31 December 2012

2012 Books

I read 27 books this year. Eleven fiction. Sixteen non-fiction. Fourteen audio-books (More than half. Wow.)

My top 10% are:
  • Truman by David McCollough
  • Bringing Up Bébé by Pamela Druckerman
  • Jefferson's Sons by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley
1. Elantris by Brandon Sanderson - I really liked most of this book, but the ending wrapped up too quickly. I liked the writing, so I'll probably read more of his stuff.

2. The Children by David Halberstam* - The Civil Rights movement is just amazing. I am so impressed with the people who made it happen.

3. Brain Rules: 12 Rules for Surviving and Thriving at Work, Home and School by John Medina* - Lots of interesting points. Definitely a lot of things to consider, but nothing particularly life-changing.

4. The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins - Read it again in preparation for the film. Didn't love it as much this time. But I still liked it.

5. Matched by Alli Condie - Good, not great. Will very likely read the sequels, though. I would love to have a dystopian novel without a love triangle, although I think in this case the love triangle serves a valuable purpose in that the premise of the book is essentially based on choosing your lifelong companion. Still, I'm kind of tired of love triangles. Can we not engage young women in other plot devices?

I was busy reading but not finishing Truman this month. I was also busy sleeping through my first trimester so reading was not top of my agenda.

6. Crossroads by Leon Jaworski - Really cool stories from a guy who has done a lot of good in his life. A little preachy, though.

7. The Stowaway by Karent Hesse - A fun read, especially the parts about New Zealand.

8. The Social Animal by David Brooks* - Ugh. I really wanted to like this, but it just didn't do it for me. Too bad.

9. Bringing Up Bébé: One American Mother Discovers the Wisdom of French Parenting by Pamela Druckerman* - Could not stop talking about it. Must implement so many of these methods.

10. 365 Thank Yous: The Year a Simple Act of Daily Gratitude Changed My Life by John Kralick* - Nice sentiments but rather tiresome.

11. Bossypants by Tina Fey* - Pretty darn hilarious. I like Tina Fey. (Cannot recommend this book to everyone. In fact, cannot recommend to most people I know.) 

12. Truman by David McCullough - It is no wonder this book won the Pulitzer. It is an excellent read. I started it in 2009 and then picked it up in earnest earlier this year. 

13. Okay For Now by Gary D. Schmidt* - Very enjoyable. It made me want to read Wednesday Wars again. 

14. Crossed by Ally Condie* - A couple of people had told me they liked this one even less than Matched, so I went in with fairly low expectations. They were exceeded. I actually quite liked it and want to know how this story ends.

15. Committed: A Skeptic Makes Peace With Marriage by Elizabeth Gilbert* -  I downloaded this on audio really not knowing what to expect. Then I realized it was the same lady who wrote Eat, Pray, Love, and I was very skeptical, but I actually really liked it. I didn't agree with her on all things, but it was incredibly well-written and all-around good.

16. What Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty - I loved this book. I couldn't put it down, and as soon as I finished it I kind of wanted to read it again.

17. Jefferson's Sons by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley - I really loved this historical fiction, and it made me want to pick up a non-fiction book about Sally Hemmings and the children she had with Thomas Jefferson.

18. The Path Between the Seas: The Creation of the Panama Canal, 1870-1914 by David McCullough* - Really interesting. Ultimately glad I went with the abridged audio read by Edward Hermann rather than the 35-hour-long one read by some other less awesome reader.

19. The Girl Who Was on Fire: Your Favorite Authors on Suzanne Collins' Hunger Games Trilogy ed. by Leah Wilson - I liked this book. There were definitely some essays I preferred over others.

20. Blink by Malcolm Gladwell* - Very interesting. I might have talked Eric's ear off about the taste-testing portion.

21. The Millionaire Next Door: The Surprising Secrets of America's Wealthy by Thomas J. Stanley and William D. Danko* - Rich people live below their means. That's pretty much all there is to it. This book was interesting but could have been about half as long. I did love this quote, though, "It is easier to purchase products that denote superiority than to be actually superior in economic achievement."

