Sunday, December 30, 2012

Food: Roasted Broccoli ... and chicken.

Tonight I had big plans for dinner, oh yes oh my.  I was planning to roast a chicken to golden-brown perfection and roast some nice veggies with it (broccoli!) and have salad as another vegetable.  A nice, healthful meal and we would have a nice chicken carcass with which we'd make stock.  Off I hied to ye olde Wegman's to purchase said chicken and broccoli and salad greens (as our salad greens from before our Christmas jaunt up North had expired disgustingly in our refrigerator)... and other healthful options for us to nosh on this week.

Would you believe, that of ALL grocery stores in all of the world, WEGMANS would not have any plain whole chickens?!  I just about died!  Granted, I was at one of their smaller stores, not the usual flagship store in DeWitt that I normally patronize.  But still!  No whole chickens!

Upon further inspection I did see a little chicken "kit" that contained a whole chicken, seasoned with lemons and herbs, all tied up in an oven bag and in its own foil pan.  For an extra $3, of course.  Well, since there were no plain whole chickens and I wanted to roast this bad boy myself (not get one of those oh-so-tasty rotisserie chickens they sell pre-cooked), I bit the bullet and bought the chicken kit.

I am not a fan of oven bags.  It left the skin slimy, and it stuck to the skin on top so that I didn't even get my nice piece of seasoned chicken skin to go with my breast meat.  Not to mention it must have been a puny chicken, because once hubby took his (sizable) portion, there was only enough meat left on the bones for carcass-boiling.  Needless to say, I'm miffed and plan to go only to the DeWitt store from now on so I can always get my whole, big chickens that will render more than a carcass boil out of them.

I like saying "carcass."

On to the broccoli bit.

I wanted to make something a little more exciting than steamed broccoli to go with dinner, because I know that if I eat steamed broccoli, I will slather it in butter to make it palatable.  Not good for a FussyFoodie who wants to lose 50 pounds in the next year.  I asked a friend of extremely Italian heritage what she does to make her broccoli so delicious (she always has tasty broccoli) and she said "salt, pepper, and a bit of cheese."  Well, I had these ingredients.  I also had the idea to go a little hog wild and really make special broccoli.

So I took the frozen broccoli cuts and threw them in an 8x8 pan and drizzled them with about a tablespoon of olive oil.

Salt and pepper = seasoned salt and freshly ground pepper.  I did that.  I'd guess about a teaspoon of seasoned salt and an equal amount of pepper.

Parmesan cheese.  I sprinkled enough of this stuff (from the green can - I know, I'm a Philistine) on top of the broccoli to make it appear to have a meager crumb coating.  A mere dusting.  You could see that it was broccoli, but it was white-colored broccoli.


Then I added about a tablespoon of chicken stock to lubricate things better.  It helped disperse the spices and cheese evenly.

Into the oven it went for just over 25 minutes.  Maybe 27.  I put it in at about 6:35 and took it out about 7ish, but I know it was a couple minutes after.

It was still crisp.  It was flavorful.  It wasn't sulfurous at all.  I told FussyHubby that even *he* would like this broccoli.  He still staunchly refused, but he did admit that he would consume zucchini with a similar treatment.

I'm not going to Wegman's tomorrow though.  Not even for zucchini.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Food: Losing Weight the Tasty Way

So around Thanksgiving, the dear FussyFoodie Husband and I looked down at our stomachs in abject horror.  The problem: we both have a gut.  Hubby has only a tiny little paunch, being the exerciser that he is, but I look downright almost-pregnant.  My size 16 jeans are no longer my "fat" jeans.  Yeah, I'm admitting this because I have hope that there might be a single reader out there that is NOT a family member or friend of mine who knows who I am.  And family and friends who read this?  Yeah, you read right.  I am a whopping size 16, up from my size 00 days of high school.  I'm not humiliated to admit this, merely ready to get rid of it and get down to a healthy weight, say a size 8 or so.  00 was way too underweight, and I know this.  But 16 is too overweight.  8 was about right for my 5'8" frame, and it is my goal.

The official goal?  Lose a pound a week until next Christmas.  I have lost 7 pounds so far, but I virtually guarantee that I have a net loss of about 4 pounds now that the holidays have hit en masse in terms of food.  Yes, I have been careful, but it's hard not to have the occasional cookie or dessert.  Or prime rib (Boxing Day dinner!).  Or filet mignon (Christmas dinner!).  I did guard my portion sizes, and I can honestly say I have only had 6 Christmas cookies this year.  And I enjoyed every single one.

The secret to my willpower came from something the great and venerable Jim Parsons said on a late-night talk show appearance (the show eludes me right now) about how he quit smoking.  His doctor basically told him that he could still smoke, but to make sure to really enjoy every cigarette.  And he found that he was smoking less and less because he was taking time to be mindful of his smoking and his enjoyment.  Soon a pack a day became a cigarette a day.  And then the cigarette a day became a cigarette a week.  And then he forgot to smoke.  I am trying to do the same approach with food: every bite I put into my mouth I have to feel good about.  That doesn't necessarily mean skipping dessert, but it does mean REALLY ENJOYING every bite of dessert that I eat, and if I find I'm no longer really enjoying it, I stop eating.  Want to know the crazy thing?  It's working.  I'm eating less and less, and feeling good about myself.  Yes, I am eating more this set of holiday eating with larger portions than I normally have, but you know what?  If I gain a few pounds during the holidays, I know it isn't the end of the world.  I can always lose them again through maintaining smaller portions and urge-surfing after the holidays are over.

There is an interesting book out on this philosophy now called Eating Mindfully that goes into this philosophy more.  No, I haven't read the whole thing, but reading the synopsis of it on has made me aware that this is exactly what I've been trying to do.  I don't want to give up carbs forever.  I love carbs, especially pasta and sourdough bread and rice, oh my!  But I do want to be proud of my food choices and, as a FussyFoodie, live up to my name by enjoying food more.  I mean, have you ever REALLY concentrated when you ate a piece of excellent chocolate?  The experience is delicious.

And that, other than the 4 miles a day dog walk plus treadmill plus pilates, is how I plan to lose weight in the coming year.  I plan to continue posting in here with healthy recipes that taste delicious, restaurant reviews, etc.  And I probably will post as often as I have time.  In other news, now that my psychiatrist has found the right medication cocktail, I have this sudden urge to live life to the fullest again, and a lot of that means I'm not sitting at home surfing the computer as much, though my facebook friends might argue to the contrary.  (I'm still on there, just for smaller durations of time!)

