Not To Be Trusted With Knives

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Five New Foods, Two Books, and One Hell of a Deadlift

After last year’s pathetic display of accomplishing so few of my goals, I’ve decided to come out of the 2018 gate strong. In fact, I’ve already made 5 new foods/beverages that I’ve never made before (of my goal to make 18 new things year), finished 2 books (of my goal of 18), and deadlifted my body weight!

The foods are:

  • chicken florentine – I had a bunch of spinach I needed to use up, so I picked this recipe.
  • grog – this was the house drink at my birthday party. It was pretty tasty!
  • slow cooker lasagna – made this for my birthday party. I’ve made lasagna a million times before, but never in a slow cooker.
  • kale salad from a recipe from Savio Volpe – Scott took me to Savio Volpe for my birthday and since the reservation said it was my birthday, there was a birthday card waiting on the table and in that card was a recipe for their kale salad. Which is delicious. And which I’ve made several times since then!
  • herbed goat cheese-stuffed chicken thighs – I had a bunch of goat cheese, leftover from my birthday party, that I needed to use up (do you see the trend?), so I google “goat cheese recipes” and found one for stuffing chicken breast with goat cheese that you’ve mixed with herbs. But I did it with chicken thighs. Pretty good stuff.
Making slow cooker lasagna

Making lasagna in the slow cooker

Kale salad

Kale salad

The two books I’ve finished so far in 2018 were:

  • The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined by Steven Pinker – I started reading this massive tome last year and it took me about eleventy billion years to get through it, but I finally did. The gist of the book is that violence has decreased over human history and Pinker puts forward his theory as to why. Often people think that we are living in particularly dangerous times – probably at least in part because we hear about violent events on the news on the time, but that’s actually a skewed perception, as the news covers the most sensational events (If it bleeds, it leads). Overall we are at much less at risk of being a victim of violence than in any other time in human history1 There’s a tonne of data illustrating the decline in violence and we can see it also in what is considered acceptable – e.g., it used to be legal and considered acceptable by society for people to keep slaves, for a man to rape his wife, for parents to beat their children, to people to brutalize animals, for example2. Pinker presents a pretty extensive theory as to why violence has declined and I’m not even going to try to get into describing it all. You’ll just have to read the 800+ pages to find out for yourself!
  • Ready Player One: A Novel by Ernest Cline – {SPOILER ALERT – Don’t read this if you don’t want the book to be spoiled for you!} After reading such a long, dense book, I decided I needed to have a quick and easy read as a bit of a palate cleanser for my brain, and Ready Player One fit the bill. Plus, there’s a movie version of it coming out this year and so I figured I should read it in case I decided to see the movie. I know a lot of people *love* this book, but I thought it was just OK. I mean, I enjoyed reading it but I got the exact same feeling from reading it as I did when I read the DaVinci Code – I was compelled enough by wanting to see how the various puzzles would be solved to keep reading, but the writing is so flat3 that it was kind of a painful, if easy, read. He does a tonne of name dropping of 80s games (game dropping?), movies, and music. Having grown up in the 80s, most of these were familiar to me (especially the movies and music), but the excitement of “hey, I remember that” gets pretty old pretty quick and then it just becomes annoying. And most egregiously, the Deus ex machina of Og showing up to give them a completely impenetrable fortress from which to complete the end of the game was just too much.

And then the one that I’m most excited about: I deadlifted more than my body weight! One of the challenges to doing this was that my body weight has increased due to the muscle mass I’ve put on from all the weight training4. I’d thought I’d lifted my body weight one time last year but then when I got home and weighed myself to confirm, I found that I’d been just shy of my weight.

In this month’s training program, one of my exercises was to do bar bell deadlifts where you start with a weight you can lift for 12 reps, then you up the weight and do 9 reps, then you up the weight again and do 6 reps. Then you start over at 12 reps, but with the weight you used for 9 reps the first time through, then you do 9 reps with the weight you did for 6 reps the first time through, then you do 6 reps at a higher weight. As you can see from my record sheet, on Jan 30, 2018, I did 6 reps of 67.5 kg!


