Sunday, June 29, 2008

Sunday Culinary Update

Today was a typical busy Sunday in the kitchen.

New and Notable:

• I tweaked my usual banana bread recipe by adding ¼ cup of hazelnut flour and a cup of chopped hazelnuts to make hazelnut-banana bread. It’s pretty tasty, too.
• I tried a new recipe for banana cookies. They came out a little dry and not as banana-y as I would’ve expected. I think the problem was that I didn’t use enough bananas. The recipe called for 2 ¼ cups of mashed bananas and I only had two bananas left after making banana bread. They were large bananas, but I didn’t bother to measure how much I had after mashing them because what was I going to do? Go back to the store? Not likely. So the result was something closer to ordinary chocolate chip cookies. Okay, but not unique.

The rest of the week’s menu:

• Rice balls
• Curried yellow squash and onions
• Curried chickpeas with spinach and tomato
• Steamed rice (brown and jasmine blend)

If it seems like a small menu this week, it is. I still have a loaf of pumpkin bread from last week and I have the banana bread I made today, and they’ll make nice snacks for me. Dan will snack on the carrot blondies and banana-chocolate chip cookies.

It’s a short work week for us, and probably for most folks here in the US. Last year I spent a good part of July 4th working and I’m oh-so-glad not to have that on my horizon this year!

And finally, Tidbit is off on a virtual vacation to visit the Oxbow Hay Company this week, courtesy of the fine folks at 7-bunny-7. Her bag is packed and we're looking forward to her tales of adventure!

Have a great week, everyone!

Recent Workouts
Today: 1 hr, 45 minute spin
Yesterday: 21 mile run
Friday: scheduled rest day
Thursday: 35 minute elliptical
Wednesday: 45 minute spin
Tuesday: 6 mile run
Monday: 30 minute elliptical

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Saturday Run Report

I decided to be adventurous today and run the Brays Bayou trail from my home to Hillcroft, which is 10.6 miles and roughly halfway to my parents’ house on the west side of town.

It was cool when I started out, but very humid. It’s a strange feeling to be covered in sweat yet not hot, but that’s Houston for you. Although most of the Brays Bayou trail is unshaded, this isn’t a problem in the early morning when the low angle of the sun and the fact that much of the trail in the Med Center is below street level work in one’s favor, creating shade. There were a lot of cyclists on the trail and a number of runners and dog-walkers in certain popular sections, so I felt safe even though once I was past Buffalo Speedway I was in unfamiliar territory and wasn’t sure how safe the trail would be to my turnaround point.

Some stretches of the trail have water fountains at well-spaced intervals, but there were places where you could easily run several miles without finding water, so it’s a good thing to always take some along. Here’s the most unusual water fountain I saw today.

By the time I reached my turnaround, the sun was fully out and I had begun to realize that running a straight out and back route of this length presented some psychological challenges. The route as a whole was no longer than most of my Saturday morning runs, but running looped routes close to home puts you in a very different mental space from being more than ten miles from home with only your own feet to get you back. And did I mention it was very hot out by now?

I spent much of the way back fighting my own brain, which was at least a distraction from the heat. Once I got to the Med Center I was in need of some cold water, not the outdoor water fountains which run cool at best and are often hot in the summer. I went up to street level and went into the nearest medical facility, figuring they’re in the business of caring for people so of course they’ll let me use a water fountain. Not only that, but the very kind folks at Texas Orthopedic offered me a cup of ice in their lunch room. Maybe I looked pathetic. I hope not.

Refreshed, I finished my run with no difficulties and was greeted by my lovely Tid when I got home. Sure, I was hot and stinky and my calves wanted to cramp up, but when someone like this runs out into the hall to say hello, you just have to take a minute for an ear rub, right?

