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Leftovers: December 2014 Edition

Ah, December. Christmas lights, presents, the Pentatonix Christmas album, and SO MUCH FOOD. I hope you all had a wonderful holiday. We had a great time with family, and even managed to capture this picture where we’re all (mostly, kinda sort of) smiling and have our eyes open! Huzzah!

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The Mr. and I decided to forego gift giving this year in favor of an experience. We’re still debating between fancy dinner and a live show, or a little mini vacay. We did, however, finally bite the bullet and get ourselves a garbage disposal. I’m beside myself with excitement. I’m actually searching for things I can throw down it. I’m sure the novelty will wear off eventually, but for now, it’s like a new toy.

The rest of this Leftovers post is going to be very book review heavy for three reasons:

1) The first bit of sickness hit us in December, which, while not exactly fun, did give me a little extra reading time.

2) I read some really fantastic books this month.

3) I have a problem. I’ve learned if I want to to accomplish anything beyond the bare necessities of survival, I should not start a new book. Some people pound through Netflix shows, I have marathon book-reading sessions. For two solid days, I am hooked to my Kindle, while the laundry pile grows to dangerous new heights and the dust bunnies plot their overthrow of the vacuum.

So without further ado, here are the books I committed nearly all of my free time (and vacation time…and sick time) to in December.

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Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell- Oh, this book. This book is the reason is my house is a mess. It was impossible to put down. You’ll fall in love with these characters and their off-beat, unlikely romance, which is fraught with the dangers of dysfunctional families and cruel high school classmates. Unlike Attachments, which I reviewed earlier this year,  Eleanor & Park is a heavier, more intense read. Definitely one of my favorites of the year.

Heartburn– Nora Ephron’s only novel, which is supposedly based on her own marriage breakup, is sharp, witty, and at times laugh at loud funny. How she managed to infuse such depressing subject matter with so much heart is a mystery. Of course, I was also smitten with the main character, who is a cookbook author. An added bonus? The recipes she scatters throughout the book.

Rules of Civility– I had read about this book online and happened to stumble upon it at the thrift store, so I decided to pick it up. Set in the late 1930s, the book follows a young woman living in New York City, and her adventures with her best friend, a wealthy banker, and several other characters from New York’s high (and low) society. The story sort of winds about, weaving in new and old characters, and at times making you feel like the plot lacks direction. But if you keep at it, you’re rewarded with some really beautiful, dazzling scenes. Overall, not one of my favorites, but I don’t regret picking this up.

The Sky Beneath My Feet– I’m a fan of some of Lisa Samson’s other books, especially Embrace Me, but this one didn’t quite live up to expectations. I thought the plot was sort of far fetched, and I just didn’t enjoy the characters or her writing as much as I have in some of her other works.

Big Little Lies– Liane Moriarty is quickly becoming one of my favorite authors. She creates characters that are so easy to identify with. I find myself laughing along with their funny, strong, flawed, selfish, caring souls. This story, which revolves around elementary school politics (yes, she made school politics entertaining) captured me completely. When I finished, I found myself wishing I could spend a few more days with these characters. I don’t know if I loved it quite as much as What Alice Forgot (that was my favorite book of 2014, hands down), but it’s way up there.

I’ve got several books on my to-read list already for 2015, but I’m so glad I decided to make reading fiction a priority for this year. I had forgotten how much I love getting lost in a good story, and I always leave a good book feeling inspired and energized.

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Other than reading, the Mr. and I also went to see both Interstellar and Catching Fire in theaters this month. I was a little disappointed with Interstellar. It was visually stunning, but the ideas behind the plot stretched a little far for me. Maybe I’m just not smart enough for movies like this, but trying to piece together how the whole thing worked made my brain hurt.

Catching Fire was fabulous, as I expected, and I actually found myself glad they split the last book into two movies. If only we didn’t have to wait another year for the last one!

In other news, my Dr. had me switch to a gluten free diet for a month to see if some of my digestive issues might improve. Of course, it fell right over the holidays (booooo!), which was not ideal, but I’ve stuck it out. Thankfully, there are so many great gluten free recipes in the blogosphere, and for the most part, I haven’t felt deprived. I still crave some good, fluffy bread, but after seeing Heartbeet Kitchen’s post on gluten free bread, I feel there’s hope! My gluten free month is almost over, but you’ll get to see a few of the recipes I enjoyed on the blog in January.

Speaking of January, I have some exciting news! Back in September I did a reader survey and asked you all what types of recipes you’d like to see on NeighborFood. Easy dinners and slow cooker recipes were by far the top requests. I’m excited to let you all know the entire month of January will be dedicated to slow cooker recipes! I hope to fill up your repertoire with quick, easy dinner ideas and some healthy favorites to get 2015 started off on the right foot.

I would LOVE to hear what you’ve been reading, watching, and eating this month. What were your favorite books and movies of the year? What should I add to my read/watch/make list for 2015?

Thank you all for reading and for making this year such an exciting one for me and for the blog. I wish you all a very Happy New Year!

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  • Erin@WellPlated December 31, 2014, 6:05 PM

    One of my goals in 2015 is to read more, so this list timing could not be more perfect. Glad you had such a wonderful holiday!

  • Joanne (eats well with others) January 1, 2015, 12:11 PM

    I’m currently reading J.K. Rowling’s latest book, The Casual Vacancy, but honestly I don’t love it. Now I’ve started it, so I have to finish it though!

    • Courtney @ Neighborfood January 3, 2015, 1:31 PM

      I’m the same way with books. Once I start, I have to finish, even if I don’t love it. I may do myself a favor and not pick that one up though. 🙂

  • Sarah crowell January 1, 2015, 2:53 PM

    If you aren’t watching the tv show Impractical Jokers- You Need To!!! Seriously laugh out loud funny. Look it up on the TruTV channel and set your dvr. I would not lead you astray.

  • Nancy January 2, 2015, 2:57 PM

    I’m so sad to hear about your gluten-free month. I don’t think I could do it so you’re a total champ for sticking with it, especially over the holidays! Eleanor & Park and Big Little Lies are on my to-read it. I feel the same way about Rules of Civility – I read it last year and wasn’t that thrilled. I blitzed through Everything I Never Told You recently and it was a devastating read. It filled me with so much sadness, especially since being Chinese and raised by strict, conservative parents, I could relate to so much of what the family went through. I’m back to binge-watching Netflix (they added Friends yesterday and I’ve already spent four hours watching). I can’t wait to see what the new year brings for both you and the blog! Love ya, lady! Happy New Year.

    • Courtney @ Neighborfood January 3, 2015, 1:34 PM

      Oh man, Everything I Never Told You wrecked me. It was such a beautiful but heartbreaking book. You’ll love Eleanor & Park and Big Little Lies! I binged both of them. We don’t have Netflix anymore, but we’re debating getting rid of cable and going back to Netflix again. Decisions, decisions. 🙂

  • Michelle January 3, 2015, 6:29 PM

    I’m so with you on the book marathons. I love Netflix, but I love reading for hours upon hours, and it feels a smidge more productive than watching TV 🙂 I read Rules of Civility a year or so ago and I totally agree. Not my favorite ever, but such great writing that it’s worth the read.

    • Courtney @ Neighborfood January 5, 2015, 11:44 AM

      You’re right. I feel *slightly* less guilty spending an entire day reading than I do watching TV. Although the end result is the same–dirty bathrooms and cereal for dinner. 🙂

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