Saturday, December 17, 2011

2011 Goodreads Reading Challenge

Back in January I set this crazy reading goal for the year. Of course at the time I didn't think it was unreasonable. There are 365 days in a year, so 250 books should be easy, right?

Well it hasn't been quite as easy as I thought. I have 18 books and 14 books to go. It's not like I haven't been reading. I have books on my phone, books by the bed, in my purse, in my car, next to the couch and in the kitchen. We are tripping over them there are so many. I also have audiobooks--in the car and in the kitchen. There is no better way to pass the day baking that listening to an audiobook.

2011 Reading Challenge

2011 Reading Challenge

Kristi has

read 232 books toward her goal of 250 books.


To meet my goal I have started reading graphic novels. Jess thinks that is cheating, but I see it as improving my readers advisory skills. I sadly neglect the graphic novel collection at my library, and while I will still be stingy in appropriating money there (I know, I know, I know, I need to), at least I will be able to recommend some of the titles. And I'll reach my 250 book goal in the meantime.

But with January 1st fast approaching, I will have to decide what my goal for next year is. I have taken on more responsibilities in the last year and that certainly will cut down on my reading time, but I'm not sure I want to veer away from the 250 mark. I read mostly YA lit (I'm a teen librarian after all) and I can usually read those books in an evening. But I enjoy adult fiction as well and really should read more nonfiction and those take longer to read and absorb. But I also thing I should continue to increase my knowledge of the graphic novel collection. I guess the questions remains: is 250 book in a year insane or reasonable, a number or an incentive? And. do I want to set a goal I may have to struggle to reach. I love reading but not at the expense of life. I don't think that was a problem this year, but will all the other things I'm doing, will it be next year?

So what did I decide? You will have to wait until January 1st when I set the new goal. Just like me.

It's Baking Day!

....or at least on of the Christmas Baking Days. Yes, that's Christmas Baking Days capitalized. When I was little we would bake hundreds of cookies--my mom, grandmother and I. At least it felt like hundreds. One year we even made Christmas Tree ornament cookies and decorated with them. That was my least favorite, and I made sure my mom knew that, I much preferred all our family ornaments. I was a bit of a brat.

My favorite cookie, the one I always associate with Christmas and that we cannot possibly have the holiday without is the Swedish Ginger Cookie. It is a family recipe that belonged to my grandmother's mother. Possibly even her mother.

They are sweet and spicy and have orange zest. I love them. They also require frosting. But that I am leaving for another day. My feet hurt.

That's because I couldn't just stop at one batch of Swedish Ginger Cookies. Usually I do two, plus a litany of other cookies. But this year I'm cutting back. With Christmas falling on a weekend and potentially becoming an Aunt over the holiday, I didn't want to stress out over cookies, or the Christmas Eve meal.

But I'm still me, and my version of cutting back produced this

Swedish Ginger Cookies, Almond Wreaths (those didn't work out so well--I used to think a bead of cookie, next time I will make them smaller), Sugar Snow Flakes, Peppermint Cinnamon M&M cookies, Chocolate Cinnamon Tullieres (this is either not the right work or certainly not spelled correctly).

Not pictured are chocolate peppermint bark made inside cookie cutters (very pretty), wrapped up Christmas stripped cookies, Chocolate Cookies with Pepperming and Cherry Cordial Kisses,  and a variation of Cranberry Bliss Bars (another steal from RecipeGirl).

I'm really excited about the Sugar Stars. I had some leftover bright blue cookie confetti that I sprinkled over them, now they don't need to be frosted! And the Peppermint Cinnamon M&M cookies. I started with the basic Tollhouse Cookie recipe and added peppermint extract and instead of using chocolate chips and walnuts I used cinnamon flavored M&Ms. They smell great. 

I may make another batch or two of drop cookies later this week. Jess will be working most nights and I will have to find some way to occupy my time. Other than trying to finish my insane reading goal (18 books and 14 days to go).

Second Thanksgiving

We spend most Thanksgiving's with Jess's family, but this year, I decided there were too many fall dishes I wanted to make and not enough room and her mother's oven. I could only bring my green bean casserole (the only cooked veggie Jess will eat--its slathered in cheese), pumpkin risotto (I found the recipe at The Edible Perspective) and Sweet Potato Stuffed Baked Apples with Toasted Marshmallows (from Iowa Girl Eats. Ok I went a little overboard, I know that. But it all sounded so good at it was. It went great with Marti's vegetarian pot pie of broccoli, cauliflower and chickpeas.

