Everything I Read in 2018: A Year in Review

As I look forward into 2019, I know resolutions are top of mind. Last year, I don’t believe I had any that were materialized in my mind. But, with that being said, 2018 ignited within me my love for reading. Weekly trips to the library, a kindle chockfull of books, and a nightstand tipping with used books all contributed to this year’s binge.

Before bed, I committed to myself to read at least an hour. After 39 books, I think this system worked for me.

Here are the books I’ve read this year. In no particular order:

Vita: The Life of V. Sackville-West, Victoria Glendinning
Never Breathe a Word, Caroline Blackwood
Mr. Boddington's Etiquette: Charm and Civility for Every Occasion, Mr. Boddington Studios
The Letters of Nancy Mitford and Evelyn Waugh, edited by Charlotte Mosley
Upstream, Mary Oliver
Wuthering Heights, Emily Brontë
The Emotional Lives of Animals, Marc Bekoff
All in One Basket, Her Grace Deborah Cavendish, Duchess of Devonshire
American Primitive, Mary Oliver
Counting My Chickens, Her Grace Deborah Cavendish, Duchess of Devonshire
Murder on the Orient Express, Agatha Christie
Brideshead Revisited, Evelyn Waugh
The Fellowship of the Ring, J.R.R. Tolkien
Clash of Kings, George R. R. Martin
The Pursuit of Laughter, Diana Mosely
Why Dogs Hump and Bees Get Depressed, Marc Bekoff
Minding Animals, Marc Bekoff
Serious Pleasures: The Life of Stephen Tennant, Philip Hoare
A Little Learning, Evelyn Waugh
Dog Songs, Mary Oliver
The Animals’ Agenda, Marc Bekoff
And Then There Were None, Agatha Christie
Diaries 1942-1954, James Lees-Milne
The Last of the Duchess, Caroline Blackwood
Play It as It Lays, Joan Didion
Orlando, Virginia Woolf
Fantastic Mr. Fox, Roald Dahl
A Talent to Annoy, Nancy Mitford
Book of Greek Myths, D’Aulaires
A Voice Through a Cloud, Denton Welch
South and West, Joan Didion
The Mitfords: Letters Between Six Sisters, edited by Charlotte Mosley
The Shepherd’s Life,,James Rebanks
The Shining, Stephen King
Wait for Me!, Her Grace Deborah Cavendish, Duchess of Devonshire
The Water Beetle, Nancy Mitford
Felicity, Mary Oliver
In Tearing Haste: Letters between Deborah Devonshire and Patrick Leigh Fermor, edited by Charlotte Mosley
Me Talk Pretty One Day, David Sedaris

Cheers to more learning in 2019!

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Last Minute Baking? Christmas Wreath Donuts

Is anyone else feeling a funk? A holiday ennui? Is it brought on by so much travel late in the year? Or just…getting older?

I’m trying to get back in the spirit of things, the tradition. The memories of What It Used to Be. So I’m baking. But royal icing seemed too fussy. My cold hands felt like all thumbs. So I thought donuts, plump and fluffy and warm. I added some buttercream, some dye. Some pearls for good measure. And here we are - little wreaths for your Christmas morning.

Christmas Wreath Donuts

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Ingredients:

  • 1 cup AP flour

  • 1/4 cup dark brown sugar, packed

  • 1 teaspoon baking powder

  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

  • 3 TB butter, melted (or olive oil!)

  • 1 egg + 1 yolk

  • 1/3 cup whole or buttermilk

  • 2 teaspoon vanilla extract

  • 1/4 teaspoon almond extract

Directions:

  1. Spray or grease your donut pan with oil

  2. Preheat oven to 350*F

  3. Sift together all dry ingredients

  4. Whisk together all wet ingredients

  5. With a rubber spatula, mix wet into dry

  6. Pipe (or spoon) mixture into prepared pan to about 3/4 way full

  7. Bang slightly on counter to get air bubbles out

  8. Bake for 15 minutes or until golden brown on top

  9. Allow to cool, remove from pan, see below for decoration notes

Decoration notes: I used a “ruffled” piping tip and dotted each donut to create a fir effect. For the buttercream, I used 6 TB unsalted butter, softened, 4 TB shortening, 1/2 TB vanilla, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and 2 1/2 cups confectioner’s sugar. I used a good gel kelly green dye and mixed this in by hand (I wanted a bit of striation on the dye for a more visual variety than the homogenous mixture done by a stand mixer)

I added white sugar pearls as baubles to finish.

