This & That

1. The weather finally broke.  I love not being constantly sticky, and not wilting at 11am.

2. The bathroom is almost done.  I have one solid day of work left, and that’s it!

3. I drove down to the Finger Lakes yesterday to celebrate my brother’s 28th birthday.  A bunch of my family is at my grandma’s cottage for the week.  My brother and his family are up from Virginia.  I swam in the lake with the dog, and then went out to a lovely dinner with the family.  When we woke up this morning the lake was choppy, and it was chilly with a breeze.  It was delightful (see #1 above), but not great swimming weather.

4. I bought a night splint for my achilles tendon injury last week.  It’s clunky and awkward to wear at night, but it’s made a HUGE difference already.  I wear it all night, and I rest my foot in it during the day if I’m sitting down for a while.  It keeps the foot flexed (and the achilles tendon stretched) so the tendon doesn’t tighten up.  I’m laying low until August 1st (at least), and then I’m hoping to take some test walks!

5. The best way to get me to clean the house is to send me on a trip.  I hate coming home to a dirty house, so I’ll do all the dishes, clean out the fridge, empty the garbages, tidy, change the sheets, run laundry–the works!

 

 

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Week Wrap-Up // Link Round-Up // July 12-18

cherry tree in our backyard; too bad the cherries are mushy and tasteless

cherry tree in our backyard; too bad the cherries are mushy and tasteless

It has been so hot here.  I heard on the radio yesterday that the heat wave has coincided with record humidity here in Western New York, and oh, has it been hot.  Sorry for the absence of posts this week: the heat slowed me way down, which gave me nothing to blog about, and no energy with which to blog!

I’ve been trying to finish up the bathroom so we can get our house on the market.  I got some done Monday and Tuesday, but by Wednesday I just couldn’t be in that tiny room anymore.  I’ll start (and hopefully finish!) again tomorrow, when it cools off.

Alan submitted another paper to be published this week (it would be his fourth), and is working on yet another.  All those evenings we were going to spend together?  Yeah, right.  But at least he’s not working overnights any more.  And we did find time to start watching Orange is the New Black.

My brother, sister-in-law, and niece are going to be nearby next week, so I’m going to try to visit with them some–in-between working on the house.

Links after the jump! Continue reading

Week Wrap-Up // Link Round-Up // July 5-12

It finally cooled off after being unbearably hot and muggy in the beginning of the week.  I do not like heat.  I keep telling Alan that we should move to Alaska, not Connecticut.  I would be very happy to have cold, snowy winters, and cool summers.

I kept up my walks this week.  [I wrote this Wednesday, and on Thursday my heel started really hurting again, so I’m laying off for a few days…] I’m doing heart-rate training (Maffetone method), which has been really fun.  I wear a heart-rate monitor and keep my heart-rate between 136 and 146 bpm.  I slow down going up steep hills, and jog going down hills.  It makes walking (and jogging) into a game.  And the idea is that the healthier you get, the faster you have to go.  In six months or a year, I hope to be jogging or running the whole 45 minutes to one hour!

Alan and I are headed to Hartford this weekend to look at houses.  It’s so exciting (minus packing and moving–ugh.)!

links to interesting things from the internet after the jump  Continue reading

slow roast chicken and vegetable-thickened gravy

For more than 15 years, I’ve been the gravy-stirrer at my family Thanksgiving.  I dutifully scraped the brown bits off the bottom of the roasting pan, sprinkled in just enough flour to “soak up” the fat, whisked in water (and occasionally potato water from the mashed potatoes), adjusted the seasonings, and stirred and stirred and stirred.

When I went gluten-free about a year and a half ago, I knew I was going to miss gravy.  Of course you can experiment with alternate thickeners: corn starch, arrowroot, tapioca.  But those types of thickeners tend to make a particular type of sauce; much more like a Chinese-style sweet-and-sour sauce than a flour roux-thickened gravy or white sauce.

Then I found this recipe, which uses the vegetables cooked in the bottom of the slow cooker to thicken the gravy.  It emulates the texture of a traditional gravy, and adds even more flavor with the roasted onions and garlic.  I’ve tweaked the recipe a bit, and this is my favorite version.

Adaptations for slow cooker and pressure cooker are at the end of the recipe after the jump.

 

Preheat the oven to 250 F.

The gravy is thickened with 1 extra large oven onion (or equivalent), 1 clove of garlic, 1 tsp. of tomato paste, and 1 tsp. of coconut oil (or other cooking oil of your choice).

 

Chop the onion into fairly large chunks, like so:

 

Smash the garlic clove and peel it.

 

Put the chopped onions, smashed garlic clove, coconut oil, tomato paste, salt and pepper in a large dutch oven (off heat).

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Stir the vegetables until the tomato coats everything evenly.  The coconut oil helps with this, but it still takes a good minute to get everything combined.

 

Take a whole chicken, and put it breast-up on top of the vegetables.  Season as desired–I just used salt and pepper here.

 

Flip the chicken over, and season the back side.  The chicken will cook breast-down

 

Put the lid on the pot and slide it in the oven.

 

Cook for two and a half hours.  Remove the chicken to a plate and cover it with foil.

Return the pot to the stovetop, and turn the heat to medium-high.  Once the vegetables boil, reduce the heat to a simmer.

 

Simmer for about 15 minutes, or until it has thickened slightly.

 

Blend the mixture.  I use an immersion blender and the cup the that came with the blender.

If the gravy is too thick, you can add some of the juices that gathered under the chicken while it was resting.

Season with more salt and pepper to taste.

