Thursday, January 27, 2011

P is for Pinakbet

Today's letter is P.

Pinakbet.  What a chicken says when it wants to gamble? Nope.

Pinakbet. An Ilocano dish with eggplant, bittermelon, tomatoes, and long beans? Yep, that's it. If I happen to have kabocha squash and/or okra, I'll throw some into the mix, too. Depending on my mood, I'll make it with or without pork. On rare occasions, I'll go classic and add a bit of bagoong (fermented, finely ground fish or shrimp). I say rare because that stuff is very salty. Click here for a photo of what pinakbet looks like.

How do you pronounce pinakbet? I say pin-auk-bit.  But, you must realize that I don't have an Ilocano accent. Never had.

Pinakbet is one of my favorite dishes. When I was growing up, the mama cooked it often during the summer. Except for the onions and garlic, all the vegetables for the dish were freshly picked out of the daddy's garden. I have yet to eat a version that has topped or even come close to the mama's.  And, now, the mama's pinakbet is a lovely memory. The dish has too many ingredients to prep that the mama is tired before she starts cooking it.

A few weeks ago, I had a yen for pinakbet and decided to make it when I saw a decent looking Italian eggplant at the grocery store. This essentially is what I threw together, adding some veggies that the mama froze last summer. (Note: Because I don't use salt, I add a lot of garlic.)

  • about 1/2 pound of pork, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
  • 1 medium onion, sliced
  • 5 garlic, minced
  • handful of chives, minced
  • 1 can of cut tomatoes (I would've used 3 or 4 medium tomatoes, if I had fresh ones)
  • 1 medium Italian eggplant, cut into 1-inch pieces (I think Japanese eggplant tastes better in pinakbet.)
  • 1/2  kabocha squash, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1 pint size bag of frozen long beans, cut into about 2-inch pieces (probably equivalent to 5/8 pound)
  • 10 small frozen bittermelons 
  • Black pepper to taste
What I Did
  1. Brown the pork in a large sauce pan.
  2. Add the onions and stir until softened.
  3. Stir in the tomatoes, garlic, and chives. Also add black pepper to taste. Cover and simmer for a few minutes. (If I were to add bagoong, here's where I would stir in a solution made of about 1/8 teaspoon bagoong and 1/3 cup of water.)
  4. Add the eggplant and squash. (Also add the bittermelon, if everyone will be eating it.) Add a 1/4 to 1/2 cup of water, if it looks like the food might burn. Cover the pan and simmer for about 5 minutes.
  5. Add the long beans, and gently mix everything together. Cover the pan and simmer for about another five minutes. I know the dish is done when the eggplant and kabocha are cooked.
  6. The husband cannot handle bittermelon, so I prepare the frozen bittermelon separately.  I microwave it with some of the sauce from the pan for about 2 to 3 minutes. I then mix the bittermelon into the mama's and my bowls of pinakbet. I will also add salt to the mama's portion.
For "real" pinakbet recipes with precise portions, check out this recipe with pork or this one with shrimp.

To read other "P" posts in Alphabe-Thursday, hosted by Jenny Matlock, head over to here. I hope you do.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Book Review: Jane Eyre

I didn't think it would be possible. That another book would bump Pride and Prejudice off the top of my all-time favorite list, and that it would be Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte.

To think that I let 40 years go by before I read Jane Eyre. Oh, the condensed version was assigned in high school, but I merely skimmed it. I probably didn't like the opening pages because Jane's sour rich Aunt and her bratty cousins rubbed me the wrong way. I was an impatient reader in my youth. If I didn't like a tale by the end of the first chapter, that was it for me. And most likely I thought Rochester was a simp and Jane one, too, for being in love with him.

So, what got me to finally read it? The BBC movie of Jane Eyre with Tobey Stephens and Ruth Wilson. After watching it a few years ago, I was sold on the plot and the characters so much that I bought the book. But, I didn't read it. A couple weeks ago, the movie was being shown again on TV. It was a two-parter and I couldn't bear to wait a week for the ending. So, I searched through my pile of books for it.

Wowza! The book was far better than the movie. Now, I understand why Jane Eyre is a classic tale that many people will read over and over. Heck, I read it twice last week.

