Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Goodbye, February

Well, this month has flown by. I know that February typically does, being shorter than the other months after all, but yet this one seems to just have whizzed through my life.

Time to revisit my February goals and see how I did.

My Goals for Feb:
  1. ride 16 times (so, 4x p/week)
  2. workout (other than riding) at least 2x per week
  3. lose 2 pounds
  4. lose 1" of waist
  5. try one new recipe a week  
  6. do one puzzle
  7. read one horse book (non-fiction) and one novel
  8. spend 30 minutes a day cleaning/decluttering
Goal #1: not met.  The Quarter Horse developed a worrisome cough shortly after the beginning of the month. At rest, he was okay, but when I rode at anything other than a walk he would have episodes of coughing so hard I would nearly lose my seat.  So I gave him lots of rest between rides (riding like once a week) for most of the month.  Counting the weekly lessons I took on T and the few rides on the Quarter Horse, I rode all of 8 times this month.  Which is only 50% of my goal.  On the upside, his cough seems to have resolved itself and the last couple of rides were great.

Goal #2: Started out well, fizzled in second week with busy afternoons.  That was followed by my annual physical, and a couple other appointments for blood work and follow ups, which greatly ate into what 'free' time I'd planned to use for working out. Workouts totaled six for the month.  So, 75% of goal.

Goal #3: Nope.  Scale still says the same number as it did 27 days ago.

Goal #4: Lost 1/2".  Better than no loss at all, but could also be the difference between being bloated or not.  However, I did lose a total of almost two inches off other parts of my body, parts (like upper arms!)which are not subject to bloat. 

Goal #5: Nailed it!  Garlic chicken calzones, a new venison stroganoff recipe, duck tinga (Mexican duck), and banana snack cake.

Goal #6: achieved!

Goal #7: Done and done! Although it took me a lot longer to read each book than I had thought; I used to fly through books and now it seems like it took about three weeks for the non-fiction and a week and a half for the novel.

Goal #8:  Ha ha ha.  Not.  On a daily basis, this was a huge fail.  On the other hand, there were several days that I spent 3-4 hours at it. Overall, it didn't total 1/2 hr per day.  I decided (since we haven't owned a vacuum in eons, not having any carpeting in the house at this little place here) to bring the shop vac in from the garage and suck up all the collected dust/hair/fuzz/whatnot from where the floors meet the walls and the broom or dust mop don't reach into(because DH never installed baseboards when we built the house).  This entailed going room by room, pulling everything away from the walls in order to use the wedge shaped nozzle to vacuum in the small crevice that made up the borders of the room.  Moving stuff out and back (and sometimes sucking up enormous dust bunnies under furniture--like I said in yesterday's post, things got really cluttered and out of control while DS1 & family lived with us, and it is taking me forever and a lot of mental/emotional energy as well as physical energy, to get things decluttered, cleaned and organized) took hours.  Honestly, I've only gotten four rooms, two hall ways and one set of stairs done with the shop vac so far. 

Overall, not a bad month.  I did accomplish quite a bit more than I would have without setting goals. A small part of the house is totally cleaned and decluttered. That's good for my state of mind. (Disorganization is so depressing!)I think March needs some goals too. I'll have to take a look at what's on my calendar and come up with next month's (hopefully realistic)list.

Monday, February 27, 2017

Mexican Duck

Earlier this month I tried a new recipe featuring duck. I had found a whole duck (raised a few summers ago) in the freezer  while reorganizing it. The chest freezer, like a number of places, had gotten horribly choatic with things just being stuffed into it willy-nilly when DS1 and family were living here.  So, with my normal freezer filing system thrown out the window for a couple of years now (because digging out from all the chaos and clutter has been a long --and still ongoing-- unpleasant process for me) I had forgotten about the small duck way down in one of the bottom baskets.

