So I posted this image on Instagram a couple of days ago, and I’ll share it here too, but with the full list written out just for you! Do note that these are books I read in 2020, but not necessarily published in 2020.
Today’s topic is Favorite Things [Holiday Edition]
Putting up our (fake) Christmas tree together! That includes ornaments purchased by grandparents, ornaments the kids made, and a tree skirt that my mom made. As well as an advent calendar that was sewn by a family friend in Australia.
Oh I meant to check in and join in with A Month of Faves, but I hadn’t seen it on GirlXOXO earlier. Looks like they had posted it on Instagram though! I’m going to see if I can muster the will to put up posts from the earlier topics, but I’ll start with this one…
This is the topic for Dec 11:
Favorite Things [Daily Life Edition]
Because this is a year in which to celebrate the everyday things.
It’s been strange year to say the least.
We are fortunate to have been healthy and safe, to have a roof over our heads, and not need to worry about if we can afford groceries. So our problems have been minor compared to those of many out there.
We had to cancel plans to visit Singapore, so this is the first time in which the kids haven’t seen their grandparents for a whole year. Every year since the boys were born, at least one grandparent has made a visit (a 17+ hour flight mind you, and it was longer before they launched the direct flight). The last visit was when my mum was here for Christmas in 2019, which seems like years ago.
Anyway, this post is about celebrating the little things.
Small things such as the husband working from home, so he actually gets to see the kids for more than an hour or so a day. He used to leave the house at 630 to catch the Bart into the city, and would most days return after 730pm, which meant we seldom ate dinner as a family, and the kids hardly saw him. So if there’s one bright side to all these stay home restrictions, that is one thing.
As I’m going through these posts, I was kinda surprised at the many new things that I tried making this year. Bagels! Flatbread! (So weird boiling dough though).
We even tried out grocery delivery for a while, as I’m sure many of you did. I especially liked shopping from Weee! an Asian grocery outfit. I like their variety and the surprising freshness of their produce.
Besides being at home because of Covid-19, we were also stuck home for a long time this summer because of the wild fires in the area. It was really bad this year as one of huge fires was actually in the city I live in. Some of our friends had to pack their bags in case they had to evacuate (luckily they didn’t). We weren’t directly affected as we don’t live in or near the hills, but the kids had to stay indoors for quite a few weeks as the air quality was horrendous. So I am grateful that we have two air filters. And the husband had bought me the Ringfit game for the Nintendo Switch, so the kids were happy to play with it for some exercise.
If you look at the photo above, that was the day we woke up and the sky was orange. We had to have the lights on all day because the smoke was trapped under the marine layer. It was the weirdest, most apocalyptic sight. And it was also the day I learnt that my iPhone can’t take a photo of the orange light indoors. It kept correcting the colour and making it look normal. In the end, I had to download an app (Focos) so that I could adjust settings and take an accurate, actually orange picture.
Other favourite things?
The Internet? I don’t know. Oh, maybe HBO Max! And Disney+ (which somehow I had the foresight to prepay for 3 years at such a good price, especially since now they’re increasing the fees!).
So I tried out New Horizons when it came out, and it was cute and fun. But I got a bit bored with it after a while. And started playing Pocket Camp which is the free mobile phone version. It’s a fun and adorable distraction. And yes, I have a library at my campsite!
What about you? What were your favourite things this year?
#AMonthofFaves The Cook It, Bake It, Drink It or Eat It Edition – share with us this year’s favorite foods, drinks, restaurants or recipes. Or just snap a picture of something you recently enjoyed. Not into Food? Then share your (or family members) Christmas Wishlist.
But today, I’m focusing on goodies I’ve made myself!
So here it is, the homemade edition
I’ll be talking more about these Christmas cookies in my post tomorrow. So stay tuned!
For the past few years, I’ve been making my family’s birthday cakes.
