Wednesday, March 31, 2010

30 Day Shred

I was inspired by fellow bloggers to check out this DVD by Jillian Michaels. When I saw that the workout program, along with a 30 day trial membership to her online community would cost a grand total of $8.95 to arrive at my doorstep, I decided it was worth the investment. Sadly, the closest location of my "nationwide" gym is 25 minutes away. I'm tired of paying for a gym that I never see.

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I'm currently on day 5 of the shred. I've lost 2 pounds. My thoughts so far:

1 - I shouldn't have weighed myself until the day after I did the first workout. I retained a lot of water as my body tried to recover after that first workout, so the number on the scale was inflated.

2 - If you're unable to locate some hand weights and find yourself deciding between the glass jars of spaghetti sauce or the cans of beans, for the love of all that is good and right in this world, CHOOSE THE BEANS!! My arms still haven't forgiven me.

3 - Hot bath = very yes. Hot hot. Like get your heart rate up, stings on the way in, can only stand to be in the water for 15 minutes hot. I've found that the bath is most effective right before working out. It makes me feel good going into the workout and I can push myself harder.

4 - Make sure you work out on the bottom floor, so that the pounding of you jumping upstairs doesn't send the kids in to see the spectacle. Apparently, children don't like to see their mother exercising. I'd be scared too, seeing all of that fat jiggling.

5 - Avoid stairs at all costs. Oh, and don't plan on sitting down anytime soon. Your thighs will give out.

And finally...

6 - If you feel the need to curse out Jillian for creating such a torture device, (and you will), you can do so here.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Deep Thoughts

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We spent the day at a duck pond yesterday.

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(Aren't geese strange, alien creatures?)

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So, what were we really thinking yesterday?

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The baby is a happy soul. I still catch him grinning at me all the time. He doesn't say much. However, he has the endearing ability to say everything he needs to express through cooing and ahh-ing and blowing raspberries. I've spent nearly a year with him now, so I have a pretty good idea what he was pondering that day:

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My older boy is a little more difficult to read.

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One might have seen him and thought that he was excited about the ducks and the water. But here's what he was actually thinking:

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As for me, it was a typical day as Mom.

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I was having standard Mom thoughts.

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My husband was keeping up with traditions.

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I imagine his thought process went something like this:

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My daughter — she's a wild card.

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Her thoughts are delightfully random. She says it best in her own words.

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My firefighter will have been at work only four days this month due to his surgery. I'm sad to see our time off together come to an end. Aside from the whole hospital part, it's been a relaxing three weeks. At least him going back to work means I have less competition for the use of the computer. :)

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Juice boxes, bubbly water

My favorite way to remember my shopping list.

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Monday, March 22, 2010

Basic guacamole

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This is a great base recipe. It can be spiced up with all sorts of add-ins. As for myself, I prefer it in this simple form. I love that the flavor centers around the avocados themselves rather than being overwhelmed by other ingredients often included in guacamole. I got this recipe from the family of one of my husband's best friends. All I can say is, thank you! This is perfect for my recipe section—it's quick and easy, and anyone can make this successfully—even that guy at the fire station who doesn't know his way around a kitchen.

Ingredients:

3 ripe avocados
1/2 cup chopped onion
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon chili powder
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1/3 cup mayonnaise (optional)

Yield - 4 to 6 servings

Begin by splitting and pitting the avocados.

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I used to make those sandwiches you find boxed in the refrigerator section of the cafeteria as one of my college jobs. I have fond memories of waking up in the wee hours of the morning and trekking down the steep hill upon which my dorm was perched. I'd walk through the thick, dew-laden morning air, stand behind my stainless steel island in the industrial kitchen, and split avocados to the sound of Don't Speak by No Doubt in the background. Honestly, those were fond memories. I don't know why, seeing as how the harshness of early morning and a mind-numbing job were involved. But there was something about the combination of music and bearing witness to the campus at a time of day that most people didn't get to experience that made it interesting. I was alone with my thoughts, Gwen Stefani, and my turkey slices.

