Category Archives: cooking

Happiness in a Bowl

My roommate is out of town this weekend, and I’m relishing in pretending that I live alone again. Don’t get me wrong…I have no true complaints about my roommate. It’s just that I enjoy the restorative silence of being alone here, balanced by being able to blast Sleater-Kinney without worrying about the noise level.

To cap off a very long week, I gave myself a couple of hours of British-y goodness last night. I was excited to watch the third Sherlock Holmes episode of the second season until I realized that it is also the last episode of the second season. More now!

Afterwards, I watched a Doc Martin episode. I don’t know how I became sucked into that show, but I’m a devotee now (a devotee who watches it on occasion, that is).

There was also knitting. The Leftie grows slowly in fits and starts.

Someday. Someday.

Bounty of Autumnal Goodness

The summer sped by without me frequenting the Tower Grove farmers’ market. What the hell?

I hit it today and stocked up on my favorite fall offerings:

Hell yeah!

Butternut and delicata! I am in winter squash heaven.

I picked up the box of persimmons on a whim, and then remembered why I usually don’t buy them. They’re super tasty, but also super seedy. I believe the seed to fruit ratio is grossly out of proportion.

It’s a Good Day When You Use Your Food Processor Twice

First up, potato-cheese soup. Fall happiness dished out in a bowl. This picture makes it look like a bowl of blah, but it is anything but.

After eating this, I immediately fell asleep from carb overload.

Next up was making pumpkin puree for a yet-to-be-made quinoa-pumpkin pudding.

Pumpkin carnage

My food processor feels much less neglected now, and I feel happy from puttering around the kitchen for a good chunk of the day.

And now…now homework calls.

But, PS!!!

This morning I woke up at 6:20. Yes, there was some tossing and turning in the night, but I did not wake up at the dreaded 3:30 or 4:30! When I saw the clock, I nearly cried from happiness.

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Now is the Best Place to Be

Yesterday was a very good Saturday of randomness.

There was volunteer work in the morning, and even though I spent 3 hours doing nothing but freehand ceiling-wall trim work and half of the group cut out early, I enjoyed working with some of my fellow OT students (the responsible ones who stayed to clean up, that is).

Back at the house, there was a perfect little present from a friend waiting in the mail for me! After that, there was an unexpected lunch invitation from another friend. As a bonus, he picked up the tab at El Bronco. After touring his new loft at WireWorks, I went to the Mud House for homework and a gluten-free cookie.

As a homework break, I roasted chestnuts that Porkchop’s girlfriend’s parents foraged at Creve Coeur Lake. Served with hot apple cider, it was the perfect little snack. Also, as opposed to my previous chestnut-roasting experience, this time I neither cut off part of my thumb nor caused a minor explosion in the oven. Definitely a success.

Nommers!

Keeping Up

When my friend and I were walking back from El Bronco, we were talking about exercise and how walking is so much more common in Europe. My friend was walking at a good clip, and I stepped it up to keep apace (also to appear European with my fast-walking). He commented on how I must be walking a lot because he could barely keep up with me. Then I laughed and said that I could barely keep up with him. Unconsciously, we were both trying to keep up with the other and this resulted in something akin to a power walk race. Afterwards, I thought about how this illustrates so much of my life in the past 5 months.

Convenient Conduits

I was also struck while reading my textbook about intentional use of self. In the section about managing difficult client behavior, the author writes about how therapists must remember that we are often only a convenient conduit for what is most likely a predetermined pattern of behavior.

It’s an obvious observation, I suppose, but wow. It really opened up my mind. I’m going to keep this as my mantra whenever I interact with my family.

Kitchen Therapy

After a 9-hour day of classes and lectures and personal wellness coaching, sometimes one must go home, crank up the music, and cook a full meal.

How novel is a meal composed of an entree and two sides?!

Very novel.

Not every night is like this.

Spicy porkchops, spicy roasted acorn squash, and braised kale with red bell pepper and 3-pepper goat cheese.

I felt like a real person after the meal.

Did I ask you for attention when affection is what I need?

For music, I listened to a lot of Metric, particularly this song:

Keep doing it wrong, keep singing along.

Today I’m off to a nursing home for data collection. Three of the four of us going readily admit that we’re not suited for working in geriatrics.

