I saw this cute 2013 reading challenge the other day and since I can’t do anything in my life unless it’s part of a formal “challenge” I figure I’ll use it to help steer my reading for this year.
Read a childhood favorite you haven’t picked up in years.
The Little House series which I meant to re-read ever since I absconded my old books from my parents’ house.
Read a nonfiction book about religion or religious culture (or the lack thereof).
I already aced world religions in college so I’m not that interested in the mechanics of any particular belief system. I focused instead on finding a book about the effects religion can have on our sense of identity and relationships with each other. So I picked The Lemon Tree: An Arab, a Jew, and the Heart of the Middle East, Sandy Tolan, since it also seems like a good way to read about the Palestinian-Israeli conflict without reading a textbook.
Read a classic you haven’t touched since high school English.
The Great Gatsby. The new movie coming out has me itching to re-read this, which I haven’t looked at since high school.
Read a popular historical fiction novel.
Read a nonfiction book or memoir about an illness or disease.
Oh lord I don’t need any information about diseases or illnesses; I’ve already had self-diagnosed cancer for several years now. So I picked Far From the Tree: Parents, Children and the Search for Identity, Andrew Solomon, about how parents deal with children who are radically different than them. I figure it has something to do with our bodies and it’s supposed to be superb so it counts as far as I’m concerned.
Read an entire popular YA book series.
I’m not super into YA lit and have no intention of finishing the Hunger Games series. So I’ll just read Diana Peterfreund’s newest book, Across a Star Swept Sea, when it comes out this summer because I liked her last book, a post-apocolyptic retelling of Jane Austen’s Persuasion, and also because I know her, and her adorable baby and dog. I also know her husband but it seems inappropriate to call him adorable.
Read a book that was made into a movie or television show released within the past year.
I wanted to read Cloud Atlas, David Mitchell, before the movie came out and so thankfully I never saw the movie so I now can just read the book before I see it anyway. WOOHOO.
Read one of the books on New York Times reviewer Michiko Katutani’s Meanest Reviews list and decide for yourself whether the meanness was warranted.
I don’t read Katutani’s reviews (I’m a Dwight Garner fan myself) so I don’t really care what she says about anyone but I went through the list and I like Zadie Smith so I’ll read her NW. It also seems like the only fair way to accomplish this goal since I didn’t know most of the other authors beforehand and didn’t want the review comments to color my opinion before going into it.
Read one of Amazon’s Editors’ Picks for January 2013.
Read a nonfiction true crime book.
If you’re a Gene Weingarten-ite you know he’s lauded Fatal Vision by Joe McGinnis repeatedly, going so far as to write a long-form article about Jeffrey MacDonald. I’m not normally a reader of true crime but his passion for it has piqued my interest. Good god I almost said ‘peaked my interest’ just then. I’m getting stupider and stupider with age. Also my back hurts.
Read a book about a sport that usually doesn’t interest you in the slightest.
Adam has a small library of sports-related books but they all cover sports that I will admit to having slight interest in: football, baseball, basketball. I did some digging for well-reviewed sports books and came up with The Secret Race: Inside the Hidden World of the Tour de France: Doping, Cover-ups, and Winning at All Cost, Tyler Hamilton and Daniel Coyle. I believe professional bike racing is the most boring thing on earth but I’ve always been curious about the mechanics of the Tour de France.
Read a collection of short stories.
George Saunders’ Pastoralia has been on my To Read list for a while so now seems like a good time to accomplish that. Plus he just came out with a new collection so I need to get cracking on my George Saunders. Was I supposed to pick something with different stories by different authors? Tough cookies.
It’s impossible figuring out things I want to do over the course of a year. Instead I give myself six months to do this stuff. Maybe in June I’ll have more stuff I want to try, but maybe not. Maybe I’ll be dead by then. Who knows.
First Half of 2013 Resolutions
Run the Cherry Blossom Ten Miler.
Make pizza with a sourdough starter.
Get better at firelog pose (i.e. work on opening the hips).
Put privacy shrubs on the roof.
Get a haircut twice.
- Learn how to take really awesome food photos. Ehhhhhhh. Judge for yourself. Let’s think of this as an ongoing life project.
- Start a garden on my roof: I did it! I grew some tomatoes and eggplant and basil and peppers and took no photos because they didn’t come out as good as I like and I am an easily discouraged individual (see above).
