My 5 Favorite Books of 2022

Yes, I’m making lists. Aren’t we all? I read a lot this year, as I always do. Most of the books I read were digital and at least half of everything I consumed was an audio book. Not all were released in 2022. These are just the ones that made my life better because they exist.

So here, in no specific order, are 5 books I loved the most:

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PSA: Not Everyone Is Merry

 T’is the season to be jolly for many, but this is a public service announcement to remind those giddy with gift buying, tree decorating, and stocking stuffing, Christmas for many is agony.   For 35 years as an attorney practicing family law, I have personally witnessed the anomaly of Christmas. I wonder how a 24-hour holiday has managed to dominate our calendar beginning not before Thanksgiving as we once lamented, not before Halloween as we once complained, but now coinciding with the back-to-school frenzy. With four solid months to prepare for one day during which we are perfectly happy sharing a Martha Stewart feast with our television ready family, how is that so many of us fail to find bliss in Christmas?   It may have to do with money, or the lack of it. I am always swarmed by requests from clients in the fall to return to court for unpaid child support and alimony. For families who have been reconfigured into what society considers untraditional units, although they probably outnumber those considered traditional, Christmas is particularly challenging. During the season of sharing and caring, bouts of who-gets-the-kids-for-Christmas-this-year fill courthouses with shouting matches and an underlying profound sadness that Christmas will never be as perfect as it once was, or they’d like to believe it was.  Parents are desperate to meet the expectations advertisers, not necessarily their children, place like bundles on their doorstops. Even affluent families who can afford to buy Luke Skywalker’s Star Wars Landspeeder for $249.99 feel the underlying pressure and competition to have the best outdoor light display or a tree so over-sized it belongs in a national park. Everyone must receive a gift that not only shows appreciation, but also that the donor is a creative genius. You can no longer simply slip your postal carrier a few bucks. Now money must be included in a singing card with photos of the charming children and an adorable golden doodle. You get extra points if the dog is singing. And now that you buy everything online, don’t forget the UPS, Fed-ex, DHL deliverers.             Everybody is so happy, happy. Everything is so perfect, perfect. Ugly Christmas sweater competitions, the elf on the shelf mandatory ritual, secret Santa swaps. Are we having fun yet?            If you are blessed with bounty and harmony and are having the time of your life, good for you. But for those who are reminded at Christmas just how imperfect their lives are, a deep sadness running to clinical depression can set in. Not everyone has the money to buy what’s on their kids’ wish lists. Many people come from splintered families and feel the division more acutely during a season that demands unity and harmony, and even that it be jolly. Those with debilitating chronic illnesses are not given a reprieve for the holidays. The imperfections of life refuse to take a holiday during the holidays.            Be gentle with those who are not enjoying the season to be jolly. For them, it can be the season of melancholy. Be kind to yourself and have a gentle little Christmas. 

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In Defense of Parsnips (with recipe)

   I love an underdog, so it shouldn’t be surprising that I love parsnips. You rarely hear, “Please pass the parsnips” at the Thanksgiving table. You are more likely to hear, “What are those?” from a child wearing an expression of fear and dread. What are parsnips? According to Wikipedia, “The parsnip is a root vegetable closely related to the carrot and parsley. It is a biennial plant usually grown as an annual. Its long, tuberous root has cream-colored skin and flesh; and left in the ground to mature, it becomes sweeter in flavor after winter frosts.” Parsnips are oddball vegetables, for sure. I wouldn’t eat one raw and they do have a smell that, shall I say, is unfamiliar to most. But I like oddballs. I gravitate toward people who march to a different drummer. Why should I be different in my choice of vegetables? When I think about who are some of my favorite characters in books, I find they are often the nonconformists, like Ruth in Louise Penny’s Chief Inspector Gamache series. Ruth is a drunken poet who loves a duck. She probably loves parsnips. I’ll bet Agatha Raisin, Doc Martin, and Vera are all parsnip fans.  And don’t forget today’s parsnip can be tomorrow’s Brussels sprouts. You do remember Brussels sprouts before roasting them with olive oil and balsamic vinegar made them the new vegetable darlings, don’t you? Even President George H.W. Bush’s declaration about how he hated broccoli (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tQmTeVf2nJ8) only managed to gain popularity for it. So as a proud parsnip fan, I will be bringing it to Thanksgiving to share with others who may not have yet fallen for its charms. Here’s my recipe. Try and see if you aren’t corralled into the Parsnip Fan Club. Michele’s In Defense of Parsnips Recipe Ingredients: Shallots (3 small) diced.Parsnips  (3 bunches or bags, if you must)Butter (2 TBS for sautéing shallots; more to taste to moisten parsnips)Cranberry & Orange Puree (I take ½ cup of the fresh cranberry sauce I make and puree it) Directions Sauté the shallots in two TBS of butter in a saucepan until they are soft and golden. Steam the parsnips until tender. Then puree adding butter to taste. The more the butter, the merrier the parsnips. A dash of cream makes the parsnips velvety. Make sure you’ve invited a cardiologist to your table. Add shallots to parsnips and mix. Place in casserole dish. Top with pats of butter. Then drizzle cranberry orange puree on top to fool and entice skeptics. Warm in 325 degree oven until ready to serve.     

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