And for my husband, it’s Black Forest. It’s a cake he’s loved since he was a kid, so it was a daunting one to take on at first. And I had to try a variety of recipes before I decided on the one. The cake part needs to be chocolatey but not too rich or fudgey. It needs to be a light-ish cake. So this one, just the cake layers part, from this Chocolate Mousse Cake recipe is perfect. I talked about it more in a post here last year.
All the sprinkles!
Both boys wanted funfetti cakes this year. One was to be in chocolate frosting, the other in a vanilla. And they were both very pleased with the cakes.
This was the year of ice-cream making. I’ve always wanted to try making ice-cream but wasn’t sure if I wanted a standalone ice-cream maker. We happened to be at Target and saw that the ice-cream attachment for the Kitchenaid mixer was at a really good price. So ta-da! Ice-cream attachment. And it was super easy to use. Just, as with more simple (and cheaper) ice-cream machines, the bowl must be frozen for at least 12 hours (I keep my bowl in the freezer after I’ve washed it).
I owe a lot of my ice-cream making education to David Lebovitz’s The Perfect Scoop. I love his vanilla ice-cream (can never have a store-bought vanilla ice-cream again!), chocolate ice-cream, Vietnamese coffee ice-cream. But I didn’t really think his black sesame was really what I was looking for. So I came up with my own recipe! I also made a Gula Melaka (palm sugar) coconut milk ice-cream which was so luscious and irresistible from that deep dark palm sugar flavour and the rich coconut milk. I also sprinkled coconut chips (from Trader Joe’s – so yummy!) before serving. Heavenly!
I can’t wait for the temps to warm up again (ok not really, I hate being hot) to try out more ice-cream recipes.
On the Screen or in Your Ear: What did you watch this year that you absolutely loved and did you see any movies inspired by books you’ve read – what did you think. Or, what are some of your favorite podcasts, audiobooks or songs / albums that you listened to and have on repeat.
Yes, that one with the Baby Yoda. But Baby Yoda aside, I’m loving this whole space western series that is on Disney+
I LOVE this Japanese reality series. I’m not much of a viewer of reality series like this in which the aim is to find romance but I’ve seen some of the Bachelor before so I guess I’m comparing it to American-type reality shows. I love that Terrace House has hosts (the three women and three men above) who discuss the contestants and what’s going on. It’s often very funny and provides a different insight into Japanese culture.
I listened to 18 audiobooks so far this year and these are my favourites.
The Greatest Love Story Ever Told by Megan Mullally and Nick Offerman
I had such a blast with this one! This was just great banter back and forth between Mullally and Offerman. I’ve not seen the physical book but apparently the Barnes and Noble exclusive came with a jigsaw cover?!
Beastie Boys Book
I am not really a Beastie Boys fan but this was some audiobook! I loved that they had so many guests narrating the different chapters, not just musicians like Kim Gordon and Nas and Elvis Costello but also actors and comedians like Will Ferrell and Rosie Perez. One of my favourite parts was listening to Jarvis Cocker read.
Let’s take a peek into each others lives as as we chronicle what we did on a typical (or not-so-typical) day or weekend … or week.
Well so I didn’t notice this topic until Sunday morning so I was forced to decided to chronicle my Sunday. It’s not exactly a typical Sunday though but here it is!
Wake at 635 thanks to a fire truck siren outside. But I’m usually up before 7 on weekends (and before 6 on weekdays).
Check email and messages and see messages from my sister in Singapore asking about presents for the boys. I lie in bed checking out the Book Depository links she sent and give suggestions.
655: Head down for breakfast. The boys are awake but giggling in bed. I decide to go down first and have quiet breakfast
I grab homemade raisin bread from the freezer and into the toaster. Make some tea with milk. Eat a walnut cookie I had made on Friday while waiting.
Sit and read some digital magazines (library) while eating breakfast. Not long after, the boys come down and so does the husband. My mum is staying with us until after Christmas and she’s down too.
