Thursday, December 31, 2020

2020 Year of Books -- Non-Fiction

2020 MEMOIRS, ESSAYS, and OTHER NON-FICTION

Dolly Alderton
Everything I Know About Love (ebook via Hoopla)

Celeste Barber
Challenge Accepted! (ebook via Kindle)

Elizabeth Berg 
I'll Be Seeing You: A Memoir (audiobook via CloudLibrary)

Anne Bogel
Don't Overthink It: Make Easier Decisions, Stop Second-Guessing, and Bring More Joy to Your Life (paperback) 

Adrienne Brodeur
Wild Game: My Mother, Her Lover, and Me (hardcover)

Paula Byrne
Kick: The True Story of Kick Kennedy, JFK's Forgotten Sister and the Heir to Chatsworth (ebook via Kindle)

Rich Cohen 
Herbie (audiobook via Audible Originals)

Becky Cooper 
We Keep the Dead Close: A Murder at Harvard and a Half Century of Silence (audiobook via Audible)

Stephanie Danler
Stray (audiobook via CloudLibrary) 

Robin DiAngelo 
White Fragility: Why It's So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism (audiobook via CloudLibrary)

Ree Drummond
Frontier Follies: Adventures in Marriage & Motherhood in the Middle of Nowhere (ebook via CloudLibrary)  
 
Anne Fadiman 
The Wine Lover's Daughter: A Memoir (audiobook via Hoopla)

Isabel Gillies
Cozy: The Art of Arranging Yourself in the World (audiobook via Hoopla)

Jolenta Greenberg and Kristen Meinzer 
How to Be Fine: What We Learned from Living by the Rules of 50 Self-Help Books (audiobook via Libby)

Andy Greene
The Office: The Untold Story of the Greatest Sitcom of the 2000s: An Oral History (audiobook via Audible) 

Sophie Heawood 
The Hungover Games: A True Story (audiobook via Libby)

Ann Hood 
Morningstar: Growing Up with Books (audiobook via CloudLibrary)

David Isay
Callings: A Celebration of Lives of Purpose and Passion (audiobook via CloudLibrary) 

Shirley Jackson
Life Among the Savages (audiobook via Hoopla) 

Gary Janetti
Do You Mind If I Cancel? (Things That Still Annoy Me) (library book) 

Colin Jost 
A Very Punchable Face (audiobook via CloudLibrary) 
 
Mindy Kaling 
Nothing Like I Imagined (audiobook via Audible/Prime Reads)

Carole King
A Natural Woman: A Memoir (ebook via Kindle)

Conor Knighton
Leave Only Footprints: My Acadia-to-Zion Journey Through Every National Park (audiobook via CloudLibrary)

Robert Kolker
Hidden Valley Road: Inside the Mind of an American Family (audiobook via CloudLibrary)

Nicola Lewis
Mind Over Clutter: Cleaning Your Way to a Calm and Happy Home (audiobook via Hoopla)

Julie Lythcott-Haims
Real American: A Memoir (audiobook via Hoopla)

Carmen Maria Machado 
In the Dream House (audiobook via CloudLibrary)

Heather Mann
CraftFail: When Homemade Goes Horribly Wrong (ebook via CloudLibrary) 

Patricia Marx
You Can Only Yell at Me for One Thing at a Time: Rules for Couples (library book) 

Marisa Meltzer
This Is Big: How the Founder of Weight Watchers Changed the World  (audiobook via Audible)

Ben Montgomery 
Grandma Gatewood's Walk: The Inspiring Story of the Woman Who Saved the Appalachian Trail (audiobook via Libby)

Demi Moore
Inside Out (audiobook via Libby) 

Susan Orlean
The Library Book (audiobook via Libby)

Dolly Parton 
Dolly Parton, Songteller: My Life in Lyrics (audiobook via CloudLibrary)

Michael Pollan
Caffeine: How Caffeine Created the Modern World  (audiobook via Audible) 

Katherine Schwarzenegger Pratt
The Gift of Forgiveness: Inspiring Stories from Those Who Have Overcome the Unforgivable (audiobook via CloudLibrary)

Marko Ivan Rupnik
Contemplating the Face of Christ  (paperback) 

David Sedaris 
The Best of Me (audiobook via Audible)

Jessica Simpson
Open Book (audiobook via Audible)

Sarah Smarsh 
She Come By It Natural: Dolly Parton and the Women Who Lived Her Songs (library book)

Grant Snider
I Will Judge You by Your Bookshelf (ebook via Hoopla)
 
Aminatou Sow & Ann Friedman
Big Friendship: How We Keep Each Other Close (hardcover)
 
Christie Tate 
Group: How One Therapist and a Circle of Strangers Saved My Life (hardcover)

Elizabeth Willard Thames
Meet the Frugalwoods: Achieving Financial Independence Through Simple Living (ebook via Hoopla) 

Phuc Tran
Sign, Gone: A Misfit's Memoir of Great Books, Punk Rock, and the Fight to Fit In (audiobook via Libby) 

Alex Trebek 
The Answer Is ...: Reflection on My Life (hardcover)

Jesmyn Ward 
Navigate Your Stars (library book)
 
Anoushka Warden 
My Mum's A Twat (audiobook via Audible Originals)

Mitch Weiss
Broken Faith: Inside the Word of Faith Fellowship, One of America's Most Dangerous Cults (audiobook via Hoopla)

Holly Whitaker
Quit Like a Woman: The Radical Choice to Not Drink in a Culture Obsessed with Alcohol (audiobook via Cloud Library) 

Mark Whittaker
Blood Territory: The Death of Jimmy O'Connell (audibook via Audible)

Molly Wizenberg 
The Fixed Stars (ebook via Hoopla)
Ali Wong
Dear Girls: Intimate Tales, Untold Secrets, & Advice for Living Your Best Life (audiobook via Cloud Library)

 

2020 Year of Books -- Fiction

Here are the works of fiction I read in 2020 ...

