Lasagna to Spaghetti: My Descent into Cooking

Ok, so obviously I’ve missed the last couple of weeks, blogging-wise, and I’m going to talk about that at the end of this post. But first: some cooking adventures.

As you may have deduced, I don’t really cook. I’ve toyed with the idea before, and I even know how to make some stuff, but until now, I’ve been hampered by a mixture of laziness and the fact that handling raw meat/fish/poultry kind of freaks me out. Recently, though, I got it into my head that I would like to make lasagna, so it was off to… Google, to find a recipe.

I think I searched something like “easy lasagna”–you know, being realistic about my skill level. That turned up this recipe. I also decided to make my own tomato sauce (recipe here–I added and changed some stuff, but it’s probably fine as is). And in no time at all, I was making classic mistakes like deciding to cut the recipe in half, but neglecting to measure the pan, so that my proportions were doomed to be way off.

IMG_6028

Still looks pretty, though.

The next thing I forgot to do was add the middle layer of noodles. And when the lasagna came out of the oven, it was watery enough that I quickly labeled it as being more like glorified tomato sauce. I even made some spaghetti noodles, expecting to have to add more pasta to fix the ratio. But what I failed to account for was that lasagna firms up in the fridge, so the spaghetti proved unnecessary–the lasagna was fine. Good, actually.

That having been said, making the spaghetti noodles was so much easier that I decided to head straight for that next time. And something strange happened. As I boiled the noodles and tended the ground turkey for the sauce (cooking two things at once, for the *challenge*), I found myself  kind of enjoying it. There was something satisfying about going from stirring the noodles to checking on the turkey and back again. And there was definitely something splendid about not having to worry about what I ate for several meals afterwards.

Less satisfying: doing that chef thing where you add roughly “that much looks right” of an ingredient to a dish. I know my mom does that, but for some reason I find it vaguely horrifying when I catch myself doing the same thing. I’m not sure exactly why. Recipes are there for a reason, maybe? I may have promised myself that I would *never, ever* guesstimate like that? Or maybe it’s just because it’s something that “people who know how to cook” do, and I don’t see myself as belonging to that group. Maybe someday, though. And that’s probably a good thing.

Overall verdict on both spaghetti and lasagna: easy enough, at least with the recipes I used. Between the two of them, though, I’d definitely go for spaghetti first, and more often–it’s less trouble, and less cheesy, which works for me.

Overall verdict on actually cooking homemade meals: it’s kind of worth it. Gasp.

Overall verdict on whether this could continue to be a thing: Maybe? I’m at least less scared of raw things now. And as far as laziness vs. love of food goes… it’s a toss up. On the other hand, the more I blog about this, the more I could go for some spaghetti. I may have missed lunch.

Anyway, now that I’ve talked about the cooking: the blog situation. Long story short: I think I’d like to take a break. Sort of a summer vacation. I may drop in sometimes, but I’m not going to guarantee it, and it may not always be on Mondays. The weekly schedule has been good for me, for the most part, but right now I could use some time to rest, refresh my brain, and whatnot. There are still some posts I’d like to do, though, so hopefully I’ll be back for those.

In the meantime: have a splendid summer! And thank you, as ever, for reading along. Hopefully I’ll see you back here in the fall. Or sooner, since my brain, like a cat, is sometimes a bit unpredictable about what it wants to do. But either way: a happy Monday to you all, and… um… here’s this picture of spaghetti.

Mmmm, spaghetti.

That’s right: just the noodles. What? I don’t think I took any pictures of the actual dish. I just ate it.

And with that, I’m off to get lunch!

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A Traveler’s Review of Green Gables

Anne of Green Gables, by L.M. Montgomery, is one of those standard-reading books that somehow slipped under my radar until… I think it was after college. And once it was finally on my radar, I didn’t want to read it, because I figured it was a children’s book, and I’d find it boring. But watching a YouTube adaptation (because I love adaptations and retellings, even apparently of books I haven’t read) finally got me to put those preconceived notions aside and pick up the source material.

