Wednesday, January 21, 2015

A Very Earthy Kind of Day

Last Sunday was a kinda weird but amazingly fun day. The hubs and I have been talking for quite awhile about changing our lifestyle and starting to live more simply and organic. This week-end we decided to finally put those plans into action.

The day started with us planting two new fruit trees. By "us" I mean "hubby" - I stayed inside and made a grocery list.  Poor guy had to dig two big holes in the clay that we call soil.  He then planted the trees and put lots of good new soil around them. I can hardly wait until they start blooming so I can share pictures.

The next big event of the day was mine. I have been fascinated by the art of bread baking for as long as I can remember, but I had never tried it. I was really intimidated and afraid of failure. On Sunday I finally got my courage up and decided to teach myself to bake bread. I did lots of research, then just dove headfirst into the flour.  It worked!  I produced an absolutely delicious (if I do say so myself) loaf of bread and pan of pull-apart rolls.  I am so proud!  It was actually not as hard as I expected and I had so much fun. There will definitely be more bread baking in my future.

My first attempt at bread baking. Pretty awesome, right?

The last new thing for the day was setting up our new composter. We got one the kind that is fully enclosed and spins so you can keep the greens and browns nice and mixed up. After I cooked dinner I went out and proudly deposited the potato peels into it. Now I just have to get in the habit of doing it regularly.  We will be planing a vegetable garden this spring, so I can hardly wait until we have some compost to put on it.

By the end of the day I was feeling very much like a tree-hugging granola-munching earth mother and I LOVED the way it felt!  Here's to many more week-ends like this.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

One of Those Days

Have you ever had a day that was so bad that you either have to laugh about it, or just go back to bed and pull the covers over your head?  That is what today has been like for me. 

My day started off with horrendous traffic.  There were two different wrecks that resulted in lanes being completely shut down.  It took me an hour and a half to get to work!  I had a 7:00am meeting, but luckily I was able to call in from my car. Thank goodness for Bluetooth!

The unholy traffic also caused me to have to slam my brakes a couple of times.  Unfortunately, today is our holiday potluck and the cupcakes that I stayed up late baking and decorating went slamming into the floorboards. They were in a cupcake keeper, so most of them were salvageable, but a few of them were just completely destroyed.

I finally made it into the office and decided that since it has been such a horrible morning I deserved a little treat. Since Coca-Cola is my biggest vice, I decided that a little caffeine and sugar was just what I needed. Guess what happened?  You guessed it – I opened it and it spewed all over me and my desk!

The really sad part about all of this?  It is only 8:30am. This cursed day has a whole lot of time to spring more nasty surprises on me.  It is too late to go back to bed, so I think I’ll just have a laugh about the ridiculousness of this day and eat those destroyed cupcakes.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Life Lately

I'm sure everyone feels this way (given the season), but holy-cannoli life has been insane lately!  I have neglected this poor little blog terribly.  Luckily, I just found out that my work will be closed between Christmas and New Year, so I can hopefully do some catching up soon.

Since I last posted I have had a birthday!  Some friends were in town, so we went for steaks at Pappas   Bros.  It was so much fun and the food was soooooo good.  If you are ever in the DFW area and craving the best steak money can buy, check them out.  They ain't cheap, but very worth the $$$.

My house has resembled a hospital ward since the week of Thansgiving. First hubby came down with bronchitis and pneumonia. We were just getting him back on his feet when I caught the flu, then developed bronchitis.  You don't even want to think about the amount of hot tea that has been consumed in my home the last few weeks.

We were able to decorate our mantle and hang a wreath before the plague hit. Thank goodness for that or there would be no Christmas cheer in my house at all  I think we will skip the tree this year. Neither one of us has the oomph  to deal with it.

So, that had been my life lately. Have you been up to anything interesting?

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Inventing Recipes - Pork Chops in Hard Cider

I enjoy cooking, but I rarely have time to do it during the week thanks to a long commute.  Whenever I get a chance on the week-ends, I really enjoy either tweaking existing recipes or inventing new ones.  Tonight I invented a new one and I’m really pleased with it. 

My new invention is for bone-in pork chops braised on the stove top with hard cider.  This recipe would work fine for 4 chops, but since it is just the two of us I only cooked two.  Actually, I wouldn't even call this a recipe since I rarely measure anything when I cook.  Think of it as more of a guideline.

I started by putting a glurg of olive oil in a skillet and tossing in some sliced yellow onions. I cooked them until they started to get soft, then added the chops that I had sprinkled with one of those “everything but the kitchen sink” spice mixes.  Once the chops had browned on one side I flipped them over and browned the other.  Then I took the chops and the onions out of the skillet. I used one bottle of hard cider (a single serve size bottle, not one of the huge ones) to deglaze the pan.

