Wednesday, March 6, 2013

March Already?

February flew by, as it always does. And, just like the last few years, my resolution waned a bit. I resolved to organize in February. I aimed to tackle a room a week and de-clutter. I did not get through a room a week, but I did organize some things. This is one that will have to hang over into other months. I blame it on February being a short month, and being on vacation and out of the country for the last week of it.

I have been slacking in most areas of this blog this year. I've been a bit preoccupied with other things in my life. While I haven't been running as much, I have been going to the gym and getting back into some strength training and cardio classes. (Body Combat is my current favorite.)

Reading is still happening, but I'm taking a course for work and that has become my "should read" list. I finally got through the text book the other night, and now I have this lovely supplemental reading to do:

Looks interesting, doesn't it? That will be my main source of reading until after I write my exam, hopefully sometime in April. Then, I will be in full time prep mode for my trip to Asia! If you don't know about that, feel free to catch up on my other blog that I've started to chronicle that trip and the preparations at

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Cooking From Scratch

So January's resolution was to try to make things from scratch that I would normally buy packaged. The hope was that something would stick, and I would start making it from scratch from now on after discovering how easy/cheap it was. It was worth a shot...

First up, I looked through the cupboards and looked for packages. I found spaghetti and granola. When I was looking for other ideas, I thought "I made naan last month, I bet I could make bread and pie crusts!" That may have been a bit much since I don't really buy much bread or pie crusts. So, neither of those happened. But, I did attempt focaccia rolls. And, I attempted to make yogurt.

First up - pasta! 

The recipe sounded really easy, and it was. It was also pretty tasty. However, I did not have a pasta rolling machine type thing. So, here's the result:

Those noodles were way too big. It was a good experience, though. I chopped up the remaining noodles and they were a little better the next day. I likely won't attempt this again unless I get a machine made for pasta. I was using a rolling pin, and that's as thin as I could get it.

Second attempt - granola!

I eat yogurt and granola for breakfast almost every day. It made sense to attempt my own granola since I kept hearing it was so easy, and I was spending $5 a week on a bag of granola from the grocery store.

Granola was super easy and really yummy. I am going to make my third batch this afternoon. I made chocolate granola, which makes it even yummier! This will definitely be something I will continue to make from scratch.

Third - Focaccia rolls

Who knew that a handful of ingredients left to rise for a day could make such a tasty roll? I ate two of these straight out of the oven. When they first came out, they were the perfect texture - soft, warm, and crunchy on the bottom. I've got four more in the freezer, and they thaw pretty well. Not quite as good texture as they were straight out of the oven, but still really tasty.

Fourth - Yogurt

I kept hearing that you could easily make your own yogurt, and while skeptical, I decided to try since I'm tired of paying $4 for a small tub of Greek yogurt that lasts maybe a week. Maybe, if I scrimp on how much I scoop into my granola.

I attempted a very small batch (only one cup) since I was skeptical. There's a lot of preciseness that is necessary for this recipe (heat to the right temperature, cool to the right temperature, leave sit for such a length of time) that I was doubtful I'd do it right. I prefer estimates, and I may have not been as precise as I could have been for this one. Here's how it looked this morning after a night in the fridge.

I was dubious. I tasted it, and it doesn't taste like my usual yogurt. However, I attempted a small taste, mixed with some (homemade) granola and strawberries about 45 minutes ago.
So far, I'm not sick, so maybe it did work. It didn't taste so bad with the granola and strawberries. And, I hadn't strained it to turn it into a greek-ish yogurt, so maybe that's why it was off. Or, maybe I needed to let it sit longer. I'm not sure, but I'm not so sure I'll attempt that again. I might, however, try straining my own regular yogurt to make a thicker yogurt.

All in all, it was an interesting month of making things from scratch. I still will attempt to make other things in the future from scratch. I'm thinking of bread, pizza crust, tomato sauce, hummus, pie crust, and another attempt at pasta once I have the right tools. It was a fun month of the new resolution. February will include something active, so it will be good for me, but not as much fun, I expect!

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Reading in 2013

I've started and finished a few books now in 2013, so it's time for me to make a blog post so I can track it for myself. I also use Goodreads, but can't always find my way around that site, so I also want to post a list of books here.

