So I Made Some Soup

Title image

So a few weeks ago, I made some soup. I sort of based it on this Italian Orzo Spinach Soup Recipe, but, if you’ve been following along with my occasional cooking posts here, you may have figured out by now that I am generally shit at following directions when it comes to cooking. I don’t measure, I change things as I go, and just generally do what I want.

I’m a cooking rebel.

But whatever.

So anyway, as I said, I started off intending to follow this recipe from Gimme Some Oven.

I wanted actual chicken chunks in mine, so I started with some cubed chicken. I then went ahead and added all the seasonings starting with the salt and pepper. I then actually measured out the garlic powder that I use in place of fresh garlic (I HATE chopping garlic. I also don’t like the texture of it). Crazy, right?

I had to ask the apartmentmate where we kept the measuring spoons. Whoops. Guess I don’t use those as often as I probably should.

chicken

I then started to get a little lax as I moved through the other spices… Less accurate with the measuring… more willing to take chances… you know the drill. By the time I got to the rosemary I basically was just throwing in what looked good.

And then I realized I forgot the onion, so I threw in a bunch of onion powder to try to compensate…

It was all downhill from there.

Thats a lot of mushrooms

Before I realized what was happening I had thrown in all the mushrooms I had bought for an entirely different dish after realizing that I also forgot the tomatoes, poured in a thing of beef stock instead of chicken stock by accident, and generally just started to make it up as I went.

pasta

Basically the only thing I did right after that was use the right pasta.

But in the end, it all came out just fine. Definitely not the recipe I set out to cook, but delicious none the less. It got the Jim seal of approval, and we both went back for second helpings.

Looking good even if its wrong

It also reheated and froze very well – albeit more as a pasta risotto than a soup, as the noodles kept soaking up liquid. Not sure I’m a fan of cooking noodles in the soup, just because I tend to cook soup in large quantities specifically for freezing and leftovers and I’m not sure I like how soggy they get.

So I’d probably do that different next time. And maybe I’d actually follow the recipe. But overall, again, it came out delicious.

Done

Now if only I had any idea what the hell I did and could replicate it.

Whoops.

Mid-January Pleasure Reading Update

Reading Update

So far so good on the whole “read more” goal. As of right now, I’ve already finished two books for pleasure this year (although technically the first one was started in the final days of 2015 – but I’m still counting it). I don’t feel like either book is really worthy of it’s own separate review post, as one was just kind of frivolous fun, and the other, well, wasn’t great… so I think mini-reviews will do the trick nicely.

The first book is Stanley Weintraub’s 11 Days in December: Christmas at the Bulge, 1944. I bought this a couple of years ago after I read his Pearl Harbor Christmas, expecting it to be roughly the same thing – and I was pretty much right. Like Pearl Harbor Christmas it is by no means, a traditional or complete history of the Christmas of 1944. Unless you already have a solid knowledge of the overall timeline of the Battle of the Bulge, I actually wouldn’t recommend this book at all. Without already knowing what’s happening where and when – this one’ll confuse you more than inform, because really this book is more of a snapshot of conditions than anything else; a collection of (admittedly scattered) anecdotes and experiences that fall within the month of December during the fight. The author does a lot of name dropping without much explanation, jumps around a lot – from the British, to the Americans, to the Germans – often without warning, and he even occasionally jumps around chronologically. So if you don’t already have decent name and place recognition it’ll be very very disorienting. Hell, it was disorienting for me sometimes, and I DO have those things (although I admittedly favor the PTO over the ETO in my own studies). That said, it’s not without value, and does contain a lot of great stuff. If you’re willing to tough it through the organization, this can be a nice little supplement that serves to humanize the experience through the minutia of life on the ground and in command.

Rating: 3/5 stars – To summarize: very scattered and disorganized, but contains a lot of valuable material if you are willing to sort it out.

