29 January 2011

Project 365 - Week Five (January 23-29, 2011)

Project 365 button designed by http://richgift.blogspot.com


Let me 'splain.  No.  Is too long.  Let me sum up:  I mentioned the Circus Animal cookies to my mom as a fond childhood memory for both me and the Spousal Unit.  She said she would send us some since they are not made or sold here in our little corner of the South.  What she didn't mention was the nine bags of cat treats that would be coming along for the ride.  Makes you wonder where we all rate, don't it? :)

Today's Project 365 picture(s) brought to you by what happens when your apartment complex signs an exclusive deal with the cable company you are NOT using. 

Looking at the diagram, does anyone remember back when there was one dial that you had to actually get up and turn?  And there was, like, maybe five channels?  I remember practically BEGGING my dad to put an aerial on the roof so we could get NBC and I could watch the Krofft Supershow on Saturday mornings (and I've now totally dated myself, haven't I?


In the midst of the first rise of making pizza dough tonight.


Some of the bribes...er, treats on hand I keep for the students and faculty who stop by my office.


The steps leading to and from my apartment.  In this case, this is the view after climbing them which is doubly challenging lately since my workouts this week seem to be focusing largely on quads and hamstrings.  Ow.  Elliot.


One of my other few "appointment TV" shows...

Smart, well-written and engaging.  What X-Files might have been if Chris Carter hadn't lost the plot...

Come and join me, Walter, Peter and Olivia on Friday nights...

Just, um, don't eat dinner during it...


Today's hike was here:

No, seriously...

It only could have been more perfect if Mal and Zoe had shown up.  (Internet cookies to anyone who gets that reference...*g*)

27 January 2011

Bullet Point Day

I've been seeing people doing "Wordless Wednesday" or "Thankful Thursday" but I find I just can't be that alliterative so I'm having Bullet Point Day today!

  • There is a notion floating around at work to make me full-time.  My boss has brought it up before a few times and I told her I'd be amenable to discussing the option if it came about and today I was apparently on the meeting agenda.  It's not set in stone if it's going to happen but it's out there and I'm trying to determine how I feel about it.  I have worked full-time for decades; heck, before I was sixteen.  And it's not like we couldn't use the money from when God had us open a coffee shop.  But this is the first time I have ever worked part-time and I've really enjoyed the freedom and flexibility of such a schedule.  I know I'm putting the cart before the horse in a way; still, it's something to think about as a potential change to the CH/SU household.
  • My cat is snoring.  Loudly.  It must have been an awesome game of cup hockey.
  • I hate my insurance company.  In medical terms, my body chemistry has gone whacko.  That, along with my PCOS, is causing various and sundry unwanted and unenjoyable effects.  The medicine that looks like it might have the best chance at actually alleviating some of the symptoms and issues is, of course, not covered by my insurance because I do not technically fit under the qualifications for it.  Ergo, I'm having to go the conventional and totally ineffectual routes first to prove they don't work so we can petition the insurance company to try the Best Chance Drug.  In the meantime, I get to enjoy a buffet of side effects like constant neuropathy in my hands and feet, nausea, fatigue and somnolence.
  • I want popcorn. I have none. Must fix that soonest.
  • QVC must die.  I need to find a way to block QVC from my mom's TV and somehow use my amazing Karnak-like mental powers to spirit her credit card out from her wallet and over to where I live.  I'm pretty sure if her credit card bill doesn't contain a comma in it, she gets a get well card from the channel.  Granted, she ships most of it back every month, but still...
  • I hate my ovaries.  That is all.
  • Oooooo!  Chocolate milk!  Chocolate milk makes everything better.

25 January 2011

Recipe - Pizza Dough

I love to cook.  My favorite foods to cook and eat are probably Thai first and Filipino second.  I'm from SoCal originally and I'm still looking for a good lumpia recipe to deal with the lack of lumpia where I now live (holy cow, I miss the lumpia!).

Yeast-based foods that need to rise have been my nemesis on occasion.  And please do not ask about pie crusts.  The first rule of Pie Crusts is do not talk about the Pie Crusts.  I  know I could buy pre-baked shells but it's the principle of the thing.  The Spousal Unit loves lemon meringue pie and, as God is my witness - and apparently Scarlett O'Hara too - I am going to make one from scratch.  Someday.