So, after limiting myself to three ridiculous but delectable dishes, I did the natural thing and decided to host a second Thanksgiving on Saturday and invite my parents.

It was my first time making a turkey. Did I mention that I'm a vegetarian and that Jess was gone for the morning? I got up Saturday morning and went to the grocery store. I had a coupon for Butterball and went in search for just a turkey breast. I had to ask where they were kept (it was after Thanksgiving so they weren't as prominent) and the only ones I could find were frozen solid. I spent the better part of the day trying to defrost the damn thing and get it into the pan. I really had a hard time with inserting the meat thermometer. The texture of it just reminded me that it used to be some unfortunate bird's flesh. I cooked it anyway, and apparently it was good. I wouldn't know.

 We still had risotto and green beans left over so I heated them up and added more cheese to the casserole. 30% veggie, 70% cheese. Very healthy. 

To make it an even healthier meal I found this Three Cheese Scalloped Potato recipe on Epicurious. Cheddar, parm and blue. It was heavenly, although it oozed out of the pan and I'm still setting of the smoke alarm every time I use the oven. 

And finally, a Double Decker Pumpkin-Caramel Pie from RecipeGirl. This was the first foodie blog I ever followed and I almost always love her recipes. This one was basically a pumpkin pie served chilled with caramel whipped cream on top. As I prefer my pumpkin pie warm, this recipe wasn't for me. Although I now want to put (caramel) flavored whipped cream on everything, at least everything that is supposed to be served cold. 

Second Thanksgiving a success. Now on to Christmas!

Oh yeah... I build things too

We needed a cat tower for one of our cats. It was a desperate situation. I know, I know, how can the need for a cat tower be desperate?

 When Jess and I moved in together, my two cats and her three cats were forced into cohabitation as well. Some of them still haven't gotten over it, and to be fair, that one in particular is chased. Daily. But her expression of dismay (confusion of my clothing with her litter box) led us to build her an escape. And thus, I present you with.........

Gemma's Escape 

It's a monster. 
But at least the cat's seem to like it. 

Sailboat "Cake"

This was Jess' birthday cake. a sailboat of cupcakes.

I had been playing around with the mechanical pastry bag I received for Christmas. You can see the different tips as you look around the sail and boat. I also and food coloring spray paint, sprinkles and those fun Happy Birthday candles. Don't let them burn for long though.


A few months ago I was extremely lucky to attend Book Expo America in New York City for the first time. For those of you who don't know, Book Expo America (BEA) brings together authors, publishers, booksellers and librarians to preview the newest in literature for the coming year.

I was only able to attend on Tuesday (the conference ran through Thursday--next time I will have to go for an additional day) but I went to NYC on Saturday morning to spend time with my friend, Meredythe. We went to a fantastic dueling piano club in Times Square, ate at some delicious restaurants, spent  time on the Highline, visited the Strand and toured the PRATT campus, where Meredythe is a grad student. That's us right before the piano bar, it is also quite possible the only good picture we have ever taken together.

I'm starting the blog with this post, because that is when I decided I would start a book blog. I wanted an increased opportunity to receive ARCs from publishers. I thought this was a good way. I also just wanted one. Keep in mind Book Expo was in May. I'm nearly 7 months behind, but who's counting.

This is a picture of the train station in Hartford. I was determined to document my trip.

I have never seen a Ball Point Pen dispenser, there was one at the Pratt library. I want one. I really want one, but I don't think anyone is a excited by this as me.

And now finally, the point of this blog: for me to
talk about books and foods. Here is the delicious meal we cooked for Meredythe's then boyfriend Asher (they're engaged now). There is linguine with steamed mussels in a homemade cream sauce and the biscuits for the strawberry shortcake Mer made.
And here, is the swag from my first ever Book Expo. 77 books and arcs! I've read through many of them, purchased some of those for my library and I used the remainder as prizes for the teens in my library. Getting them home on the train was not fun. I was quite a spectacle opening my bag on the street and trying to cram in more books, juggling the swag bags in the my arms, plus my weekend bag. I was convinced I would miss the train and couldn't find the elevator so I dragged it down the stairs tipping it over and getting in the way of all the business people just trying to get home. Their disdain for my ineptitude was obvious, but fortunately none of them said anything nasty and Jess met me in New Haven and did most of the dragging from that point home.