Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Potato-Leek Soup

Food Guy has a YUMMY potato-leek soup recipe. The base is from Alton Brown, and to this FG has added bacon and a step of deglazing with white wine. We like to keep it chunky at the end instead of perfectly smooth.

Sweating Vegetables:

Add chicken stock:

Blend and eat!

Kudos to Mr. Brown; we love this recipe with a hunk of bread. We generally ration ourselves so we get two dinner soups, a lunch soup for lunch the next day, and then enough to freeze a portion or two to pull out another night.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Week ending 1/17 round-up

Fitness round-up: Ran once. In there I did run a mile at 10 minutes, surrounded on either side by some walking (and some gasping for breath, not going to lie). Going to do better next week.

Food round-up: This was a good food week—the menu worked really well. On Sunday, Food Guy and I spent a few hours in and out of the kitchen, making Potato-Leek Soup for Sunday dinner and Monday lunch.

Since I’m rarely home to help with the cooking, I asked if there was anything I could prep for the next few days. He doesn’t like to chop veggies too far in advance, so there isn’t usually anything, but instead we started making the tomato sauce for Monday’s dinner. We had two big pots simmering and cooking, and once the set up was complete it was mostly the occasional stir. And with two of us in the kitchen, we could wash dishes as whoever was at the stove finished with them. This prep helped Monday be not nearly as crazy.

We had two healthy meat free nights on Wednesday and Thursday, and Friday night we ended up having friends over and just serving various dips and cheese and snack foods that we all ate as we felt like it, so we still have our fish in the freezer for this week. The Tortilla Stoup was lunch two days, and I love it—I’d never had tomatillos before this recipe and I love the way they taste in here (although Food Guy had to go to three stores to find them, so I have to limit how often I put them on our menu! And despite his Italian heritage he’d never made meatballs himself before, so that was a fun project. We have plenty of leftovers for today’s lunch and dinner and will not have to leave the house in the terrible cold here and can have a long, lazy day at home cleaning up after our impromptu party and reading.

Frugal round-up: Suddenly having people over on Friday changed our budget for the week a bit. We bought two bottles of wine and chips and cheese, and ice cream although everything else we had on hand. (I like to keep the makings of my mom’s amazing artichoke dip on hand—three ingredients, 30 mins in the oven, and everyone always loves it. Not health food though.)

We did manage to save about $60 with the gift certificate my mom gave us. I put half into our Dream Fund, and half into our new Vacation Fund for the weddings we’re planning to attend.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Cooking with All Things Trader Joe’s

I saw Cooking with All Things Trader Joe’s in one of the publishing trade mags as a break-out book, a book that had just made a bestseller list somewhere. I mentioned it to Food Guy and he got it out of the library that day. We love Trader Joe’s —the green principles, the quality of the food, the set up of the store, and the prices, and each week consists of a visit there as well as one to a more traditional store in which we can get the cereal, tea, and other items TJ’s doesn’t sell.

My initial impressions of the cookbook were mixed, as the format is not as slick and glossy as the books I love to touch and drool over, and a lot of the recipes seemed overly simple. But on second thought that seemed like a good thing—this may really be a cookbook for those of us with real busy lives who can’t spend a lot of time in the kitchen. And while I’m lucky enough to have the equivalent of a personal chef, it would be great for both of us if I could make a meal plan with more days of simple prep and quick recipes. So I went through and chose a bunch of recipes for the next week.

I’ll let you know how it goes!

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Twue Wuv

This is the best news I’ve seen in a while: Scientists Discover True Love

The research on love that I’ve read about seems so depressing—basically stating that people fall out of love as the natural course of things, and there’s nothing anyone can do about it. So this made me really happy, and also validated what most of us know from seeing those rare couples who you just know are deeply in love years and decades after the first bloom. This pretty much made my night.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Book Review: The Best American Mystery Stories 2008, edited by George Pelecanos

I love to read, but since I’ve started working in publishing my spare time is usually used on reading for work. I consciously try to carve out some time on the weekends to read other things so I can remind myself of what else is out there, and to make sure that my internal calibration of good writing doesn’t decrease (as it tends to when the majority of what I read is unpublished work from a wide variety of abilities). So when I get a chance to read something else, I want to really enjoy it.

