Oops, I did it again

Every year I say I’m not going to make resolutions, and every year I make resolutions, and every year I don’t follow through on those resolutions.

But then, I’m good at that kind of thing, in general.  Telling myself I won’t do something, doing it, and then not following through….

I constantly want to be a better person or work on a particular skill.  It’s just that so often, I get too busy to keep up with the schedule I’ve made for myself.  I overplan, I overbook, I overestimate my commitment or enthusiasm.  I underestimate my desire to sit on the couch and do nothing.

Last semester, in particular, had me so stressed I couldn’t function outside of family and writing and schoolwork for a full five weeks.  I’m just hoping this semester isn’t as bad….

I typed up a list of the things I want to do this year and printed it out.  It’s a full page, front and back.  Granted, some of items on the list are subparts of the bigger item.  Some are things I’ve already started.  Some are things that have been on my list for two, three, four years and still haven’t gotten done.

  • Organize, edit, and backup all photos.  This has been on my list before, but I was limited by the technology available to me.  The hard drive I had didn’t work with my current computer, and my old computer was … outdated….  So I had to edit photos on my current computer, transfer them to my old computer, load to the hard drive, then go back to my current computer to do my online backups.  I know, it’s probably more than I need to do.  Whatever.  Point is, I got a new hard drive a couple of months ago, so this is on my list.
  • Lose weight.  I actually started this back in November, and I’ve lost 10+ pounds so far.  I’ve got more to go….
  • Finish editing Memory Thieves.  I’m proud to say I finished my first complete novel last year.  I put it away for a bit, then started editing in December.  I’ve got a long way to go, but this needs to get done.
  • Complete two more novels.  This is a stretch, considering it took my 4-ish years to complete my first novel, and I’ve been trying to complete another novel for 10+ years.  But I’m hoping that completing the one will help me (a) understand how to finish, and (b) know that I can finish.  Plus, at least one of the two will be a second book in a series, so I already have a lot of the world and characters.  That should help, right?
  • Start doing my Personal Kitchen Challenges again.  I did this a few years ago and really enjoyed it, and would love to get back to it.  Just once a month.  Surely I can do this once a month, right?
  • Take a writing retreat.  Even if it’s just on my own.  Usually when I do this I go to the beach, but this year I kind of want to do a train trip.
  • Get politically active.  I wanted to do this last year, I started to do this last year, but the aforementioned overscheduling of myself made me back off from this a lot.  But this is a midterm election year, and I want to do something.  I’m not sure what yet, whether it’s get involved in a campaign or help register people to vote or volunteer at a voting location, but something.
  • Garden.  I wanted to do this last year and it never happened.  :-/
  • 30 day challenges.  This is something else I started and never followed through with in the past.  This time instead of following a “plan” I’m just doing it on my own.  So, for January, I’m doing a pushup challenge.  How many pushups can I do at the end of the month?  I started at 10 to get a base.  I’m at 13 today.  One month I’ll see how long I can hold a plank.  How many situps can I do?  Burpees?  November will be NaNoWriMo (in conjunction with one of the novels I want to finish writing this year).  Maybe it will be an every other month thing.  I don’t know.  I just love the idea of building up your stamina with something over the course of a month.
  • Do a photography challenge.  Just once a week.  I want to spend some time working on more technical aspects of photography, not just taking photos.  This is something that’s on my list every year, and I never follow through with.  It’s the first thing out the window when life gets busy.  It will be this year, as well, I’m sure.

I have other things on my list, some organizational things, some personal things, some craft things I want to do, some things I don’t want to share yet.  But that’s the bulk of it.

There’s one more thing, something I’m not ready to talk about.  I started a month or two ago, and it’s kind of ballooned into a glut of self-reflection and self-discovery.   Needed, but time-consuming and somewhat exhausting.  But exhilarating at the same time.

I just hope I can keep it up.  The semester starts in less than two weeks – that will be the true test!

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Sous Vide Tuna

I’m not a big fish fan.  Cooked fish, at least; raw is good.  When I think of tuna fish, I can’t help but think of that smelly canned stuff my ex-boyfriend used to eat with a nut tool.  I’ve gambled on seared tuna in restaurants, and been disappointed more times than not.  I like it nearly raw.  It’s usually far too cooked for me, only a small sliver of pink in the middle.  Once it’s grey I want no part of it, TYVM.

