And here’s my book list from 2021…


This year I set a goal of 26 books and according to Goodreads I made that goal! Below are the 37 books I read in 2021. Yay me! I feel like I got my groove back a little and I have big plans for 2022!

The Mistletoe Matchmaker by Felicity Hayes-McCoy

Every year I try to find a winter/Christmas themed book to read for fun… this is part of a series and I didn’t know the characters, so I didn’t love it.

Cleo McDougal Regrets Nothing by Allison Winn Scotch

A politics themed book which wasn’t too heavy. Part of the Jen Hatmaker’s book club.

The Murder of Mary Russell by Laurie R. King

Book 14 of a series and I jumped right in! A good read, though…

Love in a Tuscan Kitchen by Sheryl Ness

A signed copy as a gift for Christmas. A local woman and her stay in Italy, resulting in found love. Filled with recipes! (I love a book with recipes!)

End of the Lupine Season by Laurie Otis

The End of the Lupine Season by Laurie Otis: I like to buy books set in my vacation locations – this one is “up north” in Wisconsin – on Madeline Island in Lake Superior. A little mystery, a little local flair.

The Extraordinary Life of Sam Hell by Robert Dugoni

“A gem of a book!” I said after reading this. We read it for book club and it was a treat.

Winter Solstice by Rosamunde Pilcher

Another winter-themed book – Scotland this time. I gave it 5 stars!

Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert

I actually skimmed through this book and read the Kindle summary book.

One Plus One by Jojo Moyes

I also loved this book! Delightful family. Didn’t want it to end.

The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides

For book club, a step outside my typical genre! Very engaging…

Whitethorn Woods by Maeve Binchy

A little Irish tale by one of my favorite authors, read during March. Ah.

If I Had Your Face by Frances Cha

A character driven novel I didn’t want to end… South Korea and the beauty scene…

The Girl with the Louding Voice by Abi Daré

For book club – great discussion! I loved her and became very curious about Nigeria…

Outer Order, Inner Calm by Gretchen Rubin

Decluttering, an endless goal!

The Mothers by Brit Bennett

Young love, choices… read for work book club (and never discussed!)

This Tender Land by William Kent Krueger

Brilliant story for book club. He’s amazing.

The Girl with Seven Names by Hyeonseo Lee

Another great book for book club – North Korea and South Korea and China… oh my. And it’s a true story / memoir!

That Summer by Jennifer Weiner

A bit heavy for a summer read…

Night of Miracles by Elizabeth Berg

Book #2 from Arthur Truluv… love these people

The Confession Club by Elizabeth Berg

Book #3 in this series… great characters!

The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett

Great story with twin sisters who start their lives in the south. Great book.

Crying in H Mart by Michelle Zauner

Another memoir about a Korean-American girl and her relationship with her mother.

The Last Thing He Told Me by Laura Dave

For book club – so much to think about! How would I act?

Coco Chanel by Susan Goldman Rubin

And then in the French phase of the year – a YA book about Chanel, who was really quite a character!

French Toast by Harriet Welty Rochefort

A memoir about an American living in France. Some insight into the differences…

Five Nights in Paris by John Baxter

Not a book I loved – I didn’t know anything about the author, but felt that I was expected to.

Le Road Trip by Vivian Swift

I loved this book and bought a copy for myself. Very artistic – an illustrated story. I bought another of hers and will read it in 2022!

The Burgess Boys by Elizabeth Strout

For book club – a great story to discuss!

The Paris Library by Janet Skeslien Charles

My French season – a book about occupied France, specifically Paris. Sympathetic characters.

Everything We Didn't Say by Nicole Baart

Advanced copy by “local” author (Iowa!). Good mystery and good characters.

The Librarian of Saint-Malo by Mario Escobar

Another library story told through the brutal Nazi occupation of St. Malo. Uff.

The Secret of the Château by Kathleen McGurl

For book club – we chose a book set in France that wasn’t a WW2 novel. Instead we have the revolution against nobility and modern day friends. I really liked this.

Paris is Always a Good Idea by Jenn McKinlay

A fun little romance – kind of predictable but enjoyable.

A French Pirouette by Jennifer Bohnet

A nice little story about moving from your old life and creating a new one. This book takes place in Brittany, which is one of the locations we visited in France.

All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

I’m late to the game, but a wonderful novel about tough stuff. Nazi occupation, losing family, and horrors of war. But easy to read in its small bites.

Work Horse by Zach Olstad

Read for book club – fun to read a book written by a local!

Hot Flash Holidays by Nancy Thayer

And my attempt to get a Christmas book in. Again, another in a series I haven’t read, so I felt behind the game. I’ll have to get more prepared for next Christmas!

Movies – 2021

In the Heights (2021) - IMDb
IMDB.COM

I’ve seen some good movies this year but only two movies on the big screen.

