Living With a Book Addict: Baking With a Book Addict

IMG_20131219_212051I have a confession: this post has nothing to do with books.  It does, however, have everything to do with cookies.  Tons and tons of cookies.  You see, for the past week Kim has been baking non-stop.  I don’t think our oven has been turned off once (don’t freak out: I turn it off at night, I’m just being facetious.)  After a few trips to the store to get a metric ton of flour, sugar, butter (hello Paula Dean!) and other groceries, it’s been a patisserie paradise here.

This all began earlier this month, when Kim’s mom decided to forgo her normal tradition of baking Christmas cookies.  In order to fill the void, Kim has stepped up to be the cookie provider of the family.  Now that we’ve moved (see details here), we have a much larger kitchen in which to do the baking.  So far, we’ve made oatmeal raisin, oatmeal scotchies (raisins replaced with butterscotch pieces), snickerdoodles, chocolate chip, jelly thumb print, and lemon squares.  There is now a constant rumble of the Kitchen Aid mixer whirring to go along with all the wonderful smells of cookies in the air.

So far, I’ve brought cookies to work, we’ve given them to Kim’s family, and plan on giving more to my family.  That will then leave only 10,000 dozen left (kidding), so we had some friends over last night to help with the baking and eating.  It was a lot of fun, and to be honest I lent my skills to drink mixing instead of baking for the evening.  When I am conscripted to help with the baking, my talents are limited to forming the dough into balls and putting them on the cookie sheets.  Real 1st grade stuff, I know.  But, it needs to get done, so I’m happy to help.

And, all jokes aside, I hope this becomes more of a tradition for us.  It brings a bit more joy to the holiday season and makes me happy to see Kim taking up the reins of this tradition from her family with such enthusiasm.  She does a great job!  Also, as an added benefit I get to test my body’s abilities to produce insulin in mass quantities (sorry, had to throw at least one science joke in.)  Speaking of holiday traditions, let us know below what you like to do during the holiday season!  Baking?  Volunteering?  Gift wrapping?  It’s a time to give back to others and reflect on the year, so I encourage everyone to do something this year.

And, from all of us at Reflections, we wish you all the happiest of holidays and a safe and healthy new year!

#5 A Review of You Better Not Cry by Augusten Burroughs

Cover Image

Augusten Burroughs has easily become one of my favorite authors, coming in at number 2 on my top ten favorite authors list. (Sorry Mr. Burroughs, you would be number one had I never read the works of Jane Austen)  His self-depreciating writing style makes you laugh and cringe at the same time; laugh with the stories of his odd childhood and cringe at how horrible some parts of his alcoholic and childhood days were.  He is unafraid of telling stories about his abusive/alcoholic father, his crazy (literally!) mother, his brother who was diagnosed with Aspergers, and his own life as a former alcoholic.  His writing is honest, witty, and courageous as he pours his heart and soul into his words.

You Better Not Cryis filled with stories that range from Augusten’s Christmases from childhood to adulthood and include everything from him eating the face off a styrofoam santa, a drunken Christmas as a bum, losing the love of his life, and many more.  In reading the novel you realize that each Christmas is worse than the last one,  yet true to the Christmas spirit there is a small glimmer of hope and happiness in each story. 

My favorite of the stories has to be the Christmas when Augusten was alone in NYC and got so drunk that he woke up sleeping outside of a theater with a bum on each side of him.  He apparently decided that he wanted to know what it was like to be a bum: buying the local bums sandwiches, giving them money, and just “living” with them across the street from his apartment.  Upon waking from his drunken stupor he comes to find out that one of the bums, Shirley, used to be a singer but lost it all to alcohol addiction.  After a long conversation, Augusten realizes what his addiction is doing to him and is scared of where his life is headed. Shirley tells him that he the night before, he told her his life story and how he had some much he wanted to write about.  She implores him to begin writing to get his life back in order.  

She continued, ‘And if I could, I would ask that you write.  You kept saying last night that you had ‘whole worlds’ inside of you that you needed to get out.  Well, get them out, my dear.  Focus on this.  On something positive for yourself.  And for others.  I would ask you to set those worlds free.'”

I guess we can all thank Shirley for telling Augusten this.  The literary world truly is a better place for having him in it.  But I digress; as I stated earlier the stories each have a small glimmer of hope in them, and in this one it’s the fact that he is scared straight.  He is convinced that he does not want to end up on the street as a bum and is finally scared that he could.  (If you want to read more about his alcoholic days and his struggle with rehabilitating his life check out Dry)

This book embodies what the Christmas spirit is about.  No matter what is going on around you or how bad your actual holiday is, there is always hope.  This is Augusten’s mantra and it rings true for all his books. 