22. Ghost Soldiers by Hampton Sides - In January 1945 some elite U.S. Army troops went behind enemy lines in the Philippines to rescue a few hundred men from a Japanese POW camp. This book tells about the men in the camp, from their lost battle in Bataan, to the horrifying Bataan Death March, to their years in the POW camp. In alternating chapters it tells about the men who rescued them. It is both gruesome and engaging.

23. The Angry Hills by Leon Uris - I liked but didn't love this book. It is a an easy read, and I breezed through it quickly, but the end had me rolling my eyes a little bit. I think that is to be expected with a spy-thriller, which I think this was. Sort of.

24. Uncle Tom's Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe* -  Worthwhile for its historical significance, but definitely a morality tale. Sometimes that got a little old.

25. SuperFreakonomics: Global Cooling, Patriotic Prostitutes And Why Suicide Bombers Should Buy Life Insurance by Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner* - This was fun and interesting. It kind of makes me wish I had taken a behavioral economics course.

I was busy reading/listening to three very long books this month.

26. Joseph Anton by Salman Rushdie* - Ugh. Hated this one so much. And it was 27 hours long. A very painful 27 hours. 

27. David Copperfield by Charles Dickens - Really enjoyed this one. Dickens has amusing characters, which usually makes up for the excessive wordiness of his prose.

*I listened to an audio-book. 

2012 - In Review

This year's year in review for me:

1. What did you do in 2012 that you'd never done before?

This is kind of boring, but we refinanced our house. That was new, I guess.

2. Did you keep your New Year's resolutions, and will you make more for next year?
Exercise regularly - Nope. (Being pregnant early in the year really threw that one off for me.)
Cook regularly - Yes, on the whole I maintained this one very well.
Organize the pantry - I got started on it but still haven't finished to my satisfaction.
Curtains for the sliding glass door and kitchen window - Yes for the first, no for the second.
Three blog posts per week - Nope.
52 books - Nope.

I'm not sure if I'll make any plans for this year.

3. Did anyone close to you give birth?
Yes. I gave birth. And tons of my friends did. And I got two new nieces.

4. Did anyone close to you die?
Not this year.

5. What countries did you visit?
Just America this year. But I did get to see Canada from the state of Washington.

6. What would you like to have in 2012 that you lacked in 2011?
A housekeeper. Or maybe just somebody to organize my stuff. If I have a system in place I can generally follow it. (This is just wishful thinking, I know.)

7. What dates from 2011 will remain etched upon your memory, and why?
Last year, to this question I said, "October 6. It's a long story. Maybe I'll tell it one day. But probably not." Interestingly it's the same date for this year because that is when I gave birth to Felix.

8. What was your biggest personal achievement of the year?
I am really excited about some of the genealogical finds for my own family as well as some of my media interviews for work. Also, getting my toddler to say "please" and "thank you" with relative consistency.

9. What was your biggest failure?
I neither blogged nor read as much as I wanted to.

10. Did you suffer illness or injury?
Not really. Pregnancy was really good to me this year.

11. What was the best thing you bought?
I love my Baby K'Tan.

12. Whose behavior merited celebration?
Eric's, Eric's, Eric's. He is the best.

13. Whose behavior made you appalled and depressed?
Copying RA on this one - the Newtown shooter. Appalled? Yes. Depressed? Yes.

14. Where did most of your money go?
The house, of course. Also, a fair amount went into the back yard. (But considering that Eric did nearly all the labor, that was still relatively inexpensive.)

15. What did you get really, really, really excited about?
How easily I got pregnant this time.

16. What song will always remind you of 2011?
"Somebody that I Used to Know" by Gotye

17. Compared to this time last year, are you: a) happier or sadder? b) thinner or fatter? c) richer or poorer?
a) Sadder (at this exact moment. A few work frustrations.)
b) About the same, surprisingly!
c) Richer, I think, but not by much.

