Saturday, January 30, 2010

So happy for the weekend

Bad week. Bad, bad week.

Monday we had rain. Tons of rain. Traffic was a nightmare. Awful day to try and go to work. And I did a leg workout with J when I got home, guaranteeing I was going to walk like an old woman the rest of the week.

Thursday we had snow. Surprise snow. Not enough for a full-on complement of salt trucks and plows, but enough to make the roads a disaster. Crashes everywhere. Traffic like you would not believe. The only reason I stayed on the road was because I had to proof a document. And when I got in, no one was working on it. For a long panicked moment, I thought I had endured 2 1/2 hours of a mind-numbing commute for nothing. But work started on it again, and I could endure the rest of the day.

Today is Saturday. I slept in. I read. I knitted. I prepped some artisan bread. I'm getting a massage in a little over 90 minutes.

I feel better.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

What's with the organic sugar, Dr L?

So you might wonder why I mentioned underprocessed sugar and organic sugar in my last post. Or not. But I feel like talking about it. That's what happens when it's late and you're in front of a computer in a quiet house because your husband went to bed early.

A while back I changed my diet. The reasoning behind it is kinda long and detailed, and I tell enough rambling stories, so I'll spare you for now. But I decided to cut out all dairy, and all processed flour and sugar from my diet. An experiment of sorts.

I knew this might be a challenge. As I discussed with a bunch of my online friends lately, some of us grew up with a lot of processed food and TONS of sugar. I remember giving sugar (and anything made with it) up for Lent one year in junior high, without thinking of substitutes. I looked like a prison camp survivor by the time those 40 days were over. I made up for it with a bowl of lime sherbet for breakfast on Easter morning, and shot up 4" and 27 lbs that summer. Fueled by simple carbs.

I also LOVE milk, and cheese. Sharp cheddar. Baked brie. Hot chocolate. Whipped cream straight out of the can. My mouth is watering just typing it. But, like I said, I was willing to give it a try.

So I replaced all of our regular all-purpose flour with unbleached and organic. And added more whole wheat flour. J went along and replaced any white bread and English muffins with whole grains. I bought either organic sugar or agave nectar, my now-favorite go-to sweetener when I can find it. I switched to rice or hemp milk, and rice cheese (very disappointing, but key to the experiment).

And I started to feel better. I dropped about 10 pounds. My skin cleared up considerably. My allergies were almost nonexistent. I got to the point where those commercials showing gooey doughnuts or sugar-covered anything made me cringe. Yuck yuck yuck.

I still indulge here and there. Dark chocolate finds me when I least expect it. I have eaten a bagel or a soft pretzel. Or that pizza that J lovingly made for me with regular cheese. I'm not a freak about it. I'm just more careful what I eat. The experiment seems to be working, so I'll ride it as long as I feel good. My sister-in-law and I even convinced my mom to try the non-dairy route to see if it will help her asthma.

So there you have it. I may occasionally mention agave nectar in my recipe posts, or what component of a recipe I replaced with an option from my fridge or pantry. It's all part of the experiment.

Baking fail (sorta)

Last night was not my best baking night. I think I was trying to multitask just a bit too much, so things didn't turn out as well as I'd hoped.

I used the last of my artisan bread dough to make olive bread. I didn't form the loaf that well after adding the olives, I didn't add the cornstarch wash they recommended, and I forgot to slash the top of the dough before it went into the oven. So I got a weird lumpy ball with a concentration of olives in the center. That being said, the bread still baked up yummy (no undercooked center or anything), so I guess I can't complain.

I also decided to make reverse faux-reos from the King Arthur Flour site. They have been e-mailing me recipes ever since I bought a few breadmaking things from them, and I couldn't pass this one up. The dough was divine. I could have eaten the whole bowl full. And no eggs, so no worries about salmonella!

A few things went wrong: the cookie part turned out flatter than I expected, and I don't know if it's because a) I used this wonky low-process sugar (all 2 cups) instead of granulated (maybe I should have hit it with the blender), b) I screwed up the part where I added the baking powder (but i'm pretty sure I added the right amount), or c) I pressed down my dough balls too flat to begin with (which might be the problem). From the picture it looks like they're supposed to be "fluffy" cookies, and maybe soft, but it also says they're ultra-crispy, which mine definitely were.

Then there was the chocolate filling, which included 1 1/4 cups of sifted powdered sugar. I didn't sift the first 1/2 cup, and it made the filling a bit lumpy or grainy, depending on how you look at it. Still delicious and chocolatey, with enough heavy cream to make anyone happy. It also didn't set as well as I'd hoped.

Still, I ended up with a couple dozen cookies which, even though they don't look that pretty, still taste pretty good. Not great, but pretty good. I may revisit this recipe with organic granulated sugar and see if that makes a difference. I'm determined to make pretty cookies!

