Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Day Twelve

Today I stepped outside to get the mail, and all of a sudden it was autumn. The air was crisp and clean from the falling rain, and the pungent tang of woodsmoke from someone's fireplace mingled with the earthy scent of oak leaves. This smell inevitably has an energizing effect on me. On the one hand, it is the first signal of the dying of the year, the first step down the long slide into winter's snow and bare branches. On the other, though, it is a refreshing change from the rapidly fading charms of summer's heat, a breath of fresh air after the hot, damp weight of August.

It makes me want to open a new box of crayons and color something.

However, in the absence of some nice coloring pages or a stiff new algebra book, I am making do with my 101 Things list. (Now that I think about it, I suspect that the promise of rain in the air might have had something to do with my somewhat uncharacteristic motivation to do this project.) I've decided to postpone a serious run at #63 (spend 15 minutes outside for 100 consecutive days) until a time of year when it is less likely to drop rain and wet leaves on my head, but there's plenty I can do on the rest of the list and I'm having a wonderful time of it.

Today I put $50 toward Item #2 (purchase better camera), and had a delightful time this evening encouraging my daughter's interest in the same hobby. She has taken a few quite nice pictures herself, and she announced this evening that she wanted to be "an ocean-o-grapher". With a little questioning, I realized that she meant she wanted to be a photographer who specializes in marine photography. I silently blessed my packrat tendencies (even if they are the root cause of Items #65-73) and pulled five back issues of the National Geographic off the shelf which featured articles on underwater flora and fauna. She spent half an hour poring over the pictures and captions, and I decided that if she continues to show an interest in it, I'll pass along my little camera to her when I buy my real one.

It's been a few days since I posted a picture and I forgot to take one today, so I'll post one of my girl's instead. Hopefully I can save up quickly for mine so she can have her own too!

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Day Eleven

My list is giving me aches and pains today. There's a tweaky little area at the top of my shoulders from #9 (nearly an hour spent on that, which was FUN). I have an ache in my left ankle from the walk I took in pursuit of #56, although that might also have something to do with walking all over a college campus today in fabulous but not-so-practical boots. My shoulders are sore from raking two large-ish piles of leaves to fulfill today's tick mark on #63. And my head hurts from #6.

I didn't have much in mind when I wrote down my goal of reading books by new authors, except to supplement my beloved habit of reading the complete works of John Grisham, Michael Crichton, Terry Pratchett and Robin McKinley every few years. And maybe read (proportionately speaking) a little less chick lit. I certainly didn't expect to get my brain poked at by a suspiciously New-Agey looking title from the health food store. It's so New-Agey, in fact, that I'm probably not even going to give the name and author. Take the silliest parts of the women's movement of the 1970's and stir in a healthy dose of 21st-century pseudo-Eastern earth goddess nonsense, and you'll have the general idea. I'm not even sure why I bought the silly thing, but by the time I'd finished the first chapter I already had six pages dog-eared to come back to later. Among all the talk of energy and ancestors and psychic wounds, there was something that absolutely hit the nail on the head about the careless way women treat their bodies in the neverending pursuit of Doing It All, All At Once, and Looking Good While We Do It.

No wonder we're so tired.

So I guess maybe tonight I will go to bed a little earlier, and eat a better breakfast tomorrow, and try not to run myself into the ground. There are certainly worse goals to have.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Day Ten

Today I worked on Item #95 (try five local restaurants I've never been to), and it wasn't even too directly in conflict with Item #56 (get to a weight I haven't seen with both feet on the scale in mumble-mumble years). I have a teenaged babysitter who just loveloveloves The Grind here in town, and I could never quite see the appeal since it appeared to be nothing more than a drivethrough coffee shop sharing a building with the Taco Time.

It's so nice to be wrong sometimes.

