Sunday, January 10, 2010

New Address!

I'm (finally) changing my blogger address to match the blog name.

www.plannedspontaneity1.blogspot.com

Reading update


I've checked off three of the books on my list. Go me!

The first was The Tales of Beedle the Bard by J.K. Rowling.
It's not a long book because it's a small collection of wizard fairy tales. I read it in about an hour. I can't really tell you why it sat on my shelf so long. There just always seemed to be some other book I was buried in to take a breath and give Beedle my full attention.

As fairy tales go the book pretty much met all my expectations. Short stories with morals, except the intended audience was wizard children and not muggles. (If you are completely lost, then you need to go read all seven Harry Potter books.) I'm glad the book wasn't extra long because I don't think it would have kept my attention if it had been. I would have been easily bored by much more length. But it was nice to dive into the wizarding world again with some new stories. I love re-reading the HP books, but I think I have them memorized at this point.

Up next was Lord John and the Hand of Devils. This book is the third from Diana Gabaldon about a character from the Outlander series. A friend of mine shares my love for the Outlander series and since she already owned all the Lord John books she loaned them too me.


I have to admit that I struggled through them. If you've read any of the Outlander books you know that Gabaldon is not short winded. At all. She should stick to that strategy. I feel like she rushed the endings of all the Lord John stories because she had a word limit for all of them. The writing just isn't up to her usual standards. I was dissapointed. In one of her many comentaries in this final LJ book she does say there is a fourth book in the works. I'm undecided right now if I'll read it.


Last night I finished up with The Host by Stephenie Meyer.

Meyer is best know for the Twilight series that people are talking about so much these days. I read and loved all of them. Not so much because of Meyer's writing (which leaves much to be desired) but because it's a good story and I've always had a secret obsession with vampire lore. It's a guilty pleasure of mine.

She released The Host (her first adult novel) some time before finishing the fourth book in the Twilight series, Breaking Dawn. I had seen it in bookstores, but never really had much interest in reading it. Then I received it as a gift and it sat on my shelf for nearly a year. I just couldn't bring myself to crack it open. I love supernatural stuff, but I'm not so big on science fiction. Some people might say those two things are interchangeable, but I don't feel that way.

But, about the book. I'm so glad I read it. I was completely shocked at how much I liked it. I even forgot for a minute that I was reading a Stephenie Meyer book. (Until I found a couple of typo's of course. Her editor is atrocious.) I got really involved in the story and the characters. When I was done reading it I was a little sad that it was over; a tale-tell sign that I thoroughly enjoyed a book.

It isn't the next great American novel by any stretch of the imagination, but I was entertained from the beginning. And that's all I can really ask of a book. I read for the love of reading and to give myself a short escape from reality. I got both of those things from this book.

Up next:

The Fabulous Girl's Guide to Decorum by Kim Izzo and Ceri Marsh
&
Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen


Friday, January 8, 2010

Project 365, week 1

I'm renaming Photogenic Friday for the year. It just makes more sense.

Here it is, my week in pictures.

January 2

Frozen
January 3

Rough night
Goodbye for another year
January 4

But we love the tree
January 5

Time together
January 6

Chipped
Stoked
January 7

Dwindling
January 8

I don't know what you're talking about

*None of these photos have been edited at all. Right now that is beyond my scope of expertise. I'll continue to play around in photoshop and hopefully soon my confidence with the program will be such that I can enhance my photos. Any advice is welcome.*

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Milton vs The Broom, take 2

The last time I posted a video of Milton with a broom it was a full sized broom.

Since then he has decided that he's a little afraid of the big broom and only attacks it for a second before running away and cowering in a corner somewhere.

Recently he has been taking out his broom aggressions on the small broom that came with our dust pan.

The following video demonstrates his hatred of said broom.

Notice how, in the middle of the attack, he runs away and turns his back on the broom. The purpose of this is to give the broom a false sense of security in order to attack it when it puts its guard down. A sneak attack, so to speak.

Please forgive the lack of sound. I was trying to operate the camera and the broom and realized a little belatedly that my finger was over the microphone.

video

I think the best part of all this is that Milton clearly thinks the broom comes alive on its own. He has no idea that I'm the one making it move.

I know this for sure because when I put the broom away he lets it sit for a second before walking up to it and giving it another couple good whacks as if to say, "And stay down!"