Jane is my kind of woman. Feisty, independent, clear-minded, and passionate. There is much to learn from her. To forgive and forget. To take a stand for oneself. To love and be loved. To not be afraid to say and do what is in your heart. To walk away. To return.

I think Bronte was very brave to write and publish this book. It was the mid-1800s, and I wonder how many people were offended by her story. She wrote about a little girl who stands up against emotional and physical abuse and who grows up to seek adventure and the means to support herself rather than find a rich husband. Bronte also tackled such issues as the crass rich and the religious without heart. I am most surprised about how openly she wrote about men and their mistresses.

Do I still think Rochester is a simp? Yes. But, after seeing him through Jane's eyes, he is redeemed and I quite understand how she can be in love with him.

On my arbitrary scale of 1 to 5, Jane Eyre is a 5. I'm ready to read it again.

Jane Eyre is one of the books I'm reading for the Off the Shelf Challenge

Book Review: Travels with Zenobia, Paris to Albania by Model T Ford

Travels with Zenobia, Paris to Albania by Model T Ford, A Journal by Rose Wilder Lane and Helen Dore Boylston, and edited by William Holtz.

This book is the journal kept by two friends who travel from Paris to Albania.  This is a true story about two women in 1926.  Rose Wilder Lane  was a well-known author of the times, who later would become known as one of the founders of the libertarian movement. You, dear readers, may also know Rose as the daughter of Laura Ingalls Wilder, the author of the Little House on the Prairie books. Rose's friend, Helen Dore Boylston, known as Troub, was also a writer, but during this time frame she was still learning her craft. Have you ever read any of the Sue Barton, Nurse series? They were written by Troub, who served as a nurse in WWI.

Zenobia is the name of the Model T Ford that Rose and Troub bought in Paris. Buying the automobile was easy, but getting it out of the showroom was not. It took about 6 weeks for them to get the proper paperwork and plates before they could legally drive it on the streets of Paris. Once they did, the women were on the road to Albania where they had rented a house. The women wrote about their daily travels through France and Italy in a journal for Rose's parents. Their different writing styles complimented each other. When each wrote about the same day or incident, I felt like I was getting a fuller picture of what Rose and Troub experienced.

While they were traveling through Italy, they were often asked if they were Germans. It was near the end of their time in Italy that they learned the reason why. Back then, only German women traveled without men in their parties. No doubt, it must've been unusual to see two independent women driving a brand-new car through Italian villages. I would think that would've been the case anywhere in the world at that time. Maybe still so today in some places.

The book was a fun read. I always like getting lost in time with real people.  I was glad that Holtz, the editor of this book, added an introduction to prepare me into the world of Rose and Troub, as well as an aftermath of sorts to give me a sense of their time in Albania. On my arbitrary scale of 1 to 5, I would give this book a 4.129.

Book Challenges
 This title fulfills these 2011 reading challenges in which I'm participating. They're both still open, if you're interested. 

For info, click here.
For info, click here.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Lessons Learned

Yesterday was a 23rd date for the husband and me.  The first of 2011. Our date was a pleasant ramble that developed and changed with the circumstances and, in so doing, we experienced many new things in our area. I don't know about the husband, but this newly old gal learned—and relearned—some new tricks.

For Instance. . .

When an waitress arches her eyebrows as we say that we're heading over to the area where she lives and she says it was covered with tule fog when she left for work that morning, take her a bit more seriously. The fog was so thick, we could've eaten it with a spoon. Really.

When the fog is too thick to continue safely onward with an adventure, come back another day. The husband and I easily concurred at our first stop—a picture taking opportunity with a golden bear—and drove back down the mountain and back into the sun. Slowly and meanderingly, we crossed our small valley to drive up the mountain on the other side of it. 

When a state park's sign says Closed for the Season, but the road towards the entrance is open, explore it anyway. The gate was locked, but we found a small parking lot with a bathroom and some naturalist information about the area. It turns out that the tall mystical spire along highway 156 that is my landmark for finally having made it safely through Pacheco Pass was once a volcano on the bottom of a sea millions of years ago. It is called Lover's Leap. Now, I must learn why it's named that. 

