Milestone

Jan. 10th, 2017 05:59 pm
altivo: Clydesdale Pegasus (pegasus)
Last July I finally gave in and went to the doctor to ask for help with my blood pressure, which I knew had been too high for some time. Given that several close relatives eventually died of stroke or aneurysm, this seemed like a wise thing to do. I was relieved to learn that my situation is not unusual, age wise, and in fact responded quickly to some increased daily exercise and a mild generic drug taken daily. My readings have been back to "normal" range since some time in August.

At that time I also committed myself to losing some weight, as I have gradually gained quite a lot over the last few years. My goal was to lose at least 50 pounds over a year's time, and continue to lose slowly after that. I've been lucky in that I found it pretty easy to start dropping pounds just by eliminating between meal snacks and adjusting portion sizes. No great privation has been necessary. Keeping track of everything I eat and actually seeing the calories, fats, sugars, etc. add up each day has been enlightening. I thought I knew what I was eating and the nutritional significance and on the whole I was right, but I had failed to realize how seemingly small things can add up quickly.

In any case, I am so far on track to reach that 50 pound weight loss goal by the one year mark. As of today, I am down 27 pounds from where I started. The difference is perhaps not too obvious in appearances, but in terms of how I feel, how well I sleep, and how much energy I have it is already pretty significant. My sister-in-law, who is a nurse practitioner, advises me that it is much better to lose weight gradually than to go on crash diets to drop a lot of it quickly. I find that pretty reassuring.

Fortunately, we don't indulge in fast food restaurants or packaged convenience foods much. Whenever we do, I am reminded quickly of how dismal these can be for one's health. The amount of sodium in a single fast food meal can easily account for a full day's recommended allotment. Sodium (much of it from salt) has a rapid affect on blood pressure and other health issues, including weight gain due to water retention.
altivo: 'Tivo as a plush toy (Miktar's plushie)
Or if you insist, "Taco Lasagna." The idea of this arrived via [personal profile] rebelsheart several weeks ago. After he reported that his version seemed to be OK but not spectacular, I took up the challenge. I let it simmer in my head for a while before getting around to the actual experiment.

Here is the result:



Recipe under cut )

Note that I use individual spices rather than prepared chili powder, both because I find it gives better flavor and aroma and because the prepared powder is usually half salt. That's sodium none of us needs.

The result was quite tasty and we rated it 4.5 out of 5 stars. It has some heat, but not the fire of real authentic Mexican dishes. That can be adjusted to your taste of course. As I made it, several of our less adventurous friends would have found it "too hot to eat."
altivo: (rocking horse)
Since I was home all day yesterday and Gary went to a Christmas party in the afternoon and got back for dinner late, I made a satisfying dish that can wait until a convenient time to be served.

Cholent is a slow cooked stew that was created by Jewish cooks in order to be able to serve a hot meal on the sabbath without actually cooking or lighting a fire. The ingredients were put into a heavy ceramic pot, and the lid sealed on with dough. This could then be placed in a hot brick oven before sunset on Friday and left to cook overnight. The pot was retrieved and opened at midday on Saturday, with a complete meal ready to eat inside. In fact, a smaller tin with a tight-fitting lid could be placed inside the cholent pot in order to cook a kugel (pudding dish) to be served for dessert.

I took an interest in Jewish traditional food for a while, and this was one of the recipes that we really enjoyed. My version is evolved a bit, since some of the traditional ingredients are not only hard to get but unappealing to us (beef tongue, goose neck.) The main differences are my use of smoked turkey sausage in place of the traditional beef brisket or chicken, and the addition of some brown rice for additional texture.

Recipe and photo under cut )
altivo: The Clydesdale Librarian (Default)
Well, the tornado-spawning thunderstorms on Thursday seem to have brought spring with them. Blue scylla and white daffodils are opening. I was able to let Tess out into her pasture for the first time yesterday. She only gets about 45 minutes to start with since she has had grass founder in the past and needs to be exposed gradually, but she was excited to go out and behaved well when I made her come back in. The pasture is green now but very wet from the flood of rain earlier in the week. The farrier will approve, as her feet tend to dry out and getting them wet helps.

