Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Books I read in 2014

A semi-articulated goal of mine for 2014 was to read more, and read more I did! I started out the year by making a gigantic google doc full of books I wanted to read (some I came across organically, others were recommendations by family members and bloggers) and a section for books that I read. I know, I know, I could just use goodreads, right? But the google doc gave me the power to put in all the info I wanted (genre, recommended by, finished on, etc), all in one hyper-organized place. 

All year I added books to the "to read" column and gradually dragged a few over to the "read" column as I plowed through the list. Looking back, there's definitely a pattern to how I read--I've found that I either read hardly anything for weeks (or even months!) and then I'll read 3-4 books in the space of a week or two. It's definitely an odd way to read, but that's the way I do it, I suppose! 

Just for fun, here's some stats I compiled about what I read:

Total books read: 33

Standalone books: 13
Books that are part of a series: 20

Non-fiction: 1 
Adult Fantasy: 1
Adult Fiction: 4
Historical Fiction: 4
YA Lit: 2
YA Sci-fi: 5
YA Dystopian: 7
YA Fantasy: 9

Total pages read: 11,975

(In short: I read a lot of pages, and not enough non-fiction! ;D)

Without further ado, here's the list (broken down by month and marked with the date finished) of what I read this year! 


January 

Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea by April Genevieve Tucholke (1/20)


February 

Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd (2/26)


March

Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo (3/7)


By far, my favorite book/series that I read this year was this series by Leigh Bardugo. It's got an interesting YA fantasy premise with cool magical powers and such, but my favorite part is that it's set in a pre-industrial Russia-like setting, with lots of Russian folklore and faux-Russian names. Honestly, more than anything else, this rich and vibrant setting really made these books for me! 

Enclave by Ann Aguirre (3/8)

Outpost by Ann Aguirre (3/9)

Horde by Ann Aguirre (3/10)

I thoroughly enjoyed the above series by Ann Aguirre. It's a gripping zombie series that was juuuust scary enough to be exciting but not so scary that I had nightmares. Someone recommended that I just check out all 3 at a time because it was terrible to have to wait to read the next ones, so I got my hands on all of them and read them in 3 days! 

Siege and Storm by Leigh Bardugo (3/25) 


April

The Grand Sophy by Georgette Heyer (Not sure when I finished this one!)

If you love Jane Austen and the Regency Era, pick up this book! It was a delightful story with a fun and interesting main character, and I loved reading it. 

The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood (4/6)

Matched by Allie Condie (4/17)

Imager by L.E. Modesitt (4/28)


May 

Dangerous by Shannon Hale (5/2)


Dangerous is probably my second favorite book that I read this year. It starts as a story about a young girl that goes that space camp for a few weeks, but ends up being a fantastic super hero/alien powers book that I couldn't put down. It was so good, I immediately made Jesse read it too!


June

Crossed by Allie Condie (6/4)

Reached by Allie Condie (6/27)

You'll notice I read the whole Matched series by Allie Condie, but haven't commented on it! I liked it enough to read all 3, obviously, but I'll admit that by the third book I was just slogging through to find out how it ended. I think this is a series that definitely works for some people, but didn't so much for me.

The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman (4/27)


Ah! This book! Neil Gaiman, as those of you who have read him know, is a masterful storyteller with a vivid imagination. This story introduces us to a middle-aged man on his way to a funeral reception, before quickly delving into his forgotten childhood memories, full of ancient magic and strange monsters. I loved the beautiful prose, the imaginative world Gaiman created, and the lovely way that Gaiman showed us a strange world through a child's eyes. This is one book I definitely need to own and re-read!


July

Pivot Point by Kasie West (7/5)

Hild by Nicola Griffith (7/15)

By far the most different book I read this year, Hild is the story of Saint Hilda of Whitby in seventh-century Britain. It was an extremely well-written book, marrying great character development with an interesting look at what life in 7th century Britain was like, both for those struggling for power (such as various kings and princes) and for the powerless (peasants and women). 

Split Second by Kasie West (7/16)

Burial Rites by Hannah Kent (7/24)


August

Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor (8/1)

Days of Blood and Starlight by Laini Taylor (8/4)

Dreams of Gods and Monsters by Laini Taylor (8/27)

The above trilofy by Laini Taylor is another series that I enjoyed enough to see all the way through, but not enough to rave about. Taylor created a fascinating world with interesting characters, but the ending of the third book was so completely unsatisfying that it sort of ruined the other books for me.


September

Ruin and Rising by Leigh Bardugo ( 9/15)

This is not a Test by Courtney Summers (9/30)


October

Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg (10/28)

This is the only non-fiction book I read this year, and I'll be honest, I didn't even finish it! It was an interesting look at the struggles women face in the workplace and some ideas for how to make things more equal (both on the part of men and women) but honestly, I had a hard time relating to Sandberg's life (she mentions struggling one year when her husband commuted by plane for his work in another city and wasn't home very often...I see how that could be a struggle for her, but that will, never, ever be something I'll face in life so I had a hard time relating!) so I didn't end up finishing it. I found enough of value in it though, so I'm still glad I picked it up!


