Sunday, January 31, 2016

January books

One of the benefits of working at a newspaper is that I come into daily contact with a lot of ideas. We have a monthly columnist who wrote early in January about a book challenge she's been taking part in the last few years, which involves not only tracking the titles of the books you read, but the pages.

For someone who really hates math, I really like statistics (it's what Eric calls one of my consistent inconsistencies), so my first thought was, that is brilliant! And then because Austin Kleon has inspired me to Steal Like An Artist, I decided to make that idea mine. So I've dedicated a couple of pages in my journal for such a list. So far there are only has three entries.

Well, the year is young.

Incidentally, I read all of these books thanks to our library's ebook checkout system. It's frustrating as hell to have to wait for a book you want to read now (what a first world problem), but on the upside, the waiting strengths your character. I guess? At any rate, I am reading more books.

*** MAY contain spoilers, though I'm trying really hard NOT TO. ***

I picked this one entirely based on the author, who, as the cover suggests, wrote "One Day", one of my all-time favorite books EVER OF ALL TIME. I mean, I really love that book. So without reading any customer reviews or really looking into the subject matter, I just went for it.

After I read it, I went online to see what other people thought, and it was just a bunch of variations of Douglas is so boring, why did Connie want to marry him in the first place?, which totally bummed me out because me and Douglas? We are cut from the same uptight cloth, with the minor exception of him being a scientist and me not even understanding science.

So without giving away the entire thing, let me just say that it's an interesting look inside of a marriage, and I did not see that ending coming at all even though I should have, and it was definitely worth the read.

Um, but go read One Day first. ;)

"Attachments" by Rainbow Rowell(324 pages)

Here's another one I read just based on the author -- I loved "Eleanor and Park" -- and so, again, I just added it to my ebook list and waited eight years for it to become available. (Or two months. Who cares?)

I devoured this book in no time at all, which made me sad because I really enjoyed it. It's easy and breezy and beautiful (wait, no, that's Cover Girl make-up, sorry) and just fun to read. I mean, yeah, here's this guy who's paid to read people's emails, which even in 1999 seems a little far-fetched, but what do I know, and then he falls in love with this girl just based on her words, and the she falls in love with him just based on his face. (Crap. That might have been a spoiler.)

Anyway, I loved it. It's, like, candy for sarcastic people who love words.

I really wish I owned this one.

"Landline" by Rainbow Rowell(319 pages)

So let's just say, hypothetically, that you've been acting like a (lovable, awkward) jerk and your husband leaves you behind on Christmas with your two girls to go visit his Mom because you're just going to be working on writing your dream comedy television show anyway.

You with me so far?

And then you go to your childhood home because you're kind of having a breakdown and apparently you have a magic phone in your old bedroom that allows you to talk to said husband TWENTY YEARS AGO when he was merely your boyfriend and your relationship also needed work, and you learn some stuff about yourself and your husband and you realize you have to make a choice.

What's interesting is the wife is the successful, career-driven one and the husband is the one at home with the kids, which is totally a role reversal of what you'd normally get. And Georgie has to make some hard decisions. Are they fair? I don't know. But they are what lots of women have to make. I know my kids and husband are on the short side of my stick sometimes ... and the guilt that produces.

Well, anyway. Again, this is for people who love words and playing with words and words that aren't going to cause you any headaches but will give you a few lovely hours in some alternate universe where magic phones are possible.

I'm a big fan of Rainbow Rowell. I have "Fangirl" on my waiting list and I'm hoping that comes up in February. I would read the phone book if she wrote it. You think I'm kidding, but I'm not.

Pages read: 1,062

Huh. I thought it would be more than that. Math and all. SO HARD.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Homemade ranch dressing

Doesn't this look pretty?
Actually not mine. Public domain photo.
Well, we do what we can.

I made homemade ranch dressing on Saturday, and by Tuesday, we were on our third head of lettuce.

There's been a lot of salads in the Walker household is what I'm saying.

I figured that if it were THIS popular, then I may as well share it. While it's natural and organic (well, if you buy natural and organic ingredients), it's not zero waste -- our recycling plant will take the plastic sour cream container, but not the cardboard/whatever it is buttermilk carton. (It's a misconception that you can recycle anything -- there has to be an actual market for the end-product. Bummer. Money ruins everything.) I'm not really sure what to do about that. I just tried to figure out if those kinds of cartons can be composted, but I'm not finding any info. Anyone know?

Homemade Ranch Dressing

How it's written:
1 cup sour cream
1/2 cup buttermilk
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 large garlic clove, minced
1 tablespoon dried parsley or 3 tablespoons fresh
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
3/4 teaspoon sea salt (or to taste)
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/8-1/4 teaspoon dried dill (to taste)

Combine sour cream, buttermilk and lemon juice in a jar or mixing bowl. Shake or whisk to mix well. Add remaining ingredients and shake or whisk again until well combined. If using a bowl, transfer to a container with lid. Refrigerate one or more hours before using, and taste to adjust seasonings before serving.

