Sunday, June 30, 2013

June 2013 Round Up

Dog image from 123RF. Rope frame by MandaBean (no longer available). Font is Kristen ITC.

What books and/or magazines did I read this month?
Still chipping away at Return of the King. I am making it my goal to finish it before my birthday in July! Also don't think I read as many articles this month as last, and of those that I did read, there weren't nearly as many memorable ones. So this is a short list this time.

What movies and/or tv shows did I watch this month?
* TV Time: Enjoying the return of Major Crimes, Perception, and Rizzoli & Isles. Not much else going on in TV land (which is funny, since we still seem to watch an awful lot of it!). Certainly more baseball going on than previously.
* New Films: Got a few new ones in this month, some at the theater even! Ah, summer!
- Out of Africa - This was interesting, and I enjoyed it. Beautiful to see and hear (love John Barry!). Very little in this world is better than a relatively young Robert Redford wooing a relatively young Meryl Streep.
- Bulletproof Monk - This was okay but still fun. I figured out the twist way too soon, which took some of the fun out of it. Chow Yun Fat is always great, but this was not a great movie. Just okay.
- Oblivion - We *really* enjoyed this one, much more than I thought we might. Definitely see it. Full musings here.
- Now You See Me - A fun ride, but don't think too hard. Just sit back and let it wash over you. Full musings here.
- Arthur Christmas - This was a different movie. Sweet concept, but the execution was a bit odd in places (perhaps due to being a British film). We liked it okay. Not sure I want to make it part of the Christmas tradition, though.
- Epic - Luke really liked it. Grown ups thought it was fine; not great, not bad. Full musings here.

* Old Favorites: I, Robot, The Lost World: Jurassic Park, Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides, Anastasia (new for L), Hitch, Wreck-It Ralph (new for L), L.A. Confidential, Aliens, Alien 3, Stranger Than Fiction, The Prince of Egypt (new for L)

What fun things did I do with my family and/or friends?

We have officially implemented "movie night," at least for the summer. (Not sure if we will be able to continue once school starts, but I really hope so!) I thought it would be on Friday nights, but it has worked out better to do it on Saturday nights each week so far. We have popcorn in spiffy personal popcorn buckets and everything! Luke is really loving it, though I'm not sure if he loves the new movies or the popcorn more. LOL  There is a list of pre-approved options that he can select from. So far, we've watched Anastasia, Wreck-It Ralph, and The Prince of Egypt.

What gifts did I give and/or receive?

Mom gifted me with some items during our first trip to Sephora as an early birthday present (above is the combined haul for me from Sephora (Mom's treat) and Ulta (my own money)), including my first Urban Decay eyeliner.I've been hearing about these constantly from my make-up expert friends, and Rimmel quit making my most favorite perfect-for-me liner pencil, so I've been looking for a replacement. They're not cheap, but I could have bought two UD liners for what I've spent on inexpensive replacements that aren't right. I was able to try the Urban Decay testers at the store to check for color, and they have a ton of options. They really do go on like butter! I also got four Sephora nail polishes (white square cap and the three to the right of it) and a glass nail file. Thanks, Mom!! (Ulta purchases were the liquid glitter eyeliners (on clearance) in the front, and the top left 7 polishes.)

What special or unusual purchases did I make?
Other than what is mentioned above, nothing comes to mind.

What illnesses or health concerns did I have?  
Luke is coughing a lot for no reason anyone can figure out. I wonder if he has a sinus infection, but he's not showing the usual progression or typical symptoms (besides the cough). We'll give it a few more days to go away, then it will be off to the pediatrician. I still had a cough at the very beginning of the month, but it finally dissipated.

And I have been officially discharged from physical therapy! My professional ankle rehabilitation is complete. (And I don't have to use the dreaded BAPS board anymore! I *hated* that thing.) That does not, however, mean that I am at 100%. It just means that the rest of the healing will take time, but there really isn't anything else they can do for me. Just keep up my exercises at home, be sure I am using my ankle as much as I can (but not if it causes pain; discomfort is okay, but not true pain), and wait. To me, the true test will be Disney World next year. If I can do that, with all the walking and getting into and out of rides and such, I'll consider myself "well." Guess we'll find out!

