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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I am comfortable with the size of this room. (Blog. Whatever.)

I promised myself that I would do this post when I got to 50 followers. (Well, sort of. I thought about it, and now I’m doing it.) Which, by the way, thank you to everyone who’s followed this blog, liked posts, and commented! Now I’m going to talk about how you all freak me out.

Seriously, though–I love getting likes/comments/follows. Who doesn’t? It’s actually become kind of a game for me; I never know what you guys are going to respond to, so it’s fun for me to discover what you like. And of course, getting positive responses is lovely, just in general.

That having been said, I usually have quite a bit of anxiety before hitting “Publish.” It’s ironic; for someone who wants to write for a living, I’m quite terrible at sharing my work. (I sort of talked about that here, but I don’t recommend reading that post. It’s long.) Like a lot of writers, no doubt, I’m naturally shy. Not as shy as I used to be, but in some ways, it seems I’m still the sort of person who thinks she wants to be in the spotlight, but then once the spotlight is actually on her, gets awkward and uncomfortable and tries to get out of it as fast as possible.

So that’s kind of what I mean by saying I’m comfortable with the size of this room. (Or blog.) Sharing things can be a lot of fun, but I mostly prefer to stick with individual conversations or maybe small groups of people. And that’s what this blog feels like right now: a small room, where I can talk about some things that are on my mind, without a whole lot of pressure. Except maybe for the imaginary kind.

That’s not to say I’m against more people following–if I wasn’t open to that idea, I wouldn’t have made this a public blog. I guess I’m just saying that I’m grateful for where I am right now. It’s so easy for me to lose track of that, to get caught up in wanting more. But this, right now: this is kind of working for me. It’s probably not a bad idea to appreciate that a little.

So thank you all for not scaring me back into my shell! I hope you enjoy your time in this little corner of the Internet at least as much as I enjoy putting these posts together. Ideally with less nervousness.

With that, I return you to your regularly-scheduled Monday events, and what I hope is your own wonderful, happy corner of the world.

And for those of you who might be stopping by here for the first time… I’m sorry. I was going to put in a random picture as consolation, but I couldn’t find anything that satisfied me. Enjoy this old picture that you probably haven’t seen before instead.

Not Better compareOh, oops, that’s not very comforting. But it sort of fits with the theme of the post, yes?

Out of Holiday Mode

I love the holidays, but this year I did find that something happened to my brain during holiday season: work (or at least any meaningful work-type progress) became optional.

Actually, almost everything became optional. Cleaning: optional. Exercise: optional. Finishing a chapter: optional. It’s a much nicer feeling than not doing things because you don’t have the energy, but it ends up in a similar place: it takes a larger-than-usual mental effort to get any of these things done. Because after all, it’s not mandatory, so I might as well relax.

Relaxing is good, of course–in general, I could stand to be a lot less stressed about things. But there has to be some kind of medium between holiday laziness and feverish anxiety.

So that’s something for me to look for this January, as I step out of holiday mode: a way to get things done without being excessively stressed. Some of that, I suspect, has to do with focus. January is a time when a lot of us focus on goals, hopes, and resolutions. And that’s great–not to mention probably necessary, at times. But one thing I’ve found that’s helpful for my mental state is to take note of the things I do accomplish, not just the things I still want to do, or the things I didn’t get to. Otherwise, it’s too easy to feel like I never get anything done. And that makes it kind of hard to relax. (Not to mention hard to get anything done in the future. In the immortal words of Admiral Ackbar, “It’s a trap!”)

In the meantime, plans for the blog this year… I don’t know. I didn’t think up anything, because coming up with a 2016 blogging schedule was optional. My only vague thought was that I would keep blogging on Mondays, so I’ll probably try to stick with that. Maybe add a post on Fridays, if I feel like talking about writing. The idea of blogging about certain things on certain days still appeals to me, but considering that the last time I tried to hold myself to that, I freaked out, I’m not making any promises. For now, I’m willing to just see what happens, and enjoy a little of that residual holiday blitheness.

To anyone reading this: I hope 2016 is off to a good start for you! And that you all make some progress toward being healthier, both this month and afterwards.

Imaginary Pressure

There are a whole lot of other things I wanted to write about today, but I kept running into the same problem: basically, I kept freaking out.

It’s the same thing that’s been happening to me with writing fiction lately. I’ve sort of talked about it before. I’ll sit down to work on this one interminable chapter, and immediately start attacking the words I already have, attacking any new words I try to put down–it’s not good. It’s not fun. It leads to a kind of dread, where I don’t want to work on this chapter anymore because every time I try, it’s awful.

I actually did make what I hope is some progress on that chapter yesterday, so you might think I have a solution. But no, not really. All I can say is that I think sometimes we put imaginary pressure on ourselves. In the case of this chapter, I was pressuring myself to make it perfect–it’s a rewrite, not a first draft, so I should be allowed to expect instant perfection, right? (No.) And with this post, I was pressuring myself to come up with something coherent about books and reading, and that pressure was making it impossible for me to come up with anything coherent at all.