Adoption update

It's been almost 6 weeks since our profile went active, and I checked in with our social worker to see what was new. She shot me an e-mail today and said our profile had been shown 3 times already. What that means is that 3 birthfamilies looked at our profile and considered us as adoptive parents.

From the looks of it we were not chosen any of those 3 times, but the mere fact that we were already shown is, according to our social worker, "really, really good". We're hoping it's a sign that our perfect match happens sooner rather than later. If not, then we wait until our child comes to us. We know it may take some time. I am surprisingly calm about all of this. Though I have started to revisit our baby registry.

My co-worker said it's like being on She has a point!

Sunday, January 24, 2010

I take that back

I do have a picture


Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes a Day

Oh, I wish I had pictures.

I first heard about this book from my father. Who heard about it from my sister in law, the master vegan chef ;) Warm, crusty loaves of bread, made with minimal time and effort in my own kitchen. What could be better?

I got the book for Christmas, thanks to a Secret Santa. My first attempt wasn't the best experience of my life. It was my own fault. While it may take 5 minutes of hands-on time, there is the matter of prepping the loaf, and letting it rest, and baking it. Which takes considerably longer than 5 minutes. And I decided at 6 or 7pm to make a loaf for dinner. Dinner was late. But the bread was awesome.

Since then I figured it out. Just make a loaf on a random weekend afternoon, or after dinner when I'm hanging out watching TV or doing chores. That way there's no time crunch and we have delish bread for the week, or at least for a few days. I tried one of the variations that makes what looks like a string of dinner rolls, and they didn't last more than 10 minutes out of the oven. I made another batch this afternoon and polished it all off myself.

As I type, there is more dough rising, and I'm going to make a bigger loaf before I turn in for the night. Between that and the minestrone in the crock pot, I am set for lunch this week.

Now I'm trying to get my hands on Healthy Bread in 5 Minutes a Day. I can't wait.

The start of our 2010 adventures

J came up with a great idea this year. He thought we should take a weekend a month and stay at an inn nearby. Preferably one with a restaurant, so we could have a nice dinner and some wine without worrying about driving home right away. This weekend was our first adventure.

We stayed at the Crescent Lodge, which is just up the road from us and has a restaurant as well. Thus meeting our requirements ;) We had a blast.

Our room was lovely. OK, if you look at the picture, it definitely has a Grandma's Room from 1982 vibe. Complete with a dish of hard candies on the side table, and an ancient TV with the world's largest remote. But you know what? It all worked, the room was clean, the shower was hot, the bed was comfortable, and we had a ton of room.

We enjoyed our dinner as well. We had a cocktail at the bar, and the bartender knew his stuff. The food was yummy, including dessert. We shut down the restaurant, then returned this morning for breakfast (included with our stay). We will definitely go back again for dinner at the very least.

I can't wait to see what next month brings.

Monday, January 18, 2010

New recipe FAIL

In my quest to find something new to do with ground beef, I found a recipe for pasta, ground beef, and BBQ sauce. Kind of a homemade Hamburger Helper. I decided to give it a try tonight.

Yeah, we could have probably done better with Hamburger Helper. J said we could have just used marinara sauce and it would have been just fine.

Maybe I should call my grandma. I hear she knew 101 ways to use ground beef. Then again, that was 70 years ago.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Comfort food

J and I have been in a bit of a food rut lately. It's pretty much a half dozen dishes we have in heavy rotation, and the oh-so occasional new dish.

We also don't have much time to cook during the week, what with his schedule and my commute. So we try to cook in big batches on the weekend and have portions to grab for lunch or heat up for dinner each day.

I wanted to do with chicken. There are only so many times you are going to grill it or bake it before you start thinking to yourself, "Self, we need something new."

So I looked through my cookbooks (which are many and varied). And settled on--chicken pot pie! From the South Beach Cookbook! So yummy and healthy (I hoped). I threw some chicken breast in to broil in preparation, and whipped up some homemade crust per the instructions.

OMG, so good! The sauce tasted perfect (and I'm assuming is South Beach friendly because I didn't use any cream--just broth and flour). The chicken was perfect (and that was just dumb luck). J had seconds, it was so good. And we still have leftovers for the week.

This one's a keeper!

Adoption tax credit

This blog is not meant to be all-adoption-all-the-time, but I do plan to talk about adoption issues that are particularly close to my heart (wait until November, AKA National Adoption Awareness Month!). Today I wanted to talk about one of those issues.

There are a lot of different ways to adopt, from a lot of different places. People can adopt from the foster care system (and there are even different ways to foster-adopt), adopt internationally (eg, China, Russia), and adopt domestically. Foster adoption is a pretty low-cost option, but other types of adoption can get VERY expensive. In the case of international adoption, this is due in part to legal fees between 2 countries, care for the children before they come to the US, and travel costs. In the case of domestic adoption, this is due in part to legal fees associated with adoption in general, and in many cases in order to fund counseling that birthparents receive before and after the adoption. As you can imagine, this can be a difficult time for them, and they need all the support they can get.