I’m making carrot cookies tonight. Dan and I decided that we like the way they came out last weekend when I doubled the recipe and made it moister by adding applesauce. The end result is actually more like carrot blondies than carrot cookies, so maybe that’s what I should call them.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Sunday Doings

I got a late start on my cooking today because I had to take some pictures to use on my Steal Tomorrow fiction blog. For those of you who only visit this blog, check it out. I’m posting preview content while I clean up the draft and I hope to start posting the story itself later this summer. There will be an option to download the story as a pdf and to buy a print version as well. There is also an email subscription option in the sidebar, which sends new posts directly to your email. I and a few of my friends have tried it and it's pretty nifty.

But for now, it was just one more thing I had to do. I got my pictures, then came home and started cooking.

I started by putting some rice in the rice cooker, then got out the leftover rice from last week and made a banana/rice dish, based on the Apple Cinnamon Rice dish from last week. I used two overripe bananas and I skipped the butter just to see what would happen. It tasted great-- you can’t even tell there was supposed to be butter in the recipe, so I saved a few empty calories there.

Next I made some curried zucchini and yellow squash, but forgot I wanted yellow onions in there, too. Not a big deal, but I was a little annoyed with myself. I had extra of both the zucchini and yellow squash, so it went in the dehydrator to use when it’s out of season.

As an aside to the commenter who asked about the dried spinach, I dehydrated it last spring when locally grown organic spinach was at a good price. I’m finding that I like it better than fresh spinach for including in recipes because there’s no tedious chopping involved. Just crumble it into whatever it is you’re cooking!

After the squash was done, I started mixing the ingredients for rice balls, which Dan asked me to make again. I got a little more aggressive with the flavors this time, adding some cheddar to the mix, more spinach, and more pepper.

While the rice balls cooked, I made chickpeas with pumpkin-curry sauce. I’ve done this before and it’s a nice way to use the excess canned pumpkin when I do pumpkin bread. The canned pumpkin goes into a saucepan with drained chickpeas, cubed cooked potatoes, spinach, and a generous addition of curry, coriander, cumin, white pepper, garlic, and whatever else strikes my fancy. Heat and stir just enough that everything blends together, then set it aside to cool for mid-week dinners.

The pumpkin bread needed an hour for baking, so since it was late in the afternoon and I needed to work out, I mixed all the dry ingredients and staged everything else for quick prep later. After my spin workout, I blended everything together, put the two loaves in the oven, and by the time I had showered and had dinner, the pumpkin loaves were done.


Today's Cooking
Plain Rice
Banana Rice
Curry Zucchini and Yellow Squash
Chickpeas in Pumpkin Curry
Rice Balls
Pumpkin Bread

Today's Workout
90 minute spin

Not bad for a day’s work!

Have a great week, everyone!

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Work, Running, and Cookies!

I’m enjoying the new job, although projects seem to be piling up at a rapid rate. I feel like I should be able to get through them faster, but I still spend a lot of time hunting around the computer files for the right templates, the right databases, the right reports, etc. It’s the sort of problem that will resolve itself in another few weeks, but in the meantime I keep having to remind myself that it’s okay to be slow. I’ve spent 2.5 of my first 10 days in training and conferences, so I need to back off some of my expectations for myself.

In general though, the work is pleasant and straightforward. I’m nobody’s boss, but I do make decisions and have a lot of autonomy. And I get to go home for lunch! I wouldn’t have thought it would be such a big factor in my personal happiness, but it is. I can eat, get caught up on housework, play around on the computer, or even take a nap. There's no putting a price tag on something like that.

I’m going to have to do some schedule-juggling with regard to my workouts, and I’m still debating the best way to do this. I might experiment with working 8:30-5:30 on some days so I can do a longer workout in the morning. One thing is for sure—I’m sleeping more and feel a lot more rested, now that I don’t spend most of my home time working, leaving me to cram all my “me” time into the hours after midnight. I’m getting too old for that!

Today’s long run was a fun one. I explored the Brays Bayou trail a little farther, enjoying the fish and waterfowl along the way and making mental notes about safety and the availability of water and restrooms. I feel pretty good about this new route and will go farther next week to see where it takes me. I had a strong run overall and felt pretty good, except for my hip bothering me in the last few miles. So annoying.