What new things and Pinterest pins I try this month?
Yes, I rearranged and tweaked the question a bit. This just seems to make more sense. I'm trying to just try more new things in my life in general, be they foods, restaurants, recipes, techniques, crafts, experiences, places, etc.

Sephora was new, and though fun, I don't think I will be shopping there too often. Most of what they carry is out of my price comfort zone, though I do like that you can try things there; they have samples of nearly everything out. I called Spain for the first time (for work, but still). Actually, I think it is my first transcontinental call ever; I've called internationally before, but only to Canada. I tried my (burned) hand at steak for the first time.

I tried one of the new pasta dishes at Panera, the penne bolognese. It was okay; the pasta was very under-salted, IMO, but the flavor of the sauce was nice. And I tried one new recipe, from Pinterest, of course: Cracked Out Stovetop Chicken and Rice - Recipe Here (Plain Chicken); Pin Here. (Pinterest has apparently done away with their old embed button, so this will have to do. Will also need to start taking my own pictures.) We both really liked it, DH even more than I. I used rotisserie chicken that I had already chopped up, so it literally came together in less than 30 minutes from the time I walked into the kitchen. Great quick weeknight meal.

What were my accomplishments this month?

In a way, I feel like finally getting back in the swing of things with cooking and new recipes is as accomplishment. Things have been a big off-kilter in the kitchen for a while now, starting with Disney/the ankle. Hopefully, we're back on track now with more cooking/eating at home and trying more new things.

Like steak! I cooked my first steak this month. Definitely an accomplishment! It's one of those things I've been meaning to do, so I finally did (thanks to gift from a neighbor and a defrosted freezer). I actually tried twice this month. The second attempt was a bit overdone, but I think I got the flavor and seasoning right. Will also try a different cut of meat next time (tried t-bone and sirloin so far).

Only about a year left now on 101 Things in 1001 Days (ends June 28, 2014). Not doing so great on that list. Must hop to it!! Goodness, I haven't even updated the link since January. Really should fix that.

What were Luke's accomplishments this month?

Not much, but I don't mean that in a bad way. It's been a quiet and relaxing June, which is precisely what everyone needed! No major behavior issues or injuries, which was nice. We did implement a new "chore for allowance" scheme. It involves a combination of feeding the cats *and* not complaining about doing it, both of which affect how much money he earns in a week. We will add other chores to the list as appropriate.

He was extremely hungry at the end of the month and started tripping over things, which is usually a sign of a growth spurt. Glad we hadn't started shopping for clothes for MIL's wedding yet!

What were this month's disappointments or frustrations?
Work was very frustrating, but things did eventually resolve themselves (for the most part) by the end of the month. It was crazy for a good 2-3 weeks, though.

Anything else noteworthy to record?
Can't think of anything.

Monthly Round Up concept courtesy of Katie the Scrapbook Lady, tweaked by me.
Currently feeling: rounded up yet again

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Physical Therapy Complete

Image from WPClipart

Finished! I had my last physical therapy appointment yesterday. I'm not 100% yet (and I'm starting to think I may never be), but I'm at least 90%, and there isn't really anything more they can do for me. The rest will just take time. I have a list of exercises to continue with, probably for the rest of my life (if I'm smart), but they're all doable at home. In the meantime, I'm to stick with "it's okay if doing something is uncomfortable, but if it is painful, then stop" method of resuming my normal life. Going down stairs is still a bit tricky, but I'm working on it. As long as I can do Disney next year, I'll be happy! Wish me luck.

Currently feeling: done!

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Wordless Wednesday - June 26, 2013

Currently feeling: can't resist a BOGO sale with free shipping!

Monday, June 24, 2013

Missing May Mosaic!

I was flipping back through my blog posts to see if I had missed writing about anything, and I realized that I didn't do a Project 365 mosaic in my May 2013 Round Up post. Oops! I've added it there (sorry about that), but I wanted to add it here, too, so everyone could see it. Enjoy!

Click to biggify.

Currently feeling: mosaic-ed

Friday, June 21, 2013

How NOT to Cook a Steak

Our next door neighbors have a cute small dog. They have a doggie door that leads to the fenced in back yard, and he often comes to greet us when we are getting into our out of our cars. (He barked at us the first few weeks we lived there, but I guess he's decided that we're harmless by now.) The fence only goes around the back side of their house, thus if I am sitting anywhere in the front portion of our house, I should not be able to see him.

