Thursday, September 30, 2010

The one ring

My ring.  What can I say? It’s been a process. 

When we got engaged, it was really unofficial, as I told you.  It was over chat , and he asked me what I wanted in an engagement ring… end a bit of a spat actually.  Trust me, it totally worked.  The chat turned to a conversation about us getting married which turned to planning.  All of that happened before my ring.  So, I sort of “worked” my way into getting officially proposed to.  Part of the delay was getting the ring.  

Going to a friend seems the way to go if you have a friend that specializes in such things.  So we did.  That began the process.  It took over two months before a ring was on my finger; a ring 1.5 sizes too large with stones and wiggled in their settings.  The ring changed sizes three times and the stones glued in.  I had to give it up twice for the sizing for a week or so each time.  We decided not to have anything more done with the ring until well after the wedding, even though there were things that I wasn’t happy with.  

Well, we’ve been married for seven months now, and I could stand it no longer.  I have once again been without my ring for over two weeks.  It’s been with a local artist, who was looking for accent stones of a more sturdy composition than the original peridot.  Stones were located and in store for me to see as of yesterday.  They’re lovely deep forest green sapphires, precisely 4mm square princess cuts.  I spent an hour with the jeweler yesterday, discussing options for how to proceed.  See, there was more than just a simple swap needed.  The prongs were asymmetric and damaged.  He felt they needed to be rebuilt.  The space where the mount for the diamond was between the side stones was actually too large for the diamond.  He wanted to narrow it.  Also, the diamond was actually crooked instead of square to the rest of the ring.  If he narrowed the gap to make the diamond mount look tailored to the stone, I would never be able to use my wedding band again. We can’t shorten the flat bit that is designed to fit against the stones because it’s engraved on the outside.  So, further discussion ensued about how we could redesign my wedding band, as I never liked the cuts that make it fit against the ring anyhow since they do not allow you to wear the band alone.  It would be nice to be able to leave the diamond at home for certain activities, you know?  

I left the store after an hour of conversation and a price estimate.  I told him to start work on my engagement ring.  I could wear it alone until I decided what to do with my wedding band.  I nearly cried the whole way home.  

Upon recanting the story to my husband, literally still standing in the doorway, he asked why I was going through so much trouble to try to make this ring work when it very obviously wasn’t making me happy.  And it isn’t.  The thought of putting so much more money into something we’d already invested a good chunk into makes my stomach flip flop.  Remember, I’m a tightwad!  

That’s not the only thing though.  I am experiencing a huge amount of guilt over my ring.  HUGE.  The perfect man is supposed to put a perfect ring on your finger, and you fall perfectly in love with the ring just as you did the man, right?!  And most if not all of this should happen while you’re blissfully unaware.  RIGHT??  Well, I did fall perfectly in love with the perfect man.  And I love my utterly perfect diamond, but there is little else I love about my rings: from the chipped and glued in accent stones to the visible blob of solder to the wedding band that cannot be worn alone.  

And I feel wretched about that, as if I’m just being a nit-picky psycho bride.  I’ve struggled with this guilt for 15 months, and I have just made myself sick over it.  I keep berating myself about how if I had just stayed out of it.  If I’d just told him that I would love whatever he picked out instead of looking at rings and telling him what I did and did not like about them.  If I’d just let him go to ChainStoreUSA and pick out what he wanted to buy instead of putting in my two cents…..would I have loved it then?  Would I at least feel less guilty about not loving it?  Without a doubt…..yes.  

But as the saying goes…..If ifs and buts were candy and nuts……it’s simply no good to dwell on the ifs.  And so, at the prompting and reassurance of my husband, I called the jeweler back and halted the work on the original ring.  I’ll be going in today to look at completely new rings that will accommodate the lovely rectangular radiant diamond as well as those deep green princess cut sapphires.  I’d like the keep the same feel as the last ring, so as to not lose the entire essence of what was given to me with so much love.  

I wish that things had happened differently.  But my husband keep reminding me that we considered ourselves engaged before the rings came along, and we’re married whether we wear them or not.  It’s not the rings that binds us; it’s the love and promises made that day.  How can you argue with that?!

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Week 2 repeated

I'm still working on the Couch to 5K plan.  It feels good to go to have a set goal for a change.  Even so, I should be on the Week 3 recommendations instead of repeating Week 2.  My joints just don't feel ready though.  So, I'm following my body's lead and pulling a do-over!  I hope that I'm following my body's lead, that is, instead of just being lazy!

Monday's run was rough, so I feel I made a good decision.  My entire body hurt that night.  Thankfully it wasn't anything a hot bath couldn't fix! And so, I just keep putting along.  Just very slowly.