2020 FICTION 

Lyssa Kay Adams  
The Bromance Book Club (Bromance Book Club #1, audiobook via Libby)  
Undercover Bromance (Bromance Book Club #2, audiobook via Libby)   
Crazy Stupid Bromance (Bromance Book Club #3, audiobook via Libby)

Megan Angelo
Followers (audiobook via Hoopla) 

Jami Attenberg
All This Could Be Yours (audiobook via Libby)    

Jane Austen    
Persuasion* (audiobook via Hoopla)  
Pride and Prejudice* (audiobook via Audible)

Taryn Bashford
The Harper Effect (ebook via Kindle) 

Lucie Britsch
Sad Janet (library book) 

Jenny Bayliss
The Twelve Dates of Christmas (audiobook via CloudLibrary)
 
Brit Bennett
The Vanishing Half (hardcover)
 
Gabriella Burnham
It Is Wood, It Is Stone (audiobook via Libby)

Emma Burstall
The Girl Who Came Home to Cornwall (Tremarnock #5) (audiobook via Hoopla)

Julie Buxbaum 
Admission (library book)

Robyn Carr
Whispering Rock (Virgin River #3) (audiobook via Audible)
Second Chance Pass (Virgin River #5) (audiobook via Audible)
Temptation Ridge (Virgin River #6) (audiobook via Audible)
Paradise Valley (Virgin River #7) (audiobook via Audible)
Forbidden Falls (Virgin River #8) (audiobook via Audible) 

Candice Carty-Williams 
Queenie (paperback)

Katherine Center
What You Wish For (hardcover)

Alexandra Chang
Days of Distraction (ebook via CloudLibrary) 

Kate Clayborn 
Love Lettering (ebook via Hoopla)  
Beginner's Luck (Chance of a Lifetime #1) (ebook via Hoopla) 
Luck of the Draw (Chance of a Lifetime #2) (ebook via Hoopla)  
Best of Luck (Chance of a Lifetime #3) (audiobook via Hoopla)  
Missing Christmas (ebook via Hoopla)
 
Heather Cocks and Jessica Morgan
The Heir Affair (The Royal We #2, audiobook via Audible)
 
Jenny Colgan
Christmas at the Island Hotel (Mure #4, library book)
500 Miles from You (Scottish Bookshop #3, audiobook via CloudLibrary)

Suzanne Collins
The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes (The Hunger Games #0, audiobook via Hoopla) 

Jen DeLuca
Well Played (Well Met #2, library book)

Lian Dolan
The Sweeney Sisters (ebook via CloudLibrary)

Naoise Dolan
Exciting Times (audiobook via Libby)

Roxanna Elden
Adequate Yearly Progress (library book)

Tom Ellen
All About Us (library book)

Ashley Elston
10 Blind Dates (ebook via Hoopla)

Madeline Ffitch
Stay and Fight (audiobook via Hoopla)

Katie Fforde
A Vintage Wedding (ebook via Kindle Store)

Tarryn Fisher
The Wives (audiobook via Hoopla)

Lucy Foley 
The Guest List (audiobook via Libby) 

Alli Frank 
Tiny Imperfections (audiobook via CloudLibrary) 
 
Leah Franqui 
Mother Land (audiobook via Libby)

Alli Frank & Asha Youmans
Tiny Imperfections (audiobook via CloudLibrary) 

Tana French
Broken Harbor (Dublin Murder Squad #4, audiobook via Audible)
The Secret Place (Dublin Murder Squad #5, audiobook via Libby)
 
Robert Galbraith
Troubled Blood (Cormoran Strike #5, audiobook via Audible)

Michelle Gallen
Big Girl, Small Town (audiobook via Hoopla)
 
Emily Giffin
The Lies That Bind (audiobook via Audible)
 
Elizabeth Goudge
I Saw Three Ships (paperback)

Jasmine Guillory
Party of Two (The Wedding Date #5, paperback)

Lauren Gunderson
The Half-Life of Marie Curie (audiobook via Audible) 

Janice Hadlow
The Other Bennet Sister (audiobook via Audible) 

Alexis Hall
Boyfriend Material (audiobook via Hoopla)

Laura Hankin
Happy & You Know It (hardcover)

Emily Henry
Beach Read (hardcover) 

Talia Hibbert 
Get a Life, Chloe Brown (hardcover)   
Take a Hint, Dani Brown (library book)

Kristan Higgins
Always the Last to Know (library book)
Just One of the Guys (audiobook via Audible)

Elin Hilderbrand 
28 Summers (hardcover)
Summer of '79: A Summer of '69 Story (ebook via Kindle)
Troubles in Paradise (Paradise #3, hardcover) 

Lauren Ho
Last Tang Standing (audiobook via Audible)

Jenny Holiday
A Princess for Christmas (ebook via Kindle)
 
Sarah Hogle
You Deserve Each Other (ebook via CloudLibrary)

Gill Hornby 
Miss Austen (audiobook via Audible) 
 
Nick Hornby  
Just Like You (audiobook via Libby)

Chisa Hutchinson
Proof of Love (audiobook via Audible Originals) 

Jane Igharo 
Ties That Tether (hardcover)

Holly Jackson
A Good Girl's Guide to Murder (audiobook via CloudLibrary)

Abby Jimenez
The Friend Zone (ebook via Libby)
The Happy Ever After Playlist (ebook via Libby)

Ruth Jones
Never Greener  (paperback)

Sandie Jones
The First Mistake (ebook via Libby) 