Ahem.  Anyway, I saw this recipe on Food Network and thought, "Oh heck, even I can't screw that up."  I tried it and, ergo! Voila!  Viola!  Presto Magnifico!  I created pizza dough that actually worked!  And worked again!  (I realize this is a lot of exclamation points but y'all really have no idea :)).

Pizza Dough (via Food Network courtesy Giada DeLaurentiis)

The Players:

5 cups all purpose flour
1 (1/4 oz) packet active dry yeast
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 1/2 cups warm water @ 100-110 degrees
Olive oil, for drizzling

Put the water in a small bowl.  Add the yeast and stir until dissolved.

In a large bowl, whisk the flour and salt together.  Add the yeast mixture and stir until a soft dough forms.  If the dough is too dry, add a little extra water, one tablespoon at a time.  If the dough is too sticky, add extra flour, one tablespoon at a time.  Transfer the dough to a floured work surface.  (This part took me once or twice to get the "feel" of the dough that told me I had enough of a water to flour ratio. What I found was if my palms felt like they were slightly sweaty then the dough was generally moist and elastic enough.)

With floured hands, knead the dough until it becomes smooth and elastic, about 10 to 12 minutes.  This is the fun part 'cause you're gonna need some arm muscles:

Not necessarily like those (that's me on the left and, boy, do I miss those arms) but you do want to bear down on the dough and use the heels of your hands to fold and knead the dough rather than your fingers.  As you do, you'll notice it become much smoother and more pliable although it may still be slightly sticky.

After you've finished kneading the dough, drizzle the inside of a clean bowl with olive oil.  Put the dough in the bowl and cover loosely with plastic wrap or a damp kitchen towel.  Set the bowl in a warm, draft-free place, until the dough has doubled in size, about 2 hours.

Using a fist, deflate the dough in the center and cut it
into three equal-sized pieces.  Form the dough into three balls and put into three oiled bowls.  Cover each bowl loosely with plastic wrap or a damp kitchen towel and let rest for one hour.  Remove the dough and wrap in plastic.  Refrigerate for up to one day.

Whatever portion I'm using within the next 24-48 hours I will just leave in the fridge in a plastic Baggie.  The rest I will put in the freezer until I'm ready to use it and it freezes very well.  The dough makes a very good thin crust pizza.  I usually add my sauce and whatever toppings I want and then cook it at 350-375 to the degree of doneness I prefer.  Is yummy :).

22 January 2011

Project 365 - Week 4 (January 16 - 22)

Project 365 button designed by http://richgift.blogspot.com


This is our other cat, Curious Grace.  She was tired of her sister, Munchkin, getting all the pictures.


When the Spousal Unit is away, the Cyber Hermit gets to have SALAD for dinner (salad for the SU = lettuce, parmesan cheese and Caesar salad dressing only).  These are all the veggies I had in my salad tonight.


Part of a yummy sushi selection from my dinner with Sara tonight.


The files from my graduation applicants for Fall semester.  They've all passed/not passed final checkout and are headed to storage or back to the files to try again in Spring semester.


Part of my daily torture session wherein I encourage my spine to stay somewhat intact and support me in the upright position for just a little while longer.


The door prize from my doctor's visit today to discuss, among other things, my colitis.  One question, though.  If this is where the smart fiber goes, what happens to the not-so-smart fiber?


Today's hike was through parts of Murray Park.  The stump interested me for some reason.  I didn't even see the thing on the right until after I'd taken the picture.

This was another point in the walk.  If I was being all artsy, I could call it "Self-Portrait" :P.  But I just liked the shape and the way it looked sitting out there.  Since I'm futzing with the I-wanna-be-Photoshop-when-I-grow-up program that came with the camera, I figured I'd see how it looked in black and white as well.

20 January 2011

Doesn't quite do what it says on the label

Another semester is down and it's time to start dealing with my college's contenders for graduation in the Spring 2011 semester. I keep all the applicants' names on a spreadsheet. If I don't have a copy of their department's degree plan yet (DP), I have an asterisk next to their name; also means I don't have a file built for them yet. This is important for playing along with the home version :P.