Since I’m of the generation of Canadians that still thinks of our body weight in pounds instead of kg, I had to do the conversion to confirm that this was, in fact, more than my body weight:Untitled

And I do, in fact, weight less than 148 lbs, so hooray for me – goal achieved!

  1. Of course, this is not to say that there is no violence or that the violence that does happen is not horrific. []
  2. Again, this is not to say that these things don’t still happen or that they aren’t legal in some societies still today. But they are legal or accepted in far fewer societies today than in the past. []
  3. Full disclosure: I saw the description of the writing in this book as “flat” in a GoodReads review and it totally fit with the feeling I had about the writing that I couldn’t find the right word for, so I totally stole the word! []
  4. Also, it’s kind of cool that after several years of setting, and failing to achieve, a goal of losing the 15 lbs I put on during my MBA (I’d get part way there from half marathon training, but never quite lost it all), I’m now actually happier with my body size despite weighing the most I’ve ever weighed, because it’s all been muscle mass gain. Don’t get me wrong, I still have some fat mass I’d like to lose, but I’ve got some kickass muscles that I’ve never had before! []


Stuff I Learned This Year: Home Repair Edition

Hey remember that time more than four months ago when my kitchen cabinet door fell off? I *finally* got around to fixing it. I was really gung-ho to fix it when it broke, going so far as to buy replacement hinges at Home Depot right away. But then I got busy and somehow four months went by before I got around to trying to actually attach the new hinges to the cabinet and, as it turns out, the hinges I got were not the right ones. I’d bought ones that looked like the old ones, but when Scott and I attached them, the door wouldn’t close – it was off by like half an inch. My friend Heather’s husband Dwayne came over to help out and discovered what the problem was – the hinges I had gotten from Home Depot were made by Blum, but the hinges in all my cabinets are Ferrari. And apparently there is no standardization among different manufacturers, so you can’t just use a Blum hinge to replace a Ferrari one. After running around town, I managed to find someone who could sell me the right hinges, which Scott and I used to fix the cabinet yesterday and now I am the proud owner of a kitchen in which all the cabinets have doors on them!

And while we were in a fix it kind of mood, we also tightened the toilet seat, which was starting to become a bit loose. For this, we went to YouTube and found a video that showed us how very easy peasy this is to do:

So now not only can I successfully hide the contents of my kitchen cabinet with a fully functioning door, but I also will not slide off my toilet due to a loose seat. Hooray!


Goals for 2018

Since I performed abysmally on my goals for the past two years, I’ve decided to shake up how I’m writing my goals this year. As I was googling to get some inspiration for goals for this year, I saw some articles with tips on how to write better goals. One of those tips was something that I know very well from my work-life – making SMART goals!

  • Specific – it should be clear exactly what you are trying to achieve (e.g., rather than say “eat healthier”, you need to specify in way, like “eat more vegetables” or “consume less sugar”)
  • Measurable – it should have an indication of how you will measure if you achieved it (e.g., eat a minimum of 5 servings of vegetables at least 4 days a week)
  • Achievable – it should be something that is within your control1 and realistic enough to achieve2 – though you don’t want to make it too easy to achieve – it should be somewhat of a challenge so you have to work to achieve it.
  • Relevant – it should be something that matters to you, otherwise you won’t be motivated to work towards it.
  • Time-bound – it should have a date associated with it so that it’s not just an open-ended “well, I haven’t achieved it yet, but maybe someday it will happen!).

All of my yearly goals are, by definition, time-bound since they are to be completed within the year and I’m usually good at making them measurable and specific, but I’ve done a double check on this year’s goals to make sure they met all the elements of SMART.

The other idea that I saw was to phrase the goals as if they were already achieved – a technique that I’m familiar with from writing vision statements and learning objectives. So I’m going to give that a try!