In June I saw “In the Heights” on opening weekend in Imax. It was so fun – to see that big musical on a big screen! It was definitely a joyous experience!

On New Year’s Eve I saw “West Side Story” in an afternoon matinee with some girlfriends. It was kind of the opposite experience. It is a big beautiful musical with amazing costumes, exhilarating dancing, and beautiful voices – but it is not joyous! The story is still tragic and there is no big musical number at the end to lift you up. But I’m still glad I saw it!

One day around Thanksgiving, I asked Chris, “Do you think we will ever become people who go to movies again?” We used to go a few times per month – before Chris I went even more frequently! Now we have so many options at home, so it’s easier to stay home and stay cozy and watch what we have. Maybe there will be movies that will entice me enough again, but so far it has only been the two.

I’ve started a list of movies on my phone so I can add to it in one place and try to keep track of where to find them. One of my “things to do” in 2022. It’s probably very 2010 but here you go. I’m gonna start keeping track!

In 2021, movies and series I have enjoyed include:

  • Bridgerton
  • Bunheads – ah, Sutton
  • Younger – ah, Sutton
  • Alice in Paris – the food!
  • Emily in Paris – the fashion!
  • TED LASSO!!! – Oh, I wish that everyone could see this… so amazing.
  • The Morning Show
  • Schmigadoon
  • Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist
  • Mad About You – a fun glimpse into their “more adult” life!
  • Nomadland
  • Barb & Star Go to Vista del Mar – fun fun fun!
  • Score: The Hockey Musical – available on Youtube!
  • Never Have I Ever
  • 9 Perfect Strangers
  • Maid
  • Lupine
  • On the Verge
  • 8-Bit Christmas – an AMAZING movie! I wish everyone could see this!
  • Hacks
  • And Just Like That…
  • Found – an amazing documentary on Netflix about three girls adopted from China who find that they are cousins and become lifelong friends.

What has been your best-of-2021? What are you looking forward to in 2022?

The Couch Film Festival (CFF) 2021

It’s established that I love a good movie. I haven’t been to the movie theatre for far more than a year, having seen only one film in the theatre in 2020 (“1917”). We’ve done a few high dollar rentals over the year but mostly have found things worth watching on Netflix, Hulu, Disney+ and Prime.

One item on my “21 things in 2021” list is to watch 21 movies from “best of” lists. Mostly movies I have missed but one or two that I want to see again. This April and May friend Jenny and I have started a Film Festival, which I thought we should call COVID Film Festival, but I have just named it the Couch Film Festival. We miss the Rochester International Film Festival, so we are going to look for great international films or Academy Award nominated films to watch, hopefully each week.

We started out the Film Fest with a fun romp that is neither international nor award nominated, but was just loads of goofy fun – “Barb and Star Go To Vista Del Mar.” It is over-the-top and surprising but there were big laughs! Those women are geniuses! I now own the digital copy so if you want to see it, come on over!

We watched “Minari,” the subtitled American film nominated for Best Picture, which is about a Korean family’s search for the American Dream in 1980s Arkansas. We rented the theatrical release on Prime and I think it was worth it. I would have wanted to see it in a “normal” year, and I’m glad it was available to us this year. Often the little great films don’t come around for long, so it is really nice to be able to find them and pop your own popcorn.

Tonight we watched a nominee for Best International Film, “Another Round” (Denmark). It is billed as a comedy, but there were moments that definitely weren’t funny. In the end I hope they all got their Joy for Life back. That’s what I’ll choose for them.

What’ll be next? Who knows… What is your favorite International Film?

INTERNATIONAL FEATURE FILM nominees:

ANOTHER ROUND

Denmark

BETTER DAYS

Hong Kong

COLLECTIVE

Romania

THE MAN WHO SOLD HIS SKIN

Tunisia

QUO VADIS, AIDA?

Bosnia and Herzegovina

Best Picture NOMINEES

THE FATHER

David Parfitt, Jean-Louis Livi and Philippe Carcassonne, Producers

JUDAS AND THE BLACK MESSIAH

Shaka King, Charles D. King and Ryan Coogler, Producers

MANK

Ceán Chaffin, Eric Roth and Douglas Urbanski, Producers

MINARI

Christina Oh, Producer

NOMADLAND

Frances McDormand, Peter Spears, Mollye Asher, Dan Janvey and Chloé Zhao, Producers

PROMISING YOUNG WOMAN

Ben Browning, Ashley Fox, Emerald Fennell and Josey McNamara, Producers

SOUND OF METAL

Bert Hamelinck and Sacha Ben Harroche, Producers

THE TRIAL OF THE CHICAGO 7

Marc Platt and Stuart Besser, Producers

ABC of COVID-19

Marissa shared an acrostic poem this morning, which prompted me to share one I started in May or thereabouts, found in my journal… with updates.