Quick summary for those of you who haven’t seen one of these posts yet: these reviews are meant to combine my love of travel with my love of reading, and approach books not as books, but as vacations that happen to take place in words. So with that, let’s get to it.

The World: First off, Avonlea is a very pleasant place. So pleasant, in fact, that I couldn’t help feeling that it was all a bit too beautiful, too perfect. Lots of gorgeous nature, idyllic countryside, that kind of thing. But in a sense, that works, because Anne–well, read the back of the book. Er… travel brochure. It will probably tell you why a perfectly beautiful place could be heartbreaking for Anne. Speaking of which…

The People: Similarly, the people are mostly pleasant. They have their little faults, so depending on your pet peeves, you may find some of them annoying, but they aren’t supervillains in disguise, or anything, which given some of the other things on TV and in print these days, is a nice respite. And the narrator, I have to say, makes very good company–if you aren’t a kid yourself, it’s easy to kind of reminisce about childhood with this person. Also, Marilla (who is very much not a kid) helps. As does her brother, Matthew. That’s right, we get to spend some time with adults, too. Quite a lot of it, actually.

Dining and Activities: Avonlea and Green Gables are definitely not places to vacation if you’re looking to take down a dystopian government or something, but I’m thinking you probably knew that already. Instead, expect more ordinary entertainments–parties (ETA, as clarification: like tea parties), concerts, that kind of thing. And some school. As for the food… well, make sure you ask who made it, especially in the early chapters. That’s all I’m going to say.

Other Assorted Hazards: Expect all the ordinary dangers. Getting embarrassed in front of friends, possibly getting hurt or sick, the usual risks from doing reckless things–life stuff.

Things to Pack:

  • Tea (because always tea)
  • Appropriate attire (because much like with Georgette Heyer’s Regency novels, this isn’t a place where you want to walk around in jeans and a T-shirt)
  • For those quiet moments at Green Gables, you may want some books to read, and/or maybe some materials to press flowers, depending on how outdoorsy you are. As I said before, it’s a lovely place, and you may want to keep some of that.

All silliness aside, I enjoyed my stay at Green Gables more than I expected to, largely thanks to a very good narrator-guide. And it was a nice way of seeing a past version of Canada, since I can’t exactly go to the real Canada right now.

Next up: a traveler’s review of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. (season 1)? I just finished watching that. I’ve never done one of these for a TV show before, though. I’m not sure whether it would work. Anyway, I hope you all had a lovely weekend! And that you have some wonderful book vacations (or other vacations, or just good stuff happening) this week.

Song Tea and Japantown

Stop #1: Benkyodo

Stop #1: Benkyodo. Because you want to get there while the selection is good. I took this picture at home, though.

Well, this isn’t the post I’d planned on doing, but at least it’s an actual post, so yay? As you may have guessed from the title, this past weekend I was in Japantown, in San Francisco. It’s hard to talk coherently about that, because for me, going to Japantown feels sort of like going to a favorite supermarket. (A lot like that, actually, because one of my stops there is the supermarket.) “I don’t know. I got eggs and milk. The lines were short. What do you want from me?” Only replace the eggs and milk with things like arare and tonkatsu sandwiches.

That having been said, it was a very nice visit, and very productive, in that I got most of the things on my list. And the weather was good–unusually warm for San Francisco, despite some clouds–which made it all the easier to walk from Japantown to Song Tea & Ceramics.

Song Tea has been on my radar for a while, but it made it onto the “must visit” list when I had some of their tea at a Berkeley cafe. The tea ended up being over-steeped, so it was bitter, but beneath that bitterness it seemed delicious. I decided that at some point, I would have to get more of it.

The good news is that from Japantown, Song Tea is extremely walkable. And once you get there, you might be able to fit in a tea tasting, which I enjoyed quite a bit. (It’s an especially good deal if you buy something, in which case they waive the $10 fee. Policies change, so I would check this before committing, but still–it’s very nice.) Thanks to that tasting, I got to try some teas I don’t usually try, like some greens, and a delicious aged tea that was way out of my budget, but that seriously tempted me anyway, and also made me think about things like gaiwans.