I let the duck thaw in the refrigerator (about a day), then put it into the crock pot on low for 7ish hours.  It was somewhere between 2.5 and 3 pounds, and since I really don't have a recipe for cooking a whole duck in the crock pot, I just winged it (ha ha) in terms of cooking time.  When it looked like the duck was ready to fall apart--legs separating from body and breast meat trying to fall off the keel bone--I took it out of the crock pot, deboned and shredded it.

After that I loosely followed a recipe for duck tinga that I had found on the internet.

Here is what my personalized version of the recipe turned out to be:

shredded duck meat
4 smallish potatoes, peeled and shredded
1/2 cup chopped onion
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 8oz. can chipotle peppers in adobo sauce
1 tsp oregano
2 cups water
1 avocado
sour cream
fajita size tortillas

With your hands, squeeze the water out of your shredded potatoes.  Heat a skillet on medium heat, then add oil, potatoes, onion and garlic. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the potatoes start to brown, roughly 15 minutes.

Add the oregano, duck, and adobo sauce.  Stir in the water, and let simmer until you are ready to serve dinner (can serve as soon as hot; I think mine simmered for about 45 min. waiting for DH to get home from work.)  Can simmer longer if runny, or add more water if it looks like it is getting too dry.  You want the mixture to be 'juicy' but not soupy.

Warm the tortillas (either covered in foil in 300 degree oven about 10 min, or one at a time in a hot frying pan--dry, no oil or butter--for roughly 30 seconds per side).  Remove skin and pit from avocado, and cut into thin slices.

To eat, place desired amounts of duck mixture, sour cream and avocado on a tortilla, fold and eat!

This was super spicy.  At least, I thought so, since I rarely eat anything above the level of a mild salsa.  But yet, I loved it.  Heaps of sour cream and avocado toned down the heat enough that I could eat a couple of these in a row.  DH wasn't so fond of it. In fact, he said that I didn't need to worry about making "Mexican duck" again in the future.  

Given that the only poultry currently in our freezer are chickens, turkeys and a previously forgotten goose (same year as the duck), I won't be making duck anything any time in the foreseeable future.  Wonder what kind of interesting goose recipes I can find. . . 

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Sometimes I Want To Be The Rich Lady

I have always, since purchasing my first horse at age 12 with all the money in my savings account, been a shoestring budget horse owner. My lack of abundant finances has required me to be both creative, and humble.  "Never be too proud to clean stalls" is my motto.

But, I have to confess, that as I get older and money still isn't in excess, and it gets tougher physically to clean stalls on a large scale, there are times I find myself thinking wistfully about being the horse owner who just writes a board check every month without thinking about the dollar figure.

Sometimes I want to be the rich lady who has an unending bank account to pay for her horsey endeavors.  Who doesn't have to work anywhere else to replenish that bank account, who just shows up at the barn mid-morning (my preferred time of the day to ride) and has plenty of energy to catch, groom, and school her horse. Not just plenty of energy, but also plenty of time.  She doesn't have to watch the clock, or do a quickie grooming job, or forego cleaning her tack thoroughly at the end of her ride in order to just plain have time to ride that day.

While I'm confessing, I might as well go on and say that some days I want to be the rich lady who doesn't even have to trudge out to the pasture to catch her horse. (Honestly, some people don't, I've worked at a couple of places where there were boarders who expected--and paid for--someone else to retrieve their horse from turnout.)  Right now, with the boot-sucking mud and puddles that splash dirty water onto the back of your breeches when your horse steps in them, I'd really love to be that kind of rich lady.

But I wouldn't be snooty. And I wouldn't be 'too good' to speak to the barn staff.  Because inside I'll always be humble and not too proud to clean stalls.

(But while I'm fantasizing about being rich, a nice hefty shopping budget for my next horse, the one I hope to buy this summer, would be awesome. I'm not expecting a five digit price tag kind of dressage horse.  Anything in the mid-four digit end would be acceptable--and about three times what my current budget allows.)

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Yarn Along 2017.8

I am joining Ginny for this week's Yarn Along.

