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December 2014 Archives

32 Books in 2014

December 31, 2014

My reading goal for 2014 was 30 books, and the two I started and finished since last Friday pushed me over by 2, which is great! Yay go me!

I rated eleven books at 4 or 5 stars (including The Martian, And the Mountains Echoed, and All the Light We Cannot See), but I also rated six books at 1 star. Six books that I basically hated yet still continued reading.

Why did I keep reading them? I have no idea. But I do know that those are the books that took me a long time to get through. I probably spent more time complaining to Steve about their terrible writing/plot/characters than I actually spent reading them.

My reading goal for 2015 is for 36 books. Which I think I can accomplish, but only if I stop reading books that I hate. Which will stupidly be a lot harder than it sounds.

What were your favorite books of 2014? Friend me on Goodreads so I can follow what you're reading in the next year.

Thirteen Reasons Why The Shoemaker's Wife Anansi Boys The Lovely Bones Nineteen Minutes The Fault in Our Stars And the Mountains Echoed Full Dark, No Stars Orange Is the New Black Gone Girl The Invention of Wings The Goldfinch The Interestings Ellis Island (Ellis Island, #1) Still Life with Bread Crumbs Orphan Train Imperial Woman The Shadowy Horses Blood & Beauty: The Borgias The Ocean at the End of the Lane Bad Monkey The Silver Star All the Light We Cannot See The Vacationers The Son The Light in the Ruins An Event in Autumn This is Where I Leave You Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage Outlander (Outlander, #1) The Martian Oryx and Crake (MaddAddam Trilogy, #1)

Last year: 2013 in Books

Holiday Card Almosts

December 25, 2014

(Our real holiday card can be found on my studio blog, but these are more fun. Plus: butts.)

Double Sexy Christmas

December 23, 2014

This year's Christmas gift was a last minute change in plans because I wasn't very excited about our original plan and I had just read about a super awesome cocoa mix. I did a test batch and confirmed it was So Quick and Easy and Tasty. Then I did the math to multiply the recipe for 300 of our closest friends and family, and started comparing prices for bulk cocoa online.

Did you know Amazon sells 25 pounds of Ghiradelli cocoa powder? Heads up: it doesn't qualify for Prime or super saver shipping, but the $40 shipping is probably worth it.

We ended up altering the recipe to use semisweet chocolate chips instead of baking chocolate because I liked it better in the hot cocoa mix, and the chips were easier to procure than 100 ounces of baking chocolate (yay Costco!).

Donovan ground up the chips in the food processor and combined them with cocoa powder, sugar, corn starch, salt and vanilla in our gigantic crab pot - the only container in our home large enough (that wasn't a bathtub) to hold everything.

But sending out baggies of cocoa just seemed kind of... lame. Not up to our normal gift making awesomeness. We researched sending mugs but didn't find any we liked that weren't cost prohibitive. We decided on marshmallows because 1. fun and 2. I've always wanted to try making them.

Also I yelled at the menfolk to stand still for two seconds JUST STAND STILL so I could take their photos. It was already feeling like Christmas.

We combined water, sugar and corn syrup in a pot and brought it to 240°F. This took 10-15 minutes for some reason so we passed the time by playing the dogs' favorite* game: dance party.

(*least favorite)

Once the syrup reached temperature, we poured it into a mixer with some proofed gelatin and mixed it until it was thick and poofy and lukewarm. Then added in some food coloring, vanilla and either mint or cinnamon for flavoring.

Fun fact! I don't actually like marshmallows. Unless they are burnt and taste like wood smoke and are gluing melting chocolate to graham crackers.

With much sticky difficulty, we spread it into a greased and powder-sugar-covered 9x13 glass pan, covered with powder sugar, and let sit overnight. Then Steve dusted every surface in the kitchen with powdered sugar, and cut the marshmallows into wee squares.

Every surface.

I want to make it clear that every member of the household contributed to this year's gift.

 And all contributions were just as important as the others.

As in years past, we assembly-lined the, ah, assembly with bags + labels + cards + boxes and got all of the domestic boxes to the post office in time for pre-Christmas delivery. Sorry to our international family, but you could try moving closer to Alaska next year that would be very helpful.

But you guys, this hot cocoa mix is the real sexy deal. And I guess the marshmallows are good if you like that sort of thing. Snuggle up with someone or something you love and enjoy the heck out of it.

Previous years' gifts:

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Hi, I'm Valette

I'm a photographer based out of Anchorage, Alaska. I've recently become a wife, a stepmother, and a homeowner. Life is pretty awesome. You can email me anytime. Learn more...

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