November

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime by Mark Haddon (11/6)

Steelheart by Brandon Sanderson (11/12)

All the Truth that's in Me by Julie Berry (11/14)

Cinder by Marissa Meyer (11/18)


December

Scarlet by Marissa Meyer (12/9)

Between the Spark and the Burn by April Genevieve Tucholke (12/11)

A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens (12/17)

These Broken Stars by Amie Kaufman and Megan Spencer (12/29)


I just finished this book a few days ago and loved it! The authors created a vibrant world of galactic colonization and rigid class systems, then added a survival story on an unfamiliar planet with two characters who couldn't be less happy to be stranded together. I loved the sci-fi elements (What would falling out of hyperspace unexpectedly look like? How about a semi-terraformed planet?) and really enjoyed that character development. The next book just came out and I can't wait to read it!

So there's that! Sorry for the extremely long post--I know this isn't relevant for that many of my readers, but I really wanted to have a good record of what I read this year! Here's hoping I manage to read a lot in the new year as well! :)

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Five!

Our marriage turned five years old last week! No longer a baby and definitely not a toddler, our marriage is the age of a full grown child ready to set off for Kindergarten on her own two little legs!  

We kept the celebration small this year, with a dinner out to a Mexican place I had been craving, and finished it with a childless date to a pop-up dry bar downtown.


My blurry boys! I love them so :)

The dry bar was super fun--great live jazz, delicious non-alcoholic drinks, and a really fun, relaxed atmosphere :)



We got a Pomegranate Rosemary Soda and a Spiced Pear Cream Soda. So delicious!

Our date wouldn't have been complete without an awkward selfie (or a few), in which Jesse didn't tell me he was going to make silly faces and I just about ran out of smiling faces in which my eyes weren't completely squished shut. 




Since I want to have a record of it here, I'm going to copy what I wrote on facebook:

We might have been basically children when we got married (ok, I'm exaggerating a little bit...) but I can honestly say that the last five years have been, hands down, the best five years of my life. Being married toJesse is the best adventure ever. Even an ordinary dinner conversation with him is great (common topics including but not limited to: pacifism and Christian socialism, what the YA lit novel I'm reading lately is about, the legal precedent for Plessy vs Ferguson, something funny Nikolai said/did during the day, whether or not Russia will invade Ukraine tomorrow, and the frequency and consistency of our toddler's poop). Some days we're more tired and less patient, and other days are just mundane, but every day he makes me a happier and a better person. This is a good thing we're doing, and I'm glad to be doing it with you Jesse!

Monday, December 29, 2014

Christmas for an almost 3 year old

In case you're wondering, Christmas with an almost 3 year old is definitely the best. 

Nikolai was pleasantly excited about presents, but not SO excited that he wanted to tear into all of them at once. 


He LOVED the goofy stocking stuffers I got for him (picture below: prism glasses, finger monsters and a magnifying glass).




And he loved all of his presents!



He also loved the candy we had in our stockings--this is him after a cinnamon roll and candy induced sugar crash :)


This was our first Christmas on our own (without family!) and while we missed our loved ones, it was also really special to do Christmas morning with just our family. 

To our loved ones: we love you and miss you and hope to see you next year!(?)

Sunday, December 21, 2014

O Tannenbaum

Our little tree has been up for weeks but I'll post about it now anyways :)

This was the first year that we let Nikolai help decorate...


...and obviously, most of the ornaments ended up on the lower level of the tree, all in one place ;)


We spread them all back out eventually (and after a few handmade ornaments got broken, instituted a rule that our sweet toddler could no longer take ornaments off the tree at will). 


All the same, it was really fun to decorate it together!

I did some things differently with the tree this year: 1) I finally replaced the old ribbon we had as a garland with a chain of colorful paper circles, which may or may not go back on the tree next year, but this year I really like it :)  2) I re-made the tree skirt! The one I made 2 years ago was too small and I finally got tired of it, so I pulled it apart and used the scraps of the old with some red fabric to make a bigger one. I'm pretty pleased with how it turned out!


Also this year, we've started including Nikolai in our nightly Advent calendar ritual. 


He sits moderately well through the reading of a scripture and singing of a song, but his favorite part is obviously that candy :)



The first time we did it, we got the candy out before we read the scripture. There were 6 caramel Hershey's kisses--2 for each of us.  Well, Nikolai, who almost never gets candy, was so excited that he immediately ripped the wrappers off his and stuffed them in his tiny mouth as fast as he could. He did it so quickly, neither of us even noticed when he took one of each of ours and ate them too! His little face was so intense and earnest and adorable that we obviously couldn't be grumpy with him, so we laughed instead :) 

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Christmas Cookiefest

Cookies are my favorite food, and this year I decided to share that love with our friends by having a Christmas cookie party! 