By December 31, 2018:

Health-related goals

  1. I have deadlifted more than my own body weight. I’m close to having done this, but never quite got to my own body weight (I thought I had, but then went home and weighed myself and discovered that I’d put on my weight than I’d realized due to building up all this muscle from strength training!)
  2. I have done a chin-up or pull-up without the help of any resistance bands. I’ve had some training programs where I’ve been doing chin ups or pulls up, but I’m not yet able to lift my own body weight, so I stand in resistance bands that are hung from the bar, which takes a bit of my weight. I started with three different resistance bands and now I’m down to one or two. I think within 12 months I can get to doing them all on my own3
  3. I meditate at least once per week.
  4. I have written in my journal at least one time per week, on average. – I think I set my journal writing goal too high in 2017 and then got discouraged when I got so far behind that it felt like I’d never catch up! One a year seems more realistic.
  5. I have brought my lunch to work at least 75% of the time.

Personal growth-related goals:

  1. I learned 12 new things and wrote a blog posting about each of them.
  2. I read 18 books – and written a review of each. I failed miserably at my book reading goal in 2016, but I’m hoping that my work team gets moved to the new location we are supposed to be moving to – which is transit accessible – soon in the new year, so that I’ll be taking the Skytrain and bus more, which will provide me with more time for reading! Also, my book club is getting a reboot4, so that will help motivate me too!

Crafty goals:

  1. I’ve sewn 5 items. I really enjoyed the sewing classes I did last year and want to do more sewing. I’d like to take the zippered pouch class and perhaps make a few more tote bags.
  2. I’ve made 18 new foods and/or beverages that I’ve never made before – and blogged about each of them. I have ideas for some things I want to try making and I’m sure I’ll be inspired with other ideas throughout the year.

Professional goals:

  1. I’ve submitted 3 papers for publication. I have one that is almost ready to be submitted and ideas for two others and I’m really need to dedicate the time to sit down and write them!
  2. I’ve set up and implemented a performance planning and review system for my team at work. Now that I have a team (that is more than just me and one other person), I think it’s high time I set this up.

Getting organized goals:

  1. I’ve applied for a Nexus card.
  2. I’ve finished Konmaring my condo
  3. I’ve painted my condo.
  4. I’ve bought a freezer. I currently only have the small freezer on the top of my fridge and I feel so limited by it. I want to be able to make big batches of things (like lasagna or chili) and then freezer them to have for lunches. So my plan is to clean up my office enough to

Miscellaneous other goals:

  1. I’ve donated blood twice.
  2. I’ve published 118 blog postings. That’s just a little more than one every 3 days, on average, or about 10 per month.
  3. Of those blog postings, I’ve published at least six that are long form (minimum of 3000 words). I feel like I should write some more thoughtful pieces, so I’m going to give it a try.
  1. Of course, sometimes things happen that make something that was achievable no longer so – such as if you set a goal to run a marathon but then got injury. But it shouldn’t be something that is clearly outside of your control or you can’t work towards achieving it. []
  2. I mean, as much as I’d like to make $1 billion this year, it’s pretty damn unlikely to happen, so then you are just setting yourself up for failure! []
  3. Some people at the gym do chin ups or pull ups while wearing a heavy chain – or a chain with weights attached! – that’s going to be a longer-term goal for me. []
  4. Thanks to Cath for rebooting us! []


Books I Read in 2017

As I mentioned recently, I’ve done absolutely abysmally on my goal of reading 17 books in 2017. I did managed to finish off two of the books I was reading when I wrote that last posting1, so I upped my total number of books read in 2017 to four instead of two, but it’s still pretty sad.

2017 reading challenge

For the record, the four books were:

my 2017 books

And here are some stats that Good Reads gave me on those books:

books stats 2017

I have high hopes that 2018 will be a better year for me for reading because (a) four books is a pretty low bar to set, (b) my book club is getting rebooted, so that will give me several book reading opportunities/motivation, and (c) I’m hoping that my office will get moved to a more transit-friendly location soon in the new year, so that I’ll have more Skytrain book reading time in 2018 than I did this year.

Anyone have any good book suggestions for me?

  1. I did read a chunk more of Better Angels of Our Nature over the holidays, mostly on during my flights too and from Toronto, but I didn’t manage to finish it off. But I’m sure I’ll finish it soon in the new year, so at least that will get me off to a good start on my 2018 book reading goal! []


New Foods I Made in 2017

So I guess now is that time of year where I do all my year-end wrap up postings! Decided to start with one of my 2017 goals that I actually accomplished: Make 17 new foods and/or drinks that I’ve never made before.