I come in this morning, thinking I'll get started on the apps this morning. I have my weekly latte with me and coffee often lulls me into a false sense of security regarding my intelligence. So, feeling somewhat smart, I grab my spreadsheet and very carefully start wending my way through looking for the files I do have...until my brain grabs me by the back of my collar and has the following conversation with me (my brain will be playing the role of, well, Brain. I, apparently, have been cast as Pinky):

Brain:: Um...'scuse me? Remember the asterisks on this list?
Me: Yes, Brain. I see them right there.
Brain:: This means what?
Me: That I don't have their DP yet.
Brain (ever so patiently): Aaaaaand?
Me: WHAT? *light dawns* Ohhhhh....and that I...don't...have a file yet.
Brain: Exactly. So why don't you just pick up all the files and take them to your desk? Honestly, I don't know why I let you get coffee this morning.
Me: *meekly picks up files* So what are we doing tomorrow, Brain?
Brain: I'm going to try to take over the world. You...not so much.

Coffee. It promises so much yet delivers so little :P.

19 January 2011

Random Playlist #2 - What I Want (Daughtry, eponymous)

Picking an entrance song for a fight show can be surprisingly difficult.  You're trying to encapsulate something that speaks to who you are, all the hard work you've done and what you plan to accomplish in six minutes inside the cage (e.g., beat the other person senseless) all in some catchy, hard-rockin' tune that tells your opponent "Fear me!".  That's a lot of pressure to put on a three-and-a-half minute song :).

I discarded some of the more obvious potential choices like Christina Aguilera's "Fighter" fairly quickly.  Although it may show up in a future Random Playlist entry, it wasn't what I was looking for in an entrance song - too literal; especially when you're walking towards a cage wearing a boxing helmet and ten-ounce gloves.  I like Pink but the songs I looked at, while they had the right amount of attitude, were almost too much just attitude.  Don't get me wrong, there is a certain amount of swagger required for this sport but you need to be able to back it up and a song that seems to be based entirely on bravado and waving around half the peace sign was not the message I wanted to send.

(Queen's Fat Bottom Girls was also a contender simply to spread some love for the big girls in the sport but that ultimately went by the wayside as well.)

When it came down to brass tacks, I started thinking about what MMA had done for me and the crux of it was it had really brought me back to God and deepened my relationship with him.  About the time I figured that out, I found Daughtry's song.  Whether or not he wrote it as a Christian or Christ-themed song is immaterial because the lyrics are pretty dead on in portraying someone (me, in this case) re-finding and then refining their identity in Christ.  So, yeah, it fulfilled all my requirements: it spoke to who I was, the work I'd done, and what I planned to accomplish in the next six minutes and the lifetime after that.

(And yeah, it was pretty cool hearing it blare over the speakers as the flash pots went off while I made my trek to the cage, too *g*).

15 January 2011

Project 365 - Week 3 (January 9 - 15, 2011)

Project 365 button designed by http://richgift.blogspot.com


This is a picture of our church from the back.  I wanted to get the water in the picture and was trying to work with the zoom on the camera.  Obviously, I still need some practice.


The corner of my apartment balcony after six inches of snow had fallen the night before.


MONKEY!!!!  Happiness is getting a visit from my most favoritest four-year-old after not having seen him for almost a year.  We love each other like whoa.


Proof there is a God and that he likes me.


Frank the new iPod is here!  Isn't he cute?
Some days being one of the three billion sucks and the whole "love yourself" message gets lost in the static.

Yes, another hiking picture :).  This is at the start of the hike the Spousal Unit and I took through Allsopp Park

11 January 2011

Random Playlist #1 - Gethsemane (Jesus Christ Superstar, 1992 Australian Cast Version)

In honor of Chip the iPod's retirement and the arrival of Frank the iPod (he's pink!), I've been sorting through my songs to create new playlists.  While I've been wending my way through titles and genres, it's almost been like taking a trip back through time as certain songs reassert themselves and reignite memories of why they were important to me or what about them connected them to me on some emotional or gut level.  Because of that, I thought I would occasionally jot down thoughts or impressions on some of them.  And if someone could tell me where I managed to pick up 6,000+ songs, I'd be eternally grateful...