Virginia Kantra
Meg and Jo (paperback)

Ausma Zehanat Khan
The Unquiet Dead (Rachel Getty & Esa Khattak #1, audiobook via Hoopla)

Nancy Jooyoun Kim
The Last Story of Mina Lee (audiobook via Hoopla)

Lily King
Writers & Lovers (hardcover) 

Leah Konen
The Romantics (audiobook via Audible)

Mary Kubica
The Other Mrs. (audiobook via Hoopla)

Kevin Kwan
Sex and Vanity (audiobook via CloudLibrary)
 
Christina Lauren   
The Honey-Don't List (ebook via Libby)  
In A Holidaze (audiobook via CloudLibrary) 

Byron Lane
A Star Is Bored (ebook via Libby)

Sam Lansky
Broken People (audiobook via Hoopla)

Marie-Renee Lavoie
Autopsy of a Boring Wife (audiobook via Hoopla)

Jenny Lee
Anna K: A Love Story (audiobook via Libby)

Raven Leilani
Luster (hardcover)

Mary Pauline Lowry
The Roxy Letters (ebook via Libby)

Mhairi McFarlane
Here's Looking at You (audiobook via Hoopla)
If I Never Met You (audiobook via CloudLibrary) 
It's Not Me, It's You (ebook via Libby) 

Katharine McGee 
American Royals (ebook via Cloud Library) 
Majesty (American Royals #2, audiobook via CloudLibrary)

Casey McQuiston
Red, White & Royal Blue (audiobook via Libby)

Dervla McTiernan 
The Good Turn (Cormal Reilly #3, audiobook via Audible)

Ling Ma
Severance (audiobook via Hoopla)

Portia MacIntosh
My Great Ex-Scape (audiobook via Hoopla)
The Plus One Pact (audiobook via Hoopla)
Stuck on You (audiobook via Hoopla)
 
Charlie Mackesy 
The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse (hardcover)  

Nina Manning
The Daughter in Law (audiobook via Hoopla)

Emily Winfield Martin
The Imaginaries: Little Scraps of Larger Stories (library book)

Liz Maverick 
Eight Winter Nights (audiobook via Audible Originals)

Peace Adzo Medie
His Only Wife (audiobook via Hoopla)

Yamile Saied Mendez 
Furia (audiobook via Hoopla)

Sandhya Menon
When Dimple Met Rishi (audiobook via Audible) 

Amy Meyerson
The Imperfects (audiobook via Hoopla)

Sue Miller
Monogamy (ebook via CloudLibrary)

Emma Mills
Lucky Caller (library book)

Margarita Montimore
Oona Out of Order (hardcover)

Liz Moore
Long Bright River (audiobook via Audible) 

Meg Mitchell Moore 
The Captain's Daughter (hardcover) 
Two Truths and a Lie (hardcover)

Jojo Moyes
The Giver of Stars (audiobook via Libby)

Sarah Mlynowski
I See London, I See France (ebook via Kindle)

Matthew Norman
Last Couple Standing (audiobook via CloudLibrary) 

Sigrid Nunez 
What Are You Going Through (audiobook via Libby) 

Jenny Offill
Weather (audiobook via CloudLibrary)

Beth O'Leary 
The Switch (audiobook via Audible)

Camille Pagan
This Won't End Well (audiobook via Audible)

Sajni Patel
The Trouble with Hating You (ebook via CloudLibrary) 

Louise Penny
All the Devils Are Here (Chief Inspector Gamache #16, audiobook via Audible)

Rosamunde Pilcher
Winter Solstice* (audiobook via Hoopla)

Heidi Pitlor
Impersonation (audiobook via Hoopla)
 
Amy Poeppel
Musical Chairs (audiobook via Libby)

Julia Quinn
The Duke and I (Bridgerton's #1, audiobook via CloudLibrary)

Jens Raschke
Do Fish Sleep?  (library book)

Kiley Reid
Such a Fun Age (audiobook via Audible)

Penny Reid
Friends Without Benefits (Knitting in the City #2) (audiobook via Audible)
Love Hacked (Knitting in the City #3) (audiobook via Audible)
Beard Necessities (Winston Brothers #7) (audiobook via Audible)

Sara Richardson
Home for the Holidays (audiobook via Hoopla)
 
Farrah Rochon
The Boyfriend Project (ebook via CloudLibrary) 
 
Richard Roper 
How Not to Die Alone (hardcover)

Kate Elizabeth Russell
My Dark Vanessa (audiobook via Audible)

Richard Russo
Straight Man* (audiobook via Audible) 
Chances Are... (hardcover)
Sh*tshow  (audiobook via CloudLibrary)

Rebecca Searle
In Five Years (ebook via CloudLibrary)

Amy Shearn
Unseen City (audiobook via Hoopla)

Josie Silver
The Two Lives of Lydia Bird  (audiobook via CloudLibrary)

Curtis Sittenfeld
Rodham (ebook via CloudLibrary)

Holly Goldberg Sloan
To Night Owl from Dogfish (hardcover)

Dorothy Evelyn Smith
Miss Plum and Miss Penny (ebook via Kindle)
 
Kate Stayman-London
One to Watch (hardcover)

D.E. Stevenson
Mrs. Tim Carries On (audiobook via CloudLibrary)
Mrs. Tim Gets a Job (audiobook via CloudLibrary)
Mrs. Tim Flies Home (audiobook via CloudLibrary)

Emma Straub
All Adults Here (audiobook via CloudLibrary)

Emily St. John Mandel
The Glass Hotel (audiobook via CloudLibrary)

Madeleine St. John
The Women in Black (ebook via Kindle)

J. Courtney Sullivan 
Friends and Strangers (audiobook via CloudLibrary)

Amy Rebecca Tan
A Kind of Paradise (audiobook via Libby) 