At Dan’s request, I baked some carrot cookies tonight. I’ve had problems with this recipe being dry in the past, but tonight I added applesauce at the end, blending it in until the cookie dough was no longer crumbly. Also, I doubled the recipe and cooked it in a 9 x 13 pan. The end result was a thicker cookie that held together much better, although I still could’ve made it a little more moist. I’ve got plenty of carrots, so I’ll try again soon.

Finally, Tidbit wishes good luck to all the racers at Ironman Coeur d’Alene tomorrow. You can do it!

Recent Workouts:
Monday: 30 minute elliptical
Tuesday: 4.5 mile run
Wednesday: 40 minute spin
Thursday: 30 minute elliptical
Friday: scheduled rest day
Saturday: 20 mile run

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Weekend Recipe Share

I’ve got two new recipes for you today. I had more leftover rice this weekend than usual, so I wanted to do something new with it. Here are the two recipes I tried:

Rice Balls. Okay, it needs a better name, but it’s basically cheese, rice and spices, baked in balls or little cakes like crab cakes. I added extra garlic, red pepper flakes and crumbled dry spinach to mine and they’re very tasty. They go great with a side of steamed or sautéed summer vegetables!

Cinnamon Apple Rice. This tasty baked rice dish is similar in consistency to bread pudding, so if you like bread pudding, you’ll love this. I used a Granny Smith and a Golden Delicious for the apples, and I added a little ginger, since it’s hard to go wrong with ginger and apples. Delish!

Other Weekend Cooking:
  • Steamed rice
  • Chickpea and potato curry
  • Curry zucchini and yellow squash
  • Dehydrated zucchini and yellow squash (to store for when they aren’t in season)
Happy Eating, Friends!

Saturday, June 14, 2008

This n’ That

I think I’m going to like my new job. Everyone is very nice, and although I’m sure the quirks will show up soon enough, I don’t have a sense that the culture encourages blaming, dumping, and complaining—all of which were typical in my last department. I also haven’t seen a lot of crisis-oriented behavior. In my last job, everything was a crisis, but now even things that are, aren’t, somehow.

They keep me busy though, and I can already see I’ll have a lot to do. It’s great to be able to be useful from the beginning. All instructions are well-documented and people are very nice about sitting with me while I do things for the first time, even though so far nothing I’ve been given is much different from what I’ve done before. I update database files, do compensation analyses for new hires and reclassifications, create positions and job descriptions, and create ad hoc reports on salary matters. The work itself is easy and the instinct about which of my customers are priorities, problem children, etc, will follow in due time.

One cool thing is that I’m just five minutes from home (as opposed to 15 before), so I can walk home for lunch. Everyone at my new job takes an hour for lunch, which in my last job was something only the lower-level staff had time for. Here, everyone goes to lunch and expects me to do the same. So I’ve been going home for an hour during the day and it’s very nice. I can start a load of laundry, read blogs, have something to eat and work on a creative project before heading back and finishing the day.

The only thing I don’t like is that a lot of things seem to happen in the last hour of the day, so I’m considering how to best arrange my work hours so this isn’t a problem. I figure I’ll give 8-5 another week and then discuss with my boss. Maybe I’ll ask to work 8:30-5:30 or even 9-6.

And did I mention that I’m totally loving not being a manager? I loved my staff in my last two management positions, and unless they’re all liars, they liked me too. But management takes a lot out of me, and it’s a nice treat to be responsible only to people above me and to no one below.

Just think—all this, and I get paid more than I did before! Have I been missing the boat, or what?

Today was long run day, and it was a mixed bag. I was less than enthused about the run and my body was in sluggish agreement that this was not one of my better ideas. Nevertheless, I started my pre-plotted route while my brain and body argued about the matter until I decided to try a new-to-me trail that follows Brays Bayou through the Med Center and to points southwest of town. It’s a route that has been popular with cyclists and runners for a long time, but this was my first time to follow it as far as I did. I like it and I plan to explore it further and add it to my regular routes.

