What I’m into (November 2015 edition).

What I’m into (November 2015 edition).

As always, linking up with my friend Leigh Kramer to share what I’m into.

On the whole, November has been a lovely month. Last year at this time, it was seventeen degrees and the snow started falling before the leaves did. This year we’ve had more than our fair share of sunny sixty degree days. (That is NOT a complaint.) I feel like this month we got to enjoy all the low-key fall things we were too busy for in September and October: we made apple crisp, raked dozens of leaf mazes, took family walks, and rode our bikes.

This month we also had to start thinking about big-picture decisions for next year, especially for the kids. Not my favorite thing.

As I’m getting read to hit “publish” on this, the kids are looking for Freddy and asking if they can eat their Advent calendar chocolate before breakfast. Lots to look forward to in December.

What I’m reading

I feel like I’ve been in a bit of a reading slump lately. (Yep, it happens to me, too.) Lots of false starts. Lots of abandoned books.

But when I look objectively at the books I read, it’s been a good month for reading. Among my favorites:

• I inhaled Robert Gailbraith/J.K. Rowling’s Cormoran Strike series. (Thanks to those of you who subsequently recommended this episode of Pop Culture Happy Hour.)
• I finally read some Graham Greene, which I’ve been meaning to do for twenty years. The End of the Affair was fantastic on audio, thanks to Colin Firth’s narration.
Winter was a satisfying conclusion to the Lunar Chronicles quintet.
Coming Clean by Seth Haines was absolutely fantastic, far exceeding my expectations.
• I adored Ruth Reichl’s new story-driven cookbook My Kitchen Year: 136 Recipes That Saved My Life.
• I had lackluster expectations for Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear but it blew me away.
• Ed Cyzewski’s new handbook for writers of faith Write Without Crushing Your Soul was packed with answers to the questions I didn’t even know I was supposed to be asking.

I’ve been eagerly anticipating Rebecca Stead’s new novel Goodbye Stranger, and my feelings on it are … complicated. And I abandoned The Passage at the halfway point because it was giving me nightmares. I didn’t read the reviews before I picked this one up, and if I had, I would have skipped it. (My apologies to the friend with good taste who recommended it. I tried.)

paper village

What I’m making

I finally finished a literary craft that’s been six months in the making, thanks to a crafty girls’ night in. Pictures to follow.

What I’m not making but want to be: I am completely inspired by my friend’s paper village pictured above. Maybe one day this holiday season I’ll get out my scissors, fire up a holiday movie, and get to snipping.

What I’m watching

This turned out to be a much longer list than I expected, because we all got sick over Thanksgiving break and watched way more movies and tv than we usually do.

While I was sick, I watched the French film Amélie, which has been on my to-watch list for ages. I wasn’t sure if my brain could handle the subtitles, but it was whimsical and warm and drew me right in. Heads up: even though most of the film is sweet and charming, it’s rated R for good reason.)

Will and I watched a documentary called Spinning Plates, which gives a behind-the-scenes look into three wildly different restaurants, their unique challenges, and the people and personalities that make them what they are. I’ve been fascinated by the Chicago restaurant Alinea since I first read about it in Michael Ruhlman’s chef trilogy and head chef Grant Achatz’s 2012 memoir Life, on the Line. I loved getting to peek inside the kitchen through the eyes of the filmmakers.

We’re all caught up on The Blacklist. I was less than enthusiastic about the fall finale, but we won’t find out what happens next until new episodes resume on January 7. After binge watching two and a half seasons on Netflix, watching one week at a time kind of stinks.

And finally, Will roped me into re-watching Friday Night Lights. (I was a willing victim.) Seriously, episode one is among the best pilots ever made. So good.

Addictive spiced nuts

What I’m cooking

We had a crazy November, and then we were doing Thanksgiving prep, so we’ve been all about those recipes that consist of plunking chicken into sauce and call it dinner. And if the sauce is pre-made from Costco, so much the better.

We’ve also made the first of many batches of these addictive spiced nuts, which make my house smell amazing.

I hope you had a lovely November, dear readers. What have YOU been into lately? 

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  1. Karrie says:

    I just read “The Fairy Tale Girl” by Susan Branch and it is my favorite non fiction of the year. It is her autobiography/memoir, written from her own diaries she has kept since childhood. Although she is an author known for her beautiful watercolor illustrations, she did not pick up a brush until she was 30! Perhaps because she had her diaries and did not rely on just memories; the vividness of the emotions she captures is piercing. I laughed, cried, stayed up too late reading it and was lastingly inspired and uplifted . It is a testament to the importance and endurance of friendship-the entire course of Susans life was changed by a gift certificate from a friend. The “sequal” about her later life will be released next spring and I can’t wait!