Guess what!  My Knusa is off the needles!  I still need to weave in the ends and block it, but it is done being knit. And of course I finished it in time for an unseasonably warm spate of weather--our high today is supposed to be in the mid-60s.  Oh well.  It will be handy when we tumble about thirty degrees back to our normal late February high temps.  Because I know better than to think we will just ease on into Spring from here.

There are a couple of mistakes in this shawl--totally my mistakes, not in the pattern--that I just didn't feel like going back and fixing when I discovered them.  One of them is (I think) fairly noticeable in the picture below.  But I'm not going to tell you what it is, just that it's there somewhere.  ;0)

I've also made pretty good progress on the first sock of the pair of Plain Vanilla socks I am making for Mom.  I got through the heel last night and am currently working on gusset decreases.  Really love the colors in this yarn; I wish the camera could get them more accurately.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Yarn Along 2017.7

I am joining Ginny today for the Yarn Along.

My idea last week worked!  As soon as I cast on for Mom's new pair of socks, knitting 400+ stitches per row on my Knusa shawl seemed not so bad.  So, for roughly every five rows I knit on the sock, I knit 2 rows on my shawl.  As a result, both are coming along nicely and I'm not avoiding my shawl any longer.

In fact, I've only got ten rows left to do on my shawl! The lace border is turning out very well.

For the socks, I decided to go with the Plain Vanilla pattern, since the striping yarn keeps it interesting enough, and I really want to knit these up fast.  (Because I bought some awesomely wild colored yarn--stroll hand painted in 'tropical'-- earlier this month during Knit Picks Red & Pink yarn sale and I want to get it made into a pair of socks for DD2 before the beginning of May when she heads to Peru to study abroad this summer.  At Christmas time she mentioned that, while she loves blue, she thinks she wants something 'wild' for the next pair of socks I make her.  I can't wait to surprise her with tropical socks before she heads to some what tropical Peru.)

The book I am reading this week is Ride The Right Horse; Understanding The Core Equine Personalities & How to Work With Them.  It's written in an easy to read, down to earth fashion, which I like.  I am enjoying it, although I have to confess that so far, it hasn't told me anything I don't all ready know.  Then again, after 32+ years of working with horses, I've seen all the personality combos.  So it's more of confirming my own 'research' and experience than learning something new.  But it is a good book.

Friday, February 10, 2017

Roll With It

I don't know if it's because I know my horse is soon to be for sale, and then I'll be shopping for whatever sane, sound, healthy, tall and/or built like a brick shithouse (so it can take up my long legs)  horse with dressage ability I can afford--most likely something young or very green or both.  I don't know if it's because some weeks I have my lesson on someone else's horse who, while more knowledgeable than mine, is severely out of shape and rather cranky.  I don't know if maybe I'm at a spot in my life where riding isn't going to be taken from me and so I'm more flexible. (You just don't know how hard it has sometimes been  during the 2 2/3 decades of raising my kids to keep opportunities to put my butt in the saddle from disappearing.)

I really don't know; maybe it's a combination of all those things.  But lately when I ride--lately as in pretty much the entirety of 2017 thus far-- I don't get off stride if my plan for my ride or lesson isn't how things actually turn out.

Take this week's lesson, for example.  This week, I was going to ride T (the other horse) and we were going to work on canter.  As in, yes, he canters, yes, I canter, but have I ever really been taught the proper way to canter in dressage?--no, I haven't.  I was really looking forward to getting some 'insider information', as it were, on which seat bone goes where, when, and how, and more practice on feeling the right instant to ask for a canter depart to ensue the correct lead, and how to get and keep a nice canter bound all while sitting up straight.  I mean, we touched on this, once, sort of, with the Quarter Horse a few months ago during a brief period of soundness, but I haven't been able to work on myself much.  Our canter departs and canter/trot transitions are miles better than they were last fall, but I really want to be able to work on me while cantering so that I can get better too. Since T knows his canter stuff, I've been wanting to canter T.