Since the sous vide allows for even cooking without overcooking, I decided to try cooking it myself, see if I could keep it from getting too tuna-in-a-can tasting.  Not that I’ve ever actually tasted tuna in a can.

I followed the Anova recipe, for the most part, such as it is:  salt and pepper, into a baggie, add some olive oil, let it sit for a bit, then dunk it into the water bath.  I wasn’t sure what temperature I wanted it at, and went back and forth between 110° and 115°.  I read the comments on the Anova site and on the recipe I found on Serious Eats (which was, honestly, the same basic recipe, just with a lot more information on temp and texture), and finally went for 110°.  The tuna steaks I had were right at an inch, so I let them sit in the bath for 40 minutes.

Once I pulled the tuna out of the water bath, I made a last minute decision to coat them with panko (seasoned with black pepper) before searing.  I also set out some chipotle mayo (closest thing to aioli I have in the house) and a honey orange vinaigrette dressing I made for the salads we had last night.  The chipotle mayo was a bust, but the vinaigrette was nice.

Overall, the tuna looked great, lots of dark pink and very little grey.  I probably could have seared it a bit longer, to be honest (I did about 35 seconds per side).  But the meat was a bit firmer and drier than I would have liked.  Next time I might try dropping the temperature to 108 and cook it for only 35 minutes, then sear for 45 seconds per side.

Because yes, there will be a next time.  I didn’t love it but I didn’t hate it, either – I actually thought it was rather bland (I’ll make sure I have proper aioli next time).  Husband liked it well enough, and (wonder of wonders) The Kid ate some and liked it.  And anything The Kid likes that is not junk food, I’ll add to the rotation.

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Adventures in Sous Vide Cooking

One of the things I want to blog about this year is our adventures in sous vide cooking.  We were first introduced to sous vide via Modernist Cuisine, which, of course, we lusted over, but the price tag was prohibitive.  But then they came out with Modernist Cuisine at Home, which was more affordable, although still quite expensive.  I bought it for Stephen as a gift while we were in Finland, and we drooled over the photos.  We didn’t have anything in the way of equipment, and we really didn’t want to buy new kitchen equipment while overseas, but there were a few recipes we could do – a low temp steak and a sous vide salmon in the kitchen sink.

The low temp steak was fine, but neither of us saw the real need for it.  The sous vide salmon, on the other hand, turned out well, and we began eating it once or twice a month.  It’s a great introduction to sous vide, because you need no special equipment.  All you need is baggies, a kitchen sink, and a meat thermometer.  The recipe is available online if you are interested in giving it a try yourself.  (I also blogged about it previously here.)

When we moved back to the US last year, an immersion circulator was one of our first purchases – I believe Stephen bought me one for Christmas.  We use the the Anova with wifi/bluetooth capability, and, with only a couple of hitches which we’ve since smoothed out, we’ve been really happy with it.  So much so that we bought my parents one for Christmas this year.

As part of that, I’ve been doing a lot more research, compiling information and recipes to share with my mom.  There are already a bunch of great websites for learning about sous vide, and this site really isn’t meant to be one of them, but I do want to share some experiences here.  So you’ll be seeing posts about sous vide cooking in the future, and if you want to give it a go on your own, let me know!

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Last year was a hot mess, wasn’t it?

But I heard or read this somewhere the other day:  Look at how many new possibilities 2016 presented us with.

Forget advances in science or healthcare.

On average, there are 360,000 babies born every day.

That’s 128 million new possibilities created last year.

What will those children do in their lifetimes?  Who’s lives will they touch?  What wonderful things will happen because they were born?

2016 was a terrible year, but every year is terrible in it’s own way, to someone.

But to how many people was 2016 a great year?

I’m choosing to believe that 2016 gave us hope.


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Where do I begin?

I knew February was going to be insane, and I tried to plan for it.  I didn’t plan well enough.  February was INSANE.  March hasn’t been much saner.

A quick run down on the move and what’s been going on.