- Stop buying books for my Kindle when the library has a great selection of them for free: Once I figured out how to organize everything in the DCPL Overdrive system I did much better. According to Goodreads I read 19 books this year and according to Amazon I purchased six and the six were books that I really really wanted to read and weren’t available through the library. Money $aving!! [editor's note: This number didn't seem quite right and it turns out it's because GoodReads doesn't count a book read unless you set the actual read date, as opposed to the date you gave it a score, which is, of course, totally idiotic. Anyway the total number of books I read came out to 31 so I think this means I saved even more money than I initially realized. Stupid Goodreads.]
- Take a vacation to Japan: Done. Boom.
- Find a bottle of Pappy Van Winkle: I found it and declined to buy it. One hundred and eighty dollars for bourbon? Here’s an idea: take that money and treat yourself to a bottle of Elmer T. Lee, a Willett Family Estate, High West Campfire and throw in a bottle of scotch of your choice and you will have a fine collection instead of one bottle of PVW.
- Try making 101 different kinds of pizza: Made fifty! Will make another fifty this year.
- Be more active: Done! Bought a bike! Did lots of yoga, joined a gym, generally did an okay job moving around even though I never tried the boxing gym near my house like I intended.
And some more stupid things thrown in:
- Use that bloody pasta maker that I asked for and received on my birthday last year – NOPE
- Update my blog theme – YUP! Take a look.
- Go diving. – NOPE
- Throw more dinner parties. – Do pizza parties count?
- Go camping/cabining for the first time in my life. Sit by a campfire and drink bourbon and make s’mores. – SORTA! I didn’t spend the night but I did do a bonfire with friends at an orchard and drank bourbon and made smores. It was awesome.
- Eat more sushi. – NOPE. And I went to Japan too. For shame.
I stopped doing those monthly review things because they were boring but now I can’t remember anything that happened this past year. Here are my gut reaction responses.
Best Movie: Ummm. Beginners? Was that 2012? Moonrise Kingdom then. Pitch Perfect. God I have no idea. Beasts of the Southern Wild. What movies did I see?
Best TV Show: How great is Breaking Bad? It’s so great.
Best Books: I didn’t care for it but let’s sit down and talk about the end of Gone Girl. WTF was that.
Best Music: Grimes and Purity Ring.
Best Food: Well I had some really amazing lobster spaghetti while I was in Montreal last week.
Pizzas Made: 50
Total Miles Flown: 24,621, according to TripIt
Places Traveled: Chicago, Tampa, San Francisco/Napa, Japan, Montreal, NYC, Baltmore, Philly, and the pièce de résistance, Hartford, CT, Insurance Capitol of the USA.
Hamsters Owned: 2
Dogs Owned: 0
Now that it’s June I wanted to give an update on my 2012 Resolutions as well as talk about my Summer To Do List. Basically it’s time to admit: I lost the fucking camera. The one that I used to take photos of the 101 pizzas I’m making and the one that I was going to use to learn how to take really awesome food photos. We got on a plane to San Francisco and were seated smack in the middle of an eighth grade school group and I was distracted and careless enough to not even notice or remember that I’d shoved it under the seat in front of me until the next morning when I burst out of the bathroom, post-shower, and screamed I LEFT THE CAMERA ON THE PLANE. And then I wanted to vomit.
I like to give people lots of credit and in deepest recesses of my heart I thought someone would do the right thing and turn in the camera and the airline would do the right thing and let us know (I’d called several times and left my phone number with a description in case it turned up). But no. So all of you can basically go fuck yourselves and don’t depend on me to return anything you’ve ever lost and I hope all your plants die.
Anyway, that’s why there hasn’t been any photos of pizza lately.
Whether or not to replace the SLR has been a back and forth internal discussion since it happened. I’ve wanted to upgrade for a while now (my displeasure at the camera has long been documented) but I thought I had more time! And why do I deserve a better, more expensive camera if I can’t even take care of the one I already owned?
Crunch time for my decision will be our vacation to Japan in the fall since I’m not going with our point-and-shoot which doesn’t even have a working screen. So if you feel strongly about your camera I’d love to hear about it!
Oh, and Japan! Yes! That is happening (again, barring catastrophic incidents), let me just give myself a pat on the back for accomplishing something and, yes, purchasing a plane ticket counts as an accomplishment.
I am also growing several kinds of tomatoes, eggplant, peppers, herbs, and flowers on my roof, just like I said I wanted to! They aren’t dead yet but let’s not hold our breath on that, mmkay? A better blogger would’ve taken photos to show you but I don’t have a camera anymore.
