Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Beautiful Days

The last few days have been gorgeous. Perfect temperatures, sunshine. I think the world is celebrating Easter. How was your Easter?  Mine was quiet, but super nice. Of course I realized just after my last post that there would be no Adoration for me, because that is not available until Easter Vigil! But turning off my computer- and not just the computer, but the modem- was fantastic. It did give me time to take moments to spend with Him. I did spend a lot of my Thursday and Easter in the narthex (my allergies are much better this year, but I still can't handle the incense!), but it was fine. I still didn't go to Easter Vigil. Too much smoke and too little place to hide for the longest (and most amazing!) Mass of the year.

I have to say that I enjoyed the lack of social media so much that I didn't really return to it on Sunday. I'm not giving it up entirely (I still like it too much for that), but I did realize that my simple Easter Sunday is fine when I'm just focused on enjoying what is. The comparison of what is not in my life becomes all the more stark when wandering through all the pictures of everyone else's Easter. It isn't that I didn't feel the lack, but I didn't feed it, so it was more tolerable. It's funny, because in some ways I love all the Easter photos of everyone's families, and I'm so glad that they are there, filling up my feed with that joy, even if (as pathetic as it sounds) I can't actually look at them. I did get on long enough to see the photos of my niece and nephew, and that always makes my day. I sure wish those little boogers lived closer!

I had a fantastic dinner (bacon ranch potato salad may become a summer staple around here!) Also, I have to say that having the time away from all the distractions gave me some more reflection time, which may lead to a post or two. I know that I've seen that some of you had a good Easter; hope that was the case for all of you!

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Into the Quiet

I'm kind of frustrated with myself. This Lent, like so many the last few years has not really been what I think it should be. Of course, there are those times where it is exactly what God thinks it should be, and nothing like what we have in mind. Yet, I don't think that that's the case either.

You know what I'm realizing, though? Lent is over. The Triduum has begun and I can't do Lent 2017 anymore. Not well, not poorly, not halfheartedly, not over-the-top and then crashing in frustration. I can't go to more Masses, more Stations, more Adoration (or ANY Stations and Adoration, as the case may be).  There will be no more Lenten fasting for me.

You know what I can do, though? I can enter into the quiet, the holiness of the next few days. I can go to Mass tonight, and when I leave I can turn off not only my computer, but my modem for the next few days. I can rejoice in the opportunity to fast tomorrow. I may not make it to Adoration tonight (after they fill the church with incense, my allergic, smoke-sensitive self will be running for the door!), but I can try to find some moment in the next few days to spend an hour with Him. Preferably at Adoration, but wherever I am. Perhaps if I have a moment, I can do some Stations on my own tomorrow. I want so badly to go to Holy Saturday Mass, but given intensity of the incense PLUS the length of the service, I don't think that's going to happen.

In the quiet, in the things that go according to plan and the things that don't, I can take the time to pray for those things that are near and dear to my heart right now. You and your intentions. For this wonderful couple I barely know, but wish I knew better (and especially that they may come to truly know the God who loves them so much). For forgiveness for all the ways that I've fallen short. For my family, for healing of wounds, ears to hear, and comfort especially for my mom after my grandma died early this Lent. In gratitude for what is. For this deep cry of my heart, that has never gone away.

May these holiest of Holy Days be truly blessed for you and your families!

Monday, April 10, 2017

In the Kitchen

There have been two meals that I have just been loving in the last week or two, so I'm going to share. It's true that one of them is more of a cold weather soup, but I was just using up the last of my ham from Christmas, and I'm loving it, even if it is a little warmer now. Those of you who love precise measurements, go ahead and look away. My cooking is a lot of, "meh, that looks good" and not a lot of measuring spoons and cups. I'll try to give an estimate of amounts, but they are only estimates! Sorry, no photos. I eat food, I don't photograph it.

