Thursday, December 31, 2009

blog #373 >> 2009 Books (in Review)

With the help of Multnomah County Library, I have read a great deal of books this past year. And if it hadn't been for Winston Churchill, which took me an immensely long time to read, they would have added up to about a book a week.

Listed below are my books in review:

Winston Spencer Churchill, The Last Lion Vol2.
William Manchester
12/09 *****

The New Arabian Nights
Robert Louis Stevenson
11/09 *****

The Arabian Nights
Sir Richard Burton
11/09 ****

A Wind in the Door
Madeleine L'Engle
11/09 ****

Winston Spencer Churchill, The Last Lion Vol1.
William Manchester
10/09 *****
(read review here.)

Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters
Jane Ausen and Ben H. Winters
9/09 *****

Robert Louis Stevenson
9/09 *****

A Tale of Two Cities
Charles Dickens
8/09 *****

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
Roald Dahl
8/09 ****

The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy
Douglas Adams
8/09 ****

A Room With A View
E. M. Forster
7/09 *****

George Orwell
7/09 **

Robinson Crusoe
Daniel Defoe
7/09 *****

The Moonstone
Wilkie Collins
6/09 *****

Lord of the Flies
William Golding
5/09 **

A Wrinkle in Time
Madeleine L'Engle
5/09 *****

The Stars Are Ours
Andre Norton
5/09 ****

The Tenant of Wildfell Hall
Anne Brontë
4/09 *****

The Old Curiosity Shop
Charles Dickens
3/09 ****

Johanna Spyri
3/09 ****

The Grapes of Wrath
John Steinbeck
3/09 ****

A World Lit Only By Fire
William Manchester
2/09 *****

Little Women
Louisa May Alcott
2/09 ****

Peter Pan
J. M. Barrie
2/09 ****

Fahrenheit 451
Ray Bradbury
1/09 *****

The Children of Húrin
1/09 ****

Wuthering Heights
Emily Brontë
1/09 *****
(read review here.)

The Time Machine
H.G. Wells
1/09 ***

Swiss Family Robinson
Johann Wyss
1/09 ***

The Phantom of the Opera
Gaston Leroux
12/08 ****

The Woman in White
Wilkie Collins
12/08 *****

Happy Reading!

blog #372 >> 2009 Resolutions (In Review)

(Image from:

Before I start making a whole new list of resolutions, there's one thing I must ask myself... Did I keep my resolutions from last year?

Below are my resolutions from last year, in review:

25 things to finish before 2010:
(if not completed will roll over to 2011)

1. try a new recipe at least once a week. (Kept)

I've tried a LOT of new recipes this year: 13 bean soup, macaroons, apple pate de fruit, ham and celery jello loaf, stuffed tomatoes, chocolate mug cake, mint jelly, plum chutney, noodle mushroom ring, dilly beans, coffee coffee cake and lots more that I can't even remember. But did I try something new each week? It probably averages out to something like that. Yes! I think I kept this resolution.

2. start writing in cursive again. (Sort of kept)

I started writing in cursive again, and then it dawned on me... No one knows how to read cursive anymore. I mean the Palmer Method is fantastic! But I got really tired of people asking me what it said. Therefore, instead of cursive I switched to something more like foundational or book hand. This has been a good choice. But one thing I learned is... THAT IT IS REALLY HARD TO CHANGE YOUR HANDWRITING! When I was a kid, I had great handwriting, but somewhere along the way, it changed. And by the time I was in college I was left with something like chicken scratch. Something had to change, and it wasn't easy. I had to consciously write each letter for everything. And everything I wrote took forever. But now I'm gaining speed in my new handwriting, even though it's getting a little sloppy. And I'm writing in my new handwriting without even thinking about it anymore. With some tightening up, I think it's a handwriting I can be proud of.

3. get my fountain pen working. (Sort of kept)

Well, I got my fountain pen working again... and then it broke.
I didn't fix it after that.

4. post something to etsy once a week. (Partially kept for a month or two..)

I started out really good at this, then after I got sick, I did really bad. Currently, I don't think I've posted anything to our Etsy shop for months.

5. go roller skating in the basement more often. (Didn't keep)

I have to confess, I didn't go roller skating in my basement once in the past 365 days... How sad! This resolution didn't get kept, mostly because I was too lazy to keep the following resolution.

6. sweep the basement floor so it's safe to go rollerskating in the basement. (Didn't keep)

This resolution didn't get kept for the lack of a push broom. If I had a push broom, or could borrow a push broom, I think I'd be in good shape. After all, I LOVE roller skating, but sweeping the basement floor doesn't sound like fun at all.

7. draw something (even if it's just a doodle on an old note pad) once a day. (Not sure if I kept)

I'm not sure if I kept this or not. I'm not really aware most of the time when I'm drawing something and when I'm not. I might have drawn something everyday, but I might not have too. I think I left this resolution a little too vague.

