Thursday, April 29, 2010

A Quick Get-Away

As you might have noticed, I am somewhat incapable of just letting my arm rest and NOT doing the gardening, cooking or anything else that I shouldn't, so I decided the best thing for my arm might be a vacation.  So, Monday I packed my bags and headed to Union, Oregon.

I am not a "normal" vacationer.  I like the odd, unique, "memorable" places.  I used to travel quite a bit for work, and most cities & chain hotels really look all the same.  I want something unusual.  So, when I found the Historic Union Hotel online, I was thoroughly excited.  They even had an "original" room--presumably as it was in 1920 when the hotel was built--with the shower down the hall one direction and the "auxiliary" down the other--so of COURSE this was for me. (Not to mention the $39/night price tag)

Monday was sunny & nice, which made the three-hour drive quite pleasant.  I stopped for lunch in Baker City, Oregon because we had previously been so impressed with the restaurant in the Geiser Grand when we stayed there, and I was thinking it would be the "culinary high point" of my trip and the only one likely to NOT bother my "no-processed-foods" stomach.  And I was wrong.  The restaurant had obviously changed in the year since I had last eaten there--gone were the "Oregon" specialties featuring hazelnuts or blue cheese or anything else local.  Now it's basically "pub grub" that one would get at any chain restaurant--which I'm sure has probably made them more appealing to the general public & probably is helping them compete with the chain restaurants because that is the type of restaurant most people go to.  Still, as rarely as we go out to eat, it was a serious disappointment and I doubt I'll make the effort to go there again.

Union wasn't much further, and the hotel is right on the main road
--as is everything else--and is totally delightful.  I was a bit concerned about this sign
thinking maybe they'd failed to mention something on their website and wondering if I would make the cut, but it turns out a convention calling themselves "Victorious Women" had just left.  Sounds more fun than "Virtuous Women," but this makes a better sign, don't you think?

Right next to the hotel is the Union City Park:
which is just lovely & quite well used. 
though small.

The staff--which might consist of three people including a spry 71-year-old housekeeper--is delightful.  The entire visit they called me "Miss Toni" which made me feel as if I should be dripping in crinolines and sipping mint juleps.

Being a Monday night, I was actually the only guest, which is a very strange feeling.  It did take some of the problems of going to a bathroom down the hall away as I didn't have to explain myself to anyone staying in a room WITH a private bath. I actually thought the "auxiliary" bathroom was rather fun, and my room was bright & cheery
though my closet could have used a closet rod
I did take a look through several of the other rooms and they were wonderful.  One had a full kitchen, some had sitting rooms--or course all the others had baths--some were just funny, like the "Annie Oakley" room which has been redecorated since they put the picture on the website & now has been nicknamed the "bordello" room. 

There's a huge lounge with sofa & chairs & tables and games and a gas fireplace.  Since my second day was rainy off & on, it was a nice place to hang out and read.  None of the rooms have a television, but there is a television lounge upstairs for those who need a fix.

Union itself is a tremendously small town, though they cover the basics.  This is the hardware/liquor/espresso shop:
And really, what else does one need?

As it turns out, food.  I don't know if it was just because I was the only guest or if it's just "slow season," but the restaurant in the hotel was closed, and I wasn't ABOUT to take my little "no-processed-foods" self to "Gravy Dave's" across the street, so I enjoyed peanut butter & jelly sandwiches on a loaf of Andy's homemade bread most of the trip.  Unfortunately, "shelf-stable" peanut butter has all sorts of additives, so I technically wasn't getting any "cheat free" meals--which is asking for trouble.  When I needed a break, I drove over to La Grande--about 13 miles away--but I didn't come across any restaurants likely to be "legal."  So I stopped and picked up more fruit and some fresh vegetables and hoped my stomach could last.

Being spring in Oregon, it snowed in the mountains
(which were quite close) the second night I was there--and the storm was so fierce that my hosts came to check on me to make sure I was okay.  (Did I mention how great the service is?).  I think they might have turned up the heat, because this thing
which I had thought might be for show started pumping out the heat and steam, which did wonders for my dry skin. 

A fun, quick trip--lots of relaxation, and I DID rest my arm.  My stomach, however, was hurting so much that I decided not to stay a third night. Can you imagine looking FORWARD to being back on a diet???

I have a strange life......:)

Monday, April 26, 2010

Help! We're Being Attacked By Butter Chicken!!!

