Wednesday, December 31, 2014

BEST READS OF 2014

There's nothing quite like a good book. I have a wide range of taste when it comes to my book choices. One minute I want something historical and the next I've decided I need to calm my mind and read some smutty romance page-turner. So I thought I would share my top five books of 2014. These are the books I enjoyed the most and ones that I would highly suggest be read at some point in your life.

So, without further adieu, here are my top reads of 2014.

#5 Winter Wheat by Mildred Walker
This is a book about growth and love with the  main character Ellen Webb on a Montana Ranch in the 1940s. Love of oneself, an understanding of oneself, love of culture and understanding of family. Understanding love, in all its forms. This book is smartly written and very clean in its intentions.
My favorite quote is when the main character confronts her mother about her parents' relationship:

"'Mom made a sound of disgust in her throat. 'That don't mean nothing. We get mad, sure! Like ice an' snow an' thunder an' lightning storm, but they don't hurt the wheat down in the ground any.' Mom picked up her whitewash brush and slapped it against the rough boards. 'Yolochka, you don't know how love is yet.'"

#4 In the Garden of Beasts by Erik Larson
Very well written historical account of ambassador to Germany, William Dodd and his family. He took a lot of heat for his actions/inactions--many people saw him different ways. He and his family were over in Germany pre World War II and Larson has fused together a fantastic story from diaries and letters that paint a dark picture of Germany and its rulers during that time. It also paints a very snooty picture of American politics (huh, not much has changed I guess) and how they dealt with the German threat and treated their own countryman (Dodd), whom they considered inadequate and common, during a time when drastic measures needed to be taken.

“Recalling his first impression of Hitler, Hanfstaengl wrote, "Hitler looked like a suburban hairdresser on his day off.”  


#3 The Beautiful Mystery by Louise Penny
A murder mystery with words that flow like poetry. There is a murder at a secluded monastery in Canada where the handful of monks there are shut off from the rest of the world. Character detail in this book is plausible, Penny creates characters you feel you already know or want to know. They aren't out of your reach. I'm not usually a mystery fan, but this story intrigued me. It also intrigued my father-in-law, who vanished with the book for a day.

“What did falling in love do for you? Can you ever really explain it? It filled empty spaces I never knew were empty. It cured a loneliness I never knew I had. It gave me joy. And freedom. I think that was the most amazing part. I suddenly felt both embraced and freed at the same time.”  

#2 The Cuckoo's Calling by Robert Galbraith (aka J.K. Rowling)
I really like the way Rowling writes. I think her sentences are fluid, and she is able to string along an interesting story with (what feels like) ease. Another murder mystery with great character development. I put this one at my #2 above Penny's murder mystery because I like Rowling more. Her book was a little more grimy, maybe not as proper as Penny's was (not to discredit Penny's beautiful writing). A young and wealthy model is discovered dead outside her apartment building on a snowy night. It looks like a suicide, but as the story unfolds and a down-on-his-luck private investigator is hired, we find out there's much more to the story. My mom is reading this right now and she can't put it down.

“When you are young, and beautiful, you can be very cruel.”  

#1 The Orphan Master's Son by Adam Johnson
Just fantastic. Deep. Cruel at times. Magical. So well-written and just a beautiful story.
A tale set in North Korea following a young boy as he grows. The hardships of the country, of the people, of his own are so heartfelt and believable. All working up to this boy, now a man, who has to pretend to be another person. A ruse, if you will, of monumental proportions that could quickly tumble, taking down the man and all those he loves down with him.
I would highly suggest this book.

“Where we are from... [s]tories are factual. If a farmer is declared a music virtuoso by the state, everyone had better start calling him maestro. And secretly, he'd be wise to start practicing the piano. For us, the story is more important than the person. If a man and his story are in conflict, it is the man who must change.”  


Pick some good books for 2015 people! I am always looking for book suggestions, so feel free to share your favorite reads!

My review of 2014 comes out tomorrow!

