Sunday, January 31, 2016

3 to 5 am

my favorite napping photo of Meeko
although it would be nice if she slept at night as well...

I have a bit of a proposition for you...

Does anyone want custody of my cat from 3-5am?  Or do you want to come over and corral and keep her in line?

Now you are wondering why I need help in controlling a little house cat..

This is why...

from the hours of 3 to 5 am, and sometimes as a bonus starting even earlier, Meeko, who in a previous POST was described as a fairly lazy cat has decided to reclaim her primal instincts and goes crazy during those hours.

Running like a herd of elephants around the house....

Jumping into closets and rummaging around....

Throwing things of all sizes off of my dresser and other counters....

Playing in any trashcans looking for anything crinkly that she can play with...

In general, being a big ole pain in the behind.

A stern 'MEEKO' does no good...
Removing her from the room just strengthens her resolve...
Holding her in timeout  insults her to the core and results in her to chewing on the closest piece of skin she can get to (never breaking the skin, just letting me know that she is UNHAPPY)...

I am at wits end with this lunatic fuzzball...
and the kicker, she is having the time of her life...
I just wish she would pick a more decent hour.

Wondering why I have a cat,
(not really, but at 3 am, it has come to my mind...)
Melissa


Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Food, Glorious, Food!!!!


I enjoyed the concept of my book challenge so much that when I stumbled on a Food Challenge on Pinterest, I thought why not?

As I read the list, I soon realized some of them are not really challenges for me, like make a recipe from your Pinterest boards (I do this at least 3-4 times a week), so I thought I would swap them out for ones I come up with.....

Here is a link to the ORIGINAL...

So, here we go...

1.  Clean out and reorganize your fridge.  Complete.

     I'll probably do this at least a couple of times this year...

2.  Learn a new cooking technique.  Complete.

     I'm going to be baking a Baked Alaska in February for Baked Alaska Day, February 1st if you were wondering.

3.  Go meatless on Monday for a month.  Complete.

     I eat meatless generally once a week anyway, but this will make it more of a focus.

4.  Flip over a fried egg without the yolk breaking.  Complete

      I am horrible at this, a big ole' mess...

5.  Make tomato sauce from scratch.  Complete

6.  Read a nonfiction food book.  Complete

      I'm going to have to do some research for this one.  Any ideas?

7.  Slow cook something.  Complete.

8.  Visit a winery and/or brewery.

      I'm actually hunting for one in Utah...

9.  Organize (and purge) your cookbook collection.  Complete

      This was my first item done and it turned into a massive project.  I am embarrassed and somewhat astonished by how many never opened cookbooks that I had.  I'm donating a lot of them and giving some to my art group for altered books.  I organized my remaining books finding recipes that I used to make all of the time and have been lost in the clutter.  This was a very good thing to do and will help me tremendously as I continue on in this challenge.  1/5/16

10. Cook a new-to-you whole grain.  Complete

      Millet wins the prize

11. Master a family recipe.

      Cinnamon Rolls, my mom is a master at them....

12. Make a layer cake from scratch.

      A homemade dessert, I like this challenge....

13. Invent your own cocktail.
      It turns out that I have no desire to do this....  maybe in the future, I'll want too...  1/1/17
      Cheers...

14. Deep-fry something.  Complete

15. Cook dinner at home at least three nights a week for a month.   Complete and Repeated

16. Make perfectly poached eggs.  Complete

      Eggs Benedict, here I come....

17. Host a dinner party.  I had people over, but I'm not sure it was a dinner party....

      I'm thinking in the early summer, just as the weather gets warm....

18. Make a condiment from scratch.  Complete

     Mustard will be made, and maybe even mayo

19. Learn how to sharpen a knife.  Complete

20. Visit your neighborhood farmers market.  Complete

      I did not visit the Farmer's Market once last year....  grrrrr....

21. Make a soufflé.  Complete

      I have a sweet and a savory soufflé picked out..

22. Try at least one food that scares you.  1/1/17  I need to go to Whole Foods and buy some Kombucha and then try it....been planning on doing it for a while and STILL HAVE NOT DONE IT!

       Gonna have to think about this one...