  • Two days before we left Finland, I picked Baby J up from daycare and was informed that several of the kids had chicken pox.  (Finland doesn’t vaccinate for it, FYI)
  • We flew to the US on January 30th.  The trip was okay – we were able to upgrade to Business Class.  Hello, lay flat seats!  It was very nice, quite comfortable, and it was great having a “bed” to lay Baby J on.  He took 3 decent naps on our transatlantic flight – if we had been in Economy, his naps would have been shortened because he wouldn’t have been able to get comfortable.  So yeah, that upgrade was totally worth it.
  • We had ordered cars from Volvo to meet us stateside through their expat program.  Mine was due to arrive on February 1st, but it was delayed.  Not going to get into all that at this time, but suffice to say, I am quite unhappy with Volvo right now.  Anyway, we were supposed to get one car, then drive to see family in Texas and Arkansas.  We didn’t get a car until  February 10th, so our road trip was delayed a week.  During that week, we received our household items from the US (that had been in storage for four years while we were gone) and unpacked most of that.
  • We did a road trip from February 11-19.  Baby J got chicken pox the day we left.  We got to see some family, but not everyone we wanted to see, thank you very much  Highly Contagious Disease.  Poor baby was miserable for about 3 days, but then it was better.  Luckily, he’s not quite old enough to realize that scratching made the itchiness feel better, so all he would do is sit there and squirm.  Small favors.
  • On February 22 our goods from Finland arrived.  Stephen was back at work, and my mom had come to help out through February 26th.  We unpacked more boxes, piled stuff on counters and tables, tried to get through as much as we could.
  • My car finally arrived on March 4th, then Baby J started getting what we thought was carsick – he managed to christen both new cars.  But then I came down with a stomach bug and was down for the count for two days, so we figured that’s what Baby J had.  Then when I was better, Stephen got it, then actually ended up in the hospital last week, spent 2 days there.
  • And this week, Baby J got sick and started having breathing issues again, so I took him to the doctor on Wednesday to make sure he got diagnosed and treated properly with a new doctor.  He’s been getting breathing treatments three times a day since then, which take about 10 minutes each.

I’m exhausted.

I still have a pile of linens that were in storage that need to be washed, I still need to sort through most of the kitchen stuff, the office is a complete wreck, and there are still about 10 boxes that need to be unpacked (not including the 6 boxes full of DVD/CD cases that we’re not bothering to unpack).

And, we’ve started looking for a new house – we are in a six month rental right now.  So we have to move everything again in a few months.  I’m desperately trying to reduce our inventory before then.

So I haven’t been blogging.  I haven’t been working on the new podcast I started.  I haven’t really had the equipment to do it until recently, anyways, and now I just lack quiet time without a two year old asking for more food (the bottomless pit).  Baby J will be starting part time daycare in April, so if I can just survive two more weeks without life going sideways – again – I might get some things accomplished.

Meanwhile, this conversation happens:

  • Stephen:  “You really need to-“
  • Me:  “I really need to do a lot of things right now, and whatever you were about to suggest is probably on my list.  Do you really want to go there?”

I have a bunch of thoughts on the move and acclimating back to US customs.  But that’s a post for another day.

How have you been?

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Plans for January

2016 is, unfortunately, front loaded.  If you read my last post, I have a lot of plans for this year, and I’ve already been working on about half of them.

  • The Big Move!

It’s three weeks away, and I can’t tell you how excited I am.  There’s a lot to do, though – packing up the house here, finding a house there, planning a long road trip to see family almost immediately (three days) after we get back.  We’ll be living out a suitcase for about three weeks.  Once we get back from the road trip, we’ll have a house and some of our stuff – the stuff that’s been in storage for four years (which we’ll need to sort through – ugh).  We’ll have to wait another three weeks for our stuff from Finland to arrive (which includes most of Baby J’s toys, almost all of my office/writing stuff, and the other items that have made our house a home for the last four years).  So February and half of March will be discombobulated as we wait to really get settled.

  • 30 Day Challenge:  Organize!

I think this is actually the one that made me come up with the idea of doing a different challenge every month.  With The Big Move coming up, I needed a way to get through the house, and I was looking for a simple “organize one thing a day” plan. I used this one from Milk and Cuddles, and modified it to suit my needs.  I actually started around December 20, so it’s more than 30 days, but January will be cut somewhat short (probably about five days) due to packing and moving, and I missed some days around Christmas.  Plus, I needed the time!  Things are progressing nicely, though, and I’ve already gone through most of the house.  A lot of things have been moved into the office for further sorting and cleaning out, so I’m working my way through that now.

  • 30 Day Fitness Challenge – Strong Knees!

