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mcpolish book list: year 12

15 Nov

A lot of reading happened this year. A lot. Possibly my best reading year yet, numbers-wise? Could be. I’d have to go back through my files and check. But just trust me that it’s probably my best reading year yet, because frankly I feel too lazy to actually go back and check.

I can attribute all the reading to two big factors. First, that for much of this reading year I had a lengthy train commute to and from work. Second, I had another baby.

Wait, whuut? What does having a baby have to do with an uptick in reading? As I explained last time I had a baby tiny humans expect to be fed frequently, and there’s not much else you can do while feeding them except read books or watch TV. (Or read books while watching TV.) And while there are many shows I’m engrossed in, and rewatching (I’m looking at you, original Will & Grace series), TV gets real old, real fast.

So. BOOKS!

And voila, we have a lengthy list for RY18.

Check out the list below!

Books completed between November 10, 2017 and November 9, 2018

  1. The Bookshop on the Corner–Jenny Colgan* (I have found a new author to love and now I MUST READ EVERYTHING SHE’S WRITTEN.)
  2. Meet Me at the Cupcake Cafe–Jenny Colgan*
  3. Paw and Order–Spencer Quinn (This is one of the books in the middle of the Chet and Bernie series, I think. I liked it overall, but I could not overlook the fact that Chet always describes things vividly in color, though in real life dogs see in black and white.)
  4. Just One of the Guys–Kristan Higgins*
  5. Christmas at Little Beach Street Bakery–Jenny Colgan*
  6. Rumor Has It–Jill Mansell*
  7. Marrying Up–Wendy Holden*
  8. Welcome to Rosie Hopkins’ Sweet Shop of Dreams–Jenny Colgan*
  9. The Christmas Surprise–Jenny Colgan*
  10. You and Me, Always–Jill Mansell*
  11. Little Fires Everywhere–Celeste Ng* (Book club read)
  12. Solo–Jill Mansell* (It’s like every time something can go wrong in this book, it does.)
  13. Shades of Milk and Honey–Mary Robinette Kowal (Book club read)
  14. The Loveliest Chocolate Shop in Paris–Jenny Colgan* (Interestingly, I was not as in love with this book as I have been her others. I’m not sure what it was. By the end of it I was definitely into it, and it seemed to pick up speed. But…eh, I don’t know. It seemed a little…disjointed? Is that the word I’m looking for? Perhaps. I did like the recipes at the end, though.)
  15. The Woman in the Window–AJ Finn* (Book club read) (First of all, let’s talk about how I didn’t realize that a guy wrote this book. I’m not sure if that matters or not, but it kind of shocked me. Second, I stayed up way too late finishing this, and then had to wake up Swede to talk to me because I was too jacked up to go to sleep. It reminded me a lot of The Girl on the Train, but with a much more likeable heroine.)
  16. An American Marriage–Tayari Jones (Book club read) (I don’t think I liked ANY of the characters in this book. The story was interesting, but I kept getting side tracked by my dislike of all the characters, with the exception of a few of them, like Big Roy.)
  17. The Tuscan Child–Rhys Bowen* (Another standalone from Bowen. The descriptions of the Italian countryside and food are simply terrific. I will say that the solving-of-the-mystery part seemed a little vague to me, though. Like, the main character had all these THOUGHTS about the solution, and then, oh, hey, yes, it’s all true. It could have used some beefing up, maybe? But maybe that’s just because I didn’t want the book to end.)
  18. The Weekenders–Mary Kay Andrews*
  19. My Kind of You–Tracy Brogan* (WOW that wrapped up really fast at the end. Almost like her editor was all, “Okay, we’ve reached page and word count. Need to get this thing ended.”)
  20. Perfect Scoundrels–Ally Carter*
  21. Double Crossed (novella)–Ally Carter
