Sunday, May 21, 2017

Devil Chicken

While I certainly haven't been blogging this last two weeks plus, I have been doing a bit of cooking. I've a backlog of "recipes to try" that would keep a small country fed for a year. Tonight's recipe is courtesy of Jacques Pepin, chicken thighs in a spicy tomato/vinegar sauce.

Chicken Diablo

6 large, bone-in, skinned chicken thighs (if you insist, you can use breasts, or even boneless, skinless breasts, but honestly, learn to eat dark meat - it is so much more flavorful, and thighs are actually easy to eat with a knife and fork off the bone)

3/4 teaspoon salt, divided

3/4 teaspoon pepper, divided

1 tablespoon unsalted butter

1 tablespoon olive oil

4 garlic cloves, crushed and finely chopped

2 tablespoons red wine vinegar (or 1/4 cup vinegar and no wine)

2 tablespoons dry white wine

8 ounces tomato sauce (or 3/4 cup tomato puree)

1/4 cup water

1 teaspoon Tobasco sauce

1 tablespoon chopped fresh tarragon

Cook chicken:

Sprinkle both sides of chicken with 1/2 teaspoon salt and pepper. Heat butter and oil in a large, heavy, deep skillet over medium-high heat. Add thighs, cover and cook five minutes. Turn, cover and cook an additional 10 - 15 minutes, reducing heat and turning as needed, until done (check near the bone - for more even cooking, before putting them in the pan, make a 1/2" cut on the backside of the thigh on each side of the bone, not going all the way through). Remove from pan and put somewhere to keep warm.

Make sauce:

Add garlic to pan drippings and cook, stirring, about 30 seconds, without browning. Deglaze pan with vinegar and wine, stirring to melt the solidified juices. Cook 1 to 2 minutes; most of the liquid should have evaporated. Add water and tomato sauce and bring to boil over high heat. Cover and boil 1 minute. Stir in remaining 1⁄4 teaspoon salt and 1⁄4 teaspoon pepper, Tabasco and tarragon. Spoon sauce over the chicken and serve.

Serves 4

Diane's take: The tang from the vinegar and the heat of the Tabasco combine to give you spicy, but not overly so (maybe my Tobasco is old - I put in closer to two teaspoons). Don't skip the fresh tarragon - it adds needed depth.

I wasn't sure I'd like bone-in chicken with a sauce on it, but as I said above, chicken thighs, having pretty much just the one, round bone, are very easy to eat with a knife and fork. They also cook up very juicy and flavorful. There was rather a lot of chicken juice/rendered chicken fat in my pan when I took the thighs out; though I left it in the pan, the sauce wasn't unduly greasy. My one change would be to serve this with something to soak up more of the sauce - rice, couscous or some other grain. While I made oven baked fries, they didn't soak up as much of the sauce as I'd have liked.

This is a keeper.

Wednesday, May 03, 2017

It's not Friday

Yet here I am. Sort of.

Every so often I feel like shuttering this place, but I live in hopes that I'll come out of this slump and get back to making sense and decent posts...still hoping.

I realized this past weekend that it's really been a difficult 2017 so far. So many people were anxious for 2016 to end, mostly because of the slew of celebrity deaths in that year (news flash: everyone dies eventually). This year, though, at least for me, has stunk on a more personal level.

Much of the stink doesn't actually emanate from me, so to speak, but is clouding the lives of people I hold dear. Serious health issues. Parents passing away. Long term unemployment and the associated financial troubles. Serious relationship difficulties. Much, if not most, of it beyond anything I can do other than pray.

Add to this generalized anxiety about society. Since the election, already acrimonious public discourse has taken a turn for the worse. Any position but your own is not only unsound, but by default makes you a racist, homophobe, uncompassionate ass who doesn't deserve to breathe. Our college campuses, especially, have in large part begun indoctrinating students in a particular world view rather than teaching anything like free thought and free speech.

That last bit makes life at work a bit...interesting. It's hard to listen to our student workers parrot back what has been force fed them in class, knowing that for the most part, they've not thought through the actual issue, much less what defenses there are for their position. Isn't the job of the university to teach young people to think for themselves, not hand them conclusions on a silver (or platinum, given today's tuition rates) platter?