As it turns out, The Grind is quite a bit more than a drivethrough coffee shop. It is run by someone who loves it, and you can tell. The decor is eclectic, the seats are comfortable, and you have the feeling that if you stayed for two hours and put your feet on the low table (since they're just the right height for it with the red squashy armchairs), you wouldn't get in trouble for it. Everything from the pictures on the walls to the bamboo posts forming an alcove for wi-fi users has clearly been chosen because someone liked it and wanted to see it there every day. My friend and I stayed and talked for nearly two hours, and I can see now why the high school kids love it.

Given that I have been making wonderful progress on my food-related goals (and not so much on my fitness-related ones), it says something that I'm four paragraphs into this before remembering to mention that the sandwich was absolutely delightful - I have never heard of putting pecans and dried cranberries in chicken salad, and now I can't figure out why everybody doesn't make it that way. Delicious!

So yeah, I guess that turned out to be an accidental restaurant review. I wonder if that good deed might negate a few calories from the chicken and dumpling soup ...

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Day Nine

Inertia is a lovely thing, some days. Today I sort of worked on a few items, and actually accomplished nothing. Normally I would be bothered by the "accomplished nothing" part, but today I am enjoying doing nothing much. (It turns out that doing nothing much is greatly enhanced by a cold roast beef sandwich, in case you ever decide to give it a whirl.)

Here are all the things I didn't really do:

#6, 7 - I looked at a bunch of biographies and novels at Borders, but didn't buy any.
#8 - I thought briefly about finding a new cheesecake recipe, but decided I'm caloried out.
#9 - I sort of glanced at the Chopin Ballade on the piano. (I wonder if learning by osmosis would work.)
#12 - I griped a bit about all the cooking classes being full.
#21 - I found out that my new cell phone has a GPS on it, so this was accidental progress on the list.
#26 - I rued the fact that La Boheme is playing in Portland this week and I will need to get a little farther on #56 before attempting #26.
#34 - I grew my hair out some more.
#41 - I bemoaned the fact that I have been too lazy to write any essays on my main blog for several months.
#47 - I thought briefly about going for a run.
#63 - I sat on my backside and read a book - but I did it outside, yay me!
#65 - I seriously intended to work on my music today, thus laying one more paving stone on the infernal path.
#73 - I stepped over some of the paperwork on the office floor and thought, Dang, I oughta do something about that.
#93 - I opened up and started looking for movie titles, but got distracted.
#101 - I admired someone's naturally strawberry blonde hair.

And I shall sleep well tonight, because every now and then, you need a day of rest.

[picture not included]

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Day Eight

Quit laughin' at my food, OK? Believe me, I am fully aware that my latest jaunt into the woolly wilds of England's cuisine turned out to be queasily reminiscent of a scene from one of her most beloved authors' books. If you tossed the One Ring into the middle of this dish, you wouldn't be even slightly surprised to see the scorched crust gloop up, swallow the ring, and subside in a coruscating swirl of lava.

Know what, though? It was yummy.

Here, see if this helps a bit:

Well, maybe not so much, but believe me, this is one I'll make again. Tonight I crossed off one more recipe for Item #8, and decided to continue with the theme of "foods I have never made before because they are usually eaten in places I would love to visit but probably never will because it costs a zillion dollars to go there unless you know somebody there already that you can stay with and mooch off of". (It's not exactly ... classic, as far as themes go, but it guarantees some interesting recipes.) I'd read about Yorkshire pudding in books like "A Little Princess" and the Beatrix Potter series, but had not the faintest idea what it was. It seemed like it was often served with roast beef, which would mean that it was neither a) pudding like Americans think of it (bowls full of wobbly chocolate goo), nor b) pudding in the common British sense (dessert). Because if we're talking about bowls full of wobbly beefy goo, you lost me at hello.

A little searching through my Joy of Cooking book provided me with the information that Yorkshire pudding is in fact a custard-like dish quite similar to a Dutch baby, except that it is cooked with beef drippings instead of butter, and served with the roast beef instead of with fruit or sweet toppings. The more I read, the more evident it became that roast beef was, alas, not an optional ingredient in this process, so I was going to have to make a roast as well. It turned out surprisingly well, although I would suggest not using yellow-green cotton yarn to tie up the roast - nothing bad happens, but it looks positively disgusting when the roast is done.