A couple years ago, a friend of mine discovered a seasoning packet for butter chicken curry sauce that she thought I might like.  I did, indeed--so much so that I picked up as many packets as I could find at Cost Plus.  meanwhile, my friend had also tried it, loved it, and began stalking Cost Plus for it as well.  This--combined with other people finding and liking it as well--might have prompted a retailer to increase its stock of an item, but Cost Plus held firm.  Even if they ran short of an item every single week, they refused to increase the weekly supply.  I'm sure this makes sense to them for some reason, but we were left without butter chicken.

Butter chicken remains one of the--if not THE ONLY--convenience food that is "legal" on our diet.  Rather than face a shortage--which, trust me, would have led to a few rough moments here at Chateau Sutton-Goar, I started ordering it from Amazon.  They truly carry everything.

On the Amazon page, one can subscribe to butter chicken--how cool is that.  So, in March I signed us up to receive 3 boxes every 3 months--which would get a great discount and average one packet a week.  JUST a few days later...
 Butter chicken on our doorstep!  Very cool!  Then last week:
MORE butter chicken.  Not so cool.  Now obviously, I love this stuff.  BUT there's no way I want it 18 times every month.  I don't even want chocolate that often.

I logged on to Amazon, and while I couldn't find a place to CHANGE my subscription, but I did discover that Amazon was getting ready to send me three more boxes in May.  Not knowing what else to do, I canceled it with the following note:

      Dear Amazon:

     For the love of God, stop.  I asked for a subscription of three boxes every three months, and while generally I applaud rapid shipping, you are now 5 months ahead, which is a BIT extreme even for the biggest overachiever.  Not that there's anything wrong with that, but we are trying to NOT be eating overachievers, so until we can catch up, please stop sending us butter chicken.  We have run out of chickens and storage space.

If we get another box in June, I suppose that will mean that Amazon has no sense of humor.....

Sunday, April 25, 2010

My Seedlings Are Having An "Outing" Today

What, you don't take your plants on field trips????????

Today Is Parent Alienation Awareness Day

When there are has been a divorce involving children, one parent often tries to turn the children against the other parent or hurt the other parent through the child. The hostile parent can be the mother or the father. It occurs so regularly that it is now referred to as "Parent Alienation."

For information about parent alienation and the awareness day, visit here. If you have experienced hostile parenting, either as the alienated parent or the child, or if you know someone who has, please help spread awareness of this form of child abuse.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Things I Am TRYING To Learn This Week

*  throwing a cat toy is not on the "approved list of activities" for resting an arm

*  the bigger issue is to remember that I really LIKE cilantro, and not to be irritated that it is coming up everywhere in the garden this year after refusing to grow at all last year

*  I need to stop feeling proud of myself for being able to grow snow peas.  The real trick, it seems, is to STOP them from growing on every available inch of the garden....and in the lawn....and in the flower beds....

*  no matter how loudly our new neighbors need to rev their car engines, it does not necessarily mean that certain parts of their anatomy are "dimensionally-challenged."

*  a cat might not understand that Daylight Savings Time only happens once a year, and that to just randomly shift wake-up time an hour ahead every few weeks might seem like an acceptable idea to the cat

*  you'll never know a truer measure of a person than when you see how they treat you when you have different fundamental beliefs than he or she does

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Being Reasonable Or Just Being a Baby?

OK, my arm still hurts.  I don't think it hurts any less than it did a week ago.  I have even become desperate enough to consider going to the doctor--but not, of course, desperate enough to give it complete rest or anything crazy like that.  HOWEVER, we can now scratch canning, making boeuf bourgignon, and making jam off the list of "things that are good ideas to do when trying to rest an injured elbow," so at least I'm making some progress................................

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Was It Worth It?

Good question.

Yesterday at lunch was the REAL test of the boeuf bourguignon as the flavors had more time to mellow & blend & whatever else they do, AND I decided to serve it as Julia said to--the part about being over potatoes, not the part about serving it with buttered peas (what is the deal with all the butter??????).  I cooked a potato in its skin rather than boiling it--I mean, let's try to have SOME nutritional value here--and I have to say, it was wonderful.  The potatoes soaked up and maybe mellowed much of the liquid, and together it was something that had to be eaten slowly to savor the amazing complexity of flavors.  I can't think of anything I've ever had like it, but then again, American food is more about cheap, easy, fast, and able to be produced in a chain restaurant by teenagers.

HOWEVER, you might have noticed that--aside from Sunday--when I talk about food it's generally a little more on the "low-fat" variety.  Just so we're clear about how much fat was involved in making this
yeah, that would not be dust.  Now, however much of the fat was airborne, imagine the amount of fat that stayed IN the stew.  Now imagine that fat hitting a stomach that has eaten unprocessed, low fat, mostly vegetable-type things for, say the last 15 months.....not pretty.  For dinner we had antacid and salad--in that order.  By 2:00 AM, I loathed Julia Child.