The thing is, the only person holding me to either of these expectations was myself. (Well, maybe some of you are expecting books/reading stuff on Mondays. I don’t know. Sorry about that, if that’s the case.) And I’m not saying we shouldn’t expect things of ourselves. Setting standards and goals is a good thing. It can be a good thing. All I’m saying is that there’s a difference between the kind of pressure that brings out the best in people, and the kind of pressure that’s so intense that it completely immobilizes you.

I’m still working on how to handle that line. Right now, it involves lots of deep breaths, drinking water, journaling, and some prayer. (I know faith may not be part of everyone’s life, but it’s part of mine, so it’s part of my process.) And reminding myself to do things like find the fun in the project, the thing that made me love it in the first place; and also to focus on the small steps in front of me, instead of the giant ones that often freak me out.

It’s not exactly new advice. Maybe because it works? But the good news, anyway: I did have some fun working on that chapter last night. So it is possible to find your way back to that. And if you’re reading this, I managed to finish a post, so there’s that, too.

With that in mind: on to today’s adventures with The Chapter. I’m actually kind of looking forward to it.

New Year, New Blogging Goals

So I sort of fell off the blogging wagon at the end of last year. Honestly, I just wasn’t feeling up to it. But after a few months off, I’m ready (ish) to step back into the blogging pool. We’ll see how it goes.

Mostly I’m hoping to keep the same tentative schedule. I.e. at least one post a week, broken up as follows:

  • Monday/Tuesday: Something with panels, like my post on skimming ahead. Or possibly something about reading, or book reviews. (I’m adding that part.)
  • Wednesday/Thursday: Food, or other things I buy way too much of–art supplies, notebooks, etc.
  • Friday/Saturday/Sunday: Sketch/something about art, or possibly about writing. Maybe social media/blogging admin posts, like this one, as relevant.

I should probably post this somewhere else, so I can find it easily. *I’ll get right on that.*

Aside from the schedule, I think my main goal (or maybe more like a wish?) with blogging this year is to keep it from feeling like an obligation. Basic as it may sound, I want to blog because I want to blog, not because I feel like I have to.

The one-post-a-week goal… that’s just to make me sit down at the computer. It can be surprisingly hard to make myself do things, even things I know I’ll enjoy. Chilling out with a bunch of YouTube videos is so much easier.

So we’ll see how it goes. With any luck (and a smidge of self-discipline), I should be back here next week. For now, I hope you’re all having a great 2015, and…

*Disappears in flash of light*

I may be a little distracted.

It was delicious.

It was delicious.

Sorry about the smudging. As noted, I’m a little distracted. I have story on my mind, which would be excellent if it were the story I’m supposed to be working on, but when is that *ever* what happens?

I do hope to have another post up early next week, either Monday or Tuesday, but we’ll see how that pans out. Busy weekend ahead, etc. And you know, smoked cat. I mean fish.

Motivation

Motivation035

Know your motivation.

I really am quite tired this week, though, hence the simplified doodle-comic. I set the two-posts-per-week goal before I knew how much I would like putting pictures into blog posts. And how much work fancier pictures would entail. Perhaps I’ll revisit things at my two-month blogiversary.

I love celebrating.

Mission Statement

I was all set to talk about apathy. I had a draft. Then I published my last post, and got so freaked out that I ended up writing over 10,000 words (not in one day!) of the current work in progress.

That’s great, of course–those 10,000 words were almost welcome enough to merit their own 10,000 little party hats. But now the draft is done, and I’m down a blog post.

Fortunately, since I spent my last post talking about spiders, I owe this blog a mission statement.

It’s short: I hope this blog will be fun for me. I hope it will be useful for anyone who stumbles across it. (And fun, too. Fun is important.)

I think I’m going to try to post something twice a week, but it may only be once. I’m still figuring out exactly what schedule is likely to work best for me, so we’ll see what happens.

That’s not enough for a blog post, so here’s a random doodle-comic from a very long time ago. (I’ve forgotten a lot of my Japanese, and probably most of my Spanish. Please do not test me!)

Daily Japanese Comic (from 85)

It seems relevant, sort of. And it is kind of how it feels to learn a language. You start off so excited to be able to speak *another language,* but it’s a while before you have enough vocab to talk about anything fun.

P.S. I would apologize for the… um, simple… doodliness of the doodle-comic, but hey. You might as well know what you’re getting into.

P.P.S. If you really have to know what the comic says:

Face: Good morning.

Bug: Good morning.

<Long pause>

Face: We need more words.

Bug: (more or less) Yes we do.

That was a lot less entertaining than you imagined, wasn’t it? You should see the comic that’s basically me trying to learn Japanese numbers. That one’s hilarious.