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Wherein you will find posts with humor, photos, reviews, occasional rants and journalistic entries of interest to me alone but that I hope will touch you, the reader, in some way. I remain sincerely yours,
A Work in Progress

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Wordless Wednesday

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Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Wordless Wednesday

Rowan said, "Now I know why there was no room at the inn."  

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Monday, December 19, 2011

2012 Reading Challenges Page

 52 Books in 52 Weeks Challenge
Hosted over here by Robin, join in the fun!  I am really looking forward to this one again this year mostly because there is a great thread on it continually going on the Well Trained Mind forums.    

 150+ Books Challenge
Amy over at My Overstuffed Bookshelf is going hog wild this year and upping her 100+ Challenge to 150 this year.  I don't know if I can pull this one off, I managed 125 for 2011.  But I'll play along because I think she is grand.

Here is my Goodreads 2012 Bookshelf where I keep track.  Previous years have their own pages over on the right of my blog page.

Week One
Finished the most recent of Seanan McGuire's, October Daye series.  Madly in love with these books and lost a fair amount of sleep reading late into the night.
Late Eclipses
One Salt Sea
Halfway to the Grave, Night Huntress Book I
I am currently on Book Two of Jeaniene Frost's Night Huntress series, One Foot in the Grave.  I try to steer clear of the "steamier" side of the paranormal genre, these kind of cross the line to an uncomfortable degree for me but the plot is decent and I am intrigued to see where she goes with it.  I will say that it is an excellent twist on the genre and her main character is definitely someone I want to know more about.
I found her on Ilona Andrew's website, since I devoured everything they'd written recently and loved them  I thought I'd give them a try. Still doing only light reading, my escape from all the stress in our lives right now.


Week Two
On the most recent of the Night Huntress Books, almost done with the series as it is at the moment.
At Grave's End
Destined for an Early Grave
This Side of the Grave
This was the best one yet, the balance of humor is really working with the rest of out now. The emotions are real and the storyline gets better and better.
At last I'm utterly invested in their lives and reveling in being a part of it, one book at a time. I still skip over the steamier parts, but that's just me. Jeaniene Frost is an author to admire.

One Grave at a Time 

Week Three 
Read through the first three of Faith Hunter's Jane Yellowrock books.
Skinwalker
Blood Cross
Mercy Blade

Really enjoying these, they are original and compelling.

Week Four
Raven Cursed, book four of the Jane Yellowrock series.  Slow reading week.
Started One Thousand Gifts, Ann Voskamp.  Absolutely love the android app for this one.


Week Five
Re-reading the Mortal Instruments by Cassandra Clare.  
Getting ready for the release of the latest one in May, City of Lost Souls.
City of Bones
City of Ashes
City of Glass
City of Fallen Angels
  
Week Six
Read through Mark Del Franco's Connor Grey series.
Paranormal fun, loved that it is set in Boston.  Was hoping for something a little more Spenser-esque I think, but I very much enjoyed this series.  Heading into his Laura Blackstone series soon, I love this writer.  He generously has the first chapter of each of his books on his website, (link above) so give them a try!
Unshapely Things
Unquiet Dream
Unfallen Dead
Unperfect Souls
Uncertain Allies
Undone Deeds


Week Seven
Decision Points, George Bush
A Different Dream for my Child, it wasn't all applicable, but enough to have been of huge help for this struggling Mom.  It helped to voice my prayers.

Week Eight
Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter, Seth Grahame Smith 
soon to be a major motion picture, this book was a blast.
Clockwork Angel by Cassandra Clare

Week Nine
I reread the Iron Druid series in anticipation of the release of the 4th book, Tricked on April 25th.  Grand reads, I love these.   
Hounded
Hexed
Hammered


Week Ten
 I've been so stressed I've no idea what I've read. Started a couple of new ones and ended up rereading Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone. Comfort food for my head.