It should be a fun morning.

The bright spot is that the little town in Illinois has an awesome frozen custard stand, and I made the group promise that we stop there after every trip to the nursing home.

Rosemary Hands

My gloves smell like rosemary. If you see me sniffing my gloves, that’s why.

Yesterday morning I picked a whole mess of herbs:

Good smelling stuff

Now they’re hanging in paper bags in a closet. This is my first foray into herb drying!

With the hope of the plant living through winter, I left a few branches on the rosemary bush. My rosemary never makes it through, but maybe this winter is the year?

I long for the car-sized rosemary bushes of New Mexico!

This (fake) tree isn’t quite car-sized, but it’s ours:

Lights! Tree! Presents!

We left a spot on the tree skirt for Keetah. It’s her favorite place to be! When she isn’t there, she’s here:

Mrawr!

Over the weekend, I made my favorite tofu curry stew:

Best stew

It’s lovely, and I don’t know why I only make it once a year.

Right now, I have three knitting project underway, and pictures of none. Next time!

Have a good week!

Doing Things

Yesterday, I nailed down my academic reference for my OT application. Yep, I’ve decided to apply to the OT program here at Washington University. While I know it’s best to apply to more than one program, I’m not prepared to up and move in the fall. So we’ll see what happens.

Since my initial email request went unanswered, I ambushed my anatomy professor before class yesterday. Being back in the lab room made me feel so happy, and the professor and TA talked to me as though we had just seen each other yesterday. Anatomy lab was such a great class; I miss it all the time, but especially when I’m in physics.

Securing this final reference boosted my mood so much, I was a whirlwind of activity last night. I did things like block a scarf, cook dinner and prepare lunch/dinner for today, run two loads of laundry, mop the kitchen floor and dining area, run/walk 2 miles at the gym, and knit. And that doesn’t include the usual stuff of scooping litter boxes and doing my PT exercises. It was a very productive evening!

Now I just have to get serious about writing my statement of purpose and tying up some other application-related loose ends.

Knitterly Things

The knitting front has seen lots of activity recently! Most notably, I finished my Daybreak!

Off the needles at La Dolce Via

More Daybreak

I’ve since blocked and worn the shawl, and I really need to take another picture of it.

This yarn became a simple ribbed cowl, which I also need to photograph and post.

Smooshiness

Finally, I’m blocking my Interlocking Balloons scarf right now. Some alert readers might recall that I finished knitting it in January 2009. In the post documenting its completion, I noted that I started the scarf on “November 7, 200-freaking-7.” Quite tellingly, I elaborated, “For quite some time, I was convinced that this would be my perpetually unfinished object….Now I just have to block it, and that, my friends, will require blocking pins (which I don’t have).”

While I received blocking pins with my blocking wires last year, I just now blocked the darned thing. FOUR YEARS AFTER STARTING IT. That’s simply ridiculous. I will wear it this year!

Running Things

Readers might also recall that I started the C25K program at the end of the summer. I loved it, I really did. I worked my way up to running 15 minutes straight through, and I felt great.

Except for my left hip. Running for a 15 minute block crushed it. I was in pain for 3 weeks.

I laid off the running until I could go for most of a day without my hip reminding me of that run, and now I’ve started back from the beginning. While I won’t be able to progress as quickly as the program recommends, I will reach that 5K mark someday! Right now I’m back to running blocks of 1.5 min, and giving my hip time to strengthen and catch up with the rest of me.

Food Things

Porkchop and I hosted a pre-Thanksgiving dinner, and it was probably the best dinner we’ve ever hosted. All of the food was spot-on and delicious!

Porkchop and I have a series of Thanksgiving photos just like this one:

I could do without this part of dinner preparation.

These are the items Porkchop and I made:

Alien vegetables

I hope we can do it again next year!

Anyway, that’s a wrap. Have a great week!

Hello, November

It’s a blustery fall day out, and I wish I could be doing anything but sitting in this darned office!

My motivation for work has reached an all-time low. I want to be doing so many other things, but most of all, I want to be somewhere different than this office. It’s a stagnant pool for me.