Sloane Tanen
There's a Word for That (audiobook via Audible)

Emily Gray Tedrowe 
The Talented Miss Farwell (audiobook via Libby)

Scarlett Thomas
Oligarchy (ebook via Libby)

J.R. Thornton
Beautiful Country (ebook via Kindle)

Anne Tyler
Redhead by the Side of the Road (audiobook via CloudLibrary)

Emma Jane Unsworth
Grown Ups (paperback)

Abbi Waxman
I Was Told It Would Get Easier (audiobook via Libby)

Jennifer Weiner
Big Summer (hardcover)

Meghan MacLear Weir
The Book of Essie (ebook via Kindle)

Catherine Adel West
Saving Ruby King (audiobook via Hoopla)

Elizabeth Wetmore
Valentine (audiobook via CloudLibrary)

Kerry Winfrey
Not Like the Movies (Waiting for Tom Hanks #2, ebook via Libby)

Rachel Winters
Would Like to Meet (ebook via Libby)  

Vicky Zimmerman
Miss Cecily's Recipes for Exceptional Ladies (audiobook via Hoopla)  

Ibi Zoboi
Pride (audiobook via CloudLibrary)

 

An (*) indicates a reread.  All ebooks are purchased on sale via the Kindle Store or checked out from the e-offerings of the Elmhurst Public Library.  All audiobooks are from Audible.com or the Elmhurst Public Library's e-offerings (Hoopla, Cloud Library or Libby/Digital Library of Illinois).

Sunday, November 1, 2020

Gone to Ghana

Fort Meyers Beach in January.  That virus in China seemed very distant.

2020 has not been a year for travel.  Just call me Captain Obvious with that hook.  

We visited my in-laws in Florida over MLK weekend and in Missouri as we came out of quarantine in May.  I flew to Ohio at the end of February for my mom's 70th birthday.  The kids and I also drove to Ohio in June and saw my family again in Hilton Head for a week in July.  And that's it.  I'm not complaining as we have been very fortunate to see our loved ones and have had gorgeous weather (and family visitors) this summer and autumn in Chicagoland, making it pleasant enough to be "stuck at home."   

Though I've done my fair share of complaining and eye-rolling about 2020, I have also looked for silver linings these past months.  Here's one ... through literature, art, and technology, I have visited Ghana--a place previously quite unfamiliar to me--twice this year.

Let me explain. 


At the end of last summer, I purchased a Goodman Theatre series subscription.  My daughter and I went to Theresa Rebeck's Bernhardt/Hamlet in the fall, which proved to be a delightful downtown outing for us even if some of play went over her head.  My plan was to take a kid or a friend to each of the plays in the series and then to take all three kids to The Outsiders musical in July.  Obviously, Covid-19 has been devastating these plans and, more significantly, to live theater everywhere.  One silver lining was that, in April, Goodman subscribers were able to stream a recorded performance of their next play:  Jocelyn Bioh's School Girls; Or The African Mean Girls Play.  Sure, it would have been more enjoyable to take the train to the theater and discuss the play with a friend afterward over dinner.  However, streaming the performance was more powerful than anticipated.  I locked myself in my room and traveled to Ghana from the comfort of my bed and was blown away by the performances and by the power of the story about friendship, beauty, and girl/womanhood.  I highly recommend if you have a chance to see it on stage or on your computer screen.

My next trip to Ghana came through listening to the audiobook of Peace Adzo Medie's His Only Wife.  This novel features Afi, a young woman from Ghana, who agrees to marry Eli, a man who is already in a relationship with another woman with whom he has a child.  His family disapproves of this woman and the pressure is on Afi to distract and win Eli.  This novel is absorbing.  The contrast between life in the city of Accra where Afi moves after her wedding--cell phones, expensive cars, huge malls, and high end fashion--with life in her home village--trading economy, burdensome daily chores--is striking.  It was interesting/inspiring to watch Afi navigate these different worlds, family structures, and ideals of marriage and womanhood.


The icing on the cake for this second trip to Ghana was that I was one of 75 readers selected to participate in a Reese's Book Club/Hello Sunshine virtual book club meeting on His Only Wife.  The meeting took place this afternoon over Zoom and was so wonderful!  Curtis Sittenfeld, one of my favorite authors, interviewed Peace Adzo Medie at the beginning of the meeting and then the rest of the participants were able to ask Medie questions as well.  I felt so fortunate to be there, to hear insights on reading and writing from two amazing authors and to learn from the insightful questions of other readers.  I know Zoom existed pre-pandemic, but it's definitely a silver lining that since March, most of us have figured out how to use Zoom and become increasingly adept at using it to connect.  I know the quality of the Zoom events I have "attended" has improved a great deal between March and now.  I wanted to share the pic I took of the Zoom that shows me on the same screen, Brady Bunch style, with two famous authors, but I didn't want to flex (kidding, that was the whole point of the pic) and also didn't want to have to blur out all the first and last names of all the participants.

I am by no means an expert on Ghana now (not even close), but I know more now than I did before and appreciate, more than ever, all the ways in which we are able to experience the lives and stories of women (real and fictional) around the world.  


*Final note*  Not that anyone cares, but I feel the need to point out that two authors mentioned in this post (novelist Curtis Sittenfeld and playwright Theresa Rebeck) have roots in Cincinnati.  Me too!

 

 

 

 


Friday, October 30, 2020

Snackshots: Cheese & Crackers

My snacking game has always been elite or, at the very least, consistent.  NTB.  No one can accuse me of not putting the time in.  But, like the rest of the world, I've been able to take my nibbling to the next level during these Covid times.

The snack I'm sharing today is simple and somewhat healthy.  It's served me well from quarantine all the way through to whatever's happening now. 

