Monday, December 31, 2012

2012 Book Stats

I am shamelessly stealing this from Marie.  I've enjoyed reading her recaps the last few years and decided to modify her wrap up for my own selfish use. ;)

How many books read in 2012? - As of December 28th, 37. Yikes.  Less than last year's 44 that is for sure! I definitely went in spurts while reading and sometimes I went days without reading. NO no no, not happening again!

How many fiction and non fiction? 3 non-fiction and the other 34 were fiction.  I'm not much of a non-fiction reader and when I am, they tend to be memoirs! Which were 2 of the 3 non-fiction!

Male/Female author ratio? 14 men (actually less because I read 2 books by Mark Gilleo and 3 by Jonathan Kellerman), 23 books by women (also less because I read multiple books written by Lisa Gardner)  For some reason, I've been turned off by male writers in the last few years. 

Favorite book of 2012? This is hard. I'll probably go with Still Alice by Lisa Genova.  I didn't read anything that really blew me away but this one, Sarah's Key, The Violets of March and Gone Girl were all faves!

Least favorite? Probably The Devil and Miss Prym by Paulo Coehlo.  I just could NOT get into it.

Any that you simply couldn’t finish and why? I don't think I did start and stop any this year.  But if it weren't for book club I would not have finished The Devil and Miss Prym, The Drowning Tree or I'm not Scared.

Longest and shortest book titles?  Gone or Hide by Lisa Gardner for the shortest and the longest would be We Need To Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver or Confessions of a Failed Southern Lady by Florence King.

How many books from the library? 18! I used the library a lot this year!

How many books read did I purchase? 7 and 3 were used, which is impressive for me!

How many were gifts? 3

How many were given to me for reviews? 4

How many books read on kindle? 2 (I am so not an e-reader person!)

Any re-reads? I did re-read The Year of Fog for book club because it had been 4 years since I had read it and I needed a refresher!

Which countries did you go to through the page in your year of reading? Brazil, United States, Russia, Pakistan, France, Canada, Great Britain, Italy, and Iran

Which book wouldn’t you have read without someone’s specific recommendation? The Devil and Miss Prym or I'm not Scared

2012 TOP TEN Book Events in The Many Thoughts of a Reader's Book Life - in no particular order:

1. Starting up my own Books & Bars book club
2. Continuing our online group read
3. Finally going to my library's used book sale and stocking up on books
4. Reading to my daughter
5. Watching my daughter 'read' books
6. Getting my students to fall in love with The Gingerbread Man
7. Reading on the beach at Anna Maria Island
8. Discussing I'm Not Scared on a pontoon boat while drinking Summer Shandy for book club
9. Getting over people excited to read by sharing my blog
10. Meeting new people through books!

Did you read more books by males or females? What was a top moment in your book life in 2012?

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Best Dishes Made of 2012

Sadly, after the birth of my child, my recipe sharing here as basically ceased.  We take the random dinner photo and I sooo mean to share what we made and then it gets stuck on my phone and I never post about it and such is life.  We do try lots of new dishes alllll the time and I thought I'd share what our favorites have been this year.  Also, we always make our own substitutions/changes to what we find.  Well, I do.  My husband has a hard time going off the recipe.  I think going rogue is half the fun!

In no particular order here were the top dishes in our household:

French Toast Casserole -  Booboobear stole the show for us on Christmas Day breakfast.  This will definitely be a repeater!

French Toast Casserole
Serves: 6 - 8

1 loaf sliced French Bread
1 c. Sweetened Condensed Milk
1 c. Milk
8 Eggs
1 tbsp. Sugar
1 tsp. Vanilla
½ tsp. Nutmeg
½ tsp Cinnamon

1 c. Butter
1 c. Chopped Pecans
1 c. Brown Sugar

Tear bread into chunks. Place in 9" x 12” buttered pan. Mix Condensed milk, milk, eggs, sugar, vanilla, Nutmeg and Cinnamon. Pour over bread. Mix butter, brown sugar and pecans. Dot this over the bread mixture. Cover with foil and bake covered at 350 degrees for 45 minutes.

Can be refrigerated overnight.