There are things to do, conference-planning stuff I could work on, for example. However, have I ever mentioned how I hate conference planning work? It’s my least favorite activity, and when I was hired, I was told we had only one a year. Now I roll from conference to conference, and each one grates on my nerves more than the last.

Last week, I had a horrible physics test. I came out with a 67, a C+ and a little below the class average. Before the test, I felt quite confident. I understood all my homework, and I could do all of the suggested problems. Struggling through the test, I felt my confidence wither away until I just wanted to stop trying.

My original goal for physics was to earn at least a B+, but now that will be quite difficult. If our last test isn’t as brutal, I might be able to swing a B.

Given my desire to get out of this life-sucking office, and my faltering physics grade, I’ve started reconsidering my school options. I could apply to the WUSTL OT program for Fall 2012 entry. I have all except one requirement nailed down, and OT doesn’t require physics or chemistry classes. It’s also a two year program, so I could be doing something different sooner.

Or I could apply to the accelerated, one-year RN program and start in Fall 2012 or Spring 2013. I could be happy doing that, right?

I want a big life change, and I want it now, damn it.

On to other things…

Homecoming

A few weekends ago, I visited my friend Jean in Columbia. Going to Columbia always feels like going home to me. It’s such a comfortable little city, and I could probably be happy moving back there.

There are fun things to do, and getting around is easy. In five minutes you can be downtown having delicious soup before watching an indie movie (the Uprise Bakery/Ragtag complex). Or in ten minutes you can be driving on country roads, poking around old cemeteries.

As a student in Columbia, I had a lot of time to drive around exploring. Gas was cheap, and I loved taking random roads to figure where they went. Back in the day, I was an expert in navigating the little towns and backroads along the Missouri river. Jean and I revisited one of my finds, Mt. Nebo cemetery outside of Huntsdale.

Driving to it, I kept asking Jean, “how did I find this place??” I regularly biked through Huntsdale while on the Katy Trail, but I don’t know how I happened upon the cemetery.

The first time Jean and I visited it (12 or 13 years ago, I suppose), a big cow was blocking the road. We didn’t encounter that obstacle on this visit, but we did spot this very neat headstone:

No name, no dates, only a photo.

During my visit to Columbia, many little roads were taken and many a good meal was enjoyed. I look forward to returning!

Old friends now older.

P.S. The above photo shows my hair at the longest it’s been in ages. I was giving the “grow it out” thing a shot, but I couldn’t handle it. The long hair made me feel tired, and I was always concerned about it. I’m now back to my regular length, and I couldn’t be happier.

A Random Mishmash of Other Things

There are good things that happened in October that I haven’t written about!

In knitting-related items, I attended a reading by the entertaining and super-smart Yarn Harlot. I had to leave the reading early for another engagement, and I regret missing out on some surely funny anecdotes.

Taking a photo of the Yarn Harlot taking a photo.

Also, I bought some Habu yarn, a most wonderful impulse purchase made while our car was being inspected! (The knitting shop is across from the car dealership. I did not buy this yarn at the dealership!)

Delicious Habu

The red is a silk-stainless steel yarn, and the grey is merino. One day, it will be a Kusha Kusha scarf.

I’ve never knitted off of cones before. Does one keep the yarn on the cone, or wind it into a ball?

The sales person who rang up the yarn warned me to not let my pets play with the stainless steel yarn because it could cut their paws. When I asked if I should wear gloves while knitting it up, she laughed. She said I would be fine. But if it can supposedly cut pet paws, why wouldn’t it cut me? I guess I will find out!

Speaking of delicious things, I made this Butternut Squash, Coconut, and Lentil Stew using one of our homegrown butternuts. While I didn’t have the recommended toor dal, substituting red lentils gives one a super tasty stew. I could eat this everyday!

YUM.

Finally, I don’t think I ever mentioned here that Porkchop bought everything from a letterpress studio outside of Minneapolis and carted it back to our garage. The garage is being slowly transformed into a studio, and I will have to post a picture of the exterior soon.

Porkchop working it.

Tomorrow, we’re having some folks over for a pre-Thanksgiving dinner. We have so much to do! With the exception of the turkey, we haven’t bought any ingredients! We haven’t even really planned the menu!

Have a great Friday, friends.

Big Bottom Squash

…you make my world go round!