April, May… The pandemic started in March, but it became surreal very soon after…

Baking bread, but no sourdough for me!

Connections, virtual – Facebook live, Skype

Disconnections, personal. Distanced from friends and family.

Essential? Yup

Furloughed? Nope

Grocery stores – empty shelves.

Hugless months, but HAMILTON comes to TV!

Isolation; I wish for a houseful to quarantine with.

June, July, August… it keeps on.

Kind acts, “a pandemic of kindness.”

Lunches by Door Dash

Masks – at work 100% starting 4/1/2020; mandated by the Governor statewide!

Netflix – a savior! Streaming services thrive…

Online everything. New computer arrives.

Pandemic – the world shuts down; daily Press conferences.

Quarantine, “Stay at Home,” “Safer at Home” orders

Remote access to work

Snowstorm in April; September, October, November, December… it goes on.

Tiger King. Enough said.

Unbelievable, truly. Traffic is down, no rush hour, people are outside…

Video calls – Easter, Thanksgiving, Christmas…

Walks with Murphy, Working from home…

X the days as they go by… counting my blessings

YouTube concerts, Broadway and pop; national and local – entertainers entertaining!

Zoom – parties, games, meetings. Now New Year’s Eve concerts to bid farewell to 2020!

Whoopee (or is it Whoopie) pies – 2020

During this “current unpleasantness,” when we are at home watching all the TV, I got my husband to watch an episode of The Great British Bake Off, Holiday edition, and asked him to create a technical challenge for me. I’m NOT a great technical baker, but I do love to bake. Details, conformity, beauty… not my strong suit. Deliciousness, I can do.

He challenged me to make Whoopee Pies – his mom’s recipe. His dad had shared it with me a few years ago, as I had the thought of creating a photo book of recipe cards (still on my list!), so I was able to find it quickly. Because the crisco/powdered sugar frosting recipe freaked me out a bit, I also found a recipe from Epicurious so we could have a comparison.

Both recipes were fairly simple and made small batches (8 sandwiches apiece – perfect for dropping off with family). I was told that the secret (oops -sharing secrets!) to his mom’s is letting it sit overnight before baking, so I made both batches of dough and put them in the frig until the next day. You can see the differences in the recipes: oil vs butter, white sugar vs brown sugar, milk vs buttermilk. I used the same cocoa in both (Trader Joe’s baking chocolate powder), even though the Epicurious one called for Dutch processed cocoa.

The dough was easy to work with…
They smell delicious!
Chris’s mom’s recipe – you can tell the differences in the BAKING SHEET!

I wondered, to grease the baking sheets or to use parchment paper? I decided to use parchment paper. Unfortunately, one thing I found is that I have awful baking sheets. I take that back, I have one great stone jellyroll pan (which impacts baking time), one okay insulated baking sheet, and a few terrible old baking sheets. I tried to veer away from the stone, but did eventually use it after using a bad sheet resulted in overdone cookies.

Epicurious recipe up front, family recipe in the back…

The frosting recipes were also different – I chose the Epicurious recipe because it used marshmallow creme (I love marshmallow creme). The family recipe was Crisco and powdered sugar. Both recipes made the right amount of frosting. The marshmallow creme frosting was suuuuuper sweet.

Of course, Chris preferred the family recipe although he said the Epicurious was not bad. The family recipe cookies actually were very delicious tasting – the chocolate taste really came through, which I find difficult sometimes with chocolate bakes. And the frosting was not bad, as well. They weren’t uniform in appearance, at all, but they still went together and held the frosting in the middle.

Lessons learned:

  • I need better baking sheets. And maybe a scoop?
  • I struggle with technical baking, making uniform looking goods.
  • Don’t be afraid of Crisco.
  • Don’t mess with family recipes.

The last month of 2020…

I’ve started my review of 2020, cataloguing the books I’ve read, the movies I’ve seen, the places I’ve gone… it certainly is different than most years! I think I saw one play and one movie in the theatre in 2020. One. Of. Each. I’ll write more about the review of 2020 later, but mainly wanted to stop by here to write about the passage of time.

It’s hard to believe that it is December 2020. Gretchen Rubin has many proverbs and one is “The Days are Long, but the Years are Short,” and I think that is especially true in a pandemic. The days have been very long but still, here we are – December 10. Already 1/3 through the last month of the year. It kind of is amazing to think all that has happened.

I started a list of things I want to accomplish before 2020 ends. Mostly holiday things – play carols at the piano, drive around to look at lights, watch “Elf,” or maybe even “It’s a Wonderful Life”…

This weekend I’m having a Baking Challenge, put forth by Chris. His mom always made Whoopie Pies, so I’m going to use her recipe and make them for the first time! I told him I may use another recipe too, and do a taste-test… I’ll try to follow Great British Baking Show criteria for the challenge and make them look the same (not my strong suit!).

