Saturday, September 25, 2010

#52 - Bucket List

When I was working on my challenges list, I had exactly one item in the back of my mind that would fit into a bucket list -- the goal of visiting all seven continents before I die.  There's a quote in L. M. Montgomery's book Anne of Windy Poplars that sort of sums up my desire to travel "I want to know ... not just believe ... that the earth is round."  I want to see all those places that I've read about ... and I read a lot ... or at least the ones that actually exist (or have in the past).

Now, obviously, I have more varieties of things on my bucket list than just travel.  I'm up to almost 20 items now; however, I've decided only to share on this blog those items that relate to going places, seeing and experiencing new cultures, etc.  Many of the other things on the list seem a bit too personal to share on a public blog.

So, before I die, I'd like to:
  • visit all seven continents
  • see the following historical places / wondrous things with my own eyes
    • the Pyramids in Egypt
    • the Coliseum in Rome
    • the Parthenon in Athens
    • Hadrian's Wall in Britain
    • Venice
    • the Liberty Bell
    • the redwood forests of the Pacific Northwest
    • Mount Rushmore
    • the site of Troy
  • Take an overnight train trip
  • Go to Mardi Gras in New Orleans
  • Stay at least overnight in a castle
  • Take a walking tour vacation

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

I keep finding ideas

One of the aspects that I'm finding interesting about this challenge is how other people apply it to their own lives.  While my nephew can take credit for introducing the idea  to myself and both my sisters, I have inspired two people to start lists of their own as well.  It's like a Ponzi scheme -- only much more empowering.  The best part is when I get to see their lists too; I see items that I wish I'd thought of.  I keep telling myself that I should not add 102, 103, 104 ... because that's just a recipe for disaster - I'd never finish them all in 1001 days.

But, here are a few ideas from other people that might have made my list ...
  • go to a Renaissance Fair with both of my sisters (we used to do this every year, but then Diana & I both moved further away from the Twin Cities, and it became much more complex to schedule)
  • leave # of notes - I actually think I may work this own into something already on my list
  • send # number of thinking of you cards to friends
  • sleep in my hammock overnight
  • photograph a landscape from the same spot multiple times to capture all four seasons
  • hunt for morel mushrooms
My friend Melissa has her list up on her blog - check out the link here - but the others aren't public (or at least, not yet).

And a few more that I've thought of myself since I finished writing the list
  • make a braided rag rug like Grandma used to
  • be a mentor through Big Brothers/Big Sisters
  • find something worthy of placement in the porthole frame Dad made
  • take a week off in the summer even though the library is crazy busy then
  • drive the Lake Superior Circle tour
  • visit an amethyst mine (where you can dig yourself) in Canada and make myself a piece of jewelry with what I find
  • learn to build a computer from components - I think I'm pretty close to knowing how to do this already
  • attend a Society for Creative Anachronism event
  • try playing paintball
  • learn how to do archery
  • hike 5 new trails within 50 miles of my home
I think that if I'm still having as much fun with this project in May of 2013, I may have to do a 101 things, part II!

Addendum:  another list (with a twist) posted by Mary today

Sunday, September 19, 2010

#53 - Geocaching

What child has not dreamed about finding a treasure box, the thrill of knowing where something special is hidden, and the moment of discovery?  Those dreams are probably what's at the heart of geocaching.  If you've never heard of the term, picture using GPS coordinates to find hidden boxes in both rural and urban environments.  Want more information, as well as a short video clip, follow this link:  geocaching homesite.

I went out both yesterday and today trying to find caches.  Saturday was not so successful; I was using a borrowed GPS device (thanks for the loan Dad!) and wasn't very sure how it worked.  My friend Amanda was a good sport about what turned out to be a very long hike over rugged terrain with two little boys (9 months and not quite 4 years old) in tow.  But, it turned out that the GPS device was using a different type of coordinate coding that what I had printed out.  (Hmmm....maybe I need to do more research before I try something like this next time).  Consequently, we went right by where the cache was that we had hoped to find ... we probably were looking for a spot out in the middle of the lake we were hiking around because of the differences in the two systems.  Oh well, it was a nice day to be out, and I got to tell Silas (the older of the two) an abbreviated version of The Hobbit (centered on Smaug since he loves hearing about dragons) to take his mind off the fact that he was tired.  We were all tired; Amanda figured as we got back to the car that our 1.8 mile jaunt for the cache turned into over 7 miles of hiking over lots of steep hills, rocky terrain, and tree roots. Amanda deserves major hiker woman kudos as she was carrying her baby in a carrier backpack all the way.

