Saturday, January 7, 2012

Saturday Snapshot - Nurse Layla

This morning began like any other Saturday morning...sleeping a little later, waking up one at a time, adding family members to our king sized bed :)
After breakfast, however, the youngest just kinda collapsed on the couch.  
Since she moves at about 115 mph all of the time it seems, I knew something was up.
Layla also knew something was up and became very concerned.
Can you see her worried German Shepherd eyes?

Sure enough the youngest was running a temp...which has climbed throughout the morning.  Oy.  

Layla need to touch the youngest and volunteered to keep her feet warm.

These are certainly not the best photos...taken with my Blackberry so as not to disturb a much needed nap for the youngest...but they're good enough for me.  

How can anyone not love dogs?

Saturday Snapshot is hosted by Alyce @ At Home with Books.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Weekend Cooking - Chicken & Dumplings

Weekend Cooking is hosted by Candace at Beth Fish Reads 

My great-grandmother Grand Liddie was known for her chicken & dumplings.  I vividly remember a bubbling pot on top of the stove and the smell throughout the house of the chicken and broth that cooked for hours.  I also remember her in her apron standing over a table with flour spread on the surface, flattening out the homemade dumplings, cutting them and dropping them  into the boiling broth.  Any time we went anywhere, Grand Liddie took chicken & dumplings; she was expected to.

To my knowledge Grand Liddie never wrote her recipe down; she just made it.  When she died, her recipe died with her.  Because Grand Liddie's chicken & dumplings are the ones I first tasted and ate all through my childhood, they are what I think chicken & dumplings are supposed to taste like.  Imagine my horror to find out through the years that everyone doesn't make their chicken & dumplings like Grand Liddie.  Biscuit dumplings?  Dropped dumplings?  veggies added?  Even cream of chicken soup??  WHAT?

The chicken & dumplings served at Cracker Barrel are probably the closest to my Grand Liddie's (except their dumplings are too mushy sometimes...and from time to time the broth suspiciously tastes like it was made from a boullion cube)  Simple, chicken, flour dumplings, broth, seasoned with salt and pepper.  How hard could that be?

Every time I see a new recipe for chicken & dumplings, I read it and think it through...if it has any of the above alternate ingredients, I just turn the page.  I had begun to think maybe I remembered the experience of watching and eating chicken & dumplings wrong...why were there so many recipes/variations of what I remembered so simply?

Then, something happened.
I've been reading Kitchen Counter Cooking School over the last couple of days, and I can't put it down.  Each chapter gets me more and more excited about returning to the foundations of you know that I don't even know how to cut up a chicken??  Do you also know that only in the last couple of years since I've been growing my own tomatoes have I realized how simple it is to make a tomato sauce from tomatoes instead of a jar??

After reading the chapter on chicken, I thought to myself...maybe Grand Liddie's chicken & dumplings IS as easy as I remember it...easy in the sense of traditional, back to basics, foundational cooking.

So, I went to my fridge, found some chicken breasts and decided I was gonna give it a try.  (I still don't know how to cut up a chicken...I'll save that lesson for another day.)
I put 6-7 breasts in a pot of water...the water just covering the top of the breasts, brought the water to a boil and then turned it down to a simmer and placed a clear lid over the top of the pot.  I left the pot on the stove for a couple of hours so the breasts would get tender and the broth would have time to make.  I wasn't really sure how great the broth would be with just chicken breasts, but I was determined to give it a shot.    I also added some salt and pepper for flavor; taste, taste, taste is another lesson I'm learning from The Kitchen Counter Cooking School.
I checked on the breasts frequently through the clear lid and was encouraged by the yellowy tint the broth began to make.
I'm sure I let my broth/chicken cook longer than necessary, but I wanted those breasts to be tender.  I removed them from the pot when I could easily chop them up with a spatula and of course after a taste test.
I tasted the broth, seasoned as I felt needed, and then returned the pot of broth to a boil.

I decided that homemade dumplings would be a lesson for another day as well, so one by one, I dropped Mary B's Open Kettle dumplings (3 ingredients, flour, water and palm oil) into the boiling broth, making sure to stir around and space out the dumplings so they wouldn't stick together.  Once I had as many dumplings as I wanted, I again, turned down the heat, covered the pot and cooked for 30 minutes.
When the timer went off, I examined the dumplings and tasted (yet again) a small snippet from one to see if the consistency was close.  It was...I was looking for "close" consistency because I'm also learning from Kitchen Counter Cooking School that if you wait for the pasta to be completely done, it will be overcooked by the time you add the rest of the ingredients and it simmers even more or simply continues to cook from its own heat.