We have used the charcoal grill a couple of times already, but yesterday we really went in for it big with barbecue slathered chicken breasts, some brats, and fresh asparagus on the grill. Also sweet corn, not the first of the year but probably the best so far.

We had a discussion back at Easter about ketchup. Gary's family always had to have two ketchup bottles, because his dad and one brother liked Brooks and everyone else preferred Heinz. I remembered Brooks ketchup but didn't think I'd seen it anywhere for a while. We went looking and failed to find it at any of the supermarkets we normally visit. Looked for it online and found Amazon selling it for about $8 a bottle. That seemed pretty ridiculous to me. Then yesterday I stopped into Sullivan's, the second supermarket in town and one we usually skip because their prices are on the high side. Sure enough, they had Brooks ketchup for $2.19 a bottle, which isn't outrageous and is only about 25 cents higher than Heinz or Hunts.

Brought one home to surprise Gary, and he was indeed surprised. So, I did a little more research and learned that Brooks started in 1907 with canned chili beans. Ding! Though I remembered seeing the ketchup occasionally, my mom always used Brooks chili beans in her chili. The trademark is the same, and the beans are easier to find. Nearly every grocer around here has them. The ketchup came later in the company's history. According to Wikipedia, the ketchup was manufactured in Collinsville, Illinois, and marketed mostly in the midwest. They have (or had) a water tower there in the shape of a giant ketchup bottle in fact. The Brooks trademark and business has apparently been sold to Birdseye. The factory in Collinsville was shut down, and the ketchup is made in Canada now. However, it still is the same recipe or very close to it. The spicy flavor is unlike the other ketchups even though it now has the dreaded high fructose corn syrup in place of the cane sugar that was once used.

Now I have a craving for chili made with Brooks chili beans too. Also a quest for proper cheddar cheese curds to put into poutine. Anyone know where to get those around Chicago?
altivo: 'Tivo as an inflatable toy (inflatable toy)
Two nights in a row that dropped solidly below freezing, so the pumpkin leaves finally folded up. The tomato trellis had already blown over in strong winds earlier this week, and I didn't try to pick it back up because I knew there was little hope all those green tomatoes would ripen.

Today the sun came out, though it remained very brisk. I dug through the ruins of the volunteer pumpkin patch and retrieved no less than ten slightly immature pumpkins. The two largest ones were the size of cantelopes and still slightly greenish. The rest ranged from croquet ball to tennis ball size and were yellow or orange. All were pretty hefty, so there's hope of getting some usable pumpkin from them for soup or curry if not enough for pies.

Then I picked through the tomato vines and recovered almost five pounds of green or pinkish tomatoes. These are a large cherry tomato that matures at about golf ball size and has pretty good flavor. There were also a couple of volunteer vines from last year that had the small yellow pear tomatoes, and I got a a good double handful of those, all still green. Gary likes green tomato pie, an experiment I tried years ago. It didn't really impress me, but he thinks it's wonderful and these will make two or three pies after washing them and slicing them up. I'll freeze a couple of packages and make him a pie from the rest.

We also went to the farmers' market in Woodstock, which moves indoors to the Farm Bureau for winter. Right now it still opens once a week, but after November it goes to just twice a month I think. We brought back winter squash, honey, and a pound of Brussels sprouts. We just found a newspaper article this week with ten ways to cook sprouts, none of which I've ever tried.

Tonight's version was oven roasted. Split in half, tossed with olive oil, salt, and pepper, and roasted for 25 min. at 425F. Halfway through I added apple cubes and sprinkled them with sesame seed. To serve I turned them into a serving dish and sprinkled them with some Balsamic vinegar. They turned out delicious. Gary made the first course, a curried carrot and apple soup suggested by a friend. We also had mashed potatoes from the garden, and Gary's favorite slow cooked chicken with gravy. Apple pie or rice pudding for dessert, both already made up.