I tend to have a love/hate relationship with Andrew Lloyd Webber.  I like some of his earlier stuff but he tends to get a little "moon in June" for me with a lot of his later works and Cats just makes me want to call the pound.  JCS, though, is a composition that, done right, I can go back and listen to time and time again.  The Australian cast is one of those, largely on the strengths of John Farnham singing the role of Jesus.  It's also one of the first portrayals of Jesus that got me to see him as a real person as opposed to some cardboard cutout on a felt board in Sunday School or some literary figure talked about from a pulpit.

Too many versions of JCS have the actor playing Jesus singing the lyrics in a style that can best be described as...well, milquetoast-ish.  Jesus just moves along, pats Mary Magdalene on the head, tut-tuts at Judas (oh, that scamp!), whines a bit in the Garden of Gethsemane and then meekly heads offstage. It's like the aural version of Max Von Sydow playing Jesus in that movie where he speaks...almost as...slowly...as...James T...Kirk...and...never blinks.   In a way, many productions of JCS become more about Judas than Jesus - especially if you have an actor playing Judas who can sing well (most assuredly not looking at you, London cast!  Judas should not sound like Donald Duck with a lisp).  Farnham's Jesus, on the other hand, is present in a way many are not. He sings with passion.  His Jesus has emotion and drive.  He knows what he needs to do, where he needs to go and how little time he has left to get there.

I think the thing I really love about Farnham's singing of Gethsemane is that he captures the human side of Jesus.  A lot of treatments of Jesus during this crucial time tend to gloss over the turmoil he was in because we know the end result:  he submitted to the Father and went to the cross.  Yet Mark 14 (NLT) characterizes Jesus as beginning to be "filled with horror and deep distress."  The entire song takes place within verses 35-36 (NLT):  "He went on a little farther and fell face down on the ground.  He prayed that, if it were possible, the awful hour awaiting him might pass him by.  'Abba, Father,' he said, 'everything is possible for you.  Please take this cup of suffering away from me.  Yet I want your will, not mine.'"  These words sound so...simple in a way, almost bloodless, when they are just read as part of the chapter.  It's part of a story we all know very well and sometimes familiarity breeds detachment. 

For me, however, the song lyrics really show how Jesus might have pled with God for another way to go, to not have to walk the path that had been set for him.  Since he was fully human as well as fully God, would he not have been afraid as well especially since he knew what was coming?  Emotionally spent?  Just plain physically exhausted?  Even maybe a little angry?  He'd spent thirty-three years on Earth with preaching God's message the thrust of the final three.  Yet his disciples - the ones hand-picked by the Son of God - still had their thick as brick moments; never mind the majority of the general population who would shortly be jeering him on a cross and demanding the release of Barabbas instead of an innocent man.  Even the disciples he'd asked to come with him into the garden fell asleep instead of keeping him company and would shortly run away and deny Him.

Like the rest of us, Jesus had free will.  He did not have to do what God was asking of him and He was certainly not powerless by any means.  If Jesus had chosen to exercise his free will, that would have been it.  God's plan would have been over.  There would be no church, no salvation through God's son.  The whole of Christianity as we know it would simply not be.

And I think that's the other thing that really hits me about this song: the ultimate capitulation to God's will when He didn't have to.  It was a choice Jesus had to make the same way we have to make that choice when God asks us to do something.  In a way, the Gethsemane scene strikes me as an unanswered prayer of Jesus to God (perhaps His only unanswered prayer?) in that the cup was not taken away.  In it, Jesus sings in his prayer to God about all his feelings; his anger, his fear, his frustration; even asking why he should go through with this and die.  He initially expresses the "agreement" that he will die as almost a dare:  "Just watch me die". 