May you all have a wonderful rest of Christmas and a Happy New Year.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Psychology: Finding the right medication

For the past almost-year, my psychiatrist and I have been playing medication roulette.  Since I have been diagnosed with bipolar II, she has had me on several mood stabilizers and antidepressants, and just now we have finally hit on the right ones it seems.  But I want to share my experience particularly with Depakote, because it was so interesting to me... interesting in a not-so-good way.

Depakote was effective at keeping me from "flipping out" - that is, it kept my rages in check - but it also turned me into a walking zombie.  I had no motivation to do ANYTHING, and I was sleeping inordinate amounts.  Going into a terrible depression this past summer, while on the Depakote, only increased my desire to get off the darn stuff.  Not to mention the side effect of my hair turning brittle and falling out.  Not all of my hair - it just thinned dramatically and the texture is still pretty awful.  (Since going off the Depakote, my hair is no longer falling out as it was, but I will need to grow out the brittle stuff that grew while I was on it.)  I also had terrible gastrointestinal effects, in that I was "going" about 6 to 8 times a day, and it was to the point where I had to quite literally run to the toilet.  (sorry, gross.)  Since the stopping, though, my digestive tract is back to normal.  Signs from the Universe that the drug was bad for me?  Yup.

Please understand that I'm not trashing Depakote.  I know people for whom it has worked miracles.  It just happened not to be the miracle drug for me.  And my psychiatrist actually told me that I am the first patient she has ever had for whom Depakote is not effective.  Go figure - my family always said I'm a weirdo, ha ha.

I am now on Geodon and half the original dose of Cymbalta that I was on while on Depakote, and I feel fantastic.  Now that the drugs have reached therapeutic levels in my system, I feel like I can think clearly for the first time in many years.  And not just more clearly than I was thinking before: like my old self again, where I could pick thoughts out of the air and enjoy being highly creative.  I was scared that I was in the midst of a hypomanic episode, but I discussed how I was feeling at length with Psychiatrist, and she has deemed it to be NOT hypomanic, because I am not irritable and I am very rational.  All right!  I am thrilled!

That being said, I am ready to conquer this Holiday season.  I love Thanksgiving and Christmas, even the stress, because it is all about being together with family and sharing love with each other.  This year for Thanksgiving I was told that I may not bring anything to dinner because they have it "all under control," so I am responsible for the wine.  I'm bringing two bottles of French Chardonnay that was highly recommended by my local liquor store for a turkey and ham dinner.

What are you most looking forward to this Thanksgiving?

Monday, July 16, 2012

Psychology: Alex Trebek with a Bullhorn

For the past few weeks, I have been in a world-class, impressive, sleep-all-day funk that I can't seem to shake.  Leaving the house is a monumental task that I can do only with promises of a nap when I get home.  Even taking the trash to the dumpster scares me and fills me with an anxiety I cannot begin to describe.  But you know what?  I'm fighting through it, thanks to the weirdest thing that happened the other night.

That's right.  I'm talking about Alex Trebek with a bullhorn.  I had Jeopardy! on in the background and was sitting around feeling sorry for myself (not a good mental health practice, to be sure), and then Alex Trebek started giving a clue by using a bullhorn.  For the first time in weeks, I laughed, smiled, and even updated my facebook status to "ALEX TREBEK WITH A BULLHORN!!!!!!!" because I was so amused.

Since then, I have been able to stay awake for greater portions of the day, but only with extreme effort.  I play with the dogs daily and it brings me joy.  But it no longer causes me extreme anxiety to go outside the house other than the extreme heat I encounter (I hate summer).  But other than that, I am fine going outside.  In fact, I am going to run a passel of errands tomorrow and remain functional.  Although one of those errands is to see my psychiatrist to readjust my meds to see if I can get myself even further out of the funk I'm in and maybe start living instead of simply surviving.

Alex Trebek, if you happen to come across this blog, I would be honored to meet you, but only if you bring your bullhorn.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Dogs: Rescue UPDATE

The dogs that have been seized by the SPCA are now being screened for adoption, as the judge in Popolizio's trial has awarded custody to the SPCA.  I am thrilled at this development.  For the full story, please click the link above.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Food: Chicken Saag

Chicken saag, or saag chicken, is my very favorite Indian food dish.  It is a very mild curry with crushed tomatoes and cooked spinach and chicken and a touch of milk, and it is simply fabulous.  I would serve it to any novice Indian food taster who is tolerant of spinach.  I adapted a recipe that I found on several websites, including, which is a veritable treasure trove of Indian recipes and curries.  My main source for this recipe is Indian Food Forever, but I did change a few things.  Here's the lowdown.

You need to know that this recipe serves four to six people rather generously, especially if served with rice, naan bread, and the various chutneys.  Served with only rice, it fed my husband and myself generously for one dinner, a lunch portion for each of us, and then a lunch portion for me and my friend John.  The other thing to know is that you need a BIG pot or pan to do this.

You need:

  • 3 pounds chicken pieces (boneless and skinless)
  • 5 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 large onions, minced
  • a 1" piece of fresh ginger, peeled and chopped finely
  • 2 crushed tomatoes (I used about a cup and a half of crushed tomatoes from the can)
  • 4 tablespoons of milk
  • 14 ounces of frozen chopped spinach, thawed
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 teaspoon coriander (ground)
  • 1/2 teaspoon turmeric
  • 2 large cardamom pods (I used green ones - evidently there are multiple types)
  • 2 cloves
  • 1 teaspoon Garam Masala (you can find this spice mix at Penzey's, or you can make your own)
  • salt to taste
First, fry the chicken pieces lightly in some canola or other flavorless oil of your choice, until they are browned lightly.  Set aside.

Make your mise-en-place.  First, I mixed the cayenne, coriander, turmeric, cardamom, and cloves together in a prep bowl because you add them to the recipe at the same time.  This saves a lot of headaches over measuring later.  Trust me. :)

Then, the magic of curry-making begins.

Fry up those onions and that garlic and that ginger until lightly brown.  Inhale and enjoy.

Add them thar tomatoes and all the spices you put in your prep bowl (cayenne, coriander, turmeric, cloves, and cardamom).

Sprinkle with a tablespoon or so of water and simmer for 10 minutes over low heat.  Inhale.  (I still think half the enjoyment of cooking Indian food is the smell spectrum that comes from cooking it!)

Add the chicken and milk.  Simmer this until the chicken is tender.  Or so says the original recipe.  I say: add the chicken and milk, and simmer until the chicken is just about to fall apart.  Also: make sure you use a mix of light and dark meat.

At this point I ran out of room in the pan, so I switched everything to my big lasagna pot.  So don't fret that the photo shows a different pot in the next one.

Add the spinach and the Garam Masala.  Cook this until the spinach starts to stick to the pan (which is about 10-15 minutes of constant stirring).  Add the 2 tablespoons of butter and stir through.  Salt to taste.  Keep warm until it is ready to serve.