I can't wait to try the sprout pizza, and the fried sprouts and onions with eggs.

Clocks fall back tonight. My wind-up clocks are already set back, which I do by stopping them for an hour. Various digital and battery clocks will need to be adjusted yet.
altivo: My mare Contessa (nosy tess)
I blame @jmhorse for this. Entirely. He posted a photo early today of his market prizes, a pile of tomatoes and some cherries. I'd been thinking about gazpacho for a while and that small mountain of tomatoes (less the ones JM already admitted to having eaten) made me think harder about it.

As it happened, I was going to the farmers' market here this morning, and hurrah, ripe tomatoes and peppers at last. Some of them followed me home. (I didn't let on my plans for them when inviting them to dinner.)

Here is the result:

Red Gazpacho


For those who aren't familiar with it, gazpacho is a basically liquid salad, or a chilled soup. The ingredients for this version are minced ripe tomatoes, minced sweet banana peppers, chopped Spanish onion, chopped cucumbers, tomato juice, minced jalapeno pepper, some garlic, red wine vinegar, olive oil, red pepper and black pepper, and dill. Served icy cold with fresh bread or crunchy croutons, beer or wine, and perhaps some other things, though in hot, humid weather the soup is the perfect thing.

I think it has been sufficiently chilled now...
altivo: Blinking Altivo (altivo blink)
Where did the first half of the year go? I don't think I slept through it, yet I feel as if I missed much of it.

We went to see Brave this afternoon. Certainly worth seeing, though I don't trust Disney and can't watch their films without worrying about subtexts and biases hidden underneath the top layer of the story. Even so, this one is fun and funny. Plus it has a marvelous horse called Angus that everyone needs to see. The music in the soundtrack is also great stuff. The fun little tag or easter egg that is buried on the end of the credits is the perfect cherry on top of the sundae.

Gary wanted comfort food, so I made meatloaf. We had peas, mashed potatoes, and sliced tomatoes with it, and now comes the rhubarb pie. Then to bed because tomorrow is already (ugh) Monday.
altivo: Horsie cupcakes (cupcake)
Well, technically, not as hot as Thursday or Friday were. But still hot. I did let Tess out into the pasture for a couple of hours just before dusk. One thing to be said in favor of a drought: no mosquitos. They have vanished, and I suspect that as with the last seriously dry summer we had, they won't recover much now.

Because the (mentally, morally, and financially) bankrupt State of Illinois abruptly dropped it's support program for senior citizens that helped pay their prescription drug costs, and did so in a letter sent out just five days before the program stops at midnight tonight: we drove into Chicago to try to get refills for Gary's mom while she could still take advantage of the aid plan. Turned out she had three that could be refilled just now, but two required authorization from the doctor. That's always a nightmare. It takes days of bugging his office sometimes before they call in a refill authorization or fax it to the pharmacy.

They promised to get it done on Friday. And failed. They authorized one drug, but not the most horrendously expensive one. It's beyond understanding why a medical office supposedly dedicated to helping people who are sick or in need can't get its act together to fax a simple signed sheet of paper. I'm afraid in the end, though, I know the answer: they aren't getting paid directly for doing it. Though it's an essential part of the service they provide, and bill the government and the insurance plan for, they don't see that particular task as having any priority because it's not a billable action.

We got the two prescriptions that we could, and took his mom shopping for her immediate grocery needs. Then back home to do our own grocery shopping, animal chores, and make dinner. I baked strawberry rhubarb pie, which turned out really well. Sweet corn, pita bread with hummus and tomatoes, whole wheat pasta tossed with steamed arugula and grated asiago, and small steaks from the grill (they were on sale this weekend and Gary does like them.) It was good. And time for bed, even though I should be working on writing stuff I think.
altivo: Running Clydesdale (running clyde)
No, not because it's Gay Pride. No, not because it's Amateur Radio Field Day. Because it's the Midwest Fiber and Folk Fest AND the Day at Petersen Farm.