In fact, not only did I achieve this one, but I surpassed it by 8!

  1. chicken parmesan casserole
  2. pork tenderloin in bourbon – this was bourbon-licious
  3. cedar planked salmon – thanks to cedar planks that I got from Costco
  4. cedar planked chicken – because I got the cedar planks from Costco, there were eleventy billion of them
  5. oat fudge bars
  6. BBQ pizza
  7. zucchini chocolate chip muffins – these were a big hit when I brought them into the office
  8. maraschino cherries – I made these from cherries I picked up in the Okanagan and a cherry liqueur that I also got in the Okanagan1
  9. amaretto cherries – I decided to try making these in the same way that I made the maraschino cherries (i.e., soak berries in booze). When I tried then after about a week in the booze, the maraschino cherries were delicious, but the amaretto ones didn’t seem like they’d absorbed any of the amaretto yet, so I’ve now left them for
  10. tarragon vinegar – with fresh tarragon from High Garden
  11. BBQ Chicken with Sweet Chili–Peach Glaze – I had some fresh peaches and made a pretty delicious glaze to go with BBQ chicken
  12. cauliflower tots
  13. broccoli tots
  14. Garlicky Butter Chive Parmesan Pork Chops – not gonna lie, I did not leave these
  15. pita bread – my friend Steph made these when I was at her place and they were so good that I asked for the recipe. And she was like, “these are so easy, I don’t even use a recipe.” So I tried making some (with a recipe I found) and they were, in fact, really easy!
  16. raspberry jam
  17. figs pickled in balsamic vinegar – with figs from Tig & Pat’s annual fig party
  18. fig infused balsamic vinegar – this may or may not have been the left over balsamic vinegar from when I pickled the figs
  19. pickled spicy beans – sooo good
  20. pickles – nor these
  21. pickled beets – haven’t actually tried these yet
  22. sautéed beet tops – since I had the beet tops from the beets that I pickled, I tried sautéing them, because I read that was a thing to do. Didn’t love them, but they weren’t terrible, so would probably make them again should I be in possession of beet tops
  23. jalapeño jelly – nor these
  24. bitters – from the “make your own bitters” kit my sister gave me last Christmas
  25. vanilla sugar – from vanilla beans that had previously been making vanilla extract
My first ever batches of spicy pickled beans, pickled beets, and pickles!

Spicy pickled beans, pickled beets, pickles

Making jalapeno jelly

Making jalapeño jelly

Cedar planked salmon

Cedar planked salmon

Cedar Planked Chicken

Cedar Planked Chicken

Oat Fudge Bars

Oat Fudge Bars

BBQ Pizza

BBQ Pizza

Zucchini chocolate chip muffins

Zucchini chocolate chip muffins

BBQ Chicken with Sweet Chili–Peach Glaze

BBQ Chicken with Sweet Chili–Peach Glaze and grilled peach and veggies

Broccoli and cauliflower tots

Broccoli and cauliflower tots

Sauteeing beet tops

Sauteed beet tops

  1. So they aren’t technically maraschino cherries, which should be made with maraschino liqueur, but I figure they are close enough. []


Stuff I Learned This Year: Make-Up Expiry Edition

So after more than a quarter of a century of wearing makeup, I recently learned that this symbol exists:

Makeup expiry symbol

It’s not on all makeup, but when it’s there, it’s a symbol of how long the make-up is good for once you open it.

This mascara is good for 6 months after I opened it.

And this moisturizer is good for 12 months after I opened it.


Now I just need to actually know when I opened all my make-up and I’m good to go!


Stuff I Learned This Year: Short Cut Edition

Speaking of stuff I learned from Cath, at the same time that I got her to sign my copy of her book, I also learned that you can create a calendar event from an email in Microsoft Outlook by dragging the email into your calendar, like this:

Possibly everyone else already knows this, but it was new to me!

