I’m putting the last touches on my 2017 book list– there were too many books for which I jotted down only the titles before they went back to the library. Now I’m adding in dates, noting whatever impressions of them remain in my head, and finding their place in the list. Next year, I mean this year, I’m going to try a spreadsheet so it’s easier to put in order.
The first book I finished reading in 2018 is Mitali Perkins’ You Bring the Distant Near.
The writing is so assured– the characters seem real, like we’re just dipping in as the three generations live their lives. The resolutions do mostly involve romance, in a way that makes me wonder if Perkins is a Jane Austen fan. (Or maybe it’s just that Sanguinity and I watched the 1995 Sense and Sensibility last night while we waited for the new year.)
It’s been a peaceful holiday season. Christmas was with Sanguinity’s parents, which feels traditional now– eating cookies and reading Yuletide fic on the sofa-bed upstairs while televised football filters up from below. My favorite kidlit-fic this Yuletide is “Completion”, by oxfordRoulette (2106 words). It’s about Lirael from Garth Nix’s Old Kingdom series; it has domesticity and refuge, two of my favorite themes. It’s post-canon, so I did miss the Dog.
It’s been a season of good food, too– I made fudge, and Sang gave me a tofu cookbook and made ma po tofu for us. The sun has been shining. I think I’m ready for 2018. Best hopes and wishes for us all!
I wish I could post smells, because this is Pesto-Making Weekend and it’s sooooo fragrant. I supplemented our garden basil with some from Trader Joe’s, but once the garden harvest was in a heap on the kitchen floor I saw it was more than I expected. Pesto will be abundant this winter, hooray! (We freeze it in ice cube trays, sans parmesan.)
Sanguinity made onion gravy last night and that smell was also heavenly. We ate it on fries, poutine without the cheese curds. (The last few times I tried buying cheese curds, they did not squeak when bitten! I was disappointed.) Right now I’m making mashed potatoes for the leftover gravy.
I learned on Tumblr tonight that Merriam-Webster has a Time Traveler feature where you can look up which words and phrases were born (er, first used in print) in a given year. Here are a few the same age I am:
Surprises from my mom’s era: it says poster child and private eye were both new in 1938.
I slacked off on my A words in ASL and got a B instead of an A on my vocabulary notebook. D: Back to the A word mines!
When I got home from school, I walked in to the smell of bacon. Sanguinity was baking potatoes, to be served with bacon and sour cream and cheese, oh wow. They weren’t quite ready yet, so we had leftover black beans with a fried egg on top while we waited.
I don’t know how much of my relationship with this black bean recipe is that it fits our household very well, and how much of it is that we love it so much that we run the household to fit it. But I don’t have my usual inertia about getting out the food processor for it, and there are always three cans of black beans in the cupboard.
Fry up bacon. We use the cast iron skillet and cook three slices plus a little more to eat while cooking.
While the bacon is frying, dice an onion.
Remove the bacon from the pan and chop it up. Cook the onion in the bacon fat with some cumin.
While the onion is cooking, get a chipotle or two out of the freezer. (Chipotles in adobo sauce come in a can. When you open a can, freeze the chiles you don’t use on a cookie sheet, each with a blob of sauce on it, and store them in the freezer in a plastic bag.)
Drain three cans of black beans. Whirl them and the chipotle in the food processor. It’s okay to add a little water if you need it to make it all process smoothly.
Put the bean glop in the pan with the onions, and stir in the bacon. Let it rest over low heat, stirring now and then, until it’s all mixed and warmed through.
Serve with corn tortillas. Cheese, cilantro, sour cream, green taco sauce, and fried eggs are all optional but welcome additions. (I just had Sanguinity proofread this recipe, and she says Tapatio sauce, not green taco sauce!)
I’m pretty sure this came from a Cook’s Illustrated library book, though I didn’t find it on the internet in a cursory search. I know the chipotle tip did, and that book is also why our freezer usually has rolled-up uncooked bacon strips, tablespoon-sized blobs of tomato paste, and whole ginger root in it.
