Tuesday, June 08, 2010


Hi all!

I'm bored with Blogger, so I'm packing up my posts, photos, and comments, and moving to http://www.forksandneedles.wordpress.com.

The Wordpress premade themes are prettier, and it seems like you can do a lot more stuff. Goodbye to Blogger!

I've imported my old posts to Wordpress, and I think it went well. There is some odd formatting in some of the old posts, but I don't know if I'll go back to fix them. What's past is past.


Monday, June 07, 2010

No Thinking or Resting, only Doing

When I'm by myself, I like to stay busy. Well, I like to keep busy when other people are around, but they usually want to talk or some other silly stuff, so it slows down my need for busy-ness.

This past weekend, Porkchop was gone, and is still gone doing nonsense like this:

Yeah, she's at Disney World. She drove down with her older brother and his family. I declined the invitation because I really do dislike Disney World. Also it's June. In Florida.

So, I've been keeping busy.

On Saturday, I biked to the Tower Grove Farmers' market and hit up the free yoga class. I also picked up some strawberries for jam-making and green onions. After lunch and a supply run for canning lids and sugar, I made four jars of jam (sorry for the poor photo quality; all pictures were taken with my phone camera):

After making the jam, I had to do clean-up, which I do not enjoy. And then it was out to the garden for pruning and tying tomatoes, and then to the community garden for weeding and scoping out work for Sunday.

This is the star tomato plant in our backyard garden:

I have high hopes for this quick-growing plant!

Sunday, I awoke bright and early and started the day with making tea...compost tea. Our tumbler has holes that allow compost juice to collect in the base. You just unscrew the cap, dump it out, and mix it with water (1 part compost juice to 10 parts water). It is highly nutritious for plants, and can be one of the most foul things ever.

Our compost is kind of ripe at the moment, and the compost juice stunk to high heaven. I'm not a delicate person, but I thought I was going to lose my breakfast. The slugs didn't help, especially the dead slug floating in the juice. While I was mixing up the tea, I thought it was the most disgusting thing I had ever smelled. (Note foreshadowing.)

So, my work in the community garden started with weeding the tomato bed and hauling in compost tea for it (two trips down the alley carrying one of those pails that holds 40 pounds of cat litter). The day progressed to working on the potato bed. I added the second tier and filled it with as much dirt as I could before my back started protesting:

I then staked and tied as many tomato plants as I could using my stakes from last year, as well as some that I found lying around the community garden. After that, I planted green and black beans. Finally, I ended my day with installing a fence in the cucumber bed. The little sour gherkins are desperate for something to climb! And, who knows, maybe the big cucumber plants will use it too. Nothing fancy, just fencing left from last year:

In between all of this work, I did a lot of weeding. In total, I spent about four hours in the community garden.

I'm still impressed by the squash plants. HUGE!

And the cantaloupe vine already has flowers!

After garden work, I did some clean up around the house. This included dumping a bin that Porkchop had filled with leaves and left in the basement doorway (yeah, I'm looking at YOU, Porkchop!). The bin had filled with water and was even sprouting some sunflowers from the bird feeder seed. So, this bin had been sitting around for at least a month, growing fouler with each passing day. When I picked it up, dozens of mosquitoes flew out of it. Great - not only was it sprouting sunflowers, it was breeding mosquitoes. I drug the bin to the back corner of our yard and dumped it. And the stench that arose was THE most horrible smell EVER. EVER!!!

When I went out in the yard to do other stuff, I would get a whiff of the smell and hope that no one else could smell it. Our neighbors already think we're strange, and I don't need another mark against me. But, honestly, who could NOT smell that smell? Even with a nose swollen on the inside from allergies, I could smell it with no problem. Ugh... On the bright side, the leaves should be a wonderful addition to the compost bin (after they've dried out some and are less stinky).