  22. Fools Rush In–Kristan Higgins
  23. The Immortalists–Chloe Benjamin* (Book Club read) (To be honest, I had a lot of issues with this book, mostly with the pacing of Varya’s story, and Klara’s ending seemed to come out of nowhere, but overall it’s a good read. And I guess makes you think. Really I recommend it for Simon’s story, which was the best one by far, IMHO. After his they all seemed a little meh.)
  24. I Take You–Eliza Kennedy (Very funny in spots, but toward the end it gets pretty preachy about bed hopping, which was distracting.)
  25. Crazy Rich Asians–Kevin Kwan* (I liked this book a LOT, and am looking forward to reading his others, but I have to say that the ending was incredibly disappointing and anti-climactic.)
  26. Now That You Mention It–Kristan Higgins*
  27. The Curvy Girls Club (Book 1)–Michele Gorman*
  28. All Fall Down (An Embassy Row Novel, Book 1)–Ally Carter* (I like this book a lot, and I am excited to read the next books in the series, but like with other books of Carter’s, there were points where I felt like the writing was trying to be too…something. Descriptive, maybe? Or metaphorical? I’m not sure what exactly, but it left me confused in spots, like she couldn’t quite nail writing how a plot point gets discovered or resolved by a character, and just sort of writes around it. It was distracting, but didn’t really harm my overall enjoyment of the book.)
  29. China Rich Girlfriend–Kevin Kwan*
  30. The Death of Mrs. Westaway–Ruth Ware* (Book club read) (It’s labeled as a thriller, but I didn’t find it as gripping as I did Woman in the Window. That said, I was very intrigued by the plot line and finding out the answers to the mystery questions.)
  31. Once in a Blue Moon Lodge–Lorna Landvik*
  32. Beautiful Lies–Lisa Unger (Book Club Read) (I wish the author had answered a few more of the questions that came up in this book, and there was definitely a little over-explaining filler that could have been edited out/revised, but all in all it kept me reading until the end, so that’s a good thing.)
  33. Perfect Timing–Jill Mansell*
  34. This Could Change Everything–Jill Mansell*
  35. Sheer Mischief–Jill Mansell*
  36. The Endless Beach–Jenny Colgan*
  37. The Little Perfume Shop off the Champs-Elysees–Rebecca Raisin
  38. Four Funerals and Maybe A Wedding–Rhys Bowen*
  39. A Walk in the Park–Jill Mansell* (Thank God she has written so many books because I apparently am reading ALLLLLLLLLL of them this year.)
  40. Take a Chance on Me–Jill Mansell* (See? ALLLLLLLL THE JILL MANSELL THIS YEAR.)
  41. Good at Games–Jill Mansell* (ALLLLLL of them!)
  42. Somebody to Love–Kristan Higgins*
  43. The Next Best Thing–Kristan Higgins
  44. Sophia of Silicon Valley–Anna Yen*
  45. The One You Really Want–Jill Mansell* (ALL!)
  46. Falling for You–Jill Mansell*
  47. Thinking of You–Jill Mansell*
  48. Paris for One–Jojo Moyes* (Was not expecting a collection of short stories but there you have it, and they all have a happy ending. Bonus.)
  49. The Naturals–Jamie Lynn Barnes*
  50. Don’t Want to Miss A Thing–Jill Mansell*
  51. Head Over Heels–Jill Mansell* (This is getting a little out of control.)
  52. The Trouble with Lexie—Jessica Anya Blau
  53. Three Amazing Things About You–Jill Mansell*
  54. Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine–Gail Honeyman* (Book club read) (This is, hands down, one of the best characters I’ve ever read.)
  55. One Plus One—Jojo Moyes* (Book club read)

 

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unpacking, again

8 Nov

We’re still unpacking.*

And it’s making me question many of my life choices.

Why do I have all of these knick-knacks?

Why did we register for 17 different platters? Because now we have 32 different platters.

Why did we pack a paper grocery bag full of junk mail and sundry papers?