The second is a novel that is part of the expanded Dragon Age universe: David Gaider’s The Calling. It’s a prequel of sorts – chronicling the adventures of Ferelden’s King Maric Theirin in the Deep Roads about 20 years before the events of the Dragon Age: Origins video game. It’s nothing spectacular in terms of literature – but it’s a lot of fun. Lots of action, and – minus a few action sequences that dragged on just a *tad* too long for my personal tastes – pacing is generally good and keeps you interested. It also has a lot of great backstory that has me really wanting to replay the game again so I can relive the story with all this new information and perspective. I suppose that’s the real upside to the author actually being the lead writer for the series. Instead of the hole a lot of expanded universe novels fall into of having unconnected authors who often don’t quite have the hang of really writing the characters or the world properly (*coughDOCTORWHOcough*), it actually feels solidly like part of the universe.

Rating: 4/5 stars – To summarize: it’s no work of great literature, but it’s a really fun little romp in a universe I love. If you’re a Dragon Age fan, it’s definitely worth checking out.

Have you read anything great so far in 2016?

2016 “Bullet Journal”

Well here we are once again! New year, fresh start re: regular posting – a little later than expected due to internet connection issues we had all last week – but now that (hopefully) that’s resolved, it’s time for another installment of…

Bullet Journal 2016 header

Last year I gave an adapted version of Bullet Journaling a try, and it worked surprisingly well once I tweaked the system to suit my own needs – specifically, keeping the “Bullet” part pretty much completely confined to tasks and to-do lists. Bottom line is, for my life and for my line of work, the actual “bullet” part of the system for planning purposes? It totally doesn’t work as a freelance musician and adjunct instructor, when I often book things months (and sometimes years!) in advance.

And so I adapted the system in certain places to essentially function like a regular, traditional planner. Specifically, the addition of monthly calendars at the beginning and more space for daily planning in the month-by-month section made it far more functional for my purposes. You can see the details of last year’s planner here, if you’re curious, but I’ve pretty much kept all of last year’s changes, so we’ll rehash them in a moment.

Now, this year’s journal is not EXACTLY the same in every way – as well as what I set up last year worked, as I used it, I did find myself adding pages, and using set pages slightly differently than expected. So as I set up this year’s, I’ve added in some new pages that I hope will work even better for my personal goal attainment and planning.

It also took a little while for me to get it up and running this year, due to my indecisiveness with regards to the actual notebook I was going to use. Last year I just used a spare journal I had lying around, since I didn’t know if I was going to stick with the system or not. But this year I felt an enormous amount of pressure to pick something that I knew I really liked since I’ll be stuck with it all year.

And let me tell you, was that difficult. I just couldn’t find one that I both liked and was the right size/set-up and it took me quite a while before I found and settled on this grey Eccolo journal featuring a cat and a ball of yarn. It’s still a little plain for my tastes, but it was at least the size and shape I wanted, and wasn’t just a plain solid color like the Moleskine are. Overall, I’m pleased with the quality of it – the cover is sturdy, but flexible, and the paper quality is nice – a little thin, but the ink at least doesn’t end up feathered.

Monthly

I decided to forgo a key this year, since I pretty much know my system at this point, and I have a color-code key taped to the case of the staedtler fineliners that I use for calendar work anyway. I also skipped the index/Table of Content pages, since I didn’t use them AT ALL last year. Instead, the journal starts right in with the monthly calendars in the first 12 spreads.

Once more I used the beautiful calendar pages from this year’s The Handmade Home’s free planner. Like last year, getting them actually inserted and affixed to the journal took FOREVER, but it’s seriously so worth it for me in terms of functionality. I use these calendars for entering the “big stuff” that I need to keep track of through the year – concerts, birthdays, gigs, etc… as well as anything I end up having to schedule more than a month in advance. This way I have one place to see everything that falls outside the realm of the “daily grind” when I get called to schedule something – double booking is a real fear of mine if I don’t have everything written down and accessible. I only had the page about half-filled in when I snapped this picture, but as you can see by the few smudges there are, I color code things on my calendar – green for personal, blue for my academic job, red for music gigs, and pink for birthdays.

