Monday, January 28, 2013

Further adventures with sourdough and sweaters

I gave up on sourdough and bought frozen pizza instead. Picture taken below at Grocery Outlet, care taken to display HM's enthusiasm while maintaining his anonymity.

I'm just kidding! I made Cathy Erway's Spent Grain Sourdough from Not Eating Out in New York. The recipe, as far as I can tell, does not say when to add the salt, and so I forgot to add the salt. The result was a reminder of what salt does in a bread recipe. Well, okay, I actually don't know, but it has something to do with science and helps the bread rise. Bread dough that is supposed to have salt, without salt, yields flat bread.

Here it is before the second rise.

I believe the purpose of that photo was that I planned to write something about, "Kitchen Day," an entire day devoted to tackling ambitious kitchen projects all at once and then not worrying about them for an entire week, and the mess that results yet is cleaned up while everything is in the oven.

Still flat, before going in the oven. I hoped for some oven rise.

It looks exactly the same, except that it's on a cooling rack.

The bread was very dense and neither of the residents of this house considered it a favorite. HM kept pointing out that, "it doesn't taste like sourdough," which again makes me wonder if my starter isn't ideal. But all of the starters involving milk sitting at room temperature for days or juice weird me out a little bit.

Before I write off this recipe, however, I am going to try it again with salt.

As for sweaters, I'm almost finished with the back of the Selfish Sugarcane Shell. I had to start a second skein of yarn and was concerned until I realized I had actually purchased three skeins of Araucania Ruca Multy, not two. It looks like the shell won't be finished by the end of Selfish Knitting Month, and I did not start any other selfish projects. I haven't decided yet if I'll keep working on the shell exclusively in February, or if I'll start another selfish/de-stashing project in addition to gifts that must be completed by a deadline. Gift recipients include babies and some friends to whom I have promised ribbon embroidery for the last two years.

Some bloggers would end a semi-dull project possible-no-one-but-me-cares-about-this post with a question for the readers, such as, "Is anyone else doing Selfish Knitting Month? What are your adventurous projects for 2013?", but this feels very inorganic to me. It's not that I don't care; I do! but this just doesn't seem like the kind of blog to end many posts with questions.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

How's "getting back on track" working out?

Well, first of all, I planned on writing this blog post last night on Tuesday night, and I did not even start it.

I did pretty well at my Freedom from Recipes resolution for the week. On Saturday night I made lentil soup with different healthy things we had lying around, and it was so delicious I wrote down what I did.

I ended up making three recipes from my "to try" list, which were baked yogurt chicken from Pure Simple Cooking, a very delicious cabbage apple side dish from Eating Appalachia, and Spent Grain Sourdough from Not Eating Out in New York. Which I guess warrants another update on The Year of Sourdough and Advanced Sweaters. More on that later.

Isn't this fascinating?

The point is, even though I didn't totally break free of my obsessive need to construct and follow a recipe to-do list, I did manage to stop myself from measuring every little thing. Stop it, Sarah I'd say, inwardly. Put that measuring cup away. It's just another dish to wash. You know how to cook. On Monday [which was Kitchen Day instead of Closet Day (as if anyone who isn't me is paying that close attention to my personal madeup schedule--You didn't do Kitchen Day on Sunday! I'm done with this blog!)], I made the chicken, the bread, the cabbage, and a completely madeup-as-I-went balsamic roasted squash and onion garlic swiss chard feta pearl barley lunch salad. I prepped some stuff so that the next day I could add white beans and swiss chard to some leftovers and make it a pasta dish.

No day was Closet Day, yet I still managed to put on clothes every single day this week. Imagine that.

All right, this is boring; who cares; moving on. EssStress still has its suffocating grip on me. I feel like I'm constantly caffeinated, even when I'm not, but mostly, I am. Everything seems funny. I don't know if I'm seeing the humor in life, or if I'm just losin' it. When I'm calm, such as when I am riding the bus, waiting for the bus, or walking (so basically, outdoors or near a window), I find myself dreamingly framing shots, as though my mind is a camera taking ephemeral Polaroids of the red of the Broadway Bridge with the red of Union Station beyond, the moody gray skies overhead crisscrossed by damp black branches, and the reflection of faces and lights superimposed on these sights by the glass of a bus window. Everything seems beautiful. I don't know if I'm seeing the poetry in life, or if I'm just losin' it.