After Song Tea, it was back to Japantown, to visit favorites like the stationery store and the supermarket (again). Then back home, with some wonderful things I’m looking forward to trying. Here’s a sample:

-Some Things I'm Looking Forward to Trying

Notebook from Maido, okonomiyaki pack from Nijiya, and tea from Song Tea

Seeing Japantown made me miss Japan again, but that also brings me to something I’ve been thinking lately. As much as I miss traveling, living life deeply isn’t always about going somewhere new. (ETA: like a new state or a new country. I still want to go to new places.) A lot of it is about perspective. And I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: I love California. It’s beautiful, and diverse, and there’s so much to do. And now, thanks to my trip, I don’t even have to leave my house to try some of it–tea and an okonomiyaki pack. I am more excited than my lack of exclamation points would suggest.

So anyway, I hope you all had a lovely weekend, and that you have a wonderful week, full of everyday fun and maybe–if you want it–some pleasant new adventures. And who knows, maybe some of mine will make it onto this blog, along with all the books and food and other things.

Going to the Movies

I don’t see a lot of movies in theaters, so when I do, it often feels kind of special. Like today: I went to see a matinee (no, I’m not going to name the movie here, because I don’t feel like it), and it was like I was gearing up for some huge event. I avoided spoilers. I may or may not have bounced up and down a few times, talking to people about this movie I was so excited about seeing. When I got to the theater, I even let myself splurge on overpriced food.

As for the movie itself–it was fine. It was fun. But I think I had more fun being excited about it than I did actually watching the movie. And I don’t mean for that to be a sad thing, or a slam against the movie, because first off, like I said, it was a fun movie, and second, I really enjoyed being that excited about it. Which is maybe the point of today’s post, as much as there is one. I’m constantly reminding myself to have fun–to let myself relax a little bit, and enjoy things. Today I did that.

Now to maybe do that with writing. Well, I’ll keep working on it.

So anyway, I hope that your Monday has a bit of fun in it. Next week I’ll try to do a real, proper post. Maybe. I have an idea. Until then, have a wonderful week!

Writing Day

I’ll try to get a post up sometime this week, possibly, but for now I have some time to write, and I am using it. I hope you’re all having a lovely Monday, though, and that you have a wonderful week!

A Couple Pros of Reading Nonfiction

I don’t read a lot of nonfiction. That sort of vaguely bothers me–I guess I always wanted to be like Rory Gilmore, one of those people who devours all books because I love them so much. (I know I’m not the only one. I’ve read somewhere about a Rory Gilmore book challenge.) But in reality, I like very specific genres, and nonfiction isn’t one of them.

Or, as I should say: most nonfiction isn’t on my list. In recent years, however, I’ve been challenging myself to read a little more widely. And although I don’t expect to ever like nonfiction as much as I like fiction (and particularly my favorite genres), it has some definite pros. A couple of the big ones, for me:

  • Learning something.
  • Depending on what kind of nonfiction you read, it can be a nice reprieve from the frenetic pace of some fiction books. I don’t tend to read harrowing nonfiction–in general, I want books to be vacations/escapes–so that may be part of why it’s easy to take these books slowly.

Anyway, that’s all I have for you today. There’s still a great deal to do, and my brain isn’t really in the right frame to string together a long, coherent post. But before I go back to my to-do list: I hope that Monday is treating you all well, and that you have a splendid week!