Last week, T got too hot and winded during his short yee-haw longeing session that precedes me getting on him and we spent nearly the entire hour of my lesson doing different walk things while he got his breathing back down into the normal range.  When it took extreme effort to get him to walk energetically, let alone briefly trot--and let's not even ask for energy just a consistent trot--we knew that wasn't a good night to ask him for canter work.  We would have been there till midnight getting him cooled out and dried off had we attempted canter!  I would have been drenched with sweat and exhausted from the exertion it would have taken to get him to canter!

This week was going to be the big canter lesson.  Except when it came time for me to get on (after only a brief yee-haw longeing first, so he wasn't steaming, sweaty and huffing), the wind started really whipping outside. So it turned into a night of keeping him in a consistent trot, and not spooking in every scary corner or at each big roar of the wind.  Lots of half-halts.  Lots of trot/walk/trot transitions.  Lots of figures and lateral work to keep his mind busy and off of the wind-monster lurking on the other side of the walls.

We did do a little cantering, all of which was unasked for and usually in a quick sideways manner.  So I guess you could say I got to work on sitting both tall and straight while having my seat down deep in the saddle.  Many half-halts and canter to trot transitions.

Was I upset that the weather was making my horse uncooperative?  Was I upset that my (and my trainer's) agenda for the lesson had gone out the window?

Nah.  I still had a good lesson.  I still improved my riding.  I didn't lose my seat once during T's sudden and unasked for (and not especially balanced) canter departs.  I didn't snatch up the reins in self-defense when he wanted to hightail it across the arena.  I stayed calm (well, mostly) and cool and just reminded him that we were working on trot, thank you, and please get back to it.  I just rolled with it and rode the ride that I had right then.  We can put canter on next week's docket.

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Yarn Along 2017.6

Happy Wednesday!  It's time to join Ginny's Yarn Along.

This week, it looks like I haven't done much knitting. But it feels like I have, and I know I have.  It just doesn't look like it.  That's because each row of my Knusa shawl is now somewhere in the realm of 400 stitches, and it takes me close to an hour to do two rows; one of which is all purls.  But, the lace work is coming along.  Coming slowly, but coming.  It's really hard to photograph, though.

I have completed about 1/3 of the lace rows now.  Even though lace is probably one of my favorite things to knit (it's the detail work, I'm all about details), I have to admit that on this number of stitches --and still growing!-- I am a little frustrated by how slowly the shawl seems to be getting completed.

Wonky looking because I tried to stretch out a small section for the camera without losing any off needles. The cable is getting really full of stitches.

Because of how slowly it seems I am progressing despite actually spending a fair amount of time knitting this past week, I think I'm going to give in to temptation and start on Mom's socks.  Knitting rows with only 64 stitches is like instant gratification--I can see tons of progress in an hour's worth of knitting.  Hopefully if I work a little on socks and more on the shawl, I will be more motivated to knit than I have been the last two days.

This is the yarn she picked out for me to use.  The camera actually did a fairly decent job on the colors. The yarn is also self-striping, so should make a really cute pair of socks even using a simple (and therefore fast) pattern.

I've also been plugging away at reading a book.  It is A Year on Ladybug Farm by Donna Ball.  Sometimes I don't like it (and tend to set it aside for several days) and sometimes I really love it and read chapters and chapters in a sitting.  The storyline is good, it's just some of the details are not always realistic according to my own personal experiences.  Some of the character interactions also grate me a little bit because they don't line up with my own beliefs.  But, those are just bit parts, here and there, and overall I'd say it's a good book and I'll probably read the sequel.

There you have it: my knitting and reading this week.

Monday, February 6, 2017

Garlic Chicken Calzones

A long time ago, more than nine years all ready, I ate the most delicious garlic chicken calzone.  It was at Coronado Brewing Company, on Coronado Island in California, when we went to San Diego for DS1's graduation from Marine Corps Boot Camp.  (On a side note; WOW I can't believe time has flown so quickly; it is now a couple weeks past the tenth anniversary of the day that he enlisted, halfway through his senior year of high school and at the tender age of 17--so young that DH and I had to sign his papers giving our permission for him to enlist. Talk about entrusting your child to the government . . .)

