2016 Reading Challenge

Popsugar 2016 Reading ChallengeNothing like a list to get motivated, right? Thanks to the wonder of social media sharing, I recently came across a meaty 2016 Reading Challenge list. The checklist items are broad – allowing individual users to choose their own books.

<— Here’s a copy of the checklist.

I’ve already knocked out two books from the list, and a third (related) book. My local library has seen me once already and will probably get to know me on a first-name basis in the near future.

I enjoy being a reader again. Having a list somehow motivates me to pick up books and get through them, which (for some reason) is an activity that has fallen out of favor in my brain over the last year or so.

Thanks to the wonders of modern technology – specifically my Kindle and the Kindle for iPhone app – I can read everywhere. I do tote around one or two physical copies of something on the list, but with my phone always on my person, I can snag a few pages whenever I have a few minutes of down time.

Take a look at the list and see if it inspires some reading desire. I like conversations with other readers, so I’d like to challenge you to join in with me and let’s compare notes.

(On RaeReads.com I outlined the entire list and my choice for each category. As I finish reading and post book reviews, that’s also where the reviews will live. And Goodreads is where I keep all of this stuff straight – it’s social media for readers. Lots of books, lots of reviews, and that’s “home base” for sharing book-nerdry with my friends. I don’t make any money off of mentioning Popsugar or RaeReads or Goodreads. I just like those sites. 🙂


Goals and Resolutions, 2016

I’ve mastered the art of non-committal and generally general goals and resolutions for 2016.

imageI read a short and sweet article the other day about the difference between goals and resolutions for the new year. Essentially, goals are finite while resolutions represent more of a lifestyle change. “Lose 20 pounds” is a goal; “exercise five times a week” is a resolution.

For 2016 I have a few goals and resolutions. I would like to lose some weight, but daily exercise continues to be a challenge. So I have a goal and a related resolution. (I also have some new outside gear for the MUCH colder weather in our new city.)

We would like to adopt this year. There are a lot of “finite” things we have to accomplish to see the big goal, but a major one is money. So I have a resolution related to regular savings, as well as some sub-goals related to financing.

As ever, reading/writing and creativity are part of my brain space. I’d like to write more (a resolution), and work on getting something published (that’d be a goal). I’ve been going strong on the handlettering, so I have a resolution related to doing that regularly. And I discovered a reading challenge that appealed to me greatly. I’ve already knocked one book off the list.

(I’ll probably post more fully about that reading challenge, along with my personal list, over on RaeReads.com at some point in the near future.)

Finally, I discovered this thing called “bullet journaling” which is a catch-all term for a simple planner and/or a long-term to-do list. The name “bullet journal” can be attributed to a specific guy, as well as one way to “do” bullet journaling. It’s a flexible system, though, and useful for getting and staying organized with tasks. I started trying it out in early December and have actually simplified how I “do” bullet journaling over the last few weeks. It’s handy.

I’m curious about your own goals and resolutions. Please share in the comments, or link to a post about what you look forward to in this new year.

Feliz año nuevo. (Improving my Spanish is a resolution!)

Back to Work Hardcore

I’ve been working my little buns off lately. It’s interesting to be in a place where I have close to ten years work experience under my belt and am a bit of a badass when it comes to my job. Definitely not the best but not the worst, either. And I’m pretty good at delivering.

Amazing how much a change in scenery can do for the ol’ self-confidence. It’s not a rainbow unicorn or anything, but it’s a good job for good people and I’m good at it.

That’s good.

Weekends are now my “creative” time, since the week is literally filled to the brim with work and life-around-work. At least a few hours every weekend I hole myself up in the “office,” which is really just a giant craft room, and make something. Usually doesn’t amount to much but it keeps me happy.

I’ve been trying to convert some of the sketches I did earlier this year into digital art to put on Etsy. A few have made it. Mostly I don’t have the patience to re-draw things in the computer. I already drew them once! ADHD! Moving on to new crafts! But I’m trying.

I’d also like to get back onto recording and posting regular podcasts. I was doing one with a friend and one where I read short stories. I’ve neglected that little corner of my universe and I miss it.

K, bye!

Hand Lettering

I’ve been hitting the hand-lettering thing pretty hard lately. It’s something I’ve been fascinated with for a while and seemed like a good combination of my ability to sketch out little things and my love for rules, regulations, precise measurements.

Hand Lettered Quotations | SundriedTomatoe.Wordpress.com

My “drawing” skills aren’t (historically) anything incredible – I can doodle out a monster or a daisy. But I don’t find myself struck by any kind of inspiration in terms of drawing on a regular basis. It’s not my thing – I can’t really handle the OPENNESS of a blank page and the limitless possibilities of being able to draw anything – that’s overwhelming to me. I need limits.

Gotta’ have boundaries to push. 🙂

Hand Lettered Quotations | SundriedTomatoe.Wordpress.com

So last month I read this thing about a 100 days challenge, where participants make a thing a day for 100 days. It could be whatever they wanted, just something that required work/effort and had a tangible product. I chose to do 100 days of hand-lettering quotations. I love quotations … I love them. Combining my love for quotes with my desire to get better at hand-lettering seemed like a win win.

Hand Lettered Quotations | SundriedTomatoe.Wordpress.com

Thus far, 30+ illustrations in, I’m loving the challenge. I had some catch-up to do at the front end because I started a few days late. And that was actually a good thing because it got me comfortable with eyeballing a page, trying out whatever I wanted (rather than worrying if it was the PERFECT typeface) and just generally put me “in with both feet” if you know what I mean.