Eh.

Personally, it's been a season of discontent. I'm not entirely sure I've felt well since before Christmas. Head colds, the knee issue, headaches, another cold, stomach issues. There is a fair chance some of this is stress-related.

Not feeling well makes me cranky (ok, crankier) and makes small inconveniences and idiocies loom much larger than usual. In short, the craziness gets to me more than it should. That, in turn, makes me wonder why I'm doing what I'm doing, not only professionally, but in all areas of my life. I want to make some changes, but a combination of inertia and not-sure-I-give-a-darn keeps me from actually starting anything.

Over the top of this is a layer of grieving. Stay with me on this - a lot of people just don't or won't understand. When I reached forty, I started a year or two of grieving over the biological kids I'd never have. It didn't matter that I know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that I would be a lousy mother (I love kids, and am great with them, as long as I can give them back within about four hours, and no, I would not feel any different if they were my own - deal with it), and God is absolutely right in not putting that in my life; still, I grieved.

And that's ok. It really is ok to need to work through the fact you will never have something you never really wanted in the first place. (it's my life, it only has to make sense to me).

Anyway, here we are almost twenty years later, and all sorts of "grandkid" posts start popping into my Facebook feed. I'm genuinely happy for my friends, but...it's started a new season of mourning. This round, for the lack of continuation that kids and grandkids bring.

Again, it's ok to mourn. And again, I am perfectly content with the lot God's given me in this regard. But it's still difficult in some ways.

So there's that.

The sun is finally out today, after what seems to be weeks of grey and rain. Hoping that the extra light helps to brighten my mood as well. At five this morning, as I walked from the desk in the loft to the bathroom, I could see plenty of light through the giant, east-facing windows. Spring, in spite of the thirty degree temperature, is well on its way.

Friday, April 21, 2017

Obligatory Friday brain dump

It's been a rough week. I'm exhausted, and want nothing more than to go home and go to bed. The irony is that I'm at that stage of tired where I most likely would not be able to sleep.

Anyway, it's supposed to be a decent (by my standards; your mileage may vary) weekend, with highs in the mid fifties with sunshine. It's a bit too cold yet to do things like powerwash the patio, but I will putz with the little stuff. Hook up the hose, fix the flag mount, put in the solar powered spot for the flag. Anything that doesn't require putting on gardening clothes and actually getting dirty. In other words, the little stuff I was going to do last weekend, when it was seventy degrees.

Eh. It will (mostly, and eventually) get done.

I've not done much sewing at all this month. On Good Friday, I finished putting borders on the Galaxy quilt. Cut out the binding. Still need to press the top, press the binding and piece the back. Then it will all go on skirt hangers in the closet until I can afford to have someone else quilt it. Yes, for the first time ever, I'm sending something to someone else for quilting.

There may be some organizing in the studio this weekend. A while ago, I picked up a box of vacuum bags - the plastic zipper bags that have a valve on them through which you can suck out the air inside the bag. Well, not you, but your vacuum does the sucking. My winter linens/quilts are stored this way.

Someone on a quilt message board mentioned she puts all the fabric and bits for her quilts-in-progress into these sorts of bags, as they tend store in much less space than otherwise. I cannot see doing this with things that are already started, as the wrinkling is rather pronounced once you open the bags, but I happen to have a number of quilty things that are in the "large hunks of fabric" stage. The fabric needs to stay together, but I certainly don't have to have it loose in a bin.

While I have rather a lot of these bins of projects and potential projects (//cough//four or five//cough,cough//), I do have an inventory list. Somewhere. More specifically, in one of the three spiral notebooks of various sizes and shapes that live in the drawer of the sewing machine cabinet. The last time the list was updated, though, is at least two years ago.

Other than those couple of things, I intend to laze around all weekend. How about you?

Saturday, April 08, 2017

Spring Saturday

After weeks of clouds and rain (and a little snow, too), today is sunny and high sixties. So how do I celebrate?

I went in to work at 6:30 this morning (more on that later).

Came home, read for a while, then took an hour and a half nap. Did a bit of multi-player online gaming, and now about to go back downstairs and...

...either clean or sew. Maybe read again.