Resolutions

Following the monthly calendars, I have a few spreads that I will be using throughout the entire year, the first of which is a list of my New Year’s Resolutions, along with a blank page adjacent to it which I plan to jot down challenges or set-backs, and generally use to help assess my progress as the year goes on.

Bill Log

The next is probably the most important “yearly” spread beyond the calendars: my Bill Log. I’ve always found it helpful to have a checklist like this for everything I can’t set to auto-pay. Having it really helps me keep my anxiety re: adult finances under control, since if I ever find myself second-guessing myself about having paid a bill, I can just look at the list, and all the information is there. I also usually write down exact amounts, and either the check number or the payment confirmation number, but January’s bills were paid when I was still working from last year’s journal – so I only transferred the checkmarks (I would have edited those out in Photoshop for privacy/safety purposes, anyway).

finished book log

Next up is a log of all my Finished Books. Since one of my New Year’s resolutions is to read more, I want to keep a log of what I get through in terms of pleasure reading (I will not be logging books or parts of books I have to read for work/lecture purposes… only the books I choose for my own enjoyment/enrichment). Hopefully at the end of the year, I can look at this spread and be able to really tell that I’ve made progress in making pleasure reading a habit again.

Gift Idea Tracker

Next is a spread dedicated to logging gift ideas. One of my biggest issues is that I’ll see something, or think of something that would be PERFECT for someone for their birthday or Christmas or whatever – but it’s always too far in the future for me to make the purchase. I’ve learned from experience that if I buy more than a month in advance, odds are that person will buy it for themselves before the birthday rolls around (*cough*JIM*cough*), so I try to avoid doing that. But as it always happens, I don’t write the idea down, and then when it actually DOES come time to buy, I can’t remember for the life of me what that amazing gift idea was. So this year I’m going to try to keep that from happening.

Large Purchase Tracker

The last “yearly” spread is one for keeping track of bigger purchases that I want to make. Because as an adjunct/freelancer my incomes are a) seasonal, b) unreliable, and c) very very small – I have to be very careful about budgeting and planning for larger purchases. To help me do that this year, I’ve included a space for me to keep track of the bigger things I want to buy so that I can budget, prioritize based on need vs. want, and just generally keep them fresh in my mind so that maybe I’ll skip the latte in favor of checking the bigger stuff off the list sooner.

And with that, we’re on to the “monthly” spreads – the spreads I will re-do and re-start at the beginning of each month. The process of sitting down and setting up the new month’s spreads on the first of the month has become a really centering ritual for me, and it’s been helpful in helping me feel like I’ve got a full view of the upcoming weeks.

Blog posts and habit tracker

We start with the month’s blog post idea long, and the monthly habit tracker – both of which are pretty self-explanatory.

Reading Log

Next is a new addition to the monthly lineup – a reading log. Again, since one of my biggest goals this year is to up the amount of pleasure reading I do, I figure keeping a log will help me stay accountable. I’m not yet sure how well it will work, but I figure it’s worth a shot. If I find myself forgetting about it, I’ll just omit it from future months.

January Daily

After the reading log begins my detailed calendar work – my version of the “daily” list in the Bullet Journal system. The alterations I made last year to allow myself more room for detailed calendar work, and the eighty-thousand commitments I have between my three jobs worked very very well last year, so I kept them. Again, here is where I color-code.

Finances Page

Following the “Daily” pages, I also have three new additions to the system. First, a monthly finance tracker. I want to get really serious about saving this year, as well as keep a much tighter rein on exactly where my money is going, and hopefully this and the following page will help. No more frantic checking of my accounts before a spur of the moment purchase.

Purchases Groceries and Meal Planning

Next is a purchase log – basically I’m going to try to write down everything I spend money on over the course of the month. Again, all in the interest in keeping tighter control over how I’m spending my money.