18. What do you wish you'd done more of?

19. What do you wish you'd done less of?
Mindless computer stuff.

20. Did you fall in love in 2011?
Yes, with Felix.

21. What was your favorite TV program?
Still 30 Rock. What will I say to this next year when the show has been canceled?

22. What was the best book you read?
Truman by David McCullough. So long, and so worth it.

23. What was your greatest musical discovery?
Eric discovered a Pandora station featuring lullabies by Jewel and similar artists. I'm kind of in love with it.

24. What did you want and get?
An immersion blender! Seriously excited about that Christmas gift!

25. What did you want and not get?
A KitchenAid mixer.

26. What was your favorite film of this year?
I only saw three movies in the theater this year, and we canceled our Netflix for several months. There isn't a movie that I saw for the first time that really stands out to me.

27. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?
I turned 28. Eric and I cooked dinner together and hosted his parents and sister (who was in town for Eric's dad's birthday.)

28. What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying?
Fewer migraines.

29. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2011?
New boots. Before that, maternity clothes.

30. What kept you sane?
Eric and instant messaging with a couple of friends.

21 December 2012

Winter Whatnots

Eric took Ike sledding for the first time last weekend. I did not join them because I had a cold, I had an infant, and I had to work. Next time I'm going to be the fun parent, though. There is a great hill by our house, so it isn't hard to pop over there, sled until the toddler is worn out and then come on home. Eric also started to build a snowman, until Ike got bored. That is why there is a large body of a snowman in our side yard. I fear it will never melt.

In other news, we refinanced our house and now have an interest rate of 3.25%. It's a great time to be new homeowners.

When we attended our ward Christmas party a few weeks ago I took Ike to say hello to Santa and to ask for a candy cane. He didn't care at all about Santa and was only interested in the "sucker." (Our ward has far too many children for Santa to sit down and listen to gift requests. Instead he roams walks around and passes out candy canes.) In general he doesn't understand Christmas. He likes the lights, and he likes the decorations, but he does not have any sort of great anticipation when it comes to the presents. He sees them beneath the tree, and he'll open them when we tell him to, but otherwise it has no impact. He also thinks that every bearded character in the nativity set is Jesus, no matter how many times we try to tell him that the baby is Jesus. He is pretty certain we are wrong.

We attended the Mormon Tabernacle Christmas Concert with guest artists Alfie Boe and Tom Brokaw. It was everything I hoped it would be.

I haven't cooked a single meal this week. On Monday Eric brought food home from work. On Tuesday Eric brought food home from work. On Wednesday we ate dinner at Eric's parents' house. Last night we had the rest of the food that Eric brought home on Tuesday. Tonight we have another family function.

13 December 2012

The Yard (in a state of near completion)

I've mentioned that Eric had been working on terracing our back yard, which was essentially a hill. He started in March. He seems to be about finished now.

First there was the task of digging into the hill to make level terraces. Eric did this, and his dad came and helped a number of times. I also shoveled a few shovelfuls of dirt. But then I was like, "Oh, hey, pregnant. Exempt." Our soil is quite sandy, so the digging was not actually that bad. (I say this having not actually done the digging of the terraces, but I have dug holes for the compost, so take that!) Eric and his dad terraced his parents' back yard at their old house, and they both agreed that the digging this time was relatively easy.

Also note that some of the digging was done before we had extended our porch so that we could get access to the hill.

Next up was the collection of rocks. Eric called around to lots of local quarries and ultimately chose one nearby. He, his dad, his cousin with his cousin's buddy went to the quarry and filled an entire dump truck with rocks. They also filled a dump truck with broken concrete. (The quarry gave us the concrete for free since they planned on grinding it up anyway.) It was an absurd amount of rocks and concrete. And ultimately it wasn't even enough. Eric had to go a few more times to get some smaller loads in a pickup truck. We also bought a ton (literally) of nice pink rocks to add a little color to the gray walls. The pink rocks cost more than all the gray rocks combined. They are pretty fancy, I guess. Even Ike got involved in hauling rocks. He was so happy to be a helper.