For a thicker dip: Increase sour cream by 1/4 cup (or, conversely, add more milk, a little at a time, if a thinner consistency is desired).

Shake well before each use.

How I actually make it:
So the smallest buttermilk I can get at my store is a pint -- that's two cups for us Americans and 500 mL for the rest of the world -- and the percentage of me actually remembering and using 1 1/2 cups in other projects is roughly zero. So! I get two cups of sour cream, dump all that in my jar, then dump in the entire carton of buttermilk. I mean, really, what could happen?

THEN I go crazy and add a glug of lemon juice and start throwing in seasonings pretty much based on my ability to pay attention that day. And honestly, if I add 2 and a half tablespoons of dried parsley instead of the prescribed two (because I'm essentially doubling the recipe, remember), the world is NOT going to end. I find exact measurements for this kind of thing to be more of a guideline than the rule. (Eh, I'm 43. I've learned stuff.)

Oh, and I don't normally have onion powder, so I just add extra garlic powder -- yeah, I have garlic, but I prefer the powder in this recipe.

Um... I think that's it. It's not watery because of the extra buttermilk, but it IS a dressing, not a dip.

My quart of ranch (that's  4 cups for Americans and 1 L for everyone else) is just about gone now, and it's only Wednesday. Who knew this was all it took to get the girls to eat salad?

Bonus ramble:I googled "public domain ranch dressing" so I could find a photo to accompany this little post, since I'm too lazy to walk the three steps into the kitchen, take my container out of the fridge, and then try to make it look nice in a photograph, and THIS was part of the selection:

Maybe Hillary likes ranch?

The internet is so weird, you guys.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

P333: Long weekend capsule wardrobe

You guuuuuuys! Hi! :)

You know how much I love Project 333? I was in the outlet mall in Lincoln City and overheard a lady talking about her work uniform, and I was all, Oh, are you a Project 333-er? and she was like, No! What's that?!, and I was like, 33 items for three months, it's insane except it's amazing, Be More With Less, Courtney Carver. Google it. 

But you can just click this link: Be More With Less. You're welcome.

And P.S., Abby finds it inexplicable that I'm an introvert, yet insist on talking to strangers. Eric just calls it one of my consistent inconsistencies.

Side tracked at the very beginning of a post, now THAT is pointless ramble at its finest, except maybe the point is that P333 is never far from my mind. It's just that it's kind of changed my life and it's fantastic and I love it.

This past weekend, the Walker 4 joined the Walker 24 (missed you, J and Andy and Reid!) for three days of family fun (Christmas House? I Have A Dream House?) in Lincoln City, which means: Hella capsule wardrobe. I have a small Adidas bag and it only holds so much, and that's the way I like it.

I packed:
Black sweatshirt dress
Green leggings
Beige jacket
Santa Clara U long-sleeved T-shirt
Black turtleneck sweater
...And, like, PJs, tech cords, undies and makeup

Sweatshirt dress and green leggings.
I'm getting very bold in my old age.

I wore:
Black ankle boots
Denim jeans
Black long-sleeved T-shirt
Grey pullover sweater
Black scarf
Black coat

...And it turned out I overpacked. I never did wear my beige jacket, and while I wore my (workhorse, favorite) black turtleneck sweater to Mass Saturday night, I really didn't need it, either -- I could have just worn my grey pullover again, holes be damned. (Oh, wait, Mass, sorry, holes be darned! Get it? Because I should darn them! Oh, never mind. I really need more coffee.)

That's not even the only hole. Damn you, Eddie Bauer!

Another plug for a small bag: I can just take that thing into the bathroom with me and have everything I need right there, safe and sound and clean. I really hate putting stuff on, like, the back of toilets or toothpaste-splattered counters. It grosses me out. So I am a big fan is what I'm saying.

Um, and then just in case you're wondering: The weekend included a trip to the outlet mall (I'll write about that when I do my January P333 roundup), lots of time with babies (although Kayden and Logan aren't really babies anymore), lots of time for naps, football games and cards (except not for me), Mass, amazing tamales, not as much coffee as you'd think, and time to just hang out with in-laws and nieces and nephews. Oh, and an extremely alarming white elephant gift exchange. How alarming? Johanna could have gone home with this, if not for Sam, who really took one for the team and also just likes creepy stuff, apparently:

Seriously: How scary is this picture? I've seen Supernatural, I know what's up.
P.S. That's my favorite mother-in-law in the background, apparently not even
worried that those kids are about to kill us.

Anyway, super fun weekend as always. You'd think I'd, like, take some photos of the ocean or something, since Lincoln City is on the Oregon Coast, but nah, too mainstream. Plus I forgot.

The end, I guess.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Random thoughts with a side of I Have A Dream House

Devils Lake, Lincoln City, Ore.