Sour Cream Noodle Bake - Hmmmmm hmmmm good! I introduced my husband to the Pioneer Woman and he is a fan!  This was delicious, very easy for a weeknight and plenty of leftovers! I used more sour cream and less cottage cheese than she did because of the ingredients I had handy!

Skillet Chili Mac & Cheese - My husband and I are not big fans of goulash but like all the ingredients.  We decided this was sorta like goulash BUT FREAKING AMAZING and the only way we'd ever make anything goulash related EVER.  So good! Also an easy middle of the week meal and tons of leftovers!

Skillet Chicken Parm - Can you tell I like one pot easy meals for the week? This is another from Iowa Girl Eats and it was super easy for a girl who HATES cooking chicken in anyway besides the crockpot! The sauce was super tasty and I used a very basic store brand kind with just the added parm cheese.  The flavor from the chicken was delicious!

Hearty Potato Soup - Here we go again with a one pot! This crockpot meal is super tasty and so easy to put together.  We've never made it with bread bowls and mine has never looked like the picture that is shown with it, but it is SUPER good and super tasty.  I'd suggest leaving on the skins and mashing the potatoes when you add in the flour/1/2 and 1/2, or use heavy cream, that's super good.  Oh and add cheese. ;) 

Jalapeno Popper Dip - OMG this is so good.  My husband made it (using jalapeno slices chopped up) and it was soooooo soooo good.  And it lasted forever since it was just for the 2 of us.  Whoooops.

Warm Bean Dip - I've made this for a couple parties now and it is a hit. Looove it.  And added in jalapenos. ;)

Chicken Enchiladas -  I cook the chicken in a crockpot all day and shred it.  Then I take one 14 ounce can of red enchilada sauce and mix it in with a big scoop of sour cream.  I put some on the bottom of a 9 by 13 pan.  Then I take tortilla shells (burrito size usually), spread re fried beans on them, add chicken, cheese on top, sprinkle some sauce and roll them up.  Top with the rest of the sour cream/red sauce and cover in cheese.  Bake at 350 for 20 minutes.  DELICIOUS.

Homemade Meatballs & Sauce -  The hubs followed The Pioneer Woman's recipe for the meatballs and then we turned it into sub sandwiches for one meal and spaghetti and meatballs for another two days! Hubs even had it for lunch another! Sooooo tasty!

Bacon Wrapped Pork Tenderloin -  OMG this is so good.  We've grilled it and baked it and it is very tasty!!

Chicken Tortilla Soup - I cooked the chicken in a slow cooker all day with chicken broth/water/hot salsa and then shredded it. Then I used 2/3 cup of the strained liquid from the chicken to mix in with the soup in place of 2/3 cup of chicken broth. It was deliciousssssssssssss. OMG so good. I made biscuits with it. Yuum.

•1/4 cup butter OR margarine
•1/4 cup all-purpose flour
•3 cups chicken broth
•1 cup milk
•8 oz. Velveeta  – cubed
•10 oz. can diced tomatoes and chilies
•2 cups cooked, shredded chicken
•1 1/2 tsp. cumin
•1 1/2 tsp. chili powder
•salt and pepper – to taste
•shredded cheese

1.-In a pot, melt butter over medium heat. Stir in flour and cook, stirring often, for 3 minutes.
2.-Slowly whisk in small amounts of chicken broth at a time, then whisk in milk.
3.-Reduce heat to low and stir in Velveeta cubes; stir until melted.
4.-Stir in diced tomatoes and chilies, chicken, and spices

I found this from some site and I apparently don't have the link, so if it is yours let me know and I will link to you! Delicious!!

What were the yummy things you made this year? Have you made any of these?

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Confessions of a Failed Southern Lady

OMG.  This book CRACKED ME UP. Florence King wrote this semi-autbiography about growing up with one crazy ass family and her exploration with which sex she wanted to be with.  We read it for our December Books & Bars pick which we will discuss next week, but it was basically decided upon because of the back of the book description, "no matter which sex I went to bed with, I never smoked on the street."  Bahahaha.

Her Granny is crazy obsessed with turning her into a 'lady' since her mother is so not a lady, she curses! A lot.  In the 1950s.  Her dad is a Brit who is very smart but very weird.  It is by far a very weird living situation and with all of her Granny's attempts to turn Florence into a feminine lady, Granny is soooo not feminine and ladylike!  She is obsessed about talking about periods and blood and people going crazy and well just anything else that I would think normal people would think are UNLADYLIKE.

