2009 Wrap Up

Here’s my first year end wrap up.  Hopefully, you’ll find it thrilling. 😛

Travel
Even though we didn’t do any international traveling (technically, Puerto Rico doesn’t count as international) in 2009 , we still managed to have a few good vacations.  Our summer trip to San Francisco was fantastic.  I ate lots of great food (mmm cioppino!!), toured Alcatraz at night (spooky) and even drove across another famous bridge.  In case you’re keeping track, that brings my “Famous Bridges I’ve Driven Across” list to 2: the Brooklyn Bridge and the Golden Gate Bridge.  Meaning, I was the driver not just a passenger.

We also spent a few days in Pennsylvania visiting my dad and stepmom.  That’s always a good trip (even if we do end up bringing a carload of “stuff” home.)  This year, in drastic preventative measures, we brought my brother along, therefore limiting how much stuff we could bring home (sorry Dad!).  In case you think I’m joking, this is what we brought home summer 2008.

I could have opened a discount electronics superstore  and a laser disc rental center in my living room. Thankfully, most it went home with the Canadians, and the rest of the electronics were set up in the cats’  room so they could watch their cat movies in peace.  At least that’s what I’m hoping they are doing down there.  I don’t ask.  They don’t tell.

We’re ending our year in sunny Puerto Rico visiting Jose’s parents.  It’s always a relaxing vacation full of napping and eating, more napping, reading, more eating, tv watching.  Ahh.  I will have some picture to post when we get home, but this trip has really been a lot of chilling and not much doing.  For which, I’m very thankful.

Books
Well, let me start off by saying that back in March I thought it would be sooo easy to reach my yearly goal of reading 150 books.  Even now, it doesn’t sound so crazy until I looked at my actual book log (check list at top of page) and found out I only read 46 new books this year.  There must be at least 5 books I never recorded, maybe 10? Only 46 books?  How is that possible?  I reread 11 books this year, but those don’t count on my list.  So I’m amending my 2010 reading goal to 100 books.  Obviously 150 was a stretch.  I need to do a better job of keeping track. I don’t always write down what I’m reading to the kids at school but this year I’m keeping a daily journal of activities, funny things kids say and little anecdotes.  That will help me in keeping my book log more accurate.  46? Only??

Moving on, I’d like to discuss my favorite books of the year. There were not a lot of horrible books on  my list this year, except maybe The Boy in the Striped Pajamas. I really, really disliked that book.  Thought it was poorly written, didn’t make much sense and would not be the book I would choose to introduce kids to the the Holocaust.  There are others I think that are better written (for elementary students)  like The Mozart Question by Michael Morpurgo, which is a short, beautiful book.

For older students and adults, Markus Zusak’s The Book Thief is the book I’d recommend. It’s one of my two favorite books this year.  I can’t even begin to explain this book except that it’s the story of a young German girl who steals books to learn how to read, during WWII. Oh, yeah and it’s narrated by Death.  Hopefully, that’s enough of a hook to get you to read it.  I gave this book to many people this year and so far, every single one of them has loved this book.  There’s something about the words, they are so poetic and luminous, the book is just breathtaking, powerful and deeply deeply satisfying.  Please read.

My other favorite book of the year is another one that I either gave away as a gift or cajoled people to read.  Seriously, at school I left this book on teachers’ desks, in mailboxes and on chairs with a note that said “Stop everything and read this book”.  Can you believe that everyone did?  The book is Home of the Brave by Katherine Applegate. It’s the story of  Kek,  a Sudanese boy who is brought to Minnesota by a refugee rescue organization. He’s around 10 or 11 and in 5th grade.  He’s learning English and American customs while dealing with memories of what he lived through in his village.  Family members were killed in front of him and his mother is missing.  He moves in with an aunt and cousin who are also still trying to acclimate.

This book moved me more than anything I’ve read in a long time.  It’s told in short verse, so every single word was chosen specifically for that stanza, page, chapter.  This is nothing short of a perfect book.  A mastery of the writing craft.  This is a book you’re going read and want to share with everyone you know.  Ok, that’s just me, but you’ll probably want to share it when you’re done.    This was a state book award nominee, and I’m not proud of this, it was one of the last books on the list that I read. It has a cover that’s not very appealing.  I know that’s the kiss of death coming from a librarian, but it’s true.  My students walk away from books with better looking covers.  This is a book that has to be sold to a child, and it’s even better if you can read it with them. This story of an immigrant, refugee even, will bring up questions and hopefully feed into many many discussions.  Oh, the cover….now after falling in love with this story I have a fondness for it, but I personally saw a lot students pick it up (at my request and their own discovery) and put it right back down.  Please read it and let me know what you think.

My last recommendation is The Help by Kathryn Stockett. I just finished it tonight and it was spectacular.  Just as I was finishing it, I found out that it won USA Today’s Book of the Year honors. It’s a first novel (always amazes me) about Southern women circa 1962/63. It’s the story of a young, white woman who is breaking societal roles and developing an interest in the civil rights movement.  She befriends two brave maids and together these women write an anonymous tell-all about the relationships between black maids and their white women bosses. It’s a 450+ page book that I read in 3 days. I couldn’t put it down.  I can’t wait to discuss it with my book club and share it with other people.

I read lots of other fun books this year including the Sookie Stackhouse books (True Blood on HBO) and of course the latest installments in the Sisters Grimm and Percy Jackson and the Olympians series’.  Both of those sets should be on your list (at least the first of each one)  The Lightning Thief (first Percy Jackson book) movie is coming out in Feb, but you should read the book first, especially if you are a Greek mythology fan.

If you’ve read any of my recommended titles, please leave a comment below with your thoughts and if you’d recommend them to any of your reader friends.

Food
My favorite new recipe of the year came from Jose’s friend, Judy. It’s Tuscan stovetop meatloaf.  I’ve blogged about meatloaf more times this year than I care to admit, so check my recipe log at the top of this page if you want the details.  Other things I mastered this year include fudge (all varieties…I made eight different kinds around Christmas) and I roasted a whole turkey for the first time ever for Thanksgiving this year.  I also made homemade cranberry sauce. Next year I tackle stuffing. My mom makes the best ever, so it will be a hard act to replicate.

Celtics
2009 was the year I went to TWO Celtics games. Both of them were in Chicago. One was Game 4 of the first playoff round.  Celtics lost, but it was a 3 overtime game and it was exciting!   We had awesome seats, and manged to pay ticket price for them AND get them within minutes after it was determined Boston and Chicago were going to play each other.  Our seats were 9 rows behind the Celtics bench.  We also attended a game just a few weeks ago and were able to take a lot of pictures of pregame practice and shoot around. That post is coming soon, promise.  Here’s hoping that the Celtics stay healthy in 2010.  I’d love to see them go as far as possible this season.  One day, we’ll make it to Boston to see a game.  Here’s hoping that’s in 2010.

Happy reading, happy eating, happy basketballing, happy traveling!  Happy 2010!

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