Thursday, January 31, 2019

January Wrap-Up and Plans for February

Ugh, January.


I'm usually off to a strong start with the TBR Pile Challenge, but I only read one book from my list this month and it was late in the month and a pretty short book. That was Shattering Glass by Gail Giles. I've now started Sing, Unburied, Sing by Jesmyn Ward which is great so far.

One of my goals this year is to find a new (to me) poem that I love every month. It's been a long time since I've read poetry regularly and I'd like to get back into it. I read one book of poetry in January, A Memory of the Future by Elizabeth Spires. I haven't posted about it yet because I can't find a lot to say about poetry even when I like it, so I'm just waiting to read another collection or two and then make a combined post.

Looking back at the books I read (or at least finished) in January, I think my favorite may have been The Belles by Dhonielle Clayton, and I'm eagerly awaiting the sequel. Another book that I still keep thinking about long after finishing it is the forthcoming Famous Men Who Never Lived by K Chess.

I always like to look at how much nonfiction I'm reading, and it appears I finished two nonfiction books, Priceless and Scrappy Little Nobody, both of which I liked a lot.


Speaking of nonfiction, I'm currently listening to the (nineteen-hour long!) memoir by Michelle Obama that is all the rage right now. It's good but I'm not sure I'll be giving it the 5-star rating that everyone else seems to. I will say, though, that she is a very good narrator. She could definitely do that for a job if she wanted to. Stay tuned for my review on this, but it might be a while since it's taking me so long to get through!


Another goal this year is to watch all of Wong Kar-Wai's films. In the Mood For Love is one of my favorite movies, but I hadn't watched any of his others. I recently was watching an episode of Parts Unknown in which Anthony Bourdain was visiting Hong Kong and he talked a lot about how much he loved Wong Kar-Wai's work and I decided it was time to sample more of it. So far I have watched As Tears Go By which I liked a lot, and Chungking Express which I wasn't crazy about.

This month I also finished the third and final season of A Series of Unfortunate Events. What a great show that was!

Random nice pic of Boston
I was sick the first three days of the year, but during that time I watched Bird Box, which I liked but didn't love, and The Haunting of Hill House which was so very good I want to go back and watch it all again. That scene where you find out the truth about the Bent-Neck Lady is just amazing.

I'm still watching The Good Place which just finished it's third season. My love is waning a bit, but I'll still keep watching because I love the characters so much. Well, except Jason. I like Jason, but it took me a long time to warm up to him and he's still my least favorite.

I've been watching a lot of cooking shows. I finished Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat which I liked but didn't really learn as much from as I was hoping. To be fair, I've read the book so I think I already gleaned any information I would have gotten from the show from the book first, but even that was limited: use more salt than you think you need, and if something doesn't taste exciting enough add lemon juice or something else acidic. Good advice, but I could use more of it.

I'm currently watching The Great British Baking Show: Masterclass and I've just started The French Chef with Julia Child which I got from the library. I like her style. On the very first episode she screwed up like two things and kept saying things like "nobody will know!" and "it doesn't look as nice as I had hoped so let's put some cheese on it" and these are exactly the kind of things I need to hear. I'm taking more suggestions for cooking shows containing practical advice for everyday meals, so please let me know if you have any to recommend!


Spicy Chickpeas with Ginger
I've done some actual cooking too! One new thing I made this month was Pork and Tomatillo Stew from Ruth Reichl's My Kitchen Year. Somebody brought it to Cookbook Club and it was delicious so I made it at home soon after. I also tried a couple of recipes from Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone that I hadn't tried before (though I've owned the book for years.) One was Spicy Chickpeas with Ginger which was very good and I'll definitely make again. The other was Marinated and Fried Tempeh, Indonesian Style which was good but maybe more trouble than it was worth.

For Cookbook Club I baked Reichl's Banana Bread, which was the first time I've ever made it from a recipe other than my mother's. It's also the first time I've planned to make banana bread rather than just doing it because I had some overripe bananas. This means I had to plan when to buy the bananas, so that was interesting. I bought them 3 weeks ahead of time, which ended up being about right. I had to buy buttermilk for this version, which is inconvenient and now I have all this buttermilk leftover (and the banana bread wasn't even better than my mother's simpler version, btw) so I made something called Starbucks Indonesian Coffee Cake that someone from Cookbook Club gave to me when I mentioned all the leftover buttermilk. It was ok but I probably won't make it again.

I made the Caramelized Broccoli Soup from Dinner again, which I made for the first time in December. This is definitely becoming part of my regular soup rotation. These are just the highlights: I actually did a decent amount of cooking and baking this month!

If you've been following along, you know that one of my goals last year was to be a better cook and I was making a concerted effort to cook more. I'm continuing that this year but with some more specific goals; one of those is to come up with a list of dishes that are good for week nights. And I'm not talking about what Deb Perelman or Christopher Kimball or people like that consider to be reasonable for a week night. I mean few ingredients, quick preparation, something that will come together in 30 minutes or so including all the chopping. I know there are things I've made before that fall under this category, but I need to start pulling them all together into one list so I don't have to go hunting around every time I need to plan a weeknight meal.


Apparently I've mostly been reading, watching tv, and cooking. (And eating. Constantly, it feels like.) But I'm also going to physical therapy twice a week for my shoulder which consumes more time and energy than I had realized. I'm not really doing other exercise right now because it's just too much. I also visited the dentist and now have to use prescription toothpaste (did you know that's a thing that exists? I didn't!) and I have to floss twice a day instead of just once. Basically I feel like all I do is floss and go to physical therapy.
Such indignity

Despite that, and despite starting the year by being super sick for three days, I've had a little time for fun. My friend hosted her annual Russian Christmas celebration on the 12th, and I saw a production of Othello last weekend. Eric was supposed to accompany me, but instead had to take Petri to the vet because she had been limping for a couple of days and that was the only time he could get an appointment. (She's fine.)

So in summary, all I've really done in January is watch tv and survive, which I think is enough this time of year.

Plans for February

I'm going to see Angie Thomas (my friend bought tickets a few months ago!) and I'm also hoping to see Elizabeth McCracken. I love her, but it's not an event for which you need to buy tickets, so I'll be subject to the weather and my own ever-changing whims for that one. But I really really hope that I go! Also I am dying to read her new book. DYING.

I'll be hosting a Knit-along at work, along with a couple of co-workers. My first session is the afternoon of February 1. We're making this shawl and I've already cast on because it's a complicated enough cast-on that I didn't want to do it while trying to host. I knit a little just to get a feel for the pattern. It was fun shopping online for yarn, which I haven't done for a while. I needed four colors (or I could have used just one or five but wanted to replicate the idea of the original) but ended up buying two different batches in case one array didn't work out when I got to look at it in person. I'm using Madelinetosh Farm Twist in the colorways Whiskey Barrel, Glazed Pecan, Antique Lace, and Coffee Grounds which all sounds incredibly delightful, doesn't it?

Hopefully my physical therapy, and with it my shoulder pain, will also come to an end in February.

How was your January?

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