How have you been? Recently, I’ve been…

Thinking… a lot about this next stage of life. We’re on the tail end of active-duty parenting but a good few years away from slowing down and/or wanting to be available to any grandkids who might pop onto the scene. So for now, what do I want? Where should I put my energy? Who needs me?

Listening (twice)… to this Freakonomics podcast interview with conservative think-tank guy Arthur Brooks. Love is a verb, not a feeling. What will I die for? Contempt kills. I’ve been itching for more radical counter-mainstream viewpoints and, since our library doesn’t carry his most recent book (and since it takes me forever to read books like this anyway), I need to track down someone who’s already bought it and borrow it from them.

Purchasing… supplies to make brie cheeses: two white powder molds, two plastic molds (that didn’t work…yet). Except now I’m bumping up against my eternal cheesemaking problem: proper aging conditions. In brief, my cheese fridge would work but it’s too full so now I need to get another fridge that I can set at 55 degrees to longterm age all my cheeses while I drop a section of the wine cheese fridge down to 45 degrees to age the Bries and Camemberts. And yes, I do feel mildly ridiculous typing out that saga.

Mulling over… why I find cheesemaking so satisfying. Three reasons, I think. One, I’m not eating what I make (when I make it) so I’m not feeling overstuffed and sick of it. Two, the variations are endless. And three, with each new wheel of cheese I pull out of the press, I get a buzz of happiness mixed with delight and satisfaction and wonderment and curiosity. Oh, boy! That’s so cool. I JUST MADE CHEESE. What will it taste like?

Watching… The Comey Rule (Netflix), gave me twinges of PTSD. The Morning Show (Apple TV), first season was fun but the second season was so over-the-top, I quit almost immediately. Schitt’s Creek (Netflix), with my younger son. The British Baking Show, season 9 (Netflix), go Guiseppe! Alone, season 7 (Netflix), the whole family’s hooked.

Reading (slowly)… Permanent Record, What Fresh Hell Is This, three pie books (this and this and this), and Tucci’s Taste. Just finished Everything I Have Is Yours.

Considering… ordering a made-to-fit dress from eShakti, but I’m scared because what if I don’t like how it looks on me? Is it unethical to order three dresses and then send two back?

Burning… this woodwick candle that my older son and his fiancé got me for my birthday. The flickering sound drives my husband (hilariously) batty but it smells absolutely incredible. (The bigger one they gave me, for outside (similar), makes a more soothing, crackling burning sound.)

Laughing… over this piano guy’s sketches. Guy’s got talent.

Wondering… if you’ve ever looked at your library account’s payment history? I did. Since January 29, 2001, I’ve paid — [drumroll] — $770.74. Our library is no longer charging overdue fines, which makes the whole place seem soooo much more accessible and friendly, and it makes me actually want to donate to them on occasion — their generosity inspires mine. Also! Our library does not keep record of our checkouts or holds (due to legal reasons, I think) which has always bugged me because it’d be an awesome way to keep track of the books I’ve read or, more accurately, the checkout books I hoped to read and then never got around to. BUT: I just now discovered that they do keep a running list of all the book titles that accrued fines which means I can see which books I probably checked out hoping to read but never got around to, yay!

Researching… how long one can continue to milk a cow. I don’t think we’ll breed Daisy again (I want a Jersey next), but there will probably be a long wait until we get another milk cow, so can we just continue to milk her indefinitely? Like, for another year? Another two years?

Planning… a pop-up pie shop at my place this Sunday (weather permitting). I’ve been testing a ton of pies (right now, I’ve got three cooling on the table: Dragon’s Milk, S’mores, and Bourbon Ginger Pecan) and since we can’t possibly eat them all, I figured I might as well widen the circle. Maybe it will become A Thing.

(Also planning… a wedding. More on that later!)

Thinking… about how I’ve never tried kimchi and that I probably should, but I don’t want to actually invest in making any without trying it first (says the woman who makes cheese), so: does anyone have a good commercial kimchi to recommend?

Bracing… for several rainy days so I just went on a walk to help keep the inevitable cabin fever at bay.

Craving… meat and potatoes. I have no meat thawed, though, and no potatoes cooked. Probably should quick pop a few tubers in the oven so we’ll have at least something for supper. As for meat, I don’t know. I’ve got a freezer full of beef and zero inspiration. Good news: this problem is fixable.

Speaking… of meat and potatoes: we gave our older daughter an ippy for her birthday and she’s been raving about it so much — this week she cooked a pot of potatoes in mere minutes — that now I think I might get one for myself.

Rolling my eyes over… my latest injury: a weird knee thing. Playing Ultimate a couple weeks ago, my knee suddenly hurt so badly that I could hardly walk. I hadn’t been doing anything, either — just walk-trotting; no one was even near me — so I had no idea what happened. It’s getting better, but running and Ultimate are still out of the question. The pain is located in the center front of the kneecap and hurts most when walking up hill or extending my leg. Feel free to dianose me.

Getting… a kick out of Kate. She’s gutsy, energetic, and opinionated, and she’s got lots of good ideas. Also, she kinda makes me want to move to Canada.

Munching… Shirley’s popcorn. My younger daughter gave me an empty (ha!) refillable popcorn container for my birthday, so yesterday when I was out running errands, I splurged on a refill: Buckeye and Chocolate Almond. I thought the chocolate almond would have actual almonds but so far I only taste almond extract (meh), but the Buckeye — chocolate and peanut butter — is wildly addictive. (Aaaand … now I switched to pretzels.)