Sort of Stroganoff

Potatoes (maybe a pound or so?), peeled and diced (I use yukon gold potatoes, so I don't always peel them)
Enough bone broth to cover the potatoes (or regular broth, if you're not into bone broth; either chicken or beef bone broth works great)
Salt and pepper to taste.
~1T. fresh rosemary
~1t. fresh thyme
8 oz. mushrooms, sliced
Medium yellow onion, sliced
White wine vinegar (or better yet, white wine!)
1 can (15 oz) full fat coconut milk
1 lb. ground beef (or bison)

1) Dice the potatoes into large pan and cover with broth. Add salt and pepper to taste. When almost tender, add rosemary and thyme. When potatoes reach desired tenderness, remove from heat.

2) Brown ground meat until done and set aside.

3) In the same skillet (may need to add some ghee or other fat depending on how lean your meat was), sauté onions for 1-2 minutes, then add mushrooms.

4) When vegetables are done, combine meat, potatoes, and vegetables. Add coconut milk and 1-2 T of white wine vinegar OR 1/4-1/2 c. white wine. Return to heat until heated through. Warning; it will be kind of soupy, so you will probably want to use soup bowls to serve. Also be careful not to go too crazy when adding the liquids!


Ham and Potato Soup

1-2 T. ghee
1 lb. cooked ham, diced
1 medium to large onion, diced
~1 lb potatoes, peeled and diced
4-5 carrots
Bone broth (usually chicken), maybe 4-6 cups?
1 can (15 oz) full fat coconut milk
Salt and pepper to taste

In a large pan, brown the ham in ghee. Remove the ham from the pan and set aside. Add onions to the same pan with more ghee if needed. Sauté for 2-3 minutes, then add carrots. Cook for an additional 3-4 minutes. Add the ham back in, along with the potatoes and broth. Add salt and pepper to your taste. Bring to a boil, then lower to a simmer until vegetables are at desired tenderness.  Remove from heat and stir in coconut milk.


Both of these recipes are probably in the 4-6 serving range. I love to make a batch and then have the leftovers for a few days. These recipes were good before, but went to a whole new level when I started making my own bone broth. SO. GOOD. When I served the potato soup to a friend, she wanted thirds mostly for the broth!  Have you ever tried your own bone broth? So good for you as well as being amazingly tasty. You want that recipe, too? (Though there are a million recipes for that on the internet.) But here's what I do.

Chicken Bone Broth

1 organic chicken, with giblets
2 T. apple cider vinegar
Whatever vegetables/vegetable scraps you want to use and that fit in the slow cooker with the chicken (I typically use 1-2 carrots- peels on!- 1-2 celery stalks- with leaves if they have them-, 1 small onion, and one head of garlic- both cut into halves or fourths, but with skins and all still on)
Whatever herbs I want to use- usually rosemary, sage, and thyme. Preferably the whole sprigs if I have them fresh.

Put it all in the slow cooker and cover with water. Once the chicken is about falling apart, (~6-8 hours) take it out with slotted spoons, careful to reserve all the liquid in the slow cooker. Let the chicken cool a bit, and then remove the meat from the bones. Skin and giblets can also be removed if you want to use them in your cooking (so good for you, but I admit that I can't always bring myself to use them), or they can be thrown back in the slow cooker. Once you have removed the meat, the bones, cartilage and all the rest go back into the slow cooker. The meat can now be used for any favorite chicken recipe, and the rest of the broth stays in for a total of 24-36 hours on low. Refill with water as needed. Once it's done, it looks terrible with all those bones and vegetables in it, but strain all that out, and soon you will be left with some of the most beautiful rich broth you've ever seen or tasted!

There you go. Possibly the only 3 recipes that I will ever post. Enjoy!

Friday, March 31, 2017

Ahh, Friday Night!

Hold onto your hats! No fainting allowed, just because there appears to be a second post in only a week! (I say "appears to be" because I have only started to write and I wonder if I will really finish a post. If you're reading, then there actually IS a second post in less than a week, and wonders will never cease!) It just seems like a bloggy kind of night. It's been overcast and drippy all day. Not quite enough to listen to rain drops on the roof, but pretty close to perfection anyway. I have a cup of tea, I just caught up with all my notes for the first time all week, I have a candle going, and it is just one of those quiet and content sorts of nights over here.

