The Outlaw Life

running, reading, blogging, loving

Some Changes Here At Chez Blog

Got y’alls attention? Good. (really, I just really wanted to use this GIF, which I find bot hilarious and appropo)! Hey guys! lol. I’m not entirely sure how to go about writing this post! You see, I haven’t been doing the book blogging thing here at this site for all that long (although it’s been a doozy of a journey, I promise you!) but I’ve already decided it’s time for a bit of a change! Nothing major – more of an expansion really. You see, when I first started my forays in to blogging as a hobby, the only world I really knew about was the world of book blogging – I mean, it makes sense, being that I was an English major and looking for book recommendations. Since then, however, I’ve come to the realization that there are entire universes of blogs out there that exist on a whole number of subjects. And it’s just starting to feel a bit…closed off to only be writing around books on this blog when, in order to be true to myself, I have to admit that there are dozens of other things and passions that I engage in during the day!

So, what’s the big news, you ask?! Well, if you haven’t quite figured it out based on the earlier paragraph, I’m delighted to bring you the newly titled blog

THE OUTLAW LIFE!

Now, it’s the same site that you’ve been seeing -the book reviews and all of that should still be there, all shiny and pretty below! But it’s a new web address, new blog title, and about to be a whole slew of new content here on the blog! I don’t make any promises about anything changing as far as how often I post or how long my posts are, but I can tell you that in addition to book reviews, I’ll also be trying to post recipes I run across, workouts that are bad ass, and my journey through setting up a healthy life, growing a healthy family, and just growing in to the person that I’m learning my way to being (if that makes sense). I hope you guys come along for the ride – I’m really excited to get started sharing this other part of my life with you guys! As always, please feel free to email me with thoughts, questions, concerns…anything on your mind!

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The Literary Kitchen

Well, y’all, spring is here. I know, I know, it’s not, like, HERE here, but it’s totally here! It’s March! I don’t even care that there is snow on the ground, like, past my ankles. I don’t care that I wouldn’t wear a skirt without leggings no matter how much you paid me, and that my furry fake Ugg boots are about to need retirement for the season. It’s still spring, and with spring comes food. And farmers markets. And flowers. And finally getting to feel like, you know, a human again – a human who can touch grass and feel the wind without yelling obscenities and running for the nearest indoor location. Mostly, though, I know its spring because I’m getting that urge I get every spring: to read books about cooking, more specifically books about cooking by people who can cook WAY better than I can. In other, words, friends, this post is all about two words: Book. List.

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For the record, none of these book I’ve read yet. They are all just the ones that I’ve been book-stalking on Goodreads, trying to track down a copy (for free) with as little wait as possible (kind of a bummer at my library, which I swear only orders ONE COPY OF LIKE EVERYTHING – side rant: more than two people want to read Gone, Girl at any given point in time, alright?! Just accept it and ORDER MORE!). I’ve went ahead and given you guys the Goodreads summary, in case you don’t trust a famous name a pretty cover as much as I do when it comes to books about food. I tried to find a range of books covering famous cooks, people doing cool food challenges – I’m a TOTAL sucker for anything having the format of “do _____ for a year” – and books about food history, culture, or politics. Or all of the above. With that said, grab a piece of pie and some whiskey (what, is that not a thing you just, like, have around all the time?) and enjoy the Literary Kitchen Book List of 2013, or Some Such Title.

139220In a fast-paced, candid narrative, Buford describes the frenetic experience of working in Babbo’s kitchen: the trials and errors (and more errors), humiliations and hopes, disappointments and triumphs as he worked his way up the ladder from slave to cook. He talks about his relationships with his kitchen colleagues and with the larger-than-life, hard-living Batali, whose story he learns as their friendship grows through (and sometimes despite) kitchen encounters and after-work all-nighters.