I love this little butternut squash:

All bottom.

I’m always surprised by the unique nature of each butternut squash. They’re all totally different with their own little personalities.

Don’t worry…I don’t actually think butternuts have personalities! Just interesting features and quirks that make them special.

Speaking of special, this chocolate avocado mousse is ridiculously good. Make it. Now.

Why is this so freaking good?

I kept mine thicker like a pudding, and I wish I had bought more avocados! I only picked up one, and I wish it had been more like one dozen. I can’t wait to make this again.

In addition to making desserts with avocado, I’m also starting to put flax seed meal on things, like this salad.

I'm so healthy.

Suzi gave me my requested coffee bean grinder for my birthday, so I’m whirring away with the flax seeds. What’s next? Chia seeds? Flax seeds are probably so last year.

Tonight is my first physics class, and I’m doing nothing but dreading it. Anything but physics! Blargh.

Big Sigh!

Of relief!

My work to-do list is long, and my weekend plans include only studying for two microbiology tests next week, but there is a spring in my step! Because! The GRE is over! I took it last night, and I’m happy with my scores.

Convinced I had completely bombed the quantitative section, I was more-than-words-can-describe surprised to see that my quantitative score was 710. I was a tiny bit disappointed that my verbal was 620, but I am not complaining in the least.

Whew. Now I can use the mental space previously allotted for the GRE for something else.

Chronicles of Chronic Pain

I don’t want my blog to become My Health Saga, but check out my left hip!

You can't see my butt, but it's under there.

I finally went to a physical therapist (yeah, yeah, the irony) for my hip pain, and I’m so happy with what we’re doing. We’re going through years of chronic pain to get to the root of my problems.

And the root is that my hips, particularly my left, are way too mobile. I’m not blaming yoga, but getting super stretchy in my hips and hamstrings did not help me at all. Having super flexible hips is probably fine for people who also have strong hips. But my poor left hip is weak and stretched to all get out. Because that’s what I’ve been doing for the past five or six years…stretching what I thought were tight muscles. Unfortunately, they were weak, strained muscles.

When doing the initial evaluation measurement, my therapist was totally appalled at my amount of hip mobility. At the end of the visit, I showed her a series of stretches that I like to do, asking whether or not I could continue doing them. Appalled again, she exclaimed that I should not have that much flexibility in my hips! In its current state, my left side is a time bomb waiting to go completely out of whack.

Now I’m working on tightening and strengthening those suckers. No more yoga for quite some time, not even child’s pose. No deep squats or lunges. Nothing that brings my knees above my hips (and preferably, I shouldn’t even have them level for now). I’m still learning what I can’t do. For example, I totally blew out my hip this weekend while swimming (frog kick!) and gardening (squating!). So, I’m trying to figure out how to move about without hurting myself.

The tape supports my muscles and allows me to sit without pain, among other things. It’s also a reminder when I’m flexing my hips too much because it gives a little tug on my skin.

I look forward to the day of sitting, sleeping, and moving without pain!

To sit more comfortably at work, I fashioned a chair wedge out of an old exercise mat. Before cutting the mat over the weekend, I was sitting on my GRE math book (which was nearly the perfect size, but tended to cut off butt circulation).

DIY wedge cushion

Other Stuff

Over the weekend, I made one of my favorite things: roasted beets! I know some of you don’t like beets, and I think you’re crazy!

Pretty AND tasty!

Monday morning, we had quite a rude awakening. Some guy fell asleep at the wheel and crashed into our neighbors’ SUVs. Yes, plural.

Monday morning alarm clock

Just by chance, we did not park behind this SUV. Our usual alignment is SUV #1, SUV #2, our car. But someone’s mother was over on Sunday and messed up our usual parking. Thank goodness! Otherwise SUV #2 would have smashed up our car.

Speaking of smashed up, my campus is totally torn up. It is seriously impossible to get anywhere without running into this:

Campus is a-mazing.

It’s really frustrating to walk on campus at this point.

That’s it! Have a good week!

Sweet Temptations

Two weeks ago, I gave up sugar and caffeine. I’m also putting an abeyance (hello, GRE vocab word!) on grains and starchy foods.

Unfortunately, this comes at a time when Porkchop’s younger brother is the manager at Jilly’s Cupcake Bar.

