Friday, January 01, 2016

You Thought I'd Forgotten...

...Well, I haven't forgotten. I've just been nuts. 

I'm back. It's 2016. I'm making a promise to be here more frequently, and hopefully with content that will make you want to share this blog with friends. Selfishly, I'd love to grow my readership, but realistically - you gotta write to get readers!

Christmas And Post-Christmas Sick...

Well, I managed to make it through Christmas without getting sick. I mean I just managed to make it through Christmas. 

My mother called me 2 days before Christmas and told me she'd injured herself, and it was up to Hubby and me to cook Christmas Eve dinner for 20 people. Oh, ok. No problem. Except that I was already starting to feel something coming on, but I wasn't going to freak her out. 

Christmas Eve dinner this year was as follows:

  • Roasted balsamic & garlic chicken
  • Pierogies
  • Roasted potatoes
  • Salad
  • Glazed carrots***
  • Parker House Rolls
  • Cookies and Potica

***There's a story on the carrots...***  So as I'm in the kitchen at my mom's house, I mentioned to my sister that "the last 3 hours have been the most insanely crazy of the season." A relative who shall remain nameless (we have a small family) looks at me (from a seat on the couch...) and says, "Why? What have you been doing?"

Yep. I looked at this relative and paused for a nanosecond and then said, "Only cooking the entire dinner. That's all," and then I stomped into the kitchen to cut up the potica. As I'm wielding the knife, I'm muttering something along the lines of, "For God's sake, does that idiot think this all happens with unicorn farts and fairy dust???" As Kid #1 comes in and hears me, he tells me to chill. He's right. Said relative is a moron. 

As we're at the table, I say to Hubby, "We forgot the carrots." Of course, there's enough food to feed an army. Life goes on. So does dinner. When we're packing the car up to go home, we find the carrots - still wrapped in their lovely bundle and relatively warm.Oh well. We were able to parcel them out to various folks who wanted leftovers. 

I started to feel crummy the Sunday after Christmas. That Wednesday, I went to the doctor. Lucky me: double ear infection, sinus infection and swollen glands. I've been living on squishy food and lots of tea. I'm floating in tea, actually. I'm on an antibiotic that had (let's just say for politeness) "adverse effects" on Hubby's digestive tract, but so far, other than a tiny bit of tummy upset, I'm ok with it. 

I spent part of the night on the couch, hacking up a storm, and I'm valiantly trying to stay awake. Hubby has run out to do some errands; I'm on a doctor-imposed (and honestly self-imposed) weekend of "rest, drink tea and shut up." 

So after Christmas but before I got really sick, my mom and I talked about it. Let's face it - she's near 80 and for the past 20 years, Hubby and I have been carrying the load. WHICH WE DO NOT MIND. Except that all the nephews are old enough and I do have siblings. And as my niece-in-law AND my kids have said, "It's really now time for us to do more." 

Next holiday, we're going to try a new system. And people are going to have to get off their duffs and pitch in. I really don't mind doing the cooking, but I can see that it's like learning to make potica: this year, the boys and the fiancee did more of the process because that's how you learn. 

Oh, recipes!!

                                  ROASTER CHICKEN:

Marinate your chicken parts (we used thighs, drums, and breasts) in a basic Balsamic Vinegar + olive oil + garlic + parsley marinade for 24 hours. 

In one of those ancient roaster thingies (seriously, this is what ours looks like - it was my dad's) -- or a large crock-pot, put the chicken and the remaining marinade. 

In the roaster, arrange as much as you can on a rack and with the pieces mostly in 1 layer. 

Add about 1 cup of water. Clamp the lid on and leave it at about 325* for about 1.5 - 2 hours. 

Our roaster is ancient. So we put it in the bathroom so we wouldn't blow a fuse. That's the best the bathroom had smelled in a long time...

The balsamic almost "pre-browned" the chicken. The garlic got sweet in the roasting, and the parsley gave it a bit of a peppery bite without being overwhelming. 

Of course, you use a bit of salt & pepper to taste. It came out tender and juicy, and unlike a crock-pot, it didn't fall off the bone. 

                                    ROASTED POTATOES:

Take the appropriate number of baking potatoes and, after washing them, slice them lengthwise into something resembling wedges. Toss these wedges with salt, pepper, olive oil and Italian Seasoning. 

Spread them on a foil-lined rimmed baking pan. Cook at 375* till fork tender. About 15 minutes into the cooking, move the wedges around on the pan. 

                                    MAPLE GLAZED CARROTS:

I used garden carrots for this and I did it in a large saute pan.  Melt about 2 T of butter in a saute pan on medium-high heat.

I used about 2.5 cups of sliced garden carrots - you can substitute baby carrots, halved lengthwise, if you prefer. Put the carrots in the pan, and add about 3 large pieces of candied ginger, diced. 