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Anyway, here's the method I was taught for pitting and slicing an avocado. After cutting around the pit length-wise, twist the avocado and separate.

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Take a large knife and carefully, but with some oomph behind it, embed the knife into the pit. Now the pit can be twisted right out of the avocado.

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Insert a large spoon next to the peel and slide it around to separate the avocado.

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Peel and pit the three avocados and place them in a food processor.

Chop the onion (or grate it, if you can't abide the texture of an onion.) I use about this much onion,

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which is roughly 1/2 cup once chopped.

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Add the salt,

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1 tablespoon lemon juice (which is equal to the juice of half of a lemon),

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chili powder,

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and mayonnaise.

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If you don't have a food processor, just mash the avocados with a fork before stirring in the other ingredients.

Pulse until the guacamole is at your desired texture. At this point, you could add in all sorts of extras—chopped tomatoes, a minced clove of garlic, large chunks of avocado, chopped fresh cilantro, jicama, Serrano chilies, diced shrimp, or even mango.

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Saturday, March 20, 2010

The epitome of Southern California

There are certain triggers that remind me of the fourteen years I spent near Los Angeles. It's comforting to drive down the familiar roads with the familiar sights, sounds and smells. Okay, maybe "comforting" is the wrong word—I hate driving in Glendale—but there is something to be said about knowing that I will, indeed, slam on my breaks at some point any time I turn on my car.

Without further ado, I give you the five signs you're in Southern California:


1. Helicopters.

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Between the police helicopters with their beam of light stirring up the city, the news choppers reporting on the traffic, and the occasional fire helicopter, there's always one flying around somewhere. I can't imagine an L.A. without that thudding, humming sound as white noise.



2. Freeways, freeways, and more freeways. Particularly the East L.A. interchange,

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the tunnels,

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(Hey tunnels, nice new lights on the ground there for the left lane. Very fancy. Still not much of a deterrent for people to cut over at the last minute. However—I applaud the effort.)

and pretty much anywhere on the 405.

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Other places just don't do traffic like Los Angeles does. It's amazingly well-coordinated. Crazy, but coordinated.



3. Some people would claim palm trees as the symbol of the southland, but to me, it's all about the eucalyptus trees. These tall, smooth-barked, Dr. Seuss beauties are everywhere. They line the freeways.

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The herb-like scent of eucalyptus carried on a post-rain breeze is intoxicating.



4. Curb-side sellers of oranges and flowers

On our recent trip to Los Angeles, I wanted to get a picture of one of the guys hawking flowers or oranges. I got lucky and found a man who was selling both.

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I can't think of a time that I've ever actually purchased something from one of these vendors.


5. Words everywhere. Billboards on top of apartment buildings on top of ridges on top of more houses and more signs, with a smattering of graffiti thrown in there somewhere.

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I don't know what it is about this color combination on the apartment building—with the beige stucco walls and the painted green roof—but it's everywhere. Oh, and hey, there's even a eucalyptus tree in that shot.


I can't say that I miss all of the sensory overload of the Southland. It's nice to visit, but in the end, I love coming home to my quiet house. I love not having to worry about my children running into a busy street. I love that the freeways, though crowded at times, are not a crazy, convoluted, hyperactive mess. I love that I can see ground that's not in the confines of a cement curb.

Now, if we could just do something about that train that wakes the baby up and the annoyingly loud stunt airplane guy who flies for hours on the weekends...

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

The worst kind of call—for me, anyway.

I've mentioned before that, in general, I don't worry about my husband on the job. I don't lose sleep (well, not a lot, anyway,) thinking about all of the potential diseases that he could come in contact with. I am excited to hear about the times he gets to go interior on a structure fire. The vehicle accidents and accompanying trauma situations are interesting.

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I'm not overly worried about him being on the side of a busy road. People tend to slow down and rubberneck when passing an accident (thank you, high-profile sparkly fire vehicles!) High angle rescue—he's supported by a rope; I'm okay with that.

