Tuesday, November 24

The Made Up Words Project

I am always fascinated when foreign words pop up (usually on Pinterest these days, but also in books) for which there is no English equivalent. They run gamut from deeply elegant to jocularly practical.

For example, Hiraeth is a Welsh noun for “a homesickness for a home to which you cannot return, a home which maybe never was; the nostalgia, the yearning, the grief for the lost places of your past.” Kummerspeck is German for “excess weight gained from emotional overeating.” (It's literal translation is “grief-bacon”!) The foodie in me especially enjoys sobremesa, which is a Spanish term for time spent around a table after a meal, talking to the friends/family you shared the meal with. (See more such fascinating terms here, here, and here.)

Although English is known for liberally stealing – I mean borrowing- words from other languages,
there's no denying that Americans have a tendency to make up our words when we feel that the options our disposal are inadequate to meet our linguistic needs. To catalog these forays into linguistic invention, The Made Up Words Project was created. The project invites the public to submit the “made up words that we share with family and friends.”

While the project is just for fun, it did give me amusing memories to laugh at. (When I was in junior high, three friends and I used the term “I-triple-L” to describe really stupid people. It stood for Immature Lower Life Forms of Larva. What can I say? We were in junior high, and we got plenty of use out of it at the time!)

Juxtaposed with the foreign words for which there are no English translations, however, it also proved rather thought provoking. Why is it that other cultures have specific words for things that English speakers are content to express imperfectly, only through full sentences? Why has it never occurred to me that we might need a word like irusu (Japanese for “pretending to be out when someone knocks on your door”)? What other practical, amusing or elegant feelings and situations am I lacking words for without even noticing?

For years when I was younger, we used the term “chippy” to express a cross between chilly and nippy when it was cold outside. It started as a slip of the tongue, but we quite liked it so it stayed in use. Sadly, I can't think of any more recent examples, which makes me suspect I should be exercising more creativity in my words. These days, I mostly just borrow words from other places. (Too often, this equates to lift curse words and exclamatory phrases from science fiction universes, but not always.) I discovered and love the Greek word “meraki” which is “the soul, creativity, or love put into something; the essence of yourself that is put into your work.”

So perhaps I shall put some meraki into being more aware of – and coming up with – creative words myself. What made-up words do you use? What can you think of that you wish there was a word for?

Sunday, November 22

Smoking, Drinking, and Voting

Years ago, when I was working my tail off at my first “real” job out of college as a Catering Manager, I was incredibly irritated to discover that I could not rent a car for a business trip. I wasn't old enough.

Not long after, desperate to get to where I was headed despite all the planes being grounded due to nasty weather, an airport car rental place again refused to rent to me because I wasn't 25.

I cannot begin to tell you how frustrating it was both times to stand there at the counter faced with the ludicrous facts. I had been a safe and licensed driver for more than half a dozen years already, and routinely drove catering vans and other expensive commercial vehicles in addition to my own car. I was trusted to manage expensive events, make hiring and firing decisions, and represent my account at regional events. I had all kinds of insurance, and nothing but a speeding ticket or two on my record. But I couldn't rent a freaking basic model sedan.

Then, as now, I was appalled and baffled by the notion that we as a society so strangely differentiate between what we think individuals should and should not be able to do at 18. Vote? Sure! Get married? Absolutely. Join the military to fight (and sometimes die) for one's country? You bet. Buy your own beer? Oh no you don't! Rent a car? No way! What are you, nuts?

By what bizarre logic does that make sense?

Apparently, it must make sense to someone, because the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) is urging the FDA to enact restrictions that would prevent anyone under the age of 21 from purchasing cigarettes, tobacco, or vaping products. Certainly, I understand their concerns about the health hazards that nicotine and tobacco pose, particularly to young people. But frankly, the second-class citizenship status of young adults is already untenable. To try to press it even further is simply unreasonable.

I'd encourage the AAP (and others who support their proposal) to read Do Hard Things, and challenge them to reconsider their approach. Numerous books (like this one) lay out the research proving time and again that we do not create the kinds of adults we as a society need (and that we as individuals want to be, or be related to!) by protecting children from the consequences of their decisions. That only becomes exponentially more true for teenagers and adults. So instead of floating ideas that give us warm, fuzzy “saving the world” feelings, what if we sucked up the sometimes discouraging realities of life and took the wiser tack?