 

 

164428In the winter of 1996, Michael Ruhlman donned hounds-tooth-check pants and a chef’s jacket and entered the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, New York, to learn the art of cooking. His vivid and energetic record of that experience, The Making of a Chef, takes us to the heart of this food-knowledge mecca. Here we meet a coterie of talented chefs, an astonishing and driven breed. Ruhlman learns fundamental skills and information about the behavior of food that make cooking anything possible. Ultimately, he propels himself and his readers through a score of kitchens and classrooms, from Asian and American regional cuisines to lunch cookery and even table waiting, in search of the elusive, unnameable elements of great cooking.

 

880773In 2003, Kathleen Flinn, a thirty-six-year-old American living and working in London, returned from vacation to find that her corporate job had been eliminated. Ignoring her mother’s advice that she get another job immediately or “never get hired anywhere ever again,” Flinn instead cleared out her savings and moved to Paris to pursue a dream-a diploma from the famed Le Cordon Bleu.

The Sharper Your Knife, the Less You Cryis the touching and remarkably funny account of Flinn’s transformation as she moves through the school’s intense program and falls deeply in love along the way. Flinn interweaves more than two dozen recipes with a unique look inside Le Cordon Bleu amid battles with demanding chefs, competitive classmates, and her “wretchedly inadequate” French. Flinn offers a vibrant portrait of Paris, one in which the sights and sounds of the city’s street markets and purveyors come alive in rich detail.

8459594Blood, Bones & Butter follows an unconventional journey through the many kitchens Hamilton has inhabited through the years: the rural kitchen of her childhood, where her adored mother stood over the six-burner with an oily wooden spoon in hand; the kitchens of France, Greece, and Turkey, where she was often fed by complete strangers and learned the essence of hospitality; the soulless catering factories that helped pay the rent; Hamilton’s own kitchen at Prune, with its many unexpected challenges; and the kitchen of her Italian mother-in-law, who serves as the link between Hamilton’s idyllic past and her own future family—the result of a difficult and prickly marriage that nonetheless yields rich and lasting dividends.

 

19132Like manufacturing cigarettes or building weapons, making food is very big business. Food companies in 2000 generated nearly $900 billion in sales. They have stakeholders to please, shareholders to satisfy, and government regulations to deal with. It is nevertheless shocking to learn precisely how food companies lobby officials, co-opt experts, and expand sales by marketing to children, members of minority groups, and people in developing countries. We learn that the food industry plays politics as well as or better than other industries, not least because so much of its activity takes place outside the public view…No wonder most of us are thoroughly confused about what to eat to stay healthy. An accessible and balanced account, Food Politics will forever change the way we respond to food industry marketing practices. By explaining how much the food industry influences government nutrition policies and how cleverly it links its interests to those of nutrition experts, this pathbreaking book helps us understand more clearly than ever before what we eat and why.

421393 It wouldn’t be easy. Stepping outside the industrial food system, Smith and MacKinnon found themselves relying on World War II–era cookbooks and maverick farmers who refused to play by the rules of a global economy. What began as a struggle slowly transformed into one of the deepest pleasures of their lives. For the first time they felt connected to the people and the places that sustain them. For Smith and MacKinnon, the 100-mile diet became a journey whose destination was, simply, home. From the satisfaction of pulling their own crop of garlic out of the earth to pitched battles over canning tomatoes, Plenty is about eating locally and thinking globally.  The authors’ food-focused experiment questions globalization, monoculture, the oil economy, environmental collapse, and the tattering threads of community. Thought-provoking and inspiring, Plenty offers more than a way of eating. In the end, it’s a new way of looking at the world.

40136Bestselling chef and No Reservations host Anthony Bourdain has never been one to pull punches. In The Nasty Bits, he serves up a well-seasoned hellbroth of candid, often outrageous stories from his worldwide misadventures. Whether scrounging for eel in the backstreets of Hanoi, revealing what you didn’t want to know about the more unglamorous aspects of making television, calling for the head of raw food activist Woody Harrelson, or confessing to lobster-killing guilt, Bourdain is as entertaining as ever. Bringing together the best of his previously uncollected nonfiction–and including new, never-before-published material–The Nasty Bits is a rude, funny, brutal and passionate stew for fans and the uninitiated alike.