Today, I met my nephew Jason in Duluth, and we searched for four caches in Enger Park.  Having learned the coordinate lesson the day before, I had copied down multiple conversions for the locations.  Knowing that Jason is more technology savvy than myself, I put him in charge of the GPS unit.  Off we went (with hiccups from the GPS - which seemed to change its mind regularly as to where we were).  However, after a bit of wandering back and forth ...
The first cache
I finally got to see what an actual cache looks like.  The little notebook is a log where you write your name and the date that you found the cache.  The other items are for trade ... you can take something to remind yourself of your find and leave a treasure for the next person who happens along. This box was smaller; the others were WWII ammo boxes.  Some caches can be as small as film canisters, but we didn't try for any that tiny.

The most challenging part for us was convincing the GPS to spit out information that was usable.  Jason spent lots of time saying things like "stop being difficult" and "but you just said that direction was east" to it.  Getting there was not just half but more like 95% of the battle since we needed to first establish where "there" was.
Jason tries to commune with the GPS

Of course, having a topo map would have helped too.  Some of the caches are in locations on a hill and it can be much easier to either start from the top or the bottom depending on the terrain.  The third site was an example; we would have been much better off coming down the hill where a trail was not too far away rather than straight up the hill from the road.
Looking down at the hill we had just climbed up to the third cache
We did find all four caches ... plus some golf balls from the nearby course ... so we came home with some treasures.
My cache treasures, found golf balls, and stick that stowed away in my daypack!

My overall feeling on geocaching ... fun, but I don't think I'll be rushing out to get a GPS since I'm fine with hiking just to enjoy the scenery.  I think that it would be great fun for families (and some of the caches showed evidence that families had been there) to do together.  I might try a few of the local caches just to see how the experience varies in a town environment.  And ... after two days of hiking, I'm really looking forward to a nice, mostly flat, typical morning walk tomorrow.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Pre 101 list goal accomplished

Our library runs a summer reading program for adults as well as teens and children.  It operates on a very simple premise:  set yourself a goal and if you meet it, you get a prize as our closing party in September.  Well, as I am the one in charge of this program, I feel compelled to also set a goal.  And then, I realize that I would suffer great embarrassment at the party if I can't say that I've met it.  So, each year I find myself reading some summer literature that I might not have otherwise picked up ... some years it's classics, others have a theme, this year it was recommendations.

I had planned on reading the first 5 books recommended to me after the program started.  However, I seem to collect recommendations the way that most people collect loose change ... I drew the line at 8 titles.  Only two were books that I might have read without the goal; the second (which I finished tonight) because it is on my Proulx list.  So here, in the order that I read them, are my summer reading goal titles and my thoughts on each ...

Promise Not to Tell by Jennifer McMahon
This was a title recommended by an acquaintance from my high school days.  I had no idea what to expect (as the recommendation came via Facebook) and when the book arrived from interlibrary loan, Mary handed it to me with the comment that "this has your name on it, is that right?".  Basically, it was a serial killer story -- not my thing at all -- and I figured out who the killer was about 10 pages after the character first was introduced.

Hyperion by Dan Simmons
This title is one that my friend Laura has been bugging me to read for years.  I do like science fiction, so that was a plus, and the Canterbury Tales format of the narration was interesting. It did inspire me to look up information on the Wandering Jew although I didn't gain any insight as to why he shows up in so many science fiction novels.  But it wasn't a knock-your-socks-off experience.

Dessert First by Hallie Durand
A kids title - huzzah and thanks Jessie! - about following your inner drummer.  This was a fun fast read and had a yummy recipe for Double D bars which will be served at the summer reading party next week.

