Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Resolution Update - New Recipes

    I made it my primary New Year's Resolution to try new recipes. I don't cook much at home because I live with someone who actually enjoys cooking and I view it as a chore. I get pretty stressed out when I have more than one thing on the go and usually end up burning something or messing something up, which then reinforces my own belief that I am bad at cooking and discourages me from trying again (which is the only way to learn) so I give up and sulk.
    So far this year I have been trying one new recipe a week, and have also been cooking and baking more frequently (making recipes I already knew how to make).
And because we all know food looks better on instagram (and because I just got instagram like a month ago despite having had a phone that is compatible for longer than that) are some instagram pics of what I've made so far:
*Disclaimer: my boyfriend and I are pescitarians (we are vegetarians but we eat dairy, egg, and fish products) so all the recipes I'll share on here follow that diet.

Week 1 : Quinoa Salad

SUCCESS! This recipe turned out great and I have made it again since. I had never cooked quinoa before so that was something new. the meal was cheap and simple and filling and healthy! (we ate the salad with multigrain taco chips)

Week 2: Vegetarian Lasagna

a total fail. Part of the problem was that I wasn't following a specific recipe, but rather combining a couple of recipes and adapting to meet the ingredients I had and the portion size. Another problem was that I bought the "oven-ready" lasagna noodles (the kind you don't have to boil first) and didn't coat them in enough sauce so they stayed really hard and crunchy. Next time I will know how to do it right but I need to give it a few weeks because I was pretty upset. (as I said before, I take cooking failures very personally) I made garlic toast and salad to go with this meal and those turned out well.

Week 3: Vegetarian Chili

SUCCESS! This was the first new recipe I have tried this year to feed more than two people. I followed my mother-in-law's recipe and fed this to 4 20-something guys and it was a big hit! (granted, they will eat anything but still..) The recipe was really easy and again, really filling. I will be making this one again, for sure.

Week 4: Stir Fry

I wanted to include some tofu in this but we didn't get a chance to get groceries in the city this week and the local grocery store doesn't sell tofu so this is just straight up veggies (and cashews).
It ended up being pretty bland. I served it with rice and it was an okay meal just pretty blah overall. I guess if I made a different sauce to go with it it might be better but I don't think I'll try this one again. Not sure whether to call it a failure or success. It was successful in that I learned from it and got to practice my cooking skills of timing things etc but it just wasn't too tasty.

Do you have any recipes to recommend or any meal ideas I should try?
How are you doing in keeping up with your resolutions?

Monday, January 21, 2013

Love Love Love Cover

Last week was the 1-year anniversary of this awesome book by this author/videoblogger that I like.
And so there was a big event in New York where they read from the book and people played music and the author's favourite band played this song.
Now I am not a big fan of the Mountain Goats in general. I like a few of their songs, but not tons.
However, this song has been in my head since last week so I did a quick cover of it in my kitchen today while cooking vegetarian chili.

"Some things you'll do for money, some you'll do for fun. But the things you do for love are gonna come back to you one by one."

Have a great week, everyone!
(and bundle up if you live in the same area of the world as I do!)

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

January Blues

I am finding it hard to get through January. ...halfway there.
These first few photos were taken a while ago. I wish the sky were that blue today.

  These last few photos were taken earlier today. Grey, grey, grey. 
At least the trees in town make things sort of pretty.

It's so dark and cold. I find I have to come up with things to look forward to so I don't get too down.

What are your tips for getting through the longest, coldest, most boring month of the year?

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore - Book Review

     In present-day San Francisco, the recession has caused Clay Jannon (a RISD graduate and former web developer) to be out of work. He takes a job as a clerk in Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore, working the graveyard shift.
     As time goes on, Clay realizes that the bookstore is not simply a bookstore but perhaps a front for something else. The only customers he ever gets are the same three or four old, crazy people who don't buy books at all but rather borrow from a section of books at the very back of the store that seem to be written in code.
     With the help of his now-millionaire childhood best friend, a potential love interest working at Google, and a few other interesting characters Clay pursues this mystery to find out what it really going on at the bookstore and discovers it is much bigger, and weirder, than he imagined.

     I really enjoyed Mr Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan. I found the writing style very easy to read and the story was captivating enough to keep me interested but not so much of a page-turner that I couldn't put it down (which I appreciated as I was reading it over the holidays when I had lots of social obligations and couldn't just spend time reading all day.)
     It's a book for people who like books, essentially. There is lots in the novel about publishing, and the digitization of texts and the supposed impending extinction of the physical book, which are subjects that I find very interesting.
     There is also a lot of computer-talk (one of the main characters does work at Google after all, and the narrator was a web developer) but as someone who doesn't know much about computers, I found it easy to follow without being too talk-down-y to technology dum-dums like me.

