Sunday, June 26, 2011

June 26th: Where were you 12 years ago?

So last night we're talking with my mom on the phone as we're heading home from the Urban Arts Festival, and all of a sudden I ask them what the date is.  They tell me it's the 25th, and I turned to Paul and asked if he knew what tomorrow was.  He said, "Sunday?", and I start laughing when I say, yeah, but it's also our wedding anniversary -- we forgot all about it!

Fast forward to this morning, and we decide to take a bike ride and enjoy the sunshine.  We end up at Point Defiance and wander around Taste of Tacoma.  I see the Lodge and suggest we go by and look around.  We didn't plan on it but here we were in the same place at almost the exact time we were married 12 years ago!  The gazebo where we said our vows looks so different.  There are tons of lovely plants all around it -- couldn't possible fit our wedding party and the guests there now. As we stood there we had a kiss and a hug, and Paul thanked me for marrying him, and I told him it was the best thing that happened to me.   Yeah, I know -- really sweet at the time but retelling it now...

Anyway, it has been a wonderful day.  We rode to Starbucks and had a coffee.  Then down to Point Defiance for a little look around.  Next was a lovely ride along Ruston Way then Schuster Parkway before we turned onto Dock Street.  We rode the esplanade to the Urban Arts Festival and enjoyed a little music before we took our bikes over the Bridge of Glass and rode to Merconi's for some refreshment.  After our short respite we grabbed the #1 bus to our neck of the woods, and then rode over the sky bridge home.

I am beat!  I'm gonna sit down with my ice packs, have a glass of wine, and then make something special for dinner.  Happy Anniversary Paul!

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Home Made Tortillas

I love flour tortillas, Paul loves corn, and since I do the shopping guess which one we usually have in our fridge?  Lately we've been eating corn tortillas.  I don't know what it is about commercial corn tortillas, but they suck!  So I decided to make my own.  I went to my computer, typed  corn tortillas and viola!  2,150,000 entries just waiting for me to view:  definitions, images, recipes, blogs, videos -- amazing!  

The ingredients are so simple:  Masa Flour (not corn meal) which I found at Fred Meyer, a little salt, and some water.  You don't even need any special equipment!  Forget about buying a tortilla press -- just cover your cutting board with some plastic wrap, add another sheet of the plastic over the tortilla dough, and then smoosh it with a glass baking dish!  

Quick, easy, and so much tastier than store bought -- you have to try it!

Corn Tortillas (makes 8 tortillas)
1 cup Masa Flour
2/3 cup water
1/8 tsp salt

Combine ingredients in bowl.  Mix thoroughly for a few minutes to form soft dough.  Add water (1 tbsp at a time) to dough if it feels too dry.  

Divide dough into 8 equal balls.  Cover with damp cloth to keep dough moist.  Line a cutting board with a sheet of plastic wrap.  Place ball of dough on board, and cover with another sheet of plastic wrap.  Slowly press a 9x9 glass baking dish on dough until tortilla measures approx 5" in diameter.  

Preheat ungreased griddle or skillet on medium high heat.  Cook tortillas one at a time for about a minute each side.  Cover tortillas with cloth napkin to keep soft and warm.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

My Own Contribution to the Food Revolution

I watched the premier of Jaime Oliver's Food Revolution -- did you see it?  There was a segment on his show that honestly made me sick.  It was all about hamburger and "pink slime".

Pink slime is the leftover bits of the cow that isn't even fit for hot dogs.  It used to be made into animal food but not any more.  Nope!  There's a wonderful process where the last bits of meat are extracted, washed with ammonia, and ground up.  It looks like hamburger but is considered a filler, and it's been approved by the FDA to be added to hamburger meat  for up to 15%!

Luckily we have a Kitchen Aid mixer and the grinder attachment (which I've never used...until today!), but before I started I found this article on how to grind your own meat -- don't you just love the Internet?  Then we bought some stew meat that was already cubed, popped it into the freezer with the grinder attachment for about a half hour, and then starting grinding.  Really quick and easy!

I cooked up a bit for everyone to sample and we all loved it.  I'm not sure how about the fat content but based on the grease left in the pan (which was none) and the taste of the meat I'd say it's equivalent to the extra lean meat you'd find in the store.  We started with 2.96 pounds of stew meat and ended up with 2.15 pounds of hamburger.  It's probably because my kitchen scale isn't accurate or maybe the store is, hmm...