Seriously? Thanks, Universe.

This box nearly did me in over Memorial Day weekend:

Box full of sugar and pain.

But Porkchop kept me strong, and I didn’t set myself back with cupcakes.

You might think I’m crazy for giving up sugar and other tasty treats, but I was feeling crazy while on the sugar. I mentioned some of this stuff previously while writing about going gluten-free, but I’m not sure if it’s the gluten that was bothering me. When I eat refined grains (gluten-free grains are the worst), anything with refined sugar or other sweeteners in it, dates, potato chips, corn in any form, bananas (which are super sweet), and a host of other things, I have the following problems:

  • cheeks flare up right away and remain hot for some time
  • fatigue and complete exhaustion in extreme cases
  • foggy brain that lasts for a couple of days
  • anxiety and depression
  • indecisiveness (grocery shopping while I feel bad takes forever, and I feel like an incompetent driver)
  • extreme hunger
  • headaches
  • dizziness in extreme cases
  • difficulty sleeping

After consulting with my primary care physician and an endocrinologist, the consensus is that I have reactive hypoglycemia. But this is where I part ways with the endocrinologist.

The endo suggested Celiac’s, which I doubted (and the test came back negative). When I pointed out that I have had my worst episodes after eating gluten-free grains (spelt, I’m looking at you), he declared that I’m depressed. I told him that when I eat the items listed above and start feeling bad, then yes, I often become depressed. However, I am not depressed otherwise. The endo is welcome to his opinion, but if I tell someone that sugar makes me feel bad, I can’t figure out why more credence is given to the theory that I’m depressed, rather than the theory that sugar fucks me up. At least I received a diagnosis of reactive hypoglycemia, so I can now see a nutritionist, which is what I really wanted.

Overall, I’m feeling much better, but I have my bad days, especially when I test the food waters. I had very small servings – less than a 1/4 cup – of brown rice Monday night and Tuesday at lunch, and I became utterly exhausted afterwards. Monday night, I went to bed at 8:30. By the end of Tuesday, I was so tired I was reduced to tears.

So, I’m keeping to a stripped down, low blood sugar food regimen at the moment. Here’s a typical day:

  • 1/4 to 1/2 cup of plain yogurt upon waking
  • 2 eggs around 7:45-8:00 am
  • Snack around 9:00-9:15. I often go for celery with peanut butter here.
  • Snack around 10:30. This is usually a 1/2 cup cottage cheese, maybe sweetened with a bit applesauce (unsweetened).
  • Lunch around noon. This is usually a salad of some variety, often with chicken.
  • Snack around 2:00. This might be half an orange with cheese or some almonds with sunflower and pumpkin seeds.
  • Snack around 4:00. This is often an apple with peanut or almond butter.
  • Dinner by 6:30. Usually meat and a vegetable, or salad again.
  • 1/4 to 1/2 cup of plain yogurt around 10:30-11:00.

I didn’t formulate this plan on my own, I found it in the Low Sugar Handbook. The book is a bit wacky in some ways, but this eating schedule works, as do the food guidelines given in the book.

I’ve also learned that sometimes I need a big injection of sugar quickly. Over the weekend, I went to an intense exercise class early Saturday morning. The rest of the day, I kept throwing food down my throat, but I couldn’t get rid of my feeling of hunger, no matter how much broccoli, peanut butter, and cheese I ate. And this isn’t gurgly-stomach hunger, it’s a full-body, about-t0-be-consumed-by-a-black-hole hunger. It’s hunger triggered entirely by blood chemistry, not the sight or sound of food, and believe me, there is a huge difference. By 4:00, I was shaking and felt like the world was going to end. I actually had to look online to figure out what to do. Two tablespoons of raisins and 15 minutes later, I was feeling better. Now I have a stock of 4 oz apple juice containers that I keep nearby in case of emergencies, and I have a half cup of fruit juice after exercising to prevent the shakes and hunger.

Other Food Stuff

Over the weekend, I made one of those power green vegetable smoothies…and I was so excited about it! Pretty:

Greeneyed monster.

I thought I would love it…but I didn’t. And I really wanted to. But I had to force the last half of it down.