Basically, her Granny is a hoot and Florence is hysterical.

Florence has a hatred for 'malkins.'  Which is basically normal conventional women who want plain normal basic things and don't think off the cuff.  She LOATHES them.  The way she writes it is sometimes easy to forget this was someones life and it really happened.  She is just freaking hilarious and I can't even properly document it because it just needs to be read. 

It could possibly offend some people with its language, but it's nothing that you haven't heard before and the sex moments are not anything that hasn't been shown on TV!

There were a few moments when I could totally hear my grandma's voice in some of the comments, especially about NOT smoking on the street.

Oh my, it's hilarious.  You should read it!

What is the funniest book you've read recently?

Friday, December 28, 2012

We Are All Welcome Here -- Final Discussion

Happy Friday!

I have a jumble of feelings about this book.  Overall, I liked it.  It's a nice story, but I think it was trying to cover too many topics.  It would have been awesome if it stayed on Diana/Paige and the civil rights stuff with Peacie and LaRue or if it did Diana/Paige and the Elvis angle more in depth.  I think with all the different angles it had it didn't fully do the side stories justice.  I would love to read something else by her in 2013.

1. Why do you think Diana likes to play with Suralee

2. What do you make of Dell’s courtship of Paige? Were you surprised by his treatment of her? Disappointed? How do you think Diana feels about their relationship, both while it is happening and once it is over?

3. Berg chooses interesting and appropriate names for a few of her characters, such as Peacie. Do these monikers enrich the characters, in your opinion? Do any other names stand out for you? Why?

4. At the end of the novel, Diana tells us that she says a prayer every night, and that she always thanks her mother. Diana adds, “I tell her I’m fine. I say I’m happy. I say she was right.” What do you think she means? What was Paige right about?

5. If you could ask Elizabeth Berg a question, what would you ask?

6. Overall, what were your thoughts on the book?

I am a complete dope and December got away from me.  I did not post a suggestion post or do a poll.  However, I did send out a tweet to those who normally participate and we will be reading Those Who Save us by Jenna Blum.

Info: For fifty years, Anna Schlemmer has refused to talk about her life in Germany during World War II. Her daughter, Trudy, was only three when she and her mother were liberated by an American soldier and went to live with him in Minnesota. Trudy's sole evidence of the past is an old photograph: a family portrait showing Anna, Trudy, and a Nazi officer, the Obersturmfuhrer of Buchenwald.

Driven by the guilt of her heritage, Trudy, now a professor of German history, begins investigating the past and finally unearths the dramatic and heartbreaking truth of her mother's life.

Combining a passionate, doomed love story, a vivid evocation of life during the war, and a poignant mother/daughter drama, Those Who Save Us is a profound exploration of what we endure to survive and the legacy of shame.

We will have two discussions, the first over the first half  on January 11th and the rest/whole book on January 25th!

Thanks for participating in book club in 2012! ;)

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Best Books of 2012

I've read a decent amount this year.  Not the most I've ever read, but not the least either.  I hate to post this before the actual end of the year, but I figure it will be okay to leave off a great read or two if I polish them off in the next few days. ;)

The Violets of March – Sarah Jio: A heartbroken woman stumbles upon a diary and steps into the life of its anonymous author.  Beautiful story.

Blindsighted – Karin Slaughter: A small Georgia town erupts in panic when a young college professor is found brutally mutilated in the local diner. But it's only when town pediatrician and coroner Sara Linton does the autopsy that the full extent of the killer's twisted work becomes clear 

Winter Garden – Kristin Hannah: illuminates the intricate mother-daughter bond and explores the enduring links between the present and the past.

Sarah’s Key – Tatiana de Rosnay: Paris, July 1942: Sarah, a ten year-old girl, is brutally arrested with her family by the French police in the Vel' d'Hiv' roundup, but not before she locks her younger brother in a cupboard in the family's apartment, thinking that she will be back within a few hours.

Still Alice – Lisa Genova: Alice Howland - Harvard professor, gifted researcher and lecturer, wife, and mother of three grown children - sets out for a run and soon realizes she has no idea how to find her way home. She has taken the route for years, but nothing looks familiar. She is utterly lost. Medical consults reveal early-onset Alzheimer's.