It'll be fun to do some experimenting by adding spices to the meat, or even grinding chicken or pork.  Regardless, you won't see ground beef in my food cart again!

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

It Ain't Easy Being Selfish

The time has come for me to really address my weight, and the sad truth is that I'm not getting any smaller.  Having battled weight gain all my life I am not looking forward to once again addressing my diet and exercise regime.  Truth is that I do have a pretty healthy diet so why is it that I continue to gain weight?  Is it my love of red wine?  My exercise regime (or lack thereof)?  Too much bread and pasta? 

Ironically I've discovered that I don't eat enough!  For the past week I've been tracking my meals using this really nifty website called Calorie Count.  For a few days I ate normally, and what I found was pretty interesting.  In addition to failing to meet my daily intake goals in protein, iron, and potassium I also found that (after cutting out my evening glass or two of wine) I wasn't hitting my required calorie count either.  

So why do I think I'm being selfish?  It's probably that age-old problem of women taking care of their family, and forgetting to take care of themselves.  I have to confess I feel a little guilty that I'm at home all day while Paul works so I figure the least I can do is offer him with a nice meal when he gets home, and I'm pretty sure it's the only square meal my son eats all day.  

Of course both my men are very supportive but I have to admit it's hard to spend most of my day researching and tracking what foods I should eat to meet my daily requirements, and feeding them the same food.  I'm sure as time goes by it will be easier to incorporate the foods I love as I get more familiar with my dietary needs so I'll be able to offer my family more interesting meals.

For the last week I've been trying to stick to my intake requirements (including cutting out my evening cocktail), and happily I'm starting to see some results.  I find I have a lot more energy (I used to take a catnap almost every day but haven't felt the need to for a few days!) and I've even lost a little weight.  Right now my exercise level is "sedentary" because of a mysterious foot injury that is healing very slowly.  Hopefully in a week or two I can start incorporating walking and bike rides into my daily routine.  

I'll be honest -- I wouldn't be able to do this program if I worked outside the home.  It's amazing how much of my day is spent thinking, planning, and tracking my meals.  My goal is to lose 60 pounds, and currently my goal date is August 3, 2012.  I'm hoping to change the goal date as my ability to exercise increases. 

I'll keep you posted!

Monday, April 4, 2011

Crossing Item Four From My List!

So Paul has made a couple batches of beer, and we decided it was time for me to cross Item #4 from my list:  Learn how to brew beer.

It was a windy day out, so I made sure to dress warmly.
  (Red always adds so much to an outfit don't you think?)

First step was to sanitize all the equipment, so I prepared an iodine bath,
 and soaked everything to be used that day.

Then the fun stuff begins.  After bringing 2 gallons of water to a boil the heat is
 turned off, and I added grains to seep for a bit.  Here's a good shot of 
Paul's 34 quart pot, and gas burner (with wind shield).  
It's set it on concrete blocks to avoid scorching our wooden deck.

Here I'm straining the grains after seeping.

And then a quick rinse, and we're ready for the next step!

Malt extract is added, and stirred until dissolved.  
And stirred some more.  
And stirred some more...

And stirred some more!  Looks like butterscotch (okay, maybe just to me). 
 Paul and I took turns stirring for about five minutes to make sure all the sugar
 was dissolved.  You don't want any sugars settling on the bottom where they'll
 burn and discolor the beer.  And now the mixture is called Wort!

The Wort is brought back to a boil before the next step.  Here I'm checking
 temperature to make sure it is at a boil (212F).

Hops are added to the mix.  Paul rigged up some old fireplace
screens with heavy plastic sheets for extra wind protection, 
and to keep curious dogs from getting burned.

Irish Moss is added after the Hops have boiled for 40 minutes, and 
then 15 minutes later a little more Hops.  Then it's ready for the cooling process.

This copper coil is really cool.  A garden hose is attached to one end.
  The water passes through the coil, and goes out another hose (you can see the
 stream of water in back of the fence).  We added a couple gallons of cold
 water to help cool the Wort more quickly.  It took a little less than 10 minutes
 to cool the Wort to 85F.

Then the beer is strained (to remove the Hops) into the plastic bucket, and water
is added to the 5 gallon mark.  The straining is really a two
person job, so we weren't able to get any pictures of that.  Some of the
 Wort is collected in this tube, and a tube with a weight on one
end is put in.  This measure the specific gravity, and this reading
 helps figure out the alcohol level of the beer.
My reading was 1.053 which is very good.