The first part of the song is all the "human" reasoning and questioning, the demanding to know "why" we should do what God wants us to.  We're human and we want to know the outcome of our choices.  The bridge where the music swells and the guitars do their screaming is reminiscent of the swirling emotions and thoughts that crash in on each other as you pray and try to hear God's voice amidst all the confusion of a difficult or painful decision.  Then, there is that brief moment of silence when the guitars stop and just before the lone piano starts up again which is like that moment of clarity when you just...get it.  You know what God has said to do and it's your choice and you choose to do it even if you'd rather not.   So, the last verse is Jesus leaving behind the human need to understand or demand answers and acquiescing, submitting, to the will of God ("God, thy will is hard/But you hold ev'ry card") even though He knows the way ahead will not be easy and that there will come a moment where He will be totally and utterly alone.  Even the last line, that last soft "before I change my mind" isn't Jesus being indecisive.  He isn't waffling.  He has submitted to the Father and is going to follow His will.  When I hear that line, it's like that moment when you make the decision to do something monumental or frightening or distressing or any other adjectives (good or bad) that involves faith.  You've made the decision to do it but you're still human and there is still that vestige of nervousness or anxiety accompanying your decision.  That last line of the song is the big, shaky breath you take before you put faith into action.

So, er, yeah...that's me rambling on about why this song will pretty much always be on any playlist I make...

(YouTube doesn't have an embed code for this song but a URL for it can be found here)

09 January 2011

Marsala Beef

Since a couple people mentioned that beef, garlic and Marsala sounded like a good thing, I figured I would share the recipe. Unfortunately, I didn't take pictures all through this (*makes notes for next time*) but here is the basic premise. Adjust amounts up or down as you need. The Spousal Unit and I are saving pennies so I will usually buy things like cuts of meat in a slightly larger quantity. It guarantees we have leftovers for the next day's work lunch and generally means we have some left that we can freeze for another night as well when it's just not quiiiiiite payday yet :).

2 lbs beef (I used a thick cut top sirloin since that's what Walmart had on sale)
4 cloves garlic
1/2 cup olive oil
4 tablespoons flour
4 tablespoons butter
1/3rd cup Marsala + 1 or 2 "splashes"
1 can beef broth


Cut beef into thin strips while still partially frozen. Set aside.

Peel garlic and slice. Pour olive oil into a small saucepan and add garlic. Place onto stove top on low heat. The olive oil will warm and slowly cook the garlic. You will know it is done when you can smell the garlic and it is a toasty brown color. Strain the oil or remove the garlic with a slotted spoon.

Heat a large saute pan with the garlic-infused oil and add the meat, then season with salt and pepper. Cook until just pink in the middle/rare. Remove from the pan and set aside, draining any oil left. Adjust the heat to low. Add the butter and flour to the pan, whisking to create a roux. Cook until the roux is a golden brown color and then add the marsala to the pan. Once it is incorporated into the roux, slowly add the beef broth a little at a time, whisking to avoid lumps. Let the gravy simmer for a few seconds in between each addition of broth in order for it to thicken. Stop when the gravy is to your liking. Add a splash or two more of Marsala if you desire. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Return the meat to the pan and warm through.

We ate this over rice but I think it would be equally good in sub rolls or over egg noodles or diced, roasted potatoes as well.

08 January 2011

Project 365 - Week 2 (Jan 2-8, 2011)

Project 365 button designed by http://richgift.blogspot.com


The nucleus of a new recipe I made up.  It also included garlic-infused olive oil and Marsala wine.


Back in the saddle again after two weeks off (one of the things I love about working in higher education)

One of my few "appointment television" shows. I love Mike's sense of humor and his willingness to try just about any of the jobs that as, he says, "make civilized life possible for the rest of us" as well as the fact he never complains about any of the jobs he shows up to attempt.  Plus, he's kinda cute :).
After five years of training/roadwork playlists and one awesome "mindset" playlist to sit and zone to while waiting for my turn on a fight card, it's finally time to retire Chip the iPod after long and honorable service. I have a new 4th gen iPod coming thanks to a Christmas gift certificate.

Thanks, Chip, for service above and beyond through runs in the rain and snow, shadowboxing in sauna suits and sweats and more rounds of jumprope and heavy bag than I even want to remember :).

Munchkin and her lettuce snack.  The cat craves lettuce.  Not shrimp, not chicken, not anything remotely cat treat-like.  Just lettuce.  

My sad attempt at lunch today
Hiking along the Arkansas River

02 January 2011

Project 365 - Week 1

Project 365 button designed by http://richgift.blogspot.com

I wasn't sure how the first day of the year was counted so I'm just going to go along with Sara and say there is one day.  Here it is a little bit late...

The Spousal Unit and one of the cats (Munchkin) doing what comes naturally to the Cyber Hermit homestead on a Saturday night...