Pets

There is apparently a small problem with having some time off from work around the end of July, beginning of August. I start to think about adding pets to the house. This was not a problem when we had four furry creatures, but less than that and I start to think, and look, and really want another pet. Last year I decided to “just look” at dogs and ended up, on the first visit, falling in love with Arthas. Although in my defense, how does one not fall in love with this face.IMG_20170814_122232

This year I was so busy for June and most of July that I barely had time to think about a new cat. I went through the “I’m not ready” phase, then the “Tigger isn’t ready” phase, then the “it’s not a good idea” phase, followed closely by the “I’m good with just the two boys” phase, and then hit the “oh screw it, I want another cat” phase. I can give you twelve different logical reasons why a new kitty is a bad idea (and counters to every one of them) – Arthas has issues with other animals (but he does fine once he knows the animal and it doesn’t rush him – we can train a cat), Tigger had his world turned upside down four times in the last year and he needs stability (he has always had other kitty companions and might like the company), I have a full time job plus an internship coming up (cat will still get more attention and love than she would in a shelter), and we have no idea what my job situation will be like in a year (technically this is always true, so why should this year be any different).

So … I started looking. I went to a few area shelters, scoured petfinder.com and just looked and looked for the right kitty. Bob went with me a few times to look at kitties and there were one or two that I really wanted to be the right cat, but just weren’t.  There was one cat that I wanted to want to bring home (ok, more than one, but one in particular) as she was sweet, calm, friendly and super cute (admittedly I think most cats are super cute, so take that with however much salt you need) but something kept stopping me from taking her. There were two kittens I really wanted to want, but they just weren’t right either.

I want the feeling I got when I first saw Jessie or Gracie or any of my other babies – that feeling of you belong with me and I just can’t wait to bring you home. I want to be eager for Bob to meet the kitty and fall as much in love with her as I will and I just haven’t found that yet. Add to this mix I want a cat the boys will be ok with, and maybe even like (I do have little fantasies of our own“Dear Kitten” video moments). I know it will be an adjustment period, and we have so much going on right now that it is a bad idea, but I’m going to keep looking. Heck, if I can go to multiple shelters over multiple days and not bring a kitten home, I think I can be trusted to wait for the right cat, and not just the right time. But for now, I’m going to enjoy my boys – cause the are super cute and super sweet and my babies (ok, Arthas has become Bob’s dog, but he is still my boy).

Progress Report

We are half way through the year and I thought it would be a good time to measure progress. Like all good teachers, I want to see where I am, and what I need to do to get to where I need to be. Have I learned what I wanted? Do I need to go back and revisit something?

School: I just finished my 9th class and have three more to go before I graduate. I am pretty sure this is the *last* time I am going back to school – two master’s degrees is enough and I don’t have it in my to go for the PhD. I registered for the Florida exam for next month and I have the next few weeks to study for it, so hopefully that will be enough time. Three more classes. (deep breath) I can do this.

Pets: If I am being completely honest, I did not expect to be here pet-wise. Somehow, even knowing that Leia was sick, I though she would pull through, get all better and still be making Arthas love her. I miss that cat. I miss Gracie and Jessie too, but I’ve had longer to adjust to losing them and having Tigger, Leia and Arthas around definitely helped. Arthas is awesome even if he isn’t the easiest dog, but he is pretty great and I am so glad we adopted him last year. I am trying to not add another cat to the house, but I do miss having more than one. I need to go back to work *soon* so I don’t have time to look at adorable kitties that need a home.

Wine: I am having a ton of fun with my little wine experiment. I went back through all my notes from the last two months (yes, I take notes) and did discover a few things:

  • I *think* I can identify cherry, mineral, apple, and peach in wines fairly consistently. They are about the only flavors I can identify with any regularity.
  • I don’t like earthy dark wines. This is not a shock, but there is it.
  • Barbera, Zinfandel, Pino Noir, Sangiovese, and Cabernet Franc – when done well – are delicious wines.
  • Tannat is not to my taste
  • Chien Blanc and Muscadet are amazing. I need more of these wines in my life
  • Un-oaked or very minimal oak Chardonnay is actually really good. Who knew!
  • I still have no idea what “legs” are supposed to look like in low, medium and high alcohol wines. I guess, but I think I’m guessing wrong.
  • Yes, there is a difference between the ten-dollar bottle of wine and the thirty-dollar bottle of wine. There is. That isn’t to say the ten dollar bottle doesn’t have a place, it does, but there is a difference.

Travel: Bob and I have not done much traveling this year for a variety of reasons. We did manage a quick weekend trip to St. Augustine Beach where we did pretty much nothing, and that was awesome. Nothing is planned for the rest of this year, but I’m starting to think about next year and where we might like to go. A lot is going to depend on airfares, my job situation and the pets, but I’m starting to think.

Food: I love food and I love eating. I really don’t like eating the same things over and over, and work plus school makes it hard to be really creative. I’ve given myself a bit of a break and just accepted that I can do some creative cooking, but not a lot right now and I know I will barely have time to cook this fall. I do think I’ve had a few culinary successes this year and I’m sure I will get back to more experiments, but for now … it is what it is.