And then there was the building of the walls. If you'll notice the big boulders - those were already in place when we moved in. And they are not very nice looking. The people who placed them clearly didn't do anything to try to make them fit together in a logical or aesthetically pleasing way. Plus they aren't a pretty color. Eric has planted some dragon's blood plants in between these boulders, and those plants should spread over the next few years and pretty much hide the ugliness of the lowest retaining wall. (He got the cuttings from a neighbor whose garden was being overrun by the plants he had put in between his rocks on his wall, so we feel confident that they'll cover up the rocks nicely.)

Eric built the walls very carefully. Each rock was thoughtfully placed and fitted. The tops of the walls and the two sets of steps are about as level as you can get. Each wall is incredibly thick because behind the rocks is a wall of broken concrete chunks, and in between the rocks and the concrete is where he poured the cement to keep the walls together. (You can sort of see that in the bottom right picture in the third collage.)

The lowest level is very narrow, and we'll probably put some plants that do not need a lot of water there. Then we don't have to worry about putting a sprinkler line along that level. There are lots of beautiful plants that thrive in the desert. (Eric has been checking out this website, so we've already got some ideas of what we'd like.) We aren't entirely sure what we'll do with the next two levels. I definitely want a few trees on the highest level to help with the intense setting sun that permeates my kitchen/dining/living area every afternoon all summer long. And we might put in a fire pit. ("We" obviously just means Eric, even though I can no longer play the pregnancy card. I'm sure I'll be busy keeping the children out of his way.) We've got all winter to think about it, and hopefully sometime next summer I'll be writing a post about our beautiful back yard.
And obviously this will be a place of many family pictures. We took the first one on Sunday so we'd have something decent for our Christmas card.

10 December 2012

Another Generation

When my brother came to town right after Thanksgiving, I took my oldest two nephews (aged 13 and nearly 15) to the Family History Library to be my slaves. I had been making a list of things (mostly of quick record pulls) I wanted to do there, and at some point I realized that my nephews could be really helpful. (By "record pulls" I mean getting the microfilm from the drawer, finding the specific record on the film, and then taking it to the computers to make a digital copy. The records should have all been very easy to find because I'd used online indexes to know exactly where the records were supposed to be.) Frankly, I don't think my nephews had a great time, but I did! That day we added one generation each to two separate lines on our family tree.

And then today I added another generation to another family line. (Plus when I was on maternity leave from work and didn't have anything to do all day I worked on my Danish family history and added a few generations to those lines). So it's been a really productive few months for my genealogy research.

At work I make interesting finds all the time. Some are certainly more interesting than others. For the most part, though, I haven't gotten to work on my own family history much in the last few years. Getting back to it has been a lot of fun. (It's been less fun for the people who have to had to listen to me go on and on and on about my research.)

Today my mom's cousin sent me pictures of the family Bible. In starting my research I found that a lot of what our family had said about this particular line that went back to the 1600's was attributed to information in the family Bible, so I wanted copies of what was in that. As it turns out, the book only has the information going back to my second-great-grandparents (Henry and Sarah). So it most definitely doesn't prove the stuff going back to the early days of New Amsterdam. But, it did provide some great information.

I had been looking (not diligently) for my second-great-grandparents' marriage date and place for a while. I knew it probably happened in one of the five boroughs of New York City, but I hadn't been able to pinpoint which one, and I knew it happened around 1868/1869. I really wanted to find the marriage because it was my best bet for finding the names of Sarah's parents. (Her death record, sadly, was not of any use to me in this regard, although it did confirm the family story that she died due to injuries sustained in a house fire.) The family Bible proved to be the connection I'd been looking for.

It stated that this couple was married on 3 August 1868 in "Williamsburgh, Long Island." With a little digging I found that what was most likely meant was "Williamsburg" near Brooklyn. Still, the fact that we had a specific place, and a relatively small place (by large city standards) was the key I needed. From there I was able to find Sarah in the 1860 and 1850 censuses with her parents. (Due to how common her surname was, I hadn't felt confident about possible matches I'd found before.) Not only that, but in 1850, 1860 and 1880, Sarah's maternal grandmother lived with the family, so not only do I have the first name for Sarah's mother, I have her maiden name as well.)