Gary had a musical commitment at Midwest yesterday afternoon, so I agreed to staff the spinning guild booth in that time slot. Thinking, silly me, that it would be like the equivalent slot last year, which was pretty quiet. Not so. I was swamped with people who wanted to buy our hand spindle starter kits and then get free lessons in how to use them. The fest is held in a county fair building, one of those steel barn affairs. Fortunately it is air conditioned sort of, unfortunately the acoustics are horrible. It's one echoing massive burst of white noise that pounds on the ears continuously. Since people interested in fiber arts are often older and don't have the best hearing, and that is compounded by the bad background noise, I shouted myself hoarse (not "horse") and came home with a sore throat and throbbing headache. We did, however, take in a nice lump of cash for the guild treasury.

Today was the Petersen Farm, a sort of farm history re-enactment. They have groups demonstrating all sorts of farm skills from the 19th century, and of course spinning, weaving, sewing, quilting are among them. Fortunately I sweet-talked a friend into helping me this year, since last year I did it alone because everyone else was at the Midwest event. The bribe was a picnic lunch, which succeeded beyond expectations.

Friend is a vegetarian, so I promised home baked pita pockets, home made hummus, and a green salad from the garden. Well, the garden pretty much bolted in the heat last week, so most of the greens came from a local produce market but the salad was still a success: romaine, bronze leaf lettuce, arugula, cilantro, snow peas, tomatoes, vidalia onion, and fennel (packed with ice in a zip lock bag to keep it crisp, which worked perfectly.) Whole wheat pita pockets baked last night, two flavors of hummus (roasted red pepper, garlic) and diced tomato and onion with vinegar and olive oil. California merlot disguised in a thermos bottle that held it at exactly 67F, and a cute picnic set in a backpack that included plaid tablecloth and cloth napkins, wine goblets, retro plastic handled flatware, plates, bowls, corkscrew, breadknife and cutting board. We got a great laugh out of it all and lunch was delicious too.

Still have a sore throat, wondering if it's seasonal allergies kicking in or a cold coming on. Today's headache is from being in the bright sun for seven hours. And tomorrow the sheep shearer cometh...
altivo: Clydesdale Pegasus (pegasus)
Gary's, not mine. We are six months apart, diametrically opposed both on the calendar and astrologically. But that isn't necessarily bad. It means that to a significant degree, our skills and interests are complementary, and as a result we make a good team for some projects.

Took him out today and made him pick out a new desk chair for his office, and bought it for him as a birthday/father's day gift. His old one was a faded blue fabric one left from his workplace, and he has had it as long as I've known him (30 years.) It squeaks and creaks and the fabric is wearing thin. The padding on the seat and back is completely flat. It was definitely time for a new one but I had some convincing to do before he agreed to it.

Then we made an experiment. Pulled pork barbecue (Yes I know, but it was his birthday this weekend) and it turned out surprisingly good. Also I made bumbleberry pie: blueberries, raspberries, strawberries and apples.
altivo: Geekish ham radio pony (geek)
We have a consistent but mysterious CD incompatibility. If Gary writes MP3 files to a CD-R they will play back in his computer and in his car audio system. The same disc will usually play on my computer, but will not play in my car audio system. (We both have Fords, with almost identical radio-CD players in them.) I can, however, copy the files from his CD on my computer, and write them to another blank CD-R and the copied disc will play in my car player. I thought perhaps his Windows software was leaving the disc open rather than fixating it, so I tried fixating one he had written but it still plays only on the computers and not in my car.

It's a mystery.

Interesting "experiments" at supper. We had a salad made of avocado, zucchini, tomato, and lime juice that was quite good. We also had a pasta dish made with arugula (rocket to the EU folks I think,) olive oil, garlic, and grated asiago cheese. That has potential, but we used whole wheat linguini and I think it would be more successful with the normal linguini as those are less sticky when cooked. The asiago I had on hand was very strong and clashed with the arugula a bit rather than blending, so we're thinking perhaps a milder Parmesan or even mizithra or gruyere would be better. Even so, it was good, just a bit astonishing.