I also found Pappy! And learned that Pappy is not that hard to find. And then I realized that while I was perfectly happy to find a bottle of Pappy, I was not happy to spend $180-$250 on a bottle of bourbon so….I don’t technically OWN any Pappy and I won’t in the future but I did what I said I would and I found it. Gold star!
Finally, I’m practically an Olympian with all my physical activity. I got a bike, I joined a gym, I’ve been exercising and getting outside and planning to do other workout-y stuff. Arlene the Machine, I’m tellin’ ya.
Which brings me to my summer To Do list:
- Make more ice cream and frozen treats. I’m thinking boozy ice pops, ice cream pie, mint chocolate chip everything. Let’s do this.
- Drink lots of Dark n Stormys. Last year was the Summer of the Negroni. This year will be the Summer of the Dark n Stormy. Let’s do this.
- Grill more burgers. I didn’t say I was going to try to save the world in one summer so just shut up and keep reading.
- Bike! Out to Rustico in VA, to work, to the farmer’s market with my spiffy new basket, how twee! (Not applicable when it’s too hot)
- Read lots. I really need to make a dent in my Amazon Wishlist.
- Save money for a stupid camera.
I took a deep breath and suddenly it was June (twelfth). Celebrated Passover and Easter with the relevant family members. Visited my grandmother in Tampa, FL, attended a wedding in Hartford, CT. Spent Memorial Day wandering all over California, drunk 40% of the time. Good times.
I read John Green’s lauded “The Fault in Our Stars.” The book isn’t perfect but if I were still in the age range of the intended audience I would’ve thought it was and for that it deserves all the stars. I couldn’t get it out of my head.
I also recommend Wild, by Cheryl Strayed. The only thing I can’t recommend is the fact that her last name is one she made up for herself, as she explains in her book. And that pisses me off for some reason. Some people. Anyway it’s a really easy read and wonderful because unlike that idiot who wandered off into the wilderness of Alaska to die from poison berries, Cheryl is a pretty normal non-outdoorsy person who just wanted to see if she could survive in the outdoors for a while. SPOILER ALERT: SHE DOES.
Anyway, in the book she talks about her mother dying of cancer and now I am really really really sick of reading about cancer. Fucking cancer. Please tell me about a book that doesn’t have cancer! That’d be great, thanks.
I didn’t do much eating out while in town – the best I can offer is that the new Boqueria is fantastic, especially if you can make it for happy hour, and my usual favorites, Boundary Stone and Birch & Barley, remain strong. But while in Hartford I dragged a couple people to try some New Haven-style pizza at Frank Pepe’s for pizza research. Verdict: I am obsessed with that clam pizza. And in California I adored the skewered duck hearts at Alembic Bar in the Haight, the roast chicken at Zuni Cafe, the thrice-cooked bacon at Mission Chinese and the banana bread pudding at ad hoc.
While in wine country I somehow got tricked into joining a wine club and now I’m getting wine to sent to me like whoa. Wine tasting is the greatest! Admittedly I could only get to through two wineries before I was asleep in the passenger seat, mouth hanging open. But now I want to go back and drink more wine.
I channeled my inner pop princess and listened to a lot of Carly Rae Jepsen, Gotye and Bieber. Ain’t no shame. But if you need a little more substance I really liked this song:
TV & Movies
I’ve practically canceled my Netflix account since we’re too busy catching up on Parks & Rec, 30 Rock, Community, Mad Men, Game of Thrones, Veep and Girls. And lord knows I can’t make it to the theater to see a movie these days. But wasn’t Moonrise Kingdom delightful? Avengers was alright too, I guess.
June is already halfway over! I suck at this whole blogging thing.
Oy, March. What a month. I had a stressful project early in the month that made my hair fall out. Right after that little Winnie died and almost immediately after I became horribly ill from heartbreak strep throat and then I gave up drinking while on the antibiotics. So it’s been one of those months. For everyone, no? Yeah, we all agree. What a month.
There wasn’t much in the way of new music, movies and shows although I’m pumped that both Mad Men and Game of Thrones are back on the air. I did manage get in a good bit of reading and enjoyed The Orphan Master’s Son, The Sense of an Ending, Blue Nights and In the Garden of Beasts. The best by far was The Sense of an Ending. Fabulous book, five stars!