I baked sort of a ridiculous amount of cookies:


(in case you're wondering, there were: gingersnaps, chocolate mint thins, cranberry orange trail bites, almond icebox rounds, red velvet cookies and chocolate raspberry tassies)

Invited a ridiculous amount of our lovely friends (who were all obviously in constant motion, so I couldn't get a non-blurry picture!):


Made some wassail, set out some milk and invited other to bring cookies too, if they wanted (they clearly didn't disappoint!):


It was a really lovely evening spent enjoying yummy food with so many of our favorite people. Thanks to everyone who came for being so awesome, and to those who couldn't come/we might have forgotten to invite: we love you and hope to see you next year! Merry Christmas! 

Friday, December 19, 2014

Preschool play

Something I started this semester in order to have better quality time with Niko was an informal preschool curriculum. Most weeks (depending on how busy we are with other things) we learn a new letter, number and shape/color, and often learn a new word like "calf" or "lighthouse." I haven't been terribly consistent about it, but it has definitely been fun coming up with little projects to do together to introduce Niko to letters and numbers. 

Here's some snapshots of a project we did a few weeks ago:


(Niko glued all these squares down by himself!)



By no means does Nikolai know all of the letters and numbers we've done by heart, but that's not really the point for me at this stage of the game. Mostly, it's been fun to engage him in small, crafty projects that we both enjoy doing :)

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Lowe's Build and Grow Workshop

A little while ago I heard that Lowe's hosts workshops for kids every now and then where they get to come and build a project for free! Our little Nikolai really enjoys projects (at home it's usually just cutting or coloring or painting, but he calls it a project all the same!) so I thought he would really enjoy it!

This month's project was a Christmas train (also right up Niko's alley) and we had a really good time :) He's not quite strong enough yet to hammer the nails in all by himself, but he was great at putting them in the right holes and getting them started with the hammer. 



The final steps are adding stickers, which he didn't almost completely by himself (I'll admit, I tried to help make sure they ended up in more or less the right place!).  And he loved pushing the button on top to make it light up!


This is the sort of thing that I think will only become more fun as Niko gets older, so I definitely think it's something we'll do again in the future! Thanks for a fun morning and a cool program, Lowe's!

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

In case you're wondering

This is what it looks like when a 2 year old eats salad:


(Shocking, I know! And wonderful! Like spotting a mythical rare beast in the wild!)

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Kindlefest 2014

Does doing something 3 years in a row make it a tradition? If so, going to a German Christmas market is now a family tradition!  (Posts from 2012, 2013)

As per tradition, we took an awkward family selfie:


And we bought a new ornament for our tree!


There were several other ornaments we REALLY liked this year, but I started feeling sentimental about our time here in Michigan and decided I wanted an ornament especially to remember how much we've loved living here. (I know, I know, we'll be here for another year at least, but it feels like it's speeding by and it makes me so sad!!)  Also, the ornament is made of a beautiful piece of cedar, and it's hard to go wrong with that, right?

Also at the market were some adorable hand knitted baby boots that I completely fell in love with. After walking past the booth a handful of times and eyeing them adoringly every time, I asked Jesse to go over and ask how much they cost (they weren't marked). I knew they'd be too expensive (the other things in the booth were awesome too but were a little more than I wanted to pay) but I wanted to know just how expensive so I could feel justified in not buying them.  


Well, sweet Jesse saw how much I loved them (and knows how much I adore sweet baby feet and things to go on them!) and went over and bought them! He tried to pretend he didn't (I was standing a ways away and couldn't see) but I had gotten suspicious because it had taken too long for him to just be asking how much they were, so he ended up telling me ;) 

I'm so excited for little girl to get to wear them! In the meantime, they're hanging on our tree where I can look at them every day and be pleased :) 

We loved Kindlefest this year and are certainly going to continue the tradition next year! 



Monday, December 15, 2014

My boys/Finals/Orchestra

Hey, long time no write! For some reason, I thought I had blogged sometime in mid-November, but looking at it today I realized that last time I posted was November 2nd! What?? Where did the time go?

Well, I know for Jesse at least, most of it has been spent frantically writing papers and studying for finals in a mad, end-of-the-semester blitz that hasn't ended just yet. (Just 40 pages to write before Friday at 5!)  And I suppose I've been busy making sure the house is (relatively) clean, dishes are washed, we have clean clothes to wear, etc. 

Also, I've been busy with Orchestra! Last night was our final concert of the year--an awesome Christmas concert with a local high school orchestra as well as a local choir. We also got to play in the amazing Hill Auditorium on the UM campus, which has hosted tons of famous orchestras and performers over the years (the Berliner and Wiener Philharmonics, to name a few!).  It was really incredible to play in such an awesome place :)


We played a really awesome Bach Christmas Oratorio as well as some fun traditional Christmas numbers.  

This isn't our orchestra obviously, but you can hear how the Oratorio sounds (also, our choir sang in English instead of German--a bummer for me, but a nice thing for them and the audience!):


So that's part of what's been keeping me busy lately! In the next few days I'll post some of the other fun things we've been doing that have kept me from posting!

Finally, I'll leave you with this picture of my sleepy boys hanging out on the couch:


(And yes, Megan, Jesse is reading Words of Radiance and loving it! It's all your fault! ;D)