On an unrelated note, my husband scared the bejesus out of me last night!  He sat straight up in bed, gasping and gurgling for air.  Then, just as suddenly as he sat up, he was back down and sound asleep.  It scared me.  It scared Riley.  I was unaware her bone had fallen through the grate of her crate and so she nervously chewed her bed.  There's another hole to patch!  Yeah, to say the least, my hubby is an ACTIVE sleeper.  Some nights it's truly terrifiying!

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

What I didn't know

  I love this little monster…..

….but I had no idea how much like having a child she would be!

Seriously, my husband and I lean toward the “no thank you” side of parenthood, and we even took about four good, solid months of debate before we decided to get a dog.   I’ve always had pets, mind you, but they have always been cats.  I grew up with dogs in our home at all times, but they were other people’s dogs!  They were either my mom’s dog or my brother’s dog, and aside from helping out once in a while, those dogs were not my problem!  Just like my two terrors – my lovely chocolate Siamese – were not their problem.  Well, that is until Mom and I decided that it would be best if they stayed country cats when I moved into the city after high school.   But to get back to the subject of dogs, suffice it to say that neither my husband nor I took the decision lightly as we knew that a dog would be more work than any cat I could ever own!  In the end, we decided that while it would be more work, it could also be far more rewarding!  I rushed right out and brought Riley home.  Ahh……
Well, you know the story doesn’t end there right?  She was SO adorable.  She was even smart!  She curled up in her new little bed the moment I put it on the floor.  She was quiet.  She played happily with the toys we gave her.  Her favorite nightly ritual was sleeping out our feet during dinner.  

And of course, it doesn’t end there either.  She didn’t like sleeping in the bathroom.  So, we bought a kennel and brought her in our room at night to combat the separation anxiety she has.  This meant getting up any time she needed to potty because her little bladder wasn’t big enough yet, and we couldn’t allow her to soil her kennel (unlike the bathroom floor which had puppy pads, and I was fine with her tinkling on them).  My husband and I switched off taking her out at 2-3am every night.  Soon, though, his daddy radar turned off, and her whines no longer woke him up.  Luckily, about that time she started sleeping till I get up at 5am.  That was better.  Then she started teething. 

Now, teething has been horrid.  That bears repeating…..HORRID.  She hurts so much.  She lost at least four teeth within three days.  She whines incessantly.  She can’t sleep through the night for the pain.  We’re surviving by frozen carrots and rawhides alone.  Without those tools, we would not make it through this phase.  Oh, and when her mouth hurts too much, she can’t be bothered to stop chewing to let us know she needs to go out.  She just pees in the front room.  Monday was the first day since about the 11th of September that I’ve actually gotten to sleep till 5:15 (when my alarm goes off in the AM).  The last two weekends, I’ve been up by about 4:30 and unable to go back to bed because the dog hurts so much that she’s making too much noise for us to sleep through.  She literally curls up in my lap and gnaws on her foot while whimpering.  Now tell me, how much more like a child can that be?! 

None of that even touches going to puppy class!  And thank God for puppy class.  We cannot wait for the intermediate training that starts October 10th.  See, we probably would have given the dog back by now if it weren’t for the behavior modification that the training classes provide.  She is a willful pup!  And she tests her boundaries.  The classes help us to correct the behaviors in a constructive way while also providing the dog the correct response so that all of us are on the same page about what she’s expected to do (or not do as the case may be).  

But even good training cannot get her to behave while in pain.  We’re tired.  Our nerves are raw.  We’ll be happy when she’s done with this phase.  Can it be soon please?  That’d be an awesome birthday gift!

Also, who knew this little nine pound pup with tiny paws would gain 20 pounds since July 17th?!  I certainly didn't.  Even her trainer is shocked!  Puppy on the grow!  Any guesses at how big she'll be??

Monday, September 27, 2010

Sunday prep

I am happiest when I can enter a week with a clean kitchen and a fridge full of prepped foods.  So, after the football games that I cared about were over, I spent the rest of my afternoon and evening either prepping food or doing laundry. 

First I started with food prep for the week.  I made Mexican cornbread for our lunches for the next two days out of the left over taco meat and beans from last week's taco salads.  Then I made "healthy" rice crispy treats. I'll let you know how those turned out.  I'm not entirely sure they were a success, but I have not actually eaten one yet!  So we shall see.

Next was laundry completion.  Yeah, I can't stand to start a week without all the clothes clean and where it should be.  It just makes me feel frazzled otherwise.

Sadly, dinner took far longer to cook and far more effort that I'd anticipated, leaving me no time to blog and no time to reclean the kitchen.  So, I start Monday with prepped food and put-away laundry.....but NO clean kitchen and no blog in the books.  Hey, you win some; you lose some, riight?

Do you have any Sunday rituals?