     Without being too spoiler-y... one thing I really liked about the novel was the mystery and how that was developed and how it all fit together in the end. The book jacket makes a comparison to Murakami so I was expecting the novel to be very fanciful and, well, weird...but even though it was a very entertaining adventure story the events in the book didn't seem too far-fetched. It felt like it could happen in the real world, in the present, which is the setting, so that worked for me.
     One thing I did not like was that it seemed like the whole novel was working up towards a specific climax, which happened, but then the novel didn't end. It almost seemed to switch courses and get off track after that. For the last 40 pages or so I was kind of thinking, "where is this going? that seemed like the big ending back there..."
It all came together at the end and I understood the derailment but it just felt a bit disjointed to me towards the end.

     I have never read any of Robin Sloan's other books or even heard of him. I read about this book might have been Goodreads, or maybe it was on one of Chapter's year-end best-of lists or something. I read about it on the internet and it sounded really interesting so I bought it on Boxing Day and I'm glad I did.
     The book itself is beautiful. It's white with lime green books on shelves on both sides of the cover and the spine. It's a big trade paperback and the pages aren't evenly cut on the one side and I always like that in books. Aesthetically, it's a really nice book.
     I was interested because of the premise and the comparison to Murakami and because I haven't read a really good adult novel in a while, and I was not disappointed. Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore is an easy read for over the holidays or if you are going on a trip somewhere, or even if you are at home and looking for a light read. You'll get invested in the quirky characters and the adventure. It's not a book that makes you think too much but it's entertaining and enjoyable and exactly what I wanted it to be.

Click the link to buy the book.
penumbra sloan

Friday, January 4, 2013

Holiday Highlights & Christmas Book Haul

     We got two weeks and two days off school for the holidays, which has been AWESOME.
     We went home for Christmas and got to spend lots of time with family and friends from near and far. Lots of relatives and friends from out of town were home for Christmas so we got to spend time with people we don't see often which is one of my favourite things. Another highlight for me was being able to spend lots of time cuddling my one-month-old nephew! (and playing with my older nephews...they don't like cuddling as much).
     We spend lots of time playing games, eating, drinking, eating, watching movies, eating, visitting, and eating with lots of people we love!
     Christmas Eve and Christmas Day were perfect because we got to spend time with both families and I don't feel we missed out on anything from either family, so that was great.
     Boxing Day I went shopping with my mom and sister-in-law.
     We saw lots of movies and mostly spent our time relaxing and socializing.
     New Years Eve was spent in a pub with close friends and then when we got bored around 11, at a friend's house to ring in the new year.
     We have to go back to work on Monday but I am ready. I am actually getting kind of excited to go back (#dork).

I am not a big fan of resolutions because of the stigma involved with not keeping them, etc, but I do think the new year is a good time to re-evaluate and make goals.
In 2012 I had a lot of big goals and they all mostly happened.
(I got my degrees, moved out, and got a job.)

This year I want to:
read more books (hopefully I'll have a book review up next week)
seek out new music (I want to do a bit more music recommendations/reviews on my blog this year)
learn to cook more things (I am going to try to make a new recipe once a month or once a week. I don't do much cooking in our house and I want to change that.)

also I want to keep learning lots at my job and getting better at it and I want to travel. (Europe trip is being planned for July.)

Now here is a bit of a Christmas book haul (that's mostly what I got for presents):


I bought Stephen the Calvin and Hobbes box set for Christmas.
(He got me Seasons 1 and 2 of Sherlock! I am excited for special features.)

Stephen's parents got me the book on the left and his sister (who had me for Secret Santa) got me the book on the right. These are both books I asked for.

 Photobucket  Photobucket
His sister also got me this DFW bio. Unfortunately, so did my brother. So I returned the one my brother got me and bought Behind the Beautiful Forevers, which is narrative non-fiction (reads like a novel but is true) about a Mumbai community. I've read good things about it so I am excited to read it.

My brother also got me a gift card so I bought this novel (which I have about 100 pages left of, I am hoping to post a review of it next week) and a nice Moleskine journal.

I hope you've all had an excellent holiday and are looking forward to the year ahead.
Happy New Year!