Weeks 11-14
Re-reading my way through one of my favorite series of all time, the Spenser novels by Robert B. Parker.   Finished the entire series, all 40 books.
They are here, in order.
 
Week 21
I am reading Lies My Teacher Told Me, Robert Loewen and the new Robert Parker novel written by Ace Atkins, Lullaby.
I was kind of appalled when I found out someone was taking over the series and so far my fears have been realized.  It is one thing to not get Spencer quite right, but to ruin Hawk is unforgivable.  I am so sad but I have to finish it anyway. 


Week 22 
Underworld, Greg Cox
Underworld 2, Blood Enemy, Greg Cox
Underworld 3, Evolution, Greg Cox
Underworld, Rise of the Lycans, Greg Cox 
Fun reads, now I can watch the movies. 
Movie marathon of Underworld, completed.

Week 23
Divergent, Veronica Roth
Insurgent, Veronica Roth
Excellent dystopian YA fiction, highly recommend.
Pretty amazing from a 22 year old author.

Week 24 
Term Limits, Vince Flynn
Deception Point, Dan Brown
Harry Potter series, books 1-3 on a weekend marathon with a friend and my daughters.
Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone
Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkhaban
I'd forgotten how much I enjoyed Dan Brown, time to read some more and catch up on his writing.

Week 25-Week 27
Book One and two in T.A. Baron's Merlin series
The Lost Years of Merlin
The Seven Songs
Dan Brown's Digital Fortress
Hit a "fill a bag for a buck" sale and bought some fun summer reading.  

Read a fun, stupid book about genetically modified sharks called Hunger.
The first A Series of Unfortunate Events, A Bad Beginning by Lemony Snicket 
and The Politically Incorrect Guide to English and American Literature. 
Why didn't I ever read one of this series?  It is fabulous!
Now I have to spend a day cleaning my house then get back to my reading.
Also Once Burned by Jeanine Frost.   It is a spin-off from her Night Huntress series, which I loved featuring the original Prince of Darkness, Vlad Tepesh.


Week 28 
I read The Looking Glass Wars by Frank Beddor, very interesting tale based on Alice in Wonderland.
Jennifer Lynne Barnes, Raised by Wolves and Trial by Fire, interesting take on the whole genre and clean for a change so my teen can read it.
Enslaved by Ducks by Bob Tarte, which would have been pure comic genius in the hands of a slightly better writer but I did love it and I look forward to more.   Who could resist the title?

Never mind that it is the sort of book I will someday end up writing myself, it follows in the tradition and vein of  Michael Perry's, Coop and I highly encourage you to read it. 

Week 29
This week I've read Katherine Kurtz's Adept series books one and two, The Adept and The Lodge of the Lynx, they are old favorites.
Started and abandoned Boyd Morrison's The Ark, it wasn't very good.
Also had an absolute blast reading [URL="http://www.jimchines.com/novels/princess/"]Jim C. Hines, Princess Novels[/URL].  Original and fantastic takes off the old stories.  On the website linked above you can read the first chapter of the books and see if you like them.
The Stepsister Scheme
The Mermaid's Madness
Red Hood's Revenge
The Snow Queen's Shadow 


Week 30-33
Re-read the Maximum Ride series by James Patterson because my beloved bought me the last one which just came out.
The Angel Experiment
School's Out Forever
Saving the World and Other Extreme Sports
The Final Warning
Max
Fang
Angel
Nevermore


Also, the latest Kate Daniels, Gunmetal Magic which was absolutely fabulous.
This one features Andrea and Raphael, a couple you just can't help rooting for in all things.

Bristol Palin's autobiography, Not Afraid of Life
I enjoyed this more than I thought I would.  Not ashamed to say, I kind of really like the kid.

Janice Dickinson's autobiography, No Lifeguard on Duty

Jenna Black's Nikki Glass series #1 and #2, Dark Descendant and Deadly Descendant.

now re-reading Storm Front, Book 1 of the Dresden Files and planning to read the whole series to get ready for Cold Play, coming out November 27th!!!!
 