I shredded the chicken breasts with my hands, adjusted the heat for a slow simmer, covered the pot again and set the timer for 15 minutes.

When the timer went off, I was nervous.  I'm learning from Kitchen Counter Cooking School that cooking takes practice, trial and error, knowing your own tastes and thick skin sometimes when things don't turn out exactly as you imagine they will.  More importantly, cooking is more than following a recipe exactly as it is written; cooking is about making a recipe your own.  Just because I don't like all those other chicken & dumpling recipes doesn't mean they're wrong and my Grand Liddie was right (even though I think she was ;).

I took the lid off, and my chicken and dumplings actually smelled like chicken and dumplings.
Holy Smokes.
I ladled up a bowl for the youngest and the firstborn (they were the only ones home at the time) and waited for their reactions.  The firstborn gave me a thumbs up almost immediately, so I decided to fix myself a bowl as well.

If you think I'm silly for gushing so much about chicken and dumplings already, you're going to really think I'm a goober when I tell you that with that first spoonful, I've never been so proud of myself.  Albeit, my chicken and dumplings are not Grand Liddie style yet, but they were pretty dang close.
The broth tasted like chicken, real chicken, was seasoned to perfection (salt and pepper), the chicken was tender enough, and the dumplings were a perfect (to me) softness but not at all mushy...they still had pull to them and didn't become globs of mush.

The youngest ate 2 bowls.
2 bowls!!!!!!

One of the best parts of this experience is that for the last two days I've thought intensely about my Grand Liddie..about her small home where we welcomed, warmed and fed.  The smells, the sights, the sounds have been in my brain and have made me feel at home.  The kind of home where family matters, the cook is as happy as those eating his/her food, and unconditional love is felt deeply.

Yes, I'm a goober...I don't even care.

**My full review of Kitchen Counter Cooking School should be up in a couple of days...I'm still savoring...literally and figuratively :)
I did receive my copy of Kitchen Counter Cooking School from the publisher free of charge through Net Galley at my request.  All opinions are my own.
***I don't know the people at Mary B's and they don't know me...I wanted the simplest version of dumplings with no additives, and this is the brand I chose.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Book Review - Love at First Bark

Love at First Bark by Julie Klam
Riverhead Books, 2011
Why?  I love dogs, had this one on my WishList, and my sweet Secret Santa Sandy sent it to me :)
It's even signed by the author :)
What Now? into the glass case it goes, for keeps

Golden Lines

Somehow I housebroke Beatrice with no problem in a very short period of time right before I went on bed rest for my pregnancy.  It's like I told her, "You go to the bathroom outside, not inside."  And she answered, "Got it."  Whereas Wisteria and Fiorello were told, shown, taken outside with paper towels with their pee on them to show them where it went.  I did a puppet show, and a PowerPoint demonstration and they still didn't get it.  They'd go out for long walks and come back inside and pee on the rug.  

As soon as we entered the lobby, we saw a woman at the admitting desk dumping the six puppies her unneutered female had had--she had done this before, with this dog's first litter.  She looked at me with sad eyes asking if I would like to adopt them, and I just said, "No, thank you."  Not two inches from where she sat was a poster advertising low-cost and free spaying and neutering.  Her laziness had resulted in the birth of at least twelve unwanted dogs, and I was not sympathetic to her.

So many stories of heroic dogs.  I had my own store of them.  And that really was the point.  I had always felt that any dog I took care of would've done the same for me if it could, and in fact by rescuing them they filled my heart in such a way that I was rescued right back.

More often than not, what animals require our protection from is not hurricanes or fires, but abuse at the hands of other people.  

***the quotes above are taken from an uncorrected proof and may have been revised in the final copy***


Within three chapters, "Morris the Pit Bull, Couples Therapist," "My Darling Clementine," and "There is a Dog House in New Orleans," Julie Klam illustrates with words how "saving a dog can sometimes help you save yourself."  Julie, her husband Paul and daughter Violet live in a NYC apartment with 4 of their own dogs, foster others, and try to live a life of gratitude and respect for dogs and other animals who share our Earth, no matter how sick, crippled, etc. they are.  

What I Liked

The chapter organization - even though I wish there was more, I liked how each chapter focused its storyline on particular experiences Julie has had with specific animals.  Those focus animals are in no way the only animals mentioned in those chapters, but they are the lead character if you will.  Since these chapters are snippets/pieces of Julie's life, the focus dog helps to keep things rolling since the chapters are not in sequential order (which dog came first, etc).