Feel free to  play around with the vegetables to your preferences.  The recipe I started with called for several cloves of garlic, but I found the sweet, roasted-garlic flavor to be overwhelming.  I like the gravy with all onion, and next time I’m going to try to add a couple of leeks in as well!

Keeps in the fridge covered for a week.

click through for written recipe, plus slow-cooker and pressure-cooker variations Continue reading

Gardening


 

Last year, I built a square-foot garden and had a great time watching it grow.  The weather last year was bonkers.  I think I built the garden in April, and planted it shortly after that.  This year we still had snow into May, which changed things a little.

My 2012 garden was so much fun, but I learned that some plants didn’t do very well in our back yard.  We have a bunch of squirrels and birds, and I didn’t get one ripe tomato out of my garden.  I’d watch the tomatoes develop and slowly turn from green to red.  As soon as it would be ready to pick, I’d go out to find the tomato full of beak-shaped holes, or on the ground and half-eaten.  Similarly, the peppers didn’t fare well.  The onions were fun, but they produced really tiny onions.  What really worked were snap peas, carrots, potatoes, and spinach.

Before it frosted, I planted two squares of garlic to over-winter.  We thought we might be moving as soon as January 2013, so it was a little bit of a gamble.  Even though the onions were small, I thought that over-wintered garlic might be good.

Then I planted eight more squares on Memorial Day weekend: four squares of peas, two squares of carrots, two squares of kale.  Then I mostly left it alone.  We’ve had a really rainy spring/early summer, and the plants have done well, despite my neglect.

My plan, on Memorial Day, was to plant the third row with potatoes, and the front right two squares with lettuces, and to let the garlic grow all summer.

I went to weed the garden on Saturday morning, while Alan worked on finishing up the siding.  The garlic shoots had turned brown and dry, so I decided to see if they were ready to harvest. [I never got the garlic scape–I wonder if I missed something…]

The heads are on the small side, but I’m going to try to make this recipe with fresh garlic.  Yum!

I tried to buy seed potatoes from Home Depot this year, but they were really squishy and gross, so I didn’t.  I meant to get to a garden store to buy them, but I never got around to it.

In order to fill out the garden (both because I love vegetables, and to look good when we show the house), I planted the rest of the squares with seeds I had knocking around.  I planted two more squares of kale, and two more squares of carrots.  They’re growing well, and it’ll be a nice second harvest.  I planted four squares of spinach in the entire front row.  It should be mature in 48 days, which means we may or may not get it before we move.


I highly recommend the square foot gardening method.  Vegetable gardens have always intimidated me, but this one works so well.  There’s a bit of technique to it: building the raised bed, installing the dividers (they sit above the garden; they’re not dug into the dirt), preparing the correct blend of planting mixture, knowing how many of each type of vegetable can be planted in a square (one, two, four, nine, or sixteen).  It all seems worth it.  The dirt blend is designed to be good at draining, and also fairly loose, which makes weeding really easy.

Like I said, I planted potatoes and carrots last year, which need a bit of depth, and it worked fine.  The typical square foot garden only requires six inches of dirt, I believe.  This garden is ten inches deep, which gives that extra depth for root vegetables.

I plan on setting up at least one square foot garden in our new house in Hartford.  Ideally, I’d like a whole garden dedicated to asparagus (it’s perennial, but it takes a couple of years to get started), a whole garden for cabbages and broccoli, since you can only plant one per square, a whole garden for root vegetables, and then at least one garden for the rest: climbing fruits and vegetables and other leafy greens (and peppers!  if I can get them to grow).  One of my life list goals is to grow all the vegetables we eat one summer (and if I can get really good at canning, for one whole year!).

Happy gardening, all!

 

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Week Wrap-Up // Link Round-Up // Jun 28 – Jul 5

looking at the sky through the leaves of an oak tree

Alan turned in his dissertation one week ago, and wow, what a lovely week this has been.  We had the greatest dinner & a movie at home date ever last Friday night.  Alan was home both Saturday and Sunday, and he didn’t do any school work either day!!  He went for a few long runs, worked on his long-neglected novel, and took lots of naps.

Monday we hosted a casual dinner party for our Small Group.  I made Albanian qofte (meatballs), which was a hit. I also took advantage of my Amazon prime membership to order the workbooks for our next study and ship them for free to everyone in the group!

We had another picnic of Korean food in the cemetery on Wednesday.  After we ate, we laid on the blanket and looked at the leaves, and I took the picture seen above.

We celebrated the Fourth of July with lots of dogs and babies.

I also have tentatively started walking again.  I stretch my heel out for a few minutes before I leave, and several minutes after I get back.  I’m limiting my walks to between 10 and 15 minutes.  It’s not much, but I’ll take it!

links to interesting internet stuff after the jump Continue reading

Cottage on the 4th of July

My grandma owns a cottage on Cayuga Lake, which is one of the Finger Lakes in New York.  My childhood summers are filled with fond memories of swimming in the lake, canoeing, fishing, and bonfires.

We got together with my grandma, my parents, my sister, my brother & sister-in-law and niece, my two cousins, their wives and children at the cottage to celebrate the Fourth.  Here are some photos:

installing a brand new boat lift

 

slowing making their way to the end of the dock

 

boat lift + boat!

 

first time in a kayak

 

a little confused about the concept of a water bottle

 

bright bathing suit & bright ball

 

grilling up lunch

 

lunch got rained out, so we picnicked inside

 

indoor playtime

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outdoor playtime

 

“Mommy!”

 

there were 14 grown-ups, 4 kids, and 3 dogs

 

fetch!

 

Happy Fourth!

 

 

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