Steamy

May. 27th, 2012 10:17 pm
altivo: Trojan horse image (wheelhorse)
At least for May, 88F is pretty warm. Actually, the humidity was fairly low, and rain held off all day.

Kobo reader is working up to the whole list of features now. The only thing I haven't done is to put an SD chip into it. Successfully downloaded a library book. Successfully purchased a book from kobobooks.com and then downloaded it to the reader over wireless.

Otherwise played it lazy, reading and snoozing. I did clean stalls and feed horses, of course. And we made a festive dinner by grilling some poor dead cow pieces over charcoal. Large salad from our garden greens, plus an avocado (alien beast) and some gorgonzola crumbles. Sweet corn, which has been bred too sweet now for my taste but Gary likes it, baked potato, and probably the second to last asparagus cutting of the year.

Strawberries (actually ripe) and a dab of ice cream were dessert.

Did not do laundry. Good thing tomorrow is a holiday.
altivo: Clydesdale Pegasus (pegasus)
The unseasonable weather has accelerated everything. The daffodils came and have nearly gone in just a week or so. Normally they stretch out for nearly a month since we have planted early and late blooming varieties. Maples blossomed and are already forming their seeds. The oaks are starting to leaf out, something they rarely do before mid to late April. Hickories remain stubborn, however. Rhubarb is coming up. Bluebirds are here, as are the robins, grackles, red wings, and flickers. The bleeding hearts, which only emerged from the ground a week ago, are already forming blossoms and showing color. Iris are four inches tall already.Tomorrow night we expect a cold front with lows in the 30s, but no frost. Slugs are eating the new green shoots, and we've even seen an occasional early butterfly. Now that's early.

Gary is making a new soup from a butternut squash. It's been in the slow cooker for hours and smells delicious. He also made an Irish brown bread from a recipe in the newspaper. Supposedly the "genuine" Irish soda bread, it has honey, whole wheat, and no yeast. I tasted a tiny bit and it's rather like graham crackers but with a bready texture. We have some brats made from chicken and apples and I guess he plans to grill them to go with all this.

I hear a blender, soup is being puréed now I guess. I'd have cut it up fine and left it chunky, but I'm not the cook today.

Off to help with the rest of the preparations.
altivo: My mare Contessa (nosy tess)
Started right around sunset, steady light snow. No serious accumulation yet, at least.

Spinning guild newsletter went out at noon time, so at least I have something to show.

Made stir fry for supper, with many veggies and just a tiny amount of chicken.

And tomorrow's a Monday again. Eeew. Let's outlaw those.
altivo: My mare Contessa (nosy tess)
Snow turning to puddles in one day. The boys had to almost swim to get back into their stalls. Well, no, that's a bit exaggerated. But their water trough overflowed from roof runoff, and there is a deep puddle right outside their doors.

Someone didn't want me to make any desserts because it's Lent and he's trying to lose weight. Now he's unhappy about that. ;p Fortunately there is some cake in the freezer that his sister-in-law made at Christmas.

Tess was antsy with spring fever today but I didn't want to put her out. The wet would be good for her feet, but everything is still snow covered out there, though the snow is slushy. She doesn't really like being out in a snowy pasture, as I well know. She gets very loud and vocal about it.

Not eager to get back to work tomorrow, but no choice. And now it's time to sleep.
altivo: Running Clydesdale (running clyde)
Dinner with nearby friends, pleasant chat, icy clear night with stars so bright you can touch them and the Milky Way visible (first I've been able to see that clearly in several years.) And still two more days to the weekend. An auspicious beginning.

Gary made three kinds of bread that we took to dinner, and all were good. There's more of each one left.