While these fees are understandable, they can make adoption financially difficult for the average middle-class family. We were lucky: we sold a property and are using the proceeds to pay for adoption fees, and our employers both have adoption reimbursement programs that help subsidize the cost of adoption. And the government has an adoption tax credit. This tax credit, however, is scheduled to end this year. As a prospective adoptive parent, you can imagine that I'd like to see this continue. And having visited a lot of adoption message boards, and knowing what some adoptive parents have gone through to become parents, you can imagine that I want this available for them as well.

So I wrote to my Senator, Bob Casey. I explained that J and I were in the process of adopting, explained the fees that we were dealing with, and expressed the hope that he would support the extension of the tax credit.

Guess what--I heard back from him! It turns out he is sponsoring Senate bill S.2816, to increase the credit and to extend it to 2019. You can learn a little more about it here (including co-sponsors) and you can see Senator Casey's discussion of it here.

Maybe you'll read this and think, "Hmm, that's interesting, I didn't know about that." Maybe you'll want to learn more. Maybe you'll want to write to your senator and ask him or her to vote to extend the credit. It's up to you. I just wanted to write about it today.

Follow-up to: So Torn

Good news! My knitting circle got postponed due to weather, so I didn't have to decide between knitting and football. While I will miss seeing the ladies, I will console myself with knitting in front of the TV.

Now if only Dallas could start playing good football...

Good day to stay in

Winter weather warning until 5am tomorrow. This means I can stay home and whip up some warm winter fare.

Potato leek soup is in the slow cooker
Car bomb cupcakes will be happening either today or Tuesday
5-minute artisan bread is planned shortly, maybe 2 different kinds
Potato cauliflower gratin recipe is calling my name
I haven't figured out what to make for lunch yet, but PB&J is a distinct possibility

And I'm about to take some warm clothes out of the dryer.

Dallas plays in 30 minutes.

Life is good :)

Thursday, January 14, 2010

BIG NEWS on Don't Drink the Water

I've been wanting to talk about this, but we were waiting until we told our families first.

We are adopting!!!

That's right, Dr L and Mr L are adopting a baby. When, we don't know. It could be tomorrow, it could be next year. Which is a really strange feeling.

We are working with an adoption agency that specializes in domestic infant adoption. The agency operates in several states in our general region, and our son or daughter could come from any of those states. We first started talking to them about a year ago, and felt really comfortable with the social worker. She talked to us forever and answered all of our questions.

We applied to the agency in the spring, and started our homestudy shortly after that. The homestudy consisted of us filling out a lot of paperwork (including criminal background checks and FBI clearances), and writing and talking a lot about our lives, our marriage, and our relationships. We then put a profile together with pictures of ourselves and a letter to a potential birthfamily. We went active about a month ago, meaning our profile went out to all the offices where our agency operates. Any potential birthfamily can be presented with our profile, and may choose us to be parents for their child.

So now we wait. And try to resist buying everything baby-related that looks even remotely cute. And take a newborn care class. And read about feeding, and diapers, and sleep schedules. And think about baby registries. And wonder if we should schedule that vacation in September, because we may get a call then. Or already have a baby in our home.

I know this blog thing is a mostly one-way proposition, but if you have any questions about adoption, or how we got here, feel free to leave a comment. I'll be happy to answer it. I am inspired by my friend Amy, who has a foster son and LOVES talking about adoption to people! I want to be just like her ;)

So torn

In case you haven't noticed, I like to knit. I try my best to attend a monthly knitting circle at my local yarn store with a group from The next one is this Sunday, and we're even planning a project exchange. Which was posponed due to weather. We're expecting a winter mix this Sunday, it could go either way.

You might also have noticed that I'm a Dallas Cowboys fan. And they just won their first playoff game since 1996.

J just reminded me that the 'Boys are playing at 1pm on Sunday, the same time my knitting circle meets.


Now I'm really hoping for lots of ice, so I can make a rescheduled get-together and still catch the game.

Monday, January 11, 2010

I just noticed

Since I started this blog, I've averaged a little over 90 posts a year.

Now I wonder if I'm going to continue the trend for 2010.

Time will tell...

Vacation is officially over

My boss said things might be a little quiet the beginning of this year, what with our clients getting back into the swing of things before projects got moving again in earnest.

That lasted all of 3.5 days.

We are now full steam ahead. With multiple projects and meetings galore.

I'm tired already.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

It's a good weekend for football

On the way home from visiting J's family last night, we stopped in and watched a little playoff game with friends.

I am happy because a certain team that is a favorite of ours BLEW OUT THE EAGLES!

To cap it off, we headed out to lunch today, and caught the amazing beginning of yet another little playoff game. I am happy because a former "hometown team" BLEW OUT THE PATRIOTS!

It's always nice to be able to wear my jerseys this late in the season :) I can't wait for next weekend.