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Seattle!

Last week, we spent a few days in Seattle for a small honeymoon. Unable to decide what to do about Europe, this was the easiest way to get away without committing too far (Pittsburgh is now direct to Seattle). It was a small trip, a cold one, but one of the best yet.

Saturday

With so much time, we sat around, waiting for the hours to pass and the coffee to work and the water to thaw in the chicken coop. Antsy, we waited. Nervous to leave the dogs, we stretched our in bed and I laid my hands on the small chest of Elsa, savoring the thick undercoat of her fur before we left.

Beat traffic, through security, we waited. Headphones in, a book to read, nothing to do but enjoy the warmness of our bodies against the canned and recycled air of Alaska flight 199.

Picked up our car (provided by Silvercar by Audi).Got to our hotel, a Sleep Inn in SeaTac. Got fries and a beer to warm u around nine, bed by ten.

Sunday

The favorite for us both. The ferry day. The island day. The tourist day. The cheap coffee day. The diner food day. The Twin Peaks day.

This was my present to Nolan for his birthday, in a way. A day dedicated to the Puget Sound islands to visit the various filming locations of his favorite show, Twin Peaks.

The day started at 8:00 on the ferry dock in Seattle. We’ve never been to one, so the novelty itself was enough to keep us awake that early. Parked the car, tottered on the stairs, we found a window seat and got a quick vending machine coffee. Warmed our hands, watched the skyline fade in the fog of mist and gulls.

Made it to Bainbridge, got breakfast in a grocery store. Walked around, bought the dogs their Christmas presents. Warmed up in a bookstore then froze on the sidewalk again. Walked the main street twice, east to west, drove out to Kiana Lodge to see the log from the first episode of Twin Peaks.

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The small towns we passed reminded me of home. Large fields and broken windows. Some trucks in the distance piled up. A farm shop, a mattress store. A vitamin shop next to a Dairy Queen. The magic of the islands were broken by this familiarity, it intensified it —- still beautiful despite the garish reality of commercial space against evergreens.

Made it to our next ferry, sat facing the chopping waves and wheeling gulls. Got the car, pulled out onto the small bridge into Port Townsend. Took the long way around town. Stunned by the Victorian manors, something neither of us thought would be there, in this tiny village in this distant coast.

Got lunch at the tiniest restaurant we could find. Oysters and deviled eggs. Hot tea. Buttered bread. Wine. Sat across from Nolan and fell in love again.

Final stop, down the coast. Drove into the city by dusk. Checked into our room at Hotel Sorrento, upgraded to a suite. Free wine. A dinner at Harvest Vine, a cave of a place - charcuterie and roasted vegetables and more wine.

Fell asleep in the warmth of a long day.

Monday

Woke up to head to Pike Place. Got a pastry from our favorite spot - curried rice for me, mushroom and celery for Nolan. Ate it in a small alcove by the fish vendors. Ass cold on the concrete, hands warmed around the pastry wrapper.

Nolan had a cigarette. I kissed him against the wall, tasting the tobacco, too.

We walked around, tried to warm up. Most shops were closed, but we bought some postcards. Warmed up in a French cafe. Walked downtown, exploring. Using a coupon. Tried to find something at Gucci. No success. Drove out to Snoqualmie, the small town with ties to Twin Peaks.

Ate at the diner where the Double R was shot. Got a BLT and a t-shirt. Checked in at Salish, the mist obscuring the entrance until you’re a foot away. A modern resort, rustic where it counts. We spent 5 hours at the spa. Less photos today, too wrapped up in the beauty we were lucky enough to share together.

My back ached when we were done from the massage. Thirsty, starving, we found a sushi place. Went back and were asleep, the last thing I remember was the shape of Nolan’s shoulder against the firelight.

My Advent Starts Today!

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It’s finally here! I’ve got 25 days of highlights for you for my digital advent calendar. I know this is a little different than my normal content, but I think it’s a fun way to stay interactive while the holidays approach. You also get to see a side of me that I don’t get to show much on here (how materialistic I am, haha).

If you want to sign up for my newsletter, you can do so here. Each morning, I’ll send out the next advent. Or you can follow along at your leisure in the link above.

And now off to Seattle for our little “mini-moon”!