Julie's sense of humor - I laughed out loud in several places...Julie writes like she's having an enjoyable conversation with me...her quirkiness and ability to laugh at even experiences with a dog that had an inability to control her own poo keeps the real life of dog rescue at the forefront of the conversation, not the romanticized SuperWoman notion.  

Julie's family involvement - Julie's husband Paul was a normal husband...5 dogs in a NYC apartment! No way!  But, he believed in Julie and he believed in the animals.  They worked things out, not always perfectly but they worked it out.  They spent their first time away from the home together since their honeymoon in New Orleans helping a rescue group capture a puppy with a jar stuck on his head...and they were changed by the experience as individuals and as a couple.

It's ok to make mistakes - Julie had two dogs who she couldn't housetrain and had to send them to Kanine Kamp instead, and Julie had a difficult time being "the pack leader."  If you love dogs, you know what NEEDS to be done...but it's not always what you WANT to do.  When my Layla looks at me with those beautiful German Shepherd brown eyes, I have a hard time not melting and giving in myself.  

the Network of rescuers - I didn't really realize how rescue of this scale was very interesting to learn how a rescuer with a potential rescue dog sends out a message via Twitter, FB and other social media outlets to reach other rescuers in particular groups...and then other rescuers send the message on to their contacts and so on down the line...kinda  like a phone tree alert.  I think Julie mentioned it at one point, but when she and Paul were sending out messages after finding Morris the Pit Bull, the process resembled the Twilight Bark from Disney's 101 Dalmations :)  How fitting is that?

Rescue is serious business - I needed this reminder that you can be involved in animal rescue and not keep every animal you find.  That doesn't mean it's not difficult at times to let one go, but it's the reality as sad as it may seem.  Sometimes I am scared to become involved bc of this very issue, but with Julie's story I learned how we can all work together to find, rescue, rehabilitate and match dogs with perfect homes for them.  

What I Didn't Like

I wanted the book to be longer...only 3 chapters left me craving more...and googled the websites of the blogs, SPCA groups, rescue groups and people Julie worked with just to continue the experience of reading this book.

I enjoy the conversational tone of Julie's book but I'm easily distracted so every now and then her offshoot stories would get in my way...I didn't really "dislike" this because I could easily get back on track...but I can see where this might be a bigger problem with a longer book.  

Overall Recommendation

If you are an animal lover...and especially a dog lover, and feel that we owe something to these wonderful creatures, many who are roaming the streets homeless, you need to read this book.  
Julie's descriptions of city living and urban rescue and the chapter on New Orleans after Katrina are geographically and culturally interesting as well as dog rescue interesting.
Julie has another book as well, You Had Me at Woof, which I have already added to my WishList :)

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

2012 Reading Challenges Sign Up Post

I like reading challenges.
I really do.
But, not for the same reasons a lot of other readers like them.
I like challenges because they help prioritize my reading; for me, a reading challenge is a commitment to read a certain kind of book(s) with others.  If something happens and I don't get the books read, then I haven't hurt anyone nor does it cost me anything...except the enjoyment I would have received from the process.
Challenges add pressure...but not so much that reading becomes a chore.  
I chose my reading challenges for 2012 because I either already read that category of books and enjoy them or because the category is one that I'd like to read but need someone to hold my hand and read them with me (War and Peace, anyone?)
I also don't read 100's of books a year, so I don't feel I'm in any kind of reading rut; I just simply want to read more of the books I want to read.

As reading challenges began popping up after Thanksgiving, I opened up a post and began copying and pasting URL's for ones I was interested in.  I made my final decisions yesterday; there are a bunch of them, but I'm ok with that because the worst thing that could happen would be that I would read more this year than 2011 and 2010.  That would be a good thing.

For each of the reading challenges below, I've provided a tidbit about each one with my specific goals, but please visit the blog site via the links provided for more information.

November's Autumn is hosting the Classics Challenge.  From January 2012-December 2012 we will read 7 classics.  What I like about this one is that you actually post every 4th of the month to check in on your progress as well as talk to the other doesn't matter where you are in your progress; you just have to check in.  I like checking in :) 

Since I'm supposed to make a list for this one, I will...intentionally, the classics listed here are ones that are already sitting on my shelves or ones I've already committed to read along with others.
1.  Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
2.  War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy
3.  Les Miserables by Victor Hugo
4.  Rebecca by Daphne duMaurier
5.  Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte
6.  Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens
7. Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte

Yes, I was an English major and somehow, someway finished my education without having ever read the above titles.  