8. try a new restaurant once a month. (I tend to go to the same places time after time.) (Intentionally didn't keep)

Money was so tight this year, I ate out as little as possible. And when I did eat out, I spent as little money as possible, so I'm afraid it was mostly Taco Bell for me. But I did save a lot of money in doing so.

9. learn to crochet. (Kept)

My sister taught me to crochet this year and I made a nice little granny patch scarf. But now I need to keep up on my crocheting so I don't forget how to do it.

10. knit a sweater. (Started to keep)

I started making the pattern for the sweater and a bought some yarn for the sweater a couple of months ago, but I just didn't have enough time to actually make the sweater.

11. finish the projects I've started. (Not sure if I kept)

This resolution was just too ambiguous. Did I finish the projects I started? Well which ones? I finished lots of projects this year. But of course I couldn't finish them all. I wonder which one I had in mind... I should have been more specific.

12. write down my ideas in the project book before starting them. (Mostly kept)

I did write down a lot of new projects in my project book, but I could have written down more too. This one is just mostly kept.

13. finish my new website. (I took a break during the holidays, but break time is over!) (Not kept)

No, my poor website is in the same sorry state it was in last year.
I did work on it a little, but I don't think it will be finished until it needs to be.

14. spend more time outdoors. (camping, boating, biking, hiking, gardening, riding an old tire down the creek, whatever! I just need to see some sunlight! I'm starting to resemble Snow White.) (Kept)

I did spend a lot of time outdoors this year. I laid out on a blanket and watched the clouds while I watered the garden. And I helped build a rock bridge to the island in the creek, I rode my bike up to the coffee shop a few times to just sit and read out in the sunshine, and I went backpacking and spelunking. Now that it's winter I wish I were spending MORE time outside. But overall I think I did pretty good with this one. Next year, I hope I can get outside even more than I did this year.

15. invite people to my house. (Kinda kept)

This year, I did invite some people over to my house. I had a garden tea party this summer and had a few friends over for tea and crafts. But really my tiny apartment doesn't lend itself to large groups of people. I think I need to invite more people to things, but try not to cram them all into my home.

16. play the accordion more and work on reading notes. (Partially kept)

I've been playing the accordion lots, and getting better. But I threw reading notes out the window. I just can't wrap my brain around those little dots. Why do you need dots to tell you what to play, when you can hear the music? Plus, I can't get from, this dot looks like this, to this dot sounds like this. Dots don't make noise. And why do the dots have letters assigned to them? Letters don't make sounds either. I guess it's a good thing I never wanted to become a music major or play in a band. The conductor would have thrown me out.

17. buy less books and check out more books from the library. (Kept)

I did a really great job keeping this resolution. The Multnomah County Library system is top notch! It's so easy to use. It's like Netflix for books! You can keep a reading list online, and you can have them hold your books at a Multnomah County Library of your choice. They'll email when your books are due, or ready for pick-up. Then you can drop off your old books, when you pick up your new books. It's brilliant! I love the library.

18. start a Goodwill box in the trunk of the car and fill it slowly with things to go to Goodwill, then when it's full drop it off. (I don't want to become anymore of a clutterbug than I already am.) (Sort of kept)

I did start a Goodwill box. But I realized I didn't put anything in it when it was in the trunk, so now it's by the door. I also haven't actually dropped anything off yet, but I have given stuff away out of the box. So, I guess this resolution is a work in progress.

19. reline my beloved coat that is falling apart at the seams and has more holes than a piece of Swiss cheese. (even if it means paying someone else to do it.) (and it probably should be dry cleaned too, it still smells like cigars and fireworks from the New Year's Party.) (Kept)

My mom got my coat relined for me for my birthday last year. Thanks! Although, I don't think I ever got it cleaned, next year perhaps.

20. work at taking better pictures. (Kept)

I bought a new better camera off of Dave and Trina, and learned about lighting and built a macro box. It was a good year for photography. Now I've just got to learn how to use all the settings on this camera!

21. visit Marti and the calligraphy class. (Didn't keep)

Poor Marti! I haven't visited her once! If I wait much longer she'll probably forget who I am!

22. get my teeth fixed and mercury filling free. (Kept)

It cost me a small fortune, but my teeth are mercury filling free. I figured now was a good time in life to do it, if I was ever going to.

23. take my telescope out and don't let it gather dust. (Kept)

I did take my telescope out a couple of times this year. But it's hard when I'm so far away from the dark skies in the country. The city lights are impossible. And the weather unpredictable. There have been several times that I've packed it up and driven up to my parents house only to have it cloud over and not be clear at all. I'm starting to realize that I'm a sorry excuse for a city dweller. I really miss taking it out more often.