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Monday, December 12, 2011

Making Christmas Memories

We had our cookie day at Mom's house this weekend.  It is a tradition that goes back to our childhood at Twin Acres and one of our most beloved of annual events.
This year we had 3 generations of us in the house ranging from 70's down to Jenna, the youngest at 11. Typically, my sister and her husband were there first and got to rolling and baking with Mom. 
The kids and I and our friend Michael arrived shortly afterwards only to realize that, though I had remembered the 600 other things I was supposed to bring, I had forgotten the 2 batches of cookie dough made the night before and bless his heart, off Mike went to go retrieve it and the beer I forgot too.  (You have your traditions, I have mine, don't judge).
Sissy and I rolled and baked, out went the cookies  to the porch to cool, until we built up enough to begin the decorating marathon.  
 My niece and her roommate and my nephew and his girlfriend arrived as well as my little sister's Mom and her granddaughter with gingerbread cookies to decorate too.  It wasn't our best year artistically but a great deal of fun was had.  Mom buys new fun things to use each year from the King Arthur Flour Company.  
We have a ridiculous collection of cookie cutters and utilize most of them.  There are the traditional snowmen, Christmas trees, stockings, wreaths, and such.  We also make the Christmas Goose, Christmas Owl, Bobba Fett, Christmas monster trucks, cats, doves, swans and miscellaneous others.  Oh, and the Christmas squirrel dubbed "Griswold" in honor of Chevy Chase and our favorite holiday movie, Christmas Vacation.
My nephew's handiwork.
This year my nephew's girlfriend brought a sociology project with her. She had a list of questions about family for my Mom.  As they were read and Mom answered we were treated to some of my Mom's recollections of her childhood and family.  
Then she was asked a question and though we can't recall it, the answer was unforgettable.  Mom replied, "I'd love to ask my Mom a few more things if I could."  Innocuous enough you'd think but here we were 20 years after she passed away and my sister looked at me, and I at her and the tears just flowed.  Then Mom turned around and her face crumpled too.  Our Nana, Mary Japp Koch, was just that special.  When she died she left a hole behind that can't be plugged this side of heaven.  I wish so very much that my girls had known her.
 Nana (seated) with Auntie Babs, Hyannisport, Ma
Christmas in Needham, ~circa mid "70's"

Back to cookie making.  Mom found the recipe in a Good Housekeeping magazine from a Land O Lakes butter recipe 30 years ago.  We have made them every year I can remember.  
You can't go wrong.  If you don't have a tradition like this yet, perhaps it's time to think about it.  So here is the recipe, take lots of pictures and make your own memories to pass down.

Christmas Sugar Cookies and Icing
6 cups flour
1 tsp salt
1 lb butter
2 cups sugar
4 eggs
2 tsp vanilla
mix flour and salt and set aside
cream butter, sugar, vanilla, add to flour mixture and stir well
refrigerate 5 hours or overnight
when ready to bake, using hand size amounts of dough, work on floured surface till it is roll-able, roll out a cut with cookie cutters.
bake in a 375 degree over about 10 minutes or until golden brown on the edges

Icing
4 egg whites
1/2 tsp Cream of Tarter
1/2 tsp vanilla
5 cups 10X sugar
food coloring
Use as many bowls as you have colors and have fun!
If you want to pipe decorations, just add a little more sugar so it's thick enough.

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Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Holiday Spirit, Finally!

 "Until one feels the spirit of Christmas, there is no Christmas.   All else is outward display--so much tinsel and decorations.   For it isn't the holly, it isn't the snow. It isn't the tree not the firelight's glow. It's the warmth that comes to the hearts of men when the Christmas spirit returns again" ~anonymous

Yesterday I finally got my butt in gear and cleaned the entire house, with the exception of Rowan's room, and got us all "holidayed up".