Japanese Food to Go (Sacramento)

I was in Sacramento again this past week, and even though I was pretty exhausted, I couldn’t pass up the chance to try a Japanese bakery and a ramen shop that I’d read about on Yelp. (Ah, Yelp. That’s a whole other post.) These are the places I tried:

  • Mahoroba Japanese Bakery (couldn’t find a website, but again: Yelp)
  • Ryujin Ramen House

The bakery was adorable. I got there after 11:00, I think, and there was still a good selection, so I got to try all the things I’d been reading about online. It’s funny, when I lived in Japan, I remember being frustrated by how light everything was. Not to say it wasn’t delicious (obviously I wouldn’t have gone out of my way to obtain Japanese baked goods if I didn’t like them), but sometimes I just wanted a dense chocolate cake or a brownie. So I don’t know, there’s something fitting about taking the time to track down a Japanese bakery now that I’m back in California. Plus, trying new food is always fun, right? It was this time, at least.

My lunch stop that day was Ryujin. Ramen is one of those things that I’ve never been able to finish in one sitting, so getting it to go was a pretty solid option there. And a couple of things stood out with that experience: first of all, the ramen broth was delicious. (I also liked the gyoza, but the ramen broth edged it out slightly as my favorite thing in the order.) Second, the way they packaged the ingredients was phenomenal. You can see in the picture that the noodles and other components were separate from the broth, so nothing got soggy on my trip home. It was a subtly brilliant thing that I wasn’t expecting.

So anyway, that was my outing last week. Next up: tea, food, and/or books, I’m thinking. But we’ll see. In the meantime, I hope you’re all having a wonderful day, and I’ll be back for another post (hopefully) next Monday.

Post Tomorrow!

I’m taking today off, recovering from a busy week, but I’m planning to post something tomorrow. I can’t promise that it will be a big, in-depth post, but there will be pictures. Probably. Assuming I like them, once I’ve gotten them off my camera.

Anyhow, I hope you’re all having a good Monday! Thank you for stopping by, and… zzzzz… sorry, recovering is a very sleepy task.

More Happy Things (Book-Themed)

I’m trekking through a rather long book now, and given that I also have a lot of other things to do, it’s easy for the bookish things to become another item on the checklist, a chore rather than a vacation. So here are some things that make me happy, as I’m reading:

  • Getting to the end of a chapter/section. Especially if a novel is broken up into separate “books”–getting to the end of one of these always feels good.
  • Tallying my progress through the book by fractions or percentages. I know this is kind of geeky, but I like telling myself, “You’re 25% of the way through! You’re 50% of the way through! You’re more than 50% of the way through!”
  • The comfort of familiar characters and a familiar world can be very nice, in those interim stretches of the book when I’m not particularly worried about anyone. I know it can’t last, because books need drama and everything, but it’s nice to have those moments when no one is in danger.

I find it kind of funny that so much of my focus is on “getting through” a book, since once I’m done, I’m often rather at a loss. “I was enjoying that book. What can I read now that is exactly like that book? Hm… I mean, this new book looks ok, but it sounds a little too like the other book.” This is the kind of unreasonable thought process I go through.

Anyway–busy busy, so I’m going to get back to work. And reading, as a break in between work things. I will not even put it on my to-do list, to further emphasize that it is not meant to be a chore. I hope you’re all having a wonderful Monday, as ever, and that you have many good books to read!

Little Things That Make Me Happy

RosesThis is one of those weeks when I feel rather stressed, so instead of a text-heavy post, I just wanted to focus on a few things that make me happy. Like:

  • Roses. And flowers in general, if you don’t have allergies. At least, I like seeing things blooming everywhere in the spring.
  • A cup of tea
  • Getting more done than is actually on my “mandatory, must do” list. Even when I don’t get to everything on my supposedly-mandatory list, it’s nice to keep track of the other things I did, to remind myself that I actually did get things done.
  • Finding a pair of matching socks to wear

This is a lot like something I used to do to fight off depression: I used to draw up a list of highlights. I’m not saying that works for everyone, or every stage of depression, but I think it was a good exercise for me. Today, though, I’m putting a different spin on it, because there’s a lot in my life that makes me happy, and it’s easy to forget that when I’m overwhelmed by the chore list.

With that, back to my Monday. I hope yours is lovely, with at least a few happy things in it (more if possible, of course)!