So that's the basics of what I did.  The first time I served it, it was downright bland.  The second time I served it, it was considerably better and really tasty.  The third time I served it, it was just about perfect.  So my thought is that it needs time for the flavors to meld.  I almost think it's like beef stew (according to my father, beef stew was always best after the second heating).  So my thought is: simmer the chicken and tomatoes together with extra water and reduce it down until it is even more flavorful.  Add the spinach and garam masala at the end, as directed in the original recipe, and use salted butter.

But it was good.  And I'm going to make it again before the rest of my hunk of ginger goes bad.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Food: Mahi Mahi with Cream Sauce

Last night my awesome cousin-to-be Sara came over, and I decided to do a variation on a recipe I saw once for Mahi-Mahi with cream sauce.  I didn't want to have asparagus and bell peppers with it, though, so I decided to do garlic orzo and sauteed spinach.  It turned out delicious, oh me oh my.

For the cream sauce (which makes plenty enough for 4 filets and then some) you need:

  • 1 quart heavy cream (see what I mean?)
  • 2 tablespoons Old Bay seasoning
  • 2 teaspoons Cajun seasoning (I used Penzey's but also recommend Dinosaur BBQ's Cajun Foreplay)
  • 1 can crab meat (I used Bumblebee white crab), drained profusely and pat dry
First, reduce the cream until it coats a spoon.  At first I was confused by this because when it's cold, it coats a spoon.  Turns out when it's hot, it doesn't.  So, wait until it's hot to see if it coats a spoon or not.  Whisk in the crab meat and seasoning and taste it.  Try not to drink it.  It's that good.  Keep it warm while you cook up the fish.

To cook the fish, I simply sauteed it, unseasoned, in extra-virgin olive oil.  I'm thinking of baking it next time with a little seasoning on it (perhaps seasoned salt and pepper), but it was just fine as it was with the cream sauce on it.  You want one filet per person.

While I was cooking the fish, I boiled the orzo according to the package directions and drained it.  Then I added some olive oil to the pot, 3 or 4 cups of fresh spinach, and a few cloves of minced garlic (I think 3). Once the spinach was almost cooked, I put the orzo in and stirred to coat it.  Had to add a little extra olive oil, but I tried to stay conservative with it because I didn't want it to interfere with the cream sauce.

While this dish seems simple enough, I thought it required some fancy plating.  So I put down some of the cream sauce on the plate, laid a small bed of orzo, and put the piece of fish on top and then drenched the piece of fish with cream sauce and put a small sprinkling of fresh chopped chives on top.  It looked so pretty that I'm really angry with myself for not taking a picture of it.

But it received rave reviews from Sara and "fine" from my husband, who has only ever exclaimed over food once in his life.  I also thought it was delicious, and am enthusiastic to try it again.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Food: Scarborough Fair Mock Risotto

Oh man, oh man.  Now I've done it!  I finally created something with the Scarborough Fair oil that is not only worthy of serving, but it's completely and utterly sinful and carb-laden and delicious!  Plus, it's fusion food, if you want to take the "Scarborough Fair" song to be British Isles origin and risotto is Italian, so... there we go!

Here's what it really is: orzo with tons of butter, Scarborough Fair oil, spices, half and half, shallots, and Parmesan cheese.  It looks kinda like big-grained risotto.

Here's what I did.

You need:

  • 1 pound orzo pasta, cooked
  • 1 stick unsalted butter
  • about a quarter cup of Scarborough Fair Oil - make sure it's REALLY dense with herbs, almost like Scarborough Fair pesto...
  • Lotsa garlic - probably 4 cloves, chopped
  • 1 large shallot, diced
  • Crushed red pepper to taste
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese
  • 1 cup half and half
Once I cooked the orzo, I melted the butter and blended the oil in.  Once it was warmed through, I added the shallots and garlic and cooked until the shallots were translucent.  At that point I stirred the orzo into the mixture and made sure it was well-coated.  This is when the to-taste moments started happening.  I added a whole bunch of crushed red pepper (we like it spicy here), salt and pepper, and the Parmesan and half and half.  Once it resembled risotto in its creaminess, it was tasty as heck.

But be sure to serve it immediately.  I learned during dinner that the oil liked to separate from the herbs and yummies sticking to the pasta and collect underneath the pasta.   It still tasted fantastic.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Dogs: Rescue Mission Update

I have noticed that some of my readers have stumbled upon my blog because they are searching for more answers about Southside Dogs and the 49 counts of animal cruelty charged on its owner.  Unfortunately, there's not much more to tell.  The trial has been delayed to sometime this month, and hopefully the judge will throw the book at him.  At his last court appearance, he requested the dogs that had been seized and the litters (4) that had been born while they were in foster care, and he was denied.  I have a friend attending all of his court appearances and she keeps me very up to date on this, and I will post as soon as I know anything.

Thank you, as always, for your loyal readership.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Food: Curry

I am studying up on curry, because I want to learn more about them and learn how to cook my own from scratch.  Of course, the curries I fell in love with came from India, which is the first kind of curry I tasted.

 My first Indian food experience was taking my father out for Indian food for Father's Day or his birthday (I can't remember because the dates are close together) one year, and he introduced me to naan bread, samosas, and all these other delicious things he had discovered while traveling in Great Britain and India.  I ordered chicken tikka the first time and enjoyed it, though it was very, very hot to my traditionally bland-eating tastebuds.  But I loved its complexity, even though I ate tons of bread and drank tons of water.

The second time I ate Indian Food was in Georgetown near Washington DC and had chicken saag.  Oh lord.  That was some amazing food.  Later in life I tried Biryani chicken and loved that too.  The occasions weren't that notable (dinner with various friends) but I loved the food.  I still order chicken saag regularly when I go to an Indian restaurant.

Bringing us to the past couple years, I've been using Butter Chicken curry paste from Kitchens of India as my go-to curry shortcut.  My father introduced it to me, and I loved that I could make "Indian Food" easily without having to pay restaurant prices.  It's very good, but I've been told from some people that it's a little salty (the sodium content is quite high).

My most recent curry adventure was at the home of Winston's dog breeder when she had me, my husband, and another owner of one of her dogs over.  She is British, and she told me that Indian food has now surpassed fish and chips as the number 1 take-out food in Great Britain.   Wowzers!  I always knew you could get good Indian food in Great Britain, but not that it was that popular.  At any rate, she made us Madhur Jaffrey's recipe for Prawns with a Dark Sauce (this recipe is available with a quick Google search).  It was hot, but delicious, and I am definitely in love with more curry now.  I want curry all the time.  I'm on a curry kick.  Give me more curry!