How's the essay working out? I'll answer that question with a story.

Since the beginning of last week, I have been thinking about a specific episode of a carton from the 80's that I watched as a kid. I can't remember which show it was, possibly Adventures of the Little Koala. If anyone remembers this episode and what show it came from, please speak up! Anyway, it was an episode in which some magic thing made ice cream flavors out of everyone. For example, a sweet person would push the button and the resulting ice cream would be very sweet. Everyone's favorite ice cream flavor was based off of the main character, quite possibly The Little Koala himself. (I have since Googled the show, and his name was actually Roobear.) Everyone raved about how great it was, so he tried it, and was frustrated that to him it tasted like nothing. Then everyone tasted their own ice cream flavors, and found that they tasted like nothing.

The topic of the personal statement is basically me, and it makes me think of that 80's cartoon episode. I can't determine what is interesting or not about myself, in the same way that Roobear could not taste Roobear-flavored ice cream.

When I told this story to Handsome Man, he looked at me like he was truly nervous, and I realized this was perhaps not the brilliant metaphor I had been deluding myself to think it was for an entire week.

How's the essay working out? Well. Did you know you can get stress pink eye? I told you about the stress bloat on Saturday. Stress headaches are well-known, as is stress-induced nausea, indigestion, and a host of other stomach ailments. Over the weekend, I had stress vertigo. For four days. I realized it was only stress and not something serious when fresh air and a walk cleared up the whole thing on Monday. On Wednesday I woke up with my eyelashes stuck together, and I realized I had contracted stress pink eye...or it's time to throw out my purple gel eyeliner.

On Thursday morning, as I was locking the front door of my building, I suddenly realized I did not know exactly what time it was and had not checked Transit Tracker, so I did not know the exact arrival time of my bus, either. I did not know if the bus was arriving in two minutes (which means, run and I still might not get it) or five minutes (power walk) or eight minutes (take your time.)

Panic surged through my body like a bright blue electric current that instantly held my bones and blood vessels in a strong, heavy grip. Would I get the bus!? Then I laughed at myself. Get a grip! It's the bus. You're not about to walk into a job interview!

It was as though I was in such high stress mode that I greeted small, daily events with as much stress as the life-altering tasks and decisions ahead of me. I should say, "lives-altering," as whatever I do now and decide this spring will affect the future and geography of Handsome Man.

For example, typing an e-mail this week, I noticed at one point, while shifting in my chair, a feeling of unease that my seat belt wasn't where I expected it to be. What seat belt?! I was in a desk chair, not a car! I don't even drive a car that much anymore; I walk and ride a bus or streetcar where there are no seat belts.

When I at one point voiced the concern that this level of stress about a two-page essay did not indicate good things about the stress level I would show toward much greater volumes of work next year, my kind co-worker objected that this future work would only be for a grade, whereas the work I am doing stressfully right now determines much more than a grade; it determines school acceptance and where my husband and I will live. That kind (future) husband who has repeatedly voiced his indifference to our future geography, his willingness to follow, his insistence that I not include his future in my stressful thoughts.

I'm posting this on Sunday, and I do not feel that same level of stress that I did when I drafted this post throughout the week. I spent Saturday watching Mad Men in pajamas and knitting. I left the apartment only to check the mail, where I found a letter and viewbook from Cornell. The application to Cornell is due on Friday, and since most of what I have to prepare for Cornell is similar to what I will have to prepare for the schools with February 15th and March 1st deadlines, I expect (hope) Friday to mark the end of this particular stressful period.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

The theme of this upcoming week is, "Get back on track."

The title is something that I just wrote on the back of my shopping list, which contains simple essentials such as, "potatoes," "lots of greens," "more onions."

Beginning in October, when I came home from a visit to New Jersey, then begun again with renewed vigor upon my return from Hawaii, and finally, with the New Year and the end of the holidays, with and even stronger beginning, I have been following what I fondly refer to my Anal Retentive Weekly Schedule that I designed for myself at the cusp of 2009 when I was trying to get organized to both enjoy my dull life in a town where I knew no one and be prepared, at short notice, to pack up and move to start a new life somewhere else.

