Dinner bell

Lately, it's been all about the food.  We already ate good, but I've been trying to up my game a little.  I'm a cook that can go in the kitchen, pull out a bunch of ingredients and make something that will be delicious about 90% of the time.  I know how things taste and I can imagine how they'll taste together.  I am less efficient at following recipes.  

I've been trying to learn to follow recipes in Julia Child's cookbooks with results that are...meh.  I've thrown out two genoise cakes and while we've eaten most of the rest, it's just been kind of struggling through it.  And, for some reason, I burn my hand about half the time because I'm paying too much attention to the recipe and not enough to the equipment.  So, I'm stepping back a bit and trying other cookbooks.  

Cooking is a distraction, and I'm throwing my whole self into it, so I spent yesterday in the kitchen.  I made the cake that ended up being the texture of cornbread.  But, I also made a delicious chicken stew that I served over mashed potatoes.  

And, I braised a leek.  We didn't grow up with leeks, but I've been experimenting, putting them in different things like potato soup and sautéing them with a sliced mushroom to fill an omelette.  Yesterday, I found this braised leek recipe with a pancetta dressing.  Who knew that's what a cooked leek tasted like.  It was just a one off thing to see if we'd like it, not part of a meal, but I ate the whole thing as an afternoon snack.

And, I made a pot of sauce with chicken sausage.  Not sure how that's going to be.  It was very greasy when I tasted it, so am hoping I can scoop some of that off now that it's been in the fridge.  The sausage has been delicious on pizza, so this is just an experiment to see how it goes.  

Last week, Rob's 2006 F150 hit it's first repair that exceeded the value of the vehicle, so he'd been shopping diligently for a new truck.  Saturday morning, he stumbled up on an ad for one that was almost too good to be true.  We went and looked at it as soon as the dealership opened and brought it home with us.  I can tell he's very excited and has been playing with it like a kid with a Christmas toy.  Every so often, I realize I don't know where he is and he comes in to tell me some new thing he's discovered about it.  

I'm going to be out for a couple weeks.  I'm having my eyes done...not for beauty, but for utility.  I'm having cataract surgery next Monday and the Monday after.  The one thing that no one has been able to tell me is how I'm supposed to work between visits when my eyeglass prescription doesn't work anymore. That's going to be an adventure.  Everyone says this is going to be a big nothing, and I am trusting in that and am not really even nervous about it.  I can hardly see now, so anything is going to be an improvement.  Unfortunately, due to a secondary eye condition, I can't get the Cadillac of lenses that would keep me from needing glasses.

Everybody have a great couple of weeks!  I wanted to leave you with this thought from Adam Rippon.  



Turn up the heat!

I'll be right up front, nothing happened last week except trying to stay warm.  I was "under the weather" (not quite sick, but not quite feeling up to par).  Fortunately, I'd spent last Sunday making soup and chili and other delicious warm foods, so I didn't need to get much done except clean up after us and Rob helped with that.  Fortunately, there wasn't any precipitation with this hard freeze, so we weren't shut in.  

Monday was a holiday.  It's new for my company to offer MLK day and I forgot and worked half a day.  At noon, I was like why am I not getting any emails?  Then I checked and no one appeared to be logged in, so I double checked my connection to make sure I was logged in...and then I went to check and sure enough, holiday.  So, I got the afternoon off and spent it knitting on a sweater I'm making.  Tuesday, I worked, but it was 15 degrees that morning with a high in the mid 20's and I convinced Rob to take some of that paid time off he's been hoarding.  By Wednesday afternoon, it was all over and we had sun Weds afternoon, all day Thursday and Friday morning.  Then it was cloudy and while it was cold, it stayed above freezing.  

Both greenhouses did great!  I had bluetooth thermometers in both, so didn't have to open them to make sure it was warm inside.  After the first night, I added some weight around the perimeter of the portable greenhouse to keep the wind from blowing under the flaps that sit on the ground and that kept it several degrees higher the next night.  When I opened it on Thursday for some sun, everyone was happy.  So happy that a tomato was ripening.  

Through the whole thing, Bella stayed warm and curled up in her bed.  She's been having a little trouble with her mobility.  She's not as quick to get up after being still for a few hours and she doesn't run much and jumping up on the furniture was getting harder.  The vet suggested Librela.  It's a monthly injection, which will be a pain, but the night of the first injection, she started doing things she hadn't done in 6 months, like jump off the sofa, run across the room and take a flying leap onto the chair and another leap to her favorite perch to observe me from...it's so nice to be someone's everything.  She doesn't want me to touch or cuddle her, but she doesn't want me out of her line of sight either.  Weird little dog.

While it was so cold, I really didn't waste...I mean wisely spend much time cleaning house, so Saturday morning, I made up for it.  While I was doing that, Rob pulled out his lego to do some maintenance and to add a new piece he'd assembled during his extra time off.  I got to see them and he has some very detailed pieces.  This is the Simpson's house.

And, the RV.

And, some of the other pieces.  The light blue truck and horse trailer in the back are the new pieces.

And, the cabin he says we'll live in one day.

The lego from my childhood has grown up to be a very expensive and complicated adult amusement.  Rob can spend hours working on a piece.  

Sydney asked me for a secret recipe the other day, one that's not written down.  I gave it to her, but secrets have a price.  

Everybody have a great week!  The weather says everyone in the US is going to have warmer weather this week.  I hope it's nice and safe and warm wherever you are.  



Baby, it's cold outside!

All is good here.  Hope it is where you are as well.  The temperatures I'm seeing in the news  leave few us us truly comfortable...or safe.  Climate change is coming for us all.  