When our adventure is to ramble here and there, be open to suggestions of places to check out from each other.
Result of the wife's suggestion: We turned right on an unknown road and found a sanctuary for dogs and cats where we were given a tour and a chance to hang out with a bunch of contented cats. 
Result of the husband's suggestion: We walked a new trail at Fremont Peak in San Juan Bautista that maybe took us near the epicenter of the bunch of earthquakes that rocked and rolled us for a few days a couple of weeks ago. And, oh, the odd sights we saw in the oak forest.
When my toe aches horribly as it pushes against the inside of my shoe while I trudge downhill, stop sooner to retie my shoe. Tighter!

When we enter a restaurant and I notice people look at us with alarm, I must gage the air of paranoia to determine if or when to take off my hat. Yes, the husband and I are bald again.

There were other lessons learned yesterday. Most of all, the best lesson for me: Our 23rd dates are about getting away from it all.  I took some work with me, thinking that I might do some of it in the car as we drove between here and there, but I spent the time looking out the window and taking photos of this and that. From now on, no work allowed on our 23rd dates!

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Ornery the Eighth, I am

Today's letter is O.
A forewarning: I'm in an ornery and outraged mood. So, if you'd rather check out other "O" posts, I understand completely. Please click here to head over to Alphabe-Thursday, hosted by Jenny Matlock at Off on My Tanget.

The husband and I don't have health insurance. We're self-employed writers in our late 50s, so the cost of monthly health insurance payments would truly put us into deep debt. Fortunately for the past 10 years, we have been able to afford our medical bills and prescriptions, which comes to about a third of what it would be to pay for health insurance. Ornery, the first, about which I am.

Some people think we're taking a big risk by not having health insurance. What if, heaven forbid, one of us needs to go to the hospital? Ornery, the second, about which I am.

A few weeks ago, the husband and I spent five hours in the emergency department at our local hospital. Nothing major, as some of you, dear readers, know.  After all was said and done, the husband went home with 10 stitches in his finger, which was cut deeply by a bathroom wall mirror that split in two. So, how much did we pay for the five hours at the emergency department of which about 30 minutes of medical attention was given?

The hospital bill was just over $1,300. Gulp.  Ornery, the third, about which I am.

The physician who analyzed the x-ray asked for $28 to report that a very tiny sliver of glass was still in the finger. Thank you, doctor, for not charging us more.

The ER doctor who prepped and treated the husband's finger has yet to send us a bill. Hopefully, it will be less than $200.

The husband went to our regular doctor to have the stitches removed. Cost was $62. Here's an interesting aside for you. The doctor spent about 10 minutes with the husband. On his regular quarterly visits, the husband sees the doc for two to five minutes, who checks his blood pressure, listens to his heart, goes over his blood test results, and orders more blood tests to monitor the husband's vital organs. Cost for those visits, between $110 and $200, depending on the number and type of blood tests. Ornery, the fourth, about which I am.

Yesterday, we went to pay the hospital bill. We decided to put it on our credit card rather than jump through hoops to get the documentation to show that we are not eligible for MediCal in order to qualify to pay monthly installments to the hospital. Did you get that? Ornery, the fifth, about which I am.

We were given a 20 percent discount. Huh? The woman at the emergency desk told us that the hospital gives no discounts to self-payers. We could pay monthly though. Fine. Several days later, the husband talked with someone in the hospital's billing office. He confirmed that there were no discounts and he could pay monthly, but only if he did not qualify for MediCal. We already knew that individually or jointly, we weren't eligible, and after reading all the documents that we would need to provide to prove we weren't qualified, well, you get the picture. The least grouchy road was to pay the hospital bill by credit card. Ornery, the sixth, about which I am.

Don't get me wrong, we are very grateful to get the discount. But, I will not be surprised if we get a letter from the hospital saying that they were in error and we still owe them money.

And, yes, I do have a positive spin on all of this: We were not waiting in emergency to be treated for something very major. Still, it is outrageous to pay over $1,000 for 10 tiny stitches. Ornery, the seventh, about which I am.

