Culling cookbooks


That’s the sound of a long, long day of culling our cookbooks.

David thought it would be a good idea to clean out the pantry this weekend. We’ve got a small walk-in pantry closet with shelves on two sides, which is a boon as we have a pretty small kitchen (10 ft x 10 ft) for a house this size. The pantry serves all kinds of purposes – it even holds brooms on the back of the door! – and has a pretty well-defined setup.

  • Top left: Extra bulk-purchased supplies like paper towels and ziploc bags, as well as our raclette cooker (and a coffee maker for guests)
  • Left shelf #2: Beverages! Besides hot chocolate mix, Ovaltine, and Torani syrups, we have enough flavors of tea for a variety of tastes.
  • Left shelf #3: Canned goods
  • Left shelf #4: Spices, spice mixes, etc.
  • Left shelf #5: Lunch boxes and water bottles
  • Left side floor: Reusable shopping bags and a tub of dog treats

I am fully aware this is more detail than anyone desires. I’m going to continue recording this for posterity, though!

  • Top right: Snow cone maker and supplies, milkshake maker, giant tub of cookie cutters
  • Right shelf #2: Pasta, rice, baking mixes
  • Right shelves #3 & 4: Cookbooks
  • Right shelf #5: All Q’s baking doodads (cookie cutters, food coloring, icing bags, etc.), as well as the pancake griddle
  • Right shelf floor: Basket of paper plates and cups, paper bag filled with paper bags

Now, back to the cookbooks! I love them, because as you all well know, I collect books on areas of my life that need improvement, as though the books themselves will miraculously change me. Our cookbook collection was purged ten years ago when we moved here, and again about four years ago before we went to Europe. Today, however, we got serious.


After cooking with Blue Apron for the last six months, David and I have realized the difference between cookbooks we would use and those that just collect dust. We like cookbooks to have photos, step-by-step directions, and suggested side dishes. David, especially, likes recipes that are a little different. We like to use fresh ingredients, rather than start with, say, a can of Cream of Mushroom soup. We sorted out those types of cookbooks and ended up with one shelf of books we’d look at to plan regular meals.

The second shelf is more “specialty” stuff: various foreign cuisines, desserts (cookies, especially, for Q), party cookbooks (tapas, fondue), and cookbooks of sentimental value.

David has been “mathing it up” all day, telling me that we still need to get rid of all but five of the cookbooks since we have more recipes than we could ever need, numerically. I, on the other hand, am quite pleased with myself, as I have culled an entire shelf and filled a box to take to Powell’s to sell. It was difficult; I got rid of quite a few I thought I couldn’t part with, and there were quite a few times today that I wanted to quit. This kind of purge stresses me out quite a bit. But I persevered!

Next step: meal planning and cooking. Let’s see if we can break away from the support of having food magically appear à la Blue Apron and make it happen all on our own.

Word of the year: PRACTICE

Archery Target

There has been a movement lately toward focusing on a particular word each year that sums up what you would like to achieve or have more of in your life.  In a sense, it is like boiling down all your New Year’s resolutions into one.

Last year, I tried to focus on a specific Bible verse (Numbers 6:24-26: The Lord bless you and keep you! The Lord let his face shine upon you, and be gracious to you! The Lord look upon you kindly and give you peace!). I did a really good job of keeping it in mind through January and into February, but then I let it slip, along with the books I was going to read daily, the journals I was going to keep, and the letters I was going to write.

But THIS year, I was ready. I had a word: BALANCE. I figured I needed more of that in my life in order to get out of bed and start living. I’ve been focused on it for six days and had a blog post going about it… and now I’ve completely thrown it out.

Riding home from the doctor’s office today, I was listening to the Blazers pregame show. Antonio Harvey, a former Blazer, was talking about how coach Tim Grgurich taught him to shoot free throws. He insisted that it was all about muscle memory, so he made the players make seven two-foot shots from a single spot on the court, then move slightly and make seven more two-foot shots. After a bunch of these, Grgurich had them take a step backwards and repeat the process with the same technique (just adding a little more power in the legs to shoot a little farther).

I started thinking about how this was like my cottage idea; once I got good at taking care of my little cottage, I would add rooms to it.  It was also like my running plan, where incremental steps would help me run farther and farther, until I get to run first one mile, then two, then three.

I realize that what these plans have in common is PRACTICE. Practicing an easy skill until it becomes second nature and then adding on a bit more difficulty. Building up that muscle memory. Making those new habits stick.

I have spent my life in search of the next great scheme, the one that is going to make all the difference. This year, though, I’m not going to put my energy into figuring out a way to reinvent the wheel. I’m just going to get down to basics and practice.

Okay, I’ll probably hatch a new scheme or two. I just know myself, and I won’t be able to help it. But I’ll try to put most of my energy into practice.

After all, practice makes perfect.

practice, v.   To act, develop, engage in, put into use, prepare, rehearse, sharpen.

practice, n.   Method, process, repetition, routine, system, training, workout.

Archery Target” by Alan ParkinsonCC BY

Excessively fond of a cottage

I’ve been saying for years that I wanted to get rid of everything I own and move to a tiny house.

When we lived in Europe in 2012, I fell in love with so many of the places we stayed. They were perfectly equipped with everything you could need but were gloriously uncluttered.

I read a P&P fanfic on New Year’s Day that inspired me to try some virtual small-scale living this year. In the story, the new husband of a selfish and lazy Lydia Bennet moves with her into a tiny two-room cottage with no servants. She has no housekeeping skills, but she manages to learn how to keep her little home neat and clean. Ultimately, she learns they are actually rich and moves into their grand estate, but she manages well because she started small and built up her skills.

I decided that I am going to try something similar and start 2016 in a “cottage” of my own. It’s a slightly bigger two-room cottage consisting of our kitchen (and breakfast nook area, so we have somewhere to eat) and our master bedroom (and bathroom, for obvious reasons). That’s it.

What’s the point? Just to give myself a focus, as well as a mental break from stressing about this big house. If all I have to concern myself with is this little “cottage,” that will be easy to clean and keep clutter-free.  Besides, it’s fun! I’m still allowing myself to use the rest of the house, of course, but those rooms have new designations: the laundromat, the scrapbook store, the game store, etc. (My guest room is currently “one of those places you can take things to get someone to sell them on eBay for you,” since that’s where we’ve staged the huge pile of stuff to sell that had resided by our bed for about five years.) I’m jokingly calling the rest of the house “the village.”

I know it’s a silly notion, and I don’t know how long it will last, but I’ve been smiling for the last few days whenever David (who is totally on board with this plan) talks about what we can do to fix up the cottage. It’s so much nicer to think of than “we need to do a lot of work around the house.” Semantics, I know, but hey! Whatever works, right?

Now I’m off to do the dishes and tidy up my little cottage kitchen. A place for everything and everything in its place, you know!

I am excessively fond of a cottage; there is always so much comfort, so much elegance about them. And I protest, if I had any money to spare, I should buy a little land and build one myself, within a short distance of London, where I might drive myself down at any time, and collect a few friends about me and be happy.
Jane Austen