The Best American Mystery Stories 2008 is a collection of short stories given to me by Food Guy for Christmas. I enjoy mysteries and spent a few months working through the library’s Agatha Christie series, but I’m always looking for new authors, and I by no means only like mysteries. It’s one of the many genres I enjoy.

My primary problem with this collection is that it really didn’t feel like I was reading mysteries. There were some great stories in here—I’ll find out if Rupert Holmes has published anything else after reading The Monks of the Abbey Victoria, and I got chills from Child’s Play before I saw that I already like the author of that story, Alice Munro. The book says mysteries on the front, but there is a quote from Pelecanos prominently featured on the back that says, “Though there are twists and surprises to be discovered, none of these stories are puzzles, locked-room mysteries, or private detective tales.” (They accurately predicted that people would feel a bit puzzled after reading these stories if there wasn’t a warning.)

I guess I missed the feeling of an actual mystery here, for though the stories were by and large interesting to me, I did not feel like I’d discovered new mystery writers, just writers in general. Which is okay, but not what I was expecting and I guess hoping for despite the disclaimer. If there’s no mystery, just a well-written story, why put it in the “Mystery” pile at all?

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

The Kindle

For Christmas I received the life-changing gift of a Kindle. I opened the box, and then I sat there and cried. And it HAS changed my life.

As an editorial assistant, I carry home approximately 200 pages a night. That usually means printing chunks of two or three projects that we are unlikely to buy for one reason or another, using our elderly printer, as well as ink and paper. And I carry it all back the next day to share my thoughts with the editors. And more on the weekends!

Since I commute three hours a day, having a giant bag stuffed with unwieldy papers is a real pain, figuratively as well as literally. I’ve never had back problems before, but lately there have been some serious twinges. So when my mom asked what I thought of the Kindle, and whether it would be useful to me, I thought about it.

But I was torn. I’m a book person. I love the smell of a book, the feel of a book, the whole experience of a book. Plus I use the library all the time, and Kindle books are expensive for someone who doesn’t really have that extra money to apply to something that I could get from the library for free. Plus it’s expensive itself, and this didn’t seem like the year for expensive gifts. So I said I’d have to really think about it, and let the matter go at that. And when they were sold out a month before Christmas, I mentally kicked myself and moved on.

My mom ordered one anyway, and I’m so glad she did. I can now carry a real person’s purse, instead of a publishing wench's giant bag. I’ve read a few books on it, all published before 1923 and therefore free. (Lots of free books available on the Internet, pre-1923 no copyright issues.) I can put documents on there and read them, so instead of taking 100 pages of a project home and knowing after 50 it isn’t right for us and still having to lug it around, I can close it and move on to the next thing, which I have with me on my handy-dandy device. I am also giddily imagining what it would be like to go on vacation without packing a suitcase full of books. If I’m going away for a week of relaxation, I need at least 5 books, and at that I’ll usually run out and have to buy some. So I can’t wait to buy a few titles and download some old free-but-good books, and take one small device along for the ride.

Do I think this will ruin publishing as we know it? I think it will change it for sure. There’s a lot of debate over whether e-books are priced fairly, for instance, although that’s a separate post altogether. And it is a different experience. But having words available at my fingertips without the downsides of my beloved books is pretty amazing, and I have to say I’m thrilled with my new Kindle.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Weekly Menu

Weekly menu: week starting 1/12/09

Mon: Spaghetti and Meatballs and small salad mostly a la Jamie Oliver (lunch potato leek soup)
Tue: Chicken Tortilla Stoup a la Rachael Ray (lunch spag & meat)
Wed: Big Salad and leftovers (lunch stoup)
Thurs: Corn and Black Bean Quesadillas a la America's Test Kitchen (lunch leftovers or caf)
Fri: Fish & broccoli (lunch quesos)
Sat: Leftovers
Sun: brunch at the in-laws