Ooh! One of the reasons to be feeling good was the food tonight! Okay, you know those meals that technically don't have meat, but you still feel guilty eating them on a Friday in Lent because they just taste so dang good? This is definitely one of those meals. I know that Lent is wrapping up quickly, but if you need some Friday ideas, check it out! I definitely used clams instead of kippers (because what the heck are kippers??) I found some fish stock, so I used that, but I would guess it would also turn out well with vegetable broth. I do NOT recommend it for your larger meal on Good Friday, it is not penitential enough! ;)

The forecast for tomorrow is a lot more drippy wetness (thankfully!) I'm so glad to see the rain, that I don't even mind it usurping a Saturday. It also means that my plans for tomorrow are really limited. I do plan to hit up the climbing gym, but since my notes are done and I have leftovers that need to be eaten, I don't have to do quite as much of my usual cooking and catch up stuff. I get to sleep until I wake up tomorrow morning, and then get out of bed when I good and well feel ready and I'm done reading whatever it is that I decide to read. Those kinds of mornings certainly don't happen a lot, but they are lovely when they do!

I wish I could show you a video of my little niece and nephew. They're twins that are about 16 months old right now. She's running around trying to "tickle" him (which is mostly poking from what I can see) but there is a lot of giggling on both sides and, yes, I am a complete sucker for those two, why do you ask?

Beyond that, I am not sure what it is (because I have a bad habit of starting too many things at once when the allergies kick up, so I don't know what, if anything, is helping) but something sure seems to be helping! After a week like I had last week, it usually takes 2-3 weeks for my airways to calm down enough to be able to do a really hard workout. This time it was just under a week, and I was riding my bike outside yesterday, which often flares things up. I haven't changed my meds, but I found the real deal local honey a few weeks ago, and I have been consistently having some of that. I have also been supplementing magnesium, which is needed for a lot of things, but apparently good for the airways. Makes sense. But I got to push really hard on the bike at the gym this morning and my legs were begging for mercy before my lungs were, and I didn't even have to use my inhaler!

Hmm, apparently a couple of the neighborhood dogs are not feeling the contentment tonight. There must be some sort of critter out there riling them up. I think the bears are stirring already, but they don't seem to be bear-level of upset, and I don't smell skunk, so maybe a raccoon?

Well, my tea is gone, and it's starting to feel late. Time for me to do a little stretching and head for bed. Hope you have a wonderful weekend!

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Joy in the Mess

I have been frustrated lately. Frustrated where I fall short. Frustrated that I have to start over, again and again and again. Frustrated that I fall short time after time.

This week it happened again. Specifically it is the food thing. I am trying to figure out what more I can do for my allergies and such. They are actually the best they've been in a couple of years, which does give me some motivation. But as the pollens start to do their thing, I'm getting hit by it. I don't relish fighting with asthma for the next several months (because when I get inflamed from allergies, it hits my airways). This last week, it has been nonstop coughing. Last night was the first time that I slept through the night in a week. I've coughed a few times today, but it has been short lasting and mild. It feels so good not to cough!

Anyway, I turn to the food. What can I tweak on my diet? I found some new resources, and at first I was fascinated and loving it, but as I kept reading, it all started to get really overwhelming. Absolutely no cheating in order to get things to straighten out. That makes sense to me, and I can handle it (in theory) for the eating side of things. But what's a Catholic to do about the Eucharist? I know that there are options available, but I hop around to churches right now, though I am a member of one parish. I don't really want to work on anything special right now. To only receive the wine doesn't work either, because of pesticides and stuff with the wine that is a problem. Then in frustration, I gave it all up and ate brownies and chips! Because that's the solution, right? Just quit.