I’ll maybe post photos and results here!

Chocolate Whoopie Pies with Vanilla Buttercream Filling Recipe | Martha  Stewart
Not mine… Martha Stewart’s! Hopefully mine look as good…

Momming

Written by me in 2016, with revisions in 2020:

Mothers. Mothering. Being mothered. I’m so blessed with incredible women in my life: my mother who exudes unconditional love, my daughter whose joie de vivre shines in her mothering, my sister-in-law who is raising amazing, compassionate humans and my stepdaughter and aunts and cousins and friends and all who are gracefully teaching life lessons to children – their own or the children of others.

It’s hard work, mothering, but such important work. Reading the origins of Mother’s Day is humbling and reminds that mothering doesn’t start and end with flesh and blood.

In 1908, Ann Jarvis petitioned to start mother’s day in honor of the passing of her mother, a peaceful activist who cared for soldiers on both sides of the Civil War.

She was a blessing and being a blessing to everyone you meet and lifting them up so that they can also bless others is great important work, as well. Maybe the greatest.

Hope everyone had a fantastic Mother’s Day! Virtual hugs to all!

“Life began with waking up and loving my mother’s face.” George Eliot
“She taught me that fear is not an option.” – Diane Von Furstenberg, on her mom.

“If at first you don’t succeed, try doing it the way your mom told you to do it from the start.”
“Being a mom has made me really tired and so happy.” – Tina Fey

Hunkered Down, but not Out!

3.30.2020

We have enjoyed watching Jimmy Fallon’s Tonight Show at Home and he and his guests have been talking about how it is day 14 of their social distancing / quarantine. I can’t imagine. My pattern of life hasn’t changed, so far, even though life surely has changed. Chris and I are still working our regular shifts, so time away from work has been spent recovering from work or preparing for work.

This weekend was a little glimpse for me – I had a 4-day weekend. Chris just had a regular 2-day weekend so Friday and Monday were on my own. Friday night I had a virtual happy hour with some friends and Saturday night Chris and I played online games with Marissa via Zoom. Who heard of Zoom before two weeks ago?

This weekend we made homemade deliciousness, we ordered in to support a local restaurant, we exercised via computer trainers and we watched Netflix (Tiger King, just like everyone!). It felt like a weekend at home, but we didn’t get to see any family or friends IRL (in real life). I’m a social being, so that’s hard for me.

Dr. Elvis on Fox iHeart Radio Stars at Home concert

We watched the concert on Fox last night. It’s been hard to keep up with all the “at home” events and special things streamed; Broadway shows, piano and art lessons, meditation courses. I’m trying to pick and choose a few things that bring joy, as well as comfort during this crazy time. I know my book reading has suffered due to social media and news watching. Hopefully I can get a better balance going forward.

I wonder what our new normal will be like? What will we keep? What will we change?

3/18/2020

This is weird. Life feels surreal right now. A friend reminded me that my biggest worry a few weeks ago was our puppy somehow crawling on top of her crate. It’s already hard to remember what last week felt like.

Tonight I’m working my way through some TV shows on Hulu while I’m practicing social distancing. The latest episode of Will & Grace starts with Will sleeping on the couch with gloves on and sponges in his hand – he fell asleep deep cleaning their apartment. Not because of the Coronavirus (COVID-19), but because someone was coming over and he wanted to make a good impression. On This is Us, the Pearsons are gathered together having a multi-generational game night – something highly discouraged by the CDC and our emergency managers. I haven’t watched it yet, but I bet that everyone is at the office on Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist and they aren’t worried about the employees of small businesses. The toilet paper commercials just seem to be taunting us.

The toilet paper aisle at Target

No one on TV is worried about what will become of high school graduation and senior prom this year, or if and when the baseball season will begin. On TV, no borders are closed. No one had to cancel travel plans because Broadway shows or Las Vegas casinos or Florida beaches are closed.

So, what to do? I know that it’s important to slow the world down. I am trying to limit my news intake. It’s hard. Facebook is informing of business and services hours, freebies online, and updates from family and friends. My work email is filled with ever-changing updates. I’ve made a list of things that I want to do when I’m home – write letters, read books, create photo books, walk outside, do yoga, order take-out. My goal is to video call someone every day, because it is good to SEE people! I’m really thankful that I get to work with wonderful people, because if that was the only socialization I could get and it was miserable, then life would be miserable.

I’m journaling to remember this time and trying to be mindful and keep out some of the noisy chatter. It’s hard. I’m sure I’ll blog again to document this bizarre time we are all experiencing.

What are you doing for yourself and those around you?