However, twice now in the last 12-18 months, I have been sitting in our dining room (front right corner of our home) and looked out our windows to see their dog standing in our yard. The first time, DH went out to get him, but no one was home. We walked around to their back yard and found one of the gates hanging open. The dog trotted right in, and DH closed the gate behind him. I'm betting our neighbors don't even know about that incident. No harm, no foul; no real reason to mention it.

Then a few weeks ago, I was again sitting in the dining room, and again spotted our furry friend outside the front window. "Honey, the neighbor's dog is out again. Can you take him home, please?"  DH called him, walked with him to their house, and knocked on the front door. This time, our neighbors were home. They thanked us profusely for bringing him home and promised to do a better job of making sure the gate fully latches. DH came back home, and we thought that would be that. Again, just being neighborly, no big deal.

A few minutes later, the doorbell rang. Our neighbor was standing outside, holding the biggest T-bone steak I have ever seen. This thing was at least 10 inches (25 cm) across! "We just wanted to say thank you for returning our dog! We don't know what we would do without him. Please take this as a small token of our appreciation." We tried to explain that we were happy to do it and no gift was needed, but she insisted, and my parents taught me to be gracious when offered a gift, so we did end up accepting it.

There's just one little hitch: I've never cooked a steak in my life! I've eaten plenty of them, but I had absolutely no idea what to do with one sitting in my refrigerator. I'd been thinking of trying to learn to cook steak recently (my FIL inspired me; he makes *excellent* steaks!), but it's a bit pricey to experiment with. Why not try it out on a piece of meat that I didn't have to pay for? The worst thing that can happen is that it is inedible and we throw out it. Keep in mind, this was a single 2.3 lb (1 kg) T-bone steak; not two individual steaks, just one huge slab-o-beast! I know some of that was bone and the wide outer strip of fat (that we would leave on to cook it, but would not eat), but very nearly 2 pounds of it was edible red meat. That's at *least* four portions, and probably should be 5-6! But I needed to do some research to see how I wanted to proceed. Without knowing what else to do, I stuck it in our freezer, figuring I would decide on a course of action later.

Then the power outage happened last week. I knew the steak was huge and solid and would take quite a while to thaw. That also probably meant it was just fine to eat, even after sitting in the unpowered freezer for 24 hours, as long as we ate it within a couple of days.

Time to give it a whirl! I had it all planned out; I was going to do a cute little photo essay of me cooking my first steak. Things started well.  Heat the pan:

Insert steak:

Mistake #1: forgot to dry the steak before putting it in the pan. I was in a hurry to get started, and neglected that step, despite the directions being very clear on that point. Live and learn. Mistake #2: use pan large enough to hold your piece of meat and sear it while fully flat in the pan. (I don't think I own a pan large enough for this particular piece of meat, but I also don't ever intend to again cook a single steak this large in the future.)

Flip steak.

Okay, the sear is a little lacking. Mistake #3: let pan get a bit hotter next time. I think I was scared of it and didn't let it heat long enough. Mistake #4: use less oil. I thought it looked like too much when I put it in there, but I was following the directions. However, I have apparently watched enough cooking shows that I should follow my instincts next time. But that's okay, the whole point of this is that it is a learning experience, and it was (essentially) free, so even if I completely messed it up, I wasn't wasting (my) money.

Per the instructions I had found, when I was finished searing the steak, I stuck it in the oven, still in the pan I had used to sear it. I used this pan specifically because it was the largest one I own that can go straight from stovetop to oven (that isn't a dutch oven). I baked the steak, I checked it's temp (I think my whole family loves the instant read thermometers I gave them or Christmas; pricey but worth every penny!), and when it was ready, I pulled it out.

The instructions said to place on a cutting board and tent with foil. Both of my meat cutting boards were dirty, so I set the steak on one of my stoneware plates, tenting with foil as directed. I had gotten started late, plus letting the steak sit out and come to room temp had taken an hour, so it was now essentially Luke's bedtime when I pulled the steak out of the oven. We knew that the steak needed to rest for at least 10 minutes; by the time DH is done putting Luke to bed, the steak should be well rested, and we'll be ready to eat!