 

6164628For anyone who has ever grown herbs on their windowsill, tomatoes on their fire escape, or obsessed over the offerings at the local farmers’ market, Carpenter’s story will capture your heart. And if you’ve ever considered leaving it all behind to become a farmer outside the city limits, or looked at the abandoned lot next door with a gleam in your eye, consider this both a cautionary tale and a full-throated call to action. Farm City is an unforgettably charming memoir, full of hilarious moments, fascinating farmers’ tips, and a great deal of heart. It is also a moving meditation on urban life versus the natural world and what we have given up to live the way we do.

 

835313Uncommon Grounds tells the story of coffee from its discovery on a hill in Abyssinia to its role in intrigue in the American colonies to its rise as a national consumer product in the twentieth century and its rediscovery with the advent of Starbucks at the end of the century. A panoramic epic, Uncommon Grounds uses coffee production, trade, and consumption as a window through which to view broad historical themes: the clash and blending of cultures, the rise of marketing and the “national brand,” assembly line mass production, and urbanization. Coffeehouses have provided places to plan revolutions, write poetry, do business, and meet friends. The coffee industry has dominated and molded the economy, politics, and social structure of entire countries. Mark Pendergrast introduces the reader to an eccentric cast of characters, all of them with a passion for the golden bean. Uncommon Grounds is nothing less than a coffee-flavored history of the world.

11550559 After graduating from Le Cordon Bleu in Paris, writer Kathleen Flinn returned with no idea what to do next, until one day at a supermarket she watched a woman loading her cart with ultraprocessed foods. Flinn’s “chefternal” instinct kicked in: she persuaded the stranger to reload with fresh foods, offering her simple recipes for healthy, easy meals.

The Kitchen Counter Cooking School includes practical, healthy tips that boost readers’ culinary self-confidence, and strategies to get the most from their grocery dollar, and simple recipes that get readers cooking. (And yes, this is the same Kathleen Flinn who wrote one of the above books!)

 

So, I have to ask – what’s your ‘spring thing’? I know everyone has one… 🙂

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Literary Collywobbles and Readerish Bits: Books Too Pretty to Read

So, I have this book. It didn’t cost a lot of money; its not particularly old, or valuable, or fragile. I don’t even know for sure that I’m the one that bought it – it’s entirely possible that it’s one of the few my husband brought along that manage to survive the Great Move-In Cull of 20-whatever it was. Some of you (probably a lot of you, lets not lie) may even have the same book. Ready to know what it is?

arabian nightsThis is the leather-bound, gilt-edged, ribbon-bookmarked Barnes and Noble volume of The Arabian Nights translated, as you can probably read, by Sir Richard Burton. And it is even more beautiful in person – those lighter blues and golds are inlaid, and it just feels…weighty to hold. And I’ve wanted to read the collection for quite some time – I’ve heard The Arabian Nights described by some professors as the ultimate book about books, the grand ode to stories – but here’s the kicker. I never have. Every time I get the urge to read the book, I sit down, pull this lovely, weighty volume onto my lap and… that’s it. It just can’t seem to get in to reading from the leatherback collection. And this isn’t the only book it happens with. We have some really lovely editions (also leather bound from Barnes and Noble) of Jules Verne, Ray Bradbury(!!), the Little House books, even The Divine Comedy. And I haven’t read a one. And neither has my husband. And it’s not from lack of want – but then why!

