2011: A Year in Books

I love to read. As a librarian, people often think all I do all day is sit around and read books. I wish this was my job. How awesome would it be to get paid to read books all day. In fact my job rarely involves me ever even touching a book, which is something I think boggles the minds of people who aren’t librarians and who don’t actually understand what most librarians actually do all day. This post however is not about that. Even though I don’t get paid to read all day, I do read a lot. I don’t normally write about books here that much because I already post my reviews on my other blog and on Goodreads, so if you’re interested in what I’m reading and what I think about it you can follow me in one of those two places.

However, since reading is such a huge part of my life and something that makes me very happy I thought I would do a highlight post about the books I read during 2011 (note these are not all books that were written in 2011).

I read 109 books during 2011. I gave my highest ratings of the year (9 out of 10) to three books: Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption by Laura Hillenbrand, Working in the Shadows by Gabriel Thompson, and Don’t Breathe a Word by Jennifer McMahon. 2011 was also the year I finally managed to read anything by Stewart O’Nan, whose books had long been sitting on my to-read list. I am so glad I did as the four I read were wonderful. He is definitely earning a place on my list of favorite authors. Luckily I still have a number of books in his back catalog to read. I also finally read the three novels written by Pamela Ribon, whose writing I had long been a fan of on her blog as well as her recaps on Television Without Pity. She has a fourth book coming out in 2012, which will be at the top of my to-read list once it’s published.

Now on to 2012 where there are many more wonderful books waiting to be read.

Milo Greene

I was just introduced to Milo Greene a few days ago thanks to a story on NPR. The NPR Music interns were talking about their favorite bands of 2011 that they really like, but that NPR didn’t cover during the past year. One of the intern’s pick was Milo Greene. They are a band out of L.A., who has apparently been gaining some traction opening some shows for The Civil Wars. When I first heard them I was reminded of The Civil Wars so that seems about right. They have some amazingly beautiful harmonies. Unfortunately at this point they don’t even have an EP out, but apparently one is forthcoming in 2012. For the time being you can listen to some of their music on their website  or enjoy this video of the NPR Music Interns Tiny Deskless Concert.

Having the House to Myself

It’s rare that I have the house all to myself, so I truly appreciate those times when I am all alone. My husband is somewhat of a homebody, so he rarely goes out by himself. This is even more true now that he is working from home. I used to have Thursday mornings to myself since he would go into the office and I wouldn’t go to work until 1:30, but now he’s still home on those mornings even though he’s technically at work. He has the house to himself all the time, so I don’t think he appreciates it like I do. I’m gone at least two nights a week between work and my bible study. Add in all the extra things I do like two book clubs, season tickets to Centerstage  with my friend Alison, and many other random assorted outings with girlfriends that the boys aren’t invited to and he gets the house to himself an awful lot. On the other hand, he has no activities that involve him getting out of the house on a regular basis and unlike us girls the guys in our circle of friends rarely go out for a guys night unless there’s some occasion like a bachelor party. Tonight is one of those rare exceptions. Some of our friends are moving to Colorado in a few days, so the guys are having a farewell dinner and drinks. This leaves me home all alone, and I’m loving it. It’s not that I do anything that I wouldn’t do when my husband is here, but sometimes it’s just nice to not worry about bothering anyone else. I can watch whatever I want on TV or do whatever else with no consideration for what he is doing. For an introvert like me these alone times are great for recharging the psychological batteries. I love my husband and spending time with him, but every once in awhile it’s nice to spend some time with myself.

My Mother’s Crescent Rolls Recipe

I have no idea where this recipe came from, but my mother has been making these rolls at holidays for as long as I can remember. They are such a huge hit with my extended family that I think there would be a riot if she didn’t make them. Now that I’m married and spending some of my holidays with my in-laws I have started making them myself. I hadn’t planned on making them this year, but after we got to California my husband requested that I make them for Christmas dinner in lieu of the store bought rolls his mother would have served. Luckily I had a copy of the recipe from my mom in my email. I still haven’t mastered bread baking because I don’t do it very often, so they didn’t turn out as well as they do when my mother makes them. My husband said they were still better than store bought rolls would have been. He also suggested I need to make them more often to practice. He’s so kind. Here’s the recipe in case you want to see if you can do better.

3½ to 3 ¾ cups unbleached flour
¼ cup sugar
¼ cup softened butter
1 tsp. Salt
1 package regular yeast
¼ cup very warm water
¾ cup very warm milk
1 egg
softened butter

Dissolve yeast in the warm water.
Add the warm milk. Make sure it’s not too hot.
Add sugar and salt. Stir until dissolved.
Add butter, egg and half the flour. Stir until smooth. Add more flour until the dough is easy to handle. Put the remaining flour on a board and knead into the dough until it forms a smooth ball. Place in a greased bowl in a warm place. Cover with a clean towel. Let rise for an hour and a half. Divide dough in half. Roll out each half into a circular formation one at a time. Spread softened butter on the dough, then cut it into 16 wedges. Make crescents rolls by rolling up the wedges starting from the large end. Place on a greased cookie sheet seam side down. Cover and let rise again for 20 to 30 minutes. Bake at 400 degrees for 10 minutes.

O Holy Night by Martina McBride

I love O Holy Night in almost all its forms. This is another song where I had a hard time deciding on the version I wanted to post here. I wound up going with Martina McBride’s because she does a lovely job with it and really nails the high notes that can make this song painful to listen to when sung by a less gifted singer. It also seems an appropriate song for Christmas Eve.

Sitting by a Fire

I love sitting by a fire on a cold winter’s day. It makes everything so nice and cozy. Sadly our house doesn’t have a fireplace or any good place to put one even if we wanted to install one of those fake gas ones. I’m enjoying sitting on the couch by the fire at my in-law’s house reading and messing around on my iPad. I was just thinking the other week how much I would like to go on a ski vacation without the skiing part, which essentially means I want to go somewhere and sit by a fire while drinking hot cocoa and reading. We ate dinner at The Savage River Lodge in Western Maryland over the summer and I’m thinking it would be a great place for a winter weekend getaway. We would have a nice, cozy little cabin with a fireplace and no Internet which would force us both to disconnect for the weekend, which would probably be good. We’ll see how much of a good idea this seems after all the traveling I’m doing in January. At any rate, I’ll keep enjoying my access to a fireplace for the rest of the time we’re in California.