Add just a dash of salt. Swirl this around in the pan, keeping everything moving so nothing scorches. Make sure that the heat stays high enough to caramelize things, but not burn the butter. 

When the carrots are fork-tender, shut the heat off. Add about 1/2 tsp. of Saigon Cinnamon and about 3 T of pure maple syrup. Stir all of this to coat. Serve warm. 

Don't leave them in the car... Just a little piece of advice...

So I mentioned that we did potica, right? Well, we ended up with 5 loaves. Here they are. One was sold. We did a single batch of dough, and a double batch of filling, so it was a bit more "wet" than we're used to. I think we've just about got the ratio right. We're not sure, but maybe Hubby and I will do another single batch for Easter. 

I brought some to work, and everyone proclaimed it "really good" with another person saying that she might have me make her one for next Christmas. 

The thing is, the dough is fickle. You really have to have the right conditions, and you really don't know how it will react till you're in the middle of it. But that's part of the challenge. Now that I've done it for a number of years, I'm not sure how my dad managed to do it. Every. Year. For years. We sold them out of our house, and I think we sold 30 or 40 of them a year. It was insane. 

The Knitting...

I had gotten so overwhelmed that the knitting went to the wayside for a number of months. Too many months. I have a few projects on tap, and a resolution to myself for 2016: to knit more. 

I have a baby jacket on the needles; my "standard" easy jacket that I use almost every time. It's in Cascade 220 hand-painted, and yeah, it's not exactly "typical." Picture this with the huge red buttons I bought. It's going to be classy. The person who's the mom-to-be is kind of an edgy person - she's far enough along that I feel safe in knitting this for her, and I think she'll like the more sophisticated look. The yarn is wool, superwash, so it's good for a baby with a mom who's both fashion forward and a crunchy-granola kind of mom. 

Kid #2 got a few more rows on the afghan. He's pleased and he's anxious for it to be under the tree next Christmas. It could be done...

And I started a new pair of socks. I have 2 singletons and THE DREADED TEAL SOCK to finish, but "Bowties are Cool" is on the leg, I believe, and Opal's Watermelon is started. This one is in Sweet Georgia, Tough Love sock yarn, colorway "chai spice" and it's a Vanilla Latte pattern available on Ravelry. It's a simple rib. The yarn feels "busy" to me, so I didn't want to have a complex pattern that would be buried, but Opal Watermelon is plain, so I wanted a little something spicy there. This suits the yarn, I think. I wasn't sure how the colors would lay out. There's no pooling going on, as far as I can see. It does look fall-ish, but I'm going with it. The 6-row curl on the top actually seems to be too much this time around, but I'm going to make the second one to match. 

My goal is to have 4 more pairs of socks - PLUS finish the singletons and THE DREADED TEAL SOCK. I'd like to do more, but we'll see how it goes. A pair a month isn't going to happen with my schedule. 


Tippi and I have worked out a schedule with my former employer to continue to visit the folks at the university. It's bittersweet. I'd love to be back there, but life goes on. We're now visiting the library, and it's a great place to meet everyone. 

This is how Tippi rang in the new year. I wasn't too far behind her last night. Hubby cashed it in and hit the hay about 8:45 p.m. (which is what happens when you get up at 3 a.m.) and I was up till the fun hour of 9:30. But then I was up at 1 p.m. and "sleeping" on the couch, as my cough shook the house... 

She's going to be 9 years old in a few days. I look at the grey she's acquired on her muzzle. I look into her eyes and I see how she moves a little more slowly. And it scares me. But I have to breathe and enjoy her. Elkhounds, barring illness, live up to 15 years old. We have no real idea if she was 2 or 3 when we got her; we have no idea of her bloodline - any hereditary problems or the like. So we have no clue. 

But if you think about it, that's like us. As humans, we've got a fair idea of how our family's chronic ailments will or might affect us. But still - none of us has the number of our days. I guess that's our clue to live each day mindfully. You'd think as a yoga teacher and practitioner I'd already do that? Well, I'm as human as everyone else... Sometimes I do, sometimes a week has whizzed by and I couldn't tell you how. 

Random Picture...

This is an old abandoned church in downtown Joliet. I snapped the picture on the way to a meeting. And then I played around with the phone camera's features and did some sepia tinting. 

My goal is to bring the "big camera" to work one day and take a walk at lunch. The city has some architectural gems. You just have to give it a minute and look. 

Of course, the local preservationist wags would say, "Look quickly because they're tearing things down." And to an extent they're right. But there are still some good old buildings left, if you use your eyes. 

May your 2016 bring you health, happiness and joy. May you find the joy in unexpected places. And may you find the happiness in yourself. Every day. 

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