The schedule has been in my Google Calendar ever since, even though I ignore it more often than I follow it. In October, I decided to try it again, and have found that it really works for me. By only focusing on one category of chores or projects a day, and allowing myself to ignore other categories because I know I have a whole other day dedicated to them, my productivity and peace of mind increases exponentially.

The schedule is as follows:

Sunday: Kitchen Day
Monday: Closet Day
Tuesday: Desk/Papers Day
Wednesday: Clean the Bathroom Day*
Thursday: Crafts Day
Friday: Catch-up/Fun Day
Saturday: Reading Day

* Recently, when pondering this schedule, I thought, "There was a Hygiene Day. Where's Hygiene Day!?" Then I realized that Wednesday, an entire day dedicated to just the bathroom, was very likely my own 2009-era secret code for, "Hygiene Day," the day designated for tasks such as mustache, underarm, and leg waxing; eyebrow tweezing; and any other related category; hidden under this code name of "Clean the Bathroom"--because of course I would clean the counters after messing them up with an at-home waxing kit!--in case I dropped dead or disappeared or fell ill and someone had to clean out my apartment and somehow this involved accessing my Google Calendar and my ghost would be embarrassed that they found all that hair removal on a to-do list. Except now I've just told the whole Internet, so sorry, 2009-era Sarah.

I could dedicate pages and pages to this schedule, to what I do each day, but I really have to finish that shopping list and what my ideas are for a week devoted to "getting back on track." I also have to get to the market before it closes at 1:00, or that shopping list will have been for naught.

I do want to share with you that last week, I began to publicly sing the praises of my Anal Retentive Weekly Schedule. It was no longer the hidden secret of an overly organized soul trapped in a body in a home that housed a chaotic office and nonsensical desk. The weeks of adhering to this schedule, even with lapses such as my week of the flu and my second week of a different flu-like bug, had yielded a house that, once cleaned in preparation for a Saturday night gathering, miraculously stayed clean. Aside from hiding the Take-to-Goodwill pile in a bedroom, the house was cleaned without the employment of such tactics as, "Hide all that crap in a closet!" and "That closet's full, so you can use my office closet for that junk!" My office, the room in which I had given up hope completely, was not only clean and open to the public, but my office closet was also clean; its door open throughout the duration of the get-together.

Last week, I also noticed a difference in how my clothes fit.

I have a theory about women's clothing sizes. When I reach my midwinter chunky stage or a phenomenon that I will address in a later paragraph, I am often cautioned not to "up-size." "Don't up-size!" people will tell you, wagging a finger sometimes even literally. I disagree. I find that I and possibly other women have a small range of sizes into which we fit.

Three sizes, to be precise. Rather than proclaim my pants size in the same post in which we discussed my hair removal schedule, I will refer to these sizes in letters. Size B is the size in which I fit most of the time. Size B is a good, comfortable place to be. Occasionally I find myself in Size A! Size A is one size down from B, and boy do I feel hot! I used to hope I would stay at A, that A would become the New B, and I'd never have to worry about Size C again!

Size C is the biggest size in my wardrobe. It is one size above B. When I am "up-sizing," I put on my Size C clothes. When I'm a Size B, I still can wear my Size C clothes, but they're loose and comfortable. When I'm a Size A, the Size C clothes start to slide off or bunch in ways that makes the zippers come undone. I used to panic when I found myself a Size C. I do not anymore. I have come to accept that my weight fluctuates between these three sizes. Size C is not the end of the world, but a thing that happens typically when I am under stress.

On Christmas Eve, I noticed that my Size C clothes were no longer loose, btu fit perfectly. If they started to get tight, then I might panic. I stated that this was not of fear of getting fat, just that a new Size D wardrobe wasn't in the budget, time- or money-wise. I joked about not even trying on any Size B clothes for awhile. Only a few weeks later, with both holiday stress gone and a commuting schedule that involved approximately two miles of walking per day, I found myself ready to try Size B again.

What a difference a week can make. Last week, the Size B Triumphant Week, I began to work intensely on my law school applications. I set myself the made-up goal of having at least Cornell and Georgetown finished by the end of last week. This was accomplished aside from my personal statement, the most difficult piece. The personal statement consumed this week, and I believe the personal statement is responsible for my Anal Retentive Weekly Schedule and all of its benefits having gone to hell.