Twenty years after we told the insurance guy we would take care of it soon, our house is no longer covered in battered gray asphalt shingles. Instead it’s this color:
which is called “smoky salmon” and looks a lot more orange and less pink, on the house. Maybe. It changes. The trim is “restoration ivory” and has a touch of spring green in it. All in all, a huge change for our formerly quite scary-looking house. I keep thinking the porch light is on, but it’s just the glowy light-colored paint.
Considering that I did not do the actual work, it’s amazing how stressful I found the re-siding (and painting and rebuilding some of the porch where it was sagging) process. Multiple people right there at the house all the time, and way too many decisions. Sanguinity managed the bulk of it while I hid at the office, and I am very grateful.
To show my appreciation on one of those days, I made her a ridiculous dish from the side of a Triscuit box!
Cranberry & Sage Candied Sweet Potato is made with Cranberry & Sage Triscuits (review), which I bought because they were clearly a leftover holiday item and might never come back. They’re weirdly sweet but tasty. And turns out, when you mash them into crumbs and dump them on top of a baked sweet potato with butter and brown sugar, that is also weirdly sweet but tasty!
Dear person who ordered a blueberry bagel with honey butter this morning,
I discovered when I got to my desk that I had your bagel. It was the only one on the counter when I picked it up, which probably means you had just left with my order, a nine-grain bagel with salmon cream cheese. The two are very different, but turns out I was okay with the bagel fate dealt me. I hope you were too.
I actually followed the serving suggestion off a Triscuit box. (We have mint growing out back.)
It was good despite not looking as styled as the photo. Then I finished off the bag of frozen peas by adding them to mac and cheese.
Asali Solomon’s Disgruntled is funny and sad and a coming-of-age novel, but I worry it will fall through the genre cracks because it follows its protagonist, Kenya, from age eight to twenty, and so isn’t sold as YA.
Naomi Shihab Nye’s The Turtle of Oman is slow in a wonderful way. You can get a sense of it from her hilarious-in-parts interview with Roger Sutton. My favorite part was a camping trip in the desert that felt, and feels, eternal.
Every year at St. Patrick’s Day, I’m like, “This soda bread is so good! I should make it more than once a year.” And we eat it all up and don’t make it again until a year later when it’s St. Patrick’s Day again.
Now, thanks to buttermilk having been sold out in every size but the half-gallon when we bought our St. Patrick’s Day groceries, I have used some of the leftover to MAKE ANOTHER BATCH of soda bread. It’s in the oven right now!
Conversely, this past Saturday was Canyon Day at Reed, when students and alumni and neighbors get together to pull invasives, plant natives, and improve trails. I was with Sanguinity when I saw the announcement and said, “I should go this year.” She pointed out that I have said that for about 25 years now, @ twice per annum. I don’t think I once said it without expecting I’d go. It’s often written in on my calendar. But I’ve never gone and I didn’t go this time either. I will now stop thinking of myself as someone who goes to Canyon Day.
I saw this on The Impulsive Buy and immediately wanted to give it to the anthropologists from space. It has everything.
The holidays arrived and I was like HEY I SHOULD MAKE FOOD PRESENTS, but of course what came to mind was something I’d never tried before. Rose-flavored meringues, you guys! Pink, and maybe in the shape of roses, delicate yet shippable, and related to Portland.
I made my first attempt over the weekend, with one of the eggs from my co-worker’s happy pampered hens. One egg makes a whole cookie sheet of meringues. But they were missing deliciousness. The rose flavoring was from food-quality distilled rose, um, stuff, but it needed another note to ground it. Vanilla? Cardamom? Lemon?
Also, I used powdered sugar, because Joy of Cooking said either powdered or granulated was okay, but I think granulated would make the taste and texture sparkle a little more.