That calzone was so awesome, so delicious, so garlicky (and I do love garlic) that I have not forgotten it. Not only haven't I forgotten it, I've wanted another one for years.  But, alas, on my journeys since then (I haven't been back to California) I have not encountered another restaurant that serves a garlic chicken calzone.  Nor have I been able to find a copycat recipe for the ones served at Coronado Brewing.

Last week I went poking around the internet again, looking for a recipe that sounded like it would create the taste I remembered.  Locating one I thought was close enough that I could maybe fudge the rest, I gave it a try.

It came out pretty good, but a little drier and not as overwhelmingly garlicky as I remembered (even though I doubled the amount of garlic the original recipe called for.) Next time I think I might perhaps roast the garlic first, so it is more of a garlic paste, and also change the sauce a little, maybe into more of a cream sauce than a white sauce.  But, for now, here's what I came up with that's totally edible if not in-your-face garlic:

Garlic Chicken Calzones

2 boneless skinless chicken breasts
2 tsp creole seasoning 
2 Tbsp butter
1 Tbsp olive oil
8 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 Tbsp flour
1/4 cup chicken broth (1/4 cup water + 1/4 tsp chicken bouillon)
3/4 cup milk
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
3/4 tsp dried basil
1 1/2 cups shredded Monterrey Jack cheese
2 cups fresh spinach leaves, chopped
1 recipe pizza dough (my recipe here)

Sprinkle the creole seasoning evenly over the chicken breasts and let sit for 30 min to soak in.  Meanwhile, prepare the pizza dough.

While the pizza dough is rising, cook the chicken--

Broil chicken (I typically set my broiler for 450 degrees) for about 10 min per side until done.  (These were big thick breasts from a chicken that dressed to 6 pounds, thinner breasts might not take as long to cook).  

While the chicken is broiling, make the sauce--

In a sauce pan, melt butter and olive oil over medium heat. Add garlic and cook for 2 minutes, stirring occasionally so the garlic does not brown.  Add flour, salt and pepper; cook for 1-2 minutes stirring frequently.  Slowly add the chicken broth, then the milk while continuing to stir.  Add the basil and continue to cook until sauce thickens. Once thickened, remove from heat.

Dice the now cooked chicken and set aside.

Divide your (risen) pizza dough into six equal balls.  Using one ball at a time, roll into an 8" circle.  Spoon 1/6 sauce onto center of circle. Cover sauce with 1/6 each of chicken, spinach, and cheese.  Keep the filling about 1" away from edges of dough.  Fold into a half-moon, and roll edges (with fingers) to seal.

Place calzones onto a lightly greased baking sheet, and bake in 350 degree oven for 20-25 minutes until golden brown.  

While the calzones are cooking, clean up the kitchen and put away your flour, seasonings, etc.  Then set the table.  Once the calzones are done, call the family for dinner and enjoy!

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Hello February

So far, February has been much friendlier than January was.  Not to say good things didn't happen in January, they did, but the weather in January was by and large just blah.  Gray skies, blah.  Bare ground with dead yellow grass, blah.  Rain, rain, rain blah.  February, on the other hand, is two for two with sunshine and blue skies at this point. (Even snow in spurts, yay for snow to make the ground pretty again!)  Hello, February, it's good to see you.  Please keep up your lovely demeanor.  I don't care if you are cold, just give me sunshine!

February is always here and gone in the blink of an eye, it seems, being such a short month.  Exactly four weeks.  Maybe it's the shortness, or maybe it's the long awaited burst of sunshine that February has brought to me, but I'm in a goal setting mood.