You'll need three ingredients:  wafer crackers (I like 34 Degrees Crisps and Olina's Bakehouse Wafers); a wedge of Laughing Cow cheese (I use the Lite variety or the Asiago one); and a spoon full of jam or jelly (fruit jam, pepper jam, bacon jam -- whatever you fancy).

As a WW gal, I portion out my crackers at the start of my snacking session.  7 Oleo Wafers or 9 34 Degree crisps = 1 WW point.  

 

I just make my way methodically through my crackers, spreading some of the cheese wedge on each and then a little smear of jam.  Salty, sweet, and simple as that.

One bonus of this snack is that it reminds me of one of my best right-before-quarantine memories.  My sons both had roles in their school production of Shrek the Musical, which was staged the weekend of March 6-8 ... a few days before the world turned upside down.  My parents came into the town for the show and my aunt and uncle came from elsewhere in suburban Chicagoland to join us as well.  The non-performers had appetizers, dinner, and a nice visit at our house before Shrek.  On a whim, I had picked up 34 Degrees wafers at Jewel for my cheese and cracker tray, and my mom and I discussed how they made a nice, low calorie vehicle for cheese.  I finished that package of crackers during the first week of quarantine and ended up ordering more via Amazon (they are now a Subscribe and Save item for me) and ordered the Olina's variety to be delivered with my Oberweis milk.

One word of warning:  the 34 Degree crisps are fragile so you'll need to be a bit gentle when spreading your cheese.  The Olina's ones are sturdier.  Neither cracker tastes like anything special on its own so don't come back to me complaining the crackers are bland.  Both brands have some flavored varieties if that floats your boat, but the plain ones are plain.  This plainness is not a problem for me as I believe the point of any cracker is to serve as a vehicle by/upon which something more exciting gains access to your taste buds. 

A final note:  if you are a WW point person, you probably know that most of the Laughing Cow cheese varieties are 1 point per wedge, but not all of them, so check your app if that matters to you.  I don't count points for jam (or FYI, for ketchup or the sauces at Chick-fil-A) even though I am well aware that it is not a zero point food.  I just tell myself that if I am eating it mindfully and sparingly, it's fine.  I gained some Covid pounds, but not from teaspoons of jam.  





 

 

 



Thursday, October 29, 2020

Halloween Scrooge and the Fun/Full Size Solution

Halloween Scrooge.  That's me. 

I'm not miserly, but my levels of Halloween spirit are pretty darn low.  Indeed, I would test negative for Halloween spirit.  Sure, I enjoyed Halloween as a child.  I ate my doughnut and drank my apple cider at the classroom Halloween party.  I donned costumes, roamed my neighborhood, filled my pillowcase, and negotiated trades with my siblings.  There was some build-up before the big day -- visiting the "spooky aisle" at Kroger, carving a pumpkin, thinking about a costume.  At least for my family, however, Halloween in the 1980s was a special night NOT a major holiday.  My mom did not start helping me plan a costume months in advance and would not have invested a great deal of time or money in one (talk to my brother Mark about wearing a garbage bag and being a "California Raisin").  A jack-o-lantern on the porch was the extent of our Halloween decor.

Times they are a-changing or have a-changed.  Drive through the streets of Pleasantville and you'll see mini pumpkin patches on porches, ghosts, witches, skeletons in lawn chairs, spider-webbed bushes, graveyards in front yards, and many, many Halloween lights.  There are homes with more Halloween lights and decor than we can muster for Christmas.  That's all fine.  If decorating for Halloween makes people happy, especially during a global pandemic, have at it and don't let me harsh your buzz.  Good for you, not for me.  The thought of coming up with a Halloween display exhausts me, and I have traditionally have enough to worry about with figuring out trick or treating plans for three kids (more complications and potential for hurt feelings than I would ever have guessed) who have long passed the stage of wanting to walk around the neighborhood together with their dad.   

And we haven't even discussed candy yet.  I love candy.  Love it fiercely.  But my love of candy does not translate into a love of Halloween as I am not someone who feels that I can only eat candy given to my children by neighbors and strangers.  If I need candy, I have funds and there are stores, but since I also love fitting into my clothes I generally try to keep my candy-eating in check.  One dimension of the Halloween fervor of more recent years is the focus on full-size candy bars.  One of the first things I was told by our neighborhood babysitter when we moved to Pleasantville nine years ago was that our neighborhood was "known for giving out full-size candy bars."  

I have resisted adding to that reputation.  Not out of a scrooge-like unwillingness to spend money (just ask my husband) but out of a refusal to make Halloween any bigger than it already is.  I'm not buying Halloween lights and I'm not passing out full-size Hershey bars (which, by the way, is the second to worst kind of candy bar in the world with Three Musketeers being the absolute worst).  Fun-size candy offerings present their own challenges though.  When I bought fun-size candy to pass out, I never knew when to stop.  Each kid would come to the door, I'd feel the need to give 2, 3, 4 units of candy to each and to start making crazy attempts to vary what I gave them ... a mini box of lemonheads, a mini bag of Skittles and a mini bag of Swedish fish for you.  But wait, oh shit, I just gave that kid two mini boxes of cherry lemonheads with his mini bag of Tropical skittles and those skittles are kind of iffy.  Stay focused, Megan, try to mix it up.  Who needs that kind of stress?

Three years ago, I came up with the perfect solution.  Airheads.  Those disgusting wrapped rectangles of taffy (at least I think it's taffy).  They come 90 to a box, which costs $10.98 at Sam's Club.  I bought six boxes and, guess what, unopened boxes can be returned.  