Fit, Fed, Frugal Round-up

Fitness round-up:
Week one: I ran only twice this week, and one was much more of a walk because I was sick. But I still did get on the treadmill two times. We were talking with friends who are trying to get us to sign up for a 5K, and that sounds like a reachable goal. These friends say that they run about 10 minute miles, which I have not done since high school. So I think that’s my nebulous new goal: be able to run 3.1ish miles at a time, and trying to see if I can inch that time down to 10 minute miles. I don’t think I’ll do a strict training program, as those get boring and I fall off the wagon when I don’t have time to do an exercise as dictated. But maybe I should lest I give up altogether.

Food round up:
Two nights of leftovers this week, which is great. I also brought lunch every day from what we had in the fridge left over from dinners this week and last, so that was frugal as well. We had two nights without meat, one of which was Big Salad night (lettuce, blueberries, peppers, tomatoes, homemade dressing, sprinkle of goat cheese). I love big salad night, but it doesn’t make for a good lunch the next day. My body refuses to acknowledge that a salad is enough food for the hours it has to last me, regardless of what I put in it. The other was Pasta a la Food Guy, which is a pasta he creates out of whatever we have—this week peppers, tomatoes, tomato paste, red pepper flakes, and probably a few other things. It was delicious.

We also had Loaded Baked Potato night (and lunch the next day), with topping choices of butter, sour cream, cheddar cheese, baked beans, scallions, and bacon bits. (Bacon made it non-veg but oh so tasty. Not a healthy meal, although we could make it so with fewer high fat additions.) Guinness Beef Stew (a la Jamie Oliver’s new cookbook) is awesome, with a few Food Guy tweaks (the bottom layer of crust isn’t necessary, we decided), Chicken Piccata was a fun late lunch made with friends, and Leftover Night. All good! Not as many greens during the week as we should, though, other than salad night, so I’ll keep that in mind when making the next menu.

Thanks to a Trader Joe’s gift cert from my parents for Christmas, I think we’ll save some money this week on food and be able to put a little extra into the Dream Fund. I had the thought of splitting any extra money we save or make between the Dream Fund and a yet-unmade Vacation Fund, so we have a short-term goal as well as the much longer term goal. But I also hate feeling like a house recedes farther and farther into the distance.

My 401K: This will automatically be bumped to 11% this year unless I unbump it, which I may do. I don’t get a match until I’ve worked at the company for a year, and unless they change it, that’s a match up to 6%. But with the other things to which I’d like to allocate my money, that extra percent makes too much of a difference. I think that auto-bump is really for people who are either getting a raise (and raises in publishing are pretty much frozen right now) or who aren’t paying close attention. I like the idea of helping people to save who might not otherwise, but since I am paying attention I don’t think I’ll feel guilty for not taking advantage.

Goals for 2009, Part 3


Exercise regularly: A yearly goal that I never quite hit. In high school I was on three teams and was very active, and in college I took an athletic course each term (or was sure to arrange a gym buddy) so that I had something fun going on that would get me moving (and out of the library). But in the real world, it’s been a lot harder. The things I’d like to do cost money or need a partner, and it’s hard to find motivation. This year I think I should pick a goal to work towards. A Five K in a certain amount of time, or committing to a karate class, or going to yoga once a week. I haven’t decided which…or any…because I’d like my goal to be something I can actually make myself hit.

Eat healthily and yummily: Food Guy is the godsend here, as he loves to cook and gets home at a reasonable enough hour that it’s feasible for him to do so. This would be a fun place to document some of the food we eat and recipes that we use, and to get ideas on how to do things cheaper. Also, Food Guy is a big meat fan, and I’m trying to move towards a more veggie filled diet. We’ve made some strides here this year but still have a ways to go to get more balanced meals.