What did I do for entertainment before these bunnies? I don't remember.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

About my lack of a post today...

I have this whole post written about Milton and how he likes to chase the dust broom.

It includes a video that has been processing since 1:30 this afternoon. Nine hours. It's longer than my usual video, so I'm going to give it until I go to bed tonight and if it doesn't work I'll be re-filming because Milton is always up for attacking the broom.

Also, I completely flaked on part of my new year's resolution today. If you look to your left at my book list you'll see that it grew by three. I had lunch with my mom and grandmother today and while I was waiting on them I stopped at the bookstore. Big mistake! Their clearance stack had recently been replenished and I just couldn't pass up the three and four dollar price tags. I got all three books for ten bucks. No book lover would fault me for that.

Happy Wednesday! (What's left of it)

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Why four wheel drive is necessary

This past Saturday started like any other day. Andy got up and went to work. I slept in.

I was awakened by the land lord calling to tell me that the water was out (again) because the pump had frozen in the single digit temps and they were doing their best to fix it.

I didn't have nearly as bad an attitude about it as I did last time because it wasn't a holiday and I didn't need to go anywhere. Plus, we still had power and heat. So, no big deal, I'd wait it out.

About an our after that first phone call I got another one. From a very unexpected person.

My little cousin, Ashley.

This is how the conversation went:

Me: Hello.

Ash: Hey Joanna, it's Ashley (I knew that already thanks to caller ID). My mom wanted me to call you because me and my friends drove up to (insert high altitude mountain name here) last night. It was snowing really fine snow when we got here, but we didn't think it would do anything and now we're snowed in because we brought my car (a Scion). Can you help us? My classes start on Monday. I really need to get off this mountain.

Me: ::long pause::


So many questions ran through my mind. Like: Did you check the weather before you came? Why did you bring your car? Did you check the weather before you came? Why didn't you just ask to stay with me? Did you check the weather before you came?

I did, eventually, ask all my questions, but right then I just told her I needed to call Andy to see if he could get off work to rescue her and her dumb ass friends. I think she told me she loved me about ten times (I knew that already) and I also think she was on the verge of a major breakdown, something I understand completely. We do share bloodlines. A little compassion and understanding goes a long way in such situations.

So, after many phone calls back and forth, Andy was fortunately slow enough at work to get a couple hours off with our friend Tyler who drives a two wheel drive car up here and is used to driving in the snow. Off we went to rescue them.

Let me interject here that three of these kids go to college up here and even if Ashley (who goes to college in South Carolina) didn't have enough forethought to check the weather, they certainly should have. Unless of course they were complete morons; something they affirmed for me about five minutes after I met them. What does this mean for the future of our country?

We did successfully pull them up and over the mountain. And there were two front wheel drive cars there, so we pulled the other one out too. Because The Hulk is a beast and totally awesome.

My Uncle called and thanked Andy and I over and over for sacrificing our Saturday and saving his little goofball. To which I replied that it was much more entertaining than what I had originally planned for that day, which was taking down the Christmas decorations.

Plus, by the time we got up there the sun had come out and the view was breathtaking. So, all-in-all a good way to spend a Saturday.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Perfect Potato Soup

The highest forecasted temperature on any given day this week is 20.

Twenty degrees. And that isn't until Wednesday. This past weekend didn't see a temp higher than 15 and that only lasted about thirty seconds in the middle of the day.

The best thing you can do during these extreme lows is to go outside as little as possible. And if you do go out make sure you cover up all of you epidermis. I do mean all. Get some goggles if you still need to see, but cover it all up.

After shivering under a mountain of blankets all day nothing seems to warm my body and soul more than a big ole pot of soup.

I love soup, but Andy doesn't think it qualifies as a meal so I don't make soup often and when I do it has to be hearty. Because Andy certainly doesn't look like it, but he can put away some food, and if I don't fill him up at dinner he'll spend the rest of the evening pilfering in the kitchen.

This potato soup has served us well for about two years. I think the original recipe came for a recipe website, but I don't have that documented and I've tweeked it so much I feel comfortable calling it my own. It's very basic, so it is perfect for dressing up and making it your perfect potato soup. Have fun with it!

*This recipe is not vegetarian, but can easily be modified to make it so. Replace the chicken stock with vegetable stock and leave out the bacon.