I had a vague idea that cutting the corner off of a plastic bag and squeezing meringue out of it would magically enable me to make rose shapes, but it enabled me to make piles of pink toothpaste instead. Or pink sparkly unicorn poop.
Maybe I’ll have the perfect recipe ready for next Christmas.
My other idea was hazelnut and dried-cherry granola– Pacific Northwest ingredients, right? and not as sweet as the meringues. I found a recipe, but when it was time to go to the store I was like, wheat germ and sesame seeds and hazelnuts and oatmeal and this recipe lady likes to use a mix of quick and rolled oats? When I am going to Trader Joe’s which has perfectly delicious varieties of granola in a box anyway? It seemed kind of pointless. I think I’ll go back to specializing in three-ingredient recipes.
So there you have it, the things I won’t be sending out for the holidays and can blab about on the internet!
I had a hankering for orange cheez powder, as in Kraft mac and cheese or cheap cheese crackers, so last night I tried cheez-flavored rice cakes, and ate some store-brand cheesy crackers, and also had some tuna mac (except it turns out we didn’t have any tuna in the cupboard, so I put in frozen peas instead). Then–it was about 8:30–I decided I needed a ten-minute nap. Then–a little after 10:00–Sanguinity came home from work and found me still zonked out on the couch, so groggy I couldn’t sit up, with a killer headache.
This morning I was still not at my best. I was not doing well at getting out the door to catch a bus. I spilled cherries and blueberries all over the kitchen floor. My travel mug leaked coffee. I missed another bus.
“I need help,” I finally said to Sanguinity. “Can I ask you for a ride?”
“I don’t know. Anywhere. Somewhere with a bus stop that’s closer in.”
Sang said I was having a Judith Viorst morning.
This evening I was curious to know if last night’s problem was just a big blood-sugar swing or specific to cheez powder. I ate a serving of the cheezy rice cakes. (Sang tried one last night and said her immediate impulse was to spit it out. It’s an incredibly intense cheez-powder delivery platform.) The back of my head felt a little fizzy. I like the rice cakes, but the rest of them are going out to the compost.
Mr. Liu estimates that about one-third of all consumer reviews on the Internet are fake.
I feel validated in my habit of reading only the three-star reviews on Amazon, though I’m sure that strategy will be gamed sooner or later, if it hasn’t been already.
Is it coincidence that Amazon sent me an email today to say someone found one of my reviews helpful and would I like to review these other things in my order history? I have 289 “helpful” votes, actually, so I have to wonder: why now?
I’ve written a few dozen Amazon reviews, but tapered off when I decided I wasn’t so thrilled about providing Amazon with free content. I’m much happier doing that for Powell’s, but I can’t shake the feeling that they don’t want to hear anything but the positive. For sure some of my reviews would never be chosen for the Daily Dose.
I use LibraryThing to collect my eleven favorite books every year, and don’t want to add books I’m iffy about or didn’t finish to my shelves there. And Goodreads pissed me off by emailing my contacts without adequate warning.
So I guess this has been the long way to say I’ll just be telling you all about what I’m reading and/or throwing across the room.
Right now I’m halfway through James White’s Hospital Station, the 1962 beginning to an SF series about a hospital in space that treats lots of alien species. There are no women or females of any kind so far, nor is this remarked on. Oh, wait, there was an alien mother, but she died in the backstory. However, this meant that the first episode in the book was about the formidable challenges of taking care of an (alien) infant, and they were taken seriously.
Reading this book reminds me of the days when I picked randomish things off the shelves at the library and read them. If the author was having fun thinking up the next kind of alien we might meet, that was good enough for me. I didn’t feel like I had so much more time then, but I acted like it.
I’m also reading Junot Diaz’ story collection Drown that writeswrongs loaned me. I avoided Diaz for a couple of years because everyone was talking about him, but now I’m converted. I feel weird favoring the story that I identify with personally, but the one with the kid who always gets carsick, I love that story.