I also got to go back to Little Serow. The first time I went: no line, got a table immediately. Second time: no line but they were already booking for the second seating. Third time: arrived at 5:10 to people already waiting, massive line by 5:30. Made the first seating but I don’t see that happening again for a long time. So I guess I’m done going to Little Serow, which, by the by, is definitely the only restaurant in the area serving dishes that spicy to white folk without prompting.
Anyway, amidst my illness we went through the process of adopting a baby hamster from the Humane Society, an organization I will never work with again even if they did give me this little cutie. Her name is Dowager Countess Hazelnut Guantanamera Pinkman, but mostly we just call her Hazel or Hazelnut.
- The Happiness Project – Meh, I like self-improvement books but I didn’t walk away thinking “I’m going to start my own Happiness Project” which strikes me as a fail on the author’s part since I walk away from most things thinking “I’m totally going to take up [thing that happens in this thing]“
- The good news is that I’m actually waiting for these stinking library books. The bad news is that while I was waiting a I read a series of books that I’m too ashamed to talk about here. I read almost the whole series this month. It’s not Twilight. You won’t guess it so don’t bother.
- The Breakfast Taco Book. It’s free.
- Warrior – I really liked this! Also I’m totally going to take up MMA fighting.
- The Tree of Life – you know, I didn’t think this was that terrible! But then again I’d just seen Pena which made this seem like a real plot driven movie in comparison.
- Pena – Here’s the review I sent a friend after seeing it: “It’s really strange and wonderful. I wasn’t familiar with her work so it’s definitely a kick in the head if you don’t know what to expect.”
- Longman & Eagle’s tete de cochon “reuben” and their delightful take on an americano (with cava instead of club soda!).
- The “In the Rocks” cocktail at the Aviary
- Wagyu tartare at Blackbird
- Jim’s steaks in Philly
- Sincros and that neon green hot sauce from Taco Bar
- These enchiladas
- Grimes – because obviously I would like Grimes. Obviously
- Went to Chicago – not as cold as I expected!
- Went to Philadelphia – colder than I expected!
- Tried to stay awake – still trying.
- An Everlasting Meal: A lovely collection of sharply written essays on making a meal out of nothing. Five stars on Good Reads.
- Salvage the Bones: A family in the simmering days before Hurricane Katrina. Three point five stars.
- Wool: Delightful post-apocalyptic short story recommended by my friend bukuwawa. Five stars because I usually hate post-apocalyptic.
- The Table Comes First: Ruminations on the origin and nature of restaurants, recipes and more from the wordy Adam Gopnik. Three stars because it needs an editor but bumping it to four stars because it’s way better than I was expecting.
- The Artist: Oh look a movie without gratuitous violence and sex, overwrought dialogue or complicated plot. How refreshing. Four stars on Netflix.
- The Descendents: Didn’t think George had it in him but this is pretty good and definitely my favorite out of the Academy Award Best Picture nominees (of the ones I’m willing to see). Not that that’s saying much given its company. Four stars.
- Life in a Day: Interesting enough. Three stars.
- Bad Teacher: Is it bad that I didn’t think this was awful? It was certainly as entertaining as Life in a Day. Three stars.
- Jane Eyre: Never been a Bronte fan however this recent version directed by Cary Fukunaga was a pretty good adaptation. Three stars.
- Game of Thrones: I got bored a little towards the end with all the politicking about rightful heirs to the throne and all that but the end saved it. Holy cow! Five stars.
- Little Serow – that duck egg duck dish and the chicken liver paste stuff and the short ribs.
- Venison tartar and the St. Innocent pinot noir at Table 21 at VOLT
- Pate and country ham banh mi at Pho 14
- Bao at Mark’s Duck House
- Make these fish tacos or this roast chicken.
- Did not die.
I meant to do this last week or, you know, before January 20 26 31, but when we got back from vacation I was so tired and sick that the only resolution I could muster for 2012 was Survive. 2011 was a great year for me, by most peoples’ measure, but 2011 awful. What was with 2011? Let’s just burn it to the ground.
But now I’m sleeping normal hours so I’m finally ready to sparkle in 2012! Or, at the very least, survive + lil bit of sparkle.
On one of my favorite websites, the DayZero Project, they came up with 7 Things x 2012. I thought it was a great prompt for identifying the things you want to accomplish. Here’s what I filled in after I changed them about twenty times.
- Learn how to take really awesome food photos
My half-baked efforts to document cooking projects make Cartier-Bresson vomit in his grave. I really want to take better pictures all around but I don’t get out much so the only things I can photograph are at home and the hamster already filed a restraining order against me.
