Weekly Goal Progress Report #7

1) Financial: Wrapping up February’s budget on a good clip. Cutting back on eating out is tricky, but hopefully with Saturday’s grocery shopping I can add some variety to my foods to bring for lunch (I want to make a pork pie, which should freeze well in pieces. YUM).

2) One free thing in LA per month: Time to start thinking about March. There are several events I have my eye on, so maybe my LA friends could help me choose! Here they are:

Chinese Lantern Festival at El Pueblo, Saturday, March 5. They’ll have LION DANCES so this is super tempting!

Long Beach Mardi Gras (what is it with Long Beach and the New Orleans culture stuff anyway?), including a parade, on Saturday, March 5

The Festival of the Kite at Redondo Pier, on Sunday, March 13

St. Patrick’s Day Festival in Costa Mesa, Saturday, March 13. Looks like a lot of dance troupes and musicians.

LA Friends, I await your input!

3) 20 Minutes of Games Every Other Day: Started Lost in Shadow this week. I am enjoying it so far for its aesthetics alone. So far the gameplay is pretty basic platforming and environmental puzzle solving, but I keep getting taught new things that make me think the game is going to ramp up. We’ll see!

4) Sew 3 things: 1 of 3 complete

Book Review: Blind Hope

I received this book for free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group for this review

Blind Hope was a very fast read – I finished the day I received it, in fact. However, I think it would have benefited from being shorter than it was in some ways. You see, the stories about Laurie and Mia are wonderfully inspiring and well presented. The stories are heartwarming, and each one offers unique spiritual insight.

However, after each life tale, the author feels the need to spell out the meaning of the dog-to-human/human-to-God analogy in careful detail. Explaining why a metaphor is insightful is akin to explaining why a joke is funny, it takes all the humor our, or in this case, diminishes the insight. A summary of the lesson wouldn’t be burdensome, but it goes too far: “When Mia did this it taught me this,” for every moment. These explanation moments took so much out of the otherwise fantastic spiritual life lessons which were perfectly capable of standing alone.

So, Blind Hope is a heartwarming animal tale of insight, but the meanings are way too spoon-fed for me. 2 1/2 Stars.

The publisher has the first chapter up for a preview on their website.

Weekly Goal Progress Report #6

1) Financial: After some budget reworking and tightening up a few categories here and there, I realized that I can actually beat my 5-year student loan payoff plan and pay them off in 3 1/2 years. Gogogo!

2) One free thing in LA per month: I actually got in an extra bonus free thing this month. At work the HR department gets tickets to various venues, and every so often calls on us to nominate someone who has done something awesome to give the tickets to. So, apparently someone thought I was awesome! Nick and I went and saw the LA Philharmonic at the Walt Disney Concert Hall, and it was very nice. Especially because we were able to take the metro and avoid driving in the rain 🙂

3) 20 Minutes of Games Every Other Day: Slacking on this goal this week. I played a bit of stacking, and have been playing Minecraft at lunch every day. I really need to start up Lost in Shadow!

4) Sew 3 things: SUCCESS! I completed Mr. Davis’s kitty quilt, thus accomplishing 1 of the 3 things to sew this year! It’s a little patchy, but he doesn’t seem to mind:

Book Review: Dragons of the Valley

Disclaimer: I received this book for free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group for this review

If I hadn’t read this as part of the Blogging for Books program, I would have stopped after 3 pages. However, I felt a sense of obligation to give a proper review, so I suffered through the whole thing. I had high hopes for Dragons of the Valley because a) it has dragons in it, usually a win for me, and b) the premise – with the three interlinked statues and an artist-turned warrior – seemed an interesting fantasy setup. I was unfortunately very disappointed.

The writing in this book is just awful! There is almost no variation in the sentence structure throughout the entire book, no voice to the storytelling, no voice to the characters, and the figures of speech are crudely executed. Occasionally you’ll run into a piece of dialog that seems to remember that the characters need distinctive voices, and gives a frail attempt at doing the job before falling back to the same tone for everyone. Reading the story was agonizing because of the repetition of Subject-Verb-Object sentences with very similar length. And don’t give me any flack about target audience! There are plenty of examples of young adult fiction with good basic writing. But please, don’t take my word for it, check out the sneak peek of the first few chapters on the publisher website.

Besides the writing style obstacle, the style of fantasy in this book was really bland. I was excited at first at the mention of so many different races, but there is so little visualization of the various races that it may as well be 7 styles of humans with made up fantasy style names. It felt like a lot of the fantasy elements weren’t very unique, and had some pretty overbearing TSR-feeling fantasy standards. The kimen were very much like kender (only not as interesting) and the wizard very much like Fizban (only not as endearing).