What if we dropped the age for everything – drinking, smoking, renting a car – to 18, and made young adults actually full adults? What if we adopted scary PSAs that actually show the true cost of our choices, and let people make their own choices? I think we might just be surprised by how far ahead we'd come out…

Friday, November 20

A Sewing Experiment: Pillow Covers

Spiderweb and "Jolly Rodger" pillow covers.
I received a Halloween table runner in October, and was surprisingly happy with how festive it looked on the table with a pumpkin seated squarely atop it. When I rolled it up and it stored away in almost no space at all, I decided that this was definitely my style of decorating – easy to set up, easy to put away, with very little storage space required.

That got me thinking about theseadorable Halloween pillow covers I saw and pinned ages ago. didn't get around to attempting them prior to Halloween, but thought maybe I'd run out the weekend after and try to pick up appropriate fabric when it would theoretically be on sale. My Prince went with me to check out a quilt store which it had been on my list to explore anyway. The store turned out to be excellent and, as so often happens, instead of coming away with the basic colors I'd planned to get, I came out with something much better! Eric bought me not only some awesome spiderweb fabric, but ½ yard each of four beautiful Fall fabrics!

Thus, I returned home to make not only Halloween pillow covers, but Fall ones as well. Unfortunately, the tutorial I'd planned to follow was not as well laid out as I'd expected, and it took me several tries to figure out where I was misreading it and correct myself. Once that was done, the two spiderweb pillow covers came together pretty quickly. Then I (mystifyingly) got it into my head that to go with the them, I should make Jolly Rodger pillow covers! This involved finding, resizing, and printing a skull template; acquiring some white fabric; tracing said skulls onto said fabric; touching them up with marker to outline a few things (like the eye sockets); then cutting them out and appliqueing them on to the front of the covers. I know that would be a quick and simple process for someone with more experience, but it took me quite a while!

Colorful squash & Fall veggies
I'm extremely pleased with how they turned out, though! I intentionally used a rough zig-zag stitch around the edges of the skulls to go with the battered pirate-flag-style look and I am quite happy with the results. Once I tested them on the pillows (and got a picture or two), it was time to strip them off and pack them away until next year. I'll pull them out next Fall and be very happy with myself all over again. : )

In the meantime, we have four beautiful pillow covers in Fall patterns featuring squash and other autumnal veggies, and fun harvest-y things. They don't necessarily go with anything, but they don't clash either, and they make us happy, so I'm calling them a success! 

After cleaning up the huge mess that I made in the process (so much thread, everywhere!), I took a couple minutes to write down the process, measurements, etc. in my new sewing journal. Apparently, sewing journals are supposed to be a great way to track what you did as that you either (a) can do it again if you love it, or (b) know what NOT to ever do again if you botch things! Either way, this has been a good experiment, and left me ready to plot my next.

Do you decorate for Fall/Thanksgiving?
Totally love this fabric!


In this color too!

Wednesday, November 18

What's Cooking

My not-very-good picture of our
beautiful new oven!
When we bought our house, it was abundantly clear that the previous owners' use of the kitchen pretty much began and ended with the fridge. The stovetop range and oven were in fair condition, but definitely not selected or maintained by anyone who loved to cook. That wasn't a big deal, and we just made a mental note that everything would have to get replaced sooner or later.

We replaced the dinosaur of a fridge first, upgrading to a much smaller (and far more efficient) model. Then we traded in the stovetop, again getting a much more efficient (and better designed) model. The double wall oven started going on the fritz well over a year ago, but I chose to strategically ignore and work around it. First the top oven stopped heating up to anything over 200 degrees. So I switched to solely using the bottom one. When the thermometer kicked and the oven temp stopped having any relation to what was on the dial, we got a small in-oven thermometer and I just used that to calibrate to the right temp. That worked quite nicely (most of the time), until a few weeks ago.

When the heater coil on the bottom oven arced and caught fire, I cried uncle and stopped putting off its replacement. Because the oven was a weird size (as so many things randomly seem to be in this house), we had to order the replacement and wait for it to come in. Since I saw no point in paying stupid amounts of money for another self-cleaning double oven when I'd gotten along just fine with one for so long, we went with a single oven this time. Thanks to My Prince's excellent skills (and a bit of luck), we did not end up having to dismantle the entire cabinet built around the oven as I'd feared might be the case. Instead, he was able to shave the edges of the opening a smidge and then slide the new oven right in. Isn't it pretty?!