24. finish finding the Messier objects. (I've only got 18 of 110 to go, and they're mostly spring and summer objects.) (Partially kept)

I knew when I made this resolution that it would be impossible to keep. It has taken me nearly 10 years to find as many as I have and the ones that are left are the hardest ones to find. Plus, I'm terribly out of practice. And since they are the ones that are only visible for a few weeks or even days in our hemisphere, I knew my odds were slim that the weather would cooperate. However, I did find four new ones all on one mostly good summer night this year; which leaves me with 14 still to find.

25. find a nice boy. (Haven't exactly kept)

He's proven more difficult to find than all 110 Messier objects, and I have to confess, I've barely looked.

• • • • • • • • •

Overall, I think I did pretty well.
I kept about 65% of my resolutions. (If I round it all out systematically.)

Happy New Year!

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

blog #371 >> Surprise! SNOW!

Yes, Portland had a surprise snow storm today. Generally, I like snow. It's pretty, white, and very nice, just so long as I don't have to drive in it. I really dislike driving in snow. And it's not so much that I'm bad at it, I just hate being around everyone else who is bad at driving in it. It took me 1.5 hours to drive the 3 miles back home from work today! It took me 15 minutes just to go 15 feet from 39th to my driveway! Plus someone rear ended me! If you can't drive in the snow, DON'T! I wish I hadn't left during rush hour. Traffic was unbelievable! I also realized that my little car does much better in the snow than I remember. I wish I could say the same for everyone else. I saw two little Toyota trucks spin out and do a complete cookie on the way home, one was on 39th. And the little car in front of me, on the hill at the green light, started to slide back down into me. Luckily, I had about two cars distances between us, and was able to get around her. And I don't mean to say that I'm all that great at driving in the snow... but at least I don't tailgate other drivers, or take off like a bullet and spin out at the green lights. But it did make me thankful to get home. And I built Fredrick the snowman to cheer me up. This educational video is for everyone driving in Portland tonight. WATCH IT! It could save a life.

Watch How to Drive on Snow and Ice (1957) in Entertainment  |  View More Free Videos Online at


Saturday, December 26, 2009

blog #369 >> Christmas Gift Guide 2009

I love how well my family and friends know my taste. They are so good at picking out presents for me! I love everything I got. And I was VERY impressed with the number of second hand and handmade gifts this year. They're always some of the best. Thanks everyone for everything! Merry Christmas... well day after Christmas!