So, was it worth it?  I think so.  I did learn a lot, and I think it might be able to be done without the bacon & with a LOT less butter, and I am glad that I did it.  And the stew is pretty amazing, though today I packed up the leftovers to throw them in the freezer
as neither of us are willing to go near the stuff again in the near future.  I think our future will be more along the lines of

Monday, April 19, 2010

Boeuf Bourguignon

Or as one of my friends so aptly renamed it after my adventures yesterday, beef burnignon.

I had originally thought it would be fun to make this while our friends were visiting last month as we all rather enjoy cooking adventures.  However, as I'm sure none of us particularly enjoy repeated burns and being covered in grease, I think we made the right choice in making pizza instead.  BUT I still wanted to try the recipe, so yesterday morning I dived in.
Having previously thawed out the three pounds of stew meat (for a recipe to feed SIX people, mind you), I also scrounged out the bacon I'd purchased
but had not bothered to open before freezing it.  Julia calls for a 6-ounce chunk of bacon, so I figured something less than half of a 16-ounce package would work.  If I had any doubts about my general refusal to eat bacon
opening the package did nothing to convince me otherwise.  The ONLY meat on any of the bacon was on one edge--the visible one obviously.  Everything you can't see is 100% pure fat.
YUMMY!  And if you think it can't get more revolting......
step two was to cut the bacon in smallish sticks and to simmer for 10 minutes--presumably to remove all the artificial flavor because no American bacon I could find wasn't flavored with something.

The bacon seems to serve two functions in the recipe--one was to provide the fat to fry the beef in (not that the little fried fat blobs aren't added in to the final stew, of course.  They are.) and the other was to cook in the stew itself without being fried first.  Since I had 90% fat, I divided the now-clean bacon into piles of "fat" and "actual meat"
 such as it is, then tossed the fat blobs into a casserole pan TO BE SAUTEED IN OIL!!!!!!!!!!
Yeah, because lack of fat was one serious problem here.

Meticulously following the instructions, I removed the lightly browned bacon fat with a slotted spoon ('cause, you know, you don't want any of the grease to escape), then heated the remaining fat until it was almost smoking before adding the beef which had been thoroughly patted dry with paper towels.....

.....and which still repeatedly gave me grease burns & the first big burn of the day--on my right forearm, which is sort of convenient because now I can ice it at the same time as I'm icing my elbow.  By this point, the only thing keeping me going was the knowledge that the whiny Julie Powell person (the Julie & Julia project/book/movie) had managed to do this, and I am NOT going to be one-upped by a person who has "meltdowns" over a chicken dish. 

NOTE:  This is not a recipe to attempt while wearing glasses.  I hadn't put my contacts in yet, and by the time the 3 pounds of beef were sauteed (because it must be done in small batches), I had to get a de-greaser to even be able to SEE out of my glasses, and fled to put my contacts in at the first break I had.  My skin, however, is REALLY soft today.....except, of course, where it is burned

I finally got everything--meat, sliced onions, and carrots--cooked in fat, the stock & wine were added (and it is SUCH a shame that it uses the entire bottle because I REALLY could have used a glass of wine by this point), and the stew was in the oven for 3 hours.  I settled for
which is against our normal rules, but having 2-3 burns, being covered in bacon fat, and having to change shoes because the hardwood floor had become so insanely slippery with the layer of grease that is now coating EVERY surface downstairs......rules become a lot less important than one's sanity.  It was this or a shot (or bottle) of scotch, and I thought this might be safer.

The 3 hours, incidentally, is NOT rest time.  That is the time you prepare the TWO accompanying recipes that go WITH this one.  Time to get out the butter....
which you knew was coming in a Julia Child recipe.  I think she might have single-handedly supported about 4 dairies during her lifetime.  So, the FIRST round of butter is for the pearl onions
 which--aside from being a heart attack waiting to happen--are SERIOUSLY fabulous.  You saute them in olive oil & butter (of course), then add beef stock & herbs and let them cook for 50 minutes.  While those are cooking,
you brown mushrooms in........olive oil & butter!  Seriously, this is like a death wish for anyone with heart disease.

Finally, finally, FINALLY....5 hours & three burns later:
Hot, frustrated, greasy, and cranky, I put it in the fridge until I was feeling charitable enough to try it, and went out into the sunshine for a little R & R
A rather frightened Theo joined me--or maybe he was hiding from the grease vapors......
We did finally try the stew several hours later, and the flavors are complex and interesting, and I'm glad I did it...............but I don't think it will ever happen again.  We served VERY small portions because even the idea of 1/2 pound of meat and all that fat as an actual serving makes my little arteries just quiver in fear.