In addition to being a cost effective and returnable solution, here are several other reasons why Airheads are perfect for passing out on Halloween:

1.   Kids love them.  The response is always positive with even more intense reactions when someone gets a coveted "mystery flavor" Airhead in their pillow case.  One pro tip is to hide any unopened boxes and return ASAP as it is disgusting to watch your own children consume Airheads.

2.  I hate them.  There is ZERO temptation for me to sample the product.  Nada.

3.  Airheads are nut-free (I only pass out nut-free candy) and gluten free.

4.  A single Airhead looks almost like a full size item ... if that's important in your market.  I usually give two per trick or treater (maybe 3 if I know the kids and want to, say, lean into my role as "Tommy's Mom" for a group of his female classmates).  However, you could easily give one Airhead per trick or treater and feel pretty secure in your offering.  

The perfection of this offering warms my cold Halloween heart just a little bit, but I am still looking ahead to this coming Saturday as something to survive.  

My only fear in sharing this post is that other households in my neighborhood will read it and board the Airheads train, leaving me unable to pilfer enough of the candy I like from the pillowcases of my children:  Reese's of any variety, Butterfinger, Heath, Snickers, Milky Way Dark, Almond Joy.  Given that this is my first blog post in over six months and that even six months ago, I could count my readers on this practically-secret blog on two hands, I think I'm safe.  

One final note is that even as a self-professed Halloween Scrooge, I have never opted out of candy distribution.  I get it that there are those who don't feel comfortable participating during these Covid times and I get it that in some households it isn't possible for one parent to stay home and man the front door (which I have been doing since 2006).  Pandemic and special circumstances aside, leaving a "please take one" bowl on the porch or just skipping the whole thing is unacceptable.


Thursday, March 26, 2020

Cozy-ish

Early on in the Covid-19 at-home hunkering, I listened to Cozy: The Art of Arranging Yourself in the World by Isabel Gillies.  I borrowed the book from Hoopla Digital, thanks to my public library's subscription, and even though the single Hoopla reviewer on record didn't love this title (see photo above), I figured I'd give it a try since it sounded comforting in these strange times and because years ago I read and loved Gillies' memoir Happens Every Day.

This book is less a how-to guide to coziness (ideas of what's cozy do vary by individual) and more a series of Gillies' thoughts and reflections regarding categories, examples, and dimensions of coziness.  I think the idea is that readers will enjoy her thoughts on coziness and then start thinking about what they find cozy and finding ways to arrange their surroundings and attitudes for more coziness.

Once I finished listening to Cozy, I made my own list of general conditions for and specific memories of coziness from my own life.  Here are some of the things I find or have found cozy:

* The feeling of opening up one's library bag and having the time to carefully inspect the treasures inside, especially if they were gathered hastily or haphazardly when at the library.

* That moment when you've changed out a lampshade (I used to have a Target lampshade-buying problem) and then click the lamp on for the first time with its new/different shade.

* Warm lighting in general.  Side note:  Gillies talks about the importance of pointing out coziness to your kids so they can create/find it for themselves.  Thanks to me, my kids are very tuned in to cozy lighting.  We are all passionately against cool light.  

* The feeling of eating at Cracker Barrel (think corn muffin with butter) in the right conditions.  The right conditions = husband not present or husband initiating trip.  Eating at CB with a reluctant husband is the opposite of cozy.

* This combination:  blanket, good book, fountain Diet Coke.

* Gallery walls

* Looking at my cardinal Christmas tree in December.

* Certain movies and shows watched at home:  BBC Pride and Prejudice,  Wonderworks Anne of Green Gables, Bridget Jones's Diary, The Office, Gilmore Girls.

* Being at an airport gate with a snack, a good book, and no anxiety about flight delays or cancellations.

* Sitting in a movie theater with girlfriends, preferably with popcorn and DC.  Note:  I went on a last minute outing to see Emma on Monday, March 9th, which was wholly delightful and now seems like it happened in a different lifetime.

* Coming inside after a chilly walk and feeling energized, virtuous, and rosy-cheeked.

* Going through a drive-thru and then finding a parking spot (I try to find one near a tree) and eating alone in my car.  It sounds sad, but it's not, and it is a cozy habit that my sister also enjoys.

* I play on a tennis team and after our matches, the home team provides lunch for the visiting team.  You sit with your own team during lunch, and I love that cozy time of chatting and eating with my teammates (women of all ages at various stages of life).  Even cozier if I won that day.

* The smell of a basketball gym.

* My kids and I stay after school two days a week to pray the Rosary with a small group.  These afternoons in our beautiful Church with these friends are very special and cozy to me.

* Sitting on my parents' giant sectional couch with other members of my family.

* Eating pot roast nachos at Pint's, a sports bar in town.

* Meeting my "breakfast club" friends at Egg Harbor.  Buttering toast and adding their delicious jam.

* Settling into a little crafting corner I have and making cards out of washi tape.

* Visiting the book sale corner of my library.

* Browsing at my favorite gift shop, The Uptown Shop.

* Sitting at my kitchen table with a snack and a stack of magazines.

* Bookshelves ... my own but also those of others, especially glanced through a window (in a non-creep way) when taking a walk in the evening.

* Birthday cards displayed on a mantel.

* The feeling of laughing and lingering at a restaurant or bar with good friends.

* Singing along with my kids or friends in a moving vehicle or at a concert or at church.

Gillies makes the point that cozy is not just an at-home phenomenon.  It's things (often little) but also a state of mind.

Some of the words that help convey cozy to me -- safe, satisfied, content, familiar, hopeful.

I acknowledge that it is a luxury to be at home writing about coziness at this moment when many are sick and when others like medical professionals and grocery store employees are exposed and vulnerable.  I'm staying home as asked and looking for ways to make that experience more cozy than confining.  I wouldn't say my current state of mind is cozy (too much uncertainty and strangeness for that) but there are cozy moments, and I am thankful for them.  Making this list helps me look forward to a brighter future when we can once again feel cozy in the world and in one another's company.   