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Grocery bills

This has been one of those months were expenses inexplicably gang up on us.  The electric bill was $100+ higher because of the stifling heat.  The dog had a $200 vet visit, and it was time to pay for her next training session.  That sort of stuff, we really don’t have a ton of control over.  Yes, I realize we could keep the house warmer and save some dough, but neither of us was really willing to sit in a 78+ degree house much less try to sleep in one!  I realize the vet bill was unavoidable, but we probably could forgo the training.  Except that we really feel that it’s good for us and Riley and the long-term relationship between the three of us.  The training helps.  Trust me.  I’d have given her back to the humane society by now if it weren’t for the training.  No joke!  

So, really, we can’t help some of the expenses that made for a bit of an expense heavy month.  
I decided to take a closer look at what we were spending where instead of just dismissing September as a month of expensive odds and ends.  After all, I didn’t feel we’d been all that extravagant, but sometimes, costs get away from you.  I’ve learned that taking a few extra moments to look over what we’ve spent where can be really eye-opening and keep the following month from suffering the same fate.  

After dividing everything into categories, I tallied them up.  We charge EVERYTHING every month to one credit card that has a rewards program and pay that card off monthly.  This keeps me from being psychotic about receipts and the bank account balance (which TRUST me…..I can be utterly insane when it comes to worrying about money).  Having everything on one card makes this tallying process fairly easy as I only have to look at once source.  I found that we spend far too much on groceries.  While I love getting organic and higher-quality ingredients, I’m not sure I’d be happy if we spent that much every month.  So, I’ll be making a conscious effort to reduce our grocery bill over the next few weeks.  I’d like to think that you won’t notice anything unusual with our meals.  If you do, would you let me know?  I don’t intend to sacrifice quality.  Instead, I simply hope to make smarter choices.  

Is this something anyone else struggles with?

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Technology at its finest

This was scheduled to post on Thursday, but for some reason, it never did.  So, here you are....a couple days late.

Speaking of technology from yesterday….

Okay, so I was WELL behind the times.  But I made it work.  And thankfully, dating still works, even when you only have dial-up.  

I’m sure most of you know that I only tried online dating on a dare.  Well, rather, to prove someone that told me it was THE way to meet people wrong.  Yeah, both he and I are married to people we met on a little site called Match.  Those cheesy commercials?  They can happen.  We’re proof!  So are two of our friends that met on eHarmony and were in our wedding party together.   

Since I only did it to prove that you can’t find a suitable, dateable person; you can imagine my surprise when it only took two weeks to find Mr. Right.  I’m not saying it happens that way for everyone.  My husband was on it for quite some time and had a string of really bad first dates.  Thank God he persevered.  I’ve since become the self-proclaimed poster child for online dating.  Why did I ever doubt this would work?!  Ehm….probably because I was so far behind on the technological front that I still had dial-up… 2008.  Maybe?

As the self-proclaimed poster child, I feel compelled to tell you that if you’re single and skeptical of dating sites…..I challenge you to give it your best shot.  Let me be the person you want to prove wrong!  And if you do, please let me know how it goes.    


Friday, September 24, 2010

Food in Review

Aside from Friday, this was an eat-in and eat foods I prepared kind of week.  I gained weight last week when I cheated with premade casseroles from my beloved Central Market.  Don’t get me wrong, I had no foolish notions that the casseroles were light, especially when the second ingredient in the Cowboy Casserole was butter!  No wonder it tasted so good!

Friday: Date night ensued.  We went to our usual date spot to celebrate yet another month of being together (you may recall that this was instituted by my husband to commemorate our first date and we’ve literally done it every month since we’ve been together) and split the Party for Two.  It’s a salad each, a medium pizza, and a pazookie for $19.95.  I went with the house; he the Caesar.  Our pizza was a fun creation of bacon, ham, onions, and jalapenos.  Totally delicious combo.  We also did something different with dessert.  We were informed that you can chose two flavors and have it half-n-half style.  We went with white chocolate macadamia for the hubby and peanut butter for me!  We WILL be having that combo again!  Such a fun night.  

Saturday: We hit the farmers market bright and early for our bounty then I hit the grocery store.  There would be fresh food in our house!  Saturday night’s dinner was Oktoberfest inspired!  We picked up smoked pork sausage from the market – Rehoboth Ranch makes insanely good sausages! – which I used for Saturday’s dinner.  I sliced one link (the package comes with two links) and pan-seared it all by its lonesome.  Once they were seared nicely, I removed them from the pan and put a whole mess of sauerkraut in the same pan with some spicy brown mustard mixed in.  The goal was to let the juices from the kraut pick up all the browned tasty bits from the sausage.  Worked like a charm too!  I always “grill” my sauerkraut.  I like it dry and hot.  I don’t like it straight from the jar, all wet and cold.  Some people do, but that’s not my style.  While all that loveliness was happening on the stovetop, I had sweet potato slices roasting away in the oven with olive oil, salt, and pepper.  Add a Shiner Oktoberfest (or really, and good German-style beer you like) and some brown mustard for the full effect.  Which we did, happily.

