Friday, February 28, 2014

When Will It End?!?

6 amFriFeb 28


I have absolutely no desire to go out and run in this. I am so sick and tired of the cold. 
It takes me 10 minutes to get dressed - two layers of pants, three layers of shirts, two pairs of socks, my balaclava, a hat, fleece jacket and two pairs of gloves. Kevin also dresses like this for his runs, so just think about the huge pile of laundry from all of those layers. Yikes. 

Anyway, I hope I can run at least three miles this morning to bring my total mileage for February to 95 miles run. I sure hope that the end of February also means the end of winter. March has got to have better weather in store for us. How much cold can there be?!?

Have a great Friday.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Funny And Funnier

You decide which is which. Both made me giggle.

We are still adjusting to me going back to work. I say "we" but I guess I really mean "me" as it seems that I am the only one who had to make significant changes in how things get done around here now that I am working. Christopher might disagree with that statement as last week he and I had a little "come to Jesus" about him making his bed, picking up his room and putting his dirty laundry in the hamper. At age 14, I think it is time (beyond time, really) for him to consistently take on some responsibility. So far (knock on wood), he has completed all of his chores each day and, more importantly, he has not given me any attitude about it. I guess my "incentives" for NOT doing those chores were pretty spot on.

I am not too proud to admit that gave myself quite a few "passes" for the first week of starting my job. I didn't stress out about not running (not really, but I did try not to stress). I didn't cook. At all. Seriously. We had take away. Every. Single. Night. I also left the house a few mornings with dishes in the sink and a laundry basket full of dirty clothes. Now that I am in week 2 of working, I am figuring out how to fit it all in and slowly easing back into things. I am getting up at 4:45 a.m. so I can get out and run or walk with the dogs before work. In order to avoid getting up so early every day, I would like to try and run after work. Maybe after Sonder has recovered enough, I can take them out for a short run when I get home, even if it is just once or twice a week. I planned out a menu for this week and will attempt a new recipe tonight and another one on Friday night. My cleaning lady comes tomorrow so that is a bit of a cheat but I have been good about picking up at night before bed and before I leave in the mornings. I put the laundry in before I leave in the morning and Kevin has been drying and folding it in the evening. I know it will take another week or two before I really get into a routine but at least it seems to be coming together. This is great because I really love my job and don't want to second guess myself about whether me working is a good thing or not. 

Christopher has been asking me to make chicken with a wine & cream sauce. Fortunately for him, I started to search for a recipe on the internet and found the recipe below. Wow! How amazing does that look?!?

Pan-Seared Scallops on Linguine with Tomato Cream Sauce

1 cup dry white wine
1/4 cup minced shallots
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1 tablespoon grated peeled fresh ginger
2 tablespoons whipping cream
1 tablespoon butter, cut into small pieces
2/3 cup chopped seeded plum tomato
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon black pepper
1 1/2 cups hot cooked linguine
Cooking spray
3/4 pound large sea scallops
1/8 teaspoon salt
Chopped fresh parsley for garnish

1. Combine first 4 ingredients in a medium skillet; bring to a boil. Cook until reduced to 1/2 cup (about 5 minutes). Drain mixture through a fine sieve into a bowl, reserving liquid; discard solids.
2. Return wine mixture to skillet. Add cream; cook over medium heat 1 minute. Add butter, stirring until butter melts. Stir in tomato, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and pepper. Add linguine; toss well. Cover and keep warm.
3. Heat a large nonstick skillet coated with cooking spray over medium-high heat. Sprinkle scallops with 1/8 teaspoon salt. Arrange scallops in pan; cook 2 minutes on each side or until done. Add scallops to pasta mixture; toss gently to combine. Garnish with parsley.

I found the recipe on which is a "new to me" website so it will be interesting to see how the dish comes together. I will, most likely, replace the scallops with chicken as that is what is preferred in our home. I also think that I will add another tomato as well as some chopped zucchini and sliced mushrooms to bulk it up a bit and add some more veggies to our meal. 

Have a great Wednesday!

Monday, February 24, 2014

Back To Work

I began my new job last Tuesday. I got everything ready Monday night so all I had to do was get up Tuesday morning, get ready, eat breakfast and go. We had about an inch of snow fall Monday night/early Tuesday morning so the kids were on a two hour delay which was really helpful as I only had to worry about getting myself out of the house at 7:30 am. At the height of rush hour and on a major highway, my morning commutes were not bad at all last week and I am hoping for the same this week. Since I only work until 12:30 pm, the drive home is speedy.

My job is very busy and I don't think I will have much downtime, which is a good thing. There are twelve of us (all women) on the School Board's staff and they seemed to be very nice and helpful. However, as Caitlynne pointed out, everyone was probably on their very best behavior for the new person and "cracks" will soon appear. I was completely overwhelmed learning about all of my responsibilities and I felt like my head was spinning each afternoon when I left the office. There is so much for me to learn and do but I feel like there is nothing that I can't handle. I just need to get used to the requirements and when & how to do what. At the end of the day, everything I do is done in order to make sure the School Board is in compliance with Virginia State (but we are really a Commonwealth!) code and laws - so, sort of a lot of responsibility! 