Non sequitur: The Republicans in the House of Representatives are selfish! They wasted our money to make an obtuse statement to repeal the health insurance reform law. They say they want to replace it with something better. Okay, then, introduce and pass amendments to improve that law, not reinvent the wheel in which they chose not to participate in the first place. Don't even get me started me about how some congresspeople want to deny us, Americans,  from receiving the same type of health care benefits that we pay for them to get. Ornery, the eighth, about which I am.

1/21/11 Update: We received the doctor's bill this afternoon. $1,629 for 10 stitches and 30 minutes of treatment!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Thursday, January 13, 2011

N is for Naysayer


Temperatures have been dipping into the 30s and 40s the past month. Ha! So what! says this blooming rose in the Mama's garden.

Head over to Alphabe-Thursday, hosted by Jenny Matlock, to read other N posts.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Z is for Ziplining

Mt. Hermon Redwood Canopy Tours

Oh boy!

Because this week's ABC Wednesday (hosted by Mrs. Nesbitt) features the letter Z, I can blather about ziplining again.

Ziplining through the redwoods in the Santa Cruz mountains, as some of you dear readers know, is what I did for my birthday last month.  I hung happily in a harness from a pulley attached to a cable about 13 stories high. When it was safely time to go, the guide slightly nudged me forward and I was gliding quickly along that cable through the redwood forest to the next platform. Swhooooooooooosh!

This is the equipment I wore.

The zip lines ranged from 110 to  440 feet long. Waiting for my turn was longer than the ride between the platforms. Exhilarating really is the perfect word to describe how it feels to dangle from a pulley and ziiiiiiiiiip among the trees. The initial fear was gone after completing the first zip line.  Yep, that tiny simple machine of a pulley can really hold me up. I may have swayed in my harness as I rushed forward, but I did not haphazardly crash into the trees like I thought could happen.  And, yes, I was quite able to stop myself at the end of the ride, thank you very much.

The highlighted area is the next platform.

Braking was nothing more than putting one of your leather-gloved palms flat against the cable above you. You start braking only when you see the guide signal you to start slowing down. You press your palm ever so lightly on the cable. If you press too much, you find yourself several yards short of the platform. I did that on the first zipline. No problem. I quickly turned myself around and pulled myself in.  That was fun, too.

Nope, not me. T'was our guide.
The platforms that we zipped to and from were built sturdily around redwood trees, which if I remember correctly were all second growth redwood trees.  Whenever we were on the platforms, we were clipped in so there really was no danger of falling off. Well, we could fall, but we would be dangling only a few feet below the platform.  Not that I was going to test it. Okay, maybe the thought passed through my mind.

I'm starting to think that maybe being up in the air is where I like to be. As a kid, I liked climbing trees. The favorite part of my one time of rock climbing, a long time ago, was stopping midway on the cliff and looking around at the vista. I did tandem skydiving a few years ago and enjoyed it immensely. I'd do that again. Ziplining? I'm already looking for another place to try out. Wieeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!

Now zip on over to ABC Wednesday to find more Z posts by other bloggers.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Book Review: The Lost Symbol

The Lost Symbol by Dan Brown is the third novel featuring Robert Langdon, a professor of religious symbology. Just over 500 pages, the story takes place within 12 hours. On my random scale of 1 to 5, I give it an arbitrary 2.039.

Robert Langdon has been summoned suddenly to give a speech for his friend and mentor, Peter Solomon, at the Capitol building in Washington D.C. It turns out to be a ruse set up by bad guy Mal'akh who has kidnapped Solomon. To get Solomon back, Langdon must provide Mal'akh with the Masonic Pyramid that leads to finding the Masonic treasure buried beneath Washington D.C. Also key to the story are Solomon's younger sister, a noetic scientist, the CIA, and, of course, the Freemasons.

For  a fast-action plot, the story moved slowly for me. I didn't care for any of the characters, including Langdon. The back story for Mal'akh and his obsession with the Solomon family got tiring, but I do admit that I was surprised with the final details.

I thought there were two endings to the story. Catching the bad guy and finding out who he really was and his motives for murder, kidnapping, and all around evil mayhem was the first ending. The final 100 pages was about the mystery of the Masonic pyramid. If anything, The Lost Symbol made me want to learn more about whether and how the Freemasons may have influenced our country's Founding Fathers.

