Minting New Culinary Insight

This past September I got hitched, and one of the bridal shower gifts was an ice cream maker. I was so excited! I still am, really. I made a few batches and loved the idea of experimenting with different flavors.  Naturally, Scott (this is the guy I married) and I can only eat so much ice cream, so when a friend’s birthday was fast approaching I decided to make him his favorite flavor: mint chocolate chip.

So off to find a recipe. All in all the recipes were very similar:  a bit of milk, some sugar, green and yellow food coloring if you want it to have that mint green appearance you find in the store.  But some recipes said to use peppermint extract and others said to use just mint.  Some reviewers mentioned that peppermint seemed to be too strong so they would in the future opt for mint instead.

Now my line of thinking, was why wouldn’t you just use mint in the first place?  It’s call mint chocolate chip not peppermint chocolate chip.  What’s the difference?  So, off to Googles I went.

After going down the rabbit hole of articles on mint, I soon discovered that “mint” is just a general term for a family of plants.  There isn’t just a mint plant out there. There is a wide variety of mint types including lavender, pineapple, spearmint, and peppermint.  So when one purchases McCormick’s pure mint extract in the spice aisle,  it is combination of two types of mint, peppermint and spearmint.  I also learned that generally people prefer peppermint to “mint” extract when making sweet items.  Apparently, the spearmint in the “pure mint” extract can make it taste kind of goofy with chocolate, however, it seems to be based mainly on personal preference.

Nevertheless, the only reviewer complaints I found talked about how the peppermint was too overpowering, nothing about the hybrid “mint” extract, so I decided to go with a recipe that had just called for the “pure mint” extract. It was a super simple and tasted minty to me, and the receiver of said ice cream seemed to enjoy it.  There were a few things that I would like to experiment with to see if I can make it better, and I’m sure the digital ink of the universe will be there to help me.

I must say I’m glad I live in the era of the internet otherwise I dare say I would be very much like my great-great uncle Ross who was known for reading the encyclopedia. Yes, the idea of learning via ink is in my blood.

Should You Give a Damn? My Personal Book Preferences

Naturally, everyone has book/reading preferences and this will influence how they feel towards certain works.  It will determine which pieces they recommend and those they view as hogwash.  I have established that I will be doing minimalistic book reviews every so often because I do not like traditional book reviews. One of the reasons I struggle with these reviews is that book critics and I tend to be looking for different things in our preferences and reading experience.

Obviously, my reviews will not be devoid of my opinion and own preferences, thus I see it as only fair to offer up a laundry list of what my preferences are, giving you the reader, the advantage of knowing how seriously you should take my thoughts based on if my reading ways are similar to yours or not.  I admit some of these have no bearing on book review recommendation compatibility, but I got on a roll and couldn’t stop myself.

  • I believe every book has a reader. If I don’t like it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s bad.  It just wasn’t for me.
  • I do not like horror or depressing books. Furthermore, books with any sort of incest will be relegated immediately to the donation pile.
  • Bad endings equal bad books.
  • I believe beverage choice can affect your reading experience. (If you’ve ever read Ghost Map while drinking water, you will get what I’m talking about.)
  • I totally judge a book by its cover and title. I know it’s a sin, but get over it.
  • I find book stores a religious experience, but will purchase books online out of necessity.
  • I read only hard copy books. (Yes, I’m that snob)
  • I don’t go anywhere without a book. To me it’s like going outside without bottoms on.
  • Verbose writing is most often laboriously unnecessary.
  • Dog-earring pages is blasphemous! Get a book mark!!! There are a million options.
  • But underlining and writing comments in the margin is completely acceptable, as long as you are the owner of the book.
  • I believe that some books will only be appreciated and liked when in the proper mood and if properly prepared for.
  • I believe books are meant to be shared, discussed, cherished…or loathed. Emotion is important with my reading.
  • I read for entertainment and to learn. If a book does both I get downright giddy.
  • I will give anything a go. I make no promises on finishing, but there are always exceptions to the rules.

This list probably could go on endlessly, but these are probably the main highlights. Are we on the same page or are your preference and mine reading two different books?

Insta-Ink with Possible Insta-Regret

We live in a world of instant ink. It takes mere seconds to thumb out a text message, a Facebook post, or a tweet. We are verging on an age where e-mail is the “slow” method of communication. Thus, technology has shown that all of us can be ink forgers anywhere, at any time, without delay in publication.

This certainly has great perks. I can tell my husband I’m running late because I’m stuck in a meeting. I can instantly notify friends that there has been a slight change to an event happening that evening. And I can quickly wish someone a happy birthday without breaking stride.

But, as we all have witnessed insta-ink in many cases is the product of brainless thumbs. It has, at times, been a mechanism of insults, lies, thoughtlessness, and hatred. We have all spouted things we have regretted and wish we could take back. I would like to think that many of us have been forgiven for those passion-prompted verbal transgressions.

However, there is something about having these words in black and white that make it so much harder to forgive or let go. Perhaps because they stare us in the face; thus, the meanness exists in perpetuity. Perhaps it is that many of these can be seen by so many and the masses can comment and/or propagate the remark with re-tweeting or sharing.

But probably what makes it most difficult to let go is the knowledge of delay. When hurtful, regretful things spring forth from our mouths, it happens before we can even fully process what is being said. This isn’t an excuse, but we all know of times when things burst verbally forth and it’s not until we hear it that we realize what odious comment we have uttered.

However, in the world of insta-ink, we have to use our opposable thumbs (something that ironically classifies us as evolved and at the top of the food chain) to plunk out something on some platform. And I don’t care how fast your digits can fly, it’s not as fast as your voice, meaning you have more time, or rather you should have more time, to think and ponder what you are broadcasting to the world and most likely towards someone in particular.