For example, two of the five evenings this week, I ate cookies for dinner. Plus some brie.

Another day, I ate a bowl of cereal and a piece of candy. And some cheddar.

This visual representation will further make my point. Below is a picture of my closet at the beginning of last week.

Note the color-coded hanging sweater shelves. Note how the sweaters are filed, rather than stacked, like something I saw on Pinterest. They are arranged based on sleeve length, with the long-sleeved and three-quarter-sleeved, the ones I am most likely to wear in winter, on top and most accessible. Next to the hanging sweater shelves are at least five outfits for the week. Each hanger contains the top and bottom, as well as socks or tights and other accessories, including earrings and necklaces attached to the hanger or stuck through the tag of one of the garments.

And this is a picture of my desk on Monday evening:

This is just one corner. The whole desk was equally covered with crap.

And finally, by the end of the week, the week which began with a Closet Day, a Closet Day in which I laid out seven outfits consisting of Size B clothing, it returned. The dreaded phenomenon I previously stated I would describe in a later paragraph. The later paragraph is here, and so is the phenomenon....the dreaded Stress Bloat. When I am under stress, it does not matter how skinny I am, what I am eating, or how much I walk or run. I can't run from the Stress Bloat. I know it is Stress Bloat and not Cookies for Dinner Bloat when I wake up in the morning a Size A and by evening, I am exploding out of a pair of Size C jeans, a veritable eruption of muffin top.

And so, this week will be devoted to Getting Back on Track. The Anal Retentive Weekly Schedule will be ignored no longer. A second draft of my essay will be complete and possibly turned in to Cornell and Georgetown. Rather than attempt to try complicated recipes on Kitchen Day, I will trust the instincts and intuitions gained from weeks of trying new recipes and with basic potatoes, onions, greens, grains, and beans, make some simple, healthy meals. I am liberating myself from Recipe Stress so that I can focus more on my essay...Essay Stress. EssStress, even.

I will make these simple meals in advance, pack them and bring them all to work on Tuesday, and prepare my outfit-hangers so that each weekday, the only thing I will have to worry about is pulling a ready-made outfit off of a hanger, walking to the streetcar and walking from the streetcar home, reheating lentil-potato-cabbage-etc-soup for dinner, and writing my essay.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

The Year of Sourdough and Adventurous Sweaters: Sweater Update #1

If this year has a theme, it is Sourdough and Adventurous Sweaters. This is figurative as well as literal--although I have not quite yet figured out how it is figurative.

I do plan on tackling projects both neglected for years, or more advanced versions of projects I normally attempt. I plan on trying new things and on following through to completion otherwise neglected lists and items. As far as concerns the theme of Adventurous Sweaters, I plan to finally knit with the yarn I have been storing, complete projects in hibernation that are taking up valuable needle space, and make things - even if it involves purchasing more yarn - from the patterns and books I have purchased in the last few years yet not used, beyond looking at the pictures.

A further addendum to my writing from earlier in the week is that life is too short not only to read bad magazines and bad books, but pointless Facebook feeds.

January is considered Selfish Knitting Month, the month that knitters, after working overtime on holiday gifts, devote time to projects for themselves. I have never celebrated this month before, but this year I have decided to try. It coincides well with my "adventurous sweater" theme. The first project is what I have titled my Selfish Sugarcane Shell. The pattern is the Petrie shell from Knitty.com...and I just became temporarily distracted Googling "shell" to make sure I'm not the only person in the world who uses that term for that style of sleeveless shirt, or that it's not actually the name of a different type of garment. The yarn is Araucania Ruca Multy, a yarn made from sugarcane. I found it at Isle Knit in Honolulu, a wonderful store which I highly recommend visiting, this past November. As a side note, if you do go to Isle Knit, walk a few blocks to 202 Merchant St, where you will find, inside of a convenience store, Ice Forest Shave Ice Wonderland, which specializes in Taiwanese shave ice and is a bit different from other shave ice places in the city. When I visited, the only other customers were locals, and one asked me how I had heard about the place, and that it was his favorite shave ice place on the whole island. (How I found it was Yelp. See, smart phones really can help you engage more, not less, with the real physical world!)