Sunday: Epic football it was!  I made cheese wantons and edamame for the first game.  Wontons are one of my husband’s favorites.  I decided to bake the wontons this time.  Yeah, this is not the place to skimp on calories because the baked wontons weren’t worth the effort and time I spent making them.  This is where I need to stick to actually frying something.

After Riley’s puppy graduation, we had my Colt game to enjoy!  I made my killer taco salad for the occasion.  I like layered taco salads.  I start with chopped romaine.  Crumbled tortilla chips go next.  Then seasoned ground beef and beans is piled on.  I used more Rehoboth ground beef for our taco meat.  It’s SO red when it’s raw.  You can just see the quality!  I browned the full pound then added dark red kidney beans.  For the taco effect, I mixed in onion powder, garlic powder, chili powder, cumin, cayenne, and salt.  You could use a season packet, but I find them too salty and not spicy enough.  The proportions are really up to you though.  I use a TON of chili powder and quite a bit of cayenne too because I like it hot.  Once you get it all in the pan, add enough water to cover and let it simmer until most of the water is gone.  It imparts a lovely flavor all through the meat and beans.  On top of the taco meat goes the cheese.  I used Kroger brand white Vermont sharp cheddar with chipotle, freshly grated.  Next, diced tomatoes and avocados get piled on along with salsa, which acts as the salad dressing.  The order of the layers is important.  One, it make it pretty.  Two, the chips keep the lettuce from wilting due to the hot meat, and the cheese goes on the hot meat so that it melts.  Smart, right?  Taco salad might be my absolute favorite salad ever.

Monday: I gave a new twist to two favorites: sausage topped polenta meets okra stew over cornbread.  Polenta and cornbread are so comforting, and essentially the same taste, really, since they’re both all about milled corn.  I made a quick sauce of fresh tomatoes, onion, okra and just a tiny nub of the smoked sausage for flavor with garlic and oregano then piled it on a base of creamy parmesan polenta.  Simple, filling, and really comforting for a Monday.  I actually meant to add black eyed peas to the stew, but I thawed too much okra!  Oops.

Tuesday: Okay, don’t ask me where I got this one. I really don’t have a clue.  I wanted to use gnocchi.  I am a fool for gnocchi and often crave it.  This was one of those times.  For some reason, I thought Irish Yeah, gnocchi isn’t Irish at all.  But it is potato, hence the Irish.  Well, Irish lead to cabbage.  I don’t have cabbage, but I always have frozen Brussels sprouts!  Add the rest of the smoked sausage, and the idea started to cement.  I seared the remaining sausage, cut in chunks until brown.  They came out of the pan and quartered Brussels sprouts and diced onion went in.  While those got brown and lovely, I put on water to boil for the gnocchi and made a sauce in my mini processor.  In went two cloves of garlic, two handfuls of arugula, a generous pinch of parm, a palmful of walnuts, one turn of olive oil, and enough veggie stock so that things would actually move around the processor.  (How is that for measurements?!)  Once the Brussels were nice and golden, the sausage and arugula pesto joined them in the skillet.  The whole thing simmered with extra veggie stock until the gnocchi floated gracefully to the top of the boiling water.  Once drained, they too joined the skillet party with some reserved gnocchi cooking water until everything was coated.  I dished this out into ramekins, dolloped ricotta on top and put them in the oven on broil for just a few minutes.  The result…..probably the best gnocchi I’ve made to date!  The potato + cabbage + sausage combo was out of this world, and the pesto brought all of the flavors together so beautifully.  The trick was to get every element in every bite.  We almost made a game of it!

Wednesday:  I was utterly exhausted.  Thank goodness for leftovers.  I simply warmed the taco meat, layered as above, and voila!  Taco salad night two.  And it was good.  The taco meat gets better with a little time to meld.  

Thursday: We have a friend in town hosting a dinner at Fox & Hound.  So, maybe out “eat in all week” thing really didn’t work.  Hey, we tried.  Beer and pub food was had.  Hey…..when in Rome.

Graduation dog says I can has diploma!  And you can has a Friday!

Hope it’s a great one!

Wednesday, September 22, 2010


I credit my husband over and over for bringing me out of the stone ages.  When we met, I was living in a one room house in the middle of a field behind an Army Corps of Engineer’s park with dial-up internet, a clearance model laptop, a four year old cell phone, a 5 year old 2.0 megapixel digital camera,  and a television that was older than me and smaller than most current computer monitors.  

Now… I watch my football games in high definition on my husband’s big screen.  I stream silly movies and old television shows from Netflix through his Xbox 360.  I record a zillion cooking and reality shows using his TiVo.  I take cute dog photos and yummy food porn on the digital camera he bought us for our trip to Las Vegas because mine was “sad” a.k.a. horribly obsolete.  I have gone through two cell phones since he put me on his plan.  Actually, four if you count the replacements due to breakage.  I own (and love) a green iPod nano that he gave me as a first anniversary gift solely because it would take too many CDs for the Italian lessons he actually MEANT to be the gift, not the nano.  