Stuff upon stuff upon stuff and it’s overwhelming sometimes to even look at it, let alone dig deeper than the first layer of crumpled newspaper used as protection against…what? Ourselves? Because it’s not as if it was used as protection from other objects banging around next to it. That would require that I’d packed these things in some semblance of order.

I didn’t.

Towels are in with steak knives. Plates are packed with baby toys. Shoes are packed with silverware. There is little rhyme or reason to my packing. If there is any rhyme or reason at all. Really it’s more like it was an unrestrained flinging of things into the nearest container possible and shoving it out of sight. Which worked at the time, and probably made sense to me at the time. A lot of things make sense to Past McPolish. Present and Future McPolish are often left beffudled.

Why do we have so many coffee mugs?

Do I really need a platter specifically for deviled eggs?

Why did I pack all of this janky, half-burned Gladware? It’s stained with the remembrance of 1,000 chili lunches. Why did I think I would actually reuse it?

Another bag of junk mail and random papers? WTF?

I am desperate to not fall into the adage of “filling the space you have.” I am desperate to get rid of crap we don’t need.

Is a cheese knife really necessary? Will a regular knife not work just as well?

Where does this random unidentifiable plastic object belong? Can it belong in the trash? Is it an essential piece of this house and the house will come tumbling down if I throw it out?

Why do we have multiple packs of Q-Tips?

SERIOUSLY WHY THE FUCK ARE THERE MULTIPLE BAGS OF JUNK MAIL AND BULLSHIT PIECES OF PAPER STORED IN OUR BASEMENT AND CRAWL SPACE?

I’ll get there eventually, Interwebs. Maybe.

 

*Current unpacked box count, as of this typing: 3

unpacking

1 Nov

In January we decided that we would remodel the kitchen and bathroom of the house we purchased after we sold our bootbox of a condo. 

It seemed like a good idea at the time.

It both was and was not.

Was because we now have a shower, instead of just a tub, in the bathroom. (I am not a bath person. Baths freak me out.)

Was not because it took 10 months, when it was only supposed to take two.

Was because now we have a dishwasher in our kitchen.

Was not because we had to fire our contractor and piecemeal the remaining work.

I could go on for pages and pages until the end of the Interwebs with this back and forth. But I won’t, because the important thing right now is that what no one ever tells you about remodeling your house, even just a couple of rooms, requires two of the most awful tasks ever: 1. Packing up all the shit in the rooms being renovated and storing it in other rooms of your house, and 2. Unpacking and reorganizing that same shit when the remodel is done.

Now, you might be thinking the same thing Swede and I have been thinking, which is that unpacking all of this shit is a prime opportunity to get rid of half this shit. We’ve been living without it for the past 10 months, right? Clearly we don’t need most of this shit, then. Or even any of it! Get rid of it all! Toss out every single box and bag and precariously packed hanging basket! Burn them to the ground!

Except that some of those boxes contain my Waterford crystal wine glasses, and I’ll be damned if I get rid of those.

And some of the other boxes contain my Le Creuset baking dishes and I will slap you into next Tuesday if you even suggest I part with those.

Thus, Swede and I are now tasked with going through each and every box to determine what to keep and what to ditch. And we have to do this while two small humans demand such things as attention and food and diapers that have not exploded up the back of their shirts like the impervious monarchs that they are.

Nevertheless, we persist. We’re trying to be thoughtful about what we put back in the house and what we donate or toss outright. We don’t want a lot of crap in our house. Because frankly, that’s just more crap that needs to be cleaned. And more time spent cleaning means less time spent drinking Diet Pepsi and watching Hulu while the impervious monarchs nap.