I think I figured it out. And I really did spend quite a bit of time thinking about it recently (since I had to do some major book rearranging in order to get some long-stored favorites out of the back closet), and I’ve come to the conclusion that some books are just too nice to read. I realize that this isn’t exactly new news for a lot of people. There are, of course, people out there who collect some of the nicest volumes on Earth just to stick them on a shelf to look at because they’re too valuable and/or too fragile to interact with the common world. But part of me doesn’t wonder if that’s a bit wrong?

ray bradbury

Books are meant to be read, in the ways that plays are meant to be seen and music is meant to be heard. And I, really, don’t care if you have someone read your book to you on a CD, read it in a pixelated form on a tiny screen, or lug thousands of dead trees around with you from apartment to apartment. It’s the story and the reading that matter. But when we take books and make them non-functional art, we begin to do them a disservice. The beautiful blue edition that made my husband and I salivate isn’t actually doing me any good by just sitting there on the bottom of a stack of other leather bound volumes I’ve never read. But then part of me thinks that, maybe just maybe, the book is the point. Owning it. Having it as an option to read. After all, an unread book is still a favorite potential book, right? But if the book isn’t conducive to ever getting around to reading – is it worth having just because it’s pretty and fun to run my hands over and look at the pictures of? If I’d be more like to read the $1.00 paperback version I saw at a used bookshop, does that make it more valuable than the $20.00 volume I now own?

I don’t have any answers. I’d love to know what you think – if you own any books that are just to pretty (or old? or valuable? or that you’re just too protective over) to sit down with and really read – or if maybe I’m just thinking too hard, in this time of limited funds, about the books I spent money on that I haven’t read yet. Guilty as charged.

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A Place Called Wonderland

Only, it’s not spelled Wonderland. It’s One-derland, and it’s kind of a big deal.

I’m sure you guys know the story. My story. I’ve heard it from so many others – overweight as a kid, ostracized, left alone and sad and driven to food (and books) because I was alone and sad. Even when I hit late junior high and high school, when I got friends, got involved in theater, and figured out how to turn my love of books in to a life path (HELLO, English major!), I still ate because I felt sad and alone. Only not alone – lonely. Some big girls out there can back me up on this – when you feel like you’re the co-star, like your best friends are more thin, beautiful, popular, and loveable than you, suddenly, however much you love them, you still feel lonely. And I was sad because I didn’t look like everyone else, and I knew it and they knew it, and we were just all being too polite to directly talk about it. Unless I made the joke, then it was fine – and that happened a lot. So much so that that became my defense method – point it out, make fun of myself, and beat them to the quick. But I was a smart kid, and I knew that eating a bagel and nacho cheese every day for lunch (unless it was pizza day, of course) and working out a couple times a month wasn’t going to fix the problem. It was too hard to do the other stuff, though, so I stayed fat and sad.

In college I was still fat, but I was less sad. More people who loved me, more ways to express myself, a universe of stuff to learn and brilliant people to teach it to me – I loved college. I also started to attempt to think about working out more. And then I moved off campus, got off the eating plan, didn’t want to drive to the gym, and I got gross. 250 pounds of a person I had no interest in looking at anymore. I don’t know, I don’t think I can put an exact date on it. It was right around the time I read Eating Animals by Jonathan Safran Foer and The Omnivore’s Dilemma by Michael Pollan; and I was watching movies on the true cost of food – on our bodies, our planet, or future. I realized that the food I was eating tasted SO DAMN GOOD because someone wanted it to taste that way. And it IS good! But the other stuff is better – not only for my body, but for my wallet, my planet, and being a mom someday. So I did all the stuff I knew the whole time I was already supposed to be doing. I started the Couch to 5k program. I switched to whole wheat, learned to eat oatmeal, stopped hating vegetables (or at least found ways to hide them in stuff), and realized that a diet of McDonalds and stuff from the freezer just wasn’t going to cut it.

And today at the gym a weighed in. At 195. I didn’t have to move that huge sliding block to the 200 mark just to start. And it’s FUCKING amazing. I’m sure you can imagine. Hopefully – it’s accomplishing a goal and the rush that comes with it. Not that I’m accomplished. But I’m closer. WAY closer. And that’s something. Something awesome.

