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?

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.

I’m back!

Reading Slump

This is what being (really) depressed is like for me, it turns out. Not wanting to read. I needed to take some time away from the online world, so I did. I hope I’m coming out of it now. I’m mostly enjoying reading again, anyway, so that’s good. Going to try for regular posts on Mondays at least, maybe once more during the week if I’m feeling up to it/enthusiastic about something.

In the meantime: I’m rereading the Harry Potter series. And I say “rereading” generously, because… just because. On an unrelated note, how’s the fifth book? Would you describe it as dark, adventurous, sad, or some other adjective? Just as a completely random question, because I totally know exactly what happens in that book. Totally.

Ink and art and schedules

Ink 5I love watercolors, but with a severe drought in California, I feel a little guilty about using them. Not that I think there should be a statewide ban on watercolors. I’m pretty sure any artistic medium you could name has its environmental costs, and there are much worse uses for a few cups of water than building your painting skills, unwinding (I’ve found watercolors to be soothing), or producing something that helps either your soul or someone else’s. Since I seem to use watercolors mostly for simple background washes, though, the drought got me wondering about alternatives.

The first one to spring to mind was ink. That was about when this hand-lettering happened. (I’m trying to get better at hand-lettering. Go easy on me.) The statement is nowhere near as decisive as it sounds; if not for the rhyme, I could tack a “one would think” on there. Despite the fact that ink is easily the medium I use the most, my go-to for writing and doodling, drawing in pen makes me nervous. It’s no more permanent than watercolors, I guess, but watercolors have a certain softness to them that maybe I find less threatening? Or maybe it’s that my high school art classes touched on watercolors, but I don’t remember getting lessons on pen and marker techniques.

Whatever the reason, I hope to learn more now. I’ve already splurged on some Copics, to see if they can stand in for my watercolor backgrounds. I don’t know if ink can truly replace watercolors; in my limited experience, I love ink and watercolors for pretty much opposite reasons. But hopefully this will teach me a little more about both, so that in the future, when I select either one, it won’t be out of (quite as much) ignorance, but because the chosen medium is right for the job at hand. Then I’ll really be using them, not wasting either.

For now, though, it’s ink, so I’m nervous.

While I delay experimenting with my Copics, a bit of housekeeping: I’ve been considering a blogging  schedule. I don’t know that I can stick to anything as simple as Monday/Wednesday/Friday, but I do like the idea of connecting certain topics to certain days. So here’s what I’m thinking:

  • Monday/Tuesday: Something with panels, like my post on skimming ahead.
  • 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. (I refuse to commit to that, though. Take that, reverse-psychology part of my brain.) Maybe social media/blogging admin posts, like this one, as relevant.

So at most, I might post three times a week. My goal is still twice, though. For example, panel post on Monday, food post on Wednesday; or notebook post on Wednesday, art project on Saturday. Ideally, the flexibility will keep things fun and stress-free for me, while the schedule will give a slightly clearer idea of what to expect when, which I hope will be helpful for you lovely people who are kind enough to give me some of your time. (Thank you for that! I would reward you with cookies, but those are a bad thing on the Internet, right? No, honestly, I’m a millennial…)

The schedule isn’t set in stone (or ink), but it should work as a guideline. Sort of like a pencil sketch.

Oh my gosh, those Copics. I really hope I like them.

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.