28 December 2011

New year of possibilities

I often look to nature for signs of hope, and I found it in the Istrian sunset.   Frosty air.  Darkness descending; a sky bursting with ethereal colour.   Entrancing.  Gorgeous.  Uplifting.  And inspirational.  

Happy New Year to everyone.  May 2012 be filled with an abundance of good things for us all.

22 December 2011

Merry Christmas 2011

I cannot believe that it is already Christmas!  Honestly, this year has flown by.  I'm wishing everyone a very very happy holiday season, and all the best for the new year.  May 2012 be wonderful for us all.

06 December 2011

Thoughts on the language

I get lots of questions from people asking what the Croatian language is like to learn as a new language.  I tell them that it is a lot like the Energizer Bunny (from the TV commercial for Energizer batteries), the language just keeps going and going and going and going.  IMHO learning to speak Croatian proficiently cannot be measured in number of hours or months or semesters.  Learning to be proficient in Croatian is more like growing an expansive garden.  Some plants will be fruitful almost immediately, some will require coddling, and some plants will take years to mature and bear fruit.  Once the entire garden is well established, then the full bounty can truly be enjoyed.

My language is slowly but surely growing.  No longer tender saplings.  And not yet a fruit-laden orchard.  But something in between.  Filled with energy and great promise.   Always reaching towards the sky.


21 October 2011

Crisp Autumn Nights

Oh, the days are getting shorter, and the evenings are quick to crisp up and get fresh.  Chestnut-roasting vendors are in the streets, and curls of smoke drift out of night-time chimneys.  Fall is upon us.  Put a log in the wood-burning stove.  Get out the tea cozy.  And take out that crocheted zigzag afghan project from last winter, and finish it up by the fireside.

Autumn.  Awesome.

29 September 2011

Interesting wildlife...if you are squeamish, don't look at this post!

Today's post is about scorpions.  Yep.  Scorpions.  Who knew?  They live up and down the coast in Croatia and I'm told they are the variety that can sting, but don't kill.  Apparently their sting is as bad as a nasty bee sting (unless you are allergic).  They are pretty small in the Istrian peninsula where I had the encounter with the fellow in the picture above.  This one was about 5cm (2 inches) long and is one of the bigger ones you'll see around these parts.  Most of the other ones I've seen are usually 1-2cm long, and for some reason they tend to be in dark, damp places like the shower door, or the shower floor. 

You might think that your first reaction to seeing your first scorpion is to scream or maybe pass out.  That's what I thought too.  But weirdly, the first time I saw one I was dumbstruck, frozen, paralyzed, and it took about 3 minutes to recover enough to point in the direction where the scorpion had been (I'm guessing he took off so fast because he could sense my impending nervous breakdown).  Then in a tiny whisper I said to my husband:  I think I just saw a scorpion.  Then I sat down.  I think what may have happened is that my brain has never seen one of these things up close and personal, and thus it took my brain a couple hundred seconds to scan through my memory banks to first figure out what it is (not a spider, not a centipede, etc), then my brain had to figure out the correct response (run, scream, cry, employ flame thrower, etc). 

The second time I encountered a scorpion, it didn't take a millisecond for me to react.  Strange thing about scorpions:  they are BOLD.  They don't scurry away like spiders.  Nope.  They sort of sit there looking at you as if to say:  yeah, you caught me red-handed, now what are you gonna do about it, eh baby?  Then they will click their claws a few times and stare you down.  Like the one I found in the shower today.  He was a tiny little fellow near the drain, so I sprayed him with the shower head expecting him to run away or at least get washed down the drain.  That did not happen.  He slowly walked away from the water, then shook himself off, clicked his claws a few times (I think to dry them off and make sure they still worked) and then he sat there looking at me, and I'm sure he was thinking (in a John Wayne voice no less):  you shouldn't have done that little lady.

Um, I'm not proud of what happened next, but it was me or him, and well, let's just say that a wooden clog took care of the situation.  You may think the wooden clog was excessive force, but the other thing I learned about scorpions is that they have a rather hard shell.  If you hit them with a fly swatter or a slipper they will simply laugh maniacally at you.  The only thing that works is something really hard that can crush the shell.  And (here's the squeamish part) it will make an awful CRUNCH sound.

