The New York Times and Goodreads have published their lists of the top books of the year. Now let me add my little list of personal favorites to the interwebs. Of the dozens of books I read in 2015, here are the five that I enjoyed the most.
Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver
I not so secretly want to be a small farmer who uses poop for fertilizer, raises chickens, and cans all her own food, so every year or so, I read a big, crunchy book about raising your own food. Barbara Kingsolver, author of The Poisonwood Bible, writes about a year of living off the land with her family of four. From everything you ever wanted to know about asparagus at the beginning to turkey sex at the end, this NYTimes bestselling memoir is cover to cover interesting!
Wonder by R.J. Palacio
Auggie, a super smart 5th grader with severe facial abnormalities, has been homeschooled his whole life when his parents enroll him in a mainstream middle school for the first time -- an environment that is usually not kind to kids who are different. The author jumps around between different characters' points of view to tell this fictional story of Auggie's school year. It is a really quick, easy, fun read and the central message of kindness, although a little beat over the head, seems very relevant these days. And it's a #1 NYTimes Bestseller.
The Artist's Way by Julia Cameron
Putting this book on a list of "reads" is misleading. The Artist's Way is more than just a book. It is an international, bestselling 12-week course replete with exercises designed to help people discover, uncover, and unblock their creativity. It is a lot of work and a lot of fun, and it changed the way I view and approach art and got me creating like crazy.
The Crossover by Kwame Alexander
This book makes my list because it's just so darn creative. The Crossover is a fictional story about family, illness, and basketball written from the perspective of a black, middle school kid. Every chapter is a poem or verse. (If you're thinking sonatas, you're way off. If you're thinking rap or spoken word you're onto the writing style). The Crossover won both the Newbery Medal and the Coretta Scott King Award in 2015.
Soul Keeping by John Ortberg
In this book, John Ortberg delves into what the soul is and how to best care for this crucial yet fragile part of us through practices like gratitude, slowing, and silence. Much of the content is based off of a decades long mentor/mentee relationship between Dallas Willard and John Ortberg. Ortberg takes Willard's thoughts that are often as hard to digest as concrete and makes them super sticky and digestible.
Sunday, December 13, 2015
Saturday, December 5, 2015
Last night I had trouble sleeping and this morning I woke up feeling blah. I spent half of Cora's morning nap trying to get stuff done around the house with almost no results other than feeling more sluggish.
I've learned over the past months that, when I feel like junk, there are two quick ways to get out of it. One: lace up my running shoes and head out the door with my kids in the stroller. Two: create something. Since Cora was napping, I chose the latter.
"Hey, Grace. Do you want to make hot chocolate?"
"I don't want hot chocolate, I want warm chocolate." Replied my afraid-of-everything-over-100-degrees child.
"Ok, let's make warm chocolate."
We were out of our convenient little Swiss Miss packs in the pantry which was better anyway because as we measured and dumped and mixed and simmered, I felt my crankiness wear off.
Best part: Those little hot chocolate packs are always way too sweet for my taste. Since I made my own hot chocolate, I had complete control over the final product and was able to turn down the sweetness and turn up the darkness. Yum.
Here's the super simple recipe. If you're a sweet hot chocolate fan, double the sugar.
1) Combine 1 cup cocoa powder, 1/3 cup sugar, and 1/2 cup water in a saucepan. Bring to a boil stirring with a whisk or fork to break up clumps. Reduce heat and simmer for a minute or two. Add a little water if it's getting too thick.
2) Heat milk. Stir in a couple spoonfuls of your chocolate syrup. Add a candy cane, marshmallows, or whipped cream and sprinkles.
3) Store the chocolate syrup in the fridge for the next time you need some chocolate-y comfort.