We had to move into his apartment when we officially moved in together because he couldn’t live with my dial up.  Plus, his electronics would not have survived my VERY moist cabin environment (the floor leeched water through the foundation when it rained extremely hard or for long periods), so we’d have to use my teeny non-HD, over two decades old television with no TiVo because I couldn’t get the service out there.  

So, he literally brought me out of the woods and at least into the late nineties!  Then he gave me the technological tools needed to create this blog (save the laptop….I still use the ancient thing and will do so until it croaks).  Then he gave me the encouragement and tech support needed to actually write it.  

And for some reason, a few people read it every day.  So, thanks….for being my bloggy enablers.  

And thanks to my hubby for the pushing and shoving it takes to get me to stick to it.  Oh….and for letting me watch the Colts in Hi-Def.  So intense!

Monday, September 20, 2010

Couch to 5K week 2

Running is still on the agenda this week as I continue my Couch to 5K quest.  The plan calls for a mix of walking and running, just like last week.  Except now, both intervals are longer.  I run for 1.5 minutes instead of 1 and walk for 2 instead of 1.5.  

I hit the gym on Monday to start the week on the right foot (ha, puny!) with a lunch time “training” session.  I honestly feel silly for calling this training, since I think most people could do this distance and speed without trying, but hey… gotta start somewhere.  This is definitely NOT my natural state of being.  

I have to say…..this week’s intervals seem so much easier than last week’s.  Perhaps it’s because I am running the same amount of time but with fewer change overs so I was able to zone out a bit more.  Or perhaps, I just had a better mind-set for the week, having successfully completed all three training sessions last week.   Whatever it was, I found that I didn’t have to force myself to continue at the half way point.  AND….my shoes didn’t come untied!  That’s a first out of four runs.  I realize that may seem like an odd thing to point out, but I assure you that having to pause the treadmill to retie your shoelace is about the most annoying thing that can happen!  It’s a momentum killer.

So far, I’m happy that I’ve decided to do this.  We’ll see if my attitude (and knees) holds up in the coming weeks!  Also...I haven't quite figured out the best food schedule on the days I run.  That's still in the trial and error phase.

In the name of love

My husband dislikes football, yet he watches the Colts' games with me. 

My husband could care less about "healthy" food, yet he goes to the farmers market with me extremely early on Saturday mornings and mans the dog so that I can get my grass fed meat, organic dairy, and some of the most delicious tomatoes I've ever had.

One of my husband's favorite beers is Delerium Tremens, yet he bought a four pack that he refuses to touch because it was "a treat just for me" that he got me for having a bad day at work.

I walked around most of the day with no makeup, in "comfy" clothes to do chores in, and he still called me sexy.

I don't know how I got so lucky.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Epic Football!

So my mind is focused on one thing today......

Get ALL of the chores done early so that I can watch some Epic Manning on Manning football tonight!!!!  Giants v. Colts, baby!  7:15 CST! 

Yeah, I'll pretty much be glued to my TV and useless at that point.  So, right now, I have the dishwasher and washing machine running.  I'm pre-cooking steel cut oats for some of this week's breakfasts.  I'll be making lunch snacks soon.  I think I'll even pre-cook tonight's dinner.  Yeah, I don't mess around with my football.  There will be good food, beer, and yelling at the TV.....and not really anything else!  Since, it's the night game, I also have to plan to go to bed late.  That means that tomorrow's lunches will be made today before the game starts.  I mean, you don't expect a real fan to go to bed with the game still in session, do you?? 

Before we can get to the goods tonight, though, we first have to attend Ms. Riley's last puppy class!  That's right, she graduates tonight.  Wow...right?!  There's a test and everything.  Wish my little lady....and my Colts....good luck, won't you!

Happy Football Sunday!

Saturday, September 18, 2010


I was SO excited to get to the weekend.  We didn't have solid plans for the weekend.  Just a few highlights that we would probably do.  I love those lazy, do what you want when you want weekends. 

Sadly, I've been up since 4:30 this morning with a teething puppy - teething, whiny puppy, that is.  And now my fun, lazy plans look very unlikely....or at least done with far less enthusiasm as I'd hoped for.  If I'm lucky, there will be a nap in my future, but I somehow doubt that this "nap" thing really exists. 

I really hope my weekend isn't shot by this.  It started so well!  My husband took me out to dinner at our restaurant.  We had a wonderful evening, mostly discussing when we thought we'd be able to go "where the history is".  It's nice to daydream.  I still have these lingering doubts that I'll ever actually go there, but it's nice to have a little hope nonetheless.

I hope all of you are starting your Saturday morning out a bit later that I did.  I'm going to go see if I can salvage this day.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Food in Review

Food this week was a mix of simplicity and using things up before they go bad.  