Scorpions like to hide out in warm and dark places like:  the cuffs on your jeans hanging over the chair at night, the socks you left on the floor and thought that maybe you'd wear one more day, curtains, shoes, slippers...I'll stop now.  Before doing anything at all now when I'm in Istria or anywhere along the coast, I shake things out before using them.  And I say a little tiny prayer.

Now, if you thought scorpions were bad, wait until I tell you about the Buick-sized grasshoppers that are so big people hire them out to help move appliances.  I made that last part up.  But they are big.  I'm getting up the nerve to take a picture of one...but my screaming shakes the camera and the pictures end up looking like those smudgy Loch Ness Monster pictures...which I can only imagine were taken while a)  screaming, and b) running away.

But all that is for some time in the future.  Right now, there's espresso to be made and enjoyed.  And hazelnuts to be shelled.

Ah, complete bliss, except for the scorpion part.

01 September 2011

Dust in the wind

Okay, I'm noticing a weird thing about dust in Zagreb.  It is somehow everywhere.  No matter how much I dust the furniture in our place, I will turn around and just 2 hours later there is a thin layer of dust.  And if I wait just 2 or 3 days, it turns into a thick layer of dust.  Where does it all come from?

I thought it was just my own little problem, but when I mentioned it a few people here, they also told me about their losing battle with dust.  Some people swear that the dust starts to build just an hour after they finish dusting.  And I believe them. 

I'm starting to suspect the pollen.  Zagreb is well known for its high pollen count.  Some days you can walk down the street and see a thin layer of pollen coating the parked cars.  And you can hear people sneezing and snuffling as the pollen works its way into everyone's eyes, noses, and lungs.  And I'm guessing it is working its way through all my open windows, through my sheer curtains, and proceeding directly to pretty much every surface in our place.

I'd write more, but I've got dusting to do.....and do, and do, and do  ;-)

31 August 2011

Some beauties about town

The hibiscus are in full bloom right now, and you can see them in all sorts of colours in just about every nook and cranny in Zagreb.
Here is a gorgeous deep coral coloured rose.  This picture was taken at that magic time just before it gets dark, when the light does something ethereal with the flowers.

And a beautifully fragrant gardenia, just because.  Ah, bliss!

23 August 2011

Hot hot hot

We are having a heat wave.  The kind of heatwave that melts the sidewalks and makes the outside feel like the inside of a hot waffle iron.  Pretty normal for this time of year.  In just a few weeks we will all be complaining about the chill in the air, so I'm going to enjoy the heat while I can.

Here's my advice for the busloads of tourists taking walking tours in this heat:

1.  get a huge serving of ice-cream (multiple flavours is recommended)
2.  find a bench under a tree
3.  sit on the bench and eat ice-cream until it is gone
4.  repeat steps 1-3 as often as necessary

Enjoy the last few days of summer vacation!

19 August 2011

Baby Olives

The olives are growing nicely all over the country, and should be ready for harvest around November.  I took some pictures of olives when they were just wee little babies back in June, and I thought I'd post the pictures now.  These are slightly bigger than a Tic Tac!

I'll be sure to post some updated pictures of the mature fruits later in the year.

15 August 2011


The city is empty.  August is the month when pretty much everyone in Croatia goes on vacation.  So Zagreb is quiet.   Parking is really easy to find.  And the few people out on the hot streets are more than likely locals like me, who love the city in the middle of August.

But I'm hardly lounging around.  It is harvest season, and I've been busy loading up on veggies to preserve for the coming winter.  It might be 33C outside, but inside there's work to be done.  Over the last few days,  I cleaned and packed 20kg (44lbs) of dried beans.  In order to make sure the beans were absolutely gluten-free, I had one of the local farmers dry the beans for me on the stalk, then pick the beans with the pods intact.  And I shelled all 20kg of them by hand.  It took me 2 days in our little kitchen, but I did it!  I got 13kg of dried beans out of the whole thing, and that will be more than enough to keep us going through winter and to the end of next spring too.

And that's not all.  I also trimmed, sliced, roasted, vacuum-packed and froze 25kg (55lbs) of fresh eggplant.   It took 2 days from start to finish.  And I've got another 20kg coming tomorrow, so I'll be busy busy busy.  In addition, I've got 25kg of tomatoes to prepare and freeze.  And I'm planning on roasting and freezing 10-15kg of sweet red pepper.