No ambition to open the drapes (I'll just see more dust) or go outside. Tomorrow is supposed to be warmer, and maybe then I'll putter outside a bit. The lilac should be trimmed. I can connect the hose, maybe pull out the shepherd's hook.

Actually, I did do a bit of design work for a baby quilt. A coworker is pregnant with her first, due in September. A while back there was a special on a charm pack (42, 5" squares) of the cutest Winnie the Pooh fabrics...I bought a pack, thinking I'd pick up some of the coordinating fabrics later. I forgot that when this shop puts these things on special, it's because they are almost out of them. I managed to get one yard of a coordinate to use for a border, and another charm pack that is just a solid color.

Figuring out what to do with it, to get a decent sized baby quilt, has been a bit interesting. I put the question to the Facebook quilting group, and got a variety of responses. It's pretty apparent not everyone read the portion of the post that explained I only had ONE charm pack of the pretty prints; if I'd had two, I would not have had this problem. In the end, someone had a simple but cute pattern, one that will show off the cute prints in spite of the small size.

The plan early this morning was to go to work to accomplish a couple of very specific things. I'd get there like I always do, just before 6:30, and stay no later than 9:30. Well...the little gas pump icon lit up as I pulled into the garage last night. So I left a few minutes earlier than usual to stop and fill up. Cruised through the McDonald's drive through for coffee and breakfast...

...well, not cruised, exactly. The car in front of me apparently had ordered a frou-frou iced coffee drink (go to Starbucks for that, darn it). When the clerk went to hand it to her, she must have changed her mind, because he disappeared with the drink. Eventually, he reappeared with a shake (I think). There were only the two cars, hers and mine, and I sat there for five minutes, even though she was already at the pick up window when I pulled into the lot. The whole time, I could see my bag of food sitting on the counter, getting cold. When I finally did get up there, he rang me up, gave me my coffee, then said "your food will be right up", and turned to take another drive through order while my food continued to sit there, congealing. I've had issues with this clerk before.

Got to work. I haven't been in on a Saturday in over a year. Get to the building door, and find it locked. No sweat, I can swipe my ID in the reader and it will open.

Only it didn't.

The reader may have been upgraded to a proximity reader, where you just tap your ID on it to activate it. But my ID is twenty years old and doesn't have that tech. The reader still has the swipe slot. Was not at all happy - it was 6:30 a.m., and the building does not unlock until 9:30.

I almost went home. But no, I called our Police Department, and eventually, someone came to let me in. Sheesh.

At least I got the things done I had planned on, plus a bit, and was on my way out at 9:15.

Obviously, I'm a grumpypants. It's more than just physical weariness, though a sizeable amount of the grumpy comes from that. Lots of unfocused stress at work, as the hunt for a new CFO continues. Not much getting done at home, cleaning, cooking, putting together the exercise bike I bought at Christmas... On top of all of this, the knee that was so very much improved decided to have a major hissy fit last night. My entire leg felt like one big cramp, and the sharp pains in the knee have returned. I haven't been to PT for a week, thanks to the work schedule, which may account for some of it. It certainly doesn't put me in the mood to try to limp around to clean.

Eh. I'm going to go read, I think. And eat goldfish crackers. I needed to fill up the Amazon Pantry box (monthly order of various paper products), and the giant box of goldfish fit the bill. Goldfish crackes always make me smile.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

A whole lot of nothing

I see it's been more than a week since I last wandered in there. I'm surprised I could locate the keys.

Why have I been missing?

Honestly, I crave lots and lots of time asleep. Much more than usual. It may be that it's stress related: lots of unknowns at work, lots of good people I know who are facing really, really scary and potentially life-altering things that are weighing on my heart.

Or maybe it's just a B12 deficiency.

No matter, I just want to sleep. And sleep some more.

When I am awake, I've managed to do some sewing. Still trying to finish up the top of a twin-sized quilt. It's the largest quilt I've made in several years, and coincidentally, at 6" square, has some of the smallest blocks I've ever made for a quilt. Eighty blocks of four different configurations (corner, 2 different side blocks and center blocks), plus two borders. I've two sides of the first border sewn on, but realized I didn't cut enough strips to make the other two sides.

Oops. So much for my superior math skills.