My Goals for Feb:
  1. ride 16 times (so, 4x p/week)
  2. workout (other than riding) at least 2x per week
  3. lose 2 pounds
  4. lose 1" of waist
  5. try one new recipe a week  
  6. do one puzzle
  7. read one horse book (non-fiction) and one novel
  8. spend 30 minutes a day cleaning/decluttering

Goal #1 is, I think, thoroughly attainable now that we (trainer, vet, farrier and I) seem to have found the 'magic' combination of shoes and pads that make the Quarter Horse comfortable (his navicular) when in work.  When riding made him foot sore, I didn't feel right riding more than once or twice a week.

Goals 2, 3, and 4 are all related to each other, and, in a way, to Goal #1.  I've gotten to a weight and size that I'm just not comfortable with.  All that weight I lost 5 years ago, it's all back and then some.  If I lose weight and inches (ie. tone up my muscles) I will be able to ride much better.  I'm on a mission to improve my dressage skills, and am at the point where core strength and timing of aids are key.  If I'm inflexible, if I don't move as quickly and coordinated as I'd like (as I could do when I was 20+ pounds lighter), it really affects the quality of my riding and my ability to move up the levels.  Remembering that in the beginning of my previous weight loss it took a month to actually see much weight loss--due to turning fat into (heavier) muscle--I'm not going for some pie in the sky number of pounds to lose this month, just 1/2 pound per week.  That should be totally doable, and any additional decrease in weight will be a bonus to shoot for in March.

Goal #5 is partly because I'm a bit tired of eating the same old things.  And partly because I have meat in the freezer that needs to be eaten before I can justify going out and buying other cuts that we don't have in stock.  So, even if it's chicken, venison, or some type of pork sausage from my freezer, I'm going to find a new way to serve it this month.  Yesterday was venison stroganoff that was really delicious; even DH raved about it (and he could eat the same dish for a week and be okay with that, so to have him give good reviews to something new is big).

Goal #6 goes along with my attempts to a) do more things I find enjoyable on a regular basis, and b) decrease the amount of clutter in this house!  The local Goodwill sells puzzles for 99 cents, so somehow in the last three years (judging by the dates on the price stickers) I have managed to amass about twenty 1000 piece puzzles.  They are taking up a lot of storage space that could be used for other things.  So, I need to do puzzles more often, and then donate them back to Goodwill (I rarely put together the same puzzle twice; it's a quirk of my brain that I tend to remember which piece goes where and then putting the puzzle together isn't as fun after the first time).

Goal #7 kind of also goes along with decluttering.  Books are similar to puzzles. Unless it's a really awesome one, I never read it twice.  Horse books, generally being of the non-fiction variety, are a little different, but I still need to weed out which ones I want to keep as reference material and which ones I can part with.

Lastly, Goal #8 is more clutter busting.  The 30 minutes daily would be in addition to the normal maintenance types of housework all ready done.  You know: making the bed, doing the dishes, sweeping the floor. . . that's all daily stuff.  My plan for the 30 minutes is to tackle some of the long overdue cleaning, organizing, and decluttering around here.  I'm finding closets and cabinets that had stuff shoved in them in Sept.2014 while 'making room' for DS1 and family to move in with us but those closets and cabinets haven't been emptied/cleaned/organized since then. That's way too long!  If something has been stuffed away for nearly 2.5 years, I probably don't need that item and should get rid of it. By keeping it to 30 minutes a day, it should be an easy goal to achieve.  30 minutes is one TV show; I can give up watching Wheel of Fortune this month and make my house more livable instead.

How about you?  Do you have any plans for February?

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Yarn Along 2017.5

I am joining Ginny this afternoon for the weekly Yarn Along.

It's hard to tell in the photo, but I did finish the body of my Knusa shawl.  And then I took a little knitting hiatus; spending my evenings working on the puzzle that is also in the photo.  Now that I have that out of my system I'm ready to tackle the lace border and get this shawl completed.

I've been requested to make a pair of socks for my Mom next. This will be pair #4 for her, I do believe. I never imagined, when I gifted her a pair back in 2014, that she was going to ask me to make her a pair a year forevermore.  The yarn she chose is really cute and colorful, so in a way I can't wait to get started!