I surprised myself with Ebooks last year so signing up for this challenge was an automatic decision.  Workaday Reads is the new host this year.  Since I read 16-17 Ebooks without blinking last year, I'm going to go ahead and sign up for the CD level - that's 25 Ebooks.  Workaday Reads will have a post at the beginning of each month for participants to link their monthly reviews.  Monthly reviews will count as a chance on a monthly giveaway with another giveaway at the end of the year for those who meet their goal.  How cool is that?  I'm in.

I'm a regular reader at Beth Fish Reads and a participator in Candace's memes Weekend Cooking as well as Wordless Wednesday from time to time.  I've wanted to jump into the What's in a Name challenge both of my previous blogging years, but for some reason was a little nervous.  Since I'm from the South and we got grit, by damn I ain't nervous no more.  
This challenge uses categories for the books we'll be reading over the course of they are:

  1. A book with a topographical feature (land formation) in the title: Black Hills, Purgatory Ridge, Emily of Deep Valley
  2. A book with something you'd see in the sky in the title: Moon Called, Seeing Stars, Cloud Atlas
  3. A book with a creepy crawly in the title: Little Bee, Spider Bones, The Witches of Worm
  4. A book with a type of house in the title: The Glass Castle, The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest, Ape House
  5. A book with something you'd carry in your pocket, purse, or backpack in the title: Sarah's Key, The Scarlet Letter, Devlin Diary
  6. A book with a something you'd find on a calendar in the title: Day of the Jackal, Elegy for April, Freaky Friday, Year of Magical Thinking

Candace has already posted the 7 pages with Mr. Linky for everyone's posts as they finish each category and the last post for the end of the challenge post...creativity is allowed, thank goodness...although 4 of the labels above feature examples using titles of books I have on my TBR...I hope that's not cheating ;)  I'd like to see Little Bee, Ape House, Sarah's Key, and Year of Magical Thinking jump right off my TBR pile this year!  I'll keep working on #1 and #2.

Ellie over at Musings of a Bookshop Girl has started a new challenge called Mixing it Up.  She lists 16 different categories of books and challenges us to read at least one book from each category this year...the number of categories you choose becomes your reading goal.  From Ellie's list of categories, I chose Young Adult, Classics, Biography, Cookery, History, Modern Fiction, Crime & Mystery, and Travel, which are all categories I read already.  That puts me into the Cupcake mix level with 5-8 categories to tap.  My "Pie in the Sky" self wanted to sign up for all 16, but my realistic self knew that was a death sentence.  

My TBR shelves are embarrassing...especially some of the older books I've never gotten around to reading.  So, here I go...committing to reading 12 of those books right off the shelf.  Roof Beam Reader hosts this one each year.  The rules for this one are a little more strict than the one I participated in last year, so I'll have to be on my p's and q's.  That's a little scary.  I do have to make a list...and I do have to stick to it.  Yikes.  All books have to be at least 1 year old.

1.  Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
2.  Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte
3.  Rebecca by Daphne duMaurier
4.  Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides
5.  School of Essential Ingredients by Erica Bauermeister
6. Books by Larry McMurtry
7. Comfort Food by Kate Jacobs
8. My Reading Life by Pat Conroy
9. Simply from Scratch by Alicia Bessette
10.  Louisa May Alcott by Harriet Reisen
11.  The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake by Aimee Bender
12.  My Life in France by Julia Child  

Did you notice how I overlapped these with my Classics, Foodies and Memoirs?  I did that on purpose :)  That's not cheating.  Whew!

Have I mentioned lately about how I LOVE ReadAlongs??  For whopper books, or particularly dense ones, I need a hand to hold and someone to bounce ideas off of...Kate's Library is hosting a ReadAlong of Les Miserables this year and I am soo in.

Sweet Jillian from A Room of One's Own extended her War and Peace 2011 ReadAlong into 2012, thanks be to God.  I got a little behind on this one and it was just impossible to catch back up.  I have a new schedule now though and have already written the sections into my calendar between now and Summer when this one finishes.  New sign ups are allowed if you're interested.

peoples history A Peoples Readalong

Jenners @ Life with Books and Jill @ Fizzy Thoughts decided to read A People's History of the United States between now and Summer.  This book is an alternate history of the U.S. from what we all learned in school...a history of the U.S. from the perspective of all those who've been traditionally left out of history.
  I'm looking forward to this casual ReadAlong; I've read various reviews of the book already and am intrigued by the controversial policital conversations Zinn's book will produce.   
That's fun stuff.