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OHEMGEE THIS IS A THING!!!

boy meets world

I don’t know if you know this, but as a quintessential child of the 90s, Boy Meets World basically makes the list of the most-influential-pop-culture on my young life. I mean, COME ON! Eric Matthews, i.e. Mr. Plays-With-Squirrels? Young Topanga, with that HORRIBLE crimped hair? I grew up with these people, you know? So you can keep your Seinfeld‘s and your South Parks and any of your other pop culture bastions – BOY MEETS WORLD 4 EVA (so says my slap-braceleted, overalls-wearing, Spice-Girls listening young self).

There is a point to all this. Seeing as how I love the awesome-sauce that is a 30 minute shot of BMW (the lessons of Full House with a quarter of the sap and all the drool-worthiness of Rider Strong), you can imagine how much I PLOTZED with I heard that yes, ladies and gents, THIS IS A THING: Cory and Topanga 4-ever: Ben Savage and Danielle Fishel set to return to Disney ‘Boy Meets World’ spinoff! I’m sure many of you already know that this is happening. Maybe you don’t. I’d heard rumors, and brushed them off in the way I do when I hear people talk about a 4th season of Veronica Mars or that maybe they’ll renew Freaks and Geeks – never going to happen. But, my pretties, THIS IS HAPPENING. Oh yes, this is happening. And, from what the article says of Daniel Fishel’s tweets, pretty much the whole cast is coming back – Rider Strong and Will Fridel included (the best cast members, let’s be honest!)

In honor of basically the most monumental day in pop culture (okay, not really, but still a pretty cool one for us 90s kids), here are my Top 5 Favorite Boy Meets Word Moments of All Time:
1.) The episode where Topanga meets that ADORABLE guy at the art museum and he invites her to come to Paris (1.) it’s Jonathan Jackson, and he’s adorable 2.) HE INVITED YOU TO PARIS! come on!):

2.) The scene where Sean sees Mr. Turner for the first time since Mr. Turner’s motorcycle accident (I LOVE YOU RIDER STRONG, my 11 year old self will yell for all time):

http://http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xuTU8sTynQM

3.) That one time when Cory read a poem and Angela heard it, only it was Sean’s poem and BOY WAS HE MAD:

http://http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nevwnJYvPzM

4.) Eric Matthews is Mr. Plays-With-Squirrels. This is quite possibly going on record as one of the funniest moments in all of TV:

http://http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cS903AfgOUo

5.) Because Cory and Topanga breaking up basically wrecked an entire week in my childhood:

Also, you should check out this place. They’ve got a pretty good video clip list, too. And I *heart* video clip lists.

PS: I realize this post is over the top, silly, and self indulgent. It doesn’t bother me. It shouldn’t bother you. Watch the clips again. They’re awesome-sauce.

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Thoughts from a Future YA Librarian

Kansas City Public Library

“The library is the worst group of people ever assembled in history. They are mean, conniving & rude and extremely well read…” -Leslie Knope

So, I don’t know if I’ve mentioned it much (or ever, for that matter) here on the ole’ blog, but one of my top Castle-in-the-Clouds dreams in life is to be a lead children’s and young adult librarian in a public librarian setting. I mean, it’s books, and it’s serving the public, and it’s search strategies and information discovery and all kinds of things that I love to picture myself doing one day (including looking like Rachel Weiss in The Mummy, where she legit played a librarian). Which is why, when I’m not chatting it up with all you lovely blog folks, or reading the books and writing the stories, I’m usually studying for one of my Master’s in Library and Information Sciences degree: on the plate this semester? Introduction to Management (blergh) and Resources for Children and Young Readers (a RESOUNDING yay!), which is the class that is basically responsible for this entire post.

The very first chapter of our textbook for my Resources class discusses and makes a very important distinction between a reader who is engaged and a disengaged reader. A reader who is disengaged doesn’t absorb material, reflect on the activity, or gain the same ground that an engaged reader would given the same time and material. And one of the primary ways to enable someone to disengage from the material at hand? To assign it to them, or to provide them with some kind of external catalyst. The same kind of results can be seen when we enable disengaging by making reading too technical, from turning a story into a vehicle for a ‘theme’ or ‘simile’ or ‘voice’ or one of the thousands of other qualities that we ask students to parse their reading material for. So, I read all that and my thoughts went like this:

1.) Duh. Assigned reading blows. Any book that’s assigned is immediately one I don’t want to read. Until it’s not assigned. Then it’s amazing.