The Lost Symbol is one of the books I'm reading for the Off the Shelf Challenge

Monday, January 10, 2011

Book Review: Glazed Murder

Glazed Murder by Jessica Beck is the first title in her A Donut Shop Mystery series. I wish the author had used the old way of spelling the delicacy. D-o-u-g-h-n-u-t.  That aside, on my random scale of 1 to 5, I'd give Glazed Murder an arbitrarily 3.703.

Suzanne Hart is the main character of this mystery series. She's definitely a spunky woman. After all, she took her divorce settlement and bought the doughnut shop in her small North Carolina town, even though she had no experience in making or selling doughnuts.

The story opens with Suzanne turning on the lights of her shop at 2 a.m. She witnesses a body being thrown out of a car in front of her establishment. What a way to start a day, right? The dead body belongs to a good customer and friend of hers. That becomes one reason that Suzanne starts snooping. Another reason is her concern the culprit may try to get her because of the threats she keeps getting for snooping. Thirdly, from her point of view, the cops are very slow at solving the case and she thinks the chief doesn't like her because her mom turned him down. Of course.

Adding to the tension is Suzanne's ex-husband who believes she should forgive him already for cheating on her. He loves her, he misses her, and it was only one time, he says, and that's why Suzanne should take him back. He also becomes jealous when a state police investigator shows interest in Suzanne.

I have read so many cozy mysteries, I can usually figure out who did what before I get halfway through a story. Then curiosity takes hold and I read the ending to find out if I am right. If the story is good, I'll go back and finishing reading forward. I didn't do that with Glazed Murder. The author threw in so many red herrings, I couldn't guess who the murderer was. Yay! Me thinks I'll read another one of Suzanne's gumshoe adventures.

Ms. Beck gives 11 recipes, most of which are for doughnuts, including one for a baked doughnut that I want to try to make. And, yes, I wanted to eat a doughnut every time I put the book down. Probably would have if I wasn't going to sleep. Nope, I didn't dream of doughnuts.

P.S. This title fulfills both of these 2011 reading challenges in which I'm participating. They're both still open, if you're interested.

Click here for information.

For more info, click here.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Random rambling

I've been feeling muddle-headed lately. Too many brain lapses. Quite a lot of pressing of the delete button. Sigh. So, bear with me, dear readers, as I ramble forward to clear my mind with random thoughts.

Random thought number one. Big birds (maybe the doves) splatted big time on the side of the car and the driveway. Very rude! Especially since we leave bird seeds out every day.

Random thought number two. The husband got a surprise check for $100 yesterday. It was part of a cash settlement in a class action law suit against a large drug distributor that was alleged to have set drug prices wrongfully high. The husband had no idea it was taking place. The company settled rather than go to court because it would be cheaper to pay $350 million today. In settling, the company does not formally admit to wrongdoing. That part is what always astounds me about corporations that get away with crime.

Random thought number three. I have publishing deadlines over the next two years. I hope I can maintain blogging at the same time as I write about occupations in aviation, law enforcement, education, and engineering. Ouch, my brain!

Random thought number four.  I borrowed a friend's sewing machine a month ago. It's still sitting on the hope chest in the hallway unused.

Random thought number five. Yesterday, the mama harvested a banana blossom, as she was cutting the dead leaves from the banana plants. She said that it was protected by the dried leaves so it hadn't frozen. Amazing!

Random though number six. I really appreciate the husband making morning coffee and washing dishes. With his finger in stitches, I've had to do his chores. Only a few more days to go.

Random thought number seven. The tiny birds (maybe sparrows) are frolicking in the front yard as they fly from feeder to feeder to fence to tree to the neighbor's shrubs where they're nesting. Their singing fills the air. We are blessed!

So, am I feeling less muddle-headed? The noggin does feel a little bit lighter, thank you very much dear readers for being a captive audience.

Onward, I go. . . .

I'm participating in the Follow Friday 40 and Over meme, sponsored by Java at Never Growing Old.  Click here to check out what other bloggers are writing today.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

M is for Making It!

Today's letter is "M."