The shell was going well, I'd even say swell, until the following happened:

I know about dropped stitches and other mistakes, but this was new to me. After plastering this picture on the Internet and sending it to my mother, to show to her knitting group, I learned that I had accidentally added a stitch, making a buttonhole in the middle of the back of the sweater, which might have been okay if it remained a one-stitch-sized hole. But since I thought it was a dropped stitch, I attempted to fix it as if it were a dropped stitch, and when that merely moved the hole down a row each time, I tried so many different variations of pulling and looping nearby stitches that I turned the tiny hole into a bigger, more conspicuous mess of a hole. It could not be ignored. The answer, sadly, was only to rip out my work to that point and start over.

I was very unhappy when about six inches of sweater turned back into two inches, but a few episodes of Mad Men later, and my sweater is back to the length it was twenty-four hours ago, but without any misplaced buttonholes.

For more Selfish Knitting Month updates, feel free to friend me on Ravelry. My username is monotropa.

I hope to post more updates here. Aside from sweaters, I hope to tackle stranded knitting so that I can finally make these Fiddlehead Mittens, and I hope to get back into sewing as I used to be. I also hope to complete some ribbon embroidery projects, especially as gifts for people.

Tuesday, January 08, 2013

Miscellany of further thoughts from Sunday night

Upon realizing how few of Le Guin's works I have read, and how many are left to be read, as well as books by other authors I want to read, the thought occurred to me that too many great things to read exist; therefore life is too short to waste time reading stupid things, like irritating opinion blogs, uninformative and ill-researched web articles, magazines with gimick-y covers and headlines, or bad novels. Life is similarly too short to waste watching TV in which I am not really interested when I could be reading a good book, listening to a good audiobook or podcast, or watching a good movie or TV show. This excludes reading light literature or watching trashy TV as a means of de-stressing. That serves a purpose and is not a waste of time as long as it continues to do so.

I also begun a second sourdough adventure just before leaving to catch my streetcar to Powell's. Sunday's Second Sourdough Saga was bread, the recipe from the same book as the starter and hotcakes recipes, Lowbush Moose (And Other Alaskan Recipes) by Gordon R. Nelson. The recipe requires that twenty-four hours elapse between certain steps, so the dough could not become bread until Monday night. Handsome Man actually baked the loaves, as they had to rise an hour after I shaped them and then bake an hour; I fell asleep too early.

I would like to note that the loaf at the top was shaped into a thin baguette before the second rising. It expanded THAT MUCH.

The bread is good, with a great crust and soft, fluffy bread inside, but it's missing the real sourdough taste, and I might also be not that crazy about white bread. So I plan to try other recipes. 2013 will be the Year of Sourdough and More Advanced Sweaters.

Also please note the beautiful Oregon and Washington table cloth we got for Christmas. It is probably one of my favorite gifts of the year. I always eye up the flour sack towels with this motif and was not even aware that the tablecloth existed!

Thoughts after the Ursula K. Le Guin reading

I thought I had written down more.

On Sunday night, I went to Powell's by myself for a reading, Q&A session, and signing with Ursula K. Le Guin. If you don't know who she is, hit Ctrl+T and read this review before resuming this post. Words to describe her, such as "brilliant writer of literary science fiction," seem trite or flat, especially after seeing the funny, down-to-earth person that she is.

Of her oeuvre, I am pitifully poorly-read. I have read none of her poetry and none of her new work aside from Tehanu and the Earthsea books it precedes (as well as the original trilogy.) It was late in 2012 upon reading The Left Hand of Darkness, a science fiction novel which takes place on a planet of genderless humans, that I began to see that her work is more than simply good science fiction or fantasy. It is literature. Science fiction and fantasy allow Le Guin and her readers to explore topics such as gender in ways which "realistic" fiction would not permit.

The opening pages of The Left Hand of Darkness are impressive, even though the skill with which a scene and its mood are depicted created such a heavy sense of isolation and discomfort that I found it difficult, for some time, to keep reading. The book takes place on a planet called Winter, which is, as the name suggests, cold. In the first scene, however, the narrator is uncomfortably hot, participating in a ritual that is foreign to him, surrounded by people of a culture he has difficulty understanding, and among whom he is very clearly an outcast. You may have noted my use of a specific gender pronoun; the narrator is a man, an ambassador from outside of the planet of Winter, and among these genderless people, he is something of a freak. The skillfully written details of the first scene create a sense of physical and emotional discomfort that the reader--or I at least--can himself or herself feel.

