Saturday, January 21, 2012

Ideas to warm you on a cold winter day

Reading: Since the last reading update, I have finished 2 books and started a third.  Should be reading another one but since I haven't picked it up from the library yet, that has been difficult!

The Botany of Desire by Michael Pollan - I didn't get a chance to discuss it with book club because E was quite ill so I stayed home to tend to him and make sure he didn't keel over.  He's fully recovered now, thanks for asking.  Anyway, I liked the first part of the book pretty well, thought the second part wasn't very good at all, and then enjoyed the third and fourth parts.  Overall I liked it, but if I had stopped reading after the second part, I would not have said that.  As you may remember from my previous post, the author's intention was to tell the history of 4 plants (the apple, the tulip, marijuana, and the potato) that satisfy four fundamental human desires (sweetness, beauty, intoxication and control), and to discuss how the plants have evolved to satisfy us and how the plants have benefited from us.  In the apple section, he got to the point of this discussion on the evolution but spent a whole lot of time on the personal life of Johnny Appleseed.  It seemed like he was more interested in telling that story than in presenting his stated objective.  The tulip (second) section could have been written much better (keeping the focus, sticking to the stated intentions) - I felt like I missed a big part of the story there and that he never really got to the point.  The author's passion for marijuana was fairly evident in the third section - this is a story that he really was interested in.  He did a great job of telling the evolutionary and historical parts of the story as well as sticking to the intentions of the book.  I also enjoyed learning about the science behind intoxication.  The last section, potato, was also very good, and got into the genetically modified plants.  It made me never want to eat another store-bought potato again as long as I live.  I would recommend this book, but caution you not to give up after the first or second sections.

Lake of Sorrows by Erin Hart - I liked it better than I remembered liking it when I read it before.  That being said, I still am not a mystery fan.  As I told E about 3/4 of the way through the book, the thing I don't like about murder mysteries is that there is always so much murder.  I mean, really, how many people have to die in one book?  Stay away from people who know people who have been murdered - you are likely to end up dead yourself, apparently.  I liked the Ireland landscape and culture parts of the book, and I kept reading because I couldn't remember how it all tied up in the end.  One further complaint about this book - there were waaaayyy too many characters and I had to constantly try to remember how they were all related to each other and to the story.  We are reading the 3rd book by Erin Hart for Friday night book club - False Mermaid.  Stay tuned to see what I think of that.

The other book I am reading this month is Winnie-the-Pooh by A. A. Milne.  What better way to spend a cold (and I mean COLD) week, than snuggling up with a childhood classic?  This is the volume of the Pooh collection where we are introduced to the silly old bear himself, as well as Piglet, Rabbit (Pooh gets stuck in Rabbit's door after a honey eating binge in the second story in the book), Owl, Eeyore (who has a birthday and gets 2 presents), Kanga and Roo.  I will probably need to read House at Pooh Corners next.

Eating: I received a new recipe in my e-mail at work (from the Delicious Recipes of Hartford list that I am on) on Wednesday and tried it that same day.  A tasty, hearty new soup recipe (only needed one bowl of this to fill me up), it was also pretty easy.  I microwaved the potatoes to save time and had some cooked, crumbled bacon in the freezer from the last time I had a pound and only used part of it.  I am presenting it not as it was written but as it "should" be made, per my Mother Sauces cooking class, seasoning last.  Note that in my abbreviations, T means "Tablespoon" and t means "teaspoon".

Baked Potato Soup
4 large baking potatoes
3 T butter
2 T olive oil
1/2 C chopped onion (I did not add)
1/2 C chopped celery
1/2 C flour
6 C milk
1 C Velveeta, cubed
1/2 C sour cream
1/4 C cooked bacon crumbles
1/2 t garlic powder
1/2 t salt
1/2 t pepper

Bake the potatoes (I "baked" mine in the microwave.  You can also bake them in the oven at 350 for about an hour or until softened.). Let cool slightly.
In a large sauce pan, melt butter and add olive oil.  Saute onion and celery until onion is transparent.  Add flour - stir over medium heat until lightly browned.  Add milk and stir constantly until just boiling (may need to reduce heat to prevent scorching). Remove from heat.  Peel potatoes and mash slightly; add to milk mixture.  Add Velveeta, sour cream and bacon.  Stir until cheese is melted.  Season with garlic powder, salt and pepper, to taste.

Creating: I am picking up speed on the bass.  I started learning a blues progression - that is going to take some serious practice.  I play a little each day after work, and have been watching my "How to play electric bass" DVD.  I am thinking I will be playing in a band sometime really soon. Ha-ha!

I have been knitting a bit on my socks, some while on vacation.  And thinking about starting those Christmas presents...

Not much creating happening lately, I guess.

In other news, I am now on Pintrest and have been pinning away.  I started a board called "Things I don't like but other people seem to love" which kind of makes me laugh.  This board could get really full.  Right now there are a couple books and music, as well as yoga, but could expand greatly if I start adding things like TV shows.  My other boards are more productive and represent things I enjoy, similar to this blog.  There are books I have read (starting with this year, may expand back in time eventually), books I have really enjoyed (may or may not be some crossover between the lists), books I think I would like to read, places to travel to someday, recipes and some home decor and creative project ideas.  It is kind of fun to add things and see what is out there.  The web is wide!

Eat soup, stay warm and enjoy a good book.
Until we eat again,

Monday, January 16, 2012

Predictions for a new year

A new year, some new plans.  I don't want a new me (I kind of like the current me) but am open to opportunities for improvement and growth. A family I worked for right after college made new year's "predictions" instead of resolutions and did this together as a family.  I liked this idea so much that I did it for a number of years.  I kept the predictions in my journal and then at the end of the year reflected on them.  The first year I did predictions (the year I worked for the people who introduced me to the idea), one of my predictions was something to the effect that "I predict I will not be working here anymore" and then made that come true.  Predictions work as goals, dreams, plans and inspirations.  They are strong "I will" statements.  I am going to try them out again. 

Some of my favorites from past years: I will learn to knit a Norwegian sweater. (I not only learned how but made 2 of them that year and another a few years later). 
I will keep in touch better with people she cares about and forget those who cause pain and emotional drain.
I will be more outgoing and ask out more interesting men. (Took a couple years but finally met and asked out my favorite one!)
I will control my finances better, save more, and spend less at Target.  (Makes me laugh, this one.  Especially when Target's tagline became "save more, spend less" or whatever it is.  And I still need to spend less at Target...)

This year's predictions:
Reading: I will read at least 3 books each month, a combination of challenging/though-provoking books, comforting re-reads of old favorites, and as-of-yet undiscovered new favorites.

Eating:  I will make at least one new recipe each month to expand my menu options, enhance my culinary skills, and explore new techniques and cuisines.
Creating: I will make Christmas gifts.  (This will involve gifts for at least 10 people and since what I am thinking of doing involves 2 for each one, I best get started on this prediction soon!  Also included in this prediction is "I will spend more time knitting.")
I will learn to play the bass.

I will spend more time scrapbooking.  (The March retreat weekend is already planned.  I predict at least 4 other dedicated days of scrapping throughout the year will occur, with family and with friends, at my house and at Archivers or other locations.)

I will write more often, to include this blog, my journal and free-writing exercises. 

Weeding: I will plan, plant, nurture and grow 2 raised vegetable beds.

I will participate in at least one plant swap.

I will plan the "stump garden".

I will start and continue my garden journal.

Travel : I will visit at least one city I have never been to before. 

I will spend at least one night in the Hermitage cabin at Amnicon.

That is probably enough sharing of my predictions.  What are some of yours?
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