2.) Oh. My. God. Maybe this explains why I serially DNF – I parse, I disengage, and then I toss the book and say ‘peace’, blaming the book.

And then it all made sense.

grumpy catGrumpy Cat hates assigned books, too.

SO SO SO many times I seem to not be able to stop my brain from reading in ‘student’ mode, from looking for things like extended metaphors and Tragic Flaws and foreshadowing and then I highlight and I make a note and…that’s it. It’s one the books I don’t do those things to that I love, the ones that I read and think “where would I start highlighting that? It’s all too beautiful to pick a start and stop point” that end up making their way here, in to my reading journal, and in to the long term memory I’m creating of my ‘reading experience’. So I’m going to labor to stop doing this, but then I wondered: how could I have stopped from becoming this way?

Maybe others had a different school experience? If so, I invite you guys to leave a comment telling me how it was for you! But for me, I was the kid that did my homework, so I read the books and did the dialectical journals and invented the ‘discussion questions’ I didn’t care to discuss – and then spent my hours at Borders with friends, discussing books that had nothing to do with class. So I don’t have an answer as to how we do stop this from happening, but I can’t help thinking that, in our efforts to educate our children, we’re turning them in to adults who can’t necessarily see the big picture, who can’t see the story for the trees. Is there a way to still teach a child about metaphor and Tragic Flaws without making them forget that what they hold in their hands are stories – are magic? Are the possibility to do and see and be and experience differently? I’m hoping to do find a way to do that one day, and I hope I’m not the only one, but still: I worry a bit. Have we taken the story out of our stories? Thoughts?

PS: That library in the top picture? The Kansas City Public Library – my home library. Sometimes, I really do like where I live.

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[16] Start Here: Read Your Way into 25 Amazing Authors

Start Here

I first saw this book advertised earlier this week on the bottom of Bookriot’s RSS feed, and I basically immediately went to Amazon and, clicky-clicky, had the book in my possession minutes later. And, yet again, I’m SO THANKFUL for that “Buy it Now!” button, because foe $2.99 I’ve got 25 succinct but loving introductions for 25 authors – some of whom I’ve never heard of, and some of whom I’ve been looking forward to breaking in to very soon (probably even sooner now, if we’re being honest). Some of my favorite Book Riot contributors/bloggers contributed chapters (a million cheers for Amanda Nelson and Kit Steinkellner!) and the whole thing is edited by Jeff O’Neal and Rebecca Joines Schinsky, the genius minds behind Book Riot. The whole things was just really lovely, because it was kind of like looking in to 25 different windows while all these contributors happen to be having loving conversations about some of their favorite authors.

The book covers a really nice range of genres, styles, and time periods (as well as ‘classical’ and ‘commercial’ authors, if that’s a distinction you make a lot in your mind – don’t worry, I won’t judge you for it) and I marked titles by Italo Calvino, Philip K. Dick. E.M. Forster, John Irving, Stephen King, Cormac McCarthy, Herman Melville, Arthur Miller, Alice Munro, Edgar Allen Poe, Richard Russo, and Zadie Smith – and that’s not even half of the chapters that are available to pluck titles from! This may not be the kind of book that other people will sit down and read cover to cover, but I get kind of a huge literary crush on books about books, and it’s especially thrilling to see the voices of people you “know” (which, as we all know, really means “have read for years via the internet”) in print telling you to go read great books. And, regardless of how many sessions you read it in, it’s a great book to have on hand, especially for when you have a vague idea of where you’d like to start, reading-wise, and just need a bit more help jumping in to a definitive work!