So I went to Indian Food Forever and found lots of recipes for the dishes I've tried and many for dishes I've not tried.  I made a list of basic spices I need, and I placed my order to Penzey's today for my little Indian food "kit."  I hope that this makes for some delicious food and some interesting blogs.  I do have some occasions to cook for in the near future, so I plan to blog more soon.

"And here's to curry vindaloo!" - Rent

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Food: Scarborough Fair Oil

Are you goin' to Scarborough Fair,
Parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme?
Remember me to one who lives there;
She once was a true love o' mine.

So goes the song.  And I have these 4 herbs growing in my garden.  And I love infused oils.  Inspiration hit me like a thunderclap on this fine spring day!

So I took a little bit of each herb:

and chopped them fine and mixed them together until they looked like finely chopped grass clippings, but smelled a heck of a lot better.

Put them in a prep bowl, poured about a quarter cup of extra-virgin olive oil over the top, covered up the bowl and shook gently.

Man oh man.

My question is: besides dunking sourdough bread in it (obvious choice), whatever shall I do with the stuff?  The possibilities are endless, and I am thinking:
  • coating chicken with it before roasting
  • using as a substitute for my plain olive oil when I oven-roast potatoes
  • turning it into a marinade with some white wine and garlic
  • using it as a butter substitute when mashing potatoes
  • tossing with pasta and Parmesan cheese
  • experimenting with Scarborough Fair pesto (see above)
  • drizzling steak, pork chops, and any other grilled meat with it.  Besides hot dogs. ew.
  • Could it possibly be used as a tiny garnish for risotto?
What do you all think?  I'm all ears.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Food: Mac and Cheese experiment II

So I did another mac and cheese experiment.  It turned out even better than the last recipe, if I do say so myself.  Plus I learned a lot.  Such as: never trust a mac and cheese recipe for the roux.  You have to know your roux, defend your roux, beat the heck outta your roux until it's that badass golden color and then SLOWLY add your milk and get it to the perfect simmer as it thickens all bubbly and wonderful.  I have never followed a recipe to successfully make a perfect roux.  Every time I've improvised, the roux gets awesome.  So: never trust the recipe.

Anyway, here's what I did.

grated an 8oz. block NY reserve aged cheddar, a 4 oz block of Yancey's Fancy roasted garlic cheddar, and a 4 oz block of Yancey's Fancy Champagne cheddar.

Boiled the pasta in salted water for 6 minutes and then drained.

Made the roux with a stick of butter, a pile of all-purpose flour, and a whisk.  Seriously, I just added flour and whisked until it looked like that wonderful roux you see on food channels.  Then I slowly whisked in bits of milk until it turned into a very thick gravy.  Then I added more milk slowly.  And then let that get thick and bubbly and coat a spoon.

Added: a whole ton of garlic powder (shame! but I was out of fresh garlic), probably 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper (sprinkled it in), a teaspoon or so of smoked Spanish paprika, a teaspoon or so of dry mustard, 1/2 teaspoon-ish of kosher salt, and tasted.  It tasted good.

Mixed in the cheese till it melted.  Adjusted the seasonings until I tasted even more yum.

Mixed in the cooked elbow pasta.  Poured the mixture into a 9x13" pan and covered with a generous amount of panko bread crumbs.  Baked at 350 for 35 minutes.  Took it out of the oven and let it sit for 5 minutes.  Dished it up.

It was good.  And no, I didn't take a picture, because I was too busy eating it.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Gardening pictures

I finally was able to take some pictures of the garden repairs.
Here's the strawberry bed, that someday will be replete with berries (I hope!)

Basil that survived the freeze warning the other night

Rosemary, doomed to only one summer with us in this cursed zone 6.

German thyme

The cutest little sage plant that I could find, that is looking markedly perkier now that he's in the ground instead of in that terrible, horrible, root-bound peat pot.

Parsley, which grows into a large bush here.

Greek oregano

and... dock.  The cursed dock weed that invades every part of my yard and garden and threatens to take over.  Hickory-dickory dock.  I hate dock.  I took this next to the lilac bushes that we inherited from previous tenants.  Sadly, the lilac bushes never bloom, but the dock certainly flourishes.

But that's the state of affairs right now.  And I hope they stay beautiful.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Gardening: a horror story

Let's face it: I am a neglectful gardener who follows a very predictable pattern.

Every spring, I get all excited about plants and gardens and fun stuff like that, and every spring I go all gung-ho into planting edible things thinking we're going to save mother lodes on grocery bills by eating our own fresh produce.  By summer, I have forgotten to weed and prune and pluck and give the poor beds the TLC they so desperately need and deserve, and every summer I wind up with a ginormous weed bed out of which you can sort out the following:

  • enough basil to make a container of pesto sauce
  • enough chives to last a family of 4 a year or more, even if they use them heavily
  • some strawberries that haven't been eaten by rodents
  • a handful each of raspberries and blueberries
  • unidentifiable piles of herbs that have either been choked by weeks or overgrown to the point that I don't recognize them anymore and don't know what to do with them.
  • The Monster Weed that has the huge long taproot, grows anywhere, and is impossible to get rid of.  I don't know what it is, I don't want to know what it is, because it is so strong and so horrible.  I have named it Audrey II.
Every year, I say it's going to be different, and every year the weeds overtake me.

This year, it IS going to be different, because I have a new strategy: mulch with Preen built into it.  Plus, I'm actually going to get out there and do things to my garden.  Really. I promise, because I want to love the yard we have and be proud to show off my garden to visitors instead of sheepishly saying that I have a black thumb and shrugging when they tell me that they remember me being all excited in the spring...

I can't do that anymore.

So this year IS going to be different.  Yesterday we laid a sidewalk going from the patio to the fence gate and dug out the weeds from the garden beds to reveal really good soil.  Today, I planted and mulched the beds and have the following ready to go, and I hope it will work this time:
  • strawberries in their own 4'x8' bed.  Hopefully they spread like weeds and take over so that weeds cannot.
  • 2 raspberry bushes from last year, and 2 blueberry bushes from last year, with lots of strawberry plants around and between them to see if they'll grow.
  • enough chives to... well, you know.
  • leeks - 1 "set"
  • 3 basil plants, big ones
  • a single sage plant that I hope will grow into a perennial sage bush like I had in our previous dwelling
  • German thyme - single plant
  • parsley - a single plant, because I learned last year that a single plant will most certainly "do ya."
  • a single rosemary plant that is in the ground, that I hope to dig up and save before winter this year.  I kill rosemary in pots, and I don't live in a zone where rosemary survives the winter.  More's the pity.
  • oregano - single plant
My hopes are to have a nice herb garden that lets me USE the herbs in my cooking (oh boy!).  I apologize for a lack of photos, but it is blissfully raining out right now (saved me from having to water my plants as I planted them only an hour or two ago!) and gently drenching the soil of my sweet baby plants that I keep hoping will grow into something spectacular.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Psychology: Exercise

Since as long as I can remember, hubby has been craving a treadmill.  But not just any treadmill.  Nay verily, the treadmill that he coveted is the biggest, baddest, and most feature-laden treadmill on the market.  Oh, excuse me --it's not a treadmill; it's an incline trainer.  At first I laughed at him for it - who in the world would want to treadmill-ize uphill and downhill?  But then he explained the features to me and its benefits, and so guess what?