And then finally, the single “weekly” page – I am going to attempt to grocery shop more efficiently by keeping track of what I need as I realize I need it (instead of wandering the grocery store aisles wondering, “am I out of that?”). To further facilitate that (and maybe some healthier eating too) I’m also going to try to log my meals – at least for a few weeks, so that I can get a handle on exactly what my “staple foods” actually are – something that’s long overdue considering I’ve been living on my own and feeding myself for a long time now.

After my grocery page comes my daily To-Do/Must-Do pages, which quite frankly are one of the few places that the “bullet journal” system still actually looks like the “bullet journal” system – but I haven’t really had to utilize that function yet – and probably won’t have to until really the middle of this week.

I am a little concerned with all the new monthly spreads, that I might run out of space this year – but I’m not going to worry about it until I get a better handle on exactly which spreads stay, and which get tossed as I set up for February!

Do you guys use a bullet-journal type set up? How do you use it/what changes have you made to make it suit your needs? Feel free to share in the comments!

Happy New Year Everyone!

brush pen

Well, it’s that time again, blogosphere. It’s a new year. And of course, inevitably that means it’s RESOLUTION TIME.

Yes.

Once again, as I always do, I’m going to come up with a list of things I want to accomplish/work at in 2016.

I haven’t been terribly successful with this kind of goal making in the past, and last year was no different (I’ll have a post next week assessing my successes and not-so-successes from 2015), but I don’t really feel like that’s a huge problem. My general attitude about these things is that it doesn’t hurt to try. I’m a big believer in the process – the idea that you don’t have to meet EVERY resolution to the letter for resolution making to help you better yourself. I honestly don’t think resolutions not met are really FAILURES – so long as there was some effort made, and so long as you tried to be conscious of your decision-making.

To me it’s all about intention, and my intention is to better myself in whatever way I can – even if I don’t necessarily meet the specific goals I originally laid out. At the risk of sounding like a motivational office poster – it’s all about the journey.

And so whether I meet them or not, I’m gonna keep making them.

So, here we go.

MY GOALS FOR 2016

Header

1) Learn Brush Calligraphy

I’ve wanted to do this for forever, plain and simple. I can do a competent Blackletter with normal calligraphy nibs already, and so I figure learning this more modern and fun style is just a matter of setting my mind to it. I can already do it some – so long as I have references (see above) – but I want to perfect my technique, learn the fonts by heart and be able to do it on the fly.

sketchbook

2) Fill a full sketchbook with figure drawing

I had “fill a sketchbook” on my list last year, and while I got close, it was mostly with attempts at hand-lettering, which, while fun, was not exactly the original goal I had in mind. See, I used to draw a ton when I was younger, and I want to get back to it – and specifically, I like drawing people. So this year I’m specifying.

reading

3) Read for at least 2 hours a week (reading not required by work) and be better about updating Goodreads.

Now that I’m an adult, I legitimately always have “read more” in some form on my list. This year is no different. I read like CRAZY as a kid, and I really long for the days when I’d go through like, 4 or 5 books a week. While I realize that THAT will never happen again – I have spent the last few years really trying to make regular pleasure reading a habit again. I tried putting a specific number on how many books I wanted to read last year, and it did increase my total reading from last year – but I also kind of felt constrained by it. Particularly since I chose specific books from the start.

So this year I’m going to try a time requirement instead, and see if that works a little better. I figure if I read for like, 15 minutes to half an hour most nights in bed, I can hit that 2 hour mark pretty consistently.

I’m also going to try to keep up a little better with Goodreads, just because.

