Dec 31, 2012

My Favorite Albums of 2012

What an excellent year for new music.  We had some outstanding newcomers as well as some phenomenal follow up albums from established artists.  This was hard list to compile.  I've been putting it together in my mind all year.
So here it is...

I've been a big Shins fan for years.  I have held a semi-secret crush on James Mercer forever.  This album was so "them" and I was happy about that, but I felt like it could have been more.  I wish they had taken another step forward, but really you can't blame your favorite band for sticking to the stuff you fell in love with them for.
My favorite songs: 40 Mark Strasse, For a Fool

To be honest with you, at the beginning of this year, I was not an Avett fan.  I didn't "get" it, which I think is common with a band like this.  But I stuck with it and was finally awoken to their magic at Bonnaroo.  One of the greatest performances of the festival, with one of the most loyal followings as well.
My favorite songs: Down with the Shine, Geraldine

This is Andrew Bird's most digestible album ever.  It's still eery, ethereal and transcendent while also being understandable to the virgin ear.  His raw musical talent shines through every little thing he does.  And the song he sings with St Vincent...I die.
My favorite songs: Lusitania, Eyeoneye

This band does not get the attention they deserve.  I adore the lead singer's voice and his haunting melodies.
Favorite songs: Yet Again, A Simple Answer

Coexist - The XX
My favorite reading music this year.  Many of Jude's nap times this year were filled with this album, a cup of coffee and a good book.  
My favorite songs: Angels, Our Song

With a cast of musicians like this, how can you not love this album?  I especially love how the album really captures the true character of District 12 in tracks like Run, Daddy Run and Daughter's Lament.  I love this album almost as much as I love the movie.  
Favorite songs: Come Away to the Water, Kingdom Come

 What a pleasant surprise!  I honestly bought this album when it went on sale on Amazon for $.99.  I had never heard of them, but I gave their album a 30 second listen and clicked 'buy' immediately.  I adore their organic, stringy sound.
Favorite song: Stubborn Love

#1 and #2 - TIE
I can't possibly decide which of these albums I love more.  All year I was convinced OMAM was my favorite, and then Babel blew me away, not surprisingly.  I can't decide.  They are both phenomenal.

This is my go-to album these days if I need something to listen to.  I thouroughly enjoy every track.
Favorite songs: Lover's Eyes, Hopeless Wanderer, Broken Crown

I found myself craving this album when I wasn't listening to it.  These newcomers have so much potential it's insane.  I could put this album on and just do nothing but listen to it.
Favorite songs:  King and Lionheart, Little Talks, Lakehouse

This was such a great year for music. 


Dec 27, 2012 {Christmas goodies}

I hope you all had a fantastic Christmas. We had a wonderful day with family and friends. We spoiled the little ones and ate great food, drank good wine and had many, many laughs.

I know evryone is either traveling or recovering from the holiday, but since today is book chat day, I thought I'd share some of the bookish goodies I received as gifts yesterday.

My brother and his fiancé bought me the cutest dress that I just had to share. I think I need a new pair of shoes to go with it.

My mother-in-law and I both got each other the same Pioneer Woman cookbook. It was pretty funny. I cannot wait to cook up something delish.

Jeremy got me the Pride and Prejudice shirt from Out of Print that i wanted. I love that he reads my blog.

My dad gave me the Professional Blogging book, and on top of that, he bought me my own domain name! I haven't made the transition to it quite yet, but I will let you all know when I do. I just love how my family supports my blog.

I hope you all had as good of a day yesterday as I did.
What books did you get?

Next week book chat question: what is your reading goal for 2013? Do you have any reading resolutions?

Dec 20, 2012 {The Best of 2012}

I'll keep it short today.  We are currently in the midst of traveling for the holidays.

I would like to point out, for my own gratification, that I gave myself a goal of 20 books this year, which would double the number I read last year.  Well, I went 12 books over my goal, and the year isn't over yet.  I'm not saying that to brag, I'm really not.  I'm just so pleased by that number and proud of myself for finding a love for reading that has remained dormant for years and years.

So here it favorite reads of the year.

10.  Lover Reborn by J.R. Ward
This author treats us to a new novel in this series once a year, and I never pass up the chance to return to this fictional world I have grown to love so much.

9. Dash & Lily's Book of Dares by Rachel Cohn & David Levithan
This book was just so enjoyable.  Plain & simple.

8. The Maze Runner series by James Dashner
One of the most action packed page-turners I have ever read.

7. Still Life with Woodpecker by Tom Robbins
I tried to hate this book, but I couldn't.

6. The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon
Such beautiful storytelling at it's very best.  Just spectacular.