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

CHRISTMAS DAY 2014

It was a good Christmas this year.
Jeff's absence was definitely felt. We missed him terribly, but we powered on and gave the boys a magical and relaxed day.
 Christmas morning discoveries.

 Poor Gabriel woke up Christmas morning with the ickies. He was battling a double ear infection. Poor bub just couldn't get into the excitement like his brother. He wanted to be cuddled, and left alone, and allowed to rampage all at once. It was a little bit of a bummer.
But he liked his new bike!
 Let the present opening begin
 



New dinosaur shirt. 
 New Legos!

 Brother wasn't fully awake.
 A little more interested in present opening. 
 
 
 Whoa. And we were only halfway through.
 
 
Still not awake.
 
A new lightsaber!
 
Uh well...someone definitely got spoiled...
 

 Christmas corgi don't care.  

 Mimosas are a must during any holiday morning AM I RIGHT?
I love those delicious bubbly concoctions.
While breakfast was baking in the oven, my mom set out the champagne for mimosas and we continued opening presents. Ten minutes later we heard a loud pop and a crash and discovered that the cork had popped off the bottle and gone through the kitchen light.
We had lots of laughs about that one.  

In honor of my grandma's memory, my mom made a chocolate pie.
After dinner we splurged and voted that it was one of the best my mom had ever made.  


It was a good Christmas.
There was nowhere to be.
The only items on the agenda was opening presents, eating, and playing to our hearts content.
I didn't get out of my sweatpants ALL day and I loved it.
LOVE IT.

Sunday, December 28, 2014

CHRISTMAS EVE 2014

Tradition. I love it.
When holidays roll around I feel like Topol from Fiddler on the Rood dancing around and singing.
My family has a Christmas Eve/Christmas Day tradition that we've been doing since I was very young. It has evolved through the years, like when we moved away from Montana and family, and has been introduced to new traditions from Jeff's family since we've been married.
But there's nothing quite like being with your family and sharing again in your traditions, you know?
So Christmas Eve we always go to the children's mass. It is an earlier mass, the message is fun and light-hearted, and it is incredibly fun to see all the little kids dressed up and just barely (or not at all) holding it together with all the Christmas excitement around them.
My Dad and I usually try to pick out our favorite outfit (this year a newborn in a full on Santa outfit complete with pom pom booties and a hat won) and we sing loud and proud.
After church we have dinner. We used to go out for pizza, but that's now changed and we had a nice brisket dinner with homemade macaroni and cheese and lots of other goodies. Our good friends come over and we do a white elephant gift exchange that gets crazier each year.
Good times I tell ya.
After that the kids get in their jammies and we drive around looking at Christmas lights.
Then it is home, they get to open one present under the tree and then the kids are shooed off to bed so Santa can make his magical entrance.
I love this time of year.
All dressed up for church.

Gibby had started to come down with the ickies on Christmas Eve, so we let him stay at home and sleep. My mom gladly watched him so she could finish getting things for dinner ready. 
My Dad aka parishioner of the entire mass. He's such a goof. He boasts about getting an award for singing so nicely during the mass. Caderyn's face says it all.
 
White elephant:
I'm not sure what happened to our tree in this picture but it looks awesome.
The first recipient of the robot slippers (and two gift cards to sweeten the deal).
Other gifts included: "donut seeds" and a Dunkin Donuts gift card, an incredibly annoying noise maker, a wallet ninja, coffee mugs and a Starbucks gift card, a garden decoration of Godzilla attacking garden gnomes, the fancy solo cup glasses, a dinosaur coffee mug, a picture of my brother and his friend in fancy shirts (long story, don't ask).
My dad received the "fancy" solo cups and a gift card. He wouldn't let anyone take them and started drinking from them right away.
I really liked this cranberry vodka drink my mom made...really liked it. As you can see.
Our wonderful friends.
And of course...one of these.

 
 
Quickly, quickly write a note and leave out treats!
Santa!!!