Liquid yeast is stirred into the Wort, and a lid with an airlock is secured on top.  Fermentation should start within 24 hours (you can see bubbling in the airlock), and when that stops it'll be moved to a carboy (the airlock again installed).  There are more steps to do 14 days after that which I'll post on a separate blog. 

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Paul's Pale Ale

Saturday Paul bottled his very-first-batch-made-from-scratch beer where he got to play with all his new toys:  the gigantic stainless steel pot his kids gave him, the gas burner (a birthday present from me), his new copper cooling coil, and today some special spring loaded attachment to help him fill the beer bottles.  His excitement is contagious I must say.  I get to make the next batch of beer but I'm not sure what I'll make.  I prefer stouts and Paul does not.  I'll have to think of something we both can drink since one recipe makes over 60 bottles, and I usually have 4 or 5 bottles of beer a year!  Maybe an amber?  Hmm...

There it is!  A carboy full of beer!  
Paul added hops to soak in the brew for a week (called dry hopping). 

The floating tube measure specific gravity.  
Used to figure the alcohol content in the beer.

Draining the carboy.  
Paul uses the white bucket for bottling (see the spigot?).

Paul is very patient with me.  I keep asking him to stop, turn, and smile.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Lunch with Mom

I love German food.  Maybe it's in the genes since I am half German.  Not long after we moved here my dad discovered a German restaurant in Tacoma.  I think it was the Bavarian, Chalet, something like that.  Anyway it was on 6th Avenue kitty corner from Mary Bridge Children's Hospital.  When they closed their doors, well it was a very sad day at the Grow house.  I don't think I've had Sauerbraten since.  

So when the TNT ran a story about Bruno's European Cafe Mom and I decided to give the place a try.  Long and short of it, the service was horrible, but I loved my food.  Our server was a lovely older woman with an adorable accent (German I presume) who forgot to put my mom's order in, mixed up on delivering the orders for the four tables in her section, and didn't charge for a couple items on our check (don't worry -- we had her fix the error). 

Come on!  How good does this look?!!

The food was delicious.  Or at least mine was.  I ordered a 1/2 order of Bruno's Special, Jagerschnitzel or breaded pork cutlet.  It came with pureed (their term) potatoes (mashed potatoes) and gravy, cucumber salad, a cup of soup (I chose the Goulash), roll and butter.  So good!  My mom wasn't as impressed with the Kielbasa she ordered.  She said she didn't care for the way it was prepared.  She liked the side dishes, German potato salad, sauerkraut, and her soup choice was the Hangover Soup (a cheesy soup with veggies and pickles of all things!)

The prices for lunch were very reasonable I thought.  My meal cost less than $9.00, and my mom's was less than $8.00.  Mom wasn't too sure if she'd go again, but I sure wouldn't mind!

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Two down...eight to go!

Last night I met with a bunch of friends to cross number two off my list of things to do before I turn 50.  

We met at Barb's at Westgate for karaoke, and it was a hoot. 

 I have to admit I was a little nervous, but when my name was called I got on my
 feet and walked to the microphone before I could talk myself out of it, and then I sang.  

It was fun, I'm glad I did it, and I'm probably never going to do it again! 

After my "performance" was done we spent the rest of the night dancing,
 singing along with the other performers, talking and laughing -- it was fabulous!

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Our new hobby

We are now the proud owners of birdhouses.  We put them on the deck 
where they could stay until we figured out how to mount them.  

But when the birds started fussing around our deck we knew we had to get moving.  

Luckily we were given permission to take the poles too, and soon Paul was putting up the birdhouses.

The next morning I could hear a lot of chirping, and sure enough the birds were fighting over who got what house.

They seemed to have settled in quite nicely.  

But I think they wish there was some kind of heating. 

 This morning I told Paul we're as bad as newborn's parents who take the same shot over and over again, never tiring of looking at their child.  I have to admit their antics every morning put a smile on my face.  I'm thinking about putting up a bird feeder, but one thing at a time -- for now I'll just enjoy the birds.  

Remembering Bob and Charlene

Bob and Charlene were our next door neighbors.  Bob was a retired police officer, and he had three passions:  gardening, wildlife, and making sure the hooligans weren't destroying our neighborhood.  Unfortunately any kid under the age of 21 was a hooligan so we had many interesting (and sometimes heated) conversations about my son who was, unfortunately, was going through the long hair, torn clothes, loud music stage of childhood (aka the teenage years), and was on Bob's constant radar.  Still we managed to get along pretty well.  For some reason we liked each other -- maybe because we're both on the cranky side, who knows.  He suffered from Lupus, and had good and bad days.  As the years went by we saw him outside less and less, and his beautiful backyard garden slowly diminished.  When he finally grew so weak that Charlene could no longer care for him he was placed in a nursing home where he drove everyone crazy with his constant demands to be taken home.  He died a few weeks later.