Friday:  I really didn’t have “dinner”.  I met a friend for happy hour – Blue Mesa gives you free quesadillas with the purchase of a drink – to kill time till the Pampered Chef party.  So, I had a veggie quesadilla and a Bohemia at the bar.  Then I had the most decadent chunk of brownie at the Pampered Chef party.  Lastly, I ate a fried egg and avocado sandwich before bed on a sandwich thin.  Yeah, none of that is really dinner, huh?  The husband delighted himself with fast food since I wasn’t around.  That’s about the only time he gets any fast food anymore.  Poor hubby!

Satruday: We had a failed attempt at D&D and a tasty but unusually slow lunch at the local pub in Denton: Abbey Inn.  Then we watched The Hangover with a friend at our house.  By the time we went to make dinner it was after 8pm.  We settled on the other casserole I’d gotten from Central Market.  It was a beef enchilada stack and absolutely out of this world delicious.  This stack fed us dinner Saturday, lunch Sunday, and lunch Monday!  Take about getting your money’s worth!

Sunday: I finally stocked the kitchen Sunday morning before the football game.  My hubby requested potato skins.  I love homemade potato skins…..WAY more than anything you can get in any restaurant.  Really….they’re outrageously simple and delicious!  I use Ellie Krieger’s method for skins.  Even if you go with full-fat toppings, I very highly recommend the method for the potatoes.  I nuke small russets wrapped in paper towels till soft.  Cut in half and scoop out as much as you like to make room for your fillings.  The innards get seasoned and handed off to the hubby as “mashed potatoes”.  Coat all sides of the potatoes in olive oil….use a brush because you only need a little, promise.  Bake for 20 minutes.  Add toppings, bake again.  They’ll feel smooshy when you pull them out of the oven – like they didn’t crisp up – but as soon as they will be nice an crispy in just a few minutes when they set a little.  Ours were broccoli with sharp white cheddar and sour cream.  Delicious.  But you’re here for the dinner portion!  

Dinner was beautiful….and good.  I had all of the ingredients for this at the beginning of last week and never made it.  So, this dinner absolutely had to be meal #1 else stuff was going to get tossed.  Not ok!  I made something I’ve never made before: spaghetti squash.  My husband actually had to half the squash for me.  I couldn’t muscle through it!  I brushed the squash with olive oil and added salt and pepper.  Into a 400 degree oven it went for 20 minutes.  Meanwhile, I sliced a peeled eggplant into long strips.  These joined the squash.  Everything stayed in the oven and was flipped every 10 minutes until about an hour had passed.  Then….out came my favorite little dishes… individual casseroles!  Each dish had the “spaghetti-ed” squash in the bottom with marinara left over from last week’s meatballs, topped with eggplant planks that had a mixture of goat cheese and spinach in between!  The goat cheese spinach mixture was just that – goat cheese and fresh spinach that I stuck in my mini food processor with some salt and pepper.  It was so creamy but with a great earthy taste!  It sound like an odd combo but it really worked.  And look at the colors!  Yeah, I loved this one.
Monday: I blame Alton Brown.  I watched a tuna episode over the weekend and simply had to make his tuna croquettes.  I’ve made various croquettes before, and these were so simple that I’d have to deem them the quintessential croquette.  I used vacuum packed albacore, something I rarely buy because I like chunk light so much.  It worked far better in this than my beloved chunk light.  So, I wouldn’t recommend substitution here.  I added a very finely sliced mild hatch pepper (need to use them up!).  Also, I used lime juice (since I had limes) and a shallot (since I had shallots).  Why waste, right?  Worked beautifully!  I whipped up an impromptu sauce of plain low-fat organic yogurt and cilantro with lime (in the mini processor) for the croquettes.  I love sauces for fish.  This was an excellent choice.  My hubby and I nearly licked the little bowl with the sauce clean.  I totally forgot to purchase a side, so my freezer contents decided for me…..English peas and onions.  Great combo.  I get these little pearl onions frozen, and I wouldn’t buy them any other way!  They’re already peeled and ready to be added.  They’re sweet, and they burst in your mouth.  And I love that I can sauté them a bit before adding the peas.  

Tuesday: My husband’s boss gave him a baggie of little red Tabasco peppers from her garden last week.  My mind when to two things: pepper sauce and Thai food.  So, most of these babies are in a jar filled with plain vinegar, getting acquainted, as it were.  But four made it into dinner, whole.  I sautéed onions, hatch chilies, bell pepper, and carrot chips while the remainder of a box of whole wheat angel hair cooked away.  Add peanut sauce (a concoction of my own PB, soy, rice wine vinegar, srirasha), ginger, and four chilies to the mix.  What do we have?!  My brother’s favorite dish of mine: peanut noodles!  I also threw in some remaining chicken breast from another meal.  Why not?  Yeah, we went back for seconds and ended up eating the entire pan!  Um…oops?