The hazelnuts should also be ready in a couple of weeks, so I'm clearing a space in my pantry for 30kg.  Those can wait in my cupboard for a couple of months to dry out.  Then I'll crack each one, roast in a hot oven, and grind into hazelnut-butter goodness. 

I'm hoping to get my hands on 30-40kg of fresh locally grown chestnuts this year.  I haven't found a local source yet...but I'm looking.  I'm willing to come out and harvest the little beauties myself if I have to...and will take them with the prickly shells still intact.  My plan is to peel, roast, dry out, then grind the chestnuts into flour so I can make a host of gluten-free goodies with them.

There are so many things I want to grow and harvest and preserve and cook and eat.  I can't wait!

14 August 2011

Peka time!

I've heard about peka.  I've seen pictures of peka.  I've had peka described to me.  But for the first time in my entire life, I was able to enjoy peka this summer.

Peka refers to food that is slowly baked in a cast iron pan that is covered with a cast iron lid, and then covered in hot coals.  The cast iron pan and lid is also referred to as a peka. 

Without going into great detail, it is important to get fresh meat or fish, freshly peeled potatoes, some onions, maybe a carrot or two, and a bit of salt.  And arrange it all in the lower part of the pan.

Here, I've cut up one whole chicken, and added a tiny bit of salt and oil, and some fresh rosemary. Then added potatoes.  Then covered it with the cast iron lid (which weighs a ton).  And then placed the whole thing in the outdoor bbq area (known as the rostilj here in Croatia), and covered it with hot coals.  Then baked it for about 90 minutes.

Forgot to mention I also added some onion and garlic.

Really does weight about a ton.

Wood coals have been in the making for about 90 minutes.  This ain't exactly fast food.

Yep.  Looks done to me.

Wow.  The meat somehow comes out roasted and crispy on the outside, but tender and juicy on the inside.  And then there's the potato-alchemy that happens.  They come out golden and crunchy on the outside and fluffy on the inside. 

The chicken worked out great.  So did the goat, lamb and pork ribs that we tried on different days.  I haven't had the chance to try octopus in there...but you'll be the first to know when it happens.

Hope y'all are having a fantastic dinner tonight!  I know I am :-)

07 August 2011

Louise & Mickey..where are you?

I don't usually do this, but I'm going to use this bit of space on my blog to try and find my friends Mickey & Louise who I seem to have lost.  If you are out there, send me a message so we can reconnect.  The e-mail address I have (the telus.net one) does not work anymore :-(

All is well on my end of things.  Hope the same is true for y'all....

28 June 2011

Figs are fine

The figs are starting to ripen.  Hallelujah! 

This little fellow below isn't quite ripe yet, but I took a picture just to show what the inside looks like at this stage.  The fruit is actually the flower turned inside out, if that makes any sense at all.

And here's what a tree looks like:

27 June 2011

Interesting Fruits

Now that  grammar classes are done for the summer, I can get back to what matters most to me:  food!  I've had the wonderful opportunity to visit the Istrian countryside in June and couldn't help but be amazed at the bounty of fruits growing everywhere.  I took some pictures of things that might be pretty everyday for people who live in these parts, but are amazing for someone like me who comes from a much colder climate.

First up:  pomegranate.  This tree is about 4 or 5 years old and is covered in gorgeous saffron-colored blossoms:

A flower that has started morphing into pomegranate fruit:

 And one tiny perfectly formed pomegranate fruit that needs about 4 more months before it is ready to enjoy in October. 


Here's the one picture I have of a persimmon tree.  These fruits are about the size of a crab-apple right now, and will grow to the size of a grapefruit and turn bright red/orange in November/December.

Here's another interesting fruit:  the quince, a sort of cross between apple and pear.  This quince tree is about 12 years old and the fruits are hard and fuzzy right now.  They will grow quite large to the size of a very large potato, and they will remain quite hard, and will turn a golden yellow color.  Quince needs to be cooked and makes great compote.

Fruits amongst the lush leaves:

And a close-up of the fuzzy fruits:


I'm off to take pictures of the figs and olives right now.  However, if the early figs are ripe, I will put the camera away and help myself to some figgy goodness!

01 June 2011

I made it!

So I wrote and passed all my exams.  Whew!  What a relief.  Now, I'll take a bit of time to let my brain relax. 

Ahhhh, it feels better already.

