, awful writing -- she actually, within the text of the book, explained what the phrase "break a leg" means), the political stuff could have been way more intriguing if she'd exaggerated the stories, made it take place on the Federal level (which people can relate to -- who can relate to California politics?) Basically she thinks California politics are more exciting than they are and thought others would agree. Nope, wrong. (This is the most scathing review I've ever written! I feel kind of bad, except not.)
The Paris Wife, by Paula McLain
I really disliked this book. It's about Ernest Hemingway's first wife and man, she was just a wet blanket. She was sort of meek and boring and I don't even get the impression she was a muse of his. The best part was the very, very end, but the middle was just sort of painful and it made me mad at her. I did enjoy hearing about all the peripheral characters (the Fitzgeralds, etc.) and that era of "U.S. expat art" taking place in Paris, but yeah. If you want a good book about the wife/significant other of a well-known crazy artist man, then I would suggest Loving Frank. Much better.
Sharp Objects, by Gillian Flynn
I think this is her first book and I liked it better than her second book (Dark Places), but not as much as her third book (Gone Girl, for those of you living under a rock last summer.) It was short and creepy and intriguing, but didn't have the big "Gotcha!" twist that Dark Places and especially Gone Girl had. I liked the big twists, but know some people didn't, but either way, I did like this book.
Now I'm reading Life After Life, which I have heard excellent things about, but it seems rather large and I am not sure I'll finish it by the end of the year. If I do, I'll add it to the list.
Poll time! How long do you give a book before you just give up and decide it's not meant to be? I usually try to give 50 pages, but in some cases I just power through. (Like with Last Night At Chateau Marmont, it was so easy to read, I just finished it, even though it was so lame.) There have been a couple books I've given 50 pages to, but could just not get into (Life Of Pi comes to mind) and I don't feel bad about jumping ship on them. AND THEN, there have been a few that no matter how hard I tried, there was just no way in hell I was ever going to finish. Remember when I tried to read Pride & Prejudice a couple years ago? Also, Interview With The Vampire. Both those books I liked (more so Interview; I more felt obligated to read P&P for whatever reason) but could just not get through. I gave Interview a lot of pages because I did like that book, I really did, but I just couldn't with the no chapters thing and the fact that I was like a quarter of the way through it and they were STILL talking about the same crap from the beginning, when he wasn't even a vampire yet. And as for P&P, I know Kathleen Kelly loves the language from that book, but NO. Not for me. 2 hard 2 read. Anyway, what's your criteria for ditching books you just can't get into?
- LG got a bunch of new shirts for Hanukkah and they all have glitter on them and now there's glitter all over my (new!) linen couch and it's very festive.
- Speaking of festive and couches, she keeps talking about the "Chwis'mas twee wights!" and "new couch!" and sometimes I hear her mumbling to herself, "No touch the twee."
- Her memory is really what's getting me these days. LG can remember a lot (like us telling her not to touch the tree, evidently). Just a few weeks ago, I'd ask what she ate at school and she'd just name random foods, but recently she's been naming actual foods that she did eat. This is certainly causing me to be much more...aware...of what I say aloud. Like the F word.
- The other night, Chris's stomach growled and LG asked if it was his "tummy farting?"
- Every Sunday, I go to yoga and LG asks me, "You go to the yoga?!" One day Chris asked me if I sling something over my shoulder when I go to yoga (I do; my mat) because apparently after I left, LG took her drum set, slung it over her shoulder, and announced she was going to (the) yoga.
- She also once asked me when I got home from yoga if I had been swimming...It's a hot room, okay?
- We threw my grandma a birthday party the Sunday before Thanksgiving and we had chips out for pre-lunch snacking and I don't really know how many LG ate (I assume a lot), but we rarely keep chips in the house (because I will eat a lot), so it was quite the treat. When we got to my grandma's house on Thanksgiving day, the first thing LG asked for was chips. I think she associates chips as only being allowed at parties! Poor thing, what a sad upbringing she's having.
- I bought a bunch of La Croix sparkling water because Target always has the 8-packs for $3 and I can drink those things day in and day out, but I made the mistake of giving LG a sip and now she wants all my "sparky water." To quote parents everywhere, this is why I can't have nice things.