Acacia by David Anthony Durham
This fantasy novel was handed to me by one of my library board members who actually knows my reading tastes fairly well.  Tom said that it was the best fantasy world-building that he had read in years, so I probably would have picked it up eventually.  I wasn't as blown away by it as he was (a little bloody for my taste), but I loved that there were strong characters of both genders and a range of temperaments.

Book of Unholy Mischief by Elle Newmark
My friend Sara (who also happens to be on the library board) picked this title for me.  The historical detail was great (set in Renaissance Venice), and the chef descriptions were a huge contrast to the book that had immediately preceded it on my reading pile (Anthony Bourdain's Medium Raw).  The best part ... cooks working to save civilization.

For the Win by Cory Doctorow
I had not planned to read this Doctorow young adult book although I enjoyed Little Brother.  However, it came up in a conversation with my sister Diana (also a librarian), so I went back and picked it up.  The immediate analogy that came to mind was Moby Dick -- you think that you're going to get this great adventure story about hunting the whale and what you end up with is a lesson in whaling.  Only substitute online roleplaying games and economics.  He's a good writer, but the textbook sections were a huge turnoff ... will teens actually read those parts, skip them, or give up in disgust ...

Another Roadside Attraction by Tom Robbins
The first thing I have to say about this book is that I didn't think I would EVER get it through interlibrary loan - I spent almost 3 months as the only person on the waiting list for it - yes, SNAFUs happen to us library workers too and serve as a good reminder of the frustration sometimes felt by patrons when things don't show up.  I had even asked my friend Lis for an alternate Robbins title just in case.  Lis recommended this book because of Robbins' use of language and way it evokes the counterculture movement.  I did enjoy those aspects; however, she didn't tell me that it was magical realism.  I think magical realism is the literary equivalent of lima beans -- you like it or you don't, and you will cite the same reasons no matter which side of the debate you choose --  almost no one falls into the neutral area in between.  I don't like it (sorry, Lis!), and, after months of waiting for the book to arrive, I had to force myself to read the end in 30 page sections with breaks for good concentration.  If I was on the other side of the lima bean/magical realism debate, I probably would have loved the book.

Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
The final title on the list was recommended by Mary (my intrepid library worker) who started reading it on her lunch breaks and couldn't put it down.  I, too, found myself sucked into the story and its relevance to today's world despite being written 80 years ago.  Wow, how much things stay the same as they change!  If you want to read one classic this year, give this one a try.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

#83 - Kitchen Reorganization

I love the time that I spend in my kitchen cooking and especially baking.  To borrow a catchphrase - it's my happy place.

However, I've recently found myself having a stuff problem:  stuff on the table, cupboards so full that stuff falls out when you're reaching for something, and, most of all, stuff cluttering up the counters so badly that I only had a tiny bit of space to actually use.  It was shamefully bad at the start of the summer, but then I pulled out my canner and made about 70 jars of various sorts of preserves.  And, you guessed it, they became part of the stuff problem.

Don't misunderstand me ... I love having the memory of summer preserved in strawberry jam to smile at in the dead of winter.  And it's lovely to have all of the ingredients already on hand if you decide to make lasagna or just the right pan for the birthday treat that you're going to make.  However, one jar of jam will make me smile as easily as 30 do, it's frustrating if you find that you have multiple open boxes of lasagna noodles, and does anyone really NEED five sizes of springform pans accessible at all times? 

So, today I spent several hours going through my kitchen cupboards, counters, and other flat surfaces to try to get my problem under control.  I tackled the worst section first - that horrible place where I keep the leftover containers - I know many people who also lament over this storage nightmare.  Why don't Tupperware, RubberMaid, Glad, and all of those other container people make plastic boxes and bowls that actually store easily!  And why can you never find a lid that fits the plastic dish that you've just naively dumped tomorrow's lunch in?  I have even found that the same company makes the same size container in slightly different dimensions (rounded corners vs squared) so the lids don't fit despite the containers looking identical and stacking together perfectly!  This cabinet is also where my "microwave" dishes live; these are mostly items that were given to me ... or, at least I hope that I never thought I'd be making a bundt cake in the microwave.  I was ruthless in this section and chucked into recycling all containers/lids that I couldn't find a match for.  I also made a stack for Goodwill - perhaps someone out there really needs that afore mentioned microwave bundt cake pan.