In sorting through the few* boxes and bags I’ve managed to tackle, I’ve tried to take a Konmari** approach to the task, determining whether or not various items spark joy. Yes, obviously the Le Creuset sparks joy. But does my plastic mixing bowl? Not particularly, but at this point, it’s the only mixing bowl I can find, and it works perfectly well, and I use it frequently so there’s no point in tossing it because then I’d just have to buy a new one and that’s a waste of money so the plastic mixing bowl stays. Until I maybe find one of my other mixing bowls at which point I’ll have to reevaluate my feelings on this current mixing bowl.

This is all to say that after a few hours of this process, the Konmari method can suck it. What is a much more appealing method?

BURN IT ALL TO THE MOTHERFUCKING GROUND!

Bum to us, though, our town has laws against open bonfires.

 

*And by few I mean, as of this typing, one.

**I have never actually read any of Marie Kondo’s books, and my understanding of her methods is based solely on what I’ve heard from friends and random strangers and on television talk shows.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

kind of like glee, without the drama

25 Oct

20181012_204421.jpg

A couple weeks ago I went with two of my pals to Choir! Choir! Choir! 

If you’ve ever been to this event, you just clapped your hands and got very excited and started humming the song you learned, trying to remember the harmonizing notes.

If you haven’t ever been, here’s a brief overview: It’s a high school choir reunion with alcohol.

This is the second time I’ve participated in Choir! Choir! Choir! and both times have been memorable experiences. Not because I was suddenly discovered to have a voice like Norah Jones and signed a record contract (my first album will be titled “What the Shit is Going On Here and Where Are My Car Keys?” Look for it this Christmas); but rather because now I know all the words to “Crazy Little Thing Called Love” by Queen and “Dreams” by Fleetwood Mac. And not only that, but I can harmonize the shit out of both songs.

And I’m a better person for it.

The two guys who founded this event, Daveed and Nobu, basically teach a crowd of people who have typically consumed between one and four glasses of wine or beer the music to popular songs. You self-select into highs, middles, or lows, depending on your vocal range, and learn your part of the music. And sometimes you can stick with your part. And other times your ear fails you and you end up singing a totally different part of the music. (Maybe you’re better at melodies. Perhaps you can’t resist the harmony. Whatevs.) There’s a little bit of comedy, ALL of the audience participation, and more than one person who thinks they have a voice like Norah Jones but in fact is the opposite of Norah Jones and really their voice is more akin to a Muppet but who gives a crap because it’s fun and no one is really getting a record contract so let’s all just calm the hell down and sing a bit.

Singing makes me happy. I’m not terribly good at it, but I so love it. I loved being in choir in high school, and I’ve never made time to pursue community choirs or the like as an adult. Maybe I should. Maybe I will. One day. But in the meantime, I love these types of one-off events that make my heart happy and make me feel like the world IS in fact a beautiful place and people are not completely terrible. Singing feels good, and I like being a part of something that is bigger than just me, even for just a little bit. Together we make a nice song.

(Check out the video of the Chicago event!)

since we last met

18 Oct

Since we last met—and I mean before this lovely autumnal month of changing leaves and earlier sunsets and an acceptable time to wear knee-high boots—a lot has happened in the McSwedolish family.

For one thing, we undertook a kitchen and bathroom renovation in the house that we purchased last year. It was and was not probably the best idea we’ve had.

For another thing, we went to Canada. It was magical. It involved bagels, and poutine. I’ll have to tell you about it some time.

For a third thing, we had a second baby. She is more magical than Canada.

But the most exciting thing that has happened since we last met, my friends, is that I saw where Missy Elliott lives.  

No YOU get UR freak on, because I am not even bullshitting you about this.

In February we went to visit some friends in Atlanta, and one afternoon, as my pal and I were driving….to the grocery store? To get frozen yogurts? Honestly, I’m not sure where we were going. I’m sure there was a point to our drive, but for the life of me I can’t remember what it was now except to see where Missy Elliot lived.

And my friend presented the option to me all casual-like. “Oh, hey, while we’re driving down this road, want to see Missy Elliott’s house? My friends live right around the corner from her and we’re nearby.”