At the reading, I learned that Le Guin's use of the planet Winter as a setting may simply have come from a fascination with Antarctic exploration. I did not have the opportunity to ask if the sense of isolation it creates, in many places throughout the novel, is deliberate.

I bring up that first scene because it so impressed me that I often think about it, and thought about it during the reading, when a staff member read a particularly flattering excerpt from the above-linked review during his introduction of the event, and at other moments when it was slowly dawning on me that I wasn't just out at a store; I was in the same room as perhaps my favorite living author. I thought and think about this scene not due to a feeling of isolation, but in awe of its skillful construction.

On line for the book signing, some of the people around me were visibly nervous, turning red and sweating, some having to leave the line to sit down, and some chattering about how amazing it was to have the opportunity to speak, just for a moment, with the creator of such great literature. When it was my turn, I found myself saying nothing, not a compliment on her colorful scarf or impressively neat penmanship, just, "Thank you," as she signed each book.

I hope to attend another one of her events before I leave the Northwest.

At one point during the Q&A session, I found her words so helpful and inspiring I began to take notes. I believed that whatever I had written would spark some memory, so that I could type it all up in an email to a writer friend and to the readers of this blog. I believed her words on writing to be wise words that would help me even with my law school application essays! Sadly, my notes are pathetic.

process-waiting to be written. different with every book. "A poem can come from a stray word." [something illegible followed by what appears to be "underestimated."] Translation. put story away, let it sit, Go back and look at it. don't believe in writer's block.

Well! That certainly was helpful, wasn't it!?

Actually, the main thing I'd like to remember is this idea Le Guin brought up of pieces of writing "waiting to be written." She mentioned works that are forced, how this doesn't work. This is exactly how I feel about my drafts of my personal statement; however, they have to be written by a certain deadline, so I don't have much time to wait until it's ready to be written. Somewhere, a balance exists. I plan to keep these words in mind, and when I feel my writing becoming forced, I plan to walk away, write something else that is waiting to be written, asking to be written, before going back to look at my stunted personal statement draft. The key for me is to keep writing, to stop treating writing like an indulgence that is for me alone, a simple hobby, but as an exercise to assist me with writing the things I have to write, such as personal statements, essays, and important letters.

Sunday, January 06, 2013

The saga of the sourdough

I wasn't planning to have New Year's resolutions. After all, it's just an arbitrary, manmade decision, right? I planned not to make any resolutions, specifically; however, they began to form in my head. I'm beginning to see that the idea of a fresh start seems to organically form at this time of year.

There's the lengthening of days. By the time the solstice weekend hit, I was feeling a little bit of winter despair. If I slept in until 9:30 or 10, then took my time making a leisurely breakfast, then took my time cleaning the kitchen, then took some time to answer e-mails from friends while I finished my coffee--well, by the time I took a shower, only an hour or so was left of the day. By the time my hair dried enough to go out in the cold, it would be night, and the nights have seemed particularly dark here in Portland lately, on both rainy and dry nights.

Then there's the end of the holidays, the banishment of the stress they induce no matter how much one tries to pare down and keep things simple. For me, "the holidays" and that stress begin in October, because that is when Handsome Man's birthday is. Planning and purchasing for his birthday seamlessly runs into planning and purchasing Christmas gifts--because I handmake a lot of gifts, I have to start early. Thanksgiving brings a spike of more planning, purchasing, and stress. If I ever had to start a new life somewhere, where no one knew me, I might pretend I didn't know how to cook, so I could get to be the person who shows up at potlucks with a baguette still in its paper from the store, a hunk of Camembert, and a bottle of wine. [This is where one--particularly HM--might interject that no one expects me to always show up with completely homemade dip and homemade bread or crackers to dip in it, or a homemade pie complete with homemade crust, etc.] Anyway, I think Thanksgiving brings, for people who are considered good cooks, its own set of stress. I think I'm not alone in this; I once read that Thanksgiving is like the Super Bowl, the Olympics, the end-all-be-all judging event, of cooking. Here is where one is (or believes him-or-herself to be) expected to out-do oneself with selection of recipe and ingredients and preparation and presentation and anything else you can think of. One convinces oneself that this is fun at first, a whole day or even week of doing what one likes to do and an opportunity to show off! and then ultimately finds oneself scowling, secretly, at the thought of those for whom the day is just a day to eat.