(If you made it to the end of this post you deserve a virtual high five, and you can now count yourself as one of the people who listened to me drone on and on about my family history.)

06 December 2012

Felix: Two Months

It's hard to believe I've been a mom to this little guy for two whole months. Felix is entering a stage where he's beginning to be more interactive, and we love it. Mornings are usually the best time to get smiles from him. It doesn't happen a lot, but when it does happen we are thrilled. One of my co-workers says that if she can get him to stop furrowing his brow, then she counts that as a smile.
He loves to sit upright and be held upright. His head control is getting better, so he can go for longer stints in his Bumbo chair. 

He spits up a lot. It doesn't seem to be as bad as Ike, but he definitely has reflux. I'm not going to cut out the dairy this time because I tried that with Ike and it was not worth the starvation. I've just resigned myself to cleaning up lots of spit-up.

This little guy is so cuddly. He loves to be held, and I love to hold him. I just recently got a Baby K'Tan, and I cannot say enough good things about it. We both love it. Felix also loves to be swaddled. Even if it isn't time to sleep I often swaddle him because it calms him down. He also loves his swing and finds it very soothing.

I don't have much bragging to do as far as Felix's sleep. He's a good napper. He's had a couple of six-hour stretches of sleep at night, but for the most part he nurses about every four hours. I would expect to be more tired than I am.

Felix looks a lot like Ike, but a lot of people say that he looks a little more like me than Ike did. I tend to agree.

We're excited for this boy to become more interactive in the next few weeks. I'm hoping as he becomes more interactive that his older brother will start noticing him a bit more.

Ike: Two Years

Ike is two! (Cue ominous terrible twos music.) He is such a fun little kid, and I love that he is in my family.

In the last month his vocabulary and pronunciation have absolutely exploded. So many words that used to sound like complete gibberish actually sound like the real words now. I especially love when he says any word that starts with "h" because he really drags out that breathy letter, and it makes me laugh.

Ike loves books. He can sit and look at books for upwards of half an hour - totally unattended. Of course, he likes to be read to as well, but he doesn't need a grownup on hand to enjoy a big stack of books. Books with animals are his especial favorites.

This little guy is obsessed with animals.He can make all sorts of animal sounds, and he loves to show them off. He can also name a wide variety of animals. He loves to watch animal videos on YouTube. (Not funny cat videos, but episodes of "Nature" and that sort of thing. Eric has trained him properly.)

Ike loves modes of transportation - cars, trucks, airplanes, helicopters, tractors, bikes, skateboards - you name it. He loves to point them out to us and shout the name of the object over and over until we acknowledge him.

He also loves the moon, the sun and the stars. I think his favorite color is yellow. (Usually when given a choice between different objects and one of them is yellow, he will choose the yellow one.) He loves milk and would drink only milk and eat almost nothing if I allowed him to.

He no longer sucks on his binkies because I cut the nipples off them. He still carries them around with him and takes them to bed with him. It's odd, but at least they are no longer going in his mouth, and that's what matters to me.

I'm so excited to see what this next year will bring with our little boy. Two years ago I never could have fathomed how much fun he would be.

05 December 2012

Black Friday Boots

Black Friday was almost two weeks ago, but I'm just now getting around to blogging about it.

I am not normally (or ever) a Black Friday shopper. I had been looking for some brown boots, and I recruited a friend to help me find some that were in my budget. On Thanksgiving night she texted me a photo of an ad for a shoe store about 20 minutes from my house. I told her that she was crazy and I would not be going to said store, which opened at 5:30 a.m.. As the evening wore on, I started to consider the idea more and more. I set my alarm for some absurd hour the next morning.

4:45 rolled around, and I promptly turned off my alarm and fell back asleep. A little after 5 I woke up again and got out of bed. I wanted to be one of the first 100 customers because then I'd (a) be sure to get the boots I wanted, which were in limited supply, and (b) get a gift card worth a minimum of $10 that could be used on that purchase.

I didn't get there early enough for a gift card, but I did get there early enough to get the last pair in my size. And I love them. 

They are normally $50, and I got them for $20. Totally worth the early morning.