If there is one thing that I wish the book had done a bit more of, it would be that I wish they had expanded the number of titles recommended for each author – most stuck to a three to four book range, with the occasional extra title thrown in for good measure. For some authors, I totally get this, but for others – especially like Dickens or Stephen King, who JUST WROTE ALL THE BOOKS OH MY GOD ITS SICKENING – I felt like I just would have liked a bit more of a selection, or a bit of a more extended discussion of the diversity of the titles and which might be better for some situations than others (because of length, genre, tone, etc.). But, then again, that’s not really what this book was about, so it’s really just me being kind of a bitch and stomping my feet and yelling

I want it nowBUT I WANT IT NOW!!!!!!

I really did enjoy seeing so many titles and authors I’d read, as well as the dozens I haven’t, and like so many of my Kindle books, I’m pretty sure I’m going to have to get a hard copy of this one as soon as I can!

Rating: Hell yeah!

PS: GO BUY THIS BOOK. YOU WILL NOT REGRET. There. I have unashamedly plugged this book, which no one has asked me to do but which I will do because I think this book was the cats pajamas!

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Happy New Year, My Beauties

Hello, all! Hopefully your New Year dawned bright and clear and lovely, today! The Kansas City area got hit with a good deal of snow yesterday (alright, like three inches, but still) and it turned to ice overnight, making today the perfect day to stay in, stay warm, and get on the All Powerful Interwebs to chat with you fine folks about all the amazing things coming up in 2013 – hopefully!

So, I shared a post with you a bit ago about my desire to read more consciously, and I put forth a list of general categories (gratefully stolen from Maple & a Quill) that I think will help expand some of my reading boundaries in 2013. I’m one of those people that, frustratingly, loves lists in theory, but feels stifled and confined by them in reality, so I’m hoping that having some dedicated categories with otherwise free choice will be a format that works really well for me. You can check out that past post for the full list, but some of the categories I’m most excited about are essay collection, lit studies, history non-fiction, and children’s books. I mean, how to not get excited about that?!

In addition to reading the 52 books off that list, I’m hoping to do a couple other things with my reading life in 2013: I’m hoping to read more globally,wanting to read along with the Tournament of Books and I’m hoping to spend a significant chunk of time with Toni Morrison over the year. Let me explain. No, there is too much – let me sum up:

I read a lot of books by white people, about white people, set in a white, English-speaking world. I’m not proud of this fact. I often like to pretend it isn’t true, and greatly admire those people who seem tapped in to this global reading vein. In a potentially proud effort to correct this nature of my reading life, I’m planning on using this website to explore some geographical and cultural regions that, ashamed to say, I’ve never visited before (meaning that, in addition to the few places I have and enjoy reading about – Latin America, the British Isles, Nigeria and Kenya – I’m also planning on reading literature from China, Japan, Russia, Eastern Europe, the Pacific Islands, other African countries, and pretty much all of South America). I’m not necessarily sure I have overarching goals in terms of something to “get out” of this project, so much as I just want the personal satisfaction of knowing I’ve expanded my reading frontiers.

And then there is the 2013 Tournament of Books, which is an event that I first heard of last year, but came to WAY too late to the table to get involved in. So I kept an eye out for it this year and I think SO MANY of the books look awesome. I’ll most likely be coming out with another post about this before too long, but suffice to say that if you follow the link you’ll find a pretty heady list of the great books that came out in 2012.

Lastly- the Toni Morrison thing. I love Toni Morrison. By which, I mean I love Beloved and The Bluest Eye. Which are the only two I’ve read. But this year, her  book Home came out and I heard lovely things and I’ve realized that I need to do a bit better about reading deeply as well as widely, especially with authors I know I love. Which is why many authors made the list, and will eventually see the light of day with similar projects (John Steinbeck, Louisa May Alcott, Charles Dickens, Neil Gaiman, etc.) but I was just in a mood when this idea came to me, and decided to go with Toni Morrison. Because she is lovely and beautiful and talented beyond words, and the idea of the project makes me quite excited.