When I told a colleague about this, she was like “yeah, I knew that” and I said, “I knew about creating a Google Calendar event from an email in Gmail, but I didn’t know that shortcut in Outlook. To which she replied “you can?” (In Gmail, if you have an email with a date and/or time in it, you can click  on it to create a Google Calendar event. Or if there isn’t a date, you can just select “More” and then “Create Event”.) It’s funny how we all learn various shortcuts with software, but then don’t learn others. From that same colleague, I learned that in Excel, if you cell is set to date format, you can just type the numerical month-numerical day and it will fill it out as the current year (e.g., you can type 01-11 and it will fill it in as Jan 11, 2017.1. This may not seem like a big deal, but when you are doing 300 chart audits that require you to record as many as 100 dates per chart, that’s a huge time saver! You know, as a completely hypothetical example. But then I taught her that you can type CTRL+; in an Excel cell and it enters the current date (and do the same thing but with CTRL+SHIFT+; and it enters the current time).

This reminds of the time that I learned my favourite ever computer shortcut: Format Painter. It was many years ago and I was working on a document with a group and we were writing it as a group, which is quite possibly my least favourite thing to do2. Anyway, we were sitting watching someone type and she wasn’t using any of the normal short cuts – like, instead of hitting “CTRL-C” to copy something and then “CTRL-V” to paste it, she would go up to the menu bar at the top of the screen, click “Edit”, then “Copy”, and then put her cursor where we wanted to paste and go back up to the menu bar, click “Edit”, then “Paste”. I would have even taken her using the “copy” and “paste” buttons on the toolbar which, while not as efficient as the keyboard short cuts, is at least better than using the menu bar! Anyhoo, we are sitting there trying to co-write this thing while watching the excruciatingly slow typing and then all of a sudden, when the person typing wanted to change the formatting of something, she did something I’d never seen before. She clicked the button with the picture of the paint brush on it (which I’d honestly never paid attention to before) and it magically changed the formatting of the text she highlighted. I (and another colleague) were both “wtf was that???” And that was how I learned about Format Painter, which is now  my most favourite things in Word:

If you already knew about Format Painter, my apologies for boring you to tears. If you didn’t, you’re welcome!

  1. And then I was playing around with it some more and found that you can type 11Jan and it will do the same thing! []
  2. I would much rather draft something up and have people respond – or have someone else draft something up for me to respond to – than sit in a group and watch someone type while we try to co-write something. Excruciating! []


Stuff I Learned This Year: Canning Edition

And speaking of stuff I learned through books I read: this year I learned about home canning!

Last year, I made some jams. But this year, thanks to a book that my friend Linda gave to me, Foolproof Preserving: A Guide to Small Batch Jams, Jellies, Pickles, Condiments & More, I actually learned more about the science behind making jams, jellies, and pickled things. This also allowed me to add seven new food items to my list of new food items that I made in 2017 (this year’s goal was to make at least 17 new food and drink items that I’ve never made before):

  • raspberry jam
  • figs pickled in balsamic vinegar1
  • fig-infused balsamic vinegar2
  • pickled spicy beans
  • pickled beets
  • pickles3
  •  jalapeño jelly

Making spicy pickled beansScott and I just opened a jar of the pickled beans yesterday and they are super tasty, if somewhat sour. I gave Kalev a jar of the jalapeño jelly, but haven’t tasted it yet myself. The raspberry jam, of which I made a tonne thanks to buying an entire flat of raspberries at one of the local farms, has been enjoyed by many as I’ve given it out to a number of people. The pickles and beets and figs have yet to be tested.

There’s still a number of things that I want to try canning – blackberry jam comes to mind as, for the second year running, I failed to go out blackberry picking again this year. But that book has a number of other cool recipes that I’d like to try, such as peach-bourbon jam, mulled cider jelly, red pepper jelly, pickled carrots, pickled asparagus, roasted tomato-lime salsa, spiced figs in syrup, Dijon mustard, and applesauce. Not in the book, but which I want to try: plum sauce. Looks like I have a good list of potential new food items to make for my 2018 goal of making 18 new foods that I’ve never made before!

My first ever batches of spicy pickled beans, pickled beets, and pickles!

Beans, beets, and pickles.

