Wednesday, January 31, 2018

January Wrap-Up and Plans for February

Ah, January. That special time that begins so hopefully and festive with optimistic plans for the future and inevitably turns into a bleak, dark struggle for survival. Let's review my descent, shall we? (Just kidding, I'm fine!)


This is how you start a new year.
I'm only doing one reading challenge this year, but I'm still going to track my non-fiction. I won't track romance this year, because it's no longer important that I read one every month, though I do want to be sure and keep up with the authors I really like. But I won't separate it from other reading that I do.

TBR Pile Challenge: A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara, The Price of Salt by Patricia Highsmith

Non-fiction: Lab Girl by Hope Jahren, which I actually began in December, but finished at the beginning of January; and Meditation for Fidgety Skeptics by Dan Harris

I finished a total of 7 books this month which is surprisingly on par considering how long it took me to read A Little Life, and the fact that I didn't listen to any audiobooks after finishing The Jewel at the beginning of the month.


My only audiobook was The Jewel by Amy Ewing, which I really liked. Otherwise, I'm still loving the By the Book podcast (which recently did The Miracle Morning!), as well as my other favorites, The Readers, Smart Podcast Trashy Books, and Code Switch.

Music-wise, I'm listening a lot to Pink's newest album, Beautiful Trauma. It's pretty great, and I'll be seeing her perform it in April!


Season 2 of The Great British Baking Show, which wasn't nearly as good as the season 1. Also still watching The Good Place, which makes me very happy. I watched an episode on my lunch break at work one day, and now I can't figure out why I haven't spent ALL my lunch breaks watching tv. It can be hard to switch gears and focus enough to read, but I can certainly watch, and still have my hands free to eat.


I finished the hood of my sweater early in the month, then realized I have to pick up stitches for an edging for the hood and neckline, so I didn't touch for another couple of weeks. When I picked it up to do the edging I made a minor screw up that resulted in me throwing it back in the knitting basket and ignoring it again. It's feeling less likely that I will finish it in time to wear this winter but I can't bring myself to care enough to do anything about it. I do kind of want to start a pair of socks though.

One of the reasons my knitting has suffered is that it's difficult/impossible to knit around the dog. She's very grabby. I can't decide if I should just do it more so she gets used to it, or just spend more time locked away in my meditation/craft room upstairs.

Speaking of that room, I received a fantastic gift from a friend who knows me very well, and which is now hanging on the wall in that room. It's a picture of Prince by David Mack, who illustrates the Jessica Jones comic.


I didn't really talk about goals or plans for 2018, but I do have them, and one of them is to be a better cook. I roasted a whole chicken early this month for the first time ever (don't judge - I was a vegetarian for probably 15 years) and recently had a friend over to cook together and we made a lasagna that involves bechamel sauce and bolognese. It came out well, but took FOREVER. Also, bolognese sauce isn't what I thought it was. I thought it was basically marinara with meat in it? But it's really all meat, and probably a bit too meaty for me.

My beautiful loaf of bread!
I've also done some baking. I made Swedish Visiting Cake Bars a couple of times, and I made bread. I tried a bread recipe from The Joy of Cooking that's apparently their standard recipe that's been in every edition since 1931 and failed two times, so I went back to a recipe (also in Joy) that I've made before and it came out quite nicely.

In preparation for attending the library's Cookbook Club Potluck in February I've tried to make the Salt and Pepper Biscuits from Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking by Marcella Hazan twice now and they have come out as hard little disks. The first time I realized my baking powder had expired, but the second time I used fresh new baking powder and they came out the same, so I don't know what's up with that. I followed the recipe closely, so there's no reason it should turn out so badly. I'm just going to shrug it off and find something else to make.

I also bought a new cookbook, The America's Test Kitchen Cooking School Cookbook, which has recipe tutorials and lots of basic information about techniques and whatnot. It does seem like they make everything in ways more complicated than necessary, but at least they explain why. I haven't made anything from it yet, but plan to soon!

What I really need to do though, is less about learning to cook well and more about organizing myself. I can follow a recipe well enough, but I'm terrible at keeping track of what I've made and going back and making those things again so I learn to make them more efficiently. Consequently, I can never figure out what to cook and then whatever I cook takes at least 2 hours. So I need to make an index that I can look at to remind me of things I've made and which cookbook (or other source) they're from.


My other major goal this year is to be better at staying in touch with people and making plans together. I have two friends who I tend to always make plans with, so I'm trying to get better at maintaining those other friendships and also a little better at keeping in touch with family. This month I've gotten together with two former co-workers, as well as my two "regular" friends I always see, which has made it a bit more social than my Januarys usually are. I've also made plans with my niece to go visit my aunt in CT in April and go into New York because my niece has never been there and has been wanting to go. When we come back, she'll be staying here in Boston and going to the Pink concert with me. It's going to be amazing!

The month is ending on a pretty positive note, but the earlier part of the month was actually very stressful and unpleasant. We were interviewing for a position at work, but ended up deciding to repost. I've come to really dislike the interview process because it is not super helpful in actually getting to know the candidates - I really want to just invite them all to a social meet-and-great with snacks and conversation. But now I have to go through it all again. In the meantime, I'm doing a lot of the workload for that position since we don't have anybody. It's been kind of crappy, and I think it was made worse because I happened to be reading A Little Life during that period, oh, and also we were having ridiculously Arctic temperatures here in New England.

I made a display of self-help books in the library, which is
something I think we can all use in the bleak midwinter.

What else? I haven't been running because it's too cold/snowy/icy out, and somehow can't bring myself to go to the gym. I was doing some yoga at home, but stopped because...I don't even know why? But I'm still meditating and I'm doing a lot of cooking, so those are good things to do for myself and I'm trying not to feel bad that I'm not doing all the things.

Plans for February

Two romance authors who I love - Kristan Higgins and Sarah MacLean - will be at the Boston Public Library on Saturday February 3 in the afternoon and I AM GOING.  I actually had to rearrange my work schedule to make this happen. That evening I'm going to a show at the A.R.T. which is something about Nigerian women? I'm not sure, but I'm looking forward to it.

Later in the month, I'll be seeing the musical Waitress, which I'm pretty excited about.

I'll be interviewing (again) for the position in my department, and hopefully hiring someone this time.

Oh, and I will be putting together a spreadsheet of some sort of all the recipes I want to have in my rotation so I can be more organized with my cooking.

How was your January?

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