We reassembled the eight t-trak modules, now that they've been painted and the tracks put back in place. They went together correctly, and trains ran smoothly over the track. Now time to build scenery.

Gasoline back down to $3.25 here, wonder how long that will last. Time to pay the horses' vet bills for the coming year, and to my surprise they've gone down. The boys are each $46 less than last year, and Tess is down about $10. They are in a sort of package/HMO program where we pay a flat rate that covers two visits by the vet, basic vaccinations and lab work, and so forth all in the single charge. This is the second year in a row that the cost of those services has dropped. And we like our vet, too. Amazing.

Now, it's time for bed I think.
altivo: Clydesdale Pegasus (pegasus)
Annual Sagittarius birthday party. Getting smaller I think. And Rebecca and I were the only Sagittarians. Nothing like the old days of the event. On the other paw, we got to leave at a reasonable hour for a change, and there wasn't ten inches of snow and ice on the ground.

I made a big salad, with spinach, romaine, red leaf lettuce, red onion, fennel, ripe olives, and tiny tortellini. Often when I take that to pot lucks, most of it comes back with us, but tonight about 2/3 of it got eaten. Gary made chocolate chip scones, and in spite of my usual observation that anything with chocolate in it will disappear, quite a few of them were left. Sign of too much food, I suspect.

The two N-scale box cars I got off Ebay arrived today. Cute little things, though these are cheapie ones. Might be more suited to use as props on a siding than as active rolling stock. Will have to see. Both cars have the same ID number, but a little judicious application of an X-acto knife should change a 4 to a 1 to make them different. Detroit Toledo & Ironton insulated 50 ft. cars. Photo to follow.

It's cold out again, though not as cold as last night. That's good, because this morning the newest duck egg was actually frozen right in the nest box.
altivo: From a con badge (studious)
But much closer. Roth and Hiller continue their discussion of possibilities. Then Hiller takes it up with Rory, who supplies some information about the connection between Tommy Firkin and Jake Sisson.

Next installment is here.

Cumulative word count: 49293 (So close, but another 707 to go)

Much work to be done on the story, but the stage is set for the surprise climax. Will hit 50K tomorrow for sure, still a day early. On the whole, this has been the easiest NaNo I've done so far.

Turned turkey leftovers into turkey tetrazini this evening. I think turkeys exist to justify this dish. Unhealthy, rich, luxurious, and a bit fussy to prepare, but indescribably delicious. And now there's leftover tetrazini...

Realization that details of the story hang on the operation of early telegraph systems at a level with which I had only rudimentary understanding. Fortunately, what I wanted to allow is indeed possible. No need to clutter up the story with technical details, just making sure no one can come along and say "Hey, wait, they couldn't do that because..."

Now comes bed, thank goodness.
altivo: From a con badge (studious)
Here's the next installment.

Word count: 9637 (still ahead of schedule)

The registered mail is still missing, and a report filed with police in Westvale. Train and crew depart for Chatton to complete the interrupted run of the previous day, with no passengers and only mail bags aboard.

I spent a lovely afternoon in Wisconsin with Roth and K.C. themselves, visiting Organ Piper Pizza and listening to two different organists playing requests on the theatre organ there. Great company, fun music, and even pizza. No dead opossums, though.

Now I need to go to bed before I pass out on the floor.
altivo: Clydesdale Pegasus (pegasus)
This isn't new. We've had lots of practice, but I'm always delighted with this stuff when it turns out properly.

Whole wheat pita, rising


Above: Here are half a dozen individual pitas in the last rise stage, after being pressed out flat by hand or rolling pin.


Whole wheat pita, baking


Above: View through the oven glass, more or less. The loaves are puffed up and browning nicely. The sudden inflation in size causes the gluten strands to separate, leaving a large pocket in the center of each pita.


Whole wheat pita, cooling


Above: Finished pita loaves cooling after baking. They turned out to taste even better than they look. We filled them with home made hummus, chopped tomatoes, and diced Vidalia onion.

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