Grow some of my own food: Food Guy is a big gardener when he can, but this year we’re in an apartment that doesn’t have a plot of land we can use. We did a bit in containers a few years ago, but he ends up doing most of the work. I’d like to pick some things to grow myself with minimal help from him.

Also, to maintain well-being. I have a few health issues that implementing the above will keep under control, hereditary high cholesterol being one of the biggest. I should also get this checked sometime soon so that I can see if my efforts make a difference.

Goals for 2009, Part 2


I am starting 2009 without any debt, but with a fairly small salary and lots of goals. How will I meet them all?

IRA: I’m planning on fully funding my Roth IRA in 2009, which means putting in five thousand dollars. $415 dollars a month will get me there, if I can put that much away.

Savings: I’ve been putting $100 into savings each month, and I have a fairly sturdy emergency fund. But after being unemployed for 6 months just over a year ago, I know how quickly job loss would decimate that, especially through paying for insurance.

401K: I currently put in 10% of my salary. This is a lot, especially since I am also trying to fund my IRA, but so far it's been doable since I never see the money. I won't get a match until I work at the company for a year.

Dream fund: I’m putting $50 a month into a dream fund, matched by Food Guy. We know we’d like to buy a house someday, and we’re always flipping through real estate books and getting depressed at how far away from that we are. If we can hit $2000 by the end of 2009, which we’re not quite on track to do right now, we would have about 1/10 of a downpayment saved. I’d like to do better if we can, and learn more about how to get from where we are to where we want to be.

Investments: In February 2008 I put my carefully saved $3000 into a Vanguard account with the Total Stock Market Index. And then the stock market tanked. I’ve continued to put in $50 a month and reinvest my dividends, and I’m down at $2463. This is painful, but I have a long timing threshold and should recover. I know I’m not likely to play with individual stocks given my lack of time and experience and also how much it would make me worry, so I’m planning on index funds. But should I be trying to save to open another account? International, small cap, bonds? I need to learn more about these so I can make better informed decisions.

Vacation: Food Guy would really love to go on a real vacation this year. Additionally, we have at least two weddings coming up this year, one of which will require travel to and stay in California, and one of which will require travel to and stay in Massachusetts. Last year we spent a weekend at an organic farm B&B in the Adirondacks for our yearly vacation, and we loved it. We really want to be able to do that again, but with two other vacations we know we’ll have to take, I’m not sure if it will happen.

Philanthropic: I donate $28 a month to Save the Children. I also gave money to three friends running marathons, who were all supporting cancer research. I feel like this is really important, but I’m not sure how much is reasonable to spend each month, especially when I’d like to be able to field requests from friends like those above which I can't plan for. I think I’d like to shop for my local food bank a few times this year, and make at least one donation to Modest Needs this year when I see a request that speaks to me personally. But I think I need a plan or else this will fall by the wayside.

Goals for 2009, Part 1

Professional Goals

Keep my job: There’s a lot of turmoil in the publishing world right now, and so my highest priority here is doing everything I can to keep my job.

Start a blog that draws on some of my new expertise: Publishing isn’t the only thing I’m interested in, but it is one of the many things I am interested in. And I think there are lots of people who don’t have the opportunity to work in this world who’d like to know more about it from the inside.

Be promoted: I’m on the lowest rung of the totem pole as an editorial assistant after a year of working in publishing because I switched houses halfway through this past year. There were lots of reasons to do this and it was the right decision for me, but this year I want to be promoted, with the long-term goal of signing my own authors.

To keep my job and be promoted, I’m planning on throwing myself back into the swing of things in 2009. I’m going to work on having a positive, confident outlook, and on getting my work done as well and quickly as it can be done to prove that I can take on more responsibilities. Since I’ve tried to get officially reviewed and just been told I’m doing well, I will look for ways to measure my successes and keep track of what goes well.

Starting a blog will give me some of my own writing training, as I haven’t done so much writing since college and I know I need the practice. It will give me a place to talk about publishing, budgeting, eating, and reading, all things I really love.