Do I want to see Missy Elliott’s house?

Do I want to see where the woman whose music informed much of my drunken early- to mid-20s lives?

Do I want to see what the home of a woman who has been a powerhouse of music looks like?

Do I want to furiously look up the lyrics to that garbled part of “Work It” and finally figure out what she’s rapping?*

Yes. To all of the above.

So we did.

We pulled into a cul de sac, and drove around slowly and my friend pointed and said, “That’s it there. That’s Missy Elliott’s house.”

And it will probably come as no surprise to anyone (including myself) that Missy Elliott’s house is just a normal house in a cul-de-sac. It’s modern and lovely—different than the Spanish style and lovely houses of her neighbors, which does make it stand out a little. Well, that and the firmly displayed No Trespassing signs—and it was so normal looking that if you didn’t know it was Missy Elliott’s house, you wouldn’t know it was Missy Elliott’s house. I guess that’s the point, though? Celebrities, just like us, etc etc. It’s not like I expected her to be popping moves while floating rhymes on her front lawn while Timbaland and Ludacris made guest appearances, jumping out from the backyard.

Though that would have been amazong.

We admired Missy Elliott’s house for a couple of minutes and then, not wanting to look like suspicious stalkers casing the joint, drove away. I gave a little wave, just in case Missy Elliott happened to be looking out her window at that moment, though what I really, really wanted to do was lean out the window and shout “ICHI NI SAN SHI!”** I did not, though, and you’re welcome for that, Missy Elliott’s Neighbors. But you can damn bet that on my next trip to Atlanta, I just might.

 

*According to the Interwebs it’s “put my thing down flip it and reverse it” backwards

**No idea if I’m spelling that correctly.

 

now we are 39

11 Oct

In less than six months I will be entering into a new decade. In March I’ll turn 40, which could be cause for concern, but quite frankly I have other, more pressing things to be concerned about, like how the fuck do I always manage to lose pacifiers for my infant right at the time when I would very much like to stick it in her facehole so I can continue enjoying my Diet Pepsi in peace?

But I digress.

Birthdays are a time ripe for creating lists. If ever there were a time to create the list to end all lists, it would be now. The timing is prime for a 40 Before 40 list, and me being an ardent list lover, of course I started composing one. Except that I quickly acknowledged two things last March when I turned 39 and the idea of creating the list first sprang forth:

  1. I was pregnant and creating anything other than the life in my uterus was not really going to happen because Good Chickens* the mere thought of putting on shoes that I had to tie was exhausting.
  2. I couldn’t actually think of 40 things I was desperate to do before turning 40.

So I came up with five.

  1. Visit Canada. Because for fuck’s sake, it’s right there.
  2. Visit at least one new state. In my lifetime I want to visit all 50 states, and thus far I have 34 under my belt. I could say I want to visit the last 16 on the list before I turn 40, but Interwebs, please. I work, I have a family, and I have potato chips to eat.
  3. Finish the goddamn book. If you are a writer harboring any inkling of hope of ever having one, just one, novel published, you feel me on this one.
  4. Refinish a piece of furniture. This is mainly a goal to benefit my parents, because there is a dresser that I got for free from a neighbor 15 years ago that has been languishing in their basement for as many years, as I’ve had the intent for that long to refinish it into something spectacular.
  5. Make croissants and/or a rolled cake. First of all, to be able to claim I’ve made homemade croissants would give me a bag full of bragging rights. To whom, I don’t know, most likely anyone who would listen, or at least look in my direction. Second, both of these items are on my self-induced Baking Challenge List, and strike me as incredibly daunting. (Particularly the rolled cake. It always seems to go sideways for so many bakers on those baking challenge shows.)

These five things are to-dos that I really, really want to make happen. I wanted to make them happen when I devised the list, and I still want to make them happen now that the list is six months old. The issue, however, is that, as I mentioned, I was pregnant for the solid first half of my 39th year, which means I was tired for the solid first half of my 39th year. And now, as I’m into the second half, I’m still tired. It turns out having a baby and a two-year-old? Is tiring.