Now, the food thing isn't a salvation issue. Frustration is normal. I'm going to take a step back and go somewhere between the extremes while I try to figure out what is the best answer for me. But I guess it brought up my frustration with myself in general. I haven't been to daily Mass like I wanted to this Lent, at all (and I was shooting for once a week, so not really an excessive amount!) I haven't done Adoration. I haven't been to confession like I wanted to, either.

I guess in the light of my frustration, the readings were especially interesting this week. I was thinking about God calling David to be king. Who was David? Sure, God sees the heart of a person rather than merely the outside, but God is God. He knew what David would do, good and bad. Let's not forget, David was a mess after he was king, but God called him knowing all that. Think about it, not only did God know the whole mess with Bathsheba would happen, but it is from her that Messiah is descended in David's line. This doesn't excuse messing up. It doesn't make sin okay, but God called David, knowing what it was that he would do. God still looked at David's heart and said, "This is the one that I want." Saul messed up, too, and God replaced him. I think the difference between the two, was that David's heart was repentant. Saul was not.

Then there was the second reading from Ephesians. Things in the darkness are shameful and not to be spoken of. Things in that are shown by the light are illuminated and will even become the light. Okay, the specific thing that this brings to mind is cleaning up after my little "friend". One of the most horrifying things to me was pushing the refrigerator out of the way to find what sort of parties he'd been having underneath there. That and the mouse couch. Both were nasty, between the dust and the mouse mess. I really wanted to ignore them and pretend that they weren't there. Clearly, that was no answer, either. Now that they are clean, though, it is amazing how much the whole house feels cleaner. And with those things clean, the other (non-mouse) messes are so much smaller and easily dealt with. It's worth shining the light on those corners, no matter how nasty it is in the short term.

My take away from this week, is that, yes, I am a mess. No, that's not okay, exactly, but it does not preclude me from being called by God to follow Him in the midst of it all. Lent is not over. I can still turn to Him now. As humans are, I can count on continuing to have to start again and again, and to repent again and again. The problem is to NOT try, and to give up altogether. Whether it is food, or the spiritual life or whatever we struggle with. The joy in the mess is that God sees it all, and calls us anyway.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Are You Smarter Than a Mouse?

Because I'm not. Forget 5th graders, all it takes to get the better of me is a mouse. Sad, but true. Three weeks, and $150 later, I may be mouse-less (oh, please, let that be true!) but I am definitely couch-less.

A Mouse Tale: A Ridiculous Saga

Was it only 3 weeks ago that I first saw signs that there was a second inhabitant in my little house? I think it was, but it seems like forever. The first couple of days were at the worst time, so all I could do was clean up the evidence, cringe, and cry a little on the inside. Finally, though, I was able to get to the store and get something to take care of the problem.

So many choices! Some say glue is the most effective, but no one will claim that it's the most humane. There are traps to catch and release (but at least 2 miles away so they don't return). There are traps that the mouse goes inside and never comes out. There are several options for poison. I went for the standard wooden trap. Classic. Cheap. Quick. Between that and the peanut butter for bait, I figured $6 was great price for a mouse-free house. Ha. Ha.

Someone told me that sometimes mice are cautious, so it's good to bait the traps a couple of times and get them used to it before you set the trap. They're less likely to nudge it and only catch a leg or something... Eww, first of all. But secondly, even though I want to get rid of the mouse NOW, I would rather do it effectively. So I baited it a few times (it's utterly disgusting to see the bait gone, because you know that bugger is wandering the kitchen... Though, I guess I knew that anyway, but still.) Finally I was ready to set the traps. I had to leave for a couple of days, so I was grossed out at the prospect of dealing with a mouse when I got home, but relieved at the idea that it would be over.

I got home late at night and immediately checked all 4 traps. All were set, and all were cleaned off. And, yes, there were signs of a mouse party in the kitchen. Stupid mouse/mice!

I re-baited. He cleaned them off again. Pretty soon, I realize that I'm just feeding the mouse.

Back to the store. Back to the array of choices. This time, since he seemed to like peanut butter so much, I got one of the traps that made him go all the way in for it and then was supposed to kill him. I kept baiting the other traps, too, but this seemed like it might be the answer.