We got one.

And I gotta admit, it is one sexy piece of exercise machinery.  It has Google Maps built into its built-in Wifi connection so you can literally "hike" anywhere in the world.  I could jog in Paris if I wanted to.  All on a treadmill.  It has trainers built into it.  It will automatically incline and decline according to the "terrain" you've selected.  It has regimens built in for weight loss, competition, marathon training, and probably a whole heck of a lot of other things I can't even begin to fathom.

I'm addicted.  No, seriously.  I actually have used the thing, of my own free will and voluntarily and all that stuff.  Twice in one day, in fact (yesterday).  I am becoming an exercise addict, despite my processed-couch-potato nature.  Determination has set in to get rid of my belly (it's significant) and get some definition to my cankles.

Yesterday I got one-third of the way through one of the trainer workouts, and then just alternated between jogging and walking at 3 mph until I had burned 350 calories.  I was proud.  Today, I got to 126 calories and had to stop.  But I did go for 3 of the 4 miles of the dog-walk today (each lap around our dwelling area is a mile).

And my legs?  Oh, they hurt.  They gloriously ache, burn, throb, and protest against this amazing activity.  But I discovered something that I never really believed existed until I experienced it for myself:


Sunday, March 25, 2012

food: quick dinner

When I don't feel like cooking, I usually make the same old chicken with pasta and spinach.  Always.  It has garlic in it, and chicken, and pasta, and spinach.  With a touch of butter or olive oil, depending on my mood. Today, I altered it and did the following vegetarian option:

  • 1/2 pound pasta, uncooked
  • 5 ounces raw spinach
  • 1 jar Alfredo sauce (I used Classico roasted garlic)
  • a whole bunch of garlic powder (because I am out of fresh garlic)
I cooked the pasta, then drained it except for about an ounce of the water.  Then I threw in the spinach and let it cook in the water for a bit (not a lot of water, just enough to "steam" the spinach).  Once the spinach was almost-cooked, I threw in the pasta and stirred.  Then I poured over the jar of Alfredo sauce and garlic powder and stirred.  It was delicious.

And no, I didn't take pictures because hubby's plate was the prettiest, and right before I could take a picture, he unscrewed the top of the crushed red pepper and poured the entire jar over his pasta before he realized that you flip up the top of the lid to sprinkle it on.  Since this happened to him at a restaurant once also, this was hilarious and amazing and I nearly squirted seltzer out my nose.

In other news, I started running on a treadmill today.  I am immensely proud of myself and plan to lose the 45 pounds I wish to lose by doing this, assuming my knees and shins can handle it.  Grrr.  Hear me roar.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Dogs: Noah

Meet Noah.  We are dog-sitting him while his owner is at Crufts Dog Show in England.
He is a very regal-looking boy... 

 who loves taking naps on couches...

and even more loves just plain sitting around on a couch. 

 Here he is with Winston (left) and husband (middle)

I can't get enough of him while he's sleeping because he is so darn cute 

He also loves looking at things outside like crows and other birds. 

What a gorgeous fellow!

Now that he has adjusted to staying here with us, he is a happy camper who hardly ever stops wagging.  He's not as playful as Oliver and Winston, but he is very loving and always cheerful.  I think I'm in love.

Oh yeah, and he's a Rhodesian Ridgeback, from Kaskazini Rhodesian Ridgebacks.  He has sired two litters of beautiful puppies thusfar, and I hope several more.  I'd like him to be the dad of a pup of mine someday.  If you're interested in getting a Ridgeback, I'd highly recommend this breeder. :)

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Food: baked ziti the easy way

Baked ziti was a staple dish of almost every covered-dish, potluck, or shared-responsibility dinner I went to growing up.  The joke was that it wasn't really a local meal unless there was baked ziti.  But there is good baked ziti and bad baked ziti.  The bad is the kind that has little cheese except a sheet of cardboardy mozzarella from a bag on top and a smidgen of sauce in the "filling."  Not mine.  Mine is a cheesy wonder, which is how it should be.

For basic baked ziti, you need:

  • 1 pound of pasta, cooked until it's almost-cooked (about 2 minutes less than the indicated time on the package)
  • 1 regular-size jar of spaghetti sauce.  I use marinara sauce from Barilla a lot of the time, but Prego got me through it today.
  • 1 to 2 pounds ricotta cheese, depending on your taste.  Today was a 1-pounder day.
  • 1 pound fresh mozzarella - not the little balls, but the blob that you can slice
  • Parmesan cheese, freshly grated
  • sprinkly Italian seasoning
If you haven't done it already, cook the pasta 2 minutes short of the cooking time on the box in salted water.

Get your 9x13" pan out.  Pour in the spaghetti sauce.  All of it.  Trust me.  Then, pour in the ricotta and mix it around until it looks pink and gross.  (It really is ugly to me.)

Pour your pasta in, and stir it until every single one of those little ziti noodles (or penne noodles) is covered in saucey-cheesy goodness.

Top it with the fresh mozzarella slices.  If you have extra, you can munch on it for a good treat.  Sprinkle the mozzarella with Parmesan and Italian seasoning.

Bake at 350 until it is bubbly, melty, and delicious.  Probably a good half hour to an hour will do.  But don't brown the cheese too much, because you want it to be moist and heavenly and not cardboardy and dry.


- vodka sauce with fresh mozarella balls (not ricotta) and chopped frozen spinach (thawed), topped with fresh mozzarella and parmesan cheese
- sausage and peppers in the sauce with the regular recipe.  A restaurant down in Endicott calls that "ziti rosso."  It's ahhh-mazing.
- alfredo sauce, chicken, and spinach, with tons of garlic and possibly broccoli.  And cheese on top.  Maybe breadcrumbs too.

Be creative.  Baked pasta is an amazing vehicle.  I even saw a variation once for mild sausage and a pumpkin-sage cream sauce that was heavenly... I think it was Paula Deen who came up with it...

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Religion: Why I am confused.