45 minutes later(!!), the child was *finally* in bed, and the steak was too cold to eat. Gggrrrr!! I wanted to stick it back in the oven for just a few minutes to reheat it. I had already put soap and water in the pan I had originally cooked it in, and I didn't want to dirty up a cookie sheet or something, and I was too lazy to put foil on a cookie sheet to keep it clean. Hmm....

Well, you know what? That plate the steak is sitting on is already dirty. We weren't going to use it to eat on, I was just going to rest the steak and carve it on that plate. Why not just put the whole steak back in the oven while leaving it sitting on the already dirty ovenproof plate? Brilliant!

Now, I knew when I did this that it was a risk. I don't usually put my plates in the oven, ovenproof or no. I *knew* there was a risk that I would forget the plate was super hot and try to pick it up. I knew I had to concentrate. The oven heated to 350 F (177 C), and I put the steak and plate inside. Five minutes later, I used a hot pad to pull it out of the oven and sat it on top of one of the unused eyes of my stove. I stood there, with the hot pad in my left hand and a knife in my right, contemplating how to carve the steak off the bone.

Then the phone rang. I knew I could not break concentration, so I let DH answer it. "It's your doctor, something about an appointment." ::snort:: I let DH relay questions and answers between me and the phone, knowing I should not move or really change what I was doing, but I was definitely distracted. He hung up, and I turned back to the plate.

"Oh," I thought, "I wanted to put a pat of butter on these steaks like they do at the steak restaurants." I put down the hot pad and turned to the refrigerator. I used the same (still clean) knife that I was about to use on the steaks to carve off two small pats of butter. I picked them up with my left hand and set the butter down on the counter, ready for when I had each steak plated. Still holding the knife, I turned back to the stove, finally ready to carve the meat off the T-bone.

Then I had one final thought: "Carving the meat off this bone will probably be easier if the plate is sitting on something more stable than the eye of the stove." I reached out with my left hand and grabbed the plate to move it to the flat counter top. That is pretty much the last conscious thought I remember having for a while.

I probably held on for 2-3 seconds before the message finally reached my brain that my fingers were burning. The plate had not been out of the 350 F/177C oven for more than 2-3 minutes, so it was still awfully hot.  I immediately put some ice on it (yes, I know now that they say not to do that anymore), and after a quick call to my dad (Mom wasn't home), he reminded me that an iced water bath would probably work better for that many fingers at one time, so I dunked my entire left hand up to my palm in a large glass of ice water.

Ow. That's about the only publicly repeatable thing I can say about it.

I do believe that the ice water bath is the only thing that prevented me from blistering on each of the four fingers of my left hand. They never did blister or even color, though the tips were tender for several days after.

While I sat agonizing/crying in the dining room, DH took care of carving the steaks (using a hot pad glove!). They weren't great, but they were far from bad. I can see some places to improve (starting with a more reasonably sized piece of meat!), and I am confident that it won't take me too long to get the hang of it. So even if I couldn't cut my own meat, I did get to eat it. Typing at work the day or two after was certainly not fun. It didn't hurt badly enough for me to say that I couldn't type, but it certainly was not pleasant. Lots of pain relievers, wincing, and sucking air through my teeth. It was more or less fine by Friday. Considering how much worse it really could have been, I'll take it.

So, now I know how NOT to cook a steak, but I will not be daunted. I will try again, and soon! But I probably won't ever put a stoneware plate in the oven again.
Currently feeling: ready to try again, in spite of the difficulties

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Wordless Wednesday - June 19, 2013

Currently feeling: relaxing after shopping 3 stores to restock the refrigerator

Monday, June 17, 2013

Do I Work at the Tower of Terror?

Remember the storm that knocked out power to our house last week? This video was circulating at work this morning. Note the building on the far left. That's the building I work in. Video is only 11 seconds, and safe for work.

It seems to strike on the North-facing wall, near the northwest corner, somewhere around the 40th floor. I sit on the 39th floor and can see that window from my cube!! WAY too close for comfort. That had to be terrifying if anyone was on my floor near that wall. I think maybe I'm glad I was home with no power.
Currently feeling: no thanks!