Once the outside work was taken care of, I settled inside and poached a chicken. Using the stock and the dark meat, I made chao xa ga (Vietnamese version of chicken congee). For the past month or so, I've been craving a simple chicken and rice dish that my mom used to make, but I wanted it to be a little different. When I saw this recipe, I knew it was what I had been tasting in my head. The whole process took quite some time, but it was well worth the effort.

With the rest of the chicken, I made a pesto-ish chicken salad that I had for lunch today. I also froze two cups of shredded chicken and 8 cups of chicken broth (and that was after using 9 cups for the recipe!). If you're looking for good poaching directions, I suggest this post. Seriously, use a whole chicken that was raised locally...don't buy cut up parts at the big grocery store. After driving through Tyson country in Arkansas, there is no way I can buy that crap ever again. Ever smell a commercial chicken house? It's filth. Pure, unadulterated filth. Chickens are not meant to be raised in that manner. Now that I think about it, commercial chicken houses smell even worse than the gross leaf bin did.

Anyway....I also had a special treat yesterday from the Mud House: an iced caramel latte (decaf) and a piece of gooey butter cake. The cake had cherries in it from trees in our neighborhood. Nice! Now I want to plant a cherry tree for sure!

That's it! Have a great week!

Wednesday, June 02, 2010

If It's Summertime, It's Allergytime

Every summer I try to deny that I have allergies, and every summer I feel like itchy, congested crap. Alas, I broke out the Allegra too late, so I stayed home today and did nothing but read and accidentally leave on stove burners (sounds like fun, but it wasn't).

Summer brings the allergies, but it also brings the good things. Like lots of strawberries:

For a Memorial Day gathering, Porkchop and I made ice cream using our backyard strawberries. Porkchop pureed the berries, and I cooked up the custard base. When it was combined and churned into creamy goodness, it was the best ice cream ever. Seriously.

This year I tripled the number of sugar snap pea vines, so I've had quite a few to gather. I never get sick of these treats:

Last Friday, I took this photo of one of our backyard garden beds:

After the sun and rain of the weekend, these plants have doubled in height. Yesterday I had to remove the plastic top because the center tomato plant was pushing against it. I'll have to post more recent photos soon.

Porkchop's potatoes are doing fantastically well, too, with lots more growth since this photo:

At the community garden, the squash have really taken off. I planted butternut, delicata, and kabocha squash. This is the kabocha, which already has flower buds on it!

Unfortunately, many of the tomato plants are struggling at the garden. I hope to dump some compost on them this weekend in an attempt to jumpstart their growth. The community garden tomato plants are so far behind mine, and they were all planted at the same time.

Speaking of the community garden, it's a monster to manage. I spend 2-3 hours a week weeding it, and by the time I'm done I don't have the patience to do more important things like staking the tomatoes or building a cucumber trellis. So, I will prioritize this weekend and put weeding at the bottom of the list.

While walking home from the community garden on Sunday, I spied this tomato plant growing by my neighbor's steps in the alley:

It is growing in a 1" strip of dirt, and I don't know how it's surviving. It's even producing flowers! I hope no one pulls it up because I want to see how it fares.

Other Fun Things
Sunday afternoon, Porkchop and I went on a little fishing trip with Suzi and Dale to a pond outside of Nashville, Illinois (Dale's hometown). It was quiet, cool, and green, and the perfect antidote to the muggy St. Louis weather.

Here is Porkchop posing with one of her catches:

And here I am with my first and only catch:

I hadn't fished in more than 20 years, and Suzi and Dale's dad gave me excellent instructions. Even though I only caught one little guy (note that all caught fish were released), it was a fun time.

Some Old News
The bar on the corner that was becoming the bane of our existence shuttered last month! However, it was not a result of our protest petition. Instead, it seems the bar operator wasn't paying rent and was perhaps intimidating the building owner (the woman in her 70s who used to run the place). The granddaughter of the building owner surrendered the liquor license just to get the tenants out. While it's sad to hear of these circumstances, I am quite happy that the bar is closed. Our corner is quiet again, and I don't worry so much about the people walking outside our house.