Teresa's Reading Corner is hosting the AudioBook Challenge again this year; I totally bombed this one last year and am signing up to redeem myself.  It turns out I'm a narrator snob.  Oy. 
 I'm signing up for the lowest level, the Flirting level, and am committing to listening to 6 AudioBooks this year.  Teresa also hosts monthly check ins...I really think I do better with check-ins...remember, the whole "hold my hand" thing?  Yeah, yeah. I really don't want to dislike AudioBooks...there's so much potential in my life for Audio...I'm hoping these ladies will open my ears to some great choices :)

Why Buy the Cow is a brand new challenge by The UnReader.  For this challenge we have to read legally downloaded free books from the web.  If for some strange reason you are not aware that Amazon puts free ebooks up regularly (sometimes only for short period of time), now you know.  How can you not take advantage of FREE??
I'm signing up for the Why Buy the Cow challenge at the Coupon Clipper level, 12 books.

Melissa's Eclectic Bookshelf  created a Witches challenge this year...she might as well have sent me an engraved invitation because I've been a Witch person all of my life...some of my students would probably tell you I AM a witch ;)  (That was a joke, students would use the B word instead **SNARK ALERT**).  Oh well, if the broom fits...
I'm committing to 5 books Witchy books...I'm an Initiate at this level.  I don't have to create a list but Melissa created one with books to look into and 5 of those jumped right out at me.  These are the 5 I'm interested in right now:

Practical Magic by Alice Hoffman (no, I haven't seen the movie)
A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness
The Witches of East End by Melissa de la Cruz
Dead Witch Walking by Kim Harrison
The Heretics Daughter by Kathleen Kent

Margot at Joyfully Retired is hosting this wonderful challenge again this year.  I can't tell you how many "foodie" books I have on my TBR shelf that fit this challenge...I also can't tell you why I didn't read any of them for this challenge last year???  You tell me and we'll both know.  I think I thought this challenge would be easy so I concentrated on others...happens to the best of us, I guess.  For 2012 I will do better.  I'm signing up for the Pastry Chef level...that's 4-8 books; I'm not letting myself cop-out on this one with the lowest level, so I will be pushing myself (in a nice way)

I'M GOING TO IRELAND THIS MARCH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

My firstborn and I will be traveling together with her soccer team...her coach is from Ireland, so she set up an educational tour for the girls (and parents who wanted to go).  
What better way to prepare myself for this trip than to read about Ireland?
Books and Movies hosts this challenge.  I'm signing up for 4 books, Shamrock Level, and am really interested in everyone else's ideas of books from a variety of categories since this is new genre for me.

Did I mention I'm going to Ireland in March????????????????????????????????

Memorable Memoirs is another challenge for which I have a stack of books already on my TBR shelves to read.  I bombed this one last year as well...I'm just a goofus, I guess.  I have no other excuse.   Due to my lax attitude toward this challenge last year, I'm not allowing myself to commit to the bottom level.  I will be signing up at the Autobiographer level and reading 5-9 memoirs in 2012!
WAHOO!! More books off my TBR shelf!!! 

I forgot about the Back to Classics challenge last year along with the Foodie and Memoir challenges, but got lucky enough to fulfill all categories except 2 with the books I had read anyway.  Here are the categories: 

19th Century Classic
20th Century Classic
Re-read a Classic
Classic Play
Classic Mystery/Horror/Crime Fiction
Classic Romance
Classic Translated
Classic Award Winner
Classic Set Somewhere You're Unlikely to Visit

I won't accidentally fulfill this one so I'll have to pay more attention...story of my life ;)

The Victorian Challenge is a new one for me, but if I am successful with Jane Eyre, Oliver Twist and my bio of Louisa May Alcott, I will have successfully completed this challenge as well.  So, why not?  The goal is to read, listen, watch 2-6 audiobooks, videos, books, poetry, etc, etc, etc. from the Victorian era or during the years Victoria was Queen of England.  

I love Historical Fiction that is truly historical...the author has obviously researched his/her subject(s) and has based the story on actual events...I don't care for the bodice ripping so-called historical fiction.  I wanted to sign up for the Historical Fiction challenge last year but happened upon it too late to work it into my plans.  As a challenge ingenue, I was also very nervous about signing up for too much.  I'm going to start out at Daring and Curious, 5 books during 2012.  I really should sign up for the Struggling with my Addiction level and 10 books, but that might be a little much to expect.  I can always go up a level later if I see 5 books is too easy :)  

My friend Natalie @ Coffee and a Book Chick is co-hosting a Stephen King project this year.  I was a classic King fan a long time the time he made it to IT, he lost me.  I'm willing to give him another chance...there are a few classics I missed out on and I do want to give his new one a try, so I'm signing up for A Lil Bit of King, 3 books.  We'll have a site just for this project where we'll all come together monthly and post our progress.  I would love to read more, but if it turns out King and I just don't get along anymore and I don't like his new stuff, I'm not going to keep reading.
So there.