23. Cook a steak to perfect doneness.  Complete

      Due to the fact that I can not remember the last time I had a steak, this might be leaving the challenge and a replacement will be found.

24. Learn a new French knife skill.  Complete

25. Pack your own lunch for a week.  Complete

26. Make homemade mac and cheese.

27. Feast on an ethnic food you've never had before.  Complete

      Dinner out, anyone?

28. Make hummus from scratch.

29. Organize your tupperware containers.  Complete

       They are organized as of the first week of January, thanks to my cleaning binge to start the New Year off, so I'll check periodically in the year to see if they are staying that way.

30. Pack a mason jar salad.  Complete

31. Create a well-stocked pantry.  Complete

32. Can/preserve something.  Complete

     This gives me the excuse to finally get the pressure cooker that has been on my Amazon Wishlist for a while now...

33.Make homemade pasta.  Complete

34. Flip pancakes without them folding.  Complete

     See my egg problem above, it's applies to pancakes as well.  :(

35. Follow a recipe to the T without making any changes.  Complete

      This is going to be hard....I generally tweak recipes for all matter of reasons

36. Grow something.  Complete and ongoing

37. Ferment something.  1/1/17  I've decided not to do this....

      I'm a little worried about this one...  Fermented food and I are not really buds, I find them icky...  Any ideas?  Help?  Recipes?

38. Make an on-point French omelet.  1/1/17  I eat maybe one omelet a year and I have a great breakfast place near my house that does them very well....  I'll stick to frittatas.....

39. Clean and put away dishes immediately for a month.  Complete

My Personal Additions...

40. Do a pantry clean out challenge.  (Don't buy anything except fresh veggies for a month) COMPLETED in February

      In this world of buy, buy, buy, how often do I ignore items I already have?  Plus this will help me realize what I really use and what I don't.

41. Master pie crusts  Complete  :)

      I can make a pie crust, but it can be A LOT better....it's time to practice and get the 'feel' that good pie crust makers have.

42.  Cheesecakes without the cracking  Attempted, will need to try again.

      Poor tortured me, I have to have a cheesecake this year.  How will I ever survive?  Maybe I'll serve it as dessert at the dinner party I've been challenge to have, so I can't overindulge.

43.  Use it or lose it....  Complete  My cooking gadget drawer is full, but it is full of things I use!

       I've switched the hangers in my clothing closet to see what I wear and what just takes up space in there, why not with my gadgets/small appliances?  At the end of the year, I'll donate what I don't use.

44. Come up with 5 ready in under 30 minutes meals  Complete!  and they are really good!

       They can be meals that I make ahead and hang out in the freezer or can be put together with ingredients I keep on hand.

45. 5 items that I currently buy and replace with healthier options (hopefully homemade)

      The more natural I eat, the better I feel..shocking I know, but there are some sneaky things that have added sugar, salt, and preservatives that have easy homemade options.  It's time to seek them out and change...

46. NO FAST FOOD!!!!  (Jamba Juice and healthy options excluded)  I think I ate at a fast food chain twice!!

      I periodically just don't want to cook or don't have time and I fall back on fast food, not often, but I want to eliminate this from my life....  If traveling or out with others, I will choose the best option.

47. A salad for dinner at least once a week  Complete

      Getting more veggies is is never a bad idea

48.  A new recipe a month  Complete

       Who knows, I may find a new favorite or one that I can plug into #44...

49.  More dutch over cooking, especially during the summer  Complete

        This style of cooking is in my heritage and I love it and during the summer, it has the added benefit of not heating up the house....

50.  A cup a tea a day  Update:  I drank more tea in 2016, but not everyday, but I still think this was a success

       I love tea, but have fallen out of the habit of drinking it.  As I am trying to eliminate a bad habit (carbonation), this is a healthy and tasty alternative.

51.  Take a cooking class.  Complete

        Learn something new and get yummy food in the process, I'm in...

Here are the rest of the items that I took off my list and the reason why:

-Perfectly roast a whole chicken..  I have an amazing terra-cotta roasting pan that roasts chicken like you can not believe.  I've had this skill for a while now.