We have a tradition of going to a local place to choose our tree, it's just down the street.  They have a gorgeous holiday shop inside, a pen with Christmas animals in it, the Christmas sheep, goats and my favorite, the Christmas Llama.  (Art from http://beep16.deviantart.com/)
 Choosing a tree is serious business.  We finally settled on one and to make the final decision, Mike and Jenna joined hands in a chorus of "Yahoo Doray, welcome Christmas", from the Grinch to see if the tree responded properly.  
We got our little tree home and commenced with the decorating.  Poor Rowan was having a bad day but persevered.  The tin icicles Jenna made at Old Sturbridge Village look absolutely wonderful!  
  Rowan loves setting up her beautiful Fontanini creche that her Nana has been adding to for years. 
 Percy Jackson had an encounter with the advent candle and singed his whiskers and a fair amount of fur.  The splendid aroma of balsam mixed, for a time with the smell of burnt fur.  I'm glad he wasn't hurt, it isn't like he's never seen a candle before the idiot.
 We are almost done with our Christmas shopping, Mike and I and it's exciting.  I'm still knitting a few more items but those will be done in no time and I need to make a few more of the adorable origami boxes I learned how to do.  But we are in good shape, the house looks and smells wonderful and it's beginning to look a lot like Christmas!

"Best of all, Christmas means a spirit of love, a time when the love of God and the love of our fellow men should prevail over all hatred and bitterness, a time when our thoughts and deeds and the spirit of our lives manifest the presence of God."  ~George F. McDougall

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Thursday, December 1, 2011

A Little Behind

 December 1st has really snuck up on us this year.  Normally we do the whole tree/decorating ritual on the first Sunday of Advent.  This year I still have Thanksgiving decorations up!  We are straight out for the duration too so I guess we will have to find a weekday night to get our tree this year.

“Never worry about the size of your Christmas tree. In the eyes of children, they are all 30 feet tall.”  ~Larry Wilde
   
This afternoon Rowan leaves for another stint up at Old Sturbridge Village as a Junior Intern.  Christmas by Candlelight is a wonderful time up there.  We go to get her on Sunday, have our time at the Village so I can get lots of photos of this round and head home late that night.  I can't wait to see her new winter costume!
 Mike plays an annual gig at Highfield Hall on Saturday and the Christmas Cantata is the 10th and 11th. 

 Fail not to call to mind, in the course of the twenty-fifth of this month, that the Divinest Heart that ever walked the earth was born on that day; and then smile and enjoy yourselves for the rest of it; for mirth is also of Heaven's making.  ~Leigh Hunt
 
Annual cookie day is also on the 10th, can't wait for this treasured tradition with my family!   We bake and decorate dozens and dozens of sugar cookies to share and eat a fair few while we're at it. 

 Our hearts grow tender with childhood memories and love of kindred, and we are better throughout the year for having, in spirit, become a child again at Christmas-time.  ~Laura Ingalls Wilder

Somewhere in here both of the girls have Dr. visits to check in with their Lyme Disease and my Dad is having cataract surgery.  Then we get to have an early Christmas supper with my Mom and Dad to exchange gifts because we are going away this year for the first time in a long time to celebrate Christmas with the other half of our family.

The best of all gifts around any Christmas tree:  the presence of a happy family all wrapped up in each other.  ~Burton Hillis
 
This is last years Christmas photo in Charlton.
We have managed to get most of our Christmas presents done, some of them are even wrapped!  Mike and I even managed to go out together, alone and do some shopping, a rare thing for us.

It doesn't feel like Christmas yet, but I am waiting for it to hit me, any moment now...

Like snowflakes, my Christmas memories gather and dance - each beautiful, unique and too soon gone.  ~Deborah Whipp

 Lighting the Advent candles, 2002
 
Wishing you Grace, Peace and Joy this Christmas Season.

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