Thanks to everyone who sent along their good wishes!

20 May 2011

Exam logjam

So, I passed my midterm exam with an admirable grade.  But there's hardly time to take a short breather because the next exam is just 10 days from now.!  And this is the final exam which covers everything from the entire course.  Can you hear that weird noise... it sort of sounds like the noise those long skinny balloons make when the street busker guy is twisting them into balloon animals?  Well, that squeaking is coming from my brain which is stretching to accommodate the mountains of new grammar and vocabulary that I take home every day from class, and which need to be studied, memorized and understood for this exam in 10 days.  

Everything is on hold for the next 10 days (including blogging) while I study and study and study and study, with small breaks for eating, sleeping, weeping, then back to more studying.

I'm praying that the jingles stay out of my head for this one.  These last few days of studying have been rudely interrupted by my brain singing Strangers In The Night (Sinatra version) in an endless loop over my dative possessive pronouns.  Why can't my brain sing instrumentals? 

10 May 2011

Pronoun purgatory.

I have to write my midterm Croatian exam tomorrow.  I'm studying hard to keep my cases straight, and learning new vocabulary at the speed of light, and trying to remember when k changes to c and when a singular masculine noun is alive vs not alive, etc.  I can store most of this stuff nicely in my brain, but I've got a block when it comes to pronouns.  Seriously.  Don't ask me why I can't remember these things.  The pronouns in Croatian are a bit of a handful.  In English they are pretty easy to keep straight:  I, me, my, theirs, them, his, him, etc.  Simple stuff.  And I study them in Croatian.  Really really study them.  And I feel super confident when I sit down to write a test...and then it happens.  Whammo-bammo, the pronoun section of my brain goes out for coffee and leaves something useless in its place, like a pop tune or an old jingle.

So here's what's going on in my head as I'm trying to write the pronoun section of the exam:

Me:    Alright pronouns! I know this stuff like the back of my hand. Let's see, second person plural locative.
Brain:  we're sorry, all our operators are busy; please hold the line
Me:  okay don't panic, I'll just go to the next one.  Hmm, this one needs third person singular masculine in the accusative.  No problem.  I know this one, it goes like...
Brain:  YMCA, it's fun to stay at the YMCA
Me:  oh help!  come on, I know this stuff.  How do you say 'with her' in Croatian?
Brain:  I'm a Pepper, you're a Pepper, he's a Pepper, she's a Pepper
Me & Brain:  wouldn't you like to be a Pepper too!  Be a Pepper, drink Dr. Pepper! 

It's grammar-jingle-dyslexia.  With flying monkeys and hula hoops.

If the teacher only knew what was going on in my head......

23 April 2011

Squid for my sister

I'm posting a picture for my sister who has a special place in her heart for squid.  Especially big huge squid with eyes like jawbreakers!  Like this one, which a fisherman caught on a hook in the Adriatic Sea past Porec, and which then made its way to my kitchen.  This fellow was about as long as my arm and weighed about 2kg before I dressed him for dinner.  The suctions on his tentacles kept sticking to the cutting board and to my hands...de-suctioning them from my hands produced this weird SHLOOP noise.  As per usual, we ate every last morsel of this meal before I remembered that I needed to take a photo :-(  But trust me, it was very yummy :-)
Note to sister:  you can double click on the photo for a huge close-up view.

Second note:  next time you're swimming in the sea and you think that's seaweed brushing up against your ankle...think again!

08 April 2011

Channeling my inner Nancy Drew

I've been going over lots of the fiction I've written over the years and I've noticed that everything eventually turns into a mystery.  You might think there's nothing wrong with this, and you'd be right.  Mysteries are great to read and I myself have enjoyed reading countless mysteries in my lifetime.  The weird thing is that I never set out to write a mystery.  I start out with something completely different in mind, and somewhere along the line BAMMO!  A mystery emerges.

Think of it this way.  Imagine that every time you get in the car, you end up at the dry-cleaners.  Even if you intend to drive to the grocery store, or to work, or the dentist's office or the emergency room at the hospital.  You end up at the dry-cleaners.  And unless you are living in a Stephen King novel, at some point you'd get a little weirded-out.  Yes?  So, I'm a little weirded-out about it. 