-Break down a chicken...  By roasting chickens periodically and destroying them, I found a video online and learned a while ago.  The key, a very sharp knife.

-Bake bread from scratch..  I very seldom buy bread from the store anymore, because I make it from scratch

-Clean out your spice rack...  As part of a New Year cleaning binge, I just did this not realizing it was on the list

-Learn to cut a whole pineapple...  Pineapple makes my mouth itch and tongue swell..staying away for health issues, plus I hear there is a handy item from The Pampered Chef that does an amazing job.

-Perfectly steam rice...  My rice cooker!  This is an item that I will never be without.  It takes the stress away, plus mine cooks other things as well.

-Make Chicken or Vegetable stock..  I have a gallon of homemade veggie stock in my freezer at the moment.  I take the scraps as I cut veggies and put them in a freezer gallon bag and when it gets full, I use that and add herbs and spices.  It cuts down on my trash and it tastes so much better than store bought.

-Make your coffee at home for a month...  I don't drink coffee, never have, and just don't like it.

-Learn to caramelize onions... Another staple in my freezer, I make a big batch and them portion them out and put them freezer.  If dinner is looking a little boring, defrost and ta-da fancy dinner.

-Churn homemade ice cream...  I got an ice cream maker a couple of years ago and have never looked back.  SO MUCH BETTER than store bought.

I'll keep you updated on how this is going and if anyone wants to join me in the cooking class or trying the ethnic food, let me know....

Rumbly in my Tummy...
Melissa
            

Sunday, January 3, 2016

2016 Reading Challenge


My reading challenge of 2015 was one of my favorite adventures of the year and as I approached the end I knew that I had to find another one this year.  I decided pretty quick to read the 'Best Novels Ever Written', but soon found that there are A LOT of book list that do not agree.  There were common denominators on every list, and then I stumbled upon a website called 'The Greatest Books'. It takes 107 different lists and crunched the numbers and came up with a compilation of the Top Books list.  You can even break it down by decades if you choose.  Below is a link if you are curious and want to check it out....


Now, onto my challenge, I decided that if I had read the book in the last 5 years, I did not need to read it again.  My challenge of last year added to the list of the book I do not need to read now.  :)  I'm going to continue my 'book reports' of last year as well....

#1.  In Search of Lost Time by Marcel Proust  COMPLETED 6/25

#2.  Ulysses by James Joyce     COMPLETED
 
        Since I finished my challenge early last year, I started in on this list and chose this to start me out, and realized something really quick, it's a LONG book, but not that hard to read.  I ended up describing it this way, it's the Seinfeld of books.  There are episodes you love and quote and think are hilarious, there are some that are ok and you think it could of been better, and then there are the episodes that you just slog through.  I probably won't ever read it again, but it was a mostly enjoyable 900 plus page read.

#3.  Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes COMPLETED 1/26

#4.  Moby Dick by Herman Melville  COMPLETE 8/27

      I read 'In the Heart of the Sea' last year that was the true story that inspired Melville to write Moby Dick, so it's a nice continuation this year.

#5.  Hamlet by William Shakespeare       COMPLETED

       I read Hamlet periodically, for reasons I don't really understand, so I am counting it read.  I can quote parts of Hamlet's speech that I learned in high school, so needless to say this play has impacted my life.

#6.  War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy  COMPLETED 6/7

#7.  The Odyssey by Homer    COMPLETED 2/21

#8.  The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald  COMPLETED 2/14
     
        I can't believe it's been over 5 years since I read this book!!!  I put it on the list happily.

#9.  The Divine Comedy by Dante Alleghieri  COMPLETED 7/20

#10.  Madame Bovery by Gustave Flaubert      COMPLETED

        Read during my challenge last year.  :)

#11. The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoyevsky  COMPLETED 10/30

#12 . One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez COMPLETED 1/11

#13 . The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain  COMPLETED

         I might reread this for the challenge if I have time.  I love this book...

#14 . The Iliad by Homer  COMPLETED 2/13

#15 . Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov DID NOT FINISH, NOR WILL I EVER attempted 6/10

#16 . Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy     COMPLETED

         Read during the 2015 challenge

#17 . Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoyevsky  COMPLETED 3/17

#18 . Alice's Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll  COMPLETED 4/16

#19 . The Sound and the Fury by William Faulkner   COMPLETED

          My first Faulkner read that made me a fan of his.  I just read this again two years ago..