- I burned my hand on the oven and LG asked about the scar: "You got a owie, you fall down?" I explained that I burned it on the oven (hot! hot!) and that's why we don't touch the oven, *blah blah parenting shit blah*, but how cute is it that she associates injuries with simply falling down? So pure.
- LG has been protesting naps recently. It's very hit or miss. Sometimes she'll go down easily, sometimes she'll go down but only if we put pjs on her first, sometimes she'll just sit upstairs and "pway my woom." One day I thought if I pretended to be asleep, maybe she'd sleep, except I actually did fall asleep and when I woke up to see if she was in her bed, I found this at the foot of mine:
I hope you all had an enjoyable, festive, and delicious holiday weekend. For me, this was one of the best yet -- something about Hanukkah falling on Thanksgiving just really upped the festive factor, you know? Lots of family time, watching kiddos open tons of presents, and eating my weight in rugelach (new Thanksgiving dessert? I think so!) Also, I normally don't start doing the Christmas stuff until we're into December, but with Thanksgiving falling a little late, hey, look at that! It's December! and so all the decorations are up, which is also adding to the festiveness.
Here are some photos from our long weekend and also what have you been doing with leftovers? We've got turkey pot pie on tap for tonight, awww yeaaaah.
Wishing you all lots of food and long naps!
I've been subscribing to Allure magazine for 15 years now and could have sworn I was the only person on the planet who still subscribed. I honestly felt like I was single-handedly paying Linda Wells's paycheck with my $8-a-year subscription and fretted probably more than is healthy about the fate of the magazine. The print world is a scary, scary place, or so the blogs would have you believe and I am just not ready to let this go, okay? It's been one of my longest relationships DON'T LEAVE ME, ALLURE!
Anyway, I recently found out my Internet buddy K also subscribes to Allure (audible PHEW), and so we've been testing out the little samples each month and then reporting back to one another on Twitter. (I'm pretty sure she and I are the only people who don't find that strange at all.) Whatever. The Essie apricot cuticle oil: Very good. The Chanel foundation: Kind of heavy, but pretty seamless coverage. There you go.
One might think, though, that after 15 years with the same magazine, things would get redundant. Boring. What else can possibly be brought to the table here? How many times can blue eyeliner be "in" again? (Many times! It's in right now, but we're calling it "indigo." This must have been a decision made at the very top, by Ms. Wells herself, no doubt: "How do we un-'80s blue eyeliner?" "I know! Indigo!") But no! I recently read a hair-care tip that changed my life.
Not to be hyperbolic or anything, but when you find out you've been doing things wrong for 30 years, well, life = changed. (I'm going to feel really dumb if you all knew this already and I'm just late to the party, but whatever, here goes...)
Bobby pins go wiggly side DOWN. WIGGLY SIDE DOWN, PEOPLE! I have been putting Bobby pins wiggly side up my whole life and been annoyed my whole life when the damn Bobby pins don't stay put. WIGGLY SIDE DOWN.
Go forth and up-do, my friends.
I am traveling right now and I had a 3+ hour drive ahead of me today, so I did what any normal person would do: I loaded my phone up with old episodes of Watch What Crappens podcasts. I'm sure I could listen to something informative or, you know, from the last six months, but I wanted to be entertained while I drove through LA traffic.
SO, I was listening to an episode from months and months ago and Ben (one of the podcast hosts) offhandedly mentioned a video he once posted to YouTube of his reaction to a baby in front of him crying on an airplane (imagine lots of sighs and eye-rolls on his part.) He said every year around Thanksgiving, he gets an email from, say, a CNN producer, asking if they can show a clip of his video for their piece on holiday travel. His video is like the go-to for networks to show on this type of a report. I found this all very delightful.
He mentioned, though, that the reason he was so eye-roll-y was that the parents were acting like the kid was just a can of soda; the husband was doing a crossword puzzle and the wife was doing something else and point is, they were not actively trying to get their child to stop crying.
That is not really my point here, but merely my setup for this: I believe there are two types of people in this world (well, three, if you count the parents above), those who speak lovingly to their terrible child in public (not me), those who hiss and/or snarl at their terrible child in public (me), and I suppose those who just ignore their terrible child in public (a woman I recently saw at Target, who stood talking on her cell phone, facing away from her child who was simultaneously yelling AND crawling his way out of the cart. He almost gave me a heart attack, I thought he was going fall and flip the cart over on himself. Thanks a lot, lady.)