Perfect Potato Soup (for cold, indulgent days)

6-8 russett potatoes, peeled & cut into pieces
1/2 medium onion, diced
1 can chicken stock (if you're using homemade use about 2 cups)
1 cup heavy cream
1 cup water
1 cup milk
1/2 cup sour cream
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) butter
6-8 slices bacon, cooked and crumbled
Salt & pepper to taste
Cheddar cheese

In a large pot combine potatoes, onion, chicken stock, heavy cream and water. Bring to a boil over med-hi heat and cook until potatoes are soft.

Reduce heat to medium and add the milk, sour cream, butter and crumbled bacon (you can also add in another cup of water if you want a little more liquid). Season with salt and pepper. Simmer until the potatoes start to break down and soup thickens.

You can leave the pot alone and let the magic happen while you do something else, or, if you're in a hurry to eat (like I always am) you can help the process along by "mashing the potatoes." I like to use a whisk. It's not as aggressive as a potato masher and this soup runs a fine line between soupy mashed potatoes and hearty potato soup. When it's done you want some potato chunks left.

Serve with shredded cheddar on top and a cheddar biscuit (recipe below) on the side. Comfort food at it's finest!

If you have any leftovers that need to be reheated the next day you might want to add a little milk or chicken stock if you have it. The soup tends to thicken when it sits.

Cheddar Biscuits (recipe from kraftfoods.com)

2 1/4 cups dry all-purpose baking mix for biscuits
1/2 cup shredded cheddar
2 tbs chopped fresh herbs (optional, I use parsley if I have it)
1/4 cup sour cream
2 tbs dijon mustard
1/3 cup milk

Preheat oven to 425

In a large bowl mix together baking mix, cheese and herbs.

In another bowl, mix sour cream, mustard and milk. Pour into cheese mixture and combine.

Place dough on lightly floured surface and kneed about 10 times.

Cut into biscuits and bake 12-15 minutes or until lightly browned.

Enjoy!

Friday, January 1, 2010

Photogenic Friday: Back to Basics

Andy is the real photographer in this family. It was part of his major in college and, though he isn't usually artistic, he does have a talent for photography as an art form.

I, on the other hand, have always been artistic and creative, but never managed to find a camera useful in terms of an artistic instrument.

It seems like everyone is taking gorgeous pictures these days. I'm being left in the photographic dust. For a while now I've wanted to remedy that situation.

Which is one of my major reasons for joining Project 365.

Having an eye for photography (and patience, not something I'm famous for) is a major part of taking beautiful pictures. The right equipment, however, also makes a big impact on the outcome of the photographs a person takes.

Right now I take all of my photos with a Nikon Coolpix point and shoot. It has served me well for the nearly two years I've owned it. But I'm afraid it doesn't have a lot of bells and whistles. The camera is good for snapshots and not much else. Which is exactly why I bought it. I could take it out of the box and start using it, instructions be damned.

But now I have this entire year looming in front of me armed with a tiny point and shoot that is beginning to have some hitches in its get along.

This morning, while we were making breakfast, I was telling Andy about Project 365 and that I'd like to have a slightly more advanced camera in my arsenal. Nothing too major, because fancy cameras are expensive and also because dropping a lot of cash on something that could be a passing whim is irresponsible. Not to mention that we don't have the kind of cash that would need to be dropped.

So I told him that for my birthday I'd like to have something in between the coolpix and a "bells and whistles" camera. (You see how camera illiterate I am? I don't even know what they're called. DSLR sounds right, but what does that even mean?) I have about three months until then and I think I can manage with my small camera until then.

Then Andy suggested that I use our Nikon film camera that he used in his photography class.
Personally I think that suggestion is a little stroke of genius. The camera is complicated enough that I can learn something and simple enough that I can still use it. Also, there is something exciting about using a film camera. Every time you have a roll developped it's a surprise. In this digital age I think film cameras have gotten a bad reputation.

So here it is, the first photo of Project 365.


I took it with the coolpix, obviously. I took about 20 photos to get this one and I'm not real pleased with it. Sometimes the coolpix can be difficult to use and even a novice like myself sees all its shortcomings.

I have a lot to learn, but that's kind of the point, isn't it?

***********************************************************************************

I said yesterday that I wasn't sure which blog I would use to document my Project 365 journey, but now I know. Photogenic Friday is already a tradition on this blog, so on Fridays I will post the previous week's photos. It just makes sense.

But that's not all.