  2. Jess says:

    I made a “read 100 books” for my 2015 New Year’s Resolution. November was spent cramming the books in, which takes away a little bit of the enjoyment, but the books were good and I’ve only got 4 to go for December.

  3. That paper village is GORGEOUS!

    I’m just looking forward to December hopefully settling down a little, though it’s probably wishful thinking. This fall was really busy and we are in the middle of a (slow) kitchen remodel. My fingers are crossed that Christmas decorations and twinkling lights can make up for exposed beams, torn flooring, and homeless kitchen wares. 😉

  4. I’m very curious about what your complicated feelings about Goodbye, Stranger are (although I understand if you don’t want to express them here). As much as I admire Rebecca Stead’s writing, I had complicated feelings about it, too, on many levels, and have been feeling like the only person in the world who didn’t love it to death!

    • Anne says:

      I didn’t love it, first of all, but the real messy feelings come from handing it off to my daughter without reading it first. I implicitly trusted Rebecca Stead, and I should have done more digging before I gave it to her. We’re having some interesting conversations but she was NOT ready for them.

      • Actually, I almost handed this off to my daughter, and then felt really relieved that I didn’t–and I think that influenced my feelings about it, as well. I do tend to feel conflicted about books which handle issues that I see as the worst things about our culture–because I know they’re relevant to many middle schoolers…but it’s currently SO not relevant to mine.

  5. Diane says:

    Thanks for admitting to a reading slump … false starts and abandoned books. That hit me a couple months ago, and I couldn’t figure out why I was so disinterested in the books I was choosing. Then I found Louise Penny’s wonderful series set in Three Pines, and that blew the reading slump away!

  6. Heather says:

    Whoa, just read the first chapter of COMING CLEAN (which I hadn’t heard of) and it seems amazing so far even though it’s not my normal type of book. Thanks for recommending it. I’m about halfway through OUR SOULS AT NIGHT, which is so sweet. As for watching, I’m eagerly awaiting the return of Downton Abbey in Jan. Yay! In the meantime we’ve sort of been watching Madame Secretary.

    • Anne says:

      I keep hearing great things about Madame Secretary! I don’t know anything about Our Souls at Night–off to look it up. And YES to eagerly awaiting Downton Abbey. I hope this last season is a little better than the previous two….

  7. Corby says:

    Found the best gift EVER for my book friends. Literary teas from Simpson & Vail (Just ordered the Charles Dickens for me). Best tea blenders around. The company has been around for over 100 years and is still a family-run small business. Check them out http://www.svtea.com

    Then click new teas

    Being able to visit their shop and talk tea is just one of the reasons I miss living in New England. And if your near CT stop in the family is so much fun. Anne…. contact them as I am sure they will send you some tea to try and give away.

  8. Courtney says:

    I LOVED Big Magic. LOVED.

    Friday Night Lights is on my list to start watching over the Christmas break. We have been watching a new series called Blindspot that ended last night and it is amazing. You should look it up.

  9. Allyn says:

    The Passage definitely gave me nightmares too, although it didn’t stop me from inhaling it and the second in the series. For some reason, I can handle scary/gory in books much more easily than I can in movies/tv (although I can’t finish reading The Shining, and pretty much avoid the rest of Stephen King’s books as well).
    We’ve been watching Jessica Jones on Netflix, and I’m really liking it. Definitely dark and a bit of a slow build, but a lot less graphic than so many other shows on tv these days. David Tennant as a villain is so good and creepy.
    The Cormoran Strike series is next on my list!

  10. Heather says:

    I had a friend that made a guest appearance on Jane the Virgin, which I had heard of, but wasn’t interested in. I watched the episode he was in and was hooked and wanted to find out more about the show. I ended up binge watching season one on Netflix and now I have to watch it weekly, which really isn’t as much fun :). I love the show because it is funny, light, and makes me happy watching it :).

  11. Jenny says:

    Just watched the pilot of Friday Night Lights last night! I re-watch it every winter but this year I’m making my parents watch it too. So far my dad is not a fan of my one true love, bad boy Tim Riggins. 😉 #cleareyesfullheartscantlose

  12. liz n. says:

    Television: Still mulling over whether or not I like how Season 6 of The Walking Dead has gone. Really liked Jessica Jones, even though there are a few details that only comics nerds like me will grind their teeth over.