In late April, we took Keetah to the vet because of some "inappropriate urination" and her recent weight loss. It turns out she is now a hyperthyroid, kidney insufficient cat. The good news is that the thyroid medication is working great, and Keetah has put nearly a pound back on (she had lost about 4 pounds!). Her kidney levels are holding steady, too. So, as the vet told me, Keetah isn't going to drop dead any time soon. Whew!

On that note, have a good night and a great week!

Friday, April 16, 2010

Weekend Night Sounds

It's Friday night, which means in a couple of hours, our block will look and sound like this:

This place is essentially two doors down from us. It's annoying, and the atmosphere outside the bar often feels unsafe. The bar used to be a sedate place where neighborhood drunks went, but due to a change in ownership, it is now hopping.

It's a complicated situation with the liquor license, and I don't want to give full details here because it's boring. A few folks in the area are working on a protest petition, and I sincerely hope we're able to get the liquor license revoked.

But on to more fun things...

We've been doing a lot of neighborhood cleaning/gardening activities recently. Last Saturday was the cleanup blitz, and we worked on our alley with six other people. We picked up a lot of trash, raked up a ton of leaves, and generally made things look neater. On Sunday, we attended our community garden organizational meeting, and are gearing up to plant things tomorrow.

Yes, planting day finally! We will be planting in the community garden and in our own backyard.

Actually, we've already planted some things at our place. Here are radishes, spinach, and sugar snap peas:

This photo was taken last week, and things are much bigger already. We also have onions and beets coming up in this bed.

In the other beds, we have a ton of volunteer plants: self-seeded tomatoes, squash, peppers, and other unknown things. I've been pulling up these volunteers because I already have seedlings that I want to plant, and it is really quite sad. I decided to leave a couple of tomato plants, and today I found them chopped off!! Damned cut worms at it already!! Or maybe squirrels...grrrr.

We have so many unknown squash plants coming up, this year I will remember to not put squash seeds into the compost bin!

Our most interesting volunteer is this guy:

At first I thought it was cabbage, and then cauliflower, but it is now much taller and has broccoli-looking things forming. This plant, and two others that I pulled out, are growing from leaves that I had composted (in situ, maybe). It is really quite strange. I remember getting broccoli in the fall through Fair Shares, and I remember it having leaves and some stalk associated with it. I'm letting this one grow just for fun. If I get some broccoli out of it, even sweeter.

Speaking of sweet, we have a million strawberry flowers!

Okay, not a million, but very close. We let these plant run loose and haven't been cutting the runners off. I'm surprised we have so many flowers.

And check out these flowers:

Blueberries! Very exciting.

Other food stuff...

Last week I mixed up some olive oil dough from Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes a Day, and Porkchop made us mini pizzas using the dough:

This is mine and is pesto and sundried tomato (actually ovendried because these are tomatoes we grew last summer, dried, and froze). We enjoyed these pizzas so much, we had them two nights in a row.

This week has been all about beef brisket. We had Suzi and Dale over for dinner on Sunday, and I cooked an 8 pound brisket using this Smitten Kitchen recipe (we also had mashed potatoes, roasted asparagus, fresh baked bread, and pound cake with strawberries picked last summer and whipped cream). The brisket was delicious, but there was SO much of it. If you combined all the previous times in my life that I've eaten brisket, it would be less than how much I've consumed this week. We have 1 and half pieces left, and I do hope Porkchop takes care of those.

I've also been baking a lot of my favorite whole wheat banana bread. This is the second Friday night in a row I've made it. But, this loaf is for tomorrow's community garden planting.

I can't wait to start having fresh vegetables again!


Porkchop found a perfect switch in the yard:

She and her switch are not to be messed with.

Keetah is the most photogenic of all of us:

It's too bad my head is in the corner of this picture. Otherwise, it would be perfect.

Have a great weekend!