Wednesday: I think I’ll never cook with an unfamiliar fish again.  I had fresh-caught Swordfish from the farmers market still in the freezer.  I thought this would be the night for it.  I decided to turn it into a Mexican-style salad.  A bed of mixed greens made the base.  Then I added jarred roasted red peppers, fresh roasted hatch chilies, grilled shallot and corn, crumbled goat cheese, and salsa.  Those elements were awesome, and worked very well together.  The fish though…..the fish was REALLY fishy.  We both muscled through half of the grilled fish on our salads and dinked the rest to the outer edges so that we could get to the tasty bits beneath it.  I was sorely disappointed.  I don’t blame the fish person. Some of his other fish have been fantastic.  I blame us not liking that fish.  

Thursday: Hair dresser bridesmaid came over to cut our hair.  We look spiffy now!  :)  Especially the husband.  love the way she did his bangs.  Anyhow, she had the evening free (YAY!) so she stayed for dinner.  We sipped Shiner Oktoberfests that she brought us while I made steak nachos.  I pan-seared a sirloin tip steak and then cut it into bite-sized bits.  The steak, minced onions, and black beans were piled on toasted sesame seed tortilla chips that I discovered at Central Market.  They were very nutty!  The whole whole mess got topped with Cabot sharp white cheddar and set under the broiler for mere minutes.  As a tip, construct the nachos on individual sheets of foil.  That way, you can just transfer the foil to each plate and clean up is non-existent.  My favorite kind!  Salsa and sour cream was laid out serve your self style for the nachos.  they were amazing and oh-so-simple.  Now that's how you feed three adults with a $4 steak!  (Sorry, we were starving, so no photo.......but you've our nachos before!) 

I know Friday is Riley day, generally, but she hogged the whole blog yesterday.  So you'll just have to come back next Friday! 

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Teething pains

I’ve never had a dog before – like, as my own as an adult.  We had them in droves when I was a child, along with a slew of cats and various small critters.  Yet, somehow, I managed to not know a darn thing about the trials and tribulations of a teething puppy!  How did I miss this, even as a kid?  

Riley is in full-on teething mode.  She’d had a few days when you could tell her mouth was bothering her, but nothing like this week.  I was starting to think she was just a demon dog and that I’d made a horrid, horrid mistake by selecting her – or even wanting a dog AT ALL.  Then Sunday, I came home with a new small, bone-shaped rawhide to help with the teething.  

This isn’t because I realized she was in pain or anything.  No, nothing that sympathetic or motherly.  I brought the bone home in the hope that 1) she wouldn’t eat it as quickly as the spiral-style rawhides and 2) that she’s stop destroying my sh*t!  Last week, she managed to chew her way down the length of the wooden window ledge behind the couch in the front room.  It pissed me off to NO end.  This isn’t because it’s unfixable.  It’s wood; it’s totally fixable.  It’s because it will be a HASSLE to fix!  Then Sunday morning, she chewed through my laptop charging cable in about 30 seconds.  My laptop is unusable without that chord since the battery never managed to hold a charge, not even when brand new.  

I pouted.  I wouldn’t talk to the dog.  She was on my poop list big time.  She was now costing me even more money….more than the vets and the training and the expensive food that she inhales at 4 cups a day right now.  My inner accountant (and we all know what a little miser my inner accountant is) was in utter turmoil over the mounting expenses of Dog.  

I came back from the grocery store, unwrapped the rawhide, and thrust it at the dog proclaiming that if this doesn’t STOP the destruction, the dog was in serious jeopardy of me never speaking to her again.  Ever.  (Yeah, I was miffed.)  

She ran off with the bone, oh so happy.  She gnawed and gnawed for hours.  The husband went to check on the dog and the bone.  (He wasn’t nearly as miffed.  His laptop chord was still intact!)  He found blood on said bone.  Turns out she managed to lose one of her lower incisors on the bone.  She was the happiest, most lovable pup after that!  

I softened big time.  And felt bad.  My poor little baby had been in so much pain, hence the being rotten and not sleeping this week, and now she was being such a good girl!  What kind of a mother am I?!  

She ended up losing another tooth that evening at puppy class: an upper molar.  Still, the other lower incisor was giving her fits.  She’d managed to chew the small rawhide bone in half.  So, we had to remove it Monday night as a choking hazard.   I brought home a medium rawhide bone on Tuesday.  Less than an hour later, the other offending baby fang was gone.  You could almost sense the relief from the dog.  She was an absolute angel all night.  

And my miser was also happy.  The puppy trainer extraordinaire had told us if she didn’t lose the other incisor by the weekend, we should have it pulled.  Her adult fang was already coming in and could be damaged by her baby fang.  Now, I don’t know for certain, but I think a vet visit to pull a tooth would have to be in the $100s at least, yes?  So, a $2 bone and a $20 chord replacement weren’t looking so bad at this point!  My miser was a happy camper after that!  