Come to think of it though, I did spend an inordinate amount of my childhood with Nancy Drew, the Hardy Boys, The Three Investigators, and my most favourite of all:  Encylopedia Brown!  I even thought about an awesome TV series where Nancy Drew and Encylopedia Brown grow up, get married and have kids who are...(get ready for it) crime-solving teenagers! 

So, I guess I should just recognize the pattern, and go with it.  I'm going to take my current work-in-progress (working title:  The Hypatia Curse...but don't worry, that won't be the real title ;-)  and turn it into a true mystery.  But no angels or werewolves or psychics or vampires.  Okay, maybe one vampire and one psychic.  We'll see how it goes.

I feel better already.  Whew!  Mystery solved.

01 April 2011

Cherry countdown begins.

The cherry tree behind our building blossomed last week!  As you can see in my picture, the cherry has white blossoms.  Thousands of them.  And in just 30 days, the tree will be covered in dark red, sweet, fat, huge, juicy cherries.

29 March 2011

Strange but true. Honest.

Do you know what Croatians call the "@" symbol?  In English, it is referred to as the 'at' sign.  So we'd give our e-mail address as:  myname AT something.com.  Well, around here, they don't call it the 'at' sign.  Nope.  If you ask someone for their e-mail address, here's what you'd get:

myname MONKEY SIGN something.com.

I didn't believe this at first because I thought people were just trying to pull my leg due to my obvious foreignality (I just made up that word).  But apparently it is true that they call the @ symbol, the MONKEY SIGN and I'm told it's because the symbol looks like a monkey.

Now I've been described as a pretty creative person, but I can't make out the monkey.  Maybe a whale eye, a sort of snail, a squished bagel or a strange donut.  But the monkey remains illusive for me.  I'm guessing it'll all become clear to me once I get a handle on some more grammar (?)

It is definitely more fun to speak e-mail addresses out loud using the monkey sign.  Try saying your e-mail address out loud right now using the monkey sign. 

Tell me that didn't make you grin from ear-to-ear :-)

23 March 2011

Granny Square Blanket: Done.

I finished my granny-square blanket a few months ago, but forgot to post the picture.  In case anyone is interested, I used a J-crochet hook.  Final blanket measures about 1.5x1 metres, and contains 24 squares.

Nice and warm.  And washes easily in the washing machine!

Front View

Back View

16 March 2011

Homemade Nut Butters---- YUM!

I fully intended to provide a picture of the lovely golden hazelnut butter I made yesterday.  I had the camera sitting in the kitchen.  I put the nut butter into a nice white bowl so it would photograph beautifully.  But then I took a tiny taste.  Then another.  Then another.  And, well, pretty soon it was all gone.  All that was left was the bowl.  And I licked that clean, so there really wasn't anything left to photograph. 

I don't make nut butters often because it is a long process, and I usually eat the entire thing in one sitting.  So I make it as a treat.  Around these parts, nut trees grow all over the place.  Hazelnuts, almonds and walnuts grow in places like parking lots, parks, backyards.  So getting fresh picked nuts is quite easy. 

Making nut butters is simple.  Roast the nuts.  Cool.  Blend in a blender until smooth (I like mine kinda crunchy).  Add a bit of oil to make it blend smoothly.  I like mine plain, but you can add some vanilla or honey or sugar.  That's it.

The biggest nuisance for me is cracking the nuts.  I've got a nutcracker that cracks exactly one nut at a time.  It takes me two hours to crack one kilo of nuts.  After separating the shells from the nut-meat, I end up with half a kilo of shelled nuts.  Half a kilo of nuts will make about half a litre of nut butter.  That isn't a lot.

I only made 200 grams of hazelnut butter yesterday.  So I don't feel too horrible about eating the whole thing in one sitting.  But I wish I had more...so I could take a picture.

07 March 2011

Croatian Saffron anyone?

I watched a show on television last night about saffron.  Saffron is the world's most expensive spice at about 3000-5000 euro per kilo.  It is made up from the three thread-like stigmas found in the middle of the purple crocus flower.  It takes something like 225,000 stigmas to make a kilo of saffron.  Each flower must be hand-picked, and each stigma must be gently pulled out of the delicate flower by hand.  Lots and lots of work.  But worth it.