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Happy Things from the Past Month

We've had some good times since I last posted. I'm saving the best for last, but from earliest to latest is:

Watching Antiques Roadshow with Keetah and Porkchop. I don't know why I look so joyful, so excited in this photo...maybe because I had a Monday night free to sit on the couch and watch people's junk turn into treasures. (Antiques Roadshow = my all-time favorite show.)

Getting donuts from the Donut Drive-In. Sometimes, you need a good donut and some chocolate milk.

Going to the zoo after eating donuts!

Playing scrabble with Keetah. She's a tough competitor.

Getting a new bathroom (sort of). A before picture, minus the sink and medicine cabinet:

The bathroom after all of Porkchop's hard work:

A million times better! I actually enjoy being in the bathroom now (you'll note the bathroom is tiny; the new sink and cabinet make it seem much more spacious).

Knitting Little Sister's Dress for my college roommate's baby.

My college roommate gave me the mug below when she went to Wyoming. It's weird to think I've had this mug for over ten years, and that my roommate now has two kids. Whenever I use the mug, I think of my old roommate. Today, I used it for tea while enjoying a piece of whole wheat banana bread (my favorite banana bread recipe - the whole wheat adds a perfect nuttiness).

Best News of All

My eye stopped twitching!

It happened nearly a month ago, a little after my last post. Early on, I was worried about telling people, thinking I'd jinx it and then be stuck twitching again.

Maybe it was coincident, maybe not....But the night it stopped twitching, I was popping popcorn on the stove. When the test kernels popped, hot oil spattered up on my face, even though I was shielding the pot with a lid. The oil hit my face, including a spot near my eye. I yelled from the pain (but then went back to popping).

Later that night, my eye twitch started sputtering out. When I was getting ready for bed, I thought perhaps it had stopped. So I checked the mirror and was elated to find it was true!! But sure enough, it started again. And then stopped again.

While the constant twitch has stopped, my eye and surrounding muscles seem to be healing still. There are still bad twitch days, like last week when my mouth twitched for two days. And there are times when my face has the pins-and-needles sensation you get when blood rushes back to a foot that has fallen asleep. Yesterday, the entire area around my right eye, including my forehead, twitched a few times, which was quite disconcerting.

I am so thankful the constant twitching stopped, and continues to remain stopped. I'm especially glad that it stopped before my Botox appointment! Since I had my twitch for more than a month, I expect it will take at least 3 months for my face to feel normal again.

Thanks for all of your thoughts while I was a twitchy mess!

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Pervis Kicked our Butts

This week marks a new 6-week period of classes at the Y. Last time we took a step class, and this time we decided upon step & sculpt.

And, it's just what I needed.

Not for the exercise value so much, but the entertainment value. However, we definitely got a bigger workout than we bargained for!

Our instructor, Pervis, is a total hard ass.

She's very particular about how you do things, and she'll work with you until you get it right (which is great). And she expects people to count, but you have to do it the right way. Our last instructor was totally laid back and didn't care what the heck we did.

And, dang, Pervis has muscles. We were doing bicep curls with a resistance band, and I could barely stretch it up past my elbows. Pervis could pull it up to her shoulders! She totally showed us up. My arms already feel like concrete, but I bet Pervis doesn't feel a thing.

At the end of class, she asked our names and shook our hands.

So now there's no turning back. We can't not go! We shook hands! She knows our names!

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Falling like a Brick

Our neighborhood is never boring. Whether it's collisions at the intersection by our house (at least two every month), people crashing stolen cars and then helicopters looking for the fleeing driver (last week), or someone being arrested for pooping in front of Save-a-Lot (a couple months ago), there is always something happening to keep things interesting.

This evening as we drove home, we saw this scene on our block:

A crap ton of bricks fell off the top of this building! When we drove by, the police tape wasn't up, so we think it had just happened. I hope no one was hurt! There are always at least a dozen people hanging out in front of the Family Dollar/Nails 2000/Rent-A-Center strip.