I did not feel that way this year. We went to Hawaii.

And then the December holidays, leading up to and including New Year's Eve. Parties upon parties, at which one must show up, replacing weekend unwinding time with a place one has to be, and also if you are one of those I just described in my Thanksgiving paragraph, there are dips and baguettes and crackers and tarts and such to be made and transported, sometimes twice in the same weekend! If you've made and distributed Christmas cookies in the past, since 2007, you might feel an obligation to make them again. This might be nuts. Does anyone even remember you've made these cookies since 2007? Does anyone even like those weird egg-free cookies!?!?!?!?

This is not to complain or say that I don't like the holidays period between mid-October and the end of the year. I love them! But I think I'm not alone in saying that they are exhausting, for all of the reasons I've outlined above. In between happy, fun outings, there are moments of drama in which the above might be ranted while a mixer starts smoking or a handblender tips over, spilling a bowl of batter while simultaneously flinging bits onto the ceiling and walls, or a store runs out of a particular gift, or you get an e-mail on the 24th informing you that the gift you ordered two weeks ago has not yet shipped.

And so, as Christmas melted away, becoming yesterday, then a few days ago, and more and more just a memory, I found myself dreaming of the things I would do once everything settled and the chance at maintaining a routine returned.

And then I realized I was drafting New Year's Resolutions.

No real, distinct final drafts of resolutions have formed, but I do find myself making lists.

What does this have to do with sourdough? Well, last year, I believe I failed to write down or finalize any resolutions, other than one. I declared that 2012 would without a doubt be the year I knitted a sweater, not the year I said I was going to make a sweater and ran out of yarn or misplaced the pattern or forgot what row I left off on and didn't have the heart to rip the whole thing out and start over.

I thought about goals I had made since...perhaps 2007! that had been unmet. In the time that 2007 became 2008, I proclaimed that during the five weeks of winter break, I would accomplish many things! including making pasta from scratch. Again, in 2011, when Mark Bittman posted this extremely easy-sounding pasta recipe, I proclaimed, THIS WILL BE THE YEAR. It wasn't.

Instead, 2012 was the year. The year I learned how to make sweaters, and even completed a second. (Unfortunately no photos exist at this time.) The year I made pasta, in the form of unstuffed vareniki-diamonds to construct a baked pasta casserole.


Really? This is the best picture I had!?

It was the year I made pasta a second time, not Mark Bittman's easy handkerchief pasta but pizzocheri, the mostly buckwheat noodles about which I learned from this Not Eating Out In New York post. I had bookmarked it and planned to try pasta and potatoes and cabbage in the rainy season, but finding myself with time and buckwheat flour, felt I must make it with the proper noodles.

Finally, it was the year I learned how to make sourdough, thanks to a cookbook I will tell you about later this year. I began the sourdough on December 30th. The following appeared on Facebook, posted in real time. Note the clock in the background. What I posted on Facebook was not staged or added after the fact. It was truly a saga recorded on Facebook.

First, I was proud of my sourdough starter!

"First sourdough starter!" I proclaimed to Facebook.

Perhaps leaving your starter on top of a warm oven is not wise.

I moved the starter to a cool shelf. And yet...

A handsome man has been included for scale. Yes, he gave his approval to have a picture posted on my blog yet again.

Lacking the gallon mayonnaise jar described by my cookbook, I found a new home for the sourdough.

This is how, on the morning of January 1st, I was able to make the same cookbook's recipe for Sourdough Hotcakes. I typically have problems making pancakes; often I make the batter and let someone else do the cooking and flipping as mine have turned out burned, undercooked, or with big lumps of baking soda in the middle. These sourdough hotcakes were easy, turning out perfectly fluffy and golden. Pre-heating my cast iron skillet and the oil might have played a role in this, too.

Happy 2013!