Looking for Alaska – John Green:  Miles "Pudge" Halter's whole existence has been one big nonevent, and his obsession with famous last words has only made him crave the "Great Perhaps" (François Rabelais, poet) even more. Then he heads off to the sometimes crazy, possibly unstable, and anything-but-boring world of Culver Creek Boarding School, and his life becomes the opposite of safe.

Prisoner of Tehran – Marina Nehmet:  What would you give up to protect your loved ones? Your life?In her heartbreaking, triumphant, and elegantly written memoir, "Prisoner of Tehran," Marina Nemat tells the heart-pounding story of her life as a young girl in Iran during the early days of Ayatollah Khomeini's brutal Islamic Revolution.

Gone Girl – Gillian Flynn: Marriage can be a real killer. One of the most critically acclaimed suspense writers of our time, New York Times bestseller Gillian Flynn takes that statement to its darkest place in this unputdownable masterpiece about a marriage gone terribly, terribly wrong.

The Faith Club – Ranya Lidlby, Suzanne Oliver and Priscilla Warren: Welcome to the Faith Club. We're three mothers from three faiths -- Islam, Christianity, and Judaism -- who got together to write a picture book for our children that would highlight the connections between our religions. But no sooner had we started talking about our beliefs and how to explain them to our children than our differences led to misunderstandings.

We Are All Welcome Here - Elizabeth Berg: features three women, each struggling against overwhelming odds for her own kind of freedom.

Interesting facts: 6 of these were group reads that we did on the blog, 4 of these were Books & Bar picks, 6 were recommended by people I either met on the Internet or blogs and 1 I had no interest in picking up, but ended up liking a lot.

What were your best reads of 2012? Have you read any of these?

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Lock and Key

I was on a YA kick about 2/3 years ago? I can't even remember now, but in that time frame, I read a few books by Sarah Dessen and I really enjoyed them.  So when I was at the library last month, I picked up another one of hers to read and I was NOT disappointed.

Ruby's mother left her alone in the yellow house they were currently residing in and fortunately/unfortunately for Ruby, it only took social services 2/3 months before they uncovered the 17 year old living alone.  She is sent to live with her older sister, Cora, whom she hasn't seen in 10 years, since the her older sister left for college and never contacted her again. 

There are a few hiccups for the two sisters but they are mainly buffered by Cora's husband, Jamie, who is pretty cool and Ruby really likes.  Of course there are ups and downs with the new living arrangement, as Ruby tries to run away on the very first night she is staying with them! She begrudgingly befriends the next door neighbor Nate and in doing so, learns more about herself and friendship than she's ever known before.

I liked the character of Ruby because she was NOT written as a stupid / stereotypical girl teenager that I've read in so many other YA books.  She is a strong real character with real life situations and handles them in real life 17 year old ways.  It also handles the way her life drastically changes in an a way that I think is realistic.  Of course, it could be said that Ruby is written in a better light than some of her older friends, but it is her story to tell.

I also enjoyed the project that Ruby's new Literature gave them that required Ruby to find out what family means.  She must define it herself and interview others to find out what it means to them.  It helps her growth and guides her decision making as the book progresses,

Have you read a book by Sarah Dessen? Which is your favorite?

Friday, December 21, 2012

The Next Accident

Lisa Gardner is an author that I was meaning to check out this year and I have.  The last couple I was not impressed with, but were her earlier works.  This one was a bit further in and I really enjoyed it.  I did miss a book in the FBI Profiler Series, but it really didn't phase me since the first book I'd read in this series actually happened after this book, so I already knew the relationship between Pierce and Rainie. 

FBI Agent Pierce Quincy is haunted by his daughter's death in a drunk-driving accident. Pierce knew about his daughter's problem with alcohol, and about her loneliness. And so, he is sure, did the man who killed her. Rainie Conner is an ex-cop with a past overshadowed by violence. She was once involved with Pierce in a harrowing case that brought them together personally and professionally. Then, he came to her rescue. Now it is time for her to help him. This killer is different. He has an insatiable hunger for revenge - and for fear. He isn't satisfied with taking his victims' lives - he wants to get inside their minds and strip them of every defence. And his target is Quincy's surviving daughter. Rainie believes that the only way to stop him is to put herself directly into the killer's murderous path and herself become - the next accident.