This past weekend was the Walker family Christmas House weekend, more accurately called the I Have A Dream House because we hold it over MLK weekend, not Christmas (not that any of us will ever call it anything besides the Christmas House). Anyway, I was talking to my favorite mother-in-law over ... breakfast? Maybe dinner, and she was all like, I'm sorry you're not doing your pointless rambles any more, and I was all, No, I am, but then it occurred to me that maybe I'm not.

Which made me a little bit sad, honestly, because I love writing pointless ramble.

It's not that I'm not writing, though, so much as my priorities have shifted. When I started the blog, I was working 20 hours a week and was looking for an excuse to use up some words. Now I'm up to 32 to 35 hours a week, we're knee-deep in basketball season for both girls, and I tend to gravitate towards my journals rather than the computer.

'Cause I can't always get on the computer. Well, school work and all. It's kind of hard to toss your fifth grader off the computer when she needs to do Splash Math.

Hey, irony: Johanna is lurking because she needs the computer to do homework. What do kids do if they don't have a computer at home? I have no idea.

All this is to say that I have no plans to actually give up the blog; I just might not be posting as much as I used to.

So... I'm going to let Johanna use the computer now, and I will come back soon to tell you how I packed for our three-day weekend (spoiler alert: I overpacked, although it didn't feel like it at the time I was throwing clothing into my bag).

We're cool, right?

Monday, January 11, 2016

A Christmas wish fulfilled

There’s something very stressful about goldfish.

Eric had the bright idea this Christmas of gifting Johanna a fish tank. She had been begging for a puppy this year, but recently gave up on that front and began lobbying for goldfish.
I can only assume this is because of the repeated number of times she has been told that our family does better with pets that ignore us, i.e. cats. Look, I don’t even have houseplants. There are reasons for this.

Goldfish technically do ignore you, so that’s a plus, but they are also notoriously fond of keeling over quickly, which is a strike in the “downside” column.
So much relaxation!

Another downside: Having to pick up the pieces of a heart broken over a fish.
But oh, the look on her face Christmas morning when she unwrapped the tank, the joy of arranging the decorations just so — should this plant go by the barrel or the sign? — and the happiness of finally bringing Gumball and Darwin home.
(Gumball and Darwin, incidentally, from The Amazing World of Gumball, a cartoon-ish kind of ordeal that Johanna cannot get enough of.)
It was enough to make me think that maybe this was a good idea after all.
Erring on the side of caution and practicality, we’ve explained to the child that goldfish do not have long lives, and at 28-cents each, are exceedingly replaceable. 
“You might go through a lot of fish,” I warned.
“That’s okay!” she chirped. 
I was hopeful that the lesson had sunk in when she made a list of 30 potential names — enough for a year’s worth of fish, I’m assuming — until it occurred to me that she was just excited and this was her way of coping with the wait to go to the store.
“You might want to keep a hold of that list,” Eric said. 
"I will!" she beamed. "I wrote it in my journal!"

"That's Darwin," Johanna says confidently. Then pauses. "Or THAT is Darwin."

Still, between the idea and the reality falls the shadow. (T.S. Eliot knew what he was talking about.)
“Abby said not to get too attached,” Johanna told me after a conversation with her sister on the way home from the store, “but I think it’s too late.”
I’m happy to report that Gumball and Darwin have managed to survive an entire two weeks Johanna’s watchful eye. She finds them entertaining and relaxing, and likes to give minute-by-minute updates: Darwin is a bit of an explorer, while Gumball likes to hide behind the plants. They both like the barrel feature.
But while she thinks her new pets are enchanting, the rest of us find them nerve-wracking. The Walker family is on high-alert, with our collective fingers’ crossed that Gumball and Darwin manage to live … well, a little longer.
Maybe we should have just let her get a dog.

Sunday, January 3, 2016

Happy New Year!

I found this creepy New Year's Baby -- selling lumber, no less -- in our
January 1916 archives. It takes someone much stronger than me to pass
this kind of thing by.

I had a roommate in college who liked to joke that partying hard on Saturday night meant she'd be praying to the porcelain gods* Sunday morning. I could never figure out why you would do something on purpose to yourself that would ultimately leave you hurling in the bathroom, but I've always been a bit too practical, which is why that element of college was lost on me.

All of this is to say that I was reminded of my roommate Saturday, when I found myself praying to the porcelain gods with frevor.

Without getting too graphic, let's just say that a flu bug of some sort is ripping its way through the house. Johanna came down with it on Tuesday, and I'd hoped that the rest of us would be spared, although that looked pretty unlikely when my stomach started churning Saturday morning. (I went from fine to NOT fine in like an hour. Wut?)

But okay, that still leaves Eric and Abby, right?

Except Eric is on the couch laying down watching football. This wouldn't be alarming except A) Eric NEVER lays down on the couch and 2) Eric actually never relaxes at all -- he's always up doing stuff, even if a game is on.


So it's been one hell of a new year is what I'm saying.

Also: Why did we all get flu shots again? I forget.

*In case it doesn't translate, "praying to the porcelain gods" is a euphemism for throwing up. I think we've all learned something today, don't you?