Also, what you don't see is the vehicle that was damaged from a fender bender in front of Save-a-Lot. Oh my gosh! Two accidents at once!

Two Thumbs Down on Three Monkeys

I've always been interested in trying Three Monkeys on Morganford, and I had my chance on Saturday. Porkchop didn't want to go to Local Harvest, and I didn't want to go to St. Louis Bread, so we compromised on Three Monkeys.

But we wish we hadn't. While it's true that we ordered items that the restaurant isn't exactly known for, we still shouldn't have felt sick afterwards. Three Monkeys is supposed to have good pizza, but we went for wraps. Porkchop had a Turkey Club, and I had a Crab Cake. We both had french fries.

Despite the "light" description, the wraps were heavy. And the french fries tasted like they had been marinated in grease and then fried in grease and then drizzled in grease. French fries don't have to taste like that!

Ugh! We both felt siiiiiiiick right after eating (and we only ate half of our wraps).

Eye Update
Thanks to everyone for your concern and kind thoughts! It is still twitching....boo!

So, I don't know if I've written this before, but my lower eyelid spasms every second, sometimes more. It never stops. It's there right when I wake up, and it goes until I go to sleep (I think it probably happens during my sleep too). Also, something I haven't mentioned before...sometimes my mouth twitches as well.

Based on this information, the eye specialist I saw this morning said I probably have right hemifacial spasm. If you looked at the link, you'll see that I might (or probably: most likely) be looking at a lifetime of this spasm.

This afternoon I had an MRI to see if there is something pressing on my facial nerve. Most often, it's a blood vessel. Unfortunately, the vessel is often so small, you can't even see it on imaging.

This is all very hard to take. I really don't want to have this forever, nor do I want it to get worse. I have Botox scheduled for March 18, and I hope it works. However, I don't want to have Botox forever! I just want my non-twitching face back.

There is a support group for people with hemifacial spasms. Reading the welcome message was comforting, but also disturbing. It has played havoc with my emotional well being. It has started to control my life, my emotions, and my thoughts. My vibrant smile has turned to a frown.


Monday, February 15, 2010

Self Study

Besides knitting on a secret project, watching the Olympics, and working on school work, Porkchop and I fit some fun things into the past weekend.

We kicked it off with dinner Friday at Thai Basil Spice, followed by enjoying some wine and the Olympics opening ceremony. The ceremony pretty much sealed our desire to move to Canada. Plaid-clad punk fiddlers? kd lang performing the closing song? Slam poetry celebrating diversity? I want to move there!

Saturday was full of grocery shopping and watching Porkchop's hockey game. Oh, and people watching from our house! The Mardi Gras parade was Saturday, and people in our neighborhood (about a mile from the parade) really got into it. It was great to see people walking around decked out in beads and fun hats. Quite a few floats went down our street on the way to the parade, so we got to enjoy some of the parade without being crushed by drunken revelers.

While I normally stay home for Porkchop's Sunday morning hockey game, I went this time. I'm glad I did because Porkchop had the most awesome goal! She was on the goal line - so parallel to the net - and was able to launch it in the top corner as she spun around! Everyone was super impressed.

After the game we lunched at La Dolce Via. Even though they were out of the tortas and I had to settle for an egg scramble, it was super delicious. Here I am living it up with a cup of decaf coffee and a slice of their zabione. Yum!

Sunday evening, we made jumbalaya using Emeril's recipe. We increased the amount of vegetables (1 onion, 1 green pepper, 1 celery stalk, and a can of diced tomatoes) and give it two thumbs way up. It tasted much better than it looks here:

So...my eye is still twitching. I'm trying to accept it without letting it control me. It's very svadhyaya (self study). The twitch has made me become self aware of my efforts and limitations. While I can't control the twitch, I can control my feelings about it. In short, I'm trying to not get stressed out because of it and waste energy on it. The hardest part is going to work. Work makes my eye twitch, and the twitch gives me a headache, and the headache makes it hard to work...and then it's an endless downward spiral from there. Ah well, I'm still trying to remain hopeful that it stops soon.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Strange Offerings