I was raised devoutly Catholic.  Never missed mass.  On blizzardly Sabbaths/Days of Holy Obligation, we had to watch mass on TV and respond out loud to the priest (it happened once or twice tops).  I went to Catholic school for 9 years until their music program no longer offered to me what I wanted and my mom agreed to let me go to public high school.  I was an active music minister in the church until I was 29 or so.

I am glad I went to Catholic school and even gladder I had this upbringing.  It gave me an edge in music school (no joke, especially when studying sacred and early music), gave me cultural depth and beauty of tradition on holidays, and showed me the importance of having spirituality in one's life.

But here's why I'm confused:

  • I believe priests should be allowed to marry.
  • Furthermore, I believe women should be priests.
  • I believe in gay marriage.  Vehemently.  Especially when I see so many beautiful gay couples and so many awful heterosexual ones.  God is love, and whosoever lives in love lives in God.
  • I believe that there should be no law against abortion, even though I personally would never have one.
  • I practice hormonal birth control, and I believe that it is a greater respect to the dignity of life to practice it than for me to have a kid who would have birth defects from the antidepressants I take to keep myself from committing suicide.
  • I entirely dislike the church's stance on multiple political and personal beliefs: birth control, abortion, abstinence before marriage, gay marriage, priests' lifestyles (the vow of chastity), women as priests, etc.  Furthermore, the church telling me who to vote for does not have a place in my life, and I will probably vote opposite whoever they endorse on purpose.
  • I don't believe in transubstantiation.  I believe in Real Presence.  (I.e. God is present in the host, but the host is not God himself.)
  • I don't believe that the sacrament of Confession actually absolves you from your sins.  I believe that can only be done through your own genuine repentance and effort to never commit that sin again.
  • I don't really think there is a place for me to sit in the church if I'm sitting there resenting everything.  If anything, I think my presence is damaging, even though God is supposed to accept us and welcome us at our darkest moments.  This is a very confusing point of contention in my heart.
  • I don't believe that giving up something trivial like chocolate is the best way to make yourself closer to God during Lent.  Do something significant instead, like REAL self-improvement.  God wants you to have the chocolate once in a while.  For realz.  Especially if you thank Him for it.
  • I do not believe in tithing in the 10% of your salary sense.  Offer up a gift to God that is unique, be it through ministry or outreach.  (I was a music minister who, if you add up the time I could have been paid to do that, would equal more than I make per year now.  They never think of that when they never see an envelope from me in the collection basket.)
  • This is trivial, but I don't feel it's quite correct to have people's names on the collection envelopes.
  • I lived with my husband before marriage, on purpose.  So did everyone in my Pre-Cana class, and no one batted an eye.
All in all, I am not a practicing Catholic.  Here are the things that are part of the Catholic church I do believe:
  • If you have a grave sin on your heart, you should not receive communion until you have made peace with that sin.  However, I don't believe the sacrament of Confession does that.  See above.
  • You should always make yourself as ready as possible to receive God (spiritually) before you go to church.  I still don't believe that we "eat Jesus."
  • Full, conscious, and active participation in the liturgy is the only way to go.  Sitting there like a deadbeat doesn't do it for me.
  • The reminder of our mortality on Ash Wednesday has always been beautiful to me.

I still don't know what to think.  But my mom is pushing me to go to church.  She probably thinks it would be good for me, but I feel strongly that if I can find a church/spiritual center that jives more with my beliefs, I'd feel better.  I"m thinking Episcopal.  I've thought Episcopal for a long time, especially since I attended an Episcopal church in Philly that really did it for me, even though I was told they were very "high" and atypical.

I am closing this post to comments because I know it will bring on too many "YOU'RE GOING STRAIGHT TO HELL" dialogue that frankly I can't deal with.  But I had to get this all off my chest.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Food-ish: cookware that makes me go "squee"

After three weeks of walking by the display and drooling, I finally succumbed to the temptation today.

That's right: I bought a Le Creuset Gratin pan.  14" across, Cobalt blue, and nice, heavy stoneware.  Marked down to a reasonable price (I'd pay more than this for this pan in generic form), and I decided it was mineallmine oh sweet Lord I have a Le Creuset gratin pan!!!

I have plans for this pan.  First thing up is fish, baked with white wine, butter, shallots, and lemon.  (I'm trying to eat more of that evil swimmy stuff that we're supposed to eat a lot of.)  Second up is a Julia Child recipe for Gratin Jurassien (cream and cheese and potatoes, oh my!).  I might use it to serve up a monstrous pile of risotto to my friends because it is so pretty.  I might use it to roast a chicken.  Oh, the possibilities are endless!

The other item that made me go "squee" today was in Target, and I bought it on impulse, even though I have wanted one of these particular items since I have known about them: a cow-shaped cream-holder thing for your coffee table place setting.  That's right: a cow creamer!  You know, the one where you hold it by the cow's tail and it looks like the cow is barfing out half-and-half into your coffee?  Yes, I have one of those now too.  I don't have big plans for it other than serving half-and-half (or better yet, real cream) in it.  Though I might use it for gravy just once to see what my mother does.  >insert giggles<

What are the fine items in your kitchen that make you go "squee?"

Note that "going squee" requires the item to be:

  • awesome to a degree that you can hardly stand it
  • cute to a degree that you can hardly stand it
  • incredibly freakishly well made
  • any or all of the above

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Food: Parmesan-Panko Tilapia

Let me be clear: fish is one of my least favorite meals, but I can stand tilapia.  So here is how I fixed it up tonight and made it more tolerable than usual.  I do this "recipe" a lot, so it's in the oven right now and I can assure you it tastes fine.  Which is more than I can say for most fish, unless that fish is fried.  All fried fish is food of the gods, for a reason I cannot fathom except that it's deep-fried.  And deep-fried anything (almost) is tasty.  Including cheesecake.

First, I took 2 frozen tilapia fillets (plain) that I got from ye olde Wegman's.  You can get these at Walmart, too, but I find the Walmart brand tilapia a little more fishy-tasting and less plain-tasting than the Wegman's ones, and like I said earlier, I dislike fish, so the less fishy, the better.

Then I put them in a 9"x9" pan and drizzled a little extra-virgin olive oil over them.  Not a lot, but enough for it to drip down the sides of each fillet and into the pan a bit to prevent them from sticking to the pan.  (It probably would have been good to spray the pan with cooking spray too, but I didn't.  We'll see what happens.)  Next, season with seasoned salt and Fines Herbes (I use Penzey's mix of Fines Herbes).  Probably a total of a teaspoon of each went on both fillets.

Now, get out your can of Parmesan (or, if you like to be fancy and flavorful, your wedge of Parmesan and your microplane grater) and sprinkle that stuff generously over each fillet.  Don't be stingy.