The fact that it's smaller is actually going to work out to be a bonus, because the additional space will get framed in and become cabinet space. While I'm extremely efficient with my kitchen space and don't technically need it, cabinets are a huge selling point so the extra will be in our favor someday when it's time for us to move on from here.

To celebrate having an oven that works properly, I made Paleo GingerSnaps. Nom! Now that I think about it, I'm not entirely sure what ovens are made of, but maybe we did end up getting each other steel for our anniversary…

Monday, November 16

No Small Anniversaries

Not our rings. Mine are prettier. : )
Friday we celebrated our 11th anniversary. My amazing husband came home from work dressed to the nines and with beautiful jade roses in hand. We had a festive dinner at home (because we cook better than 99% of what we can get out around here) with wine from our private stock, and it was amazing. (Shockingly, we didn't feel the need to get each other anything made of steel, despite the fact that it is the traditional gift for 11th anniversaries.)

My Prince got a lot of funny looks for his efforts to spoil me. Apparently, people don't think anniversaries are particular worth celebrating unless they are “big” years – 10 years, 25 years, 50 years. Considering how many people of our generation never marry at all – or see their marriages dissolve into messy, nasty divorces in only a few years – this strikes me as ridiculous. We don't celebrate birthdays that way. Love is a precious thing every day. Why wouldn't it be worth stopping once a year to fully and properly celebrate something precious? To recognize and reaffirm it's value?

Saturday morning, we woke up to news of the terrorist attacks in Paris and I couldn't help but think how many people will never get another chance to celebrate their anniversary with the person they loved. I wondered how many people went to bed (or sat awake, unable to even think of sleep) thinking of every opportunity to show their loved one how cherished and special they were that was lost or neglected in the last year, simply because no one knew how little time was left.

None of us are promised tomorrow. As Thanksgiving approaches and we're all the more aware of the people and things we are thankful for, may I encourage you to intentionally carve a few minutes out of your days to celebrate the people you love? To put on your good clothes, dress up your table, pull out the good china, and toast the good in life that is so very worthy of celebrating? Because if love truly is the precious gift we know it to be, then there are no small anniversaries.

Wednesday, November 11

Olympia Provisions (aka Charcuterie Extraordinaire)

http://images.randomhouse.com/cover/9781607747017?height=450&alt=no_cover_b4b.gifEvery once in a while, you find a book that is not just enjoyable or well written, but truly a gem. Olympia Provisions by Elias Cairo is one of those rare finds. You know from the instant you see the cover that this book was crafted with love by someone accustomed to paying great attention to detail. The size, embossed cover, thick pages, and glorious full-color full page photo spreads all give the book an elegant, classic feel long before you even begin to explore the recipes.

The writing is a precise balance of direct, unassuming personality and professional perfection. The effect is similar to sitting down and sharing a glass of wine and a charcuterie board with a master in the field; you come away wiser about the subject matter, but also feeling connected to the person sharing the wisdom.

The book contains a collection of phenomenal (but accessible) charcuterie recipes, as well as a generous collection of recipes from OP's two restaurants which feature or compliment the charcuterie recipes. Like most books written for people who take their results seriously, it gives ratios and weights as well as the standard teaspoon/cup style measurements. Hands down, Cairo does the best explanations of the safety issues associated with curing meat - including a succinct and outstanding job of tackling and laying to rest the controversy over the use of nitrates and nitrites in meat. I have yet to see anyone else do such a good job making these issues simplified enough to be quickly and functionally understood, while also so readable that they don't make your eyes glaze over.

Further testament to both the writing and photography skills employed in the book can be summed up by this sentence: I never envisioned myself making head cheese, but OP has convinced me that is it not only completely doable, but a very attractive prospect. (!!) From high end (prosciutto) to every day (hot dogs), this book has something for everyone. My fingers itched to start cooking just a few pages in, and I'm pretty sure it was only sheer force of will that kept me from drooling my way through the recipes. Everything is scaled to proportions and tools that are appropriate and feasible for the home cook, and geared toward every day, share-a-meal-with-people-you-love eating. If you've ever considered getting a charcuterie book, this is it - the one you want!

Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book free from Blogging for Books in return for my review. As always, my opinions are my own and unbiased. (It seriously was that good!)

Friday, November 6

Best Finds From Around the Web (October edition)

Somehow, October has come and gone (already!), but hopefully it isn't too late to share the five best things I encountered online during the month. (Oh wait, it's my blog... excellent! I officially declare it Not Too Late. Enjoy!)