In Austin, anytime it drops below freezing, people head to the grocery to fill their pantries for Armageddon.  It's crazy how so many freak out.  We did our regular grocery run yesterday and ran into shelves like this all over the store.  It didn't really affect us.  I was able to find everything we needed by sometimes buying a different brand or size, but I still don't get this urgent need to hoard food for a freeze.  

There wasn't much to do yesterday, so I cooked.  I made a batch of homemade croutons out of old bread, a big pot of beef/vegetable soup, a pot of chili, chicken korma, a batch of oatmeal/chocolate cookies, and bread.  Even if we lose power, we will eat good.  

Saturday, we covered the greenhouses.  I had to adjust the greenhouse cozy to fit a larger greenhouse this year, so I did that early Saturday morning and by mid afternoon, we had my two covered as well as Rob's.  We were in goodwill one day and I found a nice quilted bedspread with a poly batting for $8.  I decided my time to make quilts for the larger greenhouse was worth more than that, so we were buying them when it was warm and no one else was thinking about it.  The last few times we've been in goodwill, there were no warm blankets.  This morning, both my greenhouses are at 36*F.  That's not very warm, but it's above freezing and the plants should be alright.  I opened the small one yesterday to check on it and I swear, it was warmer in there than the digital thermometer said it was, so I'm not really worried.  Also, the humidity in there is 80%.  If it was that cold, that water would have condensed and fallen to the ground and the humidity would drop, so I remain hopeful that the tropicals will be fine.

We went out for dinner on Saturday night.  Nothing fancy, just some Chinese at a favorite place but it was just us with no distractions and that's always nice.  On the way home, we saw the most magnificent sunset as the cold air moved in.  It was like the sky was on fire.  

I have a Christmas cactus that's late.  Someone suggested that maybe the cactus was on time and Christmas was early.  I like that idea.  

The plants are packed in that greenhouse, but with the bigger portable greenhouse, there's a path that goes all the way to the back.  Last year when it was freezing, I could not have gotten to the back if I'd tried.  

Last week, I identified an opportunity at work.  We have a small issue that only affects a few customers, but is annying and costs us a good bit of money every year.  It's too small to get the company's attention for a fix, but it needs a consistent process because everybody that bumps into it takes a different approach to solving it.  I pointed that out to my manager and instead of sending out an email under his name to ask if his peers agreed that we needed a solution, he forwarded my email.  That felt good.  And, the reply emails that started with some version of "I agree with Lane..." really felt good.  Now, I just gotta think of a way to solve it...oops!  Don't offer what you don't have, I guess.

I saw this and thought it was funny enough to share.  

Everybody have a great week!  Hunker down and stay warm like Bella is.  Spring will come...eventually, but we might have to chant "I believe in spring, I believe in spring..."  If we believe enough, spring will come.  



Missed you!

I didn't get around to posting over the holiday weeks.  It was such a busy time.  We had a lot of fun and Rob and I got a whole lot done and I had to get back to work to get some rest.  I don't think we took any pictures Christmas Day except the appetizers, not even one of the four of us together.  We opened presents and ate and shared memories of Christmas past and laughed a lot!  I even managed to keep up with the dishes so there wasn't a mountain to do after lunch.  

On New Years Eve, I made a big meal that was hardly fit to eat.  Not sure why, but I must have used up all my cooking mojo on Christmas.  The roast had no flavor, the asparagus had the wrong flavor and the rolls were dry.  It was what it was and I have made it up to Rob with several good meals since.  

One of the tings I wanted for Christmas was new pots and pans.  I researched them and picked what I wanted and had it in my shopping cart, but I kept going back to the fact that my pots and pans are really good ones and they hardly burn anything, heat evenly, and cool quickly, so instead of hitting that buy button, I started researching how I could clean them up and make them look almost like new.  I scrubbed the bottoms with barkeepers friend and it worked a wonder!  Here's a before and after. (If you use bartenders friend to clean a lot, be sure to wear gloves.  It has an acid in it and all the skin peeled from my left hand.)

And, I bought them all new knobs and handles.  Now they're bright and shiny and just like new.  And, it cost about a third of what the new pans were going to cost.  

We worked in the yard most of this last weekend, moving things around.  And, I forgot to take any pictures.  Several years ago, I decided to divide my plants and put a little of this here and there and across the yard so that when it bloomed, there would be some of it all over.  And, I accomplished that and it looked nice, and filled the garden with things I knew would thrive.  But, now, I have some new plants that I want to use and I have several Iris that didn't bloom, presumably because they're planted too deep.  Some of them turned out to be planted in some really hard and nasty clay and I think that's as responsible for no bloom as being planted too deep.  So, I dug up most of my iris, cut the tops and planted them in "store bought" soil and am hoping they do better this year.  They all had really healthy root systems, so I'm hopeful.  I wanted to do this before our first hard freeze, which we're expecting next weekend.  Almost everything will die to the ground and I wanted to be able to see the plants I was moving before that happened so I could make sure I wasn't planting something on top of something else.  

Sydney asked me to make her an Asian themed quilt, so I pulled out all my Asian fabrics and found a pattern I like.  I'm not following the pattern exactly and drafted my own layout that takes advantage of some of the larger prints and larger blocks.  I've gotten a half dozen blocks made, some prettier than others.  It's going to be 25 blocks and I have a small bin packed full of fabric, so it's going to have a lot of variety

Okay, that's it for me today.  I hope you're having a wonderful new year and finding things you enjoy.  Tell someone you love them and really, really mean it.