#20 . Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen     COMPLETED

         Love the book, Love the adaptation with Kiera Knightley, Love Jane Austen....

#21 . The Catcher in the Rye by J. D. Salinger  COMPLETED 5/3

#22 . Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë   COMPLETED

          I unaffectionately call this book, 'Moping Thru the Moors' and tried it again a couple of years ago to see if my opinion had changed, it hadn't....  This book is the reason behind the 5 year rule, I couldn't bear the thought of having to read it again.  The only acceptable version of this book is by Monty Python and is done with nautical flags (trust me, it's hilarious)....

#23 . Nineteen Eighty Four by George Orwell  COMPLETED 5/4

#24 . Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad  COMPLETED 1/17

#25 . To the Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf  COMPLETED 5/17

#26 . Absalom, Absalom! by William Faulkner  COMPLETED 9/14

       Wait a Faulkner book I haven't read?  This is the reason I do these things...

#27 . Middlemarch by George Eliot     COMPLETED

         Another 2015 Challenge book.

#28 . The Trial by Franz Kafka  COMPLETED 6/8

#29 . One Thousand and One Nights by India/Iran/Iraq/Egypt  COMPLETED 6/26

#30 . The Stories of Anton Chekhov by Anton Chekhov  COMPLETED 7/23

#31 . The Red and the Black by Stendhal  COMPLETED 9/29

#32 . Gulliver's Travels by Jonathan Swift  COMPLETED 4/23

#33 . Catch-22 by Joseph Heller  COMPLETED 4/29

#34 . The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck      COMPLETED

        The first paragraph of this book is one of the best, in my opinion, descriptive paragraph in literature.  You can feel the dryness and hopelessness of an area destroyed by drought.

#35 . Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison  COMPLETED 4/17

#36 . The Stranger by Albert Camus  COMPLETED 5/30

#37 . Great Expectations by Charles Dickens  COMPLETED 3/31

#38 . The Aeneid by Virgil  COMPLETED 10/10

#39 . David Copperfield by Charles Dickens  COMPLETED 12/23

#40 . Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf  COMPLETED 8/5

#41 . Beloved by Toni Morrison          COMPLETED

         Oprah either gets the blame or credit, depending on how you look at, for my reading this already.  Before I found challenges, I tried to read all of the Oprah Book Club books.  I am strangely ambivalent about this book...

#42 . The Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer COMPLETE 11/10

#43 . Collected Fiction by Jorge Luis Borges  COMPLETED  8/16

#44 . Leaves of Grass by Walt Whitman  COMPLETED 3/31

#45 . Candide by Voltaire  COMPLETED 4/2

#46 . Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë  COMPLETED 10/18

         I read this a long time ago, so it's on the list to read....

#47 . As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner     COMPLETED

         A third Faulkner book and an incredible read...  If I have time, I'll read this again.

#48 . The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway      COMPLETED

         When I visited Key West in January of 2014, my first priority was to go to Sloppy Joe's and then to the Hemingway House, so yes, I've read this book and yes, multiple times.

#49 . The Complete Stories of Franz Kafka by Franz Kafka  COMPLETED 11/21

#50 . Tristram Shandy by Laurence Sterne  COMPLETED 12/26



If you did the math and subtracted the completed books, you know that I have 37 books on the list to read.  I will be reading other books this year as well, since I should have the time, with H is for Hawk leading that to read list.  I thought I would put them in the book reports as well...

It's an intriguing list to me.  There are some books that are long, but others are pretty short...  I have a feeling I will discover some new loves and put others on my why is this a classic list, but that's the whole point of reading, to me, to discover what you love.....

Well,  I'm off to read....
see you at the end of the first quarter!

Melissa





Friday, January 1, 2016

Here We Go Again...

Hi.

New Year's Resolutions get such a bad rap and a significant number of eye rolls, but I like them, so I am sticking with them and I ask that you don't throw anything at the computer/phone as you read what is coming up in this post....