This morning, just out of morbid curiosity, I typed the recipe into a Mastercook program that I have, which computes calorie count & nutrition.  Are you ready?

IF you were to really make this into 6 servings, per serving it would have:

1029 calories
95% of the daily allowance for fat
116% of the daily allowance for saturated fat

which is easy to be horrified at--except that it's probably about even with an average order at a restaurant here in America (or even lighter than MANY).  Still, that's an insane amount for the diet here at Chateau Sutton-Goar.  I'm thinking we'll be making this into about 18 servings...........

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Today I Am Making Julia Child's Boeuf Bourguignon......

......and by tomorrow I might be willing to discuss it.

....and take back everything I have said today about Julia Child.............

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Ignorance CAN Be Entertaining

Okay--I never watch television.  Movies, yet.  What is broadcast over the air & received on our television's little bunny ears--never.  I have tried occasionally to catch something on PBS but it's hard to remember to actually turn the television on at the right time, much less figure out how the VCR works with the new digital channels.  So, I don't see advertisements.  Of course, it's great and I would be willing to bet money that one's stress level is actually lower without having to listen to a bunch of 30-second segments of people telling you what you should be wanting, but this is all beside the point.  Without seeing advertisements and knowing what all the latest "things" are, life has become very interesting lately.

The other day I was driving down one of the main roads in Boise, and I passed a sign saying "Android backflips here."  I was in the wrong lane or I would have stopped.  I would have liked to have seen a real android doing backflips.  That would be worth stopping for, don't you think?

Then the next day a friend told me she and her husband had "hotwired" a hotel for the weekend.  In my world, this means my friends have found some sort of hotel involving motor homes, and have stolen one for the weekend.  Alrighty.

I know they really mean other things that I just am not aware of, but my version is WAY more entertaining.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Things I Have Learned This Week

*  Making and canning jam is a fast way to aggravate a sore elbow

*  Getting to eat fresh strawberry jam really takes one's mind off a sore elbow

*  I don't like "resting" any better as an adult than I did as a child

*  Next time I start to think that I can do almost as much with my left hand as with my right, I'll try cleaning left-handed

*  I am a lot more open to the idea of letting my arm "rest" when it is cold and icky outside than I am when it's sunny and 70 degrees

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

In Which I Am A Slow, Slow Learner

What I SHOULD have been doing yesterday:  resting my arm

What I actually DID yesterday:
Two batches of strawberry jam!  One has balsamic vinegar added & one has freshly ground black pepper, both of which accent the strawberries really nicely.  With strawberries being REALLY good and really inexpensive right now, I just couldn't resist.

Which is why today my arm is REALLY sore and I am really and truly going to rest it.  And figure out how to make bread one-handed so I can have something to put some of this fabulous jam ON......

Monday, April 12, 2010

What Would Be a Good Story

*  I hurt my arm while rescuing a tiny kitten from a tree

*  I hurt my arm by hitting a crushing blow while playing tennis

*  I hurt my arm while arm-wrestling Andy to see who had to do dishes

What is NOT a good story:

*  I have hurt my arm and don't have the faintest idea how I did it

--but it hurts all the same, dang it.  

Sunday, April 11, 2010

You HAVE To Try This

OK--there hasn't been a lot of posting lately.  Our options for blame are:

1.  I've been really busy
2.  I didn't want to confess in public that the moles are totally kicking my arse so far this year
3.  I have strained my elbow which actually makes it really hard to type
4.  All of the above

And the correct answer is........All of the above.  I have no idea what I have done to my elbow, but a smart person wouldn't have been shoveling with a strained elbow, thereby making it worse.  And then there's me.  So.......

I have been reasonably good about resting my arm today--and was able to make the soups for tomorrow's soup night mostly with my left hand.  BUT, I did have to post to share one of the soup recipes.  It's WONDERFUL! 

Lightly Curried Peanut Bisque

Seriously--you HAVE to try it!  Or just come to soup night tomorrow....

Thursday, April 8, 2010

You Know You're Officially An Adult When......

*  a good doctor's appointment is when you don't hear the words "at your age...."

*  you only recognize friends from high school because they look like their parents

*  you spend an evening with a friend comparing surgery stories

*  when your bedtime is right around the time you and your friends used to START the evening

you stop looking for toys in your morning cereal and start looking for fiber


I admit--we haven't quite been as stringent about being back on the "no processed foods diet" as we should have been.  For Easter, Andy bought me some chocolates of my very own (meaning he won't polish them off when I'm not looking), so I've been having some chocolate & high fructose corn syrup every day (and whatever else is in Whoppers), and then I had opted to use "illegal" chicken stock in the pad thai I made earlier, and thought we "might as well" use up some microwave popcorn in the, obviously still ignoring what I know we should do.  Seriously, it was still a minimal amount compared to a "normal" diet, but for us, BIG time illegal.  Yesterday I woke up with a whopper of a headache (lame pun totally intended), which just wouldn't go away in spite of pain killers.......