730 I finish up and go brush teeth etc and throw jackets in the wash. We went to a korean BBQ last night and our clothes and jackets smell smoky!
745: sit down to write some blog posts. Realize that Monday’s Month of Faves is about “a day in the life) so start typing down what I remember!
830: Watch a YouTube video on a Christmas gnome pattern. Decide to make some for the kids’ teachers
9: head to Costco to pick up some gifts for the husband’s colleagues. Lots of chocolates!
10: I sit with the kids as they practice piano
1115: Firehouse subs lunch. Requested by the six-year-old.
We head to the music school after lunch for the winter concert
120: The 8yo’s session is on. He’s supposed to be fourth but two of the kids ahead of him haven’t turned up by the time the session starts so he’s second. He plays the song Moonlight Sonata and does great (with a couple of minor mistakes!)
230: Back home and I start working on a new-to-me cookie dough recipe. This is a sesame sea salt cookie from Dorie Greenspan’s cookie book.
The husband had asked if I could make some things to send to his mentor in Seattle. They sent us some lovely Christmassy treats last year.
Yesterday I had premade some more cookie dough, citrus shortbread (recipe from The NY Times).
I bought cookie stamps last year but never tried them out. So when I saw this recipe it was meant to be. I adapted it slightly to be a Meyer lemon shortbread to use the Meyer lemons in my backyard. The original recipe calls for orange and lemon zest in the dough and juice in the glaze. The stamps are a bit more tricky to work with than expected and I realize that a very liberal flouring of the balls of dough is required.
330 or so: The husband takes the kids and my mum our for a walk in the park. It’s a nice break from all the rain last week so might as well get some sunshine and fresh air! I continue with the cookie making. I have to bake my cookies, glaze the shortbread.
445: They decide to pick up dinner from a nearby Chinese takeout place.
530: The kids skype my in-laws in Singapore. I clean up all the cookie making equipment and stuff. After that they watch some TV. And I finally sit down and take a break.
630: We usually eat around this time and so we were hungry. Noodles, fried rice, broccoli beef, salt and pepper chicken. Also oranges and plums and sesame balls for dessert.
730: clean up, put the dishes away. The kids clean the dining table and sweep the floor.
I redo the Christmas Gnome body I had started on earlier today. I realized I had forgotten to do the Back Loop only part of a single crochet row which meant I had to redo 7 rows. At least it was quick! I decide to continue the rest tomorrow and head up to shower.
815: Reading time.
9: The kids go to bed. And I go lie in bed and read a book.
Dec 4 – #AMonthofFaves Underrated Books We Think Deserve More Buzz
I love this topic! I especially enjoy finding out about books I’ve not heard of. And I’m always interested in learning how people find out about books.
So here’s a question for you: how do you usually discover new-to-you reads? Is it Bookstagram, Litsy, or social media? Bookish websites like Goodreads? Word of mouth? Bookstores? Newspapers? Bloggers?
Pie in the Sky by Remy Lai (published 2019)
An awesome middle grade book about a pair of brothers from Vietnam trying to fit into their new life in Australia. And also, making cakes!
Tiare in Bloom by Célestine Hitiura Vaite (published 2006)
I enjoyed this book mostly because of it’s unusual setting – Tahiti! This is actually the third book of the series, but my library only had this one!
Edinburgh by Alexander Chee (published 2001)
This is not a new book, since it was published in 2001, but while Chee is known for his newer works like Queen of the Night, I do think this is one book that deserves more attention. It is absolutely beautiful and heartbreaking (my thoughts).
South Pole Station by Ashley Shelby (published 2017)
Another unique setting and also, great humour!
The Lady Astronaut series by Mary Robinette Kowal (published 2018)
As you may have guessed, I tend to like unusual books. And I like how Kowal often brings in a unique perspective, like in The Glamourist Histories series which features magic in a Austen-esque setting. This series, which has two books, The Calculating Stars (my thoughts) and The Fated Sky, imagines an alternative 1952 when a giant meteorite crashes into Earth, creating the start of an extinction event. Space exploration (only an idea at the moment) becomes necessary and one female mathematician/pilot wants to be a part of it.