The book kept me on my toes and there is the obvious answer that isn't so obvious and the hmm maybe answer and the BOOOM answer if you are paying attention.  I like books like that. ;)  There isn't anything really graphic and the story line kept me intrigued. 

I'd definitely recommend this one for people who like who dunnits that go at a quick pace. ;)

What author do you recommend to people who like fast paced books?

Sunday, December 16, 2012

This Week's Menu

We are obsessed with food in this house.  And I like a good plan.  Especially, since I have about 20-30 minutes to prepare a meal before my child goes crazy and acts like we are starving her each evening after we get home from work. I'm pretty excited for this week.

Sunday - Homemade meatballs on day old Jimmy John's bread ( we LOVE day old JJ's bread).  Seriously, it is amazing and cheap! We've made garlic bread with it, Philly steak and cheese sandwiches and tonight - meatball sandwiches!

Monday - Spaghetti with leftover homemade meatballs and JJ's bread made into garlic bread.

Tuesday - Out to Bennigans to enjoy their $1 kid's meal and a visit with Santa ;)

Wednesday - Baked Chicken Quesadillas (using chicken leftover from our whole chicken (we froze it!) that we cooked last weekend and made homemade stock and chicken and dumplings!

Thursday - Skillet Chicken Parmesan (THIS IS AMAZING! We made it a couple weeks ago and yumm)

Friday - Beef Enchiladas

Saturday -  leftovers

Sunday - Christmas Party

I get a slight thrill out of re purposing food/using leftovers to make something different.  Also, I'm liking our family grocery shopping trips we've had the last couple of weeks and definitely buying everything on sale/stocking up and just restocking our basic needs.  We saved about 50 bucks off of what we'd been spending in just being a little more smart with our purchases.

What's for dinner at your house? Any recipe you think we should try out? Where do you get your food inspiration?

Friday, December 14, 2012

We Are All Welcome Here - Discussion 1


I am really liking the book so far.  Every time I've sat down to read I am immediately engrossed.  My first thoughts: Diana is an immature brat, her mother is a saint, Peacie is awesome, Suralee is trouble and they are so getting into trouble.

1. At the end of the Prologue, speaking about her mother and herself, Diana reflects: “[Elvis] had a kind of great luck and then terrible tragedy. For us, it was the opposite.” What do you think she means by this?

2. How does Paige compensate for her disabilities and serve as a strong parental figure for her daughter? Do you think Diana is forced to grow up a bit faster than other kids her age because of her mother’s condition? Why or why not?

3. Despite skepticism from the medical community, Paige Dunn gives birth to her daughter, Diana, in an iron lung, and they both survive. Even more amazingly, Paige is determined to raise Diana despite her condition. What do you think about Paige’s decision to keep her baby? Do you support her?

4.  Elizabeth Berg includes an Author’s Note at the beginning of the book, informing us that this work of fiction is a bit different from her other novels. What did you think of this choice before reading Berg’s story?

5. What other fictional female character would you compare to Diana? Peacie?

Thanks for participating! Hope you all are enjoying the book!

Monday, December 10, 2012

On The Menu This Week

We are embracing the colder weather and the Food Network shows and meal planning a bit better these days.  Oh, and taking full advantage of the various local stores ads!

Sunday - Chicken & Dumplings (Thank you, Pioneer Woman! )

Monday - leftovers

Tuesday - Grilled Steak, Mashed Potatoes, Rolls and Pea

Wednesday - Crockpot Potato Soup and leftover rolls

Thursday - leftovers

Friday - out for a Christmas party

Saturday - Baked Chicken Quesadillas w/ chips and salsa

What's on your menu this week?

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Doing Better Week 1 Recap

Last weekend I got a kick in the pants and realized I needed to move my body more.  And drink more water.  And make better food choices.  So I re-started.  Here is how I did.  (Somewhat embarrassing results coming...)

Sunday -   Brisk five-minute warm up walk. Then alternate 60 seconds of jogging and 90 seconds of walking for a total of 20 minutes.