While taking out the trash this past weekend, I found this little collection by our back gate:

Kind of weird, right? It's a little skillet and a basket of three ornamental gourds. Our back gate is recessed from the alley, and you really have to look to notice the walkway by the garage. My possible explanations are:
  • Someone knows I dabble in in situ composting and that I cook, so they left these as presents.
  • Someone found these by a dumpster and stashed them in our walkway, and they plan to pick them up later.
  • We have a super strong squirrel residing in the area that has a penchant for fall decorations and cookery items.
This afternoon, I saw this post on 101 Cookbooks about chocolate puddle cookies. Not wanting to do classwork tonight, but wanting to do something productive, I made them:

In real life, they look much more like the photo on the 101 Cookbooks blog. I substituted pecans for walnuts, and wow, are these cookies delicious. Rather brownie-like and super tasty. This recipe is a keeper.

On Monday of this week, I had an acupuncture appointment in an attempt to relieve my eye twitch. After the appointment, I had a mini-breakdown and called in sick for the day (the great thing about working in a School of Social Work is that most people are super empathetic and understanding). I was able to schedule a massage for the afternoon, and generally tried to de-stress and stop thinking about my eye. The massage was incredible. I was so lucky to hear about Garden Walk Massage off of Lafayette Square; my therapist saved my day. I feel so much better, but unfortunately, my eye twitch is still with me.

This morning I had an eye exam and found that I can rule out eye strain. My vision is still just fine. However, I do have some sort of eyelid margin disease in which my eyelids are coated with oily particles and bacteria. This explains why my eyelids always feel irritated and itchy, so it's good to get that taken care of with antibiotic drops and eyelid scrubbing. But, it doesn't explain the twitching.


Thursday, February 04, 2010

A Case of the Twitchies

My right eye has been twitching for more than a week.

The day it started, it was big jerking twitches. Now it has settled into a subtle twitch-twitch, twitch-twitch.

If I didn't know me, I'd think I was shifty-eyed and up to no good. A louse, a rat.

It's driving me to my breaking point. Last night I went to bed at 9:30, and while I awoke fully refreshed, the twitching was still there.

It slowly wears me down. By this afternoon, I will have a headache and my eyes will hurt.

I made an appointment with an eye doctor person, but it isn't until February 17. Two weeks! In two weeks, I will have pulled out all of my hair and started hitting myself as a distraction from the twitchies.


Here I am last Friday, getting ready to enjoy the Fountain on Locust's brownie in a cup (thanks to a gift certificate from Suzi and Dale!). For comparison, I'm also pictured with Porkchop's dessert: the world's smallest ice cream cone (in butter pecan). (P.S. This picture also shows my tilted duster in action. Unfortunately, it's too dark to see my clapotis in action, but it's there too.)

People can keep their semifreddoes and panna cottas and tortes and whathaveyou because the brownie in a cup is perfection. It's a made-from-scratch brownie topped with vanilla ice cream (imported from Wisconsin), made-from-scratch hot fudge sauce, real whipped cream, and homemade candied orange peel. So, it's essentially something I would make at home. The brownie is blissfully free from that icky industrial-brownie taste, the hot fudge is delightfully fudgy, and everything else is just plain-and-simple delicious.

I would like to eat one everyday. And if my eye continues to twitch, maybe I will.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Give us the Cookies!

Here in the Midwest, Girl Scout cookie time has hit. We've ordered from a faculty member's daughter, the daughter of someone who has an office near me, and the daughter of Porkchop's boss.

I'm a pretty easy target for Girl Scout cookies because I went through the travails of cookie-selling myself. Well, I should amend that statement because if a Girl Scout has already sold a hundred boxes, she doesn't really need our help. Nope, I have a dear place in my heart for those Girl Scouts who are having a hard time selling. They're the ones who need our help.

