September 14

Sure do have a lot of books.

It’s not much of a secret. I have a problem.



Books (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I’ve gotten better over the years, to be sure. The decline of the brick and mortar bookstore presence, harsh as that is, has helped me with my problem. I’m less likely to make an impulse buy, or to be perusing the discount book racks.

The heart of my problem in the past is that it lacked a lot of focus. The eclectic collection has been great, but as I’ve learned recently, there are gaps in it. For example, I have some decent quality first editions of Churchill’s History of the English Speaking Peoples – only, it turns out I only have books 1 and 2. It was a 4 volume set. While I can easily fix this via, the sad part is I didn’t even notice.

The other part of my problem is that I didn’t necessarily read all of the books I added. Many of them, yes, but some were added as to-be-read, or because frankly they fit the motif in my head. This has led to my owning a lot of books that I have never, and may never, read. Kind of shameful, to be honest.

Our impending move to California next year has made me rethink these books and their place. There are the easy ones to weed away, books that were sent as ARC’s that I can’t do anything with, or books that would do better as donations to the library than as shelf filler. But that still leaves four or five bookcases of books to deal with.

So I’ve set myself a task until we move next summer. I’m not sure what kind of impact this will have on my other reading, like book review reading. Until we move, I am going to make it my goal to go through and try and read every book on my shelves. If a book isn’t worth reading, it isn’t worth cluttering up my shelves any more. If it’s worthy of keeping and in bad condition, I will consider replacing it. But if it isn’t worth keeping, and trying to read it leaves me with a bad taste, it will either go to recycling or donations.

What about e-books? Aren’t those supposed to  be replacing these paper books? Well…eh. Yes and no. Most of these books either aren’t available in e-print, or even if they are, they’re too classic to rely on a digital copy. Sure, I can get copies of Thucydides from Gutenberg, but why would I give up my hardback History of the Peloponnesian War?

Off to browse my personal stacks and see what adventure awaits me tonight…


September 9

I made a thing for lunch today. It was easy and good.

Working from home presents some unusual challenges, namely – what to eat?

You might be laughing at that – after all, unlike office bound folks, I actually have a kitchen not ten feet away from me, right? Proximity doesn’t actually translate to anything, though. When you work in an office, you typically plan your lunches ahead of time. Maybe not a day to day menu (or maybe so!), but you know that you will need food to take with you to work. Or maybe you’re in a position to go out to lunch every day. Either way, you plan for that meal ahead of time, work it into your grocery shopping. I know I used to buy frozen meals for my work lunch. They were only a little more expensive than sandwiches, tons cheaper than eating out, and I could usually work some variety into my meals.

Working from home is a different ball game. Buying frozen meals seems silly, but sandwiches quickly become monotonous and boring. So, talking with my office and deskmate, we agreed that at least a few times a week, we should make ourselves something simple for lunch. And so a monster was born.

I like soup. Not so much the Campbell’s ten million flavors of salt, though a good creamy tomato will usually hit the spot in a pinch. When I was in college I spent a semester overseas in a school owned “house,” where for an entire semester we had a house chef that prepared our meals. We were there to learn and experience a lot more than that, and yet it’s often Luca a think of when I think back to that time. We were some picky eating college kids, so every night Luca would take the leftover vegetables and use them in the next day’s soup. I always like the thought of that, and so far it’s the only way I’ve been able to eat fennel.

So last night when we had leftover rice and broccoli, I knew exactly what I had to do. Today, I made a creamy/cheesy rice and broccoli soup. I you try this, be willing to experiment. I used broccoli, rice, and cheese because they were what I had on hand. With some seasoning, any vegetable could be made into a creamy soup like this.

* Makes about 4 servings. Adjust as needed.

  • 1/2 a stick of butter
  • 1 cup of milk
  • 1 cup of broth
  • 2 tablespoons of flour

To that base, I added cheeses + leftovers. I used some shredded cheddar, 2 slices of American (for melting), some rice and broccoli.

Melt butter in a saucepan, then stir in flour until you have a thick paste. Over medium/high heat (depending on your stove), add a mix of milk and broth. I used beef broth because we had it on hand and open already. Ideally, I would have used a vegetable broth, but chicken works too. If you don’t have broth (liquid) but have bouillon, double the milk and add a bouillon cube instead. Stir that occasionally, heating until it starts to boil a little.

At this point you have a basic cream soup base. Not quite something you might want to stick a spoon in, but it’s actually right on the verge. Today, I added cheeses to this, stirring them for a minute until they melted down, then added the leftover broccoli and rice. I let that simmer for about a minute and served. I should have used more cheese (imho), but otherwise it came out tasting great. You could add some seasoning and some other vegetables and achieve a similar but different soup. No, you won’t be producing award winning bisques with this recipe, but the trade is off is that you can achieve some unique and amazing flavor profiles, tastes you wouldn’t normally be able to get in a can. Sharp white cheddar with havarti sound good? What about a creamy carrot soup?

While it was more involved than popping open a can and dumping it, it took just as long from start to finish. I find it crazy to think how simple it was, actually. I could have been doing this for years.

Bon apetit!



September 8

15 Things a Writer Should Never Do

Great list, but #15 was the one that stung the most with truth.

15. But, don’t ever really give up. Writers write. It’s what we do. It’s what we have to do. Sure, we can all say over a half-empty bottle of wine that we’re going to throw the towel in this time, but let’s be honest: Very few of us ever do. And none of us are ever really all that surprised when we find ourselves back at our computers, tapping away, and waiting for that electric, amazing moment when the pebble of a story shakes loose and begins to skitter down that great hill …

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