On Goodreads, I set a goal of reading 25 books this year. That shouldn't be an issue, but you never know. Last year, I aimed for 50, and I must admit that it made me choose some shorter, easier reads. This year, I'd like to add some bigger books and not worry about that silly goal of completing so many books. Since I'm including audiobooks again, which I listen to while commuting and doing housework, I should be able to get through 25 no problem, even with some bigger books.

  1. There's Something About Christmas, Debbie Macomber
  2. Your Voice in My Head, Emma Forrest
That's a start... 

Friday, January 4, 2013

What to Resolve 2013?

It always takes me a few days to get into the year to really figure out what I want to do for a resolution. To be truthful, this is only the third year that I've attempted to make realistic resolutions. in 2011, it was to learn about wines. Last year, it was to get out of (non mortgage) debt. This year, I really didn't know what to do.

I was thinking, and a big thing for 2013 will be getting out of my comfort zone and trying lots of new things on my month long trip to Asia. And, the idea of stretching my boundaries and learning new things scares and excites me, so I decided to take that idea and structure it for a resolution for 2013.

Each month, I'll pick something new to do that is either something I've wanted to do, or something that scares me, or a new way of doing something. So, for January, I'm focusing on cooking. I'm going to try to make things from scratch that I would normally buy pre-made. I won't be doing it every day, but likely once a week. Tomorrow, I am going to attempt pasta from scratch! This should be an adventure!

Monday, December 31, 2012

Fifty Books Read in 2012

I didn't really start out with the goal to get through 50 books this year, but I thought I'd track it just to see how many I actually read. I made it through the 50th the other day. To be fair, 23 were audiobooks, listened to while I walked/ran/bussed/did housework. The transit strike really helped up those numbers as I was walking 1.5 hours  a day and listening to books.

In case you are interested, here are the books that I made my way through, and I've bolded my six favorites from the year.
  1. A Secret Kept, Tatiana de Rosnay
  2. Bossypants, Tina Fey
  3. The News Where You Are, Catherine O'Flynn (audiobook)
  4. Hurt Go Happy, Ginny Rorby (audiobook)
  5. Bittersweet Rain, Sandra Brown (audiobook)
  6. Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children, Ransom Riggs
  7. The Edge of Winter, Luanne Rice (audiobook)
  8. The Gospel According to Peanuts, Robert L. Short
  9. Broken for You, Stephanie Kallos (audiobook)
  10. Bet Me, Jennifer Crusie (audiobook)
  11. Anyone But You, Jennifer Crusie (audiobook)
  12. A Town Like Paris, Bryce Corbett
  13. Not My Daughter, Barbara Delinsky (audiobook)
  14. The Sense of an Ending, Julian Barnes
  15. Complete Without Kids, Ellen L. Walker
  16. The Peach Keeper, Sarah Addison Allen (audiobook)
  17. Seriously... I'm Kidding, Ellen Degeneres
  18. Another Woman's Son, Anna Adams
  19. Agnes and the Hitman, Jennifer Crusie & Bob Mayer (audiobook)
  20. The Birth House, Ami McKay
  21. How to Save a Life, Sara Zarr (audiobook)
  22. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, Mark Haddon
  23. Room, Emma Donoghue
  24. Manhunting, Jennifer Crusie (audiobook)
  25. The Cinderella Deal, Jennifer Crusie (audiobook)
  26. Diary of a Mad Fat Girl, Stephanie McAfee
  27. Fifty Shades of Grey, E L James
  28. Summer at Tiffany, Marjorie Hart
  29. Ape House, Sara Gruen 
  30. It's Now or Never, Nicole Matthews
  31. Smitten, Janet Evanovich (audiobook)
  32. MWF Seeking BFF, Rachel Bertsche
  33. Ella Minnow Pea, Mark Dunn
  34. Not Becoming My Mother, Ruth Reichl (audiobook)
  35. The Girl Who Chased the Moon, Sarah Addison Allen (audiobook)
  36. The Alchemist, Paulo Coelho
  37. Gone Girl, Gillian Flynn
  38. The Girl Who Chased the Moon, Sarah Addison Allen
  39. Yes, Chef, Marcus Samuelsson (audiobook)
  40. Two Little Girls in Blue, Mary Higgins Clark
  41. Runaway Mistress, Robyne Carr
  42. The Start-Up, Sadie Hayes
  43. Knowing Your Value, Mika Brzezinski (audiobook)
  44. Sharp Edges, Jayne Ann Krentz (audiobook)
  45. Warren Buffett and the Art of Stock Arbitrage, Mary Buffett & David Clark (audiobook)
  46. The Lost Girls; Jennifer Baggett, Holly C. Corbett & Amanda Pressner
  47. The Best of Me, Nicholas Sparks (audiobook)
  48. Any Minute, Joyce Meyer & Deborah Bedford (audiobook)
  49. When God Was a Rabbit, Sarah Winman
  50. The End of Your Life Book Club, Will Schwalbe (audio book)