Charlene was very active -- still working, and very busy with her circle of friends.  We didn't visit much, but she was always pleasant with a big smile on her face.  Then Charlene got some shocking news.  The cough she couldn't get rid of turned out to be lung cancer, and she started treatment right away.  Not even a month before Bob was taken to the nursing home she found out her cancer was incurable, and that if she continued with treatment she might get another year, and without it only a few more months.  She decided she'd rather have a few good months, than a year suffering the side effects of chemotherapy.  Charlene passed away in January.

Neither Bob or Charlene wanted a funeral or a memorial service, and their wishes were respected.  Recently their house was cleaned up, organized, and categorized for an estate sale.  Our little street was filled with cars driven by people we didn't know, and we watched them through our living room window, hating the idea of these strangers handing Bob and Charlene's things.  We both agreed we wouldn't be attending the sale.  But when I went to the kitchen and looked out the window into Bob's garden I saw the birdhouses that he made years ago.  I grabbed my coat, and told Paul I had to have those birdhouses.  I wanted something to remember them by.

It'll be weird this spring not to see Bob shuffling around in his garden, calling me over to tell me a story for the tenth time, or Charlene in her car waving as she passes by.  I'm going to miss them.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Paul gets a hobby

I've been trying to convince Paul he needed a hobby for years now.  Actually I've been trying to convince Paul for years that vacuuming was not a hobby.  First he tried gardening.  Then it was baking.  Next he tried woodworking.  I was pretty sure we found a winner when he tried photography, but nope nothing ever came of any of them.

What to do, what to do...?  If only there was a hobby based on an activity that Paul loves.  Hmm...We've already established Paul's love on vacuuming, and I sure hope there's no hobby associated with that.  Paul loves to putter, um, no hobby there.  What does Paul love to do?  Oh, yeah!  Paul loves beer.  And guess what?  Paul has always wanted to make beer!  There you go!

So his kids bought him a pot big enough to cook his wort.  Some kind, generous, thoughtful person (ahem) bought him a propane burner for his birthday, and Paul cashed in some Home Depot gift cards to cover the cost of a propane tank, and quick as wink, Bob's your uncle and Paul is making beer.

The first couple of batches he'll be using a prepackaged IPA mix just to get a hang of all the steps.  Once he's comfortable with all that he'll get into the fun stuff like buying grains and hops, and making his own wort, etc., etc., etc.

Anyway, Paul mixed up the batch today, and hopefully in two weeks he'll be bottling!  I'll keep you posted.

Thursdays with Heather: Asian Art Museum

Last Thursday Heather and I went to the Picasso Show at Seattle Art Museum.  An added bonus is free entry to the Asian Art Museum if we went within a week (showing them our ticket of course).  So, guess we did?  

If you haven't been to the Asian Art Museum you really are missing a treat.  Not only is there some fascinating art that dates back centuries -- CENTURIES!!! -- but it sits in the lovely Volunteer Park.  You could spend a whole day roaming the grounds, enjoying the grounds, the reservoir, the water tower, and the conservatory.  

Both Heather and I are interested in photography, and we're thinking about having a photo shoot one Thursday a month.  Volunteer Park will definitely be on our list.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Zoom-In Tacoma

I was invited to participate in a fun project called Zoom-In Tacoma.  It was connected with the Postcard Project in that the artists who made a postcard were also invited to participate.  The featured photographers were:  Peter Serko, Sharon Styer, Theresa Tavernero, Elayne Vogel, Jim Robbins, Becky Frehse, Paganucci Design, Mick Klass, Duncan James Livingston, Steve Russell, John Carlton, Dan Hill, Rick Semple, Tom Holts, Lance Kagey, and myself.
Kevin and Celeste in front of my photos.

The Artists' Reception was held Thursday at Mavi Gallery, and there were lots of people milling about.  I had a lot of fun meeting up with friends I hadn't seen for a while, and enjoying everyone's work.  If you get some time, stop by and check out the show.  Mavi Gallery is also showing some great work by William Quinn, William Turner, and Christopher Mathey.

Elayne and Claudia enjoying the show