If you are an Augusten fan then this is an absolute must read for you. For those who haven’t read him, it’s a great place to start.  Of all his books, besides Dry, this has the best message.  I heartily encourage all to read this book.

5 out of 5 Stars

You Better Not Cry by Augusten Burroughs
Picador Publishers (2010)
Paperback 224 pages
ISBN: 9780312430061
To follow Augusten on Twitter click here
To check out Augusten’s blog click here

#81 A Review of A Darcy Christmas by Amanda Grange, Sharon Lathan, and Carolyn Eberhart

Cover Image A Darcy Christmas is a compilation of three novellas that focus around The Darcy’s and their Christmas experiences.  A Darcy Christmas marks the publishing debut of Carolyn Eberhart, while Amanda Grange and Sharon Lathan are both successful established Jane Austen fan fiction authors.  (Amanda Grange’s other novels include Mr. Darcy’s DiaryCaptain Wentworth’s Diary; while Sharon Lathan’s other novels include Mr. and Mrs. Fitzwilliam Darcy, Loving Mr. Darcy)
Mr. Darcy’s Christmas Carol by Carolyn Eberhart
Mr. Darcy’s Christmas Carol takes place the Christmas before Elizabeth and Darcy are married.  Shortly before Christmas Day Darcy is visited by the spirit of his father.  His father implores him to check his arrogance and pride at the door and treat all people as he treats those in and around Pemberley.  Darcy is told that he will be visited by the three Christmas spirits and to heed their messages if he wishes to have a peaceful afterlife.  The three Christmas spirits visit Darcy and show him Christmas past, present, and future.  Darcy must decide based on the events he is shown whether to change his ways, or be lost forever. 
Carolyn Eberhart did a fantastic job with her debut novella! Her characters were engaging, her storyline, while borrowing from Dickens’ story, was all her own.  She took a classic and made it unique and fitting in her own right.  It was great seeing her take on A Christmas Carol.  Of all the novellas  in this collection this one was my favorite.  It was definitely the most fulfilling of all the stories.  Eberhart is a welcome addition to the world of Jane Austen fan fiction.  I’m eagerly awaiting her next work.
5 out of 5 Stars
Christmas Present by Amanda Grange
In Christmas Present Elizabeth is pregnant with her and Darcy’s first child.  Jane has just given birth to her and Charles’ first born son, and are about to host Christmas at their new estate near Pemberley.  Wishing to see Jane, her family, and her new nephew she convinces Darcy to take her to Jane’s house, promising that if she feels any labor pains they will turn around and return to Pemberley.  Within a few days time the entire Bennet clan, along with the Hurst’s, Caroline Bingley, and Lady Catherine are all at Jane’s home celebrating the holiday with a Christmas ball.  Soon after dancing with Darcy, Elizabeth begins feeling the twangs of child-birth, and soon gives birth to a perfectly healthy baby. 
I felt as though Grange rushed this story.  Many elements are left open (maybe for a future novel) and unfinished.  I understand that what she wrote was a novella, but I’m not sure why she began multiple story arcs if she wasn’t going to complete them.  While I enjoy Grange’s writing style, I do wish there was more to Christmas Present.
3 out of 5 Stars
A Darcy Christmas by Sharon Lathan
Of all the novellas this is definitely the most unique and long ranging!  Each chapter is dedicated to a different Christmas that the Darcy’s experience.  A Darcy Christmas spans the time period from the Christmas prior to Lizzie and Darcy’s engagement through their 23rd Christmas as a married couple.  The chapters are filled with births, deaths, marriages, happy times, and sad ones.  As expected Lathan’s novella is filled with new characters that add to the richness of her imaginative creation. 
Fans of Lathan’s Darcy Saga novels will be glad to know that Lathan stays true to the Christmas’ she’s already written about in her novels, adding extra tidbits to what we already know. I really enjoyed each chapter giving us a small piece of each year of the Darcy’s lives.  It gave sneak peaks of what we can expect from Lathan in the future.  I’m definitely looking forward to the next novel in the Darcy Saga, as A Darcy Christmas left much to be excited for!
4 out of 5 Stars
For more reviews of A Darcy Christmas check out the following: