January kicked off in the most magical of ways: my first ever Rose Parade! Nine days later I celebrated my birthday. The rest of the month unfolded in a more leisurely manner, thanks to a bad cold. If it's any indication for the year ahead, it's going to be a wild ride.
Read and Reading
The Girl Who Wrote In Silk (Estes) is one of my favorite kind of novels, one that intertwines past and present day storylines. It covers how Americans mistreated the Chinese in the late 1800s, which is a surprising but welcome choice as so few people know about that period in history. If we don't know our history, we are doomed to repeat it, something we must be especially mindful of right now. The mystery bringing Mei Lien and Inara's stories together was heartbreaking and poignant. Inara, the present day character, was in a season of transition and trying to figure out what brings her alive, which I found especially resonant. I read it one day, that's how much it captivated me.
Uprooted (Novik) had magic and intrigue galore, the plot gently but insistently moving forward in surprising ways. I liked seeing Agenieszka grow in understanding of herself and her abilities and I also loved the personification of evil in the Wood, which is literally a creepy forest trying to take over the land. The resolution was both moving and satisfying. I couldn't put it down and I felt bereft when it was over, a sign of how much I enjoyed the world Novik created.
At first, I wasn't too sure about the main character's possible love interest in Happiness For Beginners (Center). She's a few years younger than me and interested in a guy who's fresh out of college. It just did not seem plausible. (Not because it's an older woman and a younger man.) But as the plot unfolded and as we learn more about Helen's story, as well as that of Jake, it made more and more sense. It was refreshing, as was the hardcore wilderness trek setting and the well-integrated information on the psychology of happiness. The character growth was complex but believable, even inspiring and I loved the unexpected twists along the way.
I can't stop thinking about Fates and Furies (Groff.) Two sides of a marriage which veer in vastly different directions. The second half is particularly unexpected and ripe for misunderstanding. Or perhaps ripe with nuance. Or perhaps ripe with rot. This would be great for book clubs.
Mastering The Art Of French Eating: Lessons in Food and Love From a Year in Paris (Mah) was a rich exploration of expat life in Paris. Her reflections on building community, especially while apart from her husband, resonated with me and I loved seeing where her culinary whims led her as the book progressed.
Winter (Meyer) was a fantastic end to the Lunar Chronicle series. (I do wish Winter's character had been written in a less helpless/privileged manner, as the exploration of mental illness may have been more powerful and it would have been less of a juxtaposition against the strength and gifts of the other main female characters.)
Embracing the Body (Owens) is a much-needed exploration of the relationship between faith and body. Owen does a masterful job of explaining how we've become disconnected from our bodies and how this negatively impacts us as individuals and as communities. I also appreciated the practical exercises at the end of each chapter. (Disclosure: I was provided an advance copy of this book but this in no way influenced or impacted my opinion.)
Currently reading: The Complete Enneagram (Chestnut), The Art of Memoir (Karr), The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness (Alexander), Sacred Pauses: Spiritual Practices For Personal Renewal (Yamasaki), Hammer Head: The Making of a Carpenter (MacLaughlin), Trigger Warning (Gaiman)
(I read 18 books this month. That's what happens when I'm sick.)
Must-see TV: Real Housewives of Orange County, Once Upon A Time, Jane the Virgin, Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, Top Chef, Downton Abbey
I finished watching The West Wing! It's the end of an era. Loved it, though the first few seasons were infinitely better than the last few. I am not going to tell you how much the last season made me cry.
I could not have loved the Sherlock special more. Every time I watch an episode of the show, I'm mesmerized by the brilliance of the writing and acting.
I was surprised by how much I enjoyed The Martian. It was funny at the right moments. It also confirmed I would never survive in outer space.
New discovery: The Strumbellas
Listen to the What I'm Into 2015 playlist.
I was fascinated by the discussion of medicine's transformation between Mark Hyman, James Gordon, and Penny George on On Being. I listened to a couple of parts twice. I also loved the interview with Sister Simone Campbell: How to Be Spiritually Bold. There was one particular phrase that I'll be carrying with me all year. (Clearly I've been catching up on On Being. Those are two older episodes.)
Dear Sugar has a 3 part series called Looking For The One. I didn't agree with everything, nor did I like the appearance of Lena Dunham in the first episode. (What is a privileged 20-something going to tell me about prolonged singleness?!) But I am so happy they're at least attempting to address the issue. I would love to hear your thoughts if you've listened!
Heben and Tracy from Another Round interviewed none other than Valerie Jarrett, Senior Advisor to President Obama. AMAZING.
My friend Anne Bogel of Modern Mrs. Darcy debuted her podcast What Should I Read Next?. It is such a delight to listen to. The only problem is not being able to join in on the conversation!