Hand Lettered Quotations | SundriedTomatoe.Wordpress.com

Part of what is so nice about this little challenge is that I find myself looking forward to it. There’s no feeling of “ugh I have to get that done before I go to sleep.” Illustrating these quotes is 30 minutes of my day that I look forward to. I really like the combination of precision and imagination that comes with illustrating letters – the precision of lines and curves that comes with any typeface, and the necessary inclusion of imagination to make the words beautiful and creative and fun to look at.

Hand Lettered Quotations | SundriedTomatoe.Wordpress.com

Anyway, it’s fun, and I’m getting better at it just from doing it every day. (My phone-photo editing skills are also getting better. 🙂 )

I thought I’d share.

Hand Lettered Quotations | SundriedTomatoe.Wordpress.com

The project is called the 100 Day Project and you can join in any time. It’s got a robust, active community that shares their daily “makes” and encourages one another on Instagram.

Hand Lettered Quotations | SundriedTomatoe.Wordpress.com

Hand Lettering

I’ve had the itch to try hand lettering, lately. As with most newer projects I read a lot about it first (this hub was helpful). Ultimately, it’s a thing that just needs doing.

After a week of sketches and doodles I have the first little bit I like.

First in pencil, then pen, then colored in an app on the ‘ol iPad (Adobe Draw).

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Creativity Activate!

Creative juices have been running high, lately. I suspect part of it has to do with finding constructive outlets for the never-ending frustration that is infertility. When it’s an “in your face” type of thing like it has been lately, I try to find healthier things to occupy my mind. For this go-round, I have succeed!

First, several local folks have asked for consulting work. This is a delight because it keeps me busy and helps quiet the voice that tells me I MUST contribute to the Household. “Consulting” on graphic design and website work and other similar things is also happy work for me – allowing me to be creative and productive all at the same time.

Second, I finished a highly complex quilt for my new niece recently. I loved working on that quilt. It was the second one I’ve ever made and WAY too advanced for me. Should have gone with a less intricate pattern and should have relied much more heavily on my sewing machine – hand sewing is not for the faint of heart! However, all that work allowed me to pour a ton of love into the process and also do a bit of passive healing around the whole childless thing.

One of the offshoot results of finishing that quilt was wanting to try something much simpler. So when two little friends asked if I would make them quilts (out of the blue, which was kismet for sure) I, of course, agreed immediately and immediately went to work. They chose the color combos and then I added a hand-embroidered initial to each for a bit of extra love.

Now I’m working on one for another new family member and, since I’ve been posting updates of quilt progress as I work (over on Instagram) I’ve got what I think is a commissioned piece. How cool is that?!

Third, some friends have been talking lately about doing a podcast. I’d researched podcasting a few months back but realized it wasn’t the time to start working on something like that, then. Recent friend conversations got my mind back on that groove and, since I already pretty much knew what I needed, I was able to go to work!

Rae Reads Podcast | available at RaeReads.com

There’s a book review site that I “maintain” but never update as much as I would like to. Given what I wanted to do for a podcast, RaeReads.com was the perfect place to host the ‘cast. Roughly, each episode contains a quote, a poem, a one short story read aloud.

I love audiobooks but rarely get to hear short stories, and there are some GREAT short stories out there. So this feeds that beast.

Anyway, you can listen on the site (click on the icon to go there). Hopefully the podcast will be up in iTunes soon, too, so people with Apple products can subscribe directly from the iTunes store.

If you have (or are interested in getting) a NON-iTunes podcast app for your smart device (there’s a TON out there), you can subscribe to the Rae Reads Podcast by using this RSS URL: http://feeds.feedburner.com/RaeReadsPodcast

There’s a learning curve with this kind of thing – it took some mental gymnastics to just let this episode go, warts and all, and refocus on the next one. But HOW COOL IS THAT? I love researching stories and I love hearing literature read aloud. And, I love reading to myself. 🙂 This is a project to fill up my own audio library with things I want to hear and it’s a bonus that I get to share with friends and family.

BAGELS om nom nom

Tried making bagels a few weeks ago, right before Christmas. They tasted okay but there were several issues. First, they had a hard crust. HARD. Not the best for toasting. Destroys the soft palette.

Also, they were rough. The bagels I know from my homeland are smooth and golden.

So I did some research, investigated some recipes, read up on how gluten works, and tried again. The recipe listed at the bottom of the post is the result. And guys… it’s GOOD.

A few notes:

  • The resting times matter. Letting dough rest allows gluten to “relax” – improving the chewiness and overall texture of your delicious bagels.
  • I added a bit of salt to the boiling water. This isn’t part of the recipe because it’s not necessary but I felt like it needed to be done, flavor-wise.
  • A stand mixer makes a HUGE difference in texture. First batch was hand-kneaded, second batch I used a stand mixer. Just makes everything much smoother.
  • When using active dry yeast the water temperature is important. Use a thermometer to get it right. That window is relatively small.

The recipe card was built to print at a 4.25 x 5.5 size but it can print on a full sheet of paper, too.

Here is a PDF of the recipe card. (JPG is below.)

delicious nyc bagel recipe from sundriedtomatoe.wordpress.com - jpg recipe card
JPG recipe card (printable)

Let me know if you try this out! I will be making many more of these – for all the time involved they’re relatively easy to make and MAN do they taste good.