1. Silicone baking sheet: from Mom and Dad
I've never seen a silicone bake sheet like this one. It actually has a wire rim along the outside of it so you can use it with, or without a cookie sheet underneath it. I'm excited to try it out!
2. A canner of my very own: from Mom and Dad
I'm so glad my mom thought to get me this. If Christmas were in August, I would have thought to ask for one, but I don't think about canning much in December. Last summer all of my sisters and I decided to start canning at the same time and that lead to a waiting list to use my mom's old canner. But next year, I can can whenever I like, now that I have my very own.
3. A water bottle: from Mom and Dad
Yes! I will no longer need to fill up an old mason jar with drinking water or waste money on "mountain spring" bottled water that comes from a tap. Now I can just fill this handy bottle up and go on my way.
4. Fruit wreath Jell-O mold: from The Leingangs
I love this Jell-O mold so much, that I bought myself one just like it years ago at the Goodwill. I think this is telling me that I may have accumulated too many Jell-O molds, but perhaps there is no such thing. Now I'm trying to decide what to do with this one. I have been toying with the idea of starting a "Joys of Jell-O" vintage etsy shop, and selling all sorts of Jell-O molds and Jell-O cookbooks and Jell-O gift packages and Jell-O recipe cards... Perhaps this will be the first item in the shop.
5. Grandma's old flour sifter: from Grandma
I've needed a real four sifter for awhile. I had to borrow my mom's last time I made macaroons and the time before that I had to force everything through my little tiny sieve, which is now a rusty mess. It's amazing how these old ones never seem to get rusty. They must be made from better metal.
6. Movie package: from Rick and Susie
Popcorn, candy, black and white flicks? I guess I'll be having a movie night. And you can never go wrong with the old black and white films... Cary Grant... sigh.
7. Grandma's Cookie Cookbooks: from Grandma
I love these old cookie recipes, and the best part about them is that they all call for REAL butter. I HATE cooking with unsalted butter. And now I will automatically boycott any recipe that has it in it. These little cookbooks include: Gift Box Butter Cookies, which contains instructions on how to make a gift box out of cookies and recipes for cookies to fill it with. Old World Cookies, cookies just like your grandma's grandma used to make. Betty Crocker's (the Martha Stewart of the past) Holidays on Parade, cookie and cake recipes for every holiday. I also wonder if I could still use this coupon for 7¢ off Peter Pan Peanut Butter, it doesn't have an expiration date that I can see. And The Butter Cookie Cookbook (have a Butter Cookie Baking Bee.) Why don't people have baking or knitting bees anymore? I would LOVE to attend one.
9. The Knee Highs Kitting Book: from Amy, Frank and Ada
I can't wait to try some of these, plus, I want those shoes!
8. The Greater Jell-O Recipe Book: from Mom and Dad
The older the Jell-O recipe book the grosser the recipes. This 1931 Jell-O book includes: The Rice and Fish Loaf with lemon Jell-O, chili sauce, cooked flaked fish, cooked rice, green pepper, stuffed olives, and onion. And Piquant Tongue Loaf with lemon Jell-O, vinegar, onion juice, boiled tongue, dill pickles and mayonnaise. mmmm.... I love reading these....
9. Sham WOW! from Mom and Dad
WOW! A small piece of America that I can keep for my very own. I'm actually very curious to see how this is going to work. It looks like a giant piece of felt. If that's all it is, I've got a lot of these laying around. And I can always listen to the Sham WOW song while trying it out.
10. Pie Bird:from Mom and Dad
Yeah! Now I can bake a pie, without it boiling over. And he'll look very sweet sitting on my shelf above my oven in the mean time.
11. Green Beaded Necklace: from Frank and Amy and Family
This will be perfect for my future career as a Kindergarten teacher. Plus, it's made with such cute vintage fabric!
12. Tea Cup Earrings: from Mom and Dad
I love these earrings! They're so cute, I can't wait to wear them!
13. Pink Vintage Dress: from The Dorrs
This dress reminds me of one Grandma Ide used to wear. And it's so adorable, I'm wearing it right now. Only I wish I could put my hair up in a bouffant. It needs a bouffant.
14. Japanese Duck Eraser: from Santa?
I didn't know the elves shopped in Japan...
15. Magnet: from Mom and Dad
16. Atomic Robot: from The Leingangs
He's going to be so happy to be on the Christmas tree next year. I just hope he doesn't blow it up with his x-ray lasar eyes.
17. Sock Darner: from Mom and Dad
Now I can darn my socks even faster. I'm going to have to have a sock darning day.
18. Fruit Jell-O molds:from Mom and Dad
Next, I'm going to make an entire fruit basket filling with sparkling Jell-O molds.
19. Light up knitting needles: from Mom and Dad
From now on I can knit day and night, with or without electricity. Nothing will stop me!
20. Vintage Christmas Cards: from Grandma
Don't throw your vintage cards away without asking me first! I'll save them!

Thanks again, everyone for everything!

Friday, December 25, 2009

blog #368 >> Merry Christmas!

Wishing you the brightest Christmas ever! And a generally good time in the coming weeks.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

blog #367 >> Foggy Creek

This is how my good shoes got muddy. Considering the thick fog and the fact that it was barely light outside, I think these pictures turned out pretty good. I also found some of the neatest moss I've ever seen. I think I might start a moss collection.

blog #366 >> Gingerbread Tree House: part 2

Here it is!
...just before it crashed.
Now I'm trying to decide if I want to fix it or eat it.

Friday, December 18, 2009

blog #365 >> The Many Moods of Macaroons

What I learned today... Macaroons are touchy little bastards! ...sorry... I've obviously been shut up in my kitchen baking cookies by myself for entirely too long today. My macaroons were certainly a learning experience though. And I'm going to take what I learned and make them better. By the time I got to my sixth batch, I had them down. And I learned all kinds of new tricks. Next time, I'm going to grease the parchment, and I'm going to draw little 1.5" circles on the backs of the parchment to get all my cookies consistent. I went a little pastry bag crazy today. And I found that the 1.5" cookies baked up best. I also found the perfect oven temperature, 305 degrees, and the perfect baking time is 9 minutes. I also discovered that the best way to not over mix the batter, and that's REALLY easy to do, is to add the food coloring to the egg whites before you mix them into the almond flour, sugar mixture. And I learned that I need to stop mixing the second the batter is smooth. Over mixed cookies turn into pancakes, and under mixed cookies turn into earthquakes. These are getting better every time I make them!

My field of macaroons.

Green almond flavored macaroons. Perfectly mixed. Happy

Pink peppermint macaroons. Perfectly mixed. Very happy

Yellow orange flavored macaroons. Slightly under mixed, a couple of them cracked. Smug

Chocolate flavored macaroons. Perfectly mixed. Cheerful

Orange pineapple macaroons. Over mixed and flat. Sad

Purple blackberry macaroons. Under mixed and a lumpy, cracked mess, but still tasty. Angry

... and as promised, a picture of the gingerbread tree house. It's assembled and structurally sound, but it needs to dry overnight before I can decorate it.