5. Wither by Lauren DeStefano
Some books you just know you're going to love from the very first page

4. Fire by Kristin Cashore
I could just eat up this series like a sweet, rich dessert of fantasy and folklore.

3. Pandemonium by Lauren Oliver
As much as I love this series, it was the sequel that sealed the deal for me.  I sat at the car dealership 30 minutes after my car was ready just so I could finish this novel.

2. The Fault in our Stars by John Green
Don't you hate when people over-hype a book, and it doesn't stand a chance to living up to your expectations?  Not. the. case. here.

1. The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern
I'm totally okay with the fact that I loved this book more than most people I know.  It rarely happens this way, and I'm glad I can keep this treasure a little closer to my heart.  

The other books I read in 2012:
Delirium by Lauren Oliver {my review}
Hush, Hush by Becca Fitzpatrick
If I Stay by Gayle Forman
Where She Went by Gayle Forman
Fifty Shades of Grey by E.L. James {my review}
Dragonfly in Amber by Diana Gabaldon
Waterfall by Lisa Tawn Bergren
Perfect Chemistry by Simone Elkeles
Looking for Alaska by John Green
Envy by J.R. Ward
The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chboskey
Lament by Maggie Stiefvater
Ballad by Maggie Stiefvater
Matched by Ally Condie
Wild by Cheryl Strayed
Ever by Jessa Russo {my review}
Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green/David Levithan
What I Didn't Say by Keary Taylor {my review}
The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer by Michelle Hodkin
Open Season by Linda Howard

So, let's hear it.  What were your favorite reads of the year?  If you choose to do a blog post, please link up below!  And please link back my blog.  You can use this button if you would like.


As for next week: It'll be an easy week.  Did you give or get any new books for Christmas?


Dec 19, 2012

Literary Junkies

Today is the link up with the Literary Junkies at By the Porchlight and Goings On in Texas.

They have some great questions lined up today! 
Here they are...

I'm currently reading A Visit from the Good Squad.  IF I even finish this book, I don't expect to give it a good rating.  It's just not my kind of book at all.  It feels like "empty words".  I don't know how else to describe it, but you've probably read a book like that before.  The words just feel hollow.

I LOVE this question.  There are days when I feel like my life is a Jodi Picoult book, but I'm not a huge Picoult fan, so I'd want someone like John Green or David Levithan to write it to make it more fun and interesting.  

There is nothing better than a glass of wine, a book, and a big bubble bath.  That is an ideal Saturday night if you ask me.

Suspense/mystery: favorite in this category is Angels & Demons, but I think most people have already read it or heard of it, so I think I would give them The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon.  It's not as popular and a great mystery.

Chicklit: Can't say I read a lot of chicklit, but I think I would give them Outlander by Diana Gabaldon.  It's a little romance, a little history, a hunky hero and would please any chicklit lover.

Comedy:  Oh so many choices.  Sarah Silverman, Tina Fey, Chelsea Handler, Mindy Kaling.  I would probably get them the audiobook if I could.  

Literary fiction:  Hmmm...either The Shadow of the Wind or The Night Circus.  Those are both book-lover's books.

Classics: I would buy them something with their favorite classic on it.  Or an antique copy of their favorite.

Great questions ladies!!  

By the Porchlight

Reminder: The Book Chat is tomorrow!  We are sharing our favorite books of 2012!

Dec 16, 2012

Christmas Morning French Toast Casserole

This is quickly becoming a tradition in our house on Christmas.  This is an easy breakfast dish to prepare the night before so that all you have to do is throw it in the oven when you wake up Christmas morning.  By the time all the presents are opened, it will be ready to enjoy.

One loaf of Challah bread (firm white bread)
1/3 cup walnuts, chopped
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
8 eggs
1 3/4 cup milk
2 tsp vanilla extract

The night before:
1. Cut the bread into 1" cubes. Set aside.
2. In a separate bowl, mix brown sugar, cinnamon and walnuts.
3. Layer half the bread in a greased 9x13 casserole dish.  Cover with half of the sugar mixture.  Repeat with rest of bread and sugar mix.
4. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the eggs, milk and vanilla.
5. Pour egg mixture evenly over bread.  Gently press down bread so that even the top layer soaks up the milk.
6. Cover & set in refrigerator over night.

In the morning:
7.  Bake in oven at 350 F for 20 minutes.  Remove foil and bake an additional 30 minutes.

Serve with maple syrup and enjoy!

An Early Christmas

The other day we passed a church with the Nativity scene out front.  Jonathan was impressed by it and asked, "Mom, what is that?"  I explained to him that it is a re-enactment of when baby Jesus was born and the three wise men brought him gifts.  To which he replied, "Oh, like a baby shower"
Yes, dear.  A baby shower.
How can you not love that?

Today, we celebrated our own personal family Christmas.  We're traveling to Arizona on Thursday, and we didn't want to take all of our gifts with us.