  1. Yes, the figs did come from Tig & Pat’s annual fig party. []
  2. Yes, the fig-infused balsamic vinegar is the vinegar that was left over from when I made the pickled figs. []
  3. Why don’t we call pickles “pickled cucumbers”? Everything else we pickle, we use “pickled” as the adjective followed by the name of the thing we pickled. []


Stuff I Learned This Year: Epigenetics Edition

So I’ve been totally slack on blogging about the stuff I’ve learned this year as part of my goal to learn 12 new things in 2017. I’ve been learning stuff, but just not getting around to blogging about it. But I’m on vacay now, so I’ll have time to catch up on all the stuff I meant be blog about! And since I’m on vacation now, I’m also able to read books and finally finished reading the book that my friend Cath wrote: Introducing Epigenetics: A Graphic Guide.

Epigenetics is the field of study that is concerned with how things interact with our genes to control their expression. We all inherit DNA, which contains a bunch of genes, from our parents, but there is a whole bunch of complicated things that go on to control how/when/where those genes get expressed (or not). Back when I last took a genetics course – i.e., eleventy billion years ago in my undergrad – I only remember learning about gene transcription (where a cell reads the code in DNA and makes a copy of it in a similar molecule called RNA) and gene translation (where the cell translates the code from the RNA into a protein, which can then go on and perform some function in the body). I also only remember three kinds of RNA: messenger (mRNA), transfer (tRNA) and ribosomal (rRNA). Now there are a tonne of other RNAs – micro (miRNA), long noncoding (lncRNA), and piwi-interacting (piRNAs), just to name a few1. All this to say – a lot has happened in our understanding of genetics since I last learned about it, so this book was great way to get up to speed on a whole lot of learning in a fun way! Also, my copy just so happens to be signed:

Book signing by Cath

Dr. Cath, doing a book signing just for me!

I’m not going to even try to summarize all the stuff that I learned about epigenetics – the book has a *lot* of information and if you want a solid introduction to the world of epigenetics, you should probably buy the book!

  1. Sidebar: I feel the same way about dinosaurs. When I was a kid, we learned about 6 dinosaurs – T. Rex, stegosaurus, triceratops, brontosaurus, pterodactyl – and then Jurassic Park came out and we all learned about velociraptors,  but now there are dozens of different kinds of dinosaurs and it turns out that pterodactyls aren’t actually dinosaurs and that brontosaurus is actually an apatosaurus, except then more research came out that suggested that apatosaurus and brontosaurus were actually two different kinds of dinosaurs after all. But I digress. []



So speaking of books, I have been absolutely pathetic at reading this year. I just looked on Good Reads to see how close to my goal of reading 17 books this year and discovered to my dismay that I have read a mere *two* books this year. TWO! I mean, I feel like I must have read more books than that, but I can’t for the life of me think of what they would be.

I blame my lack of reading in large part on the fact that partway through the year, my work team and I were moved to an office that is not easily accessible by transit and so I’ve been driving to work. Given that I do the lion share of my reading when I’m on the Skytrain or bus, this really cut into the amount of time I spent reading1. In addition, I didn’t really go on any vacations where I could do a bunch of reading and my kobo died and it took a little while before I bought a new one.

Also hampering my total is the fact that I started reading The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined by Steven Pinker, which 800+ pages long. I mean, it’s no Infinite Jest, but it’s still been taking me a looooong time to read it.

I do have a few books that I’ve read parts of, varying from almost all of the book to just a chapter, including2:

I should probably finish some of them just to get my numbers up!

Plus I have a few that I have lined up to read, including:

Fortunately, I only have one week left of work for 2017 and then I’m on holidays and I’m really hoping I can get in some pleasure reading3.

  1. On the flip side, I listened to way more podcast, as I typically listen to podcasts when I’m driving. []
  2. Full disclosure: All the things in this posting are Amazon affiliate links. That means if you click on them and then buy something, I get some cash. So you should totes do that because I like when I get cash! Seriously though, you should totally buy Introducing Epigenetics: A Graphic Guide by Dr. Cath Ennis because (a) it’s a very interesting book (from what I’ve read so far), (b) my friend Cath wrote it! But mostly because of (a)! []
  3. I also have some serious vacationing planned for 2018, so hopefully I’ll get a strong start on my 2018 book reading goal! []