Slightly Past Halfway Through The Year Check-In On My Goals
So I only set 4 goals for this year, because trying to make any kind of plans beyond basic things like eating food and reading books back in January, when vaccines were just starting to roll out and everything was still so unknown, seemed like a fool’s errand. So let’s see how I’ve been doing on those 4 goals, shall we?
1. made 21 new foods and/or beverages that I’ve never made before – and blogged about each of them.
I’m ahead of the game on this one, having made 18/21 (86%) new food or beverage items so far and we are not quite 60% of the way through the year. They haven’t all been good, but quality wasn’t a criterion, so they all count. Besides, it’s good to try things because, even if they don’t always turn out, you still learn something.
The first crappy thing that I made was a Swiss Roll (1) that I made for my birthday. The next thing I made was Healthy Apple Muffins (2). I appear to not have taken a photo of them, nor recorded what recipe I used. This was back in January, so I don’t totally remember the details. I think they were OK. Then I tried another recipe that I definitely remember was crappy. They were touted online as a “healthy two ingredient brownie” (3), made with just bananas and cocoa. And they didn’t taste bad, exactly, but they just tasted nothing like a brownie. When you are expecting a brownie and then you eat something that just kinda tastes like banana bread, it’s disappointing. The recipe also included a recipe for “healthy” icing, made with just coconut oil, cocoa, and maple syrup which tasted like… coconut. So instead of the fudgy chocolate brownie I was promised, I got a banana bread with coconut on top.
The next item was much better: apple turnovers (4)!
Then it was back to a meh item. Back in February, everyone was all excited about a recipe for pasta that went viral on TikTok. It’s very simple: you back cherry tomatoes, garlic, feta, chili peppers, and olive oil and then put that on pasta. Apparently it is a Finnish dish called uunifetapasta (5). I tried it, but didn’t see what all the fuss was about. I mean, it was OK, but not good enough that I’ll make it again.
And then the next thing I tried was also meh. I was at Galloway’s, my favourite flour and spice store, and on a whim I bought a small package of tapioca1. So I tried making tapioca pudding (6). It ended up with the tapioca balls being a little too firm and the pudding not quite firm enough. But I discovered that there’s lots of variations on tapioca pudding (I’d only ever had it as vanilla flavour before, but you can do chocolate, banana, butterscotch… the list is endless). Since I now have this bag of tapioca, I figure I’ll try a bunch of different recipes and see which one I like best. I did recently make a chocolate tapioca pudding (16) (which also counts as a new recipe for this year) and the pudding was a better consistency, but the tapioca was still too firm for my liking. I did see some recipes where you soak the tapioca overnight (the two recipes I’ve tried so far did not include that step), so I’m going to try one of those recipes next.
My next recipe was to make Hot Cross Buns (7)for Easter.
I made half the batch with raisins and the other half with chocolate chips. I thought I’d like the latter best, but I actually preferred the former!
Next up was a cornmeal crusted salmon (8). It was from one of those meal kit boxes, but I’d never made it before so it totally counts.
Then I made buttermilk baked chicken thighs (9) – I believe I’d gotten buttermilk for another recipe, though I can’t recall what it was (not a new recipe, since it’s not on my list of new things that I’ve made this year). They were tasty.
Honey garlic glazed salmon (10) was also tasty:
Last year I tried out some sherry recipes, and for some reason, I got it in my head to do that again, so made sherry & vinegar chicken (11) and sherry asparagus, carrots, & broccoli (12). Both of which were awesome! I appear to only have taken a photo of the former though.
I found a recipe for a ginger whiskey sour (15), and it required ginger simple syrup (13), which meant that I got to kill two birds with one stone, because I’d never made ginger simple syrup before, so that totally counts as a new recipe. And then I found out that I actually got to kill three birds with one stone, because you can use the ginger that you boiled in sugar water to make the simple syrup to make crystallized ginger (14)2 – all you have to do is toss the pieces of ginger in sugar!
If I’d really been on top of my game, I could have also made ginger sugar, which is just the leftover sugar after you toss the ginger in the sugar to make the crystallized ginger. But I’d put just the right amount of sugar into the dish to coat the ginger without any leftovers.
Pro tip: If you leave the crystallized sugar in a container out on the counter, it will go moldy. I thought the insane amount of sugar would have preserved it better, but it did not.
My presentation leaves something to be desired – it’s supposed to be dash of bitters on top and garnished with a piece of the crystallized ginger. But it tasted fantastic, so I’m OK with it.
Then I found a recipe in the magazine you get from the liquor store for a whiskey thyme cocktail (17). Bourbon, lemon juice, simple syrup (I used the ginger simple syrup, since I had it on hand), bitters and a few sprigs of thyme (fresh from my balcony garden!) are shaken up with ice, then strained into a glass and then you add some soda water and garnish with more thyme. A delicious summer beverage, if I do say so myself!
And the latest addition to the list is something that I just made today: low sugar peach jam. My friend Gerry told me about Pomona pectin, which uses calcium to set the pectin, so you don’t need a tonne of sugar to make jam with it. The package comes with an envelope of pectin and an envelope of monocalcium phosphate. You mix the monocalcium phosphate with water and add that in with the fruit when you heat it up. Then you mix the pectin with the small amount of sugar that the recipe calls for and add that to the boiling fruit mixture. It was pretty easy, but I guess we’ll have to see how it turns out!
2. read 21 books – and blogged about each of them.
I’m also ahead of the game on this one, having read 16/21 (76%) books. I’m also currently reading 3 books, so when I finish up those, I’ll be even closer to the goal.
As always with my postings about books I’ve read: HERE THERE BE SPOILERS. You have been warned.