And so is Riley.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Couch to 5K

I’m going to try the first bits of my training on the Couch to 5K plan in the gym with a treadmill.  I’ve scheduled my gym membership to be suspended as of October 31st, and I have to pay for it till then.  Might as well get my money’s worth!

So, Monday at work, I geared up and hit the treadmill.  I’ve tried the treadmill exactly three times before.  Disasters, I tell you!  Why I think this whole running this is a good idea is beyond me!  Heh…and yet, I hopped back up on and did my first training session anyhow!

Now, the Couch to 5K plan calls for you to warm up, cool down, and do intervals of walking and jogging throughout the program.  Each week, you jog more and walk less.  Simple, right?  

Week one: warm up 5 minutes, jog 60 seconds, walk 90 seconds, repeat for approximately 20 minutes, cool down 5 minutes.

To fit it into my lunch period, I had to do a 2 minute warm up and cool down.  But I didn’t skip the stretches.  Hopefully, shortening my warm-ups and cool-downs won’t be extremely detrimental.  I did nine 60-second running segments with 90-second walking segments in between.  I set the treadmill to a 3.7 (a 16.21 minute/mile pace) for the walks and 5.2 (11.31 pace) for the runs.  Now, it says jog so I didn’t go for full-fledged sprint in those 60-second jogs.  I’m not going for speed or records here, people.  

Observation #1:  I felt very uncoordinated during the jogs.  It felt as if my legs were totally separate entities that had never before been forced to work in harmony.  It was a truly odd sensation.  I started to huff and puff around the 5th jog.  My heart rate jumped way up too.  Then by the 8th jog, I felt like I could keep on going and going if I didn’t have to get back to work….and if the plan didn’t tell you to stop after roughly 20 minutes.  

Observation #2:  I need a better playlist!  I had my nano on shuffle and when "He Stopped Loving Her Today" came on in the 5th jog, I felt like I wanted to be the one with the wreath upon her door!  Thankfully, the shuffled list redeemed itself by playing our first dance song for jog 9!

Over the entire 24.5 minutes, I managed to cover 1.72 miles according to the treadmill readings.  I maintained an average heart rate of 144 (which is a good cardio workout, so says my Lifetime Fitness trainer when I joined).  And my heart-rate monitor told me I burned 258 calories.  That’s about 50-80 calories more than I’d been burning in the same amount of time going all-out on the elliptical machine.  Perhaps there is something to this running thing, eh?  

I haven’t picked a 5K yet, but I hope to do one in November.  Anyone in the DFW area fun in events like this?  I’d love to hear about them!  

Oh….and my husband might be joining in on this adventure too!  So excited.  I’ll keep you posted!

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

I must read too many blogs

Weight and fitness have always been an issue for me.  I’m 5’2”, and I love to eat.  Those two things can often be a bad combo, and I’ve been overweight before.  When I decided to do something about being overweight (Winter 2005), I made a promise to myself never to get back to that point again.  I didn’t really make that promise because I was “that big” or because weighing 20 pounds more than I do now is “that bad for you”.  No, unfortunately, being that heavy was an outward sign of a whole lot of inner turmoil manifesting itself.  So, while trying to cope with and change the parts of my life that cause me to be unhappy and in that state of constant turmoil, I tackled the more tangible pounds in the process.  I find that very often, if I’m putting on weight these days, I’m very likely dealing with something that has not a darn thing to do with food!  

Nonetheless, I still find tackling excess poundage to be therapeutic and a way for me to feel like I’m making positive changes in my life instead of focusing on the negative.  

So, in that spirit, I’ve decided to tackle something that I never, ever thought I’d be interested in doing.  I’m going to run a 5K!

Okay, some of you out there might have just gone “you’re making this big a deal out of running 3.1 miles?”.  Um…..yes.  See, I’m not a runner.  AT ALL.  I barely ran around the track with I was a kid (they thought I was asthmatic and would get shin splints, so they let me walk a lot).  So running, even a mile, would be well above and beyond anything I ever thought I was capable of.  

Then I started walking Riley, and one day, she took off in a run.  I had her leash.  So, it was be dragged, jerk the dog, or run with her.  So, I tried a little sprint.  Hmm….not so bad.  Now, I still haven’t done all out run, run, run.  That seems a bit hasty!

The running seed was planted after a week of on-and-ff sprinting with Riley.  I read a lot of healthy living blogs, and they all run.  They make it look, dare I say, fun.  Plus, I am really sick of the gym.  I’m still not comfortable there.  So, I thought that this is a good way to keep moving but not be so dependent on the gym.  After reading up on being a beginning runner, I decided to do the Cool Runnings Couch to 5K plan.

I did my first “training” session today!  I’ll tell you about that tomorrow.