But! I’m holding out hope that I can get these five things crossed off my list. And in fact—you’ll never believe it—I’ve already done one of them. Done. Finished. Crossed off the list. (CANADA, BITCHES!)

I know. I am very impressive, aren’t I? (Actually, the Canada trip was all thanks to Swede, who arranged it as a belated birthday present, knowing it was on my list.)

Wish me luck, Interwebs. I’ve got less than six months to go to get these last four things crossed off my list. I know my track record of actually completing goals and things is not stellar, but… Well, no, that’s it. It’s not stellar. So it’s anybody’s guess as to whether or not I can get my act together enough to make them happen.

 

*When I was a tween, I babysat for a couple kids across the street who had a Peter Pan book that had buttons you pressed and the various characters sprouted various phrases. The kid with the tophat character—John, maybe? I don’t know, have I ever actually watched Peter Pan?—when you pressed his button he exclaimed, “Good Heavens!” which the four year old I was sitting interpreted as “Good Chickens!” and it was hilarious then and it’s hilarious now and you’re welcome.  

things i’ve been meaning to tell you: october 2018

4 Oct

One: I’ve been watching the newest episodes of The Great British Bake Off on Netflix—you know, the ones sans Mary Berry, Mel, and Sue. But the ones that still had Paul Hollywood as one of the judges. I was as hesitant as most people were at these changes—how could it possibly be even an iota as good at the originals without Mel and Sue and Mary?!?—but I’ve found that I like the two new comedians who have replaced Mel and Sue, and I read an interview with Prue, the host who replaced Mary Berry, about how she once went to a sex party and just walked around naked, but purposefully, from room to room, as if she had an assignation to get to, though she never participated in the sex part of it, which made me laugh and think hey, this lady might not be so bad.

Anyway, the other thing I’ve noticed with the new episodes is that Paul Hollywood shaking hands with a baker when he feels they’ve done an exceptional job has become A Thing. Like, a Big Thing. The contestants, when they receive a handshake, are all sorts of agog and beside themselves and all atwitter. You’d think they were shaking the hand of Jesus Christ Himself. Then again, I’m sure there are people out there who consider Paul Hollywood their Baking Savior, so I guess it makes sense. I don’t really see it, but then, I’ve always thought Paul Hollywood is a bit of an arrogant blue-eyed baker, and I don’t think much of his opinion, so there’s that.

 

Two: I may have mentioned this before, but the UB40 version of Can’t Help Falling in Love is better than Elvis’s version. There. I said it. And if I haven’t mentioned it before, well, now I have.

 

Three: We’ve been eating in restaurants a lot lately—too much, but thankfully that’s changing—and I think we all need to be honest and admit something: 99% of breakfast restaurants’ hashbrowns are terrible. They’re just stupid to the point of why put them on the plate? More often than not they’re undercooked and flavorless, and if there is one thing you are going to do to insult me, it’s serve me a poorly made potato. Potatoes are like tofu, in a way—they are vehicles to carry other flavors. And often those flavors are salt, oil, and/or butter. Sometimes garlic. Maybe a little rosemary. Or thyme. But if we’re talking hashbrowns, just go with the straight salt and your choice of fat (oil, butter, bacon grease; I’m not picky), and for the love of all that his holy, make sure they’re cooked well. Hashbrowns should be golden and crispy on the outside (maybe more than golden if you like them well done), and creamy on the inside. But do most breakfast places heed these cookery instructions? No. And that’s why most restaurant places end up serving terrible hashbrowns. (The exception being my all-time favorite breakfast place, The Scrambled, which has, hands down, the best hashbrowns in the world, and I would slap your mom on the head if she tried to get between me and their hashbrowns.) (Not my mom, mind you. But your mom I’ll totally slap.)