So that’s it. I’m going to work on identifying aromas and tastes in wine, finish school, try to keep from getting another cat and find some more easy, yet delicious and interesting foods to make. Hopefully in six months, I will have accomplished all of that, but if not, there is always next year. 🙂

 

Wine, but something a little different

I like to think that when I decide to learn about something, I go in all the way. Some may call this obsessive (ok, even people who love me call this obsessive) but it works for me. It is why I do well in school, and why I’m good at my job. But I knew wine had to be a little different. I’m not going for a sommelier certification and I need to be careful how much I drink so I could do a lot of research, be super organized, try a lot of different varieties, but the actual drinking had to stay to one or two glasses a day.

IMG_20170610_172749Thankfully I also have friends that like to drink wine and are game to try new things. The other night we had Kate and Leta over and we did a little exploring of French wines with the help of a site I found by a podcast I listen to (long story). Weekly Tasting (no, I’m not getting multiple bottles every week) offers different packs of wine each week. You get the wine (4 bottles), pairing suggestions (with recipes), wine notes and access to a tasting video. IMG_20170610_174653We thought it would be fun to see how our sense of taste and smell compared to what the professionals said, and we tried a few new wines along the way. We had a blast. The one white was a particular hit – a muscadet that was salty and had some great lemon-lime notes. We paired everything with cheese, cause, well, it was cheese box week, and we made it a little end of the school year celebration.

IMG_20170507_195955I’ve also gotten very organized in my wine storage. It takes a little upfront work whenever I get a new bottle, but it helps. Yes, it is a spreadsheet. A color coded spreadsheet so I know where I go the wine from, but there is no longer the mystery of what is in the wine fridge or where a particular bottle is. IMG_20170507_132540For the wine fridge in the kitchen, we went low tech but the miracle of the white board has made my wine life so much easier. It is kind of like my meal list – it takes the guess work out of what to have each night.

I’m still taking notes on each wine, and refining what I do and do not like in a glass of wine. I’ve found that I’m a little more adventurous with my wine than I was before, and that makes me happy. If I go to a restaurant and there is a wine varietal that I don’t know, I’m more likely to try it. I may ask a little bit about it – make sure it isn’t a super big earthy wine that I just won’t like at all – but I venture beyond pinot noir and zinfandel. I can add wine regions to my list of places I want to travel and go beyond cities with lots of deep history. (Not that I will ever stop traveling to old cities with deep history.) I am enjoying my little adventure and feel like I’m learning a little something along the way. Since that was the whole point of this experiment, I’m calling it a success. No need to order pizza. 🙂

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Harvest

Last fall I planted a few baby kale plants along with some tomatoes and herbs. I hoped to get a few kale salads out of the plants and we have been eating kale from the garden all winter. The other day I looked at the garden and realized two things – 1) I have baby tomatoes just about ready to pick and 2) I really have to harvest and pull the kale. It is just getting too hot for it.

On Saturday, I harvested everything I could, pulled the kale out. I got a nice bunch of cherry tomatoes (purple cherokee, I think) and a lot of kale. A lot.

That is the large side of our sink, about ten inches deep, filled with kale. Filled. Picture two plastic grocery bags stuffed with kale, or one really large shopping bag, stuffed with kale. My four little kale plants gave us kale all winter and enough kale for batches and batches of pesto. All with benign neglect since I tend to let the garden go during the school year and only really check on it every now and then. I was kind of impressed.

The garden is a little sad looking now. This time if year in Jersey I was looking for what I could plant in a few weeks, maybe start some seeds so they would be ready for transplant, but in Florida, well … it’s time to let the garden rest for the summer. I do still have a few things in there, so I won’t totally neglect the garden, but for the most part, once the last of the tomatoes are harvested, the garden can rest.

The tomato plant looks awful, but there are still a number of blooms, buds and ripening tomatoes on it, so I’m doing my best to keep it alive. I picked up a watering system – terra-cotta spikes that fit a wine or other long necked bottle in it. This should slowly water the area over the course of a week or two so if I forget, the plant still gets water. I have one in and have three more spikes that I’m going to use as I acquire clear wine bottles (better to see if they need refilling) for the herbs that are left. I will say, the parsley did remarkably well with all of the kale cover – I’m not sure if it will last now that it is fully exposed, but we shall see.

I do have a little rosemary, oregano and chive in there also, along with one sad looking, but still alive poblano pepper. I’m hoping I can keep everything alive until the fall when I can plant some more. The big question is what to plant. The kale did excellent, but I might want to branch out.

I had to include this picture. Kale was the one food – the only food – that Arthas every rejectedIMG_20170415_105844. He just would not eat it. But, as I was making my batches of pesto, a leaf fell to the ground and before I could get to it (admittedly I didn’t rush cause he didn’t eat kale) he had the leaf and was munching on it. I figured he would stop after a bit or two, but no.  Nope, he
ate the entire thing. Leaf, stalk and all. So it’s official, there is not a single food that he won’t eat. Nothing. I’m not sure if I should be happy about this or worried. I’m just going to go with amused.