Yeah, he wouldn't touch that trap. He'd still clean off all the others, but he left that one alone. Now what? With each "solution" you have to give it a few days to see how it works. Or, in this case, how it doesn't work.

Saturday night of the time change, I'm sleeping when a nice loud SNAP! wakes me up. I didn't even get a chance to feel any relief along with my disgust, though, because immediately that mouse went crazy trying to get loose. Sounded like he was flipping all over the kitchen! I was horrified. No, I didn't want the mouse to suffer, but then again, I couldn't bring myself to go put him out of his misery. I'm sorry, but I can't do mice much at any time of day, and having to corral and kill one at 12:30 am is outside of my ability to handle. So I put earplugs in and went back to sleep, because I can deal better in the morning.

At 2:30 he woke me up again, still flipping out. I laid awake in my bed wondering if he was injured enough to get blood everywhere in his battle. I wondered how I was going to kill him, or if I would even be able to do it. I can't do morning anymore. I can't sleep wondering. I get up, I put on my shoes, and head for the kitchen, to find... Nothing.

No mouse. No blood. No noise. And missing a trap.

I look under everything. Behind the washer. I start checking the living room furniture. Nothing. Finally, there was the noise again. He had made it down an air duct! Yes, this has huge holes, but still! It's a defunct air duct from who knows when. Back to bed and the ear plugs for me. I heard a couple more times in the night, but by morning he was pretty quiet. I'm glad he finally gave up the ghost. I'm sorry that it wasn't quick and easy for him. And now I have to figure out what in the heck to do about the mouse corpse in the air duct before it starts to rot.

I did the only responsible thing in the morning... I walked out of the house and went climbing with friends. When I got back, I realized I would have to do something, and with great dread planned to try to use some sort of broom handle plus hanger to see what I could get.

When I walked over to the vent, I saw the trap sitting right at the mouth of the vent. Empty, surrounded by the dust of the ages, but empty. What can I say? I'm almost starting to respect this thing! Not that we can live together when he's paying 0 bills and leaving messes around the house, but I almost want him to make it.. outside. Far, far from my home. As it is, I can only hope that he's injured enough to crawl away to die somewhere or traumatized enough to never come back.

It only takes a day or so to realize that neither of these things is going to be the case. It's war now. Glue, poison, the works! I put glue traps where he's obviously been walking, and he stops going that way. I put out poison, and that he won't touch. Thursday I was trying to deep clean all the nastiness (cleaning supplies... another mouse expense! I don't usually use Clor.ox, but it's a necessity in this case.) I tried moving things around. As I was cleaning other parts of my house, I realized there was mouse poop under the couch.

That was it for the couch! Not just because it was under the couch. We are talking a hide-a-bed. We are talking a couch that I have sat on to eat too many meals. I try not to be a slob, but I'm sure there are crumbs in there. Can you imagine? To pull off the cushions, open the bed find... Who knows what? No. Just, no. I made the appointment then and there for someone to come haul it off; another $100 out the door, along with the couch.

(For some context, yes, I am horrified by mice, but I have been hating this couch for the last two years. It's ugly. It's heavy and impossible to move so I can clean it. When I sit on it, I slouch and my neck and hips get tight. Sure, it's comfortable while I'm there, but then I'm more sore later. Did I mention how ugly it is? I've been considering getting rid of it, but I didn't know where it could go, I didn't know which friends would be suckers enough to help me lift it, and even though I haven't used it a lot, I didn't know what I would do without it. The mice were merely the motivation to find out where it could be hauled and realize it would be totally worth it to pay to have the mouse couch lifted by others and hauled far, far away from here. I guess I'll figure out what to do without it.)

Along with my cleaning, I re-arranged my traps. I realized that one of them that I placed in a corner would require him to come at the peanut butter from a different angle, from right over the trip bar. I didn't have a lot of hope at this point (I'm seeing exterminators in my future), but it seemed worth a try, even though I stumbled on that by accident.

