Sunday, May 31, 2015

End of May Catch-Up

I started a post last weekend (or possibly the weekend before) that was called "Weekend Catch Up."  I thought, if I don't have a specific, focused topic, I'll just write about a few things that are happening and an update on some of my creative projects and maybe it will be boring, who cares, just write and and actual catch-up on what's going on.  A few weeks ago, I started something.  But like so many posts on this blog, it never really got finished.  The following will be a collection of those fragments

Monarda hybrida 'Lambada' started from seed this year; Asclepias tuberosa 'Hello Yellow' in the background

From the draft post - some thoughts about projects and law school and time management and life:

Now that the school year is over, I should be able to catch up on some projects.  What will most likely happen instead, what always happens, is that I jump into every project I've been wanting to work on for the last ten months, and then get overwhelmed, and then choose just a few to focus on.  Maybe I'll come up with a better organizational and prioritizing system, as one of my first projects, and avoid the usual chaos.

Plus, I no longer have that feeling like the next ten weeks are MY LAST CHANCE to work on projects for awhile.  First, projects got put off because I was studying for the LSAT.  Then applying to law school.  Then packing up my life and planning to move across the country for law school.  Then 1L year, supposedly the hardest.  Whoops, actually 2L year is busier.  Well, it sounds like even if I pile on extra coursework and volunteer work and academic projects, 3L year still won't be as bad as 2L year.  People talk about "having weekends" during 3L year.  So, I don't have that rushed feeling, that this summer is MY LAST CHANCE to do all the things I want to do.  Now I have the rest of my life...unless I decide to get another degree.  (No.  Do not let me.)

This is still true.  Part of what influenced that, I think, was that I hadn't started (okay, hadn't found) a summer position yet, and while I am very good at filling my time productively and I think I have above average time management skills, I was starting to get a little stir crazy being home all day.  While I am good at working from home and making my own schedule, I have learned that I do best with at least a little bit of structure.  I will be working from home today, incidentally, and am thrilled to have that balance of sometimes working from home but also having a flexible schedule and an office to go to.  (I also have an aversion to writing about my current work or school on my blog, always have, except in vague terms or code.  Some people can do it; it's not my style, and I'm not going to try anymore!)

The projects catch-up I started then is slightly out of date.  I was working on a secret baby project, which is now finished (but still not given to the parents; I'm afraid of it getting lost in the mail, and may try to either deliver it in person or give it to my parents if/when they come to visit.)  I had written:  I would love to work on something for myself.  I'll write a longer post about that sometime.  The second half of 2L year became a time when I could only handle easy knitting projects, because so much of my capacity to think was being directed toward other projects, and now I'd like to get my brain working on some lace or something.  Oh, every once in awhile I work on a rag rug, too, made of unwearable garments torn into strips.  It's been over a week since I finished that baby project, and I have made very little progress toward working on something for myself.  [Here is where I will deviate into territory that only my knitting readers will find interesting.  Non-knitters, scroll down.]  My summer goal is to work on the things I've been putting off, but wanted to do.  Things that will make me happy and also not involve buying anything new (other than needles/tools), things that I already own the yarn and pattern for and have had on my queue and been dreaming about making.  In 2013, I went to the Rose City Yarn Crawl and, because I was having a really shitty February, I treated myself to a lot of potential projects.  It is now 2015, and I am making slow progress on even starting those projects, but the yarn for each is in its own Ziploc bag that is LABELED with the pattern.  (Yes, I occasionally tell myself I'm allowed to change my mind and use it for something else.)  I think I've only completed two of my RCYC13 projects, both of them shawlettes.  If you are curious, here is one shawlette and another shawlette.  I was wrong, I actually completed a cardigan from my yarn crawl haul shortly after the crawl - it's here (don't mind the awkward pose - it was to show the sleeve detail but still fit in the frame.)
From my two-week old draft:
I have some sewing projects in mind, particularly a carrying case for my tiffin made out of old pant legs (but somehow in a way that it looks chic, and NOT like it is made out of pants) and lined with insulating fabric that I got months ago.  There are some embroidered gifts I'd like to make as well.  No progress on this yet, but I do have an office to which I can carry that tiffin.  Although I'm not taking MARTA, so the carrying case isn't necessary - just the insulated part (because the fridge in the office is currently not working.)