I'm writing about it here, because they grow saffron in parts of India, Greece, Morocco and Iran.  But it is also grown in Spain, and interestingly in Sardinia and the Abruzzo part of Italy.  This last part is very interesting to me because there are many parts of Croatia that would be well suited for saffron cultivation, and yet I don't think it is being done here.  Of course I'll check this out, but as far as I know it isn't being done.  Maybe I'm naive about this stuff, but it seems like an awesome cash crop that could probably be grown nicely on many of the Croatian islands, and pretty much anywhere along the coastal regions.

I've never actually tasted saffron in my entire life.  I'm planning on trying some soon to see what all the hoopla is about!

28 February 2011

Curly hair challenges

Ok.  I have curly hair.  If you've got curly hair, then you'll know what I'm talking about when I say that it is difficult to find a good hairdresser.  You can't cut curly hair the way you cut straight hair.  Honestly.  Because curly hair, well, it curls when it is dry.  So you can cut wet bangs perfectly straight across.  But they ain't drying that way. And no two curly people are the same.  Actually, each individual curl is unique.

I had the incredible good fortune to find possibly the world's best curly-hair hairdresser back when I was in highschool in Canada.  Tony had two great things going for him:  he loved to cut hair, and his wife (and business partner) had curly hair!  What a combination!  Tony always knew exactly what to with my hair.  Long, short,...it didn't matter.  Tony made magic happen each and every time.  And that's why he was my hairdresser for over 20 years. 

Jump ahead to Croatia.  Tony still makes magic happen at his Salon Profilo in Canada, but I'm about five thousand kilometers away.  I hope Tony is not reading this because I'm going to make an admission that would make him cry (and laugh a lot!)  I haven't been able to find anyone who knows how to cut curly hair yet.  So for nearly 3 years....I've been cutting my own hair.  Folks, it ain't pretty.

Here's what I've learned about cutting your own hair:

-cut it dry, because you'll always cut it too short when it is wet
-trim off a tiny bit, then wait a day, and trim again.  Don't try to do it all at once.
-don't cut your hair when you are in a bad mood.
-don't cut your hair when you are in a really good mood either
-cut it when you are in a sensible, logical mood.
-buy several nice hats for all the seasons...you'll need these until things grow out a bit.

 Note to self:  gotta change that profile picture of myself...there's a lot less curl now, and hair in general.  Or maybe I'll just photoshop a hat onto my head!

24 January 2011

I made it!

Update on my exams......

I made it through with flying colours and can now proceed on to the next level.  I'm happy, but totally exhaustified (that's a new word I made up...it consists of exhausted + horrified = exhaustified.  It means:  to be horrifically exhausted.)  There's another week of classes, then a very very early spring break, and then back to hitting the books.

Danas, nema sunce (today, there's no sun).  And it is cold.  And might snow.  As a Canadian though, I live with the eternal hope that the cold weather won't arrive tomorrow and instead will be replaced with sunshine, warmth, blooming tulips, green trees, and heck...maybe even wild strawberries popping up in the grass.  A girl's gotta have dreams.

14 January 2011

Final exam!!

Hard to believe, but the end of the first semester of my language class is just around the corner.  I'm studying hard for the final exam that takes place over two days next week.  Day one will be the written exam, and then Day two will be the oral exam.  If all goes well, then the second semester begins in February and goes right through to the middle of June.  I can tell that the language is starting to settle into my brain and I'm able to think a little bit in Croatian.  I can even make out the newspaper headlines most of the time, and reading signs on the street is becoming a little more clear.  I try my best to read the subtitles on TV...but they talk too fast! 

All in all, it feels pretty positive!

Okay, back to studying.  I'll post test results as soon as they are available.

Fingers crossed....

03 January 2011

It is 2011

Happy New Year 2011 !

I hope that everyone had a very good holiday season. And I'm sending out wishes that 2011 is awesome for everyone. I mean awesome in a good and healthy way. I've definitely got resolutions for the year ahead. I know that lots of people hate resolutions, but I love them.


1. Get fluent in Croatian. I mean FLUENT
2. Start writing my cookbook
3. Take more pictures of the food I'm cooking (instead of eating the food before I get the camera ready ;-)
4. Eat more figs.
5. Find a steady source of good olive oil (the mellow kind that I love)
6. Spend more time at the seaside in the summer
7. Find a place that carries shoes in my size (story about shoe sizes in Europe to follow later)

And that's it! Well, for this year. Looks like a very do-able list to me.

Onwards and upwards!