What I do love is quark! No, not the software, this cream-cheesybut-better stuff from Marcoot Jersey Creamery.

Quark. My new favorite thing.

This stuff is amaaaaazing. It is especially good on this quinoa rice bread. I made a loaf of this Sunday afternoon and was enjoying quark on it immensely. But after the recent brown rice debacle, the brown rice flour in the bread is suspect. I will not be eating any more of it, sadly. Instead, I plan to make some rosemary almond meal crackers over the weekend and use the quark on that.

What Else?

The garden is growing, despite the chickens’ best efforts to sabotage it. I am hoping this year will be a bumper year for tomatoes. I’ve yet to have the “OMG I have too many tomatoes!” experience, and I want it desperately.

If you look through all the fencing, netting, and caging, you can see tomato plants. The beds are like maximum security prisons. No one in, no one out.

There's a garden behind all that fencing and netting!

And I have butternut squash in the backyard again! Grow, squash!

Welcome back, butternut!

And welcome to their friends, cucumbers:

First-time cucumber-grower.

Chicken Talk

Agnes is totally blind in one eye, and most likely very low vision in the other, thanks to the other bastard chickens. Seriously, Porkchop and I are considering offing Scout, and maybe Scooter. Scout is the most vicious hen to walk the earth, and Scooter is right there behind her. As they clamber about, they peck Agnes in the eyes.

Is it horrible that we might snuff out Scout and Scooter?

In the meantime, we’ve taken to offering Agnes shelter in the house at night. During the day, she can usually get away from the meanies, but in the coop, she’s a sitting duck (er, chicken). And the other chickens peck-peck-peck away at her head.

This is what things have come to:

Keetah and Agnes: reluctant buddies.

When we put Agnes out in the morning, she stumbles around the yard, bumping into things and walking in circles. It is so sad.

So, Scout and Scooter…who wants dinner?

An Honest Day’s Work

Today started out early with Keetah helping Porkchop with grooming:

Grooming Time!

Keetah’s licking is Porkchop’s secret to magnificent hair.

After getting pretty, we went out and bought some seed-starting supplies, such as this little greenhouse shelf:

Ready to grow things!

It isn’t the fanciest or sturdiest, but we needed a way to mount our grow lights, and this fit the bill. Plus, it will be easy to take it outside when it’s time to harden off the plants.

I actually just finished planting tomato, bell pepper, basil, and marigold seeds. The heat mats and greenhouse lids fit perfectly on the new shelving unit. Excellent. This is so much better than growing plants in the bathtub!

After having leftover brisket for lunch (from last night’s dinner – yum), I made snacks for this week:

Cashew and date bar.

This is the DIY version of the Larabar cashew cookie bar, which is one of my favorites. It’s so easy and delicious! You throw a 1/2 cup of raw cashews in the food processor until you have small bits. Dump the cashews in a bowl, and throw 8 oz of dates into the food processor. Process until you have date paste, and a ball forms (this takes a few minutes, and you might have to add a bit of water). Mix the date paste with the nut bits, form into a giant bar, and then cut into individual bars as you wish. Wrap in wax paper and store in an airtight container.

I also made these spiced fruit and nut balls:

Balls. Fruit and nut balls.

I can’t wait to break into these during work tomorrow.

For dinner tonight, I made two options: a tofu chili loosely based on this recipe and yellow tofu curry. Since we don’t have time to cook dinner during the week, we have to cook up a storm on the weekend. I’m exhausted from all the cooking and the clean up this weekend.

(And as I wrote storm, the storm siren started. Now I’m writing from the basement!)

Other Stuff

Twice in the previous week, we’ve had a chicken escape to our neighbor’s backyard via a hole under their fence. It’s always unsettling to realize a chicken is missing. Fortunately, they continue to produce eggs:

Pretty eggs.

Last weekend, Porkchop helped hang the Wisconsin printmakers show she organized! There are about 35 prints, and I wish we didn’t have to send them back to the artists next month!

This is by one of my favorite artists:

Why can't I have this?

And here’s Porkchop among the prints:

Prints. Lots of prints.

If you’re local, come to the artists’ reception! It is March 17, 6-8:00 pm, at the St. Louis Community College – Forest Park gallery (located right outside the library).

Good night!