I can’t even count the number of times when I was pregnant that people told me I should enjoy movies, reading, eating out, etc. then when I was still childless, since the birth of my daughter would basically suck all the joy out of my life. Well, I’m happy to say just shy of a year later, that they were wrong. I’ve enjoyed a lot of things this year, and here’s a list of a few of my favorite things from the year.
- The Year of the Flood, by Margaret Atwood
I think this is one of Margaret Atwood’s best books since The Handmaid’s Tale, one of my all time favorites. It takes place in a futuristic world overrun by genetically modified creatures and toxins, and it is narrated by two members of God’s Gardeners, a religious sect awaiting the “waterless flood.” This is one of those books that makes me feel a little sad when I reach the end, because I wish it wasn’t over. I know this is utterly ignorant of me, but I discovered on finishing this book that it is the follow-up to Oryx and Crake, which I have been told is even better. It is next on my reading list, and I’m actually a little excited to get to it.
- Shadow of the Wind, by Carlos Ruiz Zafon
This is the first non-baby book I read after Azita was born. As I lay awake feeding her or pumping or rocking her, I would read this book and get sucked in to Franco’s Spain. It was mesmerizing, and it reaffirmed my obsession with the country. This is a book about books and the love and passion they can inspire in people. Anyone who loves to read must read it. I know I will be reading again more than once.
- You Are My Flower, Elizabeth Mitchell
This is a children’s music album, but I promise you it has charm for adults also. Elizabeth Mitchell introduces children to the greats, from Elizabeth Cotten to Bob Marley to the Velvet Underground. And, her original songs are pretty great also. She has a sweet, melodic voice that for a few months was my surefire way to get Azita to stop crying, and seemed to calm me down a little as well. I loved it so much that we bought all of her CDs and also took Azita to see her live when she came to town this fall. So amazing is Elizabeth Mitchell that she even managed to keep our 9 month old baby entertained and in her seat for the entire hour. I nearly cried.
- Welcome to Mali, Amadou et Mariam
I discovered Amadou et Mariam a few years ago through Manu Chao, who once described their music as having “an immense sweetness and gentleness” to it and “an enormous sense of humanity.” I couldn’t agree more. Even when you don’t understand the words (although if you have even a little French you probably can understand a great deal), you can really feel what they are saying. Their album, Welcome to Mali, was actually released last year, but it one that I listened to over and over all year. Even if you think you aren’t a fan of African blues-rock, you should give this album a try. You may find that you actually are.
- For Emma, Forever Ago, Bon Iver
This was my favorite album last year, and it remains my favorite album this year. It’s that good. Please listen to it if you haven’t. That’s all I have to say about that.
- Star Trek
If you know me, I don’t really have to say anything about this. You already knew this would be one of my favorites.
I know I’m late to the game, but I finally got around to watching Firefly (thanks to the urgings of numerous friends, including Cara from The Land of Bean). I am watching Serenity literally as I write this, and I don’t even need to get to the end to tell you that this is one of my favorite movies from this year.
A space western that is, dare I say, better than the original Star Trek? It is. I love the overtly Western stylings juxtaposed with the futuristic space aspect, and the storylines and writing are both superb. I wouldn’t expect anything less from Joss Whedon though, so I guess this is hardly a surprise either. Although it is quite surprising that I haven’t watched this until now.
- True Blood
Yet another show I am a little late to, but I am truly obsessed. It’s a little quirky and a little dark all at once, and it has the Southern gothic flavor to boot. I think it’s pretty clear now that Alan Ball is not a one-hit wonder.
- Tarte Tatin
I made my first tarte tatin this year, and was inspired by My Persian Kitchen to Persianize the recipe. I don’t usually experiment with a new recipe the first time I make it, but I just couldn’t help it with this one. And I’m glad I did, because the results were pretty spectacular with this one. Then again, there’s not much that can’t be improved with a little saffron and cardamom.
- Vegetarian Cotlet
This year for Sizdeh Bedar I attempted to make a vegetarian version of a food many Iranians would name as their ultimate comfort food — cotlet. It is a breaded and fried cutlet of ground beef and mashed potatoes. I always think of cotlet as picnic food, so it seemed natural to attempt this recipe for the ultimate picnic. I’ll just say that the cotlets were almost gone before I even tried my first one, and not one person who ate them knew they were vegetarian. I’ll promise to post a recipe sometime soon — something Roger will appreciate since that will mean that I have to make them again.