- Start a garden on my roof.
If I’m going to be paying for a roof deck I’m making it green and lush and grow plants and food and shit. Also I want all of you to come over for dinner when the weather gets nice. All of you!
- Stop buying books for my Kindle when the library has a great selection of them for free.
There are a lot of things I probably shouldn’t do – listen to music on a high volume on my iPod, drink more than a (couple) glass(es) of wine on random Tuesday nights, etc. – but I don’t really want to stop doing these things because they also make me happy. And a happy short (and deaf) life is still a happy life. So I dunno. Stop being lazy? Anyway I thought this was a good one. Go libraries! [ed. note: I am already failing horribly at this.]
- Take a vacation to Japan
Barring some catastrophic event in my life or, Allah forbid, the entire country sinking under the Pacific ocean, this is all but a certainty for my 2012 as far as I’m concerned. Famous last words, eh?
- Find a bottle of Pappy Van Winkle.
Find a new favorite book? Clothes that fit? A cause to support? Ways to make my life’s dreams come true? Hell no. I’m getting me an expensive bottle of bourbon.
- Try making 101 different kinds of pizza.
I’m using this Big Yearlong Project to tackle a few things on my list: successfully keep a sourdough starter alive, make pizza dough with the starter, preserve my own tomatoes and make homemade cheese. And since I already know that there is no way I can make 101 different kinds of pizza in 365(!) days this falls under “try.”
- Be more active.
I want to hike more! And take up boxing. And ballet! And get a bike and bike to brunch on the weekends and maybe even to work some days. All of those things.
And some more stupid things thrown in:
- Use that bloody pasta maker that I asked for and received on my birthday last year
- Update my blog theme
- Go diving – I’m not sure how I’ll swing this (do people SCUBA in Japan?) but this is on here to try to make it happen.
- Throw more dinner parties. I love to cook and we’re getting really fat from eating all of it ourselves. Will you come over for dinner?
- Go camping/cabining for the first time in my life. Sit by a campfire and drink bourbon and make s’mores.
- Eat more sushi. I just really like sushi.
So here’s to another year dedicated to the selfish hedonistic pursuit. Kanpai!
- Save the Deli
- Life, on the Line
- A Visit from the Goon Squad
- What The Dog Saw
- Travels in Siberia
These ranged from okay to really good (the Achatz novel and Goon Squad in the former) but my personal faves are Save the Deli and Travels in Siberia. If you tend to like narrated tales from someone on some sort of dedicated journey then those books are for you.
- The Princess & The Frog
- Everything Must Go
- The Parking Lot Movie
- Never Let Me Go
The movie Never Let Me Go is the worst novel-to-film adaptation I’ve ever seen.
- Awolnation – Sail
- Naked & Famous – Young Blood
- Danger Mouse & Daniele Luppi ft. Jack White – Two Against One
- Tune-yards – Bizness or Gangsta
- Hooray for Earth – True Loves
We discovered that the songs featured on the Download 15 on Sirius XMU are found and posted on this site: http://thecolorawesome.com/ if you’re looking for new music like this fun mashup of I Can Change from The Very Best, a collaboration between Malawan musician Esau Mwamwaya and DJ Radioclit.
- Goldberg’s lox bagel
- Galbi & spicy pork belly at Honey Pig bbq
- Shack burger, cheese fries & Presidential Suite Concrete at Shake Shack
- Two saketinis at Rice
- A martini, cheese fries, Elvis sliders w/ pimiento cheese & asparagus frito at Jackie’s in Silver Spring
- Homemade pizza with pancetta, onion, red pepper and fresh mozzarella
- Memorial Day BBQ! Mmm ribs & pulled pork and corn and potato salad.
I could never remember what I ate this AND last month so I just listed everything I ate this past weekend because it was all super awesome. PEOPLE OF DC go to Goldberg’s (on any day but Saturday when they are closed)!
- Received a job offer
- Quit my job
- Went on a weeklong vacation to the Turks & Caicos
- Got Scuba certified
- Started a new job
- Gave notice at my apartment that I would be leaving
- Apartment searched
- Signed a lease for a new apartment
It’s been a stressful two months, but exhilarating and worthwhile. Maybe in June I’ll actually do some quality reading but more likely I’ll be stressing over which of my nail clippers doesn’t need to packed up and moved to the new place.