You see, when I was a Scout, depending on the number of boxes you sold, you received a cookie badge sized accordingly. With the exception of one year, I always had the smallest badge. And, I was always the only one in my troop to have the smallest badge.

Do you know how that feels? I didn't really care about the number of boxes I sold because I knew my parents donated money to my troop throughout the year to cover costs. But I still hated feeling like the cookie outcast. And since you put the badge on your sash or vest, every other Scout knew that I was a cookie loser.

I had a hard time selling for the following reasons:
  1. We didn't have any relatives in my town. Our relatives in Oklahoma weren't really the cookie-buying type. Well, they probably would have ordered a lavish amount of boxes, but they wouldn't have paid up when the cookies were delivered.
  2. My mom worked from home and my dad's workplace was small. I could count on the library staff for 15-20 boxes, top.
  3. My parents didn't have many friends. The friends they did have all had kids in Scouts.
  4. I was shy and suffered social anxiety, and it was really hard for me to go door-to-door in our neighborhood and have people say No, I don't want your stinking cookies.

There was only one year in which I achieved the 50+ boxes sold cookie badge. However, it was only because my dad put us down for about 30 boxes. Still, I felt pretty proud to sew that badge on my sash.

I told all of this to a co-worker who said she wasn't ordering from our faculty members' daughter because she (the co-worker) tends to eat an entire box of Thin Mints in one sitting. The faculty member in question is from Korea, is very quiet, and probably won't send her daughter door-to-door. I told my co-worker, look, XXX probably isn't going to sell any boxes outside of our office, that's the reality, and I don't want her to feel bad.

I think my co-worker is reconsidering.

I love the Girl Scouts, but I do wish they would reconsider the cookie incentive stuff (I think the incentives are a bit more complex these days). I mean, come on, the organization is supposed to help build girls' self-esteem, not make them feel bad because no one wanted to buy cookies from them.

Monday, January 18, 2010

School Days

Start tomorrow for Porkchop and me!

For me, I'm taking another online class. This time, it's Summative and Formative Evaluations. Judging from the textbook, it's about evaluating online learning systems. The textbook cracks me up because the illustrations look like something that an ironic comic artist would do...it's all clip art with word balloons inserted. The only difference is that I think the textbook author is serious with her illustrations.

More excitingly, Porkchop starts teaching a printmaking class at a local community college! But, I think she is more irritated than excited because the art department at said college seems to be run by the two most scatterbrained people around. Porkchop gave them a completed application twice, told them which sections she could teach multiple times, and has yet to receive her employee number, ID card, and keys to the building where her class will be. Oh, also, the printshop is full of woodshop materials that were supposed to be moved before classes, but the saws and planers are still by the printing presses.

Since today was my last day off for quite some time, I took it kind of easy. After taking Porkchop to work, I went to the Y and swam laps. This was my first time lap swimming for about six years! It went pretty well, considering my long absence from the pool, and I decided a half mile was okay for today. I finished my Y trip with some whirlpool and sauna action.

Swimmers need to eat, so when I came home, I made a bacon and cheese omelet, which was eggs-cellent (I've been waiting all day to type that!). With our new little Calphalon skillet, I can make perfect omelets. Look:

I was so impressed with the omelet-making, and I think the skillet might work well with crepes.

I was still hungry after the omelet, so I made this strawberry-banana bread using frozen berries that we picked over the summer. The only change I made was to substitute 1/2 cup whole wheat flour for white flour, which is enough to fool you into thinking that the bread is healthy. Oh, and I didn't have pecans, so no nuts for us. The bread is delicious, and I totally recommend the recipe.

In other cooking news, I made a yummy chicken curry tonight using the Splendid Table cookbook. I'm also on a spaghetti kick lately, and I can't wait to try this tomato sauce recipe (only three magical ingredients!).

All for now. Have a great week!

Monday, January 04, 2010

In These Cold Times

I look at Madison weather to make me feel better. But, it's currently about the same temperature there as it is in St. Louis, so I had to expand my weather search to Minneapolis.