Finally, sprinkle each fillet with some panko bread crumbs to taste.  I use a lot, because the crunch helps me forget that I'm eating (ugh) fish.

Bake at about 400 degrees for 25 to 30 minutes, or until the fish flakes with a fork.  I'm not positive on the time, so check it often after about the first 15 minutes.  Usually it's a good 10 minutes after I check it for the first time.

And I do assure you, it's quite tasty.  The fish part is mild, the fines herbes and Parmesan are tasty together, and it has a pleasant crunch and texture.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Food: how to have dessert coffee

Tonight was a birthday celebration at my in-laws' house, and we made special coffee for dessert.  It's pretty easy to make and quite delicious.

You need:

  • coffee
  • Kahlua or Frangelico
  • whipped cream
  • caramel sauce
Brew a pot of coffee.  While it's brewing, pour a shot of your favorite liquor (I used Kahlua) into the bottom of the glass.  Pour enough coffee to cover it.  Top with a generous dollop of whipped cream (I used unsweetened, my family used sweetened from the squirt-can), and then drizzle with caramel sauce.  An attractive, impressive, and delicious cup of Joe!

Monday, February 6, 2012

Food: Chicken Pesto Pizza

In honor of that big football game that was Sunday, I decided to try my hand at making pizza for the first time.  It wasn't fantastic, and it wasn't terrible either, but I had a few limitations going for me:

  • There was no "raw" pizza dough available at the market, only pre-made flaps of bread that were then placed on the pizza stone and then baked... (boo)
  • I had never made pizza before
  • This particular type of pizza-bread-thing said to put it right on the oven rack, but darn it, I wanted to use my pizza stone, so I disobeyed.
So I decided to make one pizza all fancy - chicken pesto pizza - and one pizza with red sauce and cheese and pepperoni.  The pepperoni pizza was fine, but nothing great.  It just needed less sauce, although the sauce that I had bought was quite tasty.

The chicken pesto pizza, though, had potential.

First, I took out that bread-dough-thingie.  Then I slathered the entire thing over with pesto sauce I had made from the basil I grew this past summer that was sitting in my fridge waiting for such a special occasion.  Covered that with diced chicken breast (cooked, of course).  Covered that with mozzarella cheese.  Baked the whole thing for a good 20 minutes at 400 degrees.

The end result?  Very pretty, very flavorful, and very tasty.  But it needed a little more "lubrication" according to my husband, and I have to agree with him.  What the heck can I use for more lube?  I'm almost thinking of mixing in a tiny bit of plain red sauce on top of the pesto so it's tomato-pesto pizza, but I don't want to lose the intensity of basil flavor that I had before.  Help me, foodies everywhere!

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Dogs: Rescue conclusion

I am thrilled to report that the owner of Southside Kennels has been charged with 49 counts of animal abuse because of what he did to his dogs.  I hope that he gets the maximum penalty.  The news story is here:

Thank you to all of you who have followed the story, and please remember to donate to the Susquehanna SPCA to help them with their new charges.  I hope to resume food-blogging soon, but this story has consumed me to the point of not really cooking much... (I don't find much inspiration when I am distraught or depressed.)

Friday, January 27, 2012


Please watch this video.  The most dire situations had already been removed, but now it looks like they are removing the dogs in better health too, as none of these dogs look too bad, short of the tail on the one Vizsla that is infected.

I am appalled that no criminal charges have been filed yet, and am still waiting from the Susquehanna SPCA about fostering a dog.

A photo of one of the worst-off dogs is on the Susquehanna SPCA news website:

Please spread this news around and send dog food to the SPCA to help these poor animals.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012


Thanks to blogger ScottRiggi for showing me the newspaper story in the Albany Times Union about the condition and situation regarding the dogs at Southside Kennels.  I am heartened to know that the SPCA is still working on the case but saddened to know that it will take quite a bit of time to resolve this and that Mr. Popolizio (owner of Southside Kennels) seems not to be repentant or concerned about the condition of his dogs at all; he instead seems to be more concerned that this is a business venture, not a situation dealing with living beings.

At this time, I think it is best to share the Albany Times Union story with anyone who is concerned, but to also refer them to the Susquehanna SPCA to read their statement about the situation and encourage them to make donations and possibly offer to foster potential dogs.  I'm afraid that the initial postings on facebook got a bit out of hand and the truth was stretched; I do believe the newspaper that the dogs were underweight, but that may have been stretched to "emaciated."  It would not surprise me to hear about poor shelter conditions either.  But at this point, I think it is best to be temperate, donate what you can, and offer to help where you can instead of spreading facts that cannot be substantiated other than by word of mouth.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Food: Risotto

I have been meaning to conquer risotto for some time.  I love its creamy texture, the nuttiness of the arborio rice, and how everyone is impressed more if you say "risotto" than if you say "slow-cooked rice."  Plus, it's creamy and delicious and oh, so amazing.

So I went to the interwebs and found me a basic risotto recipe and basically followed it.  With a few alterations.

Here's what I did.

First, I put a quart of chicken broth (Swanson organic) on the back burner to get really warm but not simmering.  Just nice and steaming hot.

Then, I melted about a tbsp of butter in a saucepan with a tablespoon of veggie oil (canola to be exact).  Then I cooked a chopped shallot (medium size) in it until the shallot was almost translucent.

Added rice and stirred until the rice turned translucent except for the center and it smelled nutty and delicious and amazing.

Poured in a half cup of good white wine: Casa Larga Chardonnay to be exact.  I would also recommend Toasted Head Chardonnay (my favorite white wine EVER; the Casa Larga was a Christmas gift and it was just as good).

Stirred and stirred and stirred until the liquid was almost absorbed.

Then I added a ladleful of broth and stirred and stirred and stirred until it was almost absorbed.  Lather, rinse, repeat until the broth is gone.  Don't stop stirring except to add the broth.

I tasted a few times to make sure the rice was absorbing the liquid.  Partially cooked arborio rice is kind of gross.

Once all the broth was gone, I stirred in 3 tbsp of unsalted butter and a quarter cup of Parmesan cheese.  Freshly grated is good, but I use Wegman's brand in the green can because it has the most flavor of any canned Parmesan I've ever tasted.

Then I served.  And ate.  And ate.

I normally have a rule of no seconds, but this risotto was creamy, drowned in butter, subtle-tasting, and amazing.  It punctuated a glass of that Casa Larga very nicely.  So did the roast chicken I made to go with the risotto.  But really?  It was all about the risotto tonight.


Sorry no photos... I was busy stuffing my face after all the stirring.