    Reading: In my own reading slump right now because the sewing projects have piled up. November was a bit derailed because of family issues, so I find myself playing catch-up this month, which is NOT how I like to spend December! I probably won’t pick up a new book until January. 🙁

    But baking bread is saving my sanity. Mixing, kneading, and baking a couple of loaves every four or five days is wonderful therapy.

  13. Melissa says:

    I’ve had so many people recommend Friday Night Lights, based on my other favorite shows. I finally sat down to watch, and hated that first episode, and moved on. My husband went ahead and watched the whole show, and loved it. He, and several other people I’ve talked to, said the pilot is pretty different than the rest of the show. Funny to hear you liked it so much.

    • Anne says:

      I LOVED the pilot but it was my second time through. I don’t remember it making such an impression on me the first time. On the second go I already knew how everyone’s story was going to end and it was fascinating to me to see on a re-watch how they planted the seeds right from the start.

  14. Leanne Penny says:

    Loved the window into the Bogel family life, warm and homey. I need to re-try the Cormoran Strike series, I read (most) of the first one and then went to bookclub… and then was told how it ended but I forgot! But I think I will remember once I familiarize myself with the characters again.

  15. Dana says:

    I went through the reading slump in October. I was on pace to read my 100 books for the year until then. I just could not seem to concentrate on anything. I finally gave up on Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell about 50% of the way through. I could not make myself pick it up again ( although it was October..) I have read a lot recently. I tore through Ready Player one and Station Eleven over the weekend. Both were Kindle deals you recommended. I was cooped up in a tiny hospital room with my mom who had a lung infection The hospital had an iffy Wifi connection so I read and read. Oh and also Writing Without Crushing Your Soul…really great book for writers. Thanks for recommending that. I am planning to read The Nightingale next I think.
    I am not a series watcher of any kind except Chopped on the Food Network. The only other thing I watch is football. Big Carolina Panthers fan and Ohio State Fan.

    It is coming up on Christmas movie watching time though.
    Time to pull out our DVDs.
    In the holiday season I make pecan pralines and lots of old fashioned Chex Mix ( made in the oven not the microwave.)

  16. Danielle says:

    I’m reading The Lake House by Kate Morton and blew flew Broadchurch (oh my goodness–amazing story, cinematography, everything!) and am now loving Poldark way more than I thought I would. The trailers didn’t do a good job of showing what a great show this is. My husband and I both are enjoying it. Reminds me of North and South, a perfect mix of romance and business intrigue!

  17. Leigh Kramer says:

    I need to watch Amelie again! It’s been so long. I started watching Friday Night Lights a couple of years ago and then got sidetracked after the 1st season and never got back around to it. Must remedy soon!

  18. All the Friday Night Lights love. Amen. Watched for the first time this fall and bawled while folding laundry during the pilot.
    I’m eagerly anticipating reviewing your recommendations for my own to-read list next year. Don’t think I’ll make 100 books, but I’m going to set a goal for 60. Pretty sure a re-read of Austen is going in there along with a lot of contemporary works I’ve just missed. Hope you’re feeling better, too! Last Thanksgiving ushered in our nightmare that ended with a neurological diagnosis for my daughter, so I’m having a little PTSD about this season.

  19. Christine says:

    Having the opposite of a reading slump here…too many books on tbr list and not enough time to read! Just finished reading The Lake House by Kate Morton … loved it! Now starting The Book of Speculation, but not very far in yet. Rewatching Gilmore Girls (season 6 right now). Also Gray’s Anatomy. I watch Once Upon a Time with my 13 and 16 year old daughters… in season 4 right now. Keep hearing so many people recomend Friday Night Lights, especially as I loved Parenthood. I guess I need to give it a try!

  20. Veronica says:

    I finally decided to try the Outlander series again after reading your reviews. I started the second book a couple of nights ago, and I’m loving it. Now I finally know why people love these books. I guess sometimes I’m just not ready for a book at a certain time, but it doesn’t mean I won’t like the book. It just may be it’s meant for a different time in my life. Books 3-5 will be awaiting me under the Christmas tree.

    • Anne says:

      “I guess sometimes I’m just not ready for a book at a certain time, but it doesn’t mean I won’t like the book. It just may be it’s meant for a different time in my life.”

      Yes to this!

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