You can’t say that a tweet just slipped out before you could stop yourself. You have to type it and then click a button to post it. Naturally there are times when things come off harsher than we intended, due to lack of tone and body language. However, while insta-ink has some wonderful advantages, I think that perhaps we should be a bit more cautious. A bit more thoughtful. I know the old adage goes, “Stick and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.” I think we are discovering that this may be starkly false. So perhaps today, and in general, we could make an effort to ink out some happy, nice insta-ink.

Book Reviews: Anew

Every ravenous reader needs a supply line.  They need a place, a person, a group, a site, whatever, to constantly add titles to their never-ending list of books to read. I obtain books through perusal of bookstore shelves, friends, family, following authors whose previous works I enjoyed.  I am also quite lucky, for I have many people who are always adding to my list and several of them send me books in droves. However, there is one method that I don’t use.  I don’t use book reviews. In fact, I don’t really like book reviews.  I tend to avoid them as much as possible.

Why?

Because…book critics and reviewers tend to look at books very differently than I do.  When you have different approaches you probably are going to come out thinking different things. Also, I find the power of suggestion a bit strong.  It’s kind of like going to a wine tasting and having someone tell you that it has a hint of blackberry.  Odds are that when you taste the wine that’s what you’ll be thinking, and you will probably also think it has hints of blackberry.  But here’s the noodle cooker…would you have thought that if they hadn’t said anything?

Books are the same.  You tell me a character was under-developed or came off as a whining man child.  Odds are that’s going to stick in my head and possibly cause me to notice and care about something I wouldn’t have otherwise.  I will grant that some forewarning with books can be nice.  For instance, Crime and Punishment is a tough read.  The Russian names can be very confusing, but stick with it.  It’s worth it.  This still gives me the opportunity at the end to decide if it was worth it or not, but it gets me mentally prepared for the journey and that can be very important.

Book reviews in a traditional format have their place and their purpose.  However, they are not for me.  What I want from somebody when they tell me about a book is a minimalistic approach.  I want to know the title, author, genre.  I want a two-sentence summary of what it’s about.  If there’s anything that was particularly striking (again two sentences or less) and if I should give a flip and read it or not.

So while I don’t particularly care for book reviews, this is a blog that is centered on the written word and books, it only seems right to have a few book reviews.  However, these book reviews will be what I mentioned earlier.  I will supply a brief summary, if something stood out, and if in my opinion you should spend your precious time reading it. The idea is for them to be quick and simple. The books I review will be those that happen to be on my reading list.  They could be brand new, they could be obscure, they could be considered a classic. Most book reviews naturally focus on new works, but I know there are billions of books that have been out there for quite some time that I haven’t met yet that have magical stories to offer.

So fellow ink-lovers, what are your thoughts on book reviews?

How and Why I came to Love Reading: An Origin Story

I love to read!  I mean I created a blog about it! But I had a heck of a time learning to do so.  I really, really wanted to be a good reader, but the plain fact was, I was most certainly not. I had a very active imagination, and I loved writing stories.  But I couldn’t spell to save my life.  I was very fond of the letter “j.”  I put it in everything. Anyway, I certainly couldn’t read anything anyone else penned. (I was probably wondering where all the “j”s were.) It was frustrating, and my father completely understood.  He had had quite the time with learning to read himself, so he wasn’t much of a reader as an adult.  This was slightly ironic since my mother was an English teacher and her first choice of activity was to read.

Anyway, one evening after getting rather upset at my inability to decipher all those black squiggle marks adults called words, my dad challenged me to not only learn how to read, but read better than my mother. This is really not a quantifiable thing, but it was apparently what I needed, for while I don’t remember exactly what he said. I do remember sitting on the bed with both of my parents and being quite down on myself when he issued said challenge. I’m certain it had something to do with my ultimate success. For due to this challenge and their constant help, I muscled forward and learned to read.  And I actually learned to love to read. And that “j”s are not particularly common in the English language.

My love could have manifested from the feeling of accomplishment when I finished a book or that my parents displayed a certain quiet pride that I was in to reading even though we didn’t start off as the best of pals.  But honestly, I think it was the challenge. I think it was knowing that I would learn something. It was a way to feed my constantly curious mind and that it was an activity I could do alone.

I was an only child. I lived far away from my school friends on a 40-acre farm in the middle of nowhere.  We also only had about 3.5 channels until I was in sixth grade. (I realize I sound like an 80-year-old grandpa with that comment, “Back in my day…”) But it’s the truth.  We only had a TV antenna that nicely displayed three channels regularly and if it was a good day CBS didn’t come in half bad either. Anyway, this meant one had to be creative in order to keep themselves entertained, so we owned a wide array of movies and a whole heap of books.

In fact, as I got older going shopping to Barnes and Nobles was a religious experience. I would bring home bags full of books. And my dad would never say a bad thing about it.  He wouldn’t say that I should just go to the library for books instead of spending all that money on them.  He would only ask me what I bought, and advise me to read a few before I purchased more. By the time I graduated high school, I had a mini- library in my room. Even back then I dreamed of having a library in my house.

While I’m still dreaming of that library in my abode to be, I’ve read hundreds of books, and I love to read all kinds of things.  Reading has a great flexibility to it that adds to the allure. It allows for a communal solidarity that is not found in other hobbies. It allows for learning and relaxation simultaneously.  And no matter how much I read there will always be more out there for me to discover and enjoy.

This is a blog about all those things I love about the written word and what I’ve discovered through reading.  It’s a rather active process and getting to this point wasn’t necessarily super easy, but maybe that’s part of the reason I love it so much because I had to work to obtain it.

So fellow ink lovers how did you get into reading?