We treated yesterday like Christmas Eve and let the boys open their new pajamas and new Christmas movie.  We made cookies and hot cocoa.  We snuggled on the floor and watched Rudolph.  Then we tucked them in and got to our wrapping.

This morning we awoke to Jonathan yelling in our faces, "I got a skateboard!!"  He couldn't help taking a little peak into the living room before coming to wake us up.  Then, it was a traditional Christmas morning like any other.  We made our coffee, and put the French Toast Casserole in the oven.

We sat back and watched the boys unwrap each gift.

Watching the boys' faces light up when they saw their gifts.
Hearing them say "Thanks Mom! Thanks Dad!"
Feeling their arms around our necks.

It was exactly what we needed.


Dec 13, 2012 {Confessions}

We all know I'm a major book worm now, but the truth is that I wasn't always such an avid reader.  I have always loved books, but it wasn't until my twenties when I became a read-everyday kind of person.

Now that I consider myself a real book worm, I look back at my childhood and can reflect on the evolution of a budding bibliophile in the making...

- During our school's book fair, I would hide my favorite books behind other books so that when I returned the next day with money, I knew I would have a copy hidden away just for me.

- I grew up in a small town where I could ride my bike into town alone.  The place I frequented the most was the library.  I can still remember the smell of that particular library as well as it's exact layout.

- I was a huge fan of the original American Girls.  Molly was my favorite. Samantha was my second favorite.  It was never about the dolls back then.  It was about the books.

- Once I reached high school, I was less inclined to read books and more inclined to read scripts and plays.  I went through a pretty serious Shakespeare phase and felt somehow connected to him after learning that we shared a birthday.  (I was a teenager, don't judge)
I memorized most of Romeo & Juliet, all of Ophelia's lines in Hamlet and the entire "to be or not to be" soliloquy.  I was pretty dead set on becoming a screenwriter or playwright when I grew up.

- The book that turned me into an everyday reader was In the Country of the Young by Lisa Carey.  I read it in 2006.  Before that I only read books sporadically and not everyday.

- I read Twilight during the week that the last book came out.  It wasn't nearly as crazy as it became a year later.  I was on a road trip to California with my friends, and they were constantly yelling at me for reading instead of talking to them.

- The first Jane Austen book I read was Northanger Abbey, and I hated it.

- I read Pride and Prejudice and Zombies but didn't finish it and picked up the original P&P instead.  It was the first classic novel I read just for fun, and I actually enjoyed it.

- My favorite classic novel is still Jane Eyre.

- I listen to audiobooks while I clean.  My house is usually a lot cleaner because of it.

- I bite my nails and play with my hair while I read.

- Nobody can be touching me while I'm reading. (weird, I know)

- I tend to mimic the characters' facial expressions.  If the character squints, I squint.  If the character sighs, I sigh.  If the character pouts, I pout.  I'm sure I look crazy to anyone watching me.

- I do the majority of my reading in bed or the bath.  If I read in public, I have to have headphones in or I get distracted by people talking.

- I have read 3 times more books in 2012 than I did in 2011.

- My favorite genre is still YA and I don't care what people think of that.  My favorite sub-genre is dystopian.  My favorite YA dystopian novel is The Hunger Games.   My favorite adult dystopia is The Handmaid's Tale.

- I hope to one day write a novel of my own.  Next year, I will complete my degree in creative writing and finally be on track to doing what I know I was always meant to do.
(Ironically, I don't intend on writing a YA or dystopian novel)

Well that was fun!  I love looking back and seeing how I have become the avid book lover that I am today.

I hope you join!  Write up a post with your nerdiest book confessions and share them with us.
If you have already done one of these posts in the past, you can share it with us here too.
Here is a button for you to use...

Link up your post below if you choose to join!

As for next's that time of year again!  The best of 2012!  I want to hear the best books you read this year.  Or share all the books you read this year.  A year in review in terms of reading...


Dec 9, 2012

The Big News...

So, do you remember me talking about how we were anxiously awaiting orders for our next duty station?

Well, on Thursday, those orders came down.



I know. I know. Crazy, right?!  We wanted Germany, and we asked for Germany, but we never actually expected we would get it.  The Army doesn't make a habit of giving you what you want.  When Jeremy called to tell me what we got, I asked him no less than five times if he was messing with me.

If you don't know, we lived in Germany when Jonathan was born.  It was our first duty station, and we were 21/22 years old.  Being young and single in Germany is (I'm guessing) a lot different than being 30 with kids in Germany, which doesn't mean we are any less excited about it though.  We are stupid with excitement.  This is where our marriage started.  Where our family started.  Where we started.  We bonded with the adventure of living abroad, and it's something we hope to instill in the boys.

I hope you're looking forward to many more life-abroad posts in the future!