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Kids' Day: A Conversation With Luke

Original image Copyright (c) 123RF Stock Photos, modified by me

I wonder if Hallmark is listening....

Luke: Daddy, when is Kids' Day?
DH: When is what?
Luke: Kids' Day. We did Mother's Day and Father's Day, but when do kids get cards and a special lunch for being kids?

Currently feeling: amused

A Clean Refrigerator, The Hard Way

This is all my fault. I really should know better by now. I noticed a week or so ago that freezer was getting so full that I was having trouble finding room for things. Honestly, things had gotten a bit out of hand sometime last summer/fall, and I really didn't know what all was in there anymore. I mean, I had a general idea (plenty of chicken and ground beef), but as far as a specific count and what precooked but frozen meals were in there, I had lost track. I thought to myself that I really needed to pull everything out of the freezer and toss anything over a year old, but never did. Every time I have a thought like this, Fate decides to "help" me. Maybe a little less help, please!

Thursday night, we were having some wicked storms in the area. I mean scary stuff. Watching the wind whipping around out there was rather freaky. I was ready to snatch up Luke at any moment and dive into the basement! Especially when the sky started looking like this.

I know that's gold, not green, but it was still very eerie. Around 8 PM, our power went out. DH went outside and saw some power lines down near our house. As best he could tell, it was only affecting about 8 houses, naturally one of them ours. Everyone else in the neighborhood seemed to have power. About that time, one of our neighbors appeared. He said he had called power company, who said power should be back on around 11 PM. Okay, no problem. As long as it's back on before morning (and we keep the refrigerator closed), things shouldn't be too bad.

You didn't really think things would be that simple, did you? We woke Friday morning still with no power. We knew most of refrigerator contents were probably toast, but we hoped power would come back soon while we were at work so we could salvage most of the freezer contents. It was packed very full, as I mentioned, and nothing would thaw badly enough to matter in less than 24 hours. Because DH's alarm clock starts "counting time" as soon as the power comes back on, we would be able to tell about when it came back. So we went off to work assuming all would be well when we got home.

At work, I mentioned that our power was out to my manager. "Oh, they mentioned a street on the news and said that area had been hit particularly hard by the storm and power outages, but I couldn't figure out why it sounded familiar. YOU live there!" Yes, that would be us. But we still trusted the power to be back on by the time we got home.

Yeah, right. When we returned home from work, the power STILL was not on! Not only that, the power lines were still down across the road. There were some saw horses up to block the street, but we knew they belonged to our neighbor. Why is *no one* doing anything? I did open the freezer long enough to realize that the contents had now thawed too much to stay good very long if refrozen, but it was still plenty cold enough to cook it safely, if we can just get the power to come back on.

It had been very hot for several days, and Friday was no exception. By 7 PM, we were all hot and tired and sweaty and grumpy, and I threw in the towel. I'd keep the house at 68F/20C all summer if I could afford it. 82F/28C (with about 90% humidity) was simply an unacceptable indoor sleeping climate. Yes, we're wimps! There are quite a few hotels very near our house, so we didn't bother to call ahead, even if the first one was booked up for some odd reason, surely the second one would have a vacancy. Ha-ha, the joke was on us, but no one was laughing. Not a *single* hotel had any vacancy. Between the many people still without power and Father's Day, we had to go nearly 8 miles away to find a hotel with an opening (thanks, Dad!).

Finally, when we came back home Saturday morning around 10 AM, we had power. According to the clocks, power came back on around 9 PM Friday, so we probably could have stuck it out, but even with the air conditioner running again, it would have taken ages for the house to cool down enough to be comfortable enough to sleep.