Sunset over Scottdale after a stormy day

Next, I started a Kitchen Projects update, but it became clear that this would become a long post.  The shorter version is that I have rediscovered a series of cookbooks that I really loved in college, about ten years ago.  In college, I was really interested in ethnic food, in going to restaurants to try new things and in learning to make things, both to replicate something from a restaurant and to make something I could only try by making at home.  It's funny how much has changed in ten years; things that weren't available at stores or restaurants then are much more common now.  If I was staying with my parents for a summer, it was much easier to find a cookbook and try to teach myself to make Vietnamese food than to go get it at a restaurant, because the Vietnamese restaurants were a long drive away.
But the cookbooks and even recipe websites (because there weren't even as many food blogs!) weren't very helpful.  It was my impression that they were giving instructions on how to make complicated stuff you would get at a restaurant, not just a regular Thai dish someone could make on a weeknight.  If I got an interesting ingredient at a grocery store, such as tamarind paste or galangal root, and tried to Google what to do with it, instead of finding simple preparation or ideas or just "tamarind goes well with ____", I was finding crazy complicated recipes that sometimes involved buying more things that were hard to find in rural Sussex County, or my least favorite--recipes nested within recipes.  Where one of the steps incorporates by reference a recipe and it's not a simple one like a five-ingredient hot sauce--no, it's some complicated thing that might involve overnight steeping or weeks of fermentation.
I'm so happy with the way things are now.  When I had a surplus of galangal (I bought large amount that was 50% off) two weeks ago, Google, as well as common sense, told me that I could just make a simple syrup out of it, which would go well with fruit and ice cream and soda water and cake.  If I were unfamiliar with how to use, say, tamarind, the Internet would now tell me that you can just use it in place of lemon or lime as a twist on a recipe.  Try it in a vinaigrette!  Try it in a smoothie!  Try adding it to a barbecue marinade!
But ten years ago, when it was not so easy, what came to my rescue were the books of Eng Tie Ang.  Sadly, they are out of print.  Ms. Ang wrote the Delightful Cookbooks series; I owned Delightful Thai Cooking and Delightful Brazilian Cooking in college, and at some point in Portland I found Delightful Tofu Cooking for practically nothing at Powell's.  I just completed the collection by getting Delightful Vietnamese Cooking and Delightful Chinese Cooking with Amazon rewards points.  The purpose of these books, which are about twenty years old, was to provide people with what someone in Thailand or Vietnam or China or Brazil would make on a normal day.  Some recipes are more complicated, weekend fare, but many recipes in the book are simple things one can throw together on a weeknight after work and school.  The recipes were designed to be somewhat healthy--with oil content cut down to what was necessary, not crazy restaurant levels.  (Although I did just make a recipe over the weekend that included deep-frying tapioca-flour-battered pieces of beef.  I had never deep fried anything before that!  A new kitchen world has opened up for me--although this may not be a good thing!)  They were also written based on what ingredients people could actually find either in a Western supermarket or mail order.  So one thing I noticed was that all of the recipes using galangal call for dried, powdered galangal.  Since the market I go to only sells fresh galangal, I've had to adapt the recipes a little bit!
I'm not sure what made me pull the book off the shelf and start looking at it again, but once I did, I found myself bookmarking many recipes to try.  As a result, we have eaten homemade Thai food at least three times a week since classes ended (because even with finals studying, I do projects like this to unwind--a thing I like about the finals period is having lots of flexible time and scheduling myself the way I want to), because I like trying these recipes and because my husband is still saying that he doesn't think he'll ever get tired of Thai food.
Since everyone I have told about these cookbooks seems interested in it, I will post later about what we've actually made, but that's a post for another time.  Tonight we are having green curry with shrimp for dinner.  A surplus of cilantro led to me making green curry paste last week, and we found Alabama shrimp (yes, semi-local seafood) at our local market for $4.99 a pound!!!!!  $4.99 a pound!!!!!
In other kitchen projects, I started some experiments with honeysuckle blossoms (inspired by the existence of Cathead honseysuckle vodka, mostly, a bunch of honeysuckle vines along the backyard fence) and I learned to make tortillas from scratch.  This was to make the breakfast tacos from Heidi Swanson's Healthy Breakfast Ideas, which were trending (was trending?) about a month ago.  Those breakfast tacos were how I got through the last part of final exams and seven days of Trial Techniques class.  When I have an update on the honeysuckle experiments, I'll post something, and if I can find a way for it to be not boring, I'll post about making tortillas.

The last thing I wrote about in my May catch-up was about the Myers-Briggs test.  I will save that for another time.

Another picture of the same stormy Scottdale sunset.

P.S. This was posted on May 31, but was written a few days earlier.  The delay was in remembering to upload some pictures. 

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