Lastly, the religious messaging in the book was completely transparent, and took me out of the world of the story (what little I was able to immerse myself in) every single time. It was not elegant at all as an allegory.

The one saving grace of this book is that there were indeed dragons in it. That won it 1 star instead of a half of a star from me.

Weekly Goal Progress Report #5

I missed a week! Curses! Oh well, moving on!

1) Financial: Since eating out is my Achilles Heel when it comes to spending money, I made some huge batches of food that can be frozen and eaten over the month (the lentil soup and the kimchi borscht). I also nabbed some knitting needles and extra yarn on Freecycle.

2) One free thing in LA per month. The Golden Dragon Parade was a big hit! There were lots of dragons and lion dances and that was fine by me. Photos here. There was also an awesome moment at the end where they set off a bajillion firecrackers at once. There are no photos of that because I was too busy gawking. The parade was really long, but fortunately there was this fast food dim sum style place right next to our spot, so we feasted on dumplings. It was a smashing success!

3) 20 Minutes of Games Every Other Day. More Donkey Kong, and LOTS more League of Legends and StarJeweled. The latter two are moved to my “doesn’t count” list. WoW is moved off that list, since I haven’t played since my Cataclysm binge over Christmas Break. I also got Trino off Steam, since it was made by some of my ETC friends. Using the mouse to control it isn’t so bad, except that it’s really easy to get stressed out and accidentally click outside the game window. I also got Stacking off of PSN, which is wonderfully charming. How can a game about matryoshka dolls not be?

4) Sew 3 things: Alas, I’m slacking on this one. I have the fabric cut and measured for Mr. Davis’s blanket, and I have the batting, but I have yet to fire up the sewing machine. Meanwhile, I have picked knitting back up, but that doesn’t count for this goal.

Kimchi Borscht recipe

This experimental recipe turned out so yummy that I just had to share it. I give you, kimchi borscht, or Lisa Borgscht (it’s a long story, ask Brian Evans). You don’t have to worry about anyone giving you a hard time for it not being “authentic” borscht because you can be like “of course not! It’s got freakin kimchi in it!”

1 russet potato, peeled and thinly sliced
3-4 beets, peeled and thinly sliced
6 cups water and a big pork bone (or you could just use stock, if you have it. Or water, if you don’t)
2 tablespoons butter
1 medium onion, chopped
2 teaspoons salt
2-3 cups of kimchi. If it’s been aging in the fridge for awhile, all the better
black pepper to taste
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
1 tablespoon honey
1 cup tomato paste
sour cream, for topping (optional)
chopped tomatoes, for garnish

1) In a saucepan, boil the water and pork bone (or stock). Add the beets and potatoes and cook until tender, about 10 minutes.

2) In a large pot, melt butter. Stir in onions and salt, and cook until onions are soft and translucent. Mix in the kimchi. Pour in the stock (keep the beets and potatoes separate, I used a strainer, but do add the pork bone if you’re using it. Cook, covered, for about 10 minutes

3) Add the beets and potatoes. Season with black pepper. Stir in vinegar, honey, and tomato paste. Cover, reduce to low heat and simmer for about 30 minutes. Remove pork bone. Serve with a dollop of sour cream on top.

Lentil Soup Recipe

Making some soup tonight! It turned out really yummy last time I tried this variation, so I’m writing it down this time. This makes a big ole pot, but could easily be halfed.

– olive oil
– 1 large onion, chopped
– 5 or 6 carrots, peeled and chopped
– 4 garlic gloves, minced
– 1 bunch chard, stalks chopped and leaves cut in strips
– 2 potatoes, cut into chunks
– 2 cups of beef stock*
– 2 cups lentils
– 1 teaspoon of ground thyme
– 2 Tablespoons of apple cider vinegar (or your favorite flavored vinegar)

1) Heat olive oil in a large pot. Add onions and carrots and cook until softened, about 5 minutes. Add garlic and cook until fragrant.

2) Add stock, lentils, chard stalks, potatoes, thyme, and 1 cup of water. Bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer. Cover and cook for 15 minutes

3) Add chard leaves, cook for 15-20 more minutes, until lentils are tender.

4) Add vinegar, salt and pepper to taste. Serve!

*for Burbank folk, I made my beef stock out of the bones from the giant beef ribs at the Handy Market Saturday BBQ. It is really good.