That, my blogging darlings, is just a bit of an outline of the amazing things I hope to see happen in 2013, where my reading life is concerned. I have no 2012 summation because, to be honest, I spent pretty much 80% of the year tits-deep in Mr. George R.R. Martin’s Song of Ice and Fire series (but I’m FINALLY on the last available volume, Dance with Dragons, and by God I WILL FINISH SOON), and that would be pretty much the answer for any question asked, good or bad. In fact, that’s the new answer for everything in life: Game. Of. Thrones.

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Auld Lang Syne

Happy New Year, all! To begin 2013 with a bang (having survived the apocalypse and all) I leave you all with the following:

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Cheersies!

PS: As my New Year’s gift to you, may I present my most favorite version of this song EVA. Even though its from a movie that ruined one of my top three favorite TV shows.

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As Giddy As a Drunken Man

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I don’t know what to do!” cried Scrooge, laughing and crying in the same breath; and making a perfect Laocoön of himself with his stockings. “I am as light as a feather, I am as happy as an angel, I am as merry as a school-boy. I am as giddy as a drunken man. A merry Christmas to every-body! A happy New Year to all the world! Hallo here! Whoop! Hallo! – A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens

Okay, so my family living room doesn’t look exactly like the one above – there are fewer corsets, fewer fiddles, and way more movies with Chevy Chase on the TV. But, at least for me and my family, Christmas always feels like the Victorian, chestnut-roasting and fire-side sitting affairs of ye olde holidaye time. Or something.

At one time, most of my friends could hear the bell, but as years passed, it fell silent for all of them. Even Sarah found one Christmas that she could no longer hear its sweet sound. Though I’ve grown old, the bell still rings for me, as it does for all who truly believe – The Polar Express by Chris Van Allsburg

What I’m trying to say, really, is that Christmas is my favorite time of year. We do the same thing basically every year (have I ever told you that I’m, like, an OCD stickler for keeping to traditions?) and it’s lovely that my family’s and my in-law’s plans mesh up perfectly. It’s 5:00 pm church on Christmas Eve, followed by my mom’s famous Celebration Soup, which we literally only have on Christmas Eve every year. Then it’s hanging out and watching Christmas movies until we go to my in-law’s church for the midnight service. The next morning, it’s up early with my family for presents (my niece is still young enough that we get up early. EARLY. ridiculously early – kill someone without coffee early), the over to the in-laws to do afternoon presents and spend the day until Christmas day dinner. Then it’s back to my parent’s place, in-laws in tow, for wine and dessert and cookies and more wine. It’s lovely and it’s soul-recharging and I adore it.

Where do you think you’re going? Nobody’s leaving. Nobody’s walking out on this fun, old-fashioned family Christmas. No, no. We’re all in this together. This is a full-blown, four-alarm holiday emergency here. We’re gonna press on, and we’re gonna have the hap, hap, happiest Christmas since Bing Crosby tap-danced with Danny fucking Kaye. And when Santa squeezes his fat white ass down that chimney tonight, he’s gonna find the jolliest bunch of assholes this side of the nuthouse. – National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation

Of course, it’s still Christmas. My sister and I fight about going to church on Christmas Eve. My husband and I get grumpy for having to get up even earlier to drive to my parent’s house for the aforementioned early. I resent when my sister takes a nap and I get stuck helping clean up from Christmas morning coffee cake, and my grandpa just wants to watch golf. ALL. DAY. Golf. Do you watch golf? It’s one step below the Ken Burn’s documentary on sod. Seriously. But it’s like all this is just as much a part of Christmas. That, without all the bitching and bickering and yawns and gallons of coffee (not to mention daily “alone time” moments for all), it just wouldn’t be the same Christmas.

This year has been truly amazing, full of blessings and wonderful moments (getting married, Mark getting one amazing job followed by another, even more amazing one, moving back closer to the people I love, starting this blog and beginning to explore myself as a reader in a way I haven’t since my first few years of college). I can’t wait to see what 2013 brings – good and bad, because I’m starting to believe that maybe it takes on to really see and cherish the other.

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Christmas waves a magic wand over this world, and behold, everything is softer and more beautiful. – Norman Vincent Peale

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