Jamie's Eclectic Bookshelf is hosting this particular YA Challenge.  I've made it no secret that I had a hard time with YA in 2011...I  need to end that...right now.  My firstborn is picking out the best of the best from her shelves, and I WILL enjoy YA again.


I'm a Southerner...and I only read one book for the Southern Literature challenge last year.  Huh??
I'm signing up for the Ya'll Come Back Now, Ya Hear?  Level which is 4 books....I ought to be ashamed of myself if I can't do at least that much.

There you have reading life for 2012 :)
Yes, I know it's a what?  Good books make life better :):)
Time to get reading!

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Top Ten Tuesday - Books I'm Looking Forward to Reading in 2012

Of all the Broke and Bookish Top Ten Tuesday lists, this week's is the most dangerous for me.  By the end of the day, I bet I will have added at least 100 books to my WishList :/ I started not to participate today bc I really really don't need  any more books on my list...BUT I couldn't stand it; I had to peek at the upcoming releases on Amazon, Publisher's Weekly, etc.  
That was all it took.  

Of the hundreds of new releases for 2012 I tried to focus on the ones I have marked as auto-ship.  I don't even have to order these; they'll be sent to me automatically...that's how sure I am that I need them.  
Good grief.

1.  The Wolf Gift by Anne Rice (Feb. 14, 2012)
I was an early Anne Rice fan...but she lost me after Taltos...that, my friends, was a weird book.  I'm excited that maybe this new subject matter will bring back the original Rice of the vampire series!
Fingers crossed!

2.  11th Hour by James Patterson (May 7, 2012)

This is Patterson's last chance...I was completely disgusted by the stupidity of the 10th book in this series.  I said then that I would give him one more chance...and here it is.

3.  Kiss the Dead by Laurell K. Hamilton (June 5, 2012)

No book cover image is available for the newest Anita Blake, so Laurell is standing in :)  Can't wait for this one...should have enough twists and turns in it to keep my head spinning...also will have my favorite vampire hottie, Jean Claude...yum yum ;)

4.  Pioneer Woman Cookbook by Ree Drummond (March 13, 2012)

Love her or hate her...the woman can cook.  I've found a couple of recipes that I didn't care for, but on the whole, most of her recipes work for me.  I've probably used her first cookbook more than any other I own, so I'm looking forward to more of the same.  

5.  DeadLocked by Charlaine Harris (May 1, 2012)

I originally heard a rumor that this would be the last Sookie Stackhouse book, but this morning I read an interview with Harris herself who said that Deadlocked is the next to last book.  She already knows how it will end, and the final Sookie will be released in May of 2013.  I hope we have less fairies in this one...they confuse me for some reason...I think I just can't keep up with all the extra characters.

6.  Bringing Up the Bodies by Hilary Mantel (Fall 2012)

I'm still slowly digesting Wolf Hall, but I know I want this one.  This whopper is going to be 600 pages so no telling how long it will take me...but I still can't wait!! 

7.  Home by Toni Morrison (May 8, 2012)

I've read most of Morrison's work, so this is a no-brainer for me.  A no-brainer that I would buy it, not a no-brainer to read...but that's how I like em. :)

8.  More Room in a Broken Heart by Stephen Davis (Jan. 10, 2012)

I like memoirs...and especially those of classic celebrities...those who've been around as long as I can remember and really have rich stories and experiences to talk about...not that namby pamby stuff in a Miley Cyrus "memoir" (is it even possible for 20 year olds to write "memoirs"?)  I have nothing against Miley Cyrus and I'm just using her as an example.  Surely she hasn't written a book??

9.  The Rope by Nevada  Barr (Jan 17, 2012)

I'm scoping out other series since I feel sure I'll be dropping a couple of my die hard series this year...Evanovich and Patterson each have one more chance...that's it.  I can't waste precious reading time on stupid stuff.  I know that sounds mean, but I just can't.
I read one of Nevada Barr's a couple of years ago (Deep South) and really liked it, but I'm kinda anal about starting a series at the beginning, so I wouldn't allow myself to keep reading until I backed up to #1 :/  I'm giving myself permission to read The Rope when it's released :)
That is...if I don't have a panic attack first.

10.  Lots of Candles, Plenty of Cake by Anna Quindlen (May 1, 2012)

I like Quindlen.  I haven't read everything she's written, but one of my favorites is Blessings.  The audio of her small book about her dog (Good Dog. Stay.) is my first audio of 2012 as well.  Again, I'm fond of life stories written by folks who've actually experienced some life and have spent time analyzing where they are, where they've been and what's next.

