Sunday, December 31, 2017


I've been making a Google Doc for the past five years that's just titled with the year.  It's a basic list of goals for the year, mostly having to do with health stuff and hobbies.

I don't do terribly well at most of them.  I still haven't cut back on the beads or fabric I have stashed in the dining room (preferably by using them), and the only way I hit my book goal this year was by binging on graphic novels, which feels like cheating, even though it really isn't.

I did manage to keep off about 25 pounds of the weight I've lost, and I have an aspirational target to help keep me on track.  I haven't met any of the exercise goals for the past five years, though.

But I've got some I guess kind of odd goals. I want to sort out how to use this blog versus my two websites, and sort out what I want to do with those.  I've got the WoW blog floating out there that I don't know if I want to just archive here, or leave separate.  I still want to reduce the number of email accounts I have (15, not counting work or school ones).

I did finish the Spanish course in Duolingo, so now I want to get through the German one (should be fast, since I took four and a half years), and then maybe start on Dutch.

The reading goal for this year hasn't changed in volume, but I want to get through most of the Humble Bundle ebooks I got this year.  It's a bunch of sci-fi and fantasy novels, and some short story anthologies.

So I guess we'll see how much time my class takes up this semester.

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Books I've read more than once

A conversation with a coworker made me think about this: just how many books have I read more than once?  I think Watership Down has the most read-throughs for something that isn't a kids' book, but I think that's just three or four times.  I think other than kids' books, it's the only chapter book I've read more than twice so far.  I'm not counting Romeo and Juliet, because I've only read it more than once because it was assigned in multiple English classes, and I don't really care for it.

As I'm scrolling through my "Read" list on Goodreads, I'm realizing that a lot of the stuff I read in grade school I probably read more than once, but that was partly limited access between library trips to whatever was already at home.  (That list is also short a ton of Bobbsey Twins books, since I don't remember which ones I've read, but I read a good chunk of the series.)  Most of the Walter Farley and Marguerite Henry stuff I've got I read multiple times; I was... a bit horse-obsessed as a child.

So here's stuff I've read more than once post-middle school, when I had regular access to new books and re-reading wasn't just because I had nothing else available.
  • Watership Down (Richard Adams)
  • Lord of the Rings (JRR Tolkien)
  • The Hobbit (JRR Tolkien)
  • The Elenium and the Tamuli (David Eddings)
  • Small Gods (Terry Pratchett)
  • Grapes of Wrath (John Steinbeck)
  • To Kill a Mockingbird (Harper Lee) - Okay, I may have read this three times too
  • Selected Stories of Lu Hsun (Lu Hsun)
  • The United States Navy in World War II (S.E. Smith) - This is another I probably read three times
  • Guadalcanal: Decision at Sea (Eric Hammel)
  • A Girl of the Limberlost (Gene Stratton-Porter)
  • The Chronicles of Narnia (C.S. Lewis)
  • The Last Unicorn (Peter S. Beagle)
  • Crocodile on the Sandbank (Elizabeth Peters)

Sunday, August 20, 2017

The Summer of Pickles

For the longest time, if you asked me about foods I didn't like, the answer would be pretty much the same:  pickles and mustard.  I ordered burgers ketchup-only for probably 35 years.

Then I discovered spicy mustard.  The problem with mustard wasn't mustard itself, but with the plain yellow mustard that you find everywhere.  Give me a Dijon, a brown, a whole-grain, something laced with generous amounts of horseradish--no, the problem wasn't really with mustard.

The jury's still out on pickles, but I'm running out of freezer space, and the garden's still going.  The tomatoes haven't even really started ripening.

Ignore tomato #2.  Most of the tomatoes are still entirely green.

To use up some of the extra zucchini, I went with Ball's "End of Garden Pickles" recipe (I've got Ball's Complete Book of Home Preserving to work with, besides Betty Crocker & Joy of Cooking).  It called for three cups of sliced zucchini, and three cups of green beans, and I didn't grow beans this year, so I was thinking - great, I'll use up these two big zucchini!

No, I used up one big zucchini.  So I've got three zucchini on my counter still, but five pints of mixed pickled vegetables - zucchini, carrots, onions, peppers.

Five pints of pickles

These are the zesty variation of Ball's "Traditional Bread and Butter Pickles," peeled since I didn't plant pickling cucumbers this year.  Next year I may plant pickling ones again just so that they're easier to process when we're tired of eating them.

5 pints of relish
 As you can see from the film on the jars, I forgot to add some vinegar to the canner when I processed the cucumber relish (from Ball's Blue Book).  This was not the pickle relish I was intending to make - I was just going to do the sweet pickle relish on the next page.  When I went to get started, this one was similar enough that I didn't notice the difference until I got to the "let stand 12 to 18 hours."  I've been skipping brined recipes for the most part since I want to do single-day projects.

Six pints of red sauerkraut there on the left if anyone wants some
I've got plenty of jam left - pineapple, jalapeno, cranberry, kiwi, apple butter - so I'm probably good there for a while.

This wasn't even the whole cabbage
These were still in the canner when I started this post -  six pints of sweet pickled cabbage.  I don't like sauerkraut, and my husband's had to cut back on his salt.

Once the tomatoes start ripening, I can process those either just straight up or as sauce.  I'm not sure what I'm going to do with the rest of the cucumbers and zucchini yet, but I've got a lot of recipes I can try.

Saturday, August 5, 2017

Annual innudation of cucumbers

Initially, it was all about the peas.  Three quarts of unshelled peas, that shelled down to about two cups.  The peas are about done now.  The zucchini are pretty steady, never overwhelming; I've just got the three plants.

The peppers are a bit random, and the tomatoes, while trickling in at the grape size, aren't ready yet.

But the cucumbers.


This summer has been frequently unusually cool, but give them a week at 80+ degrees, and...

Tiny snail gave me an excuse to toss this one in the compost.  It was probably fine, but I picked seven others that day, and tiny snail.  (You may have to zoom in to see it.)

So I went out to check the cucumbers again this morning, and this is what I came back in with.

I've got what will be three quarts of pickle relish brining on the stove now, but I also have a baker's dozen more cucumbers on the counter still.  I may have to make some other kind of pickles in addition.

Why plant so many cucumbers, you might ask.  I have one row, six plants, partly trellised.  I thought backing it off (I've planted three times that many before) would be enough.  Nope.  I like cucumbers, but unlike zucchini, which is easy enough to turn into lasagna or zucchini bread or some chop up into stir fry and keep up with it, the cucumbers produce in volume enough to make it difficult to keep on top of.

So there will probably be more pickles.

At least it's not cherry tomatoes again!  (Yet.)