.....which is the allergic reaction I get to milk and the only reason I really ever get headaches.  Now chocolate has never had enough milk in it to trigger a reaction, BUT what we are sort of wondering is:  If my body gives me headaches because it views milk as a toxin, did it view the food additives as toxins and react accordingly??????  (And, what I have always wondered:  What sort of a stupid reaction is a headache anyway?????) 

I was only 6 or 7 when the milk allergy was discovered, and the way we determined that it was milk was to eliminate the top 10 food allergens totally, then introduce them one by ones in mass amounts.  The first one to cause a reaction was the winner.  I have strong memories of the onion week, so that might have been the first one.  I remember having really loved milk at the time, but if every time you took a drink of milk & someone smacked you upside the head with a stick, you're soon lose your liking for it.  Trust me on this one.  So....I'm torn between curiosity to know if I have inadvertently given myself a new "allergy" and the realization that trying to give myself a headache on purpose is a remarkably stupid thing to do.

I did behave myself completely yesterday......and woke up without a headache of any kind today. Hmmmm....

On the good side, the no processed foods diet would be sooooooo much easier if it was a Pavlovian response instead of just a willpower thing.........

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Every Time I Think I've Heard The Dumbest Rumor About Healthcare.....

....I am proved wrong: Health Care Reform Legislation Requires Microchip Implantation?

The really frightening part is to realize that there are people foolish enough to believe this. Guess that answers the question as to why those black & white "Aliens Had My Baby" newspapers did so well for so long......

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

I Just Can't Look Away.....

You know how when you see a car wreck or something really gross, you just can't look away no matter how disgusting it is?  Well, yesterday I discovered that the lovely folks who brought us bacon-flavored lip balm have a website.  It turns out that they have an entire range of products.  For the movie lover, there's Bacon Pop
for those who were thinking that crossing popcorn & pork rinds would be a REALLY good idea.  Or, if you've ever been mailing out bills and thought, "Damn, a little bacon would be good right about now," there's
bacon flavored envelopes!  In case paying bills doesn't make you nauseous enough.

And, for the parents who just can't wait to get their children started on the road to heart disease and obesity, it's
Bacon Baby!!!  Solving the problems of childhood obesity by......making it infant obesity!

Whew!  And I thought the lard quest was as disgusting as my food research was going to get.......

Monday, April 5, 2010

And Because It Is Monday & Cold......

YouTube - The Muppets: Bohemian Rhapsody

I Have My Limits

Okay--while there is still a significant amount of yardwork that needs to be done, I refuse to work in the snow.  I know--kind of wimpy of me, and considering it's APRIL one would think this wouldn't be a problem.  BUT, it has snowed almost every day so far this month.  On the GOOD days, it just rains.  Now, call me cranky, but I don't think it should snow after we've had to mow the lawn.  So, no more gardening until Mother Nature decides to behave herself.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

New Month, New Project

A couple years ago, Andy and I each picked a subject we knew nothing about and studied it for a month.  THIS year, along with one of our closest friends, we have decided to study the same subject for a month.  We wanted to pick a subject none of us knew much about, so we chose South American history AFTER the conquistadors--which is where USA history text books usually stop even mentioning our southern neighbors (and that was BEFORE the Conservatives started the rewrites--once they're done, we may not even HAVE another American continent). Totally excited about our new adventure, I headed to our branch library.

Our branch library is THE coolest little library I have ever seen.  They have concerts, event for kids all the time, clubs--and we can borrow anything from the network of libraries in the area, so even its small size is not a factor.  However, I had decided to just drop in and browse the books on South American history--assuming they had them .  And eventually I found them--there were three, sandwiched in a tiny section with other "unimportant" parts of the world--Africa, Antarctica, countries we haven't been to war in.  At first I found it surprising that the library had more books about Princess Di than about the entire continent of South America.....until I remembered that I know more about Princess Di than I do about the entire continent of South America.  So.....we picked well. 

First step:  Find a map and figure out what countries we're actually talking about.  Did I mention I know next to nothing about South America?  Yeah--wasn't kidding.......

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Headlines That Might Be April Fool's Hoaxes
















Fall! Finally!

Even without extremely hot summers, I've always loved fall.  A little coolness in the air, leaves starting to turn, sweaters coming out-...