Yeah, it's a lot colder in Minneapolis. Compared to there, it's downright warm in St. Louis.

Only, it doesn't feel warm.

This morning was a long, bitterly cold walk from the Metro to my office. It was one of those cold walks during which your nose first freezes, and then your snot unfreezes and leaks out your nose onto your face.

Tomorrow, I think I'll carry a tissue with me. Because it isn't cool to arrive at work with snot frozen on your face.

Yesterday afternoon, we hit the hot tub at the Y. It was delightfully warm and relaxing, and not too crowded.

Some people go to the Caribbean for a break from the cold. Us, we'll go to the Y and ride the lazy river a few times.

Friday, January 01, 2010

Well, Hello 2010!

We ended 2009 with a big food bang at the new Brasserie by Niche. Porkchop and I agreed that it was the best meal we've had in a long time. I can't say enough how perfect it was!

We started with an order of gougeres, which were addictively cheesy and warm and yummy. I went the 3-courses-for-$30 route and shared my small plate of seared sea scallops and roasted beets with Porkchop. Also perfectly done and super tasty.

But, the stars were our main courses. Porkchop had a well-done New York strip with pommes frites. The steak was tasty (even though I'm not a big steak fan), but the fries were out-of-this-world delightful. Next time, we'll order a big plate of those.

Before I write about my entree, I want to preface by saying that, since I started eating meat again over three years ago, I've only ordered beef at a restaurant once (and it was a burger that I totally regretted ordering). So, it was a bit of character for me to order the braised short ribs, but I'm so glad I did! The meat totally fell off the bone and melted in my mouth. The accompanying pureed potatoes and roasted carrots were also perfect. I didn't even need to season my potatoes.

For dessert, I went with the profiteroles, and Porkchop ordered the lemon tart. Again, perfect. For drinks, I had a glass of Riesling, and Porkchop had the Duchesse de Bourgogne (Flemish red ale! Yum!).

So, I definitely recommend Gerard Craft's latest venture!

After stuffing ourselves and changing into pajama pants when we came home, we made new goals for the new year. But first, here's how I did on last year's goals:
  • Plant my own vegetable garden! CHECK.
  • Can my own food! CHECK.
  • Figure out my career. WORKING ON IT. I started a Masters program, which counts for something.
  • House maintenance: paint inside, paint the foundation, finish the drylocking in the basement, put up that additional downspout, fix up the backyard.... NEEDS WORK. We only painted downstairs; the rest of the items still need to be done.
  • Learn how to knit Fair Isle-style. INCOMPLETE.
  • Do more baking! SORT OF.
  • Secret project with Porkchop. STILL IN PROGRESS.
I'm okay with my progress on last year's goals. I'm not going to beat myself up for not taking up stranded knitting or not drylocking the basement.

Here are this year's goals:
  • Be more flexible and less controlling. I'm working on being more open to others' ideas about how to do things. And I'm trying to not let things like slightly open drawers and cabinet doors bother me (But I still can't stop closing Porkchop's dresser drawers! Open drawers drive me crazy!).
  • Do more neighborhood things. I'm secretary of our neighborhood association, but I want to do even more and meet more area residents.
  • More regular exercise. I started the ball rolling today with joining the local Y! Porkchop and I even signed up for a step class together! I'm looking forward to swimming regularly again and taking advantage of the hot tub, sauna, and steamroom.
  • Bake more with whole grains. Yeah, I need to cut back on the white flour.
  • Stranded knitting! See last year's goal.
  • Practice Spanish. This will be the hardest goal for me to accomplish, I think, especially since I remember more French than Spanish.
  • Save for trips and a new computer.
  • Be more positive at work. This past year, I gave into some negativity, and I want to kick that in the ass.
  • Be better with house maintenance. See last year's goals.
Finally and most importantly, I want to spend more time like this with my family:

Okay, time to start working on things!

Have a great 2010!