After the pan was deglazed I added in about a cup of organic chicken broth, then put the chops and the onions back in.  After that I chopped a granny smith apple into large chunks and added them to the skillet.   After the liquid started to boil, I dropped it down to a simmer, covered the pan and let it simmer away for a while.  Mine took about 20 minutes, but that will depend on how thick your chops are.  Be sure that your internal temperature gets to the acceptable level for food safety.

Pork chops simmering away

Once my chops were done I pulled out the chops, tented them with foil and let them rest. While they were resting I brought the rest of the stuff in the skillet back up to a good rolling boil.  While it was boiling (and thickening a bit) I mushed up the chunks of apple to get all of their goodness out.  After it got to the consistency I wanted I strained it through a fat separator.  Be sure to squish the apples and onions in the strainer to get all of the juices out.

The next step is the best part. Put the chops on your plate, top with sauce, and eat it up.
I was really pleased with this recipe.  The next time I make it I will probably add a little bit of butter to the sauce just before it is finished.  That will make the sauce a bit thicker and will add a bit more dimension to it. Otherwise, I think that the apple and pork flavors were well balanced.  It didn't have much onion flavor, which is how I like it. If you are an onion fan you can always add more onion, or serve the onion with the chops.  I tossed out my onions once the sauce was done since I just wanted the flavor of them.

The finished product with risotto. This was before I poured sauce all over it. 
Normal people would probably want to add a veggie.

My husband thinks I’m a genius and my dogs are following me around the house kissing me.  So, I think the whole family rates this new recipe as a winner!

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

My First Corporate Retreat

Last week I was able to attend my first ever corporate retreat. It was amazing! At first I was a little bit shocked to be included since I am a contractor and retreats tend to be more for the inner circle of employees. I am thrilled that I got to go and I feel so much more a part of the team now.

I work for a global organization, so many members of my department are based overseas. Listening to all of the different accents made me feel a bit like I had made a wrong turn and wound up at the U.N.! We had attendees from South Africa, China, France, Singapore, Mexico, U.K., Dubai, India, Brazil, and Poland. That list only includes where they are currently based. If we added country of origin it would be much larger!

Part of the team getting read to play mini-golf

Our retreat was held over 3 days at the Omni Barton Creek Resort and Spa in Austin, TX. Those of us that are based in the Dallas office took a luxury chartered bus down. We had WiFi, food, alcohol, lots of first-class amenities and even an attendant to see to all of our needs. It was more cushy than any first-class flight I have ever taken.

The view from my room

Our three days of meetings were split up with ice breakers, group activities, and lots of small group meetings. Our dinners were always in a private setting, so there was a lot of "getting to know you" time.

Fire pit for telling stories around during our first dinner

By the time we got on the bus to go home I was utterly exhausted, but also rejuvenated and ready to leap back into all of my projects.

It was an incredible three days and I came out of it with new friends from all over the world, a much deeper understanding of my department & how we fit together, and a greater sense of excitement for how my projects will affect the organization going forward.

To sum it all up in one word - INCREDIBLE!

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

I'm Back!

Sorry for disappearing for over a month!  My work life has been crazy, but in a good way.

Back in July I mentioned that I had left my job and was taking a class. I had just started getting calls from recruiters and was setting up some initial interviews. Well, that all progressed quickly and I found myself in final interviews for two different jobs. They were both great companies and I know that I was truly blessed to have such amazing opportunities.

I was ecstatically happy when my favored one offered. It is a contract position, but it is scheduled for 18 months. It is a terrific organization and I am loving it! I have been here 4 weeks now and I am thrilled with the work I am doing.

It has been a little rough getting used to everything. I'm really getting to stretch myself and do new things, but my brain is pretty much fried by the time I get home. So, I decided to take a few weeks off from the blog until I got adjusted.

I am finally settled in and looking forward to getting back to blogging. I have some fun adventures coming up and I can't wait to share them!

Friday, August 15, 2014

Best Friends

When we adopted our kitty, Harley, I was really worried about how the dogs would handle it.  I knew that our older dog, Fancy, would be fine. She is a very gentle, easy going dog.  However, I was really worried about Piglet.  She is a very feisty Jack Russell terrier and is quite jealous. I was really concerned that we would have some serious sibling rivalry happening in my house.

Luckily, that is not how it played out at all. Harley and Piglet almost immediately fell in love with each other. Piglet never once even growled at her!  They enjoy playing together and have become the very best of friends. They are convinced that they are litter-mates!

Hey Harley, want to play?

After play time, nap time is fast approaching.

Now they have a lap, so both babies settle in for a snooze.

Life is so much sweeter with fur babies!