Other than all of the rules, regulations, processes and codes that I learned last week as related to my job, I also made the extremely important discovery that the world does not stop turning if I leave the house with dirty dishes in the sink. Or beds unmade. Or carpets not vacuumed. Since I can probably count on two hands the times that I have left the house with any of these items outstanding, this discovery was a huge deal. 

I also found some of this last week...
My running was almost non-existent the week before last. I ran once before the big snow (which The Washington Post named "Snowchi" - very cute!) and then again three days after the big snow. Although the roads were still covered that day, I went out very early and was able to run 5 miles around (and around and around) our neighborhood. Those neighborhood runs are the most boring. After that, because of the snow and other weather issues as well as time constraints, I was only able to get out for a couple of shorter runs around our neighborhood. There was still significant snow cover on the ground and the sidewalks and paths outside of our neighborhood were completely covered and impassable. In addition, although the roads were clear and dry, the snowbanks encroached on them quite a bit so, in some areas, the roads were quite narrow and unsafe to run on in the dark. We had somewhat of a warming trend last week and, finally, on Friday (one week after Snowchi), I was able to run on the paths and sidewalks outside of our neighborhood. I ran 27 miles last week (compared to 10 miles the week before) so you can tell how desperate I was to get back running and make up for all of those lost miles. It looks like we are having another blast of cold mid-week and then it should warm up again. Hopefully for good. 

Sonder is doing much better. He still tremors very slightly but I think the tremors are definitely decreasing day by day. Most of his quirky personality traits have returned and that, to us, is a true indication of how much better he is feeling. He has two more weeks left on the medication so there is time for continued recovery. 

Have a great Monday!

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Scenes From A Snowy Day

This photo makes my heart happy. Even though the weather is miserable and our schedules and routines are non-existent, I am so glad we are back in D.C.
Feb. 13, 2014 - Snow falls in front of the U.S. Capitol.

A *little* bit more accumulation than forecast.

As usual, Chester wanted out of the house immediately so he could play in the snow. He looked out, saw the snow and went crazy with doggy happiness. Sonder, not so much. The snow was so deep on the patio that, in order for Chester to even get out of the house, I had to clear the snow away from the sun-room door and shovel the steps and a little path into the yard. 
By the time all was said and done, the snow on our patio table measured 17".
Our cars were thoroughly snowed in. Not a big deal because we couldn't go anywhere anyway and everything was closed.
I knew we had kids for a reason. 
Caitlynne did a lot of shoveling and was not a bit sore - all of the conditioning she has been doing for crew paid off.

Christopher's redneck snow boots.
Once again, we were giving thanks for our new snow-blower!

 So much snow! 
I tried out my new waffle maker and fed all of my cold and hungry snow removalists as soon as they were finished. 
Kevin and I took the dogs out for a short walk and spotted this snowman that the children of one of our neighbors made. It was one of the better snowmen that I have seen this winter!
It was nice having the kids home from school for the two days and even nicer that we couldn't have left the house on Thursday even if we had wanted to. A snow-plow finally made it down our street about 3 pm but it only cleared enough to make the road (barely) passable. 

I know the kids will have to make these missed days up at some point but we really needed a break. In addition to car maintenance appointments, volunteer commitments, drama practices (Christopher is in the school play) and crew & basketball practices, I had quite a few things to complete for my new job. Running around to have a TB test taken (and then read), getting fingerprinted, having a photo for my badge taken and completing a ton of paperwork ate up a good chunk of my short week. Throw in an emergency visit to the orthodontist and three emergency visits to the vet and I am so done with this week. We also received word that my mother's sister passed away early Wednesday morning. While it was not unexpected, it was still very sad. I have spent quite a bit of time the last few days remembering past holidays, special events and vacations spent with my grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins. Such great memories! 

So, about those three visits to the vet...I noticed Tuesday morning that Sonder was not acting like his usual (obnoxious and demanding) self. In fact, based on the way he was walking and looking, my first thought was that he had a stroke or a seizure. In addition to walking like a drunk sailor, he was trembling a lot, was very lethargic and wasn't eating or drinking as much as usual. When he did eat, he immediately vomited it back up. I watched him throughout the day and decided to take him to the vet in the late afternoon. The vet performed an exam and ran some simple neurological tests on him but couldn't find anything obviously wrong. We thought maybe he had gotten hurt while playing with Chester so the vet prescribed some pains meds and off we went.

With no improvement by late Thursday afternoon, we literally followed the snow-plow out of the neighborhood on our way back to the vet. This time I opted to have x-rays and preliminary blood-work done. Again, nothing was found. The vet gave Sonder an injection of pain and anti-nausea medicines, hoping those would help him move around better and eat/drink something. The vet also gave him fluids by an iv because he was so dehydrated. I took him home and he zonked out. He did not seem improved when he woke up yesterday and