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Resolutions - Four Days Left in 2012

With only four days left in 2012, I can sum up my year of resolutions and start thinking of what I might want to focus on in 2013. In 2011, I spent the year learning about new wines. In 2012, my main goal was to get myself out of (non-mortgage) debt, plus a few other things. Here's my list again, with my end-of-year updates:

  • Start sketching - I started... That should count for something. I think I did maybe three sketches in January... 
  • Continue French lessons - Yes! I took classes in the Spring, Summer, and Fall sessions, and note a big improvement over last year.
  • Take a longer Vespa trip (technically only needs to be longer than to Fall River to count) - Did not happen. 
  • Minor renos at home - Not done, and no plans on completing this in 2012
  • Pay off line of credit - DONE! Today was the last payday in 2012, and I put my final payment on my line of credit and also paid off the Christmas VISA debt. 

In general, I'm pleased with how I did. The idea of sketching was just to get me using a different part of my brain again. I think I found other ways to do so. Sketching isn't really important to me. The Vespa trip was a neat idea, but when it came down to it, I didn't care about taking it. Same with the renos - they didn't really fit with paying off the debt, and honestly, I didn't feel like doing them. 

The French lessons were good, and I can continue with my goal of going to France on vacation once I've finished the advanced classes. I'm a little slower than I thought I'd be finishing these courses, but it's not been as easy to learn as I'd hoped! Just kidding, I knew it would take a lot of work, and it is coming along well for the amount of time I put in. 

Finally setting up a budget and sticking to it (for the most part) was the best part of my resolutions. Now that the debt is paid off, I'll continue to stick to a budget, but will be able to start saving for that trip to France, and maybe some of the other things I've delayed buying. 

No, what will I do for 2013? I have four days to consider this... 

Monday, December 17, 2012

Holiday Spirit

November and December are the hardest months of the year for some people, me included. The daylight starts to dwindle, the weather turns colder, and people start to rush into the holidays. I've always had a hard time with the shift from summer to winter. Fall is really just a cusp season for me. I consider those first few weeks/months of fall as a nice extension of summer. Then we jump feet first into cold, dreary, winter.

It takes effort to stay positive at first. I have to remind myself to take care of myself every November, once I feel like the Grinch, ready to bite anyone's head off for merely looking at me the wrong way. For me, this means making sure I get enough sleep, exercise, and looking for the good things again. In summer, everything feels so nice and warm that if my mood turns south, I just need to go out in the warm sun. 

This also means that I am selective with whom I spend my time. I love my friends and family, but some of them are hard to deal with when I'm struggling with the winter blues. I'm sure you all have a few of these people in your lives - "negatrons", as my friend calls them. Negatrons seem to be everywhere right now - on facebook, twitter, on the streets, and I know I struggle with becoming one myself some days. They are the subject of many a holiday movie - The Grinch, Scrooge, etc. (Though I must say the ones I know in person are definitely not anywhere near as bad these classic characters.) 

December is my photo challenge for myself. I have to take and post a photo a day of something that makes me smile. That's pretty easy. However, it does get my mind into a positive vibe - looking for those happy moments. I could just post a picture of my cat everyday, as she makes me smile daily, but I'm trying hard to find different things to post. It's really helped to be constantly looking for those things/moments that make me smile. They are everywhere when you take the time to look. 

Something else I've been noticing lately is that while the world will always have negatrons, there are also many "positrons". (Ok, that's a real thing, not related to what I'm using the word for...) I've started to notice them now, as well. For instance, there is the man who hands out the newspaper on the street in front of my office building. Every morning, he's there with a "Good Morning" and a smile. I don't read that paper, but I make a point of saying good morning to him every day, and often times, he is the first person I speak to each work morning (other than my cat, of course). 

This week, my goal for myself is to take notice of more positrons, and maybe work towards being one myself. Is there a positron in your life? Maybe you are the positron in someone else's life!