Here we go for 2016!  (ok, I guess my first one should be to type 2016 within 4 tries....)

#1.  See a movie in a theater once a month.

        I managed to see 3 movies in the theater this year.  THREE!!!  It's not like I didn't have opportunities because I did, I just never seem to make it.  This also seems like a fun resolution to do.

Update:  I saw 15!!!!!!!  It was such a fun thing to do and I found out that I like going to the movies on my own.  I never thought I would say that...

#2.  Daily walk.

       As I went outside today and froze, I was questioning this a bit, but here is the thing, being outside is so dang good for me and an added little boost of exercise is never a bad thing either.  I'm not setting any conditions on this but, trusting that each day, I will make the right choice for me.

Update:  I missed on average 3 days a month but this was a sanity saver this year!

#3.  Celebrate a Weird/non traditional  Holiday a Month

        Why you ask?  Why not?  I found a great website that I made my selections from and have a plan.  I plan on writing about most of the adventures, so it will help keep me writing on here as well.
The link for the website is Here

Update:  I had so much fun with this!  I tried new things, ate new foods, and realized that there is an opportunity to celebrate everyday!

#4.  Validate the People in my life more.

        How often do you tell the people in your life they are loved? doing a good job? or that you appreciate how much they do for you?  I realized I could do a lot better in this.  I'm going to take different forms on how I do this, but I believe this is a good focus for the year.

Update: I did well with texts and phone calls, and I definitely told people what they meant to me, but I realized something this year that I really value the written word.  Sometimes you just need to put it on paper, so I will be incorporating that into my 2017 resolutions...

#5.  Classic Book Challenge

       Yep, the reading challenge is back.....  I LOVED doing this in 2015 and as I was finding my books, I realized one thing, I had not read a ton of the 'Top Books to Read' and in noticing this, I found that there are A LOT of Top 50, Top 100 book lists out there, and was wondering what list to do and then I found it.  This WEBSITE solved my conundrum, due to the fact, the person behind the website crunched all of the data from all of the booklists they could find and statistically ranked the books.  I am going to read the top 50 this year, which seems like a lot, but as you'll see due to last year and a little rule I put in, it's really quite doable.

Update:  I am not going to lie, this was rough....although I found some books that I loved, I also read some books that I never want to read again.

#6.  Don't Relapse on Things I have been Working on

       There is nothing more frustrating that having to start over once again.  My intention in setting this resolution is that I keep moving forward and not stall or slide back on any of the things that I have worked through or have found that keep me in the present.

Update:  I maintained in some areas and considering what I dealt with this year, I am a-ok with this.  Other areas, I moved WAY forward....

#7.  Break a Bad Habit

       I have a couple of bad habits that I want to break, but I am going to focus on one and then see where I'm at.  I may or may not keep you updated on here depending on which one I chose, but know that I am working on improving my life.  :)

Update:  Made progress on one, and completely eliminated one.  WAHOOOOOO!

#8.  Do a Food Challenge

      I found a Food Challenge from the same group that did my Reading Challenge last year and I decided to tackle it.   Here is a LINK to it.  I'm going to tweak it a bit, so there will be more information to come....

Update:  I have 6 items left to do, but this was a fun thing to attempt.

#9.  A Perfect Form Push Up

      Are you ready for a confession?  I struggle (and by struggle, I mean I am unable to do them correctly) with push ups, even the so-called and somewhat insulting (yet, appropriate for me) girl push ups.  It affects my yoga practice; it puts me at risk for injury due to weakness; and at the end of the day just ticks me off!!!  I have been doing research for a bit and have found a program that starts at a very beginner level and builds from there....  Wish me luck, I'm gonna need it.

Update:  I can do 1 really well!!  This was rough, especially with the health adventure I went on this year..

#10.  Bucket List stuff

       Were you getting worried that the item that has been on my Resolution list for the past 4 years wasn't going to make it?  Never fear, here it is....

Update:  Once again, I did ones I did not expect and didn't do ones I thought I would, but I still love this being a resolution, because it keeps it on my radar.

My list seems to get longer each year, but this one has a number of light hearted items, and I went with what felt right.

Here's to another year!
Melissa