There you have it my friends.  My must haves of 2012 (so far).  I'm not keeping track of how many books I'm adding to my WishList from other Top Ten Tuesday posts...I hope Amazon doesn't have a limit

Monday, January 2, 2012

2011 Challenge Wrap Up

Time for Ye Old Final Challenge post of the year.

 Even though I did not successfully complete all of the challenges I signed up for, I am still ok with my overall progress on challenges in 2011.
 My first year of challenges (2010), I didn't do so well, so I decided to look at challenges a little differently in 2011.  In 2011, I signed up for challenges in categories of which I already enjoy reading books, and for the most part, I only signed up for the minimum number of books for each challenge.  Some might find that lacking as a "challenge," but keep in mind that I don't read 100's of books each year.  I'm totally impressed with those who do (Wowie Wow Wow as Junie B. Jones would say), but I'm just not there yet.
When I finished my Ph.D, I promised myself I would return to the world of reading for pleasure; it has taken me a while to get back in that groove; old academic habits die hard, it seems.  In 2010 I only read and reviewed 22 books :(  But, in 2011, I read and reviewed 35 (or 37)...I kept reading after I counted...and never recounted.
(Please remember, I have never pretended to be a math major ;)

Anyhoo, even though those numbers are small, I'm proud of them.  It means progress.  It means that in 2011, books were even more a part of my life than they were in 2010.  And, that, in a nutshell, is my overall goal right now.
I do have some ideas for 2012, with some gently placed pressures to move myself on forward even more...but that's tomorrow's post :)

Here are the 2011 Challenges and my results; I reviewed most of them so those reviews are linked:

The Reading from My Shelves Challenge was held by  Diane @ Bibliophile by the Sea

I have a very difficult time letting books go...I surround myself with books in every room of our house, so I knew this challenge would be difficult for me, but surprisingly, after I let go of the first couple of books, it became a little easier to let go...especially of books I was not so fond of.  I still won't be able to let go of books I love, but that's ok too.
I didn't meet my goal of giving away 12 books, but I gave away 11!! That's pretty dang good for me.
I'll be signing up for this challenge again this year.

1.  Seven Up by Janet Evanovich - left this one on an airplane after I finished
2.  Eleven on Top by Janet Evanovich - left this one on an airplane after I finished
3.  Twelve Sharp by Janet Evanovich - left this one on an airplane after I finished
4.  March by Geraldine Brooks - gave this one to the library (after I bought the hardback for keeps ;)
5.  Affinity by Sarah Waters (this one was easy to give away)
6.  Finger Lickin' Fifteen by Janet Evanovich - donated to the library
7. Smokin' Seventeen by Janet Evanovich - passed this one along to my stepmother
8.  Bossypants by Tina Fey - donated to the library
9.  The Heart is Not a Size by Beth Kephart - donated to the library
10.  Explosive Eighteen by Janet Evanovich - threw in the garbage can donated to the library
11.  The Tenth Anniversary by James Patterson  - donated to the library

The 2011 YA Reading Challenge was held at Jamie 's Bookshelf

I signed up to read 12 YA books this year, thinking that would be easy.  I've always loved YA and even taught a YA Lit class for a couple of years at the local university.  
Unfortunately, I hit a big bag of concrete this year with YA and only read 5 :p  
I can't even really tell you why.  I'm still mulling over ideas.
I've put my firstborn in charge of getting me out of my YA funk in 2012.  She's in charge of my YA reading list this year, with the best of the best, one at a time, starting immediately.  
Her bedroom is a YA library, so it shouldn't be a problem :)  

1.  The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
2. Sea by Heidi Kling
3.  Wicked Lovely by Melissa Marr
4.  The Heart is Not a Size by Beth Kephart
5.  Little Women by Louisa May Alcott

The Back to the Classics Challenge was hosted at Sarah Reads Too Much...I honestly almost forgot about this one and had to fill in the blanks near the end of the year as I looked back over what I had read.  I could have easily filled in the two categories that were left out if I had just been paying attention.

A Banned Book - I didn't purposely read a banned book...and for this I am upset with myself.  I WILL fix this oversight IMMEDIATELY!

A book with a Wartime Setting (can be any war) - March by Geraldine Brooks

A Pulitzer Prize (Fiction) Winner or Runner Up:  The Good Earth by Pearl S. Buck

A Children's/Young Adult Classic - Little Women by Louisa May Alcott

19th Century Classic - House of Seven Gables by Nathaniel Hawthorne

20th Century Classic - Cold Mountain by Charles Frazier

A book you think should be considered a 21st Century Classic: The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

Re-Read a book from your High School/College Classes:  Whoopsee...forgot this category too...I don't re-read very often, but it would be very interesting to read a book from high school through an adult lens.  Will do better on this as well next year.