Exactly a year ago the husband and I shaved our hair completely off to see how long it would grow in one year. Our experiment is officially over.  The husband says our hair grew about six inches.

The husband (obviously!). . .

. . .and me—Su-sieee! Mac (also quite obviously!)

For the last two months or so, the husband has received comments about how he looks like ZZ Top. Maybe.

No comments for me. At least not to my face. I'd say I look like I'm in need for a hair cut. The overgrown bangs are driving me nuts, big time.

"Will we shave it again?" ask our friends.

We don't know.

The husband is wondering how long it would take for his beard to grow to the middle of his tummy.

I liked my bald look. It was easy to handle. But if I keep it growing, I might just dye it either an Anne Shirley carrot-top red or the golden brown of a lion's mane.

We shall see.

Today also marks a milestone for This and That. Here and There. Now, Sometimes, Then.  It is exactly one year old! Whoo-hooo! I really didn't think I would keep it going. Let's see how the next year goes.

To read "M" posts by other bloggers at Alphabe Thursday,
hosted by Jenny Matlock, click

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Trivia: Yes and You

Y is the letter for this week's ABC Wednesday. So, here is a bit of trivia about two words we use a lot.

A long time ago, when you answered "Yes" to a negative question, you were really saying "No."  For example, if someone asked, "You don't want to die, do you?" The other person replied, "Yes!" To reply affirmatively to a question, one said "Yea."  How very confusing, no?

The word you comes from Old English. Back then, people had a singular and plural form for you. When addressing a specific person, they used thou, as "Thou sings well." When talking to more than one person, out came the you: "You (all) sing well."

As  Old English moved forward into modern English times, people began to use you as a form of respect for talking to strangers and for those they considered socially higher than them. The use of thou, contrary to how we think of it today, was for familiar use. "Hey, thou! How's it going?"

Yawn. . . . I wonder how that word came to be. Could it somehow be related to the word yon?

To read other Y posts by ABC Wednesday participants, click here. But, wouldn't you like to check out the George Harrison song, "You," first?

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Out with the Old!

Reflections, March 2010

It has been three days that we've been without a mirror in the bathroom. Not that I look at the mirror that much, but still I am surprised when I look over the sink and see a yellowish wall. That's another surprise. Without the mirror, both the husband and I realize that off-yellow is the color of our bathroom walls. These past seven years, we thought we were looking at dingy off-white walls.

So, what happened to the mirror?

First, you need to know that ants  invaded the bathroom last Thursday. The damn ants actually knocked out a bit of tile from a corner of the sink. That day, they kept scooting from behind the cabinet that rests on the counter.

The husband's stitches!
That night, just after 11 p.m., the husband decided to pull the cabinet forward so he could get at the ants. The next thing we knew, the mirror slipped, broke diagonally, and as the top part fell, it sliced through the husband's right forefinger in two places. Deep enough to cut who knows how many veins in the finger. OUCH!

We each did our best acting maturely calm and cool so the other wouldn't go bazonkers. Within ten minutes we dressed ourselves and, within the speed limit, drove to the emergency room without any stressful growling at each other. Fortunately, the hospital is only a few minutes away. After all was said and done, the husband received 10 stitches in his finger. OUCH!

Our total time there was five hours. OUCH!

The place was full when we arrived so it took over an hour for one of the seven treatment rooms to become available. We waited an hour for the doctor to see the husband,  another hour for a technician to x-ray his finger, and then another hour for the doctor to return. The process of cleaning and sewing his finger took about 20 to 25 minutes, and, after that, we waited about another 30 minutes for him to be discharged.

We don't have health insurance so it'll be a triple OUCH! when we get the bills. Hopefully, not one OUCH! more.

It was a good call to go to the emergency room. Our doctor had closed his shop on Friday. We discovered that when the husband called to make an appointment to remove the stitches in 10 days. Yep. Guess who doesn't have to wash dishes for 10 days?

You know that saying, "Breaking a mirror is seven years bad luck"?  I don't believe it. Neither does the husband.  If anything, I see the loss of the mirror at the end of 2010 as making way for new and wonderful changes in 2011, at least in the bathroom. 

