my love/hate relationship with reading books

ALA Read mini-poster
“ALA Read mini-poster” by me

This year I participated in the “set your own challenge” book reading thinger on Goodreads. Initially, I set mine at 25, as a little stretch goal from my average of 19 books per year over the past four years. But, I was doing so well in the early part of the year that I increased it to 30. The final total was 27, but I’m part-way through several books that I just didn’t have time to finish as the clocked ticked down to the end of the year.

What worked well for me this time: audiobooks. I read more of them than paper books this year, and it forced me to expand to a variety of topics and styles I would not have patience for in print.

What failed me this time: getting hung up on a book I felt obligated to finish, but did not excite me to continue on it, so I kept avoiding it. To be fair, part of what turned me off was on disc two, I accidentally set my car’s CD player to shuffle. This is great for adding some variety to music listening, but it made for confusing and abrupt transitions from one topic/focus to another.

I read a lot of non-fiction, because that works better in audio format for me, and I read more audio than printed (either in paper or electronic) books. For 2013, I’d like to read more fiction, which means reading more in print. Which means making time for my “must read the whole book cover to cover” method of reading fiction.

audiobook: 20
print book: 7
ebook: 0

fiction: 5
non-fiction: 22

books read in 2012



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I created something delicious last weekend

chocolate salted caramel peanut butter cookies
chocolate salted caramel peanut butter cookies

Some friends host a cookie exchange party every year, and they have a panel of judges determine which ones are the best. I decided to do something a little different this year, rather than following a basic recipe for the same old, same old. I started thinking about it shortly after Thanksgiving, which may be why I decided to take my inspiration from the turducken.

I began with a basic peanut butter cookie dough (mine came from the Better Homes and Gardens New Cook Book), which I chilled while I ran some errands and then made a chocolate ganache (warning: that recipe makes far more than you really need for this). I’d picked up some salted caramels from Trader Joe’s recently, and I chilled them in the freezer before chopping into three pieces each.

Next, I shaped the peanut butter cookie dough into a log and divided it into 24 slices. Carefully, I shaped and flattened each slice into a cookie round, as thin as I could while keeping it from falling apart. I spooned some ganache on a round, added a piece of the salted caramel, and then put another flattened round on top. I sealed the edges together, making a little pie/turnover out of the cookie, and then placed that carefully on the baking sheet. They baked beautifully, and spread out more than I was expecting, so the second round were spaced a bit more.

Ultimately, they did not win the competition, but I received an honorable mention and plenty of compliments. Well worth the effort.

Does anyone have suggestions for what to do with a bowl full of well-refrigerated chocolate ganache?

carpe diem

Mac & Cheese is a vegetable!
Mac & Cheese is a vegetable!

I told a friend yesterday that I felt like I didn’t carpe enough diem at Charleston Conference. It was my first time attending, and I didn’t have a good sense of the flow. I wasn’t prepared for folks to be leaving so early on Saturday, I didn’t know about the vendor showcase on Wednesday until after I made my travel arrangements, and I felt like I didn’t make the most of the limited time I had.

Next time will be better. And yes, there will be a next time, but maybe after a year or two. I understand from some regulars that the plenary sessions were below average this year, which matched my disappointed expectations. Now knowing that there is little vetting of the concurrent sessions, I will be more particular in my choices the next time, and hopefully select sessions where the content matches my expectations based on the abstracts.

The food in Charleston definitely met my expectations. I had tasty shrimp & grits a couple times, variations on fried chicken nearly every day, and a yummy cup of she crab soup. Tried a few local brews, and a dark & stormy from a cool bar that brews their own ginger beer. I’d go back for the food for sure.

train blog

Amtrak Palmetto by mod as hell
“Amtrak Palmetto” by mod as hell

Left Richmond on time. This is the first time I’ve traveled south on Amtrak, and apparently the system is a little different. For one, the conductor assigned me a seat in the coach car, rather than letting me choose like I usually do on the train to DC. Maybe it’s because the car was full? There also appeared to be designated seat groupings depending on whether you’re going to Savannah (final destination for this train) or Charleston (my destination). Everyone else was fit in where there was room, and one woman kept pacing up and down the aisle saying she didn’t know where to sit, so I guess not everyone was assigned a seat, either.

What is it about train stations being in the ugliest areas of town? The gorgeous view crossing over the James River followed by an amble through the wooded neighborhoods on the south side of the river was a nice balance to the ugly.

After munching on my packed lunch, I pulled out the laptop to work on some to-do items that didn’t get done before I had to leave for the train. Unfortunately, this is not an Amtrak train equipped with wifi (again, another thing different from the train to DC), so all the emails I composed will be delayed until I get to my hotel in Charleston tonight. Same with this blog post, actually.

The view seems to be better in smaller, less industrial towns. The area around the tracks in Emporia (VA), for example, is actually quite pleasant. Pretty sure I saw a deer in a field of corn stubble south of town, too. The tracks here are pleasantly not surrounded by trees on all sides, and we’re clearly in major farm land. Reminds me of Ohio. Except for the cotton fields! So pretty.

Stinky, gassy child across the aisle from me is pleased with her stinky gassiness. Wishing once again for the quiet car option. Or at least a 21+ car.

The late night watching the NPR election page and listening to their coverage hit me. Along with the rocking of the train. Was out cold for a good 30 minutes before I woke up when we pulled into the next stop.

Somewhere in the middle of North Carolina, thousands of beat up cars go to die in a junkyard near the train tracks.

Discovered that the snack car has wifi, and was relatively child and talker-free. Got an hour of online work done. Yay! Also, did some research on beer bars in Charleston. Pleased to see there are several near my hotel.

The train arrived 15 minutes early, and I was at my hotel at the time I originally projected I’d arrive at the station. Sweet! Time for a beer. And thus ends my train blog post.

food blogging & making things so labor intensive I don’t do them

derby pie
derby pie

I started a food blog on Tumblr last January. Here’s the about statement:

I started this project because after a year of taking photos of myself every day, I wanted to document something else. Over the summer and fall, I had developed a routine of trying new recipes on the weekends and some weeknights. This blog is where I share photos of the results, talk about what went right or wrong, and link to the recipes.

And sometime in May/June, I stopped. I got busy. I remembered to take some pictures, but they sat on my desktop waiting to be blogged for so long that I felt guilty and overwhelmed, so I eventually deleted them.

It wasn’t like it would take all that much time to write up something. And add a link. And format it the same as the previous posts. But it seemed like a big deal at the time.

Also, I stopped cooking/baking as much in the summer.

I have this tendency to make things that should be simple and routine into complex, detailed processes that become burdensome. Is this just some freak aspect of my desire for control and order, or is it simply human nature?