As I've been working hard on a lot of behind-the-scenes things for my business, as well as prepping the home front for the holidays, I've been heavily reliant on old-fashioned pen-and-paper to do lists (and big, fat markers to cross off completed tasks with!). So it was very nice to unexpectedly encounter this reminder/affirmation of how powerful and practical low-tech options can be in this age of smart phones and other pricey tech toys.  

Because sometimes you just want something that feels special and decadent for brunch that won't take hours or cost a fortune to make, or leave you with a nasty sugar hangover later. These are perfect.

3. How to Unsend an Email (in gmail)
I didn't know this was possible, let alone easy! Possibly the best business tool ever.

A fantastic reminder that life is not set in stone, and that even (and maybe especially) in the big things we don't have to live and die by generic, outdated, or externally imposed lists of rules. Encouraging and inspiring, whether you apply it to business or any other project!

So funny, and so true.

I had no idea there even was such a thing, or that you could make your own. If you've ever wanted to take an oatmeal bath for softer, silkier skin, to kill the itch of poison ivy/oak, or to blunt the agony of chicken pox or eczema, here you go! 

Wednesday, November 4

Things The World Needs: A “Give This Character A Book” Feature

Have you ever read a book and encountered a secondary or supporting character who was way more interesting than the hero/heroine? Sometimes it works out okay – that person becomes the main character in a sequel, and everybody's happy. Other times, though, they get a quick write off at the end of the book and then they're gone. All that potential lost!

I recently re-encountered this situation while reading A Stitch in Crime. The main lead was nice enough, but she couldn't hold a candle to her mother and grandmother. Her mother was fascinating, and her grandmother was a riot. I would have loved to have seen more of them, and think they would have done beautifully as the main characters in their own book(s). Alas, no such luck.

It got me thinking that there should be a “Give This Person Their Own Book” feature, where readers can vote online for such wonderful but under-recognized characters to get their own books. At the end of every year, the publishing industry would take the five characters who received the most votes and commission the author(s) – or others, if necessary – to write books in which they are the hero(ine). Doesn't that seem like it should be not only doable, but a fantastic way to expand the publication of excellent books? It'd be hard to go wrong with characters that we've already established are fascinating and beloved, the publishers would know ahead of time that the books would have an eager audience!

In addition to the aforementioned mother/grandmother team, I'd have to immediately nominate the following for inclusion in any such contest (in no particular order):

- Gallowglass (Discovery of Witches) 
- Miriam Shephard (Discovery of Witches)
- Chase the Boundary Warden (Wizard's First Rule)

I'm sure there are others, but those are the first to come to mind. Who would you nominate?

Monday, November 2

Hack Schooling Resources #1

It occurred to me after I wrote my previous post on my hack-schooling endeavor that it could be enlightening to track what resources I use here on the blog. Not only might introduce others to valuable resources, but it should be personally edifying and useful long term to be able to look back and survey what worked, what didn't, and where I might have some blind spots in my pursuit of learning.

So here are a few resources that have already earned their keep in this adventure:

1. Amazon's Kindle Unlimited – For $10 a month, I get as many books as I can read. They are instantly downloadable and returnable at the push of a button at any hour of day or night, from wherever I am, and I can have up to 11 out at one time. This was a God-send when I was working on my TEDx talk all summer, and I've found that many of the blogging-related books I was interested in that the library didn't have were available free through this service.

2. Sticky Notes & Good Pens– Happily, everybody took me seriously last Christmas when I told them what I really wanted was nice pens. I got a bunch of Le Pens, and they make me unreasonably happy. Paired with a giant stack o' sticky notes in various sizes and colors, they are essential to keeping my studying and notes organized.

3. White Board ClingsI don't know anyone else who has or uses these, but I highly recommend them. They're peel-and-stick, and thus far appear to be endlessly reusable. They come in a variety of sizes, and are quite durable. They're inexpensive, don't crack, easy to transport, and can be combined (lined up edge to edge) to make a larger white board in any shape you want. What's not to like?

4. Library Card – Yes, this one should probably go without saying. But in this day and age, it's worth reminding people that there's huge value in getting to be on a first name basis with your librarians and figuring out how to navigate your library's online system.

5. Simple Rules I got a copy of this book free to review, and was surprised by not only how good but how applicable it was. I knew that research proves that working within constraints forces people to be more creative and to work harder at identifying what's really important, but this book uniquely applied that principle to how a business is run. (Though it can be equally applicable to homes, families, and all manner of other situations.)

That's it for now! Hope someday something on this list serves you well, too!