Drinking… lots of chai tea. I made a gallon of concentrate by simmering the spices and tea, adding sugar, and then hot packing it in jars. Daily I’m fixing mugs of tea: mixing the syrup into milk, heating it up, and then savoring a frothy cup of spicy milky sweetness. Once I make a few recipe tweaks (less sugar, more spice), I’ll post the recipe.

This same time, years previous: brisket in sweet-and-sour sauce, the quotidian (10.28.19), the young adult child, cilantro lime rice, reading-and-ice cream evenings, the quotidian (10.28.13), the details, under the grape arbor, applesauce spice cake.


  • Lissa

    Hi: Can’t wait for the chai recipe :). Regarding the ordering and returning: (Btw, I’ve ordered a few things from eSkati and was really pleased), but after reading a very sobering article about what really happens with returns I’m trying to be much more careful about what I order. Lots of people a couple of sizes and then return what they don’t want. Very rarely to things make it back into an inventory to be resold. Just landfilled, plus all the fuel to transport the items.

    • Anna C.

      I’ve read that stuff, too, and it just infuriates me as a larger person. Stores don’t usually carry my size, and with vanity sizing, it’s hard to know what to order from their extended sizes online when I can’t try it on in the store in the first place. IMHO, the manufacturers and retailers need to solve this problem rather than guilting individuals just trying to get a shirt or pair of pants that fits properly.

  • MAC

    The kimchee at the market behind Taste of Thai (see refrigerated section) comes in quart containers with a plastic bag around it. It’s good stuff. Transfer it to a glass jar or everything in your fridge will taste like it… I’d love to have a kimchee fridge for fermented stuff.

  • Library April

    You can see the last two years (approximately… mine goes back to May 2019) of checkout history. Go to “checkouts” and then underneath your current checkouts click “checkout history.”

    We at the library also love the no fines thing, and find that a lot of people resonate with what you said about donating as well. And the people who most benefit from the library were the ones for whom fines were the biggest hardship. It was definitely time for fines to go.

  • Elva

    The other great feature of keeping the calf on the cow is that if you all want to go on a vacation, you can just leave the calf with your cow to do the milking. A cow with a calf is also a much happier cow!

  • Susan

    Ooh, I have so many thoughts and connections to several of yours.
    – Arthur Brooks was a guest on my local NPR (WGBH) radio station just yesterday. I had never heard of him before, but really enjoyed what he said … so much so that I listed to his podcast when I got home. I wasn’t crazy about the podcast (including too many ads by him), but am still mulling over what he talked about on the radio (especially hope vs. optimism, and our tendency to want to shield our kids from pain/hard things).
    – You have inspired me to make cheese. Not that I’ve actually started, but I got the book you recommended from the library last wee and have been poring over it. I think I would genuinely enjoy it for the exact reasons you mention. I’ve been trying to come up with a new hobby for years and I think this fits the bill! (I’m a minimalist, and love the idea of consuming or sharing what I make!).
    – Strange, I CAN see all the books I’ve ever checked out on my library account. I’m sure every library site is different, but if I login and go to my “Items Checked Out” tab, there’s another tab called “Check Out History.” I can scroll through that I see everything I’ve ever checked out. I believe my sister — who is a reference librarian at a public library — told me how to do that.
    – Finally, my friend, who is from South Korea, is teaching a group of friends how to make kimchi next week. I’ve sometimes shared veggies with her, and she’s often returned them to me in kimchi form. I absolutely love kimchi (ooh, kimchi and cheese quesadilla or grilled cheese – delicious), and am super excited to learn how to make it myself. Luckily, we have an H-Mart close by with good kimchi, but homemade will be even better, I hope!

    • Jennifer Jo

      YES, another cheese nerd in the works! I can’t wait to hear how it goes for you. (If you’re a visual learner, watch a bunch of Gavin Webber’s videos — they really help to get a feel for the process.)

  • Becky R.

    I like Sunja’s Kimchi, but I am sure there are other varieties that are just as good. Like all fermented foods, it can be quite expensive, and this is a good, less expensive version. I like it as a condiment/side dish, but I am not into the fad to put it in everything.

  • Anna C.

    Regarding the library thing — it’s a user privacy issue. If we keep records of what everyone checks out (which most of our electronic systems would allow us to do), those things are subject to subpoenas or requests from DHS (that we can’t even tell you has happened) due to some parts of the PATRIOT Act. So, libraries intentionally do not keep any more information than is necessary for managing the collection. Your active holds, anything you’ve paid a fine for, and the materials you currently have checked out.

    I know folks would like this to be an easy service to keep track of what you read, but there are plenty of other alternatives out there that you can choose to opt into, but your library doesn’t want to make that kind of tracking the default for everyone. If you are looking for an alternative to GoodReads, I’ve been playing around with and find the interface to be pleasant.

  • Elva

    Well, i think i can answer the cow question….just keeping milking until either the milk starts to have a bad taste, she stops giving any significant amount, or the milk refuses to easily go through your strainer. When my cow is ready to quit, she will develop a very minor infection, which I wouldn’t even notice except for that the milk does not like to go through the strainer. I have not encountered this problem since I have let her calf nurse at least once a day. When I have done that, my cow gave every indication of being able to continue producing milk, but I had to dry her off to prepare for her next calf delivery. You might want to consider a Jersey cross instead of purebred Jersey. Jersey cows have great creamy milk, but they also are notorious for getting milk fever, and I think they are kind of more difficult generally to milk by hand mostly because they are shorter than most other cows.
    As for knee problems, get a good knee brace! Knee braces really help.

    • Jennifer Jo

      This is so helpful — thanks! We were already considering a Jersey cross, but it’s nice to have solid reasons behind that choice. We were also thinking it might be smart to wean the calf so we’d get more milk, but now I’m rethinking that…

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