Have you read any of these? What are some underrated books you’ve read and loved?
December 2: Popular Books Worth the Hype (and/or Not Worth the Hype)
So once again, I struggle with the word “popular”. What does it mean to be a popular book? Last year, I decided that I would go by the number of Goodreads ratings. I use Goodreads to track my books and it’s probably the easiest way to figure out what is “popular”. Last year, I decided to go with a minimum of 25,000 ratings (note, not reviews). Of course, this isn’t the best way either as there will be plenty of 2019 releases that have barely had time to garner ratings! But I will do the best I can in this list!
This year I’ve read books with just a few hundred Goodreads ratings, to several hundred thousands.
The Poppy War and The Dragon Republic by RF Kuang (26,023 ratings for The Poppy War)
These are the first two books in the Poppy War series and while I enjoyed the first one, I really liked the second book, The Dragon Republic (my review). It was exciting and magical and also, navy battles! But throughout the two books, I loved the incorporation of Asian elements, with some of the battles based on Chinese mythology and history. Cannot wait for the next book!
The Library Book by Susan Orlean (50,033 ratings)
This book was made for readers and book lovers and especially lovers of the library, like me! It was full of great writing and interesting facts about libraries (my thoughts)
Daisy Jones and the Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid (121,395 ratings)
I really like fictional books that feature music so I was dying to sink my teeth into this one about a band. It was such fun!
All Systems Red by Martha Wells (43,806 ratings)
Becoming by Michelle Obama (320,815 ratings)
I listened to this one and it was great hearing her read it.
The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey(107,199 ratings)
Goodness it’s taken me a while to get to this one! But it was a lovely dark one.
I’m on the fence about the hype for this one:
The Testaments by Margaret Atwood
This of course is the long awaited serial to The Handmaid’s Tale, a book I’ve loved for many years. So I was excited to read this one and while parts of it were great, overall I was a bit disappointed (read my thoughts here).
FRI. | Dec. 28 – #AMonthofFaves This Is How We Read and Blogged This Year
Ah the end of the year post. Always fun to look back and see what I’ve read. The prompt today asks for blogging stuff as well, but this is already a long enough post (and with pie charts!) so it’s just all about the books.
I’ve done these year-end summaries for a few years now, you can check out what I was up to in 2017, 2016, 2015, 2014, and 2013.
The shortest book I read was just 35 pages long (Bourbon, Sugar,Grace), the longest book I read was 928 pages (Drums of Autumn).
My reading has taken me around the world: Afghanistan, Australia, Brazil, China, France, Germany, India, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Korea, Morocco, Myanmar, Nigeria, South Africa, Sudan, Switzerland, UK, US, Vietnam, Zimbabwe, and to many imaginaries spaces and places.
Ugh! This statistic became even more skewed towards books I borrowed. I mean I love my library but I really ought to start reading more of the books I own!!
I tend to read more books by women writers and that continues to be the case.
These figures for diversity are about similar to last year’s. So not much improvement there! I’m hoping for at least an even spread next year!
Surprisingly, I read more new-to-me authors. Last year the numbers were more even.
Genre is a tough one. I mean, comics isn’t exactly a genre, nor is short stories. But well, that’s what I’ve decided works for me! This year, I’ve tried to be a bit more specific when it comes to genres. One change for me is I’ve been reading more romance!
I definitely am doing a lot more e-reading nowadays. It is just so much more convenient! I do visit the library every week but my tote bags are filled to the brim with children’s books and so I am often reluctant to add more weight to it. Sometimes I consider bringing a suitcase instead…
Not surprising at all. More specifically, I read 40 books published in 2018.
And that was how my reading year went. How was your reading year?