WIPs

4) Finish all outstanding WIPs – both Knitting and Crochet

Ugh, I’ve been so bad about WIPs (works in progress) this past year. I’ve started a bunch, and then abandoned them like, a third of the way in. I just need to get them off the needles and hooks. They’re cluttering up my space, half-finished, and I don’t like it. If I can get down to 0 WIPs, I’ll be a happy camper.

sneakers

5) Run another 5k

I miss running regularly. I want to get back into it. It’s as simple as that.

recipe books

6) Try 12 new recipes

I love cooking. Love it. But as we found out with last two years’ resolutions, I uhhhhh don’t have enough time to do it with any regularity. And when I do? I basically cook the same like, seven dishes. Because they’re easy, and I know them from memory. So this year I’m not endeavoring to cook more, or cook healthier – I’m simply seeking to diversify my recipe repertoire. Make 7 into 19. Maybe 20 if we make it a baker’s dozen.

Lets make it a baker’s dozen.

makeup

7) Get better with makeup

I have a ton of makeup. Like, really good makeup. Stila, and Urban Decay, and Tarte… lots of stuff I could never in a bazillion years afford to buy myself (I’ve acquired most of my collection as gifts over the years). But I kind of sort of don’t know how to actually use it? Like, I can do a decent everyday look, and I have my concert look. But that’s basically it. I change up the colors I use, mostly, but it’s still just those same two looks: simple liner and one shadow (for everyday), or a cat-eye and dark shadow gradient (concerts).

I have all this wonderful wonderful stuff (that is a delight to use) – so I really should be using it more regularly. Specifically this year I have three goals: 1) I want to get better about using color – learn how to blend them and depart from my usual browns and greys 2) I want to try new eyeshadow looks – for example, a smokey eye vs. a simple one, colored eyeliner, etc… and 3), in a slight continuance of last year’s “take more fashion risks” – I want to wear red lipstick without it being Christmas or a concert. Just because.

PJs

8) Pajamas are for bedtime only.

Working from home part of the year is AWESOME, but it’s definitely not without its own drawbacks and challenges. I’ve pretty much got a good routine down – I resist the urge to sleep in, to take too many breaks, to play video games instead of working when I should, etc… but there’s one big temptation I haven’t yet conquered, and that’s the temptation to stay in my PJs all day. See, I basically just sleep in sweats and tee shirts. I haven’t owned actual “pajamas” since I was like… idk, 10? And the bottom line is, comfy as they may be, hanging around in the clothes I sleep in all day – even if they’re fresh from the washer after a shower – makes me feel less productive (even if I haven’t been) and lazy (no matter how much I got done). A few days of that can take tremendous a toll on my overall attitude. I quickly start to feel like I don’t have my shit together – and that’s horrible for someone who has an anxiety issue that has recently centered around feeling like they don’t have their shit together.

So I’m just not going to do it anymore. I recently invested in actual pajamas, so I’m hoping that having “sleep clothes” that are specifically different from my “hang around the house clothes” will make a difference. I’m going to make a point to “get dressed” every single day and see where that takes me.

9) Make the damn bed. EVERY. DAY.

This is along the same lines as the last goal – basically I feel like I have my shit together more when I make my bed. And since my big issue with anxiety last year spent a lot of time centered around NOT feeling like I have my shit together – I’m just going to do it.

10) Organize, Organize, Organize!

Again, same as above. Chaos around me leads to chaos internally. So I’m going to keep everything far more organized this year. The more organized everything is, the easier it is to keep the apartment clean, and the cleaner the apartment – the better I feel.

I hope.

11) Drink more water

I just generally have a problem with this. I don’t drink enough liquid throughout the day and that is starting to have more and more of a toll on my overall health as I get older (in ways I’m 100% sure you don’t want to hear about). So more water it is.

gratitude

And last, but honestly the most important:

12) Stay Thankful

My 30 Days of Gratitude challenge – though I never finished it in terms of blog posts, made a HUGE difference in my end-of-year attitude. It was the most stress-free end of the semester into holiday season that I’ve had in a very long time. And so I want to try to hold onto that magic as best I can. I want to try to keep that positivity and easy contentment, even as we move into the new year.

And hopefully, all these things together will make for an overall more positive 2016.

Here’s hoping.

Happy New Year!