Still doing physical therapy for the arthritis in the right knee. Right after PT I feel great; the next morning, I can barely move. Overall, there is improvement. One thing I've realized is that my desk set up at work is not optimal. Unfortunately, the desk chair is being stubborn about being raised. Need to turn it over and figure out what the issue is.

My original plan of having contractors come and look at the kitchen in May to bid on remodeling it may need to be put on hold. Due to some unforeseen expenses this spring, my savings are lower than I've seen them in years. I'd like to do some catch up before I commit to spending a large chunk of my home equity. It's entirely possible I'll delay the project for a year. It's not as if I have any immediate plans to put the condo on the market, or that the kitchen is unusable.

Close your eyes and you don't see the harvest gold countertops at all.

If I do wait, I can do some of the smaller things first - things I don't need permits or contractors to complete. New vanity lights and medicine cabinets in both bathrooms, along with a fresh coat of paint. Change out the porch and patio lights. Paint the walk in closet in my bedroom.

All of this depends, of course, on whether or not I can conquer this infernal sleepiness.

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Family tales

Every so often I have coffee with my 91-year-old aunt. We both enjoy it, and I often end up learning things about family history that I never knew.

My grandfather knit. As in two (or more) needles, lots of yarn, mittens, scarves or sweaters at the end of the process, knit. It always seemed a bit odd to see my ex-Italian navy, world war I vet grandfather with a pair of knitting needles in his hands, but callow youth that I was, I never thought to ask how/when/why he learned the craft.

According to my aunt, he was laid off during the Great Depression, like a lot of other folks. Having him hanging around at home drove my grandmother a little crazy, so she taught him to knit to get him out of her hair and give him something to do.

Makes sense to me.

Apparently, he liked it enough that he kept it up, off and on. When I was in grade school, I wore a winter scarf he knit. While yarn arts are not my thing (I crochet fairly well, and can knit/purl straight rows if pushed), you can see that my craftiness comes from both grandparents on that side.

Then there are the more recent bits of family life that may become stories to pass through the ages. As we were getting up from the table to leave, my aunt mentioned that she had recently crocheted three p*ssy hats for my cousin's wife for "a big national event". They were "really easy to make, and they had to be red, you know."

My aunt is a dear, sweet woman and I am 100% sure she had no real idea exactly what she had done.

My cousin's wife, however, is going to get a talking to the next time I see her.

Friday, March 10, 2017

Quick (yeah, right) update

Nothing is torn, out of place or in danger of falling out of my knee. According to the ortho, it's worn (oddly, the left is nowhere nearly as decrepit; I attribute this to my long habit of twisting my right leg under me to sit on it) and unhappy.

The solution? Move the heck out of it. Physical therapy, in other words. The downside? Their PT department does not have any openings until April 10th. Why yes, this injury happened March 3rd.

As soon as they open (half an hour from now) I'll call the campus Physical Therapy Clinic. I didn't think of it until I got home last night, but if I can get in there more quickly, the service is not only covered by our insurance plan, but co-pay and deductible free. Yay for that.

The doc said I could have a corti-whatever shot "depending on my frustration level" (??He just met me, obviously he doesn't know me), but it would mess up my blood sugar for a few days. No, thank you, I do a great job messing up my blood sugars myself. Though if I'm still in this kind of pain by this time next week, I'll jab the needle in myself and sugar be darned.

I'm really a whiner about pain; most of the time, what I have is an ache. Turn it wrong, or put weight on it unevenly, however, and not only does the leg buckle under me as someone sticks flaming hot swords into my knee, but bad words come out of my mouth. Sometimes, just moving my leg under my desk sets off the pain.

Note that compared to when it first happened, this level of pain is nothing, and passes quickly once I correct my behavior. But I am, like most reasonable people, pain-phobic. Perhaps more than others, I am very Pavlov's dog about behavior and reward. Consequently, I'm moving very slowly and carefully.

Eh. This too, will pass? That's the theory, anyway.

As I may have said in the prior post, driving does not hurt at all, as this is my right knee. Neither does using the presser foot on the sewing machine (which, actually, would not be an issue if I used the other machine, which has a start/stop button that can be used in place of using the presser foot). So I can go out for coffee (at places that do not require you to stand in line) or stay in and sew. Life's little pleasures.