Margot at Joyfully Retired hosted The Foodie Reading Challenge

I have a stack of these books on my shelf as well...and only read 1??  I'm not sure why.  I think I just kept passing them up for something else...doh!

1.  The United States of Arugula/ by David Kamp

The Audiobook Challenge was hosted at Teresa's Reading Corner
I signed up to read 3 and only read 1.  I've found that I am an incredibly picky audio listener/reader.  For example, a less than perfect fit in narrator can absolutely ruin even the best book for me.  I don't seem to be able to separate the book from the narrator.  
I'm not an overly critical person, so I've spent a lot of time trying to figure out why this would be.  The only thing I can come up with is that with audiobooks, someone else is choosing the voice through which I hear the book...even when the narrator is the author, I still can find fault with him/her if the voice doesn't match the one I have in mind.  How ridiculous/selfish/egocentric is that?  I do think audiobooks for me slide over into the movies made from books category though.   I'm a hard sell...I can't help it.  I'm 43 and that ain't gonna change...nor am I gonna worry about it.  I will, however, keep looking for the best of the best in audiobooks :)

1.  South of Broad by Pat Conroy

The Ebook Challenge was hosted over at The Ladybug Reads
I stunned myself with this challenge.  Last Christmas was the e-reader Christmas at our house.  I had slowly kept up with everyone else's progress/opinions on ebooks, not willing to put down my paper copies just yet.  But, I didn't want to miss out on something cool I signed up the least amount of books (6). And, then I read 16!!!!!!!
My e-readers (Kindle, Nook Color, Ipad and apps on my laptop and Blackberry) will never take the place of books I can hold in my hand.  BUT, I love reading e-style sometimes.  On airplanes, on trains, at night in the dark, when my eyes are tired, etc.  (I've found that even when my head hurts and my eyes are blurry, my Kindle is the softest read...and even seems to have a calming effect for me...I have no scientific research to support this, so don't go getting all excited ;)  
Let me also mention again that I'm 43; my eyesight is slowly deteriorating and I don't enjoy wearing those reader glasses...they tend to make my eyes more tired than they were to begin with.  With my e-readers, I can adjust the light, font, etc. to whatever feels best for me...I'm all over that.
Yay e-readers!!! 

1.  Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
2.  Four to Score by Janet Evanovich
3. Little Men by Louisa May Alcott
4. High Five by Janet Evanovich
5. Hot Six by Janet Evanovich
6. Hard Eight by Janet Evanovich
7. To the Nines by Janet Evanovich
8. Ten Big Ones by Janet Evanovich
9. Fearless Fourteen by Janet Evanovich
10.  Wicked Lovely by Melissa Marr
11. House of Seven Gables by Nathaniel Hawthorne
12. A Bad Day for Sorry by Sophie Littlefield
13.  This Fine Life by Eve Marie Everson
14.  Faking It by Elisa Lorello
15.  A Marriage Carol by Chris Fabry and Gary Chapman
16. Water for  Elephants by Sara Gruen

The Memorable Memoirs Challenge was hosted at Betty and Boo's Chronicles.  As surprised as I was at myself for embracing e-readers, I surprised myself even more by only reading 1 memoir this year.  As long as I can remember, I have loved this genre...I can remember vividly scanning the middle school library for bios of my favorite historical characters, Sacagawea, Pocahontas, Molly Pitcher, etc.  One of my favorite memoirs of all times is Lauren Bacall's By Myself, and I read that in high school...before I had even heard of Lauren Bacall.  Brooke Shields Down Came the Rain had me sobbing right along with her because I too experienced true post partum depression after my youngest was born (not to Brooke's extent, thankfully); the timing of this publication was inpeccable for me...and yes, I think Tom Cruise is an asshole.
So why the heck did I only read ONE memoir in 2011 when I have a stack of them on my TBR shelf???  I have no idea, but that won't happen again in God is my witness...;)

1.  Bossypants/Tina Fey

The Southern Literature Challenge was hosted at The Introverted Reader.

My name is Peppermint; I'm a Southerner born and bred, tried and true...and in 2011 I only read two books that took place in the South.  I didn't fail this challenge though because I only signed up to read 1.
I'm so ashamed.

1. Dead Reckoning by Charlaine Harris
2.  South of Broad by Pat Conroy

And there you have it...2011 in Challenges!
Moving on to 2012 tomorrow :):)