Time to assess the damage. We figured better safe than sorry, so pretty much anything in the refrigerator other than mustard and pickles got tossed. Also, most of what was in the freezer was deemed not usable, though some that was buried in the back/at the bottom was okay (could tell it had not thawed much, if any) *if* we could get it cooked ASAP. Managed to salvage one quart of spaghetti sauce, about a pound of pork chops, a single pork tenderloin, the 2 lb single T-bone steak that needed another day to fully thaw, and two packages of Luke's favorite bread (Sister Schubert's Parker House Rolls). All chicken, the rest of the pork chops, all the ground beef, all the ground pork, and a 3 pound roast I had just cut up the previous weekend, totaling 15-20 pounds (7-9 kg) of meat, all a loss, plus all previously cooked and frozen meals (except the spaghetti sauce), bread/pie crust/pizzas, etc. I was very much not happy!! In fact, we had so much to throw out, we filled up the trash cans and couldn't fully clean out freezer this weekend. We will leave the bottom shelf as it is, knowing not to use any of it, and toss the remaining stuff next week.

I didn't think to take a picture before I started cleaning it out. Everything in the freezer (left) will be trashed, except the freezer packs on the very top shelf above the ice maker. You can see I had already cleaned out a lot of the refrigerator door (on the right) and the drawers. The second shelf from the top in the refrigerator is the meat that we could salvage, and the third shelf is mostly canned/bottled drinks that will be fine. Everything else in the refrigerator side, both door and shelves, will be trashed (except the mustard, pickles, and soy sauce in the bottom shelf of the door). So, both the refrigerator and freezer are now clean, but I certainly don't recommend doing it this way.

Happy Father's Day to my Dad and DH! Sorry you both had to listen to me whine. We had Father's Day lunch at Olive Garden, followed by visits to Costco, Publix, and Kroger, picking up what we need for this coming week and any staples that were on sale (like cheese).  We'll rebuild the rest of it over the next few weeks. Definitely not the most fun weekend I've ever had.
Currently feeling: in the dark

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Wordless Wednesday - June 12, 2013

Currently feeling: ready for our first official home movie night! (he picked Anastasia, which he had never seen before)

Friday, June 07, 2013

Movie Muse Shorts: Oblivion, Epic, and Now You See Me

Busy week! Things just happened to work out this week to allow DH and me to see *three* movies at the theater. It's nice to actually feel like the Movie Muse again, if only for a few days.

Oblivion - I'm so glad we got to see this in the theater before it left. We really quite enjoyed it! The effect work is as stunning as everyone said, though more in the "it looked so real, I didn't even realize those were effects" way (which I find even more amazing) than in the "whoa, what a cool new effect" way. It was definitely different, which I liked. Between the two of us, we had it figured out, but neither of us had the whole story before the reveal. It certainly kept us talking and debating for a few hours after, which is usually a good sign for a movie. My one issue with it, which is probably a personal thing, is that the drones reminded me SO much of EVE from WALL-E that it was distracting. It was like EVE on steroids! Seriously, nearly every time saw them, I started snickering, because they were acting *so* much like her. Being a movie fan does have the occasional disadvantage! LOL But definitely a good movie, and I'm very glad we saw it on the big screen. Catch it there, if you can.

Epic - I knew Luke would really like it, and he did. As an adult, I just thought it was fine. Far from bad, but also far from great. It is quite beautiful, but the story was a little lacking, though I can't quite articulate *what* was lacking. I will say that I quite enjoyed Colin Farrel. He has a very fine voice and does quite good work! I never would have placed Steven Tyler. Even knowing it was him, it took me a while to figure out which voice he was doing. (I know!) I think it's a bit heavy on the scare/violence factor for younger kids. I would recommend at least age 6 or 7. We might have taken Luke to see it last year if it had been out, but definitely not before that.

Now You See Me - This movie was fun! Don't think about it too hard, just sit back and let it happen, or you'll have the whole thing figured out way too early to keep it interesting. Turn off your brain and enjoy the ride. Good actors doing what you love to watch them do in roles they could probably do in their sleep, but still a fun ensemble cast to witness. Not a big screen must see, IMO, but worth seeing nonetheless.

Currently feeling: happy happy!

Wednesday, June 05, 2013

Wordless Wednesday - June 5, 2013

Currently feeling: not sure what is in this stuff, but it is great!

Happy Birthday, Nana

After calling my mom this evening and helping me sing "Happy Birthday" to her over the phone, Luke made these all by himself, with no prompting. When he came in and showed them to me, he asked if we could make a video for Nana. Yes, yes we can! (Everything is not in the correct orientation, but it's hard to do upside down!)

Happy birthday, Nana! We love you!

Currently feeling: hoping she had a great day