I would love to know what you find cozy.

I did take a few photos from the past week or so that captured moments of cozy.
 This photo is not taken from a great angle, but it shows a cozy scene of book, 
dog, pajamas, a lamp shade with warm light, and a gallery wall.

 This photo was taken on Sunday when my family rented the new Emma.  We have fire, family, snow outside, birthday cards on mantel, and son in his Comfy.  The scene was a bit less idyllic than it may seem as not everyone loved the movie as much as I did and we had to pause frequently to clarify plot points.

These Hunter boot socks are cozy as all get out.

What day did it snow?  I'm losing track, but snow-covered trees and roofs are cozy to me.

Last night's sunset warmed my heart. Cozy.  Hopeful. 

Stay well, everyone.  Take care of yourself and one another.

Tuesday, December 31, 2019

2019 Year of Books: Fiction

2019 FICTION 
Elizabeth Acevedo
With the Fire on High (audiobook via Hoopla)


Poppy Alexander
25 Days 'til Christmas (audiobook via Hoopla)

Kate Atkinson
Transcription (audiobook via Libby)

Jane Austen
Sanditon (audiobook via Hoopla)
The Watsons (audiobook via Hoopla) 

Beryl Bainbridge
The Bottle Factory Outing (ebook via Kindle Store)

Chandler Baker
The Whisper Network (audiobook via Audible)

Natalie Barelli
The Housekeeper (audiobook via Hoopla)

Kimberly Belle
Dear Wife (audiobook via Hoopla)

Robin Benway
Far from the Tree (ebook via Kindle Store) 

Lou Berney
November Road (audiobook via Hoopla)


Taffy Brodesser-Akner
Fleishman Is in Trouble (audiobook via Audible)

Anna Burns
Milkman (audiobook via Hoopla)

Emma Burstall
A Cornish Secret (Tremarnock #4) (audiobook via Hoopla)

Julie Buxbaum
Hope and Other Punchlines (library book)  

Robyn Carr
Virgin River (audiobook via Audible)
Shelter Mountain (audiobook via Audible)

Katherine Center
Things You Save in a Fire (hardcover) 

Mary H.K. Choi
Permanent Record (ebook via Libby)

Jenny Colgan
Christmas at Rosie Hopkins' Sweetshop (audiobook via Hoopla)
The Bookshop on the Shore (audiobook via Hoopla) 

Tara Conklin 
The Last Romantics (audiobook via Hoopla)

Catherine Cookson
Katie Mulholland (audiobook via Audible)

Blake Crouch
Recursion (audiobook via Libby)

Rosie Curtis
We Met in December (audiobook via Hoopla)

Paula Daly
Clear My Name (audiobook via Hoopla)

Jen DeLuca
Well Met (hardcover)

Sarah Dessen
The Rest of the Story (audiobook via Libby)

Matthew Dicks
Twenty-one Truths About Love (library book)

Samantha Downing
My Lovely Wife (audiobook via Hoopla) 

Evie Dunmore
Bringing Down the Duke (hardcover)

Helen Ellis
Southern Lady Code (library book) 

Lucy Foley
The Hunting Party (audiobook via Audible)

Tana French
In the Woods (Dublin Murder Squad #1) (audiobook via Libby)
The Likeness (Dublin Murder Squad #2) (audiobook via Libby)
Faithful Place (Dublin Murder Squad #3) (audiobook via Libby)

Elizabeth Gaskell
Wives and Daughters (audiobook via Hoopla)
North and South (audiobook via Hoopla) 

Laurie Gelman
You've Been Volunteered: A Class Mom Novel (library book) 

Tracey Garvis Graves
The Girl He Used to Know (audiobook via Audible)

Anne Griffin
When All Is Said (audiobook via Audible)

Jasmine Guillory
The Wedding Party (The Wedding Date #3) (library book)
Royal Holiday (The Wedding Date #4) (library book)

Cynthia Hand
The Afterlife of Holly Chase (audiobook via Hoopla)

Jane Harper
The Lost Man (audiobook via Audible)

Rachel Hawkins
Prince Charming (ebook via Kindle Store)

Felicity Hayes-McCoy
The Mistletoe Matchmaker (audiobook via Hoopla) 

Jane Healey
The Saturday Evening Girls Club (audiobook via Audible) 

Amy Hempel
Sing to It: New Stories (audiobook via Libby)

Greer Hendricks
The Wife Between Us (audiobook via Hoopla)

Sally Hepworth
The Mother-in-Law (audiobook via Hoopla) 

Kristan Higgins
Life and Other Inconveniences (paperback)


Elin Hilderbrand
What Happens in Paradise (hardcover)
Summer People (paperback)
Summer of '69 (hardcover)

Linda Holmes
Evvie Drake Starts Over (library book)

Helen Hoang
The Bride Test (The Kiss Quotient #2) (audiobook via Hoopla)


Catherine Isaac
You Me Everything (audiobook via Audible)

Balli Kaur Jaswal
The Unlikely Adventures of the Shergill Sisters (audiobook via Hoopla) 

Lisa Jewell
Roommates Wanted (audiobook via Hoopla) 

Lana Wood Johnson
Technically, You Started It (library book) 

Jessica Francis Kane
Rules for Visiting (library book)


Mary Beth Keane
Ask Again, Yes (audiobook via Audible)

Brigid Kemmerer
Letters to the Lost (ebook via Kindle Store)
Call It What You Want (library book)

John Kenney
Talk to Me (audiobook via Audible)