The distraction of a new running route helped a lot and I finished my twenty miles without any more than the usual problems of a long run in summer. I don’t feel completely acclimated yet to the heat, but I will be soon. And I told Dan that when he buys a sprinkler for the front lawn, he can turn it on for me while I’m out running on Saturdays so I can cool off before coming in. I reminded him that such a plan would be to his advantage, since I would come in the house smelling better. We’ll see now if he gets the sprinkler.

Recent Baking:
Thursday: Banana-Blueberry bread (made with the last of my Pagosa Springs blueberries)
Saturday: Carrot-Apple bread

Recent Workouts:
Monday: missed workout—got home too late from conference
Tuesday: 4 mile run, ten minute elliptical
Wednesday: 3 mile run
Thursday: 30 minute spin
Friday: scheduled rest day
Saturday: 20 mile run

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

The Conference

My first two days back at work have been at a conference in Galveston. On the whole, it was pretty good. I got to meet my peers from other state universities, I heard some good speakers, got some very useful handouts I wish I’d had years ago, and I got to hang out at a nice hotel.

My only big frustration was Monday afternoon, when out last session was supposed to end at 4:00, then at 4:15, and ended up not ending until nearly 5:00. I had planned to go for a run along the seawall, but the late end to the day nixed that idea, since I still had to drive home and do various household things. Then I thought maybe I could do it today, since we would end at noon. But once we were finished with the conference, one of my new bosses wanted to take us all out for lunch, and even though I ate light, a storm was moving in by the time we were done so I had to head straight home.

No running on the seawall for me. Bummer. With Galveston an hour away, I won’t be running the seawall anytime soon, unless I’m down there for some other reason in the near future.

Tomorrow is the big day—the day I actually get to move into my new office and start seeing what kind of work they have for me. My boss is excited because she says this is the first time she’s brought someone in who didn’t require training. I’m just relieved I’ll soon have keys, an office, and projects. This has been a nice interlude, but it’s time to get back to work!

Sunday, June 08, 2008

Return to Normalcy

It’s great to be home and getting settled again. Even though this was my easiest vacation yet in terms of quickly being able to find the stuff I needed and always having my own pillow, it’s still fantastic to be home.

Tidbit is doing great. She still wasn’t 100% before we left, but she’s there now! When we brought her home Thursday, she went exploring just like she used to, she did some binkies for us and this morning she came bopping down the hall soon after I got up to run. She poked her head in the bedroom door like she used to, with that look on her face like, “Where’s my breakfast, biped?” Every time I get on the computer, she settles at my feet like a little dog. It’s so great to have her back!

The only thing I need now is for my work situation to stabilize. Although my new boss said I could move some things into my office on Friday if I wanted, I had a lot of errands to catch up on, so I didn’t take her up on it. And with the conference on Monday and Tuesday, it looks like I’ll be “homeless” until Wednesday. It’s a very strange feeling to have no office and no university keys. I realize it makes me rather dull, but I am very work-oriented and this sort of thing leaves me unsettled. But I already have a meeting to go to—on Friday. So I really do have a job. Just not an office, keys, a computer, or anything else that makes it feel real. But this will be remedied soon. I’m trying to remember to enjoy this little interlude of being employed but with no responsibilities, since it’s likely the last I can expect before retirement.

I went for a long run this morning, and let’s just say I wasn’t in Pagosa Springs any more! I didn’t miss the hills much, but I started out the door with temps and humidity in the high 80s and was dripping before I’d finished the first mile. I did eighteen miles—a little short of what I would’ve liked, but my body was craving the dry air of the west and my heat tolerance was a little off. I suppose it didn’t help that it was 90 when I got home, with a heat index of 97. Pretty brutal when the humidity keeps your sweat from cooling you. I’ll get my tolerance back quickly, though. The conditions around here are never fun, but one can learn to tolerate them.

But overall, it’s nice to be back, especially with my two furry friends so healthy and happy.

Be it ever so humid, there’s no place like home!