My knees are pretty bad, so when I found this 30 Days to Stronger Knees Challenge, I knew this was where to start, especially if I wanted a good base for the rest of the year.  Like with the 30 day challenge, I had to keep The Big Move in my mind as I planned this – since some of the equipment needed will be packed up prior to the end of January, I decided to start a few days early.  (That’s also why this challenge got done first, otherwise I wouldn’t have been able to do it until April, since the equipment would be in transit.)  So far it’s going well, I haven’t missed any days yet.  I don’t know that my knees are stronger yet, but I’ll let you know at the end of the month!

  • Start a Podcast!

Podcast has been started!  It’s a writing podcast, so if you’re a writer (or are just looking for a writing prompt) or if you know a writer, please share!  It’s called The Writing Promptcast, and it’s a writing practice within a podcast, using word prompts, giving you no excuses about finding the time or inspiration.  Check it out!

  • Use a bullet journal

You guys, this has changed my life.  I first heard the term “bullet journal” about six weeks ago, while listening to a podcast about a TV show.  I didn’t pay it any attention.  Then, while browsing (read: wasting time on) Pinterest, I ran across several posts about it, and started looking into it.  I am the worst about “keeping” multiple journals…and by that, I mean starting a notebook about one thing or another, writing five pages, and putting it aside.  (This notebook is all about photography.  This notebook is where I’ll keep all the stuff about the move.  This notebook….  Ugh!)  The bullet journal puts all that stuff into one notebook, and typing that it sounds like a serious no-brainer, but I love it!  I’m still adjusting my format some, as I use it and see what works for me and what doesn’t, but two weeks in I’m a convert.  (That’s the other great thing, it’s totally customizable.  Some people are way artsy with theirs, others are bare bones.  If you need a page to keep track of blog post ideas, recipes, books to read, movies to see, whatever, you just make that page yourself and move on.  Do your own thing!)

  • Work on “finding myself”

If you read my blog post from a few weeks ago, I talked about how I’m really having an identity crisis lately, so something I wanted to do this year was take a look at who I am, what I want, and what I need to do to feel comfortable with myself again.  I’ve found a couple of questionnaires online, all about finding yourself, and I know it sounds kind of hokey, but I feel like I need it.

  • Do morning pages

I had really wanted to start this one off as a 30 day challenge, but I also wanted to get on it ASAP.  So instead of making it a monthly challenge, I decided to do it on top of everything else.  So far…I’m not loving it.  But I’m trying to give it a chance.  I think that once I start working on one of my novels again, it will be a great place to work through some story problems, but for the moment, it’s a cross between a daily journal, a writing journal, and a to-do list, with a lot of “I don’t know what to write” thrown in.

  • Write a short story a month

As a part of the Podcast, I started a story challenge, and it’s only right that I craft a story myself.  I should also add to my writing plans for 2016 that I want to work on enjoying writing again.  So this is part of it.  No end goal of being published, just writing for the fun of it.  Remembering why I used to love it so much.

  • Books I’m currently reading (2 of 16)

Finishing up a couple of books I started in 2015:  The Spice Necklace and Bet Me.  I need to finish The Spice Necklace before the move, because it’s in print and I’m close enough to the end that I don’t want to put it in my suitcase because I’m two chapters from the end.  So I need to finish it in time to box it up to be shipped back.  Hard deadline on that one.  Bet Me is in e-book format, so I have a little more leniency there.  Still, I expect to finish both by the end of this week.

  • Get my email cleaned out and organized.

I currently have 100 email accounts.  Okay, that’s an exageration.  It’s only 15.  But I’m working on getting it down to 5 (one of them is for Baby J).  I’ve narrowed down the ones I plan on using, and as I sign up for new things I’m using one of these 5, but I still need to change all my current online accounts, as well as notify friends and family.  This may take a while…

  • I really wanted to start sending birthday cards this month, but with everything else, it’s just not going to happen.  Or it might, who knows.  No promises.

So, like I said, my plans for the year are pretty heavily front-loaded.  I hope it doesn’t hamper my progress.  I’m trying to figure out how February is going to work with everything, since we will literally be nomads for much of the month, living out a suitcase.  I just keep telling myself, it’s basically like the last two (10-day) vacations we’ve taken.  It won’t be as bad as I’m making it out to be, I’m just stressing.  My mental reminder:  They’re just plans.  Plans are meant to be changed.

How is your January going?



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16 Plans for 2016

So.  2016.  I recently found a list of 2015 resolutions and had a good laugh at it.  And then a little cry.

Resolutions are tough.  I love the idea of forming new habits, stopping old ones, but it’s tough.  I think I read that only 17% of resolutions are kept.  There’s a reason.  They’re tough.