I found that the Joy of Cooking authors should be ignored when it comes to required baking times. The Yorkshire pudding should have come out at least 10 minutes earlier (hence the lava-like burnt crunchy bits on the edges), and the roast ... well, if you ever read a recipe from that cookbook which says "20-30 minutes per pound", laugh loud and long, and then cross that bit out. Nobody died of hunger while it was cooking, but it was a close shave there for the youngsters. It was, however, entirely worth the wait, even with the lessons learned along the way of things to do differently next time.

The one real drawback to this sort of project is that you get up from your lovely, satisfying meal, to find this:

Next time: Beef needs more time. Pudding needs less. Brenda needs a maid.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Day Seven

All right, before you say anything, you have to understand one thing: I am a Yankee.

I don't mean I'm a Yankees fan (heaven forbid), or a resident of New England. I have ancestors on both sides of the Civil War, including a great-grandfather who was a Confederate soldier, but that's not what I mean either. I mean "Yankee" in the general, friendly sense that accompanies the statement, "Y'all ain't from around here."

I have plenty of Southern friends, and their traditions and turns of phrase delight me, but when it comes to the kitchen, I am just about as Yankee as they come. I've only ever eaten okra once, I was in my twenties before discovering that hush puppies weren't just shoes, and while I have no objection to eating fried food, the thought of deep frying anything in my kitchen makes me want to reach for a bottle of extra-virgin olive oil, a teaspoon, and a large pile of fresh veggies.

This is why I am counting the experiment pictured above for Item #8 (try 20 new recipes). Yes, it is from a mix. No, I didn't use a real deep fryer. No, my lovely cast-iron skillet is not nearly full enough of oil. Yes, I had to measure the temperature by taping my candy thermometer to two bamboo kebab skewers and balancing it across the top of the skillet because I have not the faintest clue how you actually measure the temperature of a pot of boiling oil. (That sounds so medieval, doesn't it?!) And yes, I burned half the recipe.

But it was a walk on the wild side, and I tried it, and they were actually pretty good. And if real Southerners don't eat their hush puppies with ketchup and Tabasco sauce, I don't wanna know.


I'm fairly sure the calories were nowhere near atoned for by today's outside activity (raking leaves), but it sure was a good day for it. I forgot to go outside yesterday when I was sick, so I'm starting over on that. Dang it. I have a feeling it's not going to look like this in three months ...

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Day Six

I am sick today. Therefore, I am pouring my nearly nonexistent energies into Items #93 (watching movies), #7 (reading books), and #92 (growing out my hair).

I am succeeding at all three. Hurrah!

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Day Five

It is Terry Pratchett's fault that I am tired today. Indirectly, anyway.

I was looking around for new recipes (item #8), and since I've been re-reading all of Pratchett's Discworld novels, I thought I'd flip through the highly entertaining "Nanny Ogg's Cookbook." Among such delicacies as "Bread and Water", "Toasted Cheese Sandwiches" (which involves the invention of at least one war machine), and a recipe for dwarf bread which purports to be edible to humans, I found the somewhat more useful recipe for "Jammy Devils." Small, warm, buttery, jammy, and more dangerous than Lay's potato chips when it comes to eating just one more.

I decided to take a picture, since they looked so delicious, and also for Item #74 (photograph all 101 tasks). I laid them out on a blue and white china plate, and put a pretty blue napkin under them.

Something was missing. Ah, a teacup!

It looked silly with no tea in it. So I brewed some tea.

It smelled very good. So I drank it.

It tasted very good. So I had another cup. Well, two, plus several more sugar lumps than are technically necessary.

Not too surprisingly, the caffeine did what caffeine does. I laid awake until a ridiculous hour, finally drifted off, reluctantly dragged myself out of bed the next morning, and reminded myself once more of just why it is not a good idea to drink strong black tea in quantity after 10 p.m.