I am a hiss and/or snarler. I am not nice when my child misbehaves. Sometimes I see other mothers talking kindly to their child, all, "What is wrong, what's the matter?" and then I'm like, god, what a wench I am, but you know what? There is no crying in public. Also, what's wrong?! What's wrong is that my child is two and at two-years-old, everything is wrong. Unless it's right. Wait, no, wrong again. Etc. I love her, but damn, she can be a roller coaster ride.
(She is mostly a delight in public, I must say, and the times when I do have to hiss and/or snarl are few and far between, but still. I don't have time to find out what's wrong because you're embarrassing me, kid.)
When we lived in San Diego, I used to listen to a radio show every morning and one of the hosts mentioned that many years back, when his kids were really young, they never left the house. He said it very matter-of-factly, "Those were the years we didn't leave the house" and I kind of liked that. I've remembered it over the years and sort of wondered when we'd get to that stage. I wouldn't say we're there yet, but possibly so. A lot of our activities are kid-centric things (the zoo, the pumpkin patch), but at the same time, we also go to wineries and bring LG and as I mentioned above, she is pretty acceptable for public consumption FOR NOW, so I don't think we're there yet.
My standards, though, they are high. Because here's the thing, I don't really like kids. I like my own and a very small handful of others, but I am not a, "What a cute kid" type of person about stranger kids. I find stranger kids mostly...strange...and I don't want to hear them or look at them or even acknowledge them. So as long as LG sits in a restaurant and quietly colors or looks at pictures of herself on my phone (her most fave thing ever, selfie time!), then I think we're good. When she starts talking to people at other tables, then it may be time for us to go into hiding.
Chris: "Where do Nana and Boppa live?"
LG: "Umm. Seattle!"
Chris: "Where does Uncle Drew live?"
LG: "Umm. Seattle!"
Chris: "Where do the Seahawks play?"
LG: "Umm. On the teevee!"
Since I'm not regularly writing about food/food things for Food Lush, I sometimes feel a void about...food...and so I figured I'd just talk about food here! Here are some of my favorite kitchen tricks, old and new.
Cutting hot peppers without burning your eyeball later
Dicing hot peppers is just something I don't do. (Contact lens-wearing and touching hot peppers do not mix.) But, I recently found myself in need of diced jalapeños and no jalapeño-dicer to be found, so I improvised. Holding the whole jalapeño, I first cut it lengthwise one way, turned the jalapeño halfway around, and then cut it lengthwise the other way. This created four segments, all still attached at the top. Then, holding the stem, I sliced through the jalapeño and voila! Diced peppers, safe corneas.
It goes against everything I know about fruit, but I've been storing avocados in the fridge and it's been a
life avocado-saver. All summer, I'd buy not-yet-ripe avos and all summer, they'd ripen too quickly (like, in a day) and finally, I complained to my friend Kim about it and she said she kept hers in the fridge. I decided to heed her advice and hello! No over-ripe, smushy avos and they do ripen in the fridge, which I was concerned about. I just take the avo I want to use out of the fridge a few hours before I want to use it, in order to bring it up to room temperature.
I'm sort of maniacal about (among other things) fridge cleanliness. Every few months or so, I take everything out shelf by shelf, drawer by drawer, and wipe down with baby wipes (food safe!) Then I line the drawers and door shelves with paper towels to keep everything cleaner, longer. No real trick/tip here, just that I'm a fridge clean freak.
Vegetables two ways
I do compost (although not in the summer because rotting vegetables + heat = BARF ) but occasionally instead of composting, I freeze remnants of vegetables (think mushroom stems, leafy tops of beets, fennel fronds, broccoli stalks) to use for chicken stock. I actually recently made vegetable stock, but it wasn't as flavorful. Something about that chicken carcass...
Peanut butter sans stirring
I shared this on Food Lush back in the day, so I apologize for the repeater, but after I buy natural peanut butter (with all the oil that floats to the top), I store it for as long as I can first upside down, then right side, then upside down again. If I can let it go a week or so, turning it over daily, gravity pretty much mixes it up so I don't have to slog through it. (Full disclosure: This is a trick Chris created and also I don't ever stir the peanut butter because I hate that job, even if this makes it way easier.)