Monday - Brisk five-minute warm up walk. Then alternate 90 seconds of jogging and two minutes of walking for a total of 20 minutes.

Tuesday - 1.5 mile walk

Wednesday - 50 minute leisurely walk around the mall (yes, I was a mall walker with a stroller!)

Thursday - off

Friday - off

Saturday - off

The good news? I lost 3 pounds.  That is sad.  I also drank more water Mon-Wed than I have recently, but then Thursday - Saturday the water drinking went down hill.  I made better food choices and that helped a lot too.  I originally planned for more working out but, life got in the way.  So, we start again this week. 

My goals for this week? Go faster/harder on the running and make it at least 5 days of movement!

I also confess to liking the treadmill.  I know I go longer on a treadmill than if I were to venture out on the streets by myself.

How did you do this week?

Thursday, December 6, 2012

The Other Daughter by Lisa Gardner

Melanie Stokes was found in an empty Boston hospital room at the age of 9 with no memory of her life before then, or knowledge of her name.  She was adopted by Dr. Harper Stokes and his wife Patricia who were still reeling over the loss of their daughter Meagan 5 years earlier.

Flash forward to the present and Melanie is accosted by a report Larry Digger who claims she is the daughter of the serial killer who killed the Stokes's first daughter. DUN DUN DUN....

And then you need to relax our mind and forget that you will question the rest. ;)  Or maybe it is just me.

The story got completely crazy and out of control and I predicted half of it but it was mindless and a quick read.

I just can't really handle the: I smelled him and now I love him / I must protect the girl / let's become crazy close fast / Let's break the laws and/or rules of my job because I just met you and OMG I LOVE YOU / Or alllll the people conspire to be bad people and well you get the hint...

But in the end, I did read it and it did keep my attention and I only rolled my eyes a couple times. ;)

I also used to read stuff like this all the time between the ages of 12-21 haha

What book have you read recently that you'd recommend?

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Currently Reading...

For the first time in awhile I am juggling books.  Probably a bit crazy on my part, but such is the life of a multi-tasking reader.

The first one, The Other Daughter by Lisa Gardner is a breeze to read and is part of her FBI Profiler Series.  I like it fine, but I've found a few errors and I am a bit over the OMG I JUST MET YOU BUT I HAVE AN INSANE ATTRACTION TO YOU AND LETS MAKE OUT, BUT NO, IT WONT BE RIGHT, WE MUST WAIT, OR I WILL HATE MYSELF, SAAAAVE ME STRONG MAN FROM MY STUBBORN WOMANLY WAYS, BUT OH WAIT, YOU ARE A STUBBORN MALE AND WE MUST FIGHT AND LIE AND OMG IT'S THE END AND WE ARE HAPPILY EVER AFTER.  Okay, so I'm not done and I don't know if they will be happily ever after, but I bet they will be

The Blue Bedroom and Other Short Stories, is one that I picked off my giant To-Read Shelf this weekend in the basement.  I've picked it up off and on as I go down to use the treadmill.  Yes, I read while I warm up.  And I must say, it's not really striking me as a must read because I keep putting it down before my warm-up is over.  I may need to concentrate more on it.

We are All Welcome Here by Elizabeth Berg, I haven't technically started.  However, it is sitting next to my chair at all times.  It will be started for REAL as soon as The Other Daughter is over, probably before.  But for REALS when it is done and I CANNOT WAIT.

I need to order Confessions of a Failed Southern Lady for our Books and Bars pick!  We just read The Faith Club and I would highly recommend it.  It is a very interesting read about three moms.  Jewish, Muslim and Christian who get together to write a book for children after 9/11 and end up writing an adult book about their journey in religious stereotypes, finding their own place and how people could be more tolerant.  Good good good read.

What are you reading?

Saturday, December 1, 2012

What I Will Be Doing This Week

Working Out.

A lot.  And the next week, and the week after and so on and so on.

I've made a 9 week plan and it must be done.  I don't even want to admit how much weight I've  gained since school started.  Ugh.  Must move body.  Must make better food choices.

I'm pretty disgusted with myself and there isn't much I can do with what I've done, but I can do something about tomorrow. So, I shall.  No excuses.  Yell at me if I try to back out of working out on twitter.