Friday, January 20, 2012


I have been in touch with our breeder for our Rhodesian Ridgeback, and she has received the following communication from the Ridgeback Rescue of the United States:

RRRI and RRUS are both fully aware of the situation with Southside Kennels in New York and are monitoring things closely. 

The SPCA is on site and protecting the dogs that have been seized on a temporary basis.  This matter is before a court, and nothing can be done until the court acts.  Until that time, the dogs are still legally the property of kennel in question, and until the court resolves the ownership issue, no rescue group can become involved and take possession of any of these dogs.

Both RRRI and RRUS are receiving inquiries about these dogs.  At this point we cannot be sure that any of these dogs will come into rescue.  If we do get any of these dogs, both organizations will need experienced foster homes that can care for dogs who may have no socialization.  In addition, both organizations will need money for vet care, transportation and other rehabilitation. 

Let’s all hope that the court acts quickly, that the Rhodesian Ridgebacks involved in this case can be taken out of harms way, and (very important!) that all the members of the Ridgeback community will step in and help.  In the meantime, please consider if you or someone you know could be a foster home for one of these very needy dogs.

Jill Pickering
New York Coordinator
Mid-Atlantic (NY, NJ, PA, DE) Co-Regional Coordinator
Rhodesian Ridgeback Rescue, Inc


UPDATE: I have spoken to the Otsego County SPCA and it is indeed true and very sad.  It is hard to get through on the telephone number because the phone is ringing off the hook for them, as the word has gotten out only today.  But please, please, please consider doing all that you can to help these poor animals.

I found this on facebook just a few minutes ago, and I want to get it to all people who may read anything and may be in the New York area.  Please consider donations, fostering, and help.

Donald D. Brown
I’m trying mobilize the rescue organizations for the different breeds mention below. Can you help?
We have a terrible, heartbreaking situation in Upstate New York with Frank Popolizio’s Southside Kennels located in South Worcester, NY. The Otsego County SPCA has been called in, as well as NY State Troopers, to remove over 130 dogs that are staked out w/barrels for shelter and no bedding in the barrels in subzero weather. The dogs are emaciated, eating their own feces, and in horrible physical condition and unable to fend for themselves. There are vizslas, GSP’s, Weimaraners, and Rhodesian Ridgebacks in peril that I know of. There may be other breeds at this puppy mill as well. 
Please help me get the word out to the neighboring rescue people. The Otsego County SPCA is overwhelmed with the number of dogs they are going to have to take in and they have asked for help. The director, and contact person for this SPCA is a lady by the name of Liz Mackey; her phone number is 607-547-8111. This is a Cooperstown, NY number and the SPCA is located just south of Cooperstown. 
Thank you for any help you can lend in this sad situation.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Food: Mishaps in the Kitchen

We all have our kitchen debacles.  For example, when I was about 9, I decided to make a jelly roll.  Instead of using regular dough, I used bread, crumbled it up, and added milk to it and tried to make that into "dough."  It didn't work, and was really gross-looking.  To make it taste better, I added jelly and stirred it all around.  What came out was an unseemly concoction that my mother served to me for dinner that night to "teach me a lesson."  I didn't eat it.  She cut me a deal: I could have regular dinner with them if I had NO SNACKS for the rest of the week.  Needless to say, I took the deal.  But I sneaked a snack anyway... several times.

Which brings me to tonight's debacle.  I wanted to roast a chicken, but it was still sort of frozen.  As in, the outside was soft, but the inside?  Rock-hard.  I didn't think this would matter; I'd just reduce the oven temp and roast it for a longer time.  No problem, and the house would smell delicious when I was done.  Which brings me to the thing I forgot.

The giblet bag.

Yup, there it was in the hole of the chicken, frozen in there solid.  Ice-pick solid.  I tried several methods of removing it, all while wearing rubber gloves (yes, I'm that wimpy about raw meat).  None of them worked, until it dawned on me: heat thaws frozen things.  (Who would have guessed that I have a masters degree?!)

So I popped it in the oven for an hour.  Took it out, got out a pair of tongs, and promptly removed the giblet bag.  It is now safely in the trash.  The chicken, meanwhile, is roasting and toasting in the oven, happily seasoned and getting ready to be devoured by the occupants of my house.

And no one was the wiser.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Psychology: What Depression Feels Like to Me

Every year I get pretty depressed once the holidays are over, especially when Christmas is over.  I look forward to Christmas every year like a little kid, and every year I am thrilled beyond measure at the fun of spending it with family and enjoying the fun of giving and receiving.  And I'm not going to lie, I like both rather equally.

So I feel the Depression Monster coming on today.  It's a new year, and tomorrow I'm back to the grind of waiting for the phone to ring for substitute teaching (my profession until I can find a full-time teaching position) and living day by day in a whirlwind of what seem like obligations: students who are determined to test every limit I have, keeping a house clean and orderly, dogs, husband, groceries, and the usual pile of psychological therapy.  While this is a small pile compared to most people, and while I get amazing help from the husband in most of these, I still feel as though the tasks are insurmountable and completely insane.  When the DM comes back, nothing brings me any enjoyment, not even cooking or music.  All I want to do is go to bed and pull the covers over my head for an indeterminate amount of time.  I don't want to see anyone, I don't want to take my stupid meds, and I certainly don't want to go sit on the couch in my therapist's office and talk about the new journey I'm supposed to be embarking upon as an empowered, healthy individual.  I just want to sleep.

Right now, at this precise moment, I don't really want to go into complete sensory-deprivation mode yet.  I'm simply irritable and filled with dread.  Everything is annoying or inconvenient or insurmountable.  Little quirks about people that I interact with are suddenly impossible to tolerate, even though they never bothered me before.  My poor husband can't do anything right - it seems as if he's either trying to push me through this and keep me cheerful when I don't want to be (dammit) or he's withholding affection and treating me as a pariah.  (Note: this is coming from depressed-mind.  My husband is wonderful, caring, and deserves a medal for putting up with this.)

I am trying to figure out how to fight this.  I don't want it to develop into a full-fledged depressive episode where I do take to the bed and get disgusting and don't do anything except the bare minimum.  Instead I'd rather just have an irritable day or two and come out of this funk.  I should probably look over my DBT skills handouts from the last round I attended.  (DBT = Dialectical Behavioral Therapy.)  I should probably go through some self-soothing routines.  I should probably journal.  No matter what I do, I will be forcing it.  But that's a DBT skill: Opposite Action.  You act opposite of what you're feeling and try to force yourself into it.

Anyway - that's how it feels and what I should do and what's going through my mind at the moment.  In writing this, I have a secret hope that someday someone might stumble upon this who is suffering from something similar and know this: if you are that someone, you are not alone.