Happy New Year, Dear Readers! I wish each and every one of you strength and wonder, joy and happiness, and peace and love, as you travel another year around the sun!

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Off the Shelf Challenge

Off The Shelf!

Me thinks I could become a reading-challenge addict. I have forced myself to stop reading about yet another challenge to attempt for no other purpose then claiming at the end of the year that "I done did it!" So, Off the Shelf Challenge is absolutely the last reading challenge that I'll be joining to help motivate me to complete my 2011 Reading List.

The Off the Shelf Challenge is hosted by Dutchie, from Australia who blogs at Bookish Ardour. The motive behind this challenge is to help participants finally read some of the books that have been growing dust (cough, cough) on their shelves. The challenge runs throughout 2011 and you can sign up at anytime. There are seven reading levels from which to choose—Tempted, Trying, Making a Dint, On a Roll, Flying Off, Hoarder, and Buried. FYI: The Buried participants plan to read between 126 and 200 books! For more details of the Off the Shelf Challenge, click here.

I've chosen to participate at the On a Roll level, which involves reading 50 books. To come up with my titles for this challenge I'm not counting the children's books on my list, nor the book I've just finished reading. Hence, here's my list for the Off the Shelf Challenge in general order of the thickness of dust on their covers: 

About 10 years or more waiting patiently to be read
Around the World with a King by William N. Armstrong
Six Months in the Sandwich Islands by Isabella L. Bird
The Lives and Times of Archy & Mehitabel by Don Marquis
The Octopus by Frank Norris
America and Americans by John Steinbeck
At least 5 years on the shelves
A Dog's Life by Peter Mayle
Roughing It by Mark Twain
Two to five years sitting around
Bad-Ass Faeries edited by Danielle Ackley-McPhail, L. Jagi Lamplighter, Lee Hillman, and Jeff Lyman
The Demise of Luleta Jones by Mark Allen Boone
Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly by Anthony Bourdain
Size 14 is Not Fat Either by Meg Cabot
Oscar and Lucinda by Peter Carey
Next by Michael Crichton
My Life in France by Julia Child with Alex Prud'homme
Queen of the Flowers by Kerry Greenwood
I Dreamed I Married Perry Mason by Susan Kandel
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson
Gentleman Soldier: John Clifford Brown and the Philippine-American War edited, with an introduction by Joseph P. McCallus
Under the Tuscan Sun by Frances Mayes
Cape Perdido by Marcia Muller
The Audacity of Hope by Barack Obama
East of the Gabilans by Marjorie Pierce
Nightcrawlers by Bill Pronzini
Naked Pictures of Famous People by Jon Stewart
America (The Book): A Citizen's Guide to Democracy in Action written and edited by Jon Stewart, Ben Karlin, and David Javerbaum
The Clovis Incident by Pari Noskin Taichert
Jane Austen, A Life by Claire Tomalin
Field Guide to Mysterious Places of the Pacific Coast by Salvatore M. Trento
A Little Too Much Is Enough by Kathleen Tyou
Behold the Many by Lois-Ann Yamanaka
Only The Past Year
Over the Edge of the World: Magellan's Terrifying Circumnavigation of the Globe by Laurence Bergreen
Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte
The Lost Symbol by Dan Brown
Daughter of Persia: A Woman's Journey From Her Father's Harem Through the Islamic Revolution by Sattareh Farman Farmaian with Dona Munker
The Dress Lodger by Sheri Holman
Lake Wobegon Days by Garrison Keillor
The Heretic's Daughter by Kathleen Kent
The Kitchen God's Wife by Amy Tan
My Birthday Gifts
The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie by Alan Bradley
Homicide in Hardcover by Kate Carlisle
Founding Brothers, The Revolutionary Generation by Joseph J. Ellis
Mr. Monk is Cleaned Out by Lee Goldberg
Last Night in Twisted River by John Irving
Locked In by Marcia Muller
At Swim–Two–Birds by Flann O'Brien
Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim by David Sedaris
The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows
A Night Too Dark by Dana Stabenow
How to Crash a Killer Bash by Penny Warner
Travels with Zenobia, Paris to Albania by Model T Ford, A Journal by Rose Wilder Lane and Helen Dore Boylston, edited by William Holtz