Friday, February 4, 2011

A Better-Late-Than-Never 2010 Review of a Few of My Favourite Things

I started writing this post ages ago, and kind of forgot to finish and publish it.  I suppose I should do so now, since the first month of 2011 is mysteriously over already.  I know the best things in life aren't things, but here are some of my favourite "things" from 2010.

Most interesting article:
"Lost in Translation" by Lera Boroditsky in the Wall Street Journal.  As a disclaimer, let me say that I love linguistics, and I know that it's not a field that interests everybody.  However, I think this article would appeal to most people in its discussion of how language influences culture.  For example, one indigenous language in Australia has no words to indicate directions such as "left" or "right."  Instead, directions are indicated with cardinal directions (south, north, etc.).  People who are native speakers of this language have a much superior sense of direction than those of us who primarily use relative directional terms.  Finally, I have a legitimate excuse for my dismal sense of direction!

Best Hot Drink Discoveries:
Peppermint Chocolate Vitasoy:  This drink filled the void in my life this Christmas left behind by the absence of eggnog (a no-no when you are allergic to dairy and eggs).  I'd like to try the Holly Nog by this company, but I've never seen it in stores.  I have tried the So Nice version of eggnog, and have been sorely disappointed.  Somehow, the craving for nostalgic and delicious eggnog gets to me every Christmas season and I end up buying another container of not So Nice eggnog in hopes that it will be delicious.

Stash Chocolate Hazelnut Decaf Tea: So often, the names of tea flavours are so much more delicious sounding than is the actual taste of the tea, so I was pleasantly surprised to find out that this tea is as good as it sounds.  And it's decaf, so it's one treat that doesn't need to be put on hold during pregnancy.  Stash's Vanilla Chai decaf also gets an honorable mention.

Other culinary discoveries in 2010:
Simply Natural Goddess salad dressing: Yum yum.
Recipe for peanut butter chocolate cups: even better than Reese's if I do say so myself.  This may or may not have contributed to the thirteen pounds.

Best Books that I read in 2010 (or partially read, anyways!):

The Memory Keeper's Daughter:  If I remember correctly, the setting of this book starts out in the 1960's in a snowstorm.  A podiatrist is forced by the circumstances to delivers his wife's twins.  The wife is put under during the delivery, and the husband realizes that the second twin to be born, a girl, has Down Syndrome.  The husband makes a split second decision to lie to his wife, telling her that the baby girl had died.  He instructs the nurse, the only other person present, to take the baby girl to an institution.  The nurse, however, cannot go through with it and disappears to raise the girl as her own.  The story follows the lives of these characters, and the effect that one decision has on everybody's lives.  Having worked in the field of supporting people with disabilities, this book was especially moving for me (and, for the record, I did finish reading this one).  Although this is a fictional story, I know that it was the exception in that time period for somebody with a disability to be raised in a family setting instead of an institution.  I would love to gather stories someday from parents who resisted the pressure to place their children in institutions.  What gave them the strength to defy the advice of doctors and society at large?  How were they treated by others after their decision to raise their own children?

The Hunger Games Trilogy, by Suzanne Collins: I love finding books that are hard to put down until you have read every last word, the kind of books that leave you a little bit dejected after you've finished reading them because you can never read it again for the first time.  The Hunger Games trilogy made that list for me.  The subject matter could be quite disturbing for the intended audience, as I know a lot of young teens read these books, but the story is quite thought provoking and relevant in many ways to things that are happening in the world today.  I think it might just be this generation's "1984."

The Plug-In Drug, by Marie Winn, 25th Anniversary Edition: I probably would have never picked up this book except that somebody gave it to me.  This book is full of published studies that explore the effect of television-watching, and other passive media consumption, on children's development.  The most interesting studies are those that record the effect of television-watching on communities after the arrival of television.  It would be nearly impossible to find a community in North America at present which does not have access to television, but these early studies were able to record differences in children's behaviour, school achievement, and imaginative play after television was made available in these remote communities.  The thing that surprised me about these studies was that the content of the television show has little variance in impact on the effect of simply watching television.  Watching an "educational" show does little to negate the impact of passive television-watching.  I never did finish reading this book, perhaps because of the growing sense of guilt I felt about letting my toddler watch television.  The book is not at all preachy, however, and does an admirable job of focusing on the benefits of living without television.  The book definitely inspired me to cut down the amount of television that my son watches.  We were doing quite well until pregnancy nausea started and my good intentions went down the toilet.  Figuratively and literally.

One Church, Many Tribes, by Richard Twiss: This is another book I haven't finished reading, but not due to lack of interest.  I think somebody borrowed it before I had a chance to finish it, so I'll probably need to start over since it's probably been close to a year since I started reading it now.  Richard Twiss is an American, and a member of the Rosebud Lakota/Sioux tribe.  Although he discusses much of the American First Nation's history, I think there are probably many similarities to the history of Canadian First Nations groups.  The author presents the shameful treatment of our First Nations brothers and sisters in the early days of European contact in North America.  He asks good questions that address prejudices in our churches nowadays, questions about how culture and faith intertwine with one another.  Why are some aspects of culture typically accepted in the church while others are quietly (or not so quietly) discouraged?  Why is a church organ more likely to be accepted than a First Nations drum?  I plan to pick this one up again soon.

Best Movies that I saw in 2010:
I don't get out to the movie theatres much these days, so most of these movies were probably released prior to 2010.  Most of the movies that I watch are borrowed from the library, although that could change since the late fees just increased to $1 a day - eep!  I've watched many more movies than I have read books this year, and most of them were forgettable.  A few that stand out:
Bright Star: This movie tells the story of 19th century poet John Keats, and his romance with Fanny Brawne, a young woman with a love for fashion design.  I'm a sucker for period pieces, and I'm intrigued by stories about people who only achieved great fame and worldly success after their death.
Becoming Jane: Another period piece about a great writer (Jane Austen).  And it's kind of a melancholy movie too.  Hmm...starting to see a pattern here.
The Young Victoria:  ...another period piece.  Wow, I didn't realize I liked them that much.
Julie & Julia:  A movie about food and blogging.  I'm starting to feel predicable in my tastes.
Harry Potter # 7, part one: Okay, this one breaks my pattern, and I loved it.  I feel sufficiently interesting to put this category to rest now.

Favourite Craft Pattern: You can find the sewing pattern for this momma kanga and her finger puppet joey here on Womans Day, which sometimes has great free craft patterns.  It wasn't the easiest sewing project to make, but I learned some new techniques and it turned out pretty well in the end.

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