Who can only take one photo? If I'm going to go to the trouble of hauling a camera with me every day I'm going to take more than one picture when I turn it on.

Go here to see what else I have in store for 2010.

The plague I mean, resolutions...

So how is 2010 looking so far to all of you?

I certainly hope everyone has avoided disaster to this point - especially since it's only the first day.

We're just getting started.

Anyone care to share their resolutions with me? Losing weight? Building muscle? Cleaning out your closet? Saving money?

Can you tell I'm stalling?

Making resolutions has never really been something I've done. Mostly because I feel like I'm setting myself up for failure, and that's no way to start out the new year. Am I right?

Last year I resolved to be grateful for something every day. More specifically I joined in on 365 days of grace in small things where the challenge is to blog daily about 5 things you are grateful for. This is something that has had a profound effect of my life this last year; something I will talk about a bit more later in the month. I did manage to stick with it, but a few things got in my way and my 365 posts will not be done until January 19th.

Given the success of this 365 day resolution I've decided to do another. I'm jumping on the bandwagon with a fellow blogger and attempting to do Project 365 which challenges you to take at least one photo a day for a year. That doesn't sound too difficult does it? One would think not, but I can see how, on those boring days, it might take some creativity to take a different photo than the one you took the day before.

Right now I have a second blog dedicated to my current 365 challenge. I haven't yet decided if I will continue using it as a 365 blog or if I'll let it stand as a gratitude blog and post my Project 365 photos here. I'm undecided, but I won't be posting daily for this project. I will definitley take a photo every day, but there might just be one post a week dedicated to the project. It will make life easier for me and hopefully keep this photo thing from seeming like a chore.

Either way, I'll post my first photo by the end of today. Stay tuned.

On to resolution number 2.

Did I just say 2? I'm pretty sure I did. Holy cow!

I am an avid reader. Reading is sexy and all that jazz.

As hobbies go this is my favorite and certainly the longest running.

I don't do book reviews on here because I'm bad at them. I have a hard time keeping it short and sweet and not spoiling things. Just ask my English lit professor that asked me to write a four page paper synopsizing Emma by Jane Austen. My paper was at least double that.

Another love if mine is bookstores and new book smell. This can sometimes be a problem. Which brings me to my next resolution.

For a few years now I've been collecting books on my shelf that I either a) mean to read, b) start to read but don't finish or c) receive as gifts and don't get around to.

So, I am resolving to read all the book in my "to be read" pile before I allow myself to buy another book. Gasp!

Let me add a disclaimer to this: I will never refuse a book as a gift. Just in case you were wondering.

I gathered up all my unread or half read books to take a photo and document the beginning of my challenge. The size of my pile was much larger than I had anticipated.


There are four compilations books, so in all I have 32 books to read before I set foot in make a purchase at a bookstore.

Here is the list, in no particular order:

The Devil Wears Prada, Weisberger
The Fabulous Girl's Guide to Decorum, Izzo & Marsh
The Host, Meyer
Atonement, McEwan
The Jungle, Sinclair
The Yada Yada Prayer Group, Jackson
French Women Don't Get Fat, Guiliano
Moll Flanders, Defoe
Son of a Witch, Maguire
The Tales of Beedle the Bard, Rowling
The Choice, Sparks
Saving Graces, Edwards
Little Women, Alcott
The Chronicles of Narnia, Lewis
*The Magician's Nephew
*The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe
The Horse and His Boy
Prince Caspian
The Voyage of the Dawn Treader
The Silver Chair
The Last Battle
The Complete Novels, Austen
Sense and Sensibility
**Pride and Prejudice
Mansfield Park
**Emma
Northanger Abbey
Persuasion
Lady Susan
Three Plums in one, Evanovich
One For the Money
Two For the Dough
Three to Get Deadly
More Plums in one, Evanovich
Four to Score
High Five
Hot Six
An Echo in the Bone, Gabaldon (not pictured)

*I have read these already, but plan to read them again.
**I have read these already and probably won't read them again. Not right now anyway.

The last book by Diana Gabaldon is the most recent one from the Outlander series which my mother-in-law and I have been reading together. I do not own the book, but she does and as it has already been purchased I'm including it on my "to be read" list. And if you've read the Outlander series you can't possibly expect me to read all these other books before I read An Echo in the Bone. I mean, let's get real here.

Wish me luck. I might even attempt a review or two, but I'm not promising anything.