Tag: Book reviews

December 2020 Wrap-Up

Today is the last of December 2020 and the end of a very long year. 2020 was unique and not necessarily in a good way. Yet the year will be long remembered, and that is historically positive. Therefore, this wrap-up will extend beyond a monthly account and provide glimpses of what the entire year felt like here on the High Plains.

Change can be difficult. Self-discipline even more difficult and 2020 required both. Our household is inching closer and closer to the Over-The-Hill category. One of us has multiple “co-morbidities” and we both have thyroid issues. A year ago I would have said we both had another fifteen to twenty years on our lifespan. Now, who knows? So we are and will continue to be cautious with respect to Covid-19.

December 2020

Our month started out with the dreaded news that multiple family members had contracted the virus. Not all at the same time. The earliest was an octogenarian uncle who contracted the disease just prior to Thanksgiving. He died in early December. He had many co-morbidities. So his death was not unexpected. We were able to watch the graveside service via a livestream video. It was hard not being there in person.

Norman was a special man. A farmer by trade, he could have easily been a minister. His Thanksgiving 2001 grace still registers with my offspring. The prayer was both spiritual and patriotic. Perfect for those trying times. I will never forget the support he gave me in the early 90s after one of our little ones was diagnosed with Cystic Fibrosis. The sporadic phone calls always seemed to occur when I most needed them. Rest in peace Uncle Norman.

A Low Key Christmas

A few days later, my spouse brought home a Norfolk Pine from the grocery store and we decided to use it as a Christmas tree. The live plant stands about three feet high and we placed lights upon the branches and packages underneath. Low key, yet the cheery tree greeted us each time we opened the front door.

Lights were hung on the front porch and the Christmas dishes were used throughout the month. Determined to keep with the spirit of the season, I made multiple batches of cookies to distribute to neighbors and family. We enjoyed our fair share as well.

I brined a turkey for the first time, and I will never roast one again without brining first. First of all, I really did not know what I was doing. However, I tossed some fresh garden herbs into the boiling salted water along with turmeric. The result was fantastic. I added little in the way of spices for the leftover dish Turkey Tetrazzini, yet it was one of the most flavorful dishes I have ever made. Brining the turkey is a new requirement in this household.

Peanut Butter Cookies
Chocolate Cship
Chocolate chocolate chip cookies
Pecan Pie Bars
Chocolate Fudge shortcake Pan cookies
Tumeric flavored brine

Celestial Delights for December 2020

Perhaps due to the brilliant clear skies we have in this part of the world, we are avid stargazers. December 2020 brought us several opportunities to embrace the cold nights by gazing at the above sky. The Geminid meteor shower is one of my favorites. One evening we spotted ten meteors in about thirty minutes.

But the highlight of the month was the appearance of the “Christmas Star.” The great conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn is one I will remember. I place it with the Total Eclipse of 2017 as a treasured event. Truly, some things only occur once in a lifetime.

Other December 2020 Highlights

I continue to post my top list of books for the year. Click here for the 2020 list. My reading has fallen off a bit the last few weeks, but I am currently reading a Christmas gift, American Nations by Colin Woodard. Look for the review in January of 2021.

I also began another garden experiment. The remainder of my sweet potato crop was too small to cook. The root vegetables were less than an inch across and only numbered three. So two were tossed in the compost and the third was placed in a glass jar to hopefully spout. All through December 2020 I changed the water and watched roots slowly form. I was delighted to find sprouting stems and leaves on the 29th. I hope to grow slips from this plant as ordered slips often arrive in poor condition and weeks after the earliest planting time.

My quilting by hand continues. Christmas movies are great to have on while the tiny stitches are made. Many a cold December afternoon was spent in this way. However, I will need to begin cutting and piecing another baby quilt in January. My second grandchild is due late February.

Sweet Potato start in glass jar just beginning to sprout
Two quilts in hops for hand quilting

The Year of the Pandemic

It will be interesting to see how 2020 is treated by historians. While some countries have kept the numbers low, others have not. We are still in the middle of the pandemic and many countries are seen as having failed. My country is included among the failures. However as I wrote in my Successes and Failures post last January, we just need to keep trying. The Spanish Flu (which you can read a review of a good account by clicking here) came to an end and so will Covid-19.

My 2020 resolutions flew out the door rather quickly. In fact I had to look them up for this account. However, I was quite pleased that I managed to keep the third without trying. If there was ever a year for negativity, 2020 comes to mind. For the most part I stayed positive. A pandemic is something beyond my control. No need to be glum when something is out of your hands.

Gardening in 2020

Two items shine when I reflect on 2020. The first is my garden. I continue to advocate for the Raised Row technique first discussed in this March 2018 book review. The yields are great and the weeds are sparse. We are still enjoying the fruits (and vegetables) of my labor each time we open a jar of home produce.