Sabina Khan
The Love & Lies of Rukhsana-Ali (audiobook via Hoopla)

Stephen King
The Colorado Kid (library book)

Sophie Kinsella
Christmas Shopaholic (library book)

Gordon Korman
Restart (paperback)

Jean Kwok
Searching for Sylvie Lee (audiobook) 

Julie Langsdorf
White Elephant (audiobook via Hoopla) 

Christina Lauren
Twice in a Blue Moon (library book) 
The Unhoneymooners (library book)
Love and Other Words (ebook via Libby)
My Favorite Half-Night Stand (ebook via Libby)
Josh and Hazel's Guide to Not Dating (audiobook via Libby)

Min Jin Lee
Pachinko (audiobook via Libby)  

Elinor Lipman
Good Riddance (library book)

Claire Lombardo
The Most Fun We Ever Had (audiobook via Audible)

Julia MacDonnell
Mimi Malloy, At Last!  (hardcover)

Karen M. McManus
Two Can Keep A Secret (audiobook via Libby) 

Dervla McTiernan
The Scholar (Cormac Reilly #2) (audiobook via Audible) 

Lauren Mechling
How Could She (library book) 

Emma Mills
This Adventure Ends (ebook via Kindle Store)

Famous in a Small Town (library book)
Foolish Hearts (ebook via Libby)

Denise Mina
Conviction (audiobook via Audible)

Fatima Farheen Mirza
A Place for Us (audiobook via Libby)

L.M. Montgomery
The Blue Castle* (audiobook via Hoopla)
Christmas with Anne and Other Holiday Stories (audiobook via Hoopla)

Meg Mitchell Moore
The Islanders (hardcover) 

Yukiko Motoya
The Lonesome Bodybuilder: Stories (ebook via Kindle Store) 

Loretta Nyhan
All the Good Parts (ebook via Kindle)


Beth O'Leary
The Flatshare (library book)


Camille Pagan
I'm Fine and Neither Are You (ebook via Kindle Store)

Liza Palmer
The Nobodies  (library book)

Lucy Parker
Act Like It (London Celebrities #1) (ebook via Kindle Store)
Pretty Face (London Celebrities #2) (ebook via Kindle Store)

Ann Patchett
The Dutch House (audiobook via Audible)

A.J. Pearce
Dear Mrs. Bird (audiobook via Libby) 

Louise Penny
Kingdom of the Blind (Chief Inspector Gamache #14, audiobook via Libby)
A Better Man (Chief Inspector Gamache #15, audiobook via Audible)

Rosamunde Pilcher
September (audiobook via Hoopla) 
Voices in the Summer (audiobook via Hoopla)

Sylvia Plath
Mary Ventura and the Ninth Kingdom (library book) 

Katherine Reay
The Printed Letter Bookshop (audiobook via Hoopla)

Penny Reid
Truth or Beard (Winston Brothers #1) (audiobook via Hoopla)
Grin and Beard It (Winston Brothers #2) (audiobook via Hoopla)
Beard Science (Winston Brothers #3) (audiobook via Hoopla)
Beard in Mind (Winston Brothers #4) (audiobook via Hoopla)
Dr. Strange Beard (Winston Brothers #5) (audiobook via Hoopla)
Bear with Me (Winston Brothers #6) (audiobook via Hoopla)


Taylor Jenkins Reid
Evidence of the Affair (ebook via Kindle Store) 
Daisy Jones & The Six (hardcover)


Kim Michele Richardson
The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek (audiobook via Hoopla) 

Andrew Ridker
The Altruists (audiobook via Audible)

Barbara Robinson
The Best Christmas Pageant Ever* (audiobook via Hoopla) 

Sally Rooney
Normal People (hardcover)

Heather Rose
The Museum of Modern Love (audiobook via Hoopla)

Rainbow Rowell
Pumpkinheads (paperback)

Steven Rowley
The Editor (audiobook via Libby)

Madhuri Shekar
Evil Eye (audiobook via Audible)

Cathleen Schine
They May Not Mean To, But They Do (ebook via Kindle Store)

Curtis Sittenfeld
Atomic Marriage (audiobook via Audible)

Gregory Blake Smith
The Maze at Windermere (audiobook via Audible)

Sarah Elaine Smith
Marilou is Everywhere (library book)

D.E. Stevenson
Spring Magic (ebook via Kindle Store)

Nina Stibbe
Reasons to Be Cheerful (library book)

Elizabeth Strout
Olive, Again (audiobook via Audible)

Donna Tartt
The Secret History (audiobook via Libby) 

Angie Thomas
The Hate U Give (hardcover)
On the Come Up (audiobook via Hoopla) 

Jean Thompson
She Poured Out Her Heart (audiobook via Hoopla) 

Sally Thorne
99 Percent Mine (library book)

Tony Tulathimutte
Private Citizens (audiobook via Hoopla) 

Richard Van Camp
The Lesser Blessed (ebook via Kindle Store)

Elizabeth Von Arnim
The Enchanted April* (public domain ebook via Kindle Store)

Ocean Vuong
On Earth We're Briefly Gorgeous (audiobook via Libby) 

Karen Thompson Walker
The Dreamers (ebook via Libby)

Cara Wall
The Dearly Beloved (audiobook via Audible)

Kathy Wang
Family Trust (audiobook via Libby)

Abbi Waxman
The Bookish Life of Nina Hill (audiobook via Libby)

Kevin Wilson
Nothing to See Here (audiobook via Audible) 

Kerry Winfrey
Waiting for Tom Hanks (library book)


Jacqueline Woodson
Red at the Bone (paperback) 

Jeff Winterhart
Other People: Days of the Bagnold Summer & Driving Short Distances (library book)

David Yoon
Frankly in Love (audiobook via Libby)