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Brush fires can be massive and potentially very dangerous, but realistically, he is more likely to get injured by twisting his ankle walking on rough terrain or getting blisters from the draining physical labor.

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Maybe I should worry more about these potentially dangerous situations. Recently, my husband did something for the first time in the fire service. It is the only call to date that has caused me to pause and hope that he makes it through okay.

Vertical ventilation.

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There are several reasons why I don't like it when he goes up on the roof of a burning building.

Problem 1 - He could potentially fall through a weak part of the roof, into the burning structure below him. There's just something inherently wrong about standing on top of flammable material—material that's been on fire for a while. When he cuts into a roof (similar to the training structure seen here), the skinny trail of space that his chain saw leaves behind seeps smoke.

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That can't be good. Well, good for the firefighters below who need visibility, but not good for the wife of the guy up top who is at home hoping he doesn't fall through.

Problem 2 - There are some aspects, important aspects, that are out of the control of my firefighter. He has to rely on the guy "sounding" the roof, basically whacking it as hard as he can to make sure it's stable. It's literally a leap of faith, walking on a surface that someone else tells him is safe. At this point, since he's relatively new to the service, relying on someone else with much more experience to tell him where to step is probably not a bad thing. Still—it's hard for me to know that an essential safety precaution is in the hands of someone else.

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Problem 3 - Not only could he fall through the roof, but he could fall off off it, as well. Did you know that as a general procedure, firefighters don't tie themselves off when they go on a roof? The reason being, they don't want to be hooked to it if something goes wrong and they need to get off quick. They are at the mercy of balance and gravity while they're up there. What makes it worse is that he's up on a slanted surface in full, clumsy-looking protective gear, carrying awkward and heavy equipment. Those turnout boots look more like rubber skis to me—sorry, leather skis. Add rain—or worse, snow—to the top of that roof, and it seems like a disaster waiting to happen.

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Yeah—not a fan of roof ops. Mercifully, I won't hear about him doing vertical ventilation until after it happens. I don't understand why they can't find a way to tie themselves off—if not to the roof, then to the ladder, maybe. Would someone please come up with a quick and easy securing mechanism that has an emergency release? Don't rock climbers already have some similar type of set-up? I know, I know. There's probably some valid reason why it wouldn't work. But still—it would make me feel a whole heck of a lot better to know he is less likely to fall!

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Doughnuts

The good:

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The bad:

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The ugly:

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I made these doughnuts from the Pioneer Woman's recipe last week. It took me all day, with the kneading and the rising and the refrigerating and the getting the oil to juuuust the right temperature. It made the doughnuts at the grocery store seem like such a good deal, considering how much effort it takes to make one.

In fact, it was such hard work that I don't know if I'll attempt them again. If I do, I might try a suggestion one of the readers made, to substitute half of the butter with an extra egg and an extra yolk. She said that the lower butter content will prevent so much oil from seeping in. That would be a good thing—these came out really greasy, in spite of my avid blotting and turning. The texture of the original recipe wasn't quite what I was looking for, either.

Also, the dough was very elastic. I had a hard time rolling the remnants out after each cutting. The more times it was rolled out, the more irregular (and tall) the end product became. The one on the left was from the first rolling, and the one on the right from the last:

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The dough probably needed to rest between rollings, but I had spent so much time on these suckers as it was, I didn't want to wait.

Other notes—I didn't cook them for as long a suggested. These browned up quick, even with the oil 5 degrees lower than the recipe recommends. Also, I used the water variation of the glaze. It didn't sit on top of the doughnut as much as I had hoped it would. Instead, it seeped right in. The above pictures were taken after two glazings. I'm wondering if the milk variation sits on top better. Judging by PW's pictures, I'd say yes.

Still, they were tasty, and the shortcomings didn't keep me from eating way too many of these.

Mmmmm. Doughnuts.
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