 

Red or White

Sarasota is full of charity event opportunities. If you look around, just a little, you can find galas, dinners, brunches, and just about any other kind of event you might want. We don’t partake in these on a regular basis, but one fund raising event we do try to make it to each year is the Wine Walk to the Ca d’Zan. The Ca d’Zan is the home of John and Mable Ringling and is part of the Ringling Museum of Art. The Wine Walk is their major fundraiser for maintenance and preservation of the home and the grounds. While that is why I’m willing to pay for the tickets, it isn’t why we really go. We go because it is a really nice event where we get to taste some good wine, eat some good food and enjoy a really pretty atmosphere. It’s a fancy date night and every married couple needs one or two of those each year.

This year the theme was Red or White and the grounds were done up in beautiful red and white seating areas, red and white flowers and red and white foods and wine. Each station had several varietals to choose from, along with some interesting snack type foods. Last year we found a few under $20 bottles of wine that we added into our rotation, and we were hoping to do the same this year. Unfortunately, this year all the wines I really liked were on the expensive side, so I have them noted for when I need a special occasion wine, but they are not something I’m going to buy for every day drinking.

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My favorite niblet of food this year was the strawberry shortcake. I fully admit, I am a sucker for a good strawberry shortcake, but I also know that it can go very wrong if the chef tries to get to fancy or too creative with this very simple, perfect dessert. (Strawberry shortcake, made with fresh, not frozen strawberries, is probably my absolute favorite dessert so I am a little biased, but I’m also super critical.) To make a good strawberry shortcake you need a really good base – something that will soak up some of the strawberry juice, but not turn soggy. You need fresh, ripe strawberries and you need really good cream with a touch of vanilla. Miss any of those, or try to add something weird like bourbon cream or “spice” and it just does not work. (Yes, I have had a bourbon cream strawberry shortcake and it was bad. When you feel like you had a short by taking a bite of cake, it is bad.)

This dessert was close to perfection. The cake was sturdy, but not stale. The chef used a little bit of strawberry jam to layer the cake and introduce some moisture. I thought this was brilliant for the setting – cakes will be sitting out for several hours and you don’t want soggy cake. The jam kept it fresh and light while providing some moisture that the macerated strawberries usually provide. The cream was very good – just a hint of vanilla bean to compliment the strawberry but not overpower the fruit. And the strawberries were fresh. Ripe, fresh berries. I *may* have gone back for seconds.  … or thirds.

Next year I’m hoping we can find some more every day bottles, but it was a  nice evening.

Procrastination

I know what I should be doing right now. I should be working on stuff for school – reading my school finance textbooks, writing my mini papers that are due each week. I could also be walking the dog or doing laundry or just playing with the cats and all of that would be productive. Instead, I’m procrastinating.

Tigger understands procrastination. He is a master of it unless it has to do with food – then he is definitely not in favor of procrastination.

I don’t know if Leia believes in procrastinating or not. She tends to find a comfortable spot and claim it. She isn’t fussy and if you think it is your spot and she happens to want that same spot, well, she will probably win because she is just that cute.

Does more need to be said? Arthas has this whole thing figured out. Lay on the couch and chill – it will all work work. … Unless there is food involved, then eat first, procrastinate after eating.

 

Sweet potato fajitas

The other day I thought about making sweet potato chili, then decided that I didn’t want to make that. I wasn’t sure what I wanted to make, so I scoured the fridge and decided on sweet potato fajitas.

Usually I plan out meals very carefully. I buy only what I need for specific meals, and I try to make every one of those so food does not go to waste. Most of the time, I’m successful in this, but sometimes, I just really change my mind half way through the week. This was one of those times.

So  had limited ingredients on hand and no desire to go to the grocery. I made do with what I had, and cut and roasted the sweet potato while I fried up the onion and yellow pepper. I used a mix of chili powder and cumin as the main seasoning with some lime on the aromatics after they were done cooking. In the end, I thought the whole thing came together ok, but it needed a kick. I think adding some chili garlic sauce to the onions might help. Bob went with hot sauce and said it was just fine.

Sweet Potato Fajitas

  • 1 medium sweet potato, diced
  • 1/2 large sweet onion
  • 1/2 yellow bell pepper
  • flour tortillas
  • cheese mix (whatever you have on hand)
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 lime
  • olive or other neutral oil
  • salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

Wash and dice the sweet potato. I like small dice as it cooks faster, but larger is ok too. Slice onion and pepper thin. (If you are not crazy about peppers, peel the skin off of them – it helps with the strong taste.)

Toss potato with spices – chili powder, cumin, salt and pepper – and oil to coat. Roast for about 20 minutes in 400 degree oven. Careful – depending on how small they are diced, this may take as few as 15 and and many as 30 minutes. You want the potatoes soft, but not mushy.

While the potatoes roast, heat a little olive oil in a pan and add the onion and pepper when hot. Season with salt and pepper and cook, stirring frequently, for about ten minutes. When the vegetables are softened, but still retain a crunch, remove from heat and season with some more salt and pepper. Squeeze 1/2 lime over the vegetables and mix. When the potatoes are done roasting, add to the pan and toss to combine.

Split mixture over 6 flour tortillas and top with grated cheese of your choice.