Thanks so much, Mr. Pratchett. Let's do it again some time!

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Day Four

After serious thought and consideration (about 30 seconds' worth), I have updated #9 from "learn and memorize a piece by Frederic Chopin" to "learn and memorize Chopin's Fantasie-Impromptu in C-sharp minor".* I love this piece, and it is absurd that I never bothered to actually learn it. Even admitting that I can't play it properly will probably get me shunned from the cool kids' table of the classical music community.

And that, folks, is your oxymoronic metaphor of the day.

Still enjoying #63 and walking all over the neighborhood. Today's route took me past a little table full of dahlias in jars by the side of the road. There was a little sign saying to please leave the jars, a Tupperware container where people could leave a dollar or two, and fabulous flowers. It was refreshing to see that the honor system actually still works now and then.

* this performance of the C-sharp minor Fantasie-Impromptu by Russian pianist Valentina Igoshina

Monday, September 21, 2009

Day Three

Who knew the local cooking supply store would have all its classes booked out through the end of December?! Everybody's Julia Child all of a sudden. Ohhhh, wait - that's it, isn't it! Everybody watched "Julie & Julia", and now they're all inspired to learn to cook. I read the book before they even made the movie, but since I am a highly skilled procrastinator, I waited a year or so to actually, you know, sign up for classes.

I am enjoying working on Item #63 (see below), although it occurs to me that I might have done better to start this particular item, oh, maybe NEXT MAY instead of in mid-September. I might not be enjoying that 15 minutes outside come December and 35-degree rain. For now though, it's an excellent way to avoid balancing my checkbook.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Day Two

The Assumption:

I could do at least 5 correct military-style pushups if I tried. 10, maybe! And I might even surprise myself with 15! Because, you know, I carried my son all the time when he was a (huge) toddler and refused to walk in public for more than about 10 steps, and I'm a professional pianist so of course I'm strong, right?

The Reality:

OK ... let's see, hands shoulder-width apart, feet together, body straight, and doooowwwn we go ... holy CRAP, when did my butt get to weigh 50 pounds all by itself?! Plank position, ha ha, we'll just say it is even though this is more of a bent-nail position, elbows at a 90-degree angle, and did my chest just touch the floor? Hmm. Yes, I believe it did. And the rest of me didn't. Innnnteresting. So, push back up, and ...

... push back up and ...

... I don't think I can really count that as a push-up since there is an "up" rather strongly implied in the word push-up, and that was strikingly lacking in any kind of upward motion.

It appears that I have some work to do.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Day One

I'm not sure if it's auspicious or just really funny that I'm starting my 1001 days on Talk Like A Pirate Day. (Aarrrr, me mateys! There, got that out of the way.)

I doubt I'll update this every day, but I'll try to check in frequently. Since one of my list items is to post a picture with each completed item, there will hopefully be a minimum of 101 posts and 101 pictures by the end of the project (Saturday, June 16, 2012).

Today's goal was simply to finalize and post the list, so that's one down, one hundred to go!

Friday, September 18, 2009

And So It Begins.

The Mission:

Complete 101 preset tasks in a period of 1001 days.

The Criteria:
Tasks must be specific (ie. no ambiguity in the wording) with a result that is either measurable or clearly defined. Tasks must also be realistic and stretching (ie. represent some amount of work on my part).

Why 1001 Days?
Many people have created lists in the past - frequently simple goals such as New Year's resolutions. The key to beating procrastination is to set a deadline that is realistic. 1001 Days (about 2.75 years) is a better period of time than a year, because it allows you several seasons to complete the tasks, which is better for organising and timing some tasks such as overseas trips or outdoor activities.


This idea (more information at comes at a time in my life when I'm ready to change a few things, try a few new things, and do a few things that are just plain fun. My intent is to blog regularly about the process, and hopefully by June 16, 2012, I'll have some stories to tell, pictures to share, and a whole collection of good memories.