Freeze frame, freeze everything
I mentioned freezing vegetables for stock, but truth is, I freeze anything and everything. We buy in bulk from Costco, so we sort of have to freeze stuff unless we plan on eating 10-pounds of pork in one sitting, but I freeze anything from butter to leftover soup (freeze flat in a freezer bag) to sliced bread. Hell, my friend A'Dell freezes individual slices of Costco chocolate cake; everything is freezable.
And that's all I've got! Any wisdom you care to impart today?
It was my goal last year to read 12 books, which I just about did and so this year, my goal was pretty much the same. Imagine my surprise, then, to find that I have already read 12 books and it's only a little more than halfway through the year. GO ME. (Although I must credit the library, this previously-imagined mythical place where they just give you books for free. That place is amazing.)
Here's what I've read so far this year. I'll do another update at the end of the year, as well.
13 Steps Down, by Ruth Rendell
This book came from my dad years ago and I never got around to it, but then I started reading it at the end of last year and finished at the beginning of this year. It's a good murder mystery-type book and I enjoyed it. It was a little silly and ridiculous in some parts (the main character is just NOT VERY BRIGHT), but I'd read more books by her.
Rockabye, by Rebecca Woolf
Holly gave me this book to read and I enjoyed it. I love Rebecca's blog and I thought her book was just an extension of that. It didn't feel contrived or over-edited, like other blogs-to-books I've read and I always appreciate her honesty. I get the impression from reading her blog now, though, that she is pretty embarrassed about the book, which is too bad. When the book finishes, her son is about the age LG is now, and I could relate to a lot of what she wrote about, so props to her! No embarrassment needed.
Wild Fire, by Nelson DeMille
This was another book I randomly found on our bookshelf (I love when that happens!) I also love Nelson DeMille and his character, John Corey, so this book wasn't a stretch for me. It's your typical DeMille: Good plot, good dialogue, enjoyable characters, satisfying ending. I've yet to find a DeMille I didn't like, so there you go. That being said, I did try to start Spencerville, which I found on my parents' bookshelf and I just couldn't get into it. The antagonist is just too much for me and it was making me mad. It's still on my nightstand, though, so I'll probably give it another go.
Alex Cross's Trial, by James Patterson
This is your typical James Patterson: Short chapters, which make you feel really accomplished as you breeze through the book, and a good story. This was a little different than his usual Alex Cross books, as it was written as though Alex Cross was writing it (telling a story from early-1900s Mississippi), but it basically read the same as all James Patterson's books do.
Dedication, by Emma McLaughlin and Nicola Kraus
This was my first library book and that is a good thing. This book was good, not great, but an entertaining chicklit-type read nonetheless. It switched back and forth between high school and then present day for our main character and that was kind of fun. The ending was also satisfying, which I like. Nothing like getting all the way to the end and being pissed off.
Rules Of Civility, by Amor Towles
This is (so far) my favorite book of the year. It made me want to be a young working gal in 1930s Manhattan, drinking too much gin and chain-smoking cigarettes. I'm sort of dying for the author to write something else (I think this was his first book), so suffice it to say: Highly recommend.
Wild, by Cheryl Strayed
I read this at the recommendation of everyone and their mother and I did love it. First, I always love a local story, where I have either been to the places the author is talking about or at least know of them. Also, there is a map at the beginning and MAN do I love maps or family trees or whatever at the beginning of a book. That's a guaranteed read for me. Anyway, I think the book worked well. If it was just, "Here's what happened while I hiked the Pacific Crest Trail," I might not have liked it as much, but with the flashbacks, it worked.
Dark Places, by Gillian Flynn
I enjoyed this, as much as one can enjoy a book that is still affecting them so much they cannot get up to pee in the middle of the night anymore, but I am sure that'll pass. But no, it was good, I enjoy Gillian Flynn's dark mind and this was an entertaining read with a nice little twist at the end. I have Sharp Objects, so I'll be reading that soon, as well.