The space I made was like pushing the first domino ... clear space in this cabinet and add the candy molds (yes, I have the plastic forms to make fancy chocolates and cream cheese mints - get over it, you wouldn't be laughing if I offered to make you fancy chocolates, now would you?).  Then use that space to move the basket of cookie sprinkles (I can probably come up with the appropriate sprinkles or at least festive colored sugar for any holiday you'd care to name) into the cupboard where my cookie cutters live.  Etc, etc, etc ....  I now have a huge load for recycling, a tote box of things that will be living upstairs in storage, a bag for the food shelf (already dropped off this evening), a pile of things for Goodwill or any niece/nephew who is short on bakeware, a few past-date things tossed into the trash, AND LOTS OF COUNTERSPACE!  The only category of stuff that I didn't condense or store in some way was my collection of teas.  I decided that the best way to whittle that problem down was to drink more tea.

So, I'm off to sit with my cat and read a book while I, you guessed it, sip at a mug of tea.

Monday, September 13, 2010

What is progress?

I was feeling a little down because I didn't get a chance to cross an item off my list during the past week.  But then I started thinking about how many of the challenges I'm actually working on.  Many, as you can see, take more than just an afternoon to do.  For example, I probably made about 50 origami cranes on Sunday.  Now when you're folding one crane it doesn't seem to take but a moment ... when you fold 50 more or less in a row, it takes longer.

Plus, there are a few items that I don't want to start yet.  I'd rather make costumes for myself after I lose some weight.  There are some job-related things (involving taking breaks, etc) that I feel I shouldn't do this fall since I've got so much time off between now and the end of the year.  And my upcoming (and much on my mind) trip to England in October is also a reason why I'm procrastinating on a few items as well.

I also realize that I did put some thought into my list of challenges.  They are things that I want to accomplish for their own sake, not just so I can go down the list and put checkmarks by items.  An example of this would be the first item on my list - writing a will.  I've been working on this one almost from the beginning of my project a month ago, but I still don't feel ready to get it notarized.  I keep thinking of more things that need to be added or checked on ... who's the current beneficiary on my life insurance policy, can my retirement account be part of my state since I'm not married and am childless, what are the "family heirlooms" that I own that should go to someone specific, and the list goes on.  Even though I've made some major progress on this one - asked someone to be executor, decided on how to divide the bulk of things, made up a list of accounts that might need a second name added for convenience later, etc - it's still not done.

And, of course, my life has other commitments than just working on things to challenge myself.  Last week included a couple of late nights at work, an all day visit to my parents, spending an afternoon helping a friend with a project, going to a party, and everyday living things like laundry that just don't do themselves.

So, do I have an item to cross off right now ... no.  Do I feel like I'm making progress ... yes.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

#62 - Mutant Pepper Jelly

When I put this goal on the list, I was thinking more along the lines of salsa; however ...

This was the year of peppers for my garden.  I'm not quite sure why I kept planting them, but I ended up with 10 different varieties - sweet bell, banana, jalapeno, chilies, etc.  Early in the summer, I had grand plans of making mango salsa with all the different varieties of bell peppers, but as the peppers grew ...

alarming things started to happen.  Look closely at the photos -- see it, the peppers crossbred -- basically, I ended up with multiple varieties growing from the same plant.  I still didn't think it would be so bad; they'd still taste like the variety they resembled, right?  WRONG!  After sampling one that looked like a bell pepper but had the heat of a jalapeno, I figured that trying any of them would be a gamble.  So, I started looking for ways to use them where not knowing the hotness would matter.

My brother (who has dealt with this same problem) suggested making pepper cornbread to feed to someone as a joke.  I did consider it, but my friend Lis had a better idea.  Yup, pepper jelly.

So, I spent my afternoon working with peppers and ended up with 28 beautiful jars of pepper jelly that ended up just hot enough to make your lips tingle but not run screaming in agony.  I decided to leave chopped bits of pepper in for interest ... this isn't the best photo, but trust me, it's gorgeous!