Furthermore, I really enjoy the multiple experiments. I wrote numerous times about last spring’s peanut experiment which yielded a fair amount. I will use some of this year’s harvest to start next year’s plants. The legumes are great for the soil in addition to our eating enjoyment. As mentioned above, I am excited about my new sweet potato experiment. 2021 looks to be another good year in the garden.

Econogal 2020

Perhaps my greatest success has been my writing. Econogal readership is expanding, although not exponentially as viruses do. My favorite posts include Striking a Balance in May, Vail Valley Escape in July, Patience with a Side of Self-Discipline in November, Rainy Day Fund and Brave New World.

November was a key month with the number of hits on the blog almost tripling that of October. Perhaps people were just bored or stuck at home. However, I do appreciate the comments and the new followers. The community of bloggers is a solid one of support.

Superstitions

For the most part I am not a superstitious person. A key exception revolves around sports. Horse racing in particular evokes various superstitions. But I am a bit superstitious this New Year’s Eve. Last year I was full of expectations of 2020. This year I have absolutely NONE regarding 2021.

Furthermore, as you can see in the picture below, my planner for 2021 is not the artsy one of 2020 (that I had been so thrilled to find and purchase) but one much closer to the earlier years. I use planners extensively to keep track of my writing, the garden activities, and the weather. We have so little moisture on the High Plains, rain and snow measurements are key. Hopefully, a return to a plain, unexceptional planner will yield a less intense 2021. Happy New Year Everyone!

Planning calendars

Econogal’s Top Twenty Books in 2020

Even though I am doubling my list and issuing the Top Twenty Books in 2020, I am still leaving some great reads on the shelf. This really isn’t surprising given the events of 2020. Pandemics by nature require solitude. Reading fills the time.

Favorite Writers

If I made a list of favorite authors, many more than twenty names would appear. Such is a life of an introverted avid reader. Several of the Top Twenty Books in 2020 are penned from old favorites. New series debuts and stand-alone books from familiar names such as Patricia Cornwell, Nevada Barr, and William R. Forstchen are on the list. Sequels from Jane Harper and Nora Roberts are also noted.

Familiar Names

Many of the books I read this year were either checked out online through the library app, Libby, or purchased on Kindle. In the case of Libby, long holds indicated top sellers. Several of these check-outs made the Top Twenty Books in 2020. New to me writers including Susan Mallery, Laura Silverman and Lorena Mc Courtney (and her Ivy Malone series) became mainstays. Escapism through books certainly was a theme for my personal sojourn through 2020.

However, quite a few books on the list are from established writers I had not read. Peter Heller, Kim Michele Richardson and Brenda Janowitz fall into this category. Discovering new to me writers became commonplace this year.

One Debut Author

Perhaps the inability to wander through bookstores or peruse the new arrivals table at the library can be blamed for the lack of new writers on the Top Twenty Books in 2020. The solo exception is Diana Giovinazzo. Her debut, The Woman in Red, is a fascinating story of Anita Garibaldi. I am still unsure of what moved me most, the descriptive settings of South America and Italy or the history of the woman behind the man. Giovinazzo is an inspiration. Her transition from podcast co-host of Wine, Women, and Words to published author gives hope to all unpublished scribes.

Favorites

Below are my favorite books from 2020. This list does not include any non-fiction. So, I failed in my goal of reading more from this category. However, Gina Kolata’s history of the 1918 Flu pandemic, published in 2011 is well worth a read. Unless you are tired of pandemics.

Clicking on each of the titles below will connect you to a book review from this past year. Most of the titles are releases from 2019 and 2020. Various genres are represented. I am sure you can find a great gift to put under the Christmas tree from Econogal’s Top Twenty Books in 2020.

Top Twenty Books in 2020

The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek by Kim Michele Richardson

The Woman in Red by Diana Giovinazzo

Big Lies in a Small Town by Diane Chamberlain

This Tender Land by William Kent Krueger

What Rose Forgot by Nevada Barr

Stay by Catherine Ryan Hyde

48 Hours by William R. Forstchen

The Grace Kelly Dress by Brenda Janowitz

The River by Peter Heller

Force of Nature by Jane Harper

The Girl He Left Behind by Beatrice MacNeil

The Lost Girls of Paris– Pam Jenoff

The Rise of Magicks by Nora Roberts

Quantum by Patricia Cornwell

The Third to Die by Allison Brennan

Contagion by Robin Cook

Sisters by Choice by Susan Mallery

One Last Lie by Paul Doiron

Girl Out of Water by Laura Silverman

Invisible by Lorena McCourtney