Drinking & Tweeting, by Brandi Glanville
This is a Real Housewife's book and it is GOOD. Lots of dirt talked about LeAnn Rimes and Eddie Cibrian and I know it's Brandi's book and all, but let me show my allegiance now: Team Brandi. Anyway, this was entertaining and honest and I loved the part where she was taking her kids to visit her parents in Sacramento and they asked if they were flying on a private plane and she was like, "No! We're flying Southwest!" I mean, it is the most efficient was to go from LAX to SMF. (With the exception of a private plane.)
Prep, by Curtis Sittenfeld
I liked this fine, not as much as American Wife, but okay. Maybe because I never went to prep school/I'm not from the east coast/etc., so I have no frame of reference for anything she's talking about. BUT, Curtis Sittenfeld can weave just the very best analogies ever, I'll give her that. I appreciate an author who makes me go, "Yes! That is exactly it!" so hey, I guess she made me relate more to prep schools/the east coast/etc. than I would have thought. The ending was very meh, though.
The 9th Judgment, by James Patterson
Do I even need to review this? No. It was his usual ridiculousness and of course the 10th book is now on hold for me at the library.
The Island, by Elin Hilderbrand
This was a nice summer read. It follows the lives of four women (a mom and her two daughters, as well as her sister) and each chapter (although there were no real chapter) followed one of the women. There was no mystery or anything, but it was entertaining and the ending was good. It made me want to go to Nantucket and also had me Googling that show Wings, from the '90s, and who is Tom Nevers, anyway?
That's what I've read so far this year! Anything good you've read lately?
Have I mentioned the Watch What Crappens podcast here? I can't remember, so forgive me if I have and you're like, "Yeah, message received Sarah, you like this podcast," but it is just hilarious and I look forward to it every week. I listen to it while running and you know how in yoga, when you're in some stupid pose and the teacher is all, "Smile! This is supposed to be fun!" and you're all, "Yeah right lady, let me out of crescent lunge for the love of god, my front leg is about to fall off," but you eek out a smile anyway because you're awesome? Well this podcast makes me laugh out loud and smile while running and unlike in yoga, it's not forced at all. Major snaps to Holly for giving me the scoop about this podcast, for my life is forever changed.
(I guess I should mention, it's a podcast about "All the crap we love to watch on Bravo," in case that is not clear based on the title or in case you don't watch Bravo, in which case, MY, THAT'S WEIRD OF YOU.)
Speaking of yoga, I've been going like a madwoman recently, which has been awesome. (I mean, I've been six times this month, but that feels like a lot, okay?) The other day while sitting at my desk, I noticed some major floppy arm action going on, so at yoga that night, when the teacher asked if there was anything anyone wanted to work on, I waved my floppies and shouted, "Arms!" and then I had to do about a million chaturangas. My arms were still floppy afterwards, so I'm very confused about that.
The other day I picked LG up from school and her BFF gave her a hug (let's talk about the cuteness that is little people with wee little arms giving big bear hugs) and then two other random children tried to also hug LG and oh, I wish I could have recorded that. I think it goes without saying, but those two kids got NO hugs from LG. Poor little simpletons. I think they're new to the class. But hey, I am not going to force LG to hug some random kids. I don't know them, but maybe they're assholes who deserved to be rebuffed. LG is a very good judge of character.
I have been doing a lot of cooking recently and man, I am just burnt (no pun intended) out. Working from home, I have to cook for myself for two meals a day, then of course dinner for all of us and Chris has been working some janky hours, so he's not even home to help and I have been seriously considering Cheerios for dinner. For me.
Luckily, I like to cook and we're slowly inching our way into my favorite season, soup and casserole season, so that should help. I don't know how I'd eat if I didn't like to cook, though. Or if Chris didn't also like to cook? Oy.
Jeggings are baaaaaack (Oprah voice) at Target and I am THRILLED. I got a dark wash and the gray wash and I am really digging the gray. I'm glad I snapped these up when I did. I think I'm pretty good, as far as clothes go, to bring me into fall. Lots of t-shirt dresses and long cardigans. I'm still low on t-shirts, but that's not for a lack of trying. I just cannot find the perfect t-shirt out there. Also, I do need more flowy tanks like this one; I feel like they're good for jeggings because they cover the bum, but they're not so flowy I look pregnant. (I hope not!) This one is from Victoria's Secret and it has a built-in bra shelf. I should see about ordering more, one in each color.
That's all I got! What's going on with you?