So I don’t have resolutions this year.  I have plans.  And plans change, are flexible, are forgiving.  Plans can be cancelled, rescheduled.  Plans are best case scenario in a worst-case-scenario-world.

Would I like to take a photo a day, or meditate every day?  Sure.  But that plan is a hard one.  I’ve done the photo a day challenge, and unless it’s of my kid, I’m not going to be able to do it.  (Actually, I do take a photo of Baby J almost every day, but it’s certainly not an attempt to become a better photographer.)  But I do plan to do a different challenge each month, with a goal in mind for that month alone.  I plan to take a photo a day for a month.  I plan to meditate every day for a month.  It’s 30 days.  Each month is something new.  And the end of each month is done.  Or maybe it’s a new habit, who knows.

Would I like to lose ten (or more) pounds?  Sure.  But that’s not my resolution.  I have plans to do a different “30 day” exercise agenda each month.  “30 Days to a firmer butt.”  “30 Day Plank Challenge.”  Etc.  I don’t really expect to have a firmer butt (or abs or arms), but my goal is to be stronger month by month.  My plan for 2016 is to be stronger.

Would I like to write every day?  Sure.  But I know that goal is difficult.  So I want to plan to do morning pages every day.  I also plan to write a short story a month.  My goal is to enjoy writing again, rather than slogging through.

So here are my plans for the year:

  1. Start a podcast
  2. 30 Day Challenge each month
  3. 30 Day Fitness Challenge each month
  4. Move back to the US
  5. Work on “finding myself”
  6. Use a bullet journal as a planner
  7. Send birthday cards
  8. Get my email cleaned out and organized
  9. Read 16 Books
  10. Volunteer
  11. Do Morning Pages
  12. Write a short story a month
  13. Join a writing group
  14. Be more e-social
  15. Go to a writing conference
  16. Print up some photo books from the last four years

What are your plans for the year?

Categories: Random | 1 Comment

Identity Crisis

Ever since I was a teenager, I dreamed of being a writer.  Published.  Books in the store, on the library shelf.

Four years ago, my dreams came true, and I not only fell in love and got married, but I moved to a foreign country and didn’t have to work.  I could finally write full time.

Now, as we get ready to return to the US, I have almost nothing to show for it.

That weighs heavy on me.  Not simply because I had my dream and did nothing with it, but because I had the dream that so many other people have and did nothing with it.  I not only feel disappointed in myself, I feel ashamed.  I feel like I wasted this dream, a dream that others would have killed to have realized.

I wish I could say new dreams have replaced old ones, but that’s not the case.  In fact, I feel almost as if I have no dreams anymore.

I’ve been suffering a bit of an identity crisis lately.  I often feel like I don’t know who I am anymore, and I have these random moments where I stop and think, “Who am I?”  A lot of it has to do with being a mom now.  I was stuffing Baby J into his outerware the other day and really had this “This is me?!” moment.  It’s made more difficult because I don’t really feel like I’ve been “ME” in quite a while, so when I have these “Who am I?” moments, and I think back to who I was before, it’s a very distant memory.

I’m struggling to find myself again, and I hope that in doing so, I’ll find that spark of creativity I used to have, and the drive to do something with it.

More soon…



Categories: On Writing, Random | Tags: , , , | 6 Comments

This or That – July winner

I ended up picking two winners (assigning each comment a number and using a random number generator) for July’s This or That.  Drumroll, please…

Tracie and Kim!

You each will get some soap that I’ve just made within the last week.  I made several different varieties, so I’ll get with you guys to find out what variety you want.  Hope you like it!


Categories: This or That? | 1 Comment

Where I’m at

I’ve been quite out of sorts lately with my life.  I’ve been what I can only describe as numb when it comes to getting my thoughts out, whether it’s fiction or non-fiction, writing or blogging, on the computer or on paper.  I’ve been questioning what has been my ultimate dream forever.  Do I still want to write?

I still have stories in my head, but I can’t seem to get them out.  A lack of ability or drive, or something else, I don’t know.

Is it because I don’t talk much most days, have I become locked in my head?

Is it because I don’t use the language as much, living in a foreign country?

Is it because I no longer want to escape my life into an imaginary world?

Is it because I no longer daydream?

Or is it because it’s not meant to be?

Is this a midlife crisis?



Categories: On Writing, Writer Sara Johnson | Tags: , , , , | 1 Comment

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