Early Saturday morning... SNAP! There's an adrenaline rush for you. Tensing to wait to see if there's any more noise, but no. Silence. It is no fun to walk out there, dreading to see a mouse (but dreading more to not see it). I wish I could say that I was calm, cool and collected taking care of the thing, but there was at least some jumping. It was so good and so bad all at the same time. At least he was out of the house in just a few minutes. Finally! I don't fully trust that he doesn't have any friends, but if he does and they're ALL smart enough to evade all the traps that long, well, I'm just in a world of hurt. I haven't seen any new signs since then. I'm still jumping at small, unknown noises, but I'm hoping for the best!

Epilogue

The couch just left today. I realized that one of the things I would need to do without it is figure out what I want in my living room if I'm not just using things that are convenient and cheap (i.e. free when someone passes them on to me). There will be no pinterest worthy designs (and barely any pinterest-y research, I'm guessing), but I do know that I want light, easily portable things. I like being able to move things around, clean easily, etc. I have a lot of black and a little green and blue, so I'm going to actually try to pull those together. I like spending most of my time on the floor because of the extra movement it adds, but one of the downsides in here is how hard and cold the floor is (hardwood). I've already ordered a rug, and I think that it will be an awesome new piece of "furniture". It'll be a little small for the size of the room, but again, I want to put it in different configurations, and I want something that I can easily shake out. I'm also going to get a custom table, which I'm super excited about. My very talented sister is going to make it, and it will be perfect for floor sitting.

Other than that, I'm not entirely sure what I'll do in here. Before the couch left today, I was thinking that I would get a nice comfortable chair, but not too big and one that encourages sitting in a decent posture. Now? I'm liking the freedom and openness of the room so much that I'm not sure. It is just me, and I guess if you're going to be single, being unconventional is an advantage?* I would like to get some sort of an ottoman or something that I can move around and sit on as I would like.

And that is the sad saga of my stupid smart mouse. I may be really grateful about this whole couch thing, though. Having that out is giving me all kinds of energy and motivation to get things done. And now I am excited to see some clouds rolling in; hopefully they are bringing some significant amounts of rain and/or snow. We need it!

*Maybe. If it doesn't make me too weird to even date!





Wednesday, March 22, 2017

How Things Are Right Now

It is a warm, sunny day outside, but there is a haze in the air. I don't know if there are some fires around (I know there were some earlier in the week), or if it's simply the dust and pollen hanging around. I do know that my airways are all kinds of irritated from it, so my only workout this week has been abs, diaphragm and the little intercostal muscles between the ribs (in other words, lots and lots of coughing.)

It is smack dab in the middle of Lent, and I would say that so far, I'm not really doing the best at Lent. I am trying to be concerned enough about that to fix any problems that are my own fault, but not too concerned about the things that are out of my control on that end.

I am finally getting rid of my couch tomorrow, which is something that I've wanted to do for a while, but didn't know what to do in it's place. I still don't, but I'm excited to get rid of the albatross, anyway. (Long story as to why now to get rid of it, but- provided I manage to get the post done- you'll get more than you want for details, I'm sure!)

The coughing has kept me from doing any training this week, and I am a little concerned about that because there are now only 2 months before my big ride. But I'm not TOO concerned because most of our big days of riding are around 37-38 miles with ~3,200 feet elevation gain, and I did a ride the other week that said it was 31 (we added some extra that made it 37) and 2,200 elevation gain, and it was relatively easy. Yes, that extra 1,000 feet will be tough, but I think doable. Especially if I manage to get my butt back on the bike. You know, without making the airways even more angry. We may get some rain later this week, and that should knock some of the junk out of the air. No use in going for a ride outside when the air even looks dirty! Not for me, anyway, with my super extra princess airways.

I started out needing to lose about 10 pounds (because it makes a big difference while riding up hills!) I'm more like 5-6 pounds now, so there is progress in that side of the fitness training, but at least 3 of those pounds were mostly water weight.

Lots of random mundanity, nothing profound, but that is the stuff of life, isn't it?