The other new favorite is The Intersection, which focuses on the corner of Golden Gate Ave and Leavenworth St in the Tenderloin. There are 3 episodes out so far and they are must-listens, whether or not you live in San Francisco.
Things I Love:
- New Year's Day found me at the Rose Parade in Pasadena, thanks to my dear friend Sharone. Her company puts on an event for clients every year. We left her house at way too early in the morning but it was truly the best way to do the parade: catered breakfast and lunch, plus saved seats for the parade. I love parades and I was over the moon to experience in person something I've only ever experienced on TV.
- Plus, let's take a moment to acknowledge the hard work and dedication that goes into making the floats and participating in the parade. I got to see Elizabeth McGovern on the Downton Abbey float (which I wanted to move into), Ty Pennington, Paula Abdul (who waved at me!), Kareem Abdul-Jabar, The Bachelor, Ken Burns, and more. Not to mention Elsa, Anna, and the gang. Plus Star Wars. It was glorious.
- I didn't think the day could be topped but then Sharone's boss offered us tickets to the Lakers game that night. Don't mind if we do!
- Before the game, I experienced my first legit ramen for dinner. I don't know if I like pho or ramen more. I will need to sample more of each to determine this. Much, much more.
- I housesat for friends for a week after getting back from LA. I really loved their house and their Hallmark Channel.
- I turned 36! Whoa. By popular demand from multiple friends, The Year Of Leigh will continue on, as commemorated in the birthday cake Micha made me. (Few things make me feel more loved than a friend deciding to make me a cake.)
- I had to work the morning of my birthday but my co-director made a big fuss and one of the set up guys sang a jazzed up Happy Birthday to me so it was kind of great.
- To celebrate, I popped champagne and ate yummy food (Pizzeria Delfina! To hell with my eczema for one night. The broccoli raab pizza and the one with housemade fennel sausage was worth it.) with Micha, Laura, and Julie while watching the Golden Globes. My favorite awards show on my birthday? It couldn't have been more perfect, especially because we could snark together in person. This was also wonderful because I first followed Laura on Twitter because of her astute Golden Globe tweets and here we are a few years later.
- Cara, Julie, and I got to see Bryan Stevenson at Stanford, complete with a panel moderated by Katie Couric. If you haven't read Just Mercy yet, get on that. It was a great much-needed discussion about racism and mass incarceration and what we can do about it.
- My coworker Julie and I went to an interesting event on Female Friendship at the JCC. We also had a great meal at Artesano. I highly recommend the plantain chips and the "unpulled" pork.
- Oakjoo, her toddler son, and I enjoyed a nice walk in the neighborhood, including a stop at Andytown for warm beverages one Friday morning.
- Our community group had another fantastic potluck. Oakjoo made posole and it was amazing.
- I took advantage of generous gift cards and Christmas/birthday money, as well as crazy sales, and bought myself some Hunter rain boots (navy) and Sofft boots (brown), as well as a pair of flats (black.) I walk so much in this city that my current footwear was wearing out. These will be put to good use!
- I tried sushi for the first time. I've always been open to trying it but as I don't like fish and am very picky about seafood, I've never been particularly motivated. But friends really wanted to eat it one night so it was finally time. Verdict: still not sure. I really liked the roll with salmon, lemon, and avocado, as well as the roe. Everything else was too fishy.
- I enjoyed getting to know my coworker Sally better over coffee at Jane, as well as talking about how to address racism in San Francisco. I'm excited about some of the upcoming events we'll be hosting!
- My coworker Christy and I had a great dinner at one of her favorite spots: Green Chile Kitchen.
- I finally made it to book club! We had a great discussion of Island Beneath The Sea (Allende). They are my kind of people.
In the Blogosphere:
Here are the weekly-ish posts of this month's favorite Internet finds but you can find even more of what I've been reading at Storify.
(If you want to follow me on Instagram, my user name is leighkramer.)
On The Blog:
As the editor of The Red Couch, I fully expect to enjoy our book club selections. And then I read The Irrational Season, our January pick, and I didn't like it all that much. I was stumped on how to introduce it until I realized my reaction was actually perfect. Read the post here.
On the Leigh Kramer FB page, you all gave me some recommendations of books written by Latin@ authors (thank you) and we cracked up over Wedding Season.
(The best way to see updates in your newsfeed is by liking and commenting on my posts regularly.)
What I'm Into Link Up Guidelines:
1. Today’s link-up will stay open for one week. The next What I'm Into link up will be Monday February 29.
2. Link the unique URL of your post, not your blog's home page. Readers peruse link ups months after the fact and you want to make it easy for them to find your What I'm Into post.
4. Visit at least 2 other posts in the linkup!
What have you been into this month?
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