The Short List: January

Gas starter wood burning fireplace

Disclosure: This post contains a few affiliate links.

We’ve lived in our house going on three years this March. Up until November, we’d never used the fireplace. It had gas logs installed, and we hadn’t a clue how to operate them, or if it was even safe to do so. So we ignored them, and the fireplace became a dusty cobweb receptacle. This past year, we got a hankering for fires. I blame our Ohio friend, Mike. Whenever we stay at his house in the winter, he has a fire going. His living room is just about the coziest place imaginable. We had a fireplace and masonry company come out, take out the gas logs and install a wood burning gas starter. It’s all the ease of gas with the pleasure of a crackling, wood burning fire. You just turn the gas on and ignite the burner bar under the logs, wait for the kindling to catch fire, and then turn off the gas. We’ve been using it often, and it’s making this Midwest winter bearable. (Indianapolis readers, if you have any fireplace or masonry needs I highly recommend Chimney and Masonry Outfitters.)

Whether you’re sitting by your own roaring fire, cozied up with candles, or simply basking in the glow of your computer, here’s what I’ve been into this month.


Last week my mom treated my sister and I to dinner and a movie for my birthday. We saw “Brooklyn,” and I can’t stop raving about it to anyone who will listen. It’s nominated for the Best Picture in this year’s Oscars. Saoirse Ronan, who plays the lead role, is nominated for Best Actress. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, you’ll fall in love with the characters, and you’ll be so glad you saw it!

Elena and I have watched this about a billion times, and we laugh just as hard every time. “Nice, Ron.”


Later this week I’ll share my picks for the 2016 Modern Mrs. Darcy Reading Challenge. I was in a bit of a slump in December, trying to slodge through some books I wasn’t loving. My 2016 reading resolution is to stop reading books I don’t like! Seems obvious, but I have a hard time giving up on a book. The good news is I’m off to a good start this year now that I’m done with those books.

I’m listening to Ready Player One by Ernest Cline and absolutely loving it. I’m so close to the end and I’m having a hard time putting it down when listening isn’t an option! It came highly recommended by several trusted sources, and all of them raved about the audio version. It’s narrated by none other than Wil Wheaton, who is perfection for the character of Wade.

I kind of slacked off in requesting and reading advanced reading copies from Netgalley, and it’s something I want to get back into this year. I tend to read a lot of books that have been out a while. In 2016 I want to read a more balanced mix of new and older titles. I’d also love to be able to give you guys a heads up on new books I think you’ll enjoy. I’m about halfway through Liar by Rob Roberge (available February 9). I’ll let you know what I think!

On the non-fiction front I’m reading Brené Brown’s Rising Strong. I found her earlier book, Daring Greatly, to be both throught-provoking and inspiring. I have high hopes for this title.

Eli and I are reading Daniel Pinkwater’s The Hoboken Chicken Emergency. It’s almost as old as me (1977), but I’ve never read it. Early reports from Eli are good: it’s very silly, and he’s belly-laughed through multiple scenes.


For Christmas Mike and the kids got me a Kindle. For years I didn’t think I wanted one. I’m not a book buyer, and I love the sensation of a book in my hands. Two things happened that made me reconsider. One: all the Netgalley titles are delivered electronically. I’ve been reading them on the Kindle app, which is fine, but I really hate reading on my phone or iPad in bed. The glow messes with me, and I’m too tempted to check Instagram one more time before turning out the light. Two: I discovered that I could borrow ebooks from my library, and many times the most popular titles are available as ebooks more quickly than the hard copies. Nearly a month in and I’m happy to report that I love my Kindle. It’s great for nighttime reading, and it’s so small that it’s easier to toss in my purse than lugging around a book. And because I always have the Kindle or my phone (with the Kindle app) available, I have something available to read no matter where I am.

State of Indiana Beer Cap Map

The other gift I’m loving is my birthday gift from Mike and the kids: an Indiana beer cap map! I’ve been fighting a cold and haven’t done much drinking since the beginning of the year, but I can’t wait to start filling it up with beer caps. Maybe you can help with a beer cap dilemma that’s been on my mind. Do I only fill it with Indiana beers? Or is it cool to add cool caps from beers I love, no matter where they’re brewed?


As President Obama’s final term comes to a close, I can’t help sharing these images of him interacting with kids. No matter your politics, I think they’ll make you smile.

Are your teens on Snapchat? I wouldn’t allow Elena to have an account until very recently. We had a long discussion about why she wanted it and how she would use it, and I came to see it in a different light. Shortly after I gave the app the green light, I read this article on why kids love Snapchat and felt even better about my decision.

Made up words that perfectly describe your everyday life. As a matter of fact, I just woke up from a napcident.

What’s on your short list of favorite things right now?

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  1. Ready Player One – Yes!! I loved that book! I hadn’t read a fiction book for pleasure in probably over twenty years when I checked this one out from the library last year. I am so very much nostalgic about all things ‘80s and had heard this book would be right up that alley. I’m glad you’re loving it!

    • Thanks for sharing your thoughts on the book, Paul. There are many gaming references that are over my head. At the same time, there are plenty of 80s references that take me back to my childhood! I think the author does a fantastic job of giving readers enough information about the 80s games, movies, shows and music that you don’t feel completely lost if you either don’t remember or weren’t living it yourself, while at the same time not weighing the story down with too much detail. I know it’s only January, but I think this is going to be one of my favorites of the year, if not of all-time. I know you say you’re not much of a fiction reader, but have you read the author’s newer book, Armada? If so, I’d love to hear your thoughts.

      • Yep, some of the references were over my head too – but I never felt like I didn’t know what was going on; there was enough other information given that I got the jist of everything. Steven Spielberg is directing the movie version which is tentatively slated for release in Dec 2017 (which will probably change due to Star Wars 8 moving up their release date). I fear the movie will not do the book justice as many movies fall short in this aspect. I also fear that a lot of references will be either changed or removed as I could see this being a logistical and expensive nightmare to secure the rights to everything. But I still have hope.

        Ready Player One actually kick started my delve back into pleasure reading last year and I read a whopping 6 or 7 books (something you accomplish in a month I know!). I was unaware that another novel by Mr. Cline even existed, but Armada is now next on my list. Thanks for cluing me in!

  2. They have those beer cap maps for the world too. So you could do IN caps in the one you have and start saving for the other.