Four of the books that I’ve read this year have been for my book club:
Do Not Say We Have Nothing by Madeleine Thien was a really interesting book. It went between life of a girl in present-day Vancouver and through her family’s experience over a couple of generations in China. There was a whole thing about music that I feel like I missed out on because I’m not very knowledgeable about music, but on the whole I enjoyed reading this book
The Alice Network by Kate Quinn features a female spy network from World War I and then also a story set after World War II involving one of those spies . Kind of like how DNSWHN was jumping around between timelines, so was this one. I enjoyed the story in this overall (the WWI part more than the WWII part), but the ending was kind of hackneyed.
Stories of Your Life and Others by Ted Chiang is a book of short stories and they were super interesting. One of the stories was the story that the movie Arrival was based on, and it was pretty good. I also really liked another story that involved Golems. There was another story that was kind of cool – angels and heaven and hell were real and people could see them, but I found the ending of that one unsatisfying.
The New Wilderness by Diane Cook was yet another book where I was disappointed in the ending. I mean, I enjoyed reading it for the most part, even though the characters’ motivations were kind of hard to believe, but the ending just made the whole thing seem pointless.
In addition to my book club books, I’ve also read 4 other fiction books:
I re-read, for the billionth time, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone. I listen to the podcast Harry Potter and the Sacred Text, which is currently in their 8th season. They went through one book per season (one chapter per episode) and are now starting over again with the first book, so I decided to read along with the podcast for this run through of the series (though I got a bit ahead of the podcast and have finished the book already).
I also listen to the My Dad Wrote a Porno podcast, where they read an erotic book series written by one of the podcasters dads. Since they read the book in its entirety on the podcast, I’m counting it as a book I’ve read just like I would for an audiobook. So I’ve read “Belinda Blinked 6: Belinda Blumenthal, ex worldwide Sales Director of Steeles Pots and Pans is finding her new role tough. Can this sexy salesgirl reassert … in a new world of hate & intrigue...”by Rocky Flintstone.
Most recently I read Akata Witch and Akata Warrior by Nnedi Okorafor. This series has been described “the Nigerian Harry Potter” and I can see why. It’s the story of an albino girl born in America to Nigerian parents, who move the family back to Nigeria. And then she discovers that she is magical, a.k.a., a Leopard person, inherited from her grandmother (though her mother is a “Lamb” (i.e., non-magical). There are definitely lots of similarities to Harry Potter, but I’m not sure how much is due to the influence of Harry Potter and how much is just both authors using similar tropes. Overall, I quite enjoyed both these books and am looking forward to the next book in the series – Akata Woman – which is supposed to come out next year.
The rest of the books that I’ve read have been non-fiction:
- How to be an Antiracist by Ibram X. Kendi – this was a great book – highly recommend!
- White Fragility by Robin Diangelo – I knew about the general idea of white fragility, but it was useful to read the book on it.
- We Should All Be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie – short, but good.
- Indigenous Peoples: A Guide to Terminology by Indigenous Corporate Training Inc – very helpful book, which you can download as a free ebook from their website)
- Guide Book to Indigenous Protocol by Indigenous Corporate Training Inc – another really helpful book, which you can also download as a free ebook from their website)
- A Series of Fortunate Events by Sean B. Carroll – heard about this one when the author was interviewed on CBC radio. It’s all about how completely random things have changed the course of the world – including the fact that each of us exist!
- Burnout: The Secret to Unlocking the Stress Cycle by Emily Nagoski and Amelia Nagoski – this one was recommended to me by a couple of different people as I, like many others, was kinda burnt out during the pandemic (especially in the winter) and it was helpful. I listened to it as an audiobook and there were parts of that that really got on my nerves, but overall I learned some new things and I thought it was a worthwhile read.
- The Bullet Journal Method by Ryder Carroll – another thing that really helped me during the pandemic was starting a bullet journal. I’d been feeling so scattered and then Dr. Dan suggested I try bullet journaling and it really helped my brain! I’m going to write a blog posting about bullet journaling at some point, so I won’t say more about this book now.
3. read at least of 7,500 pages, counting books, chapters, journal articles, reports and other long form writing (but not counting short things like news stories or tweets, because I honestly can’t be bothered to track those).
I’ve just been tracking the journal articles, book chapters, and reports on on a Google spreadsheet and figured I could get the page count for the books I’ve read from GoodReads, where I track my book reading. So far, I’ve read 663 pages of journal articles, reports, and book chapters, but when I just went onto GoodReads, it’s not showing my page count for the year. I know that it gives me the page count of the books at the end of the year, because I looked at that for previous years when I set this year’s page goal. But I guess I have to wait until the end of the year to find that out (as I’m too lazy to go to all the GoodRead pages for each of the books to check how many pages they each were. So I don’t actually know what % of my goal I’ve completed for this one.
4. done an average of 20 mins of mindfulness meditation per week.
As always, mindfulness is my Achilles’ heel, but I’m doing better at this than I usually do. I’ve tried out a few different things, and I figure at some point I’ll find a routine that works for me. So far this year I’ve done 351 minutes of mindfulness meditation and since we are on week 31 of the year, that works out to 11 minutes per week. Better than I’ve done in the past, but still have a long way to go!
- Truth be told, I’m not sure why I bought it. When I was a kid, my dad told my sister and I that tapioca was fish eyes, and then we never wanted to eat it. And don’t even get me started on the horror that is the other things I’ve tried with tapioca in it: the dreaded bubble tea! [↩]
- If you look up recipes for ginger simple syrup, they’ll tell you that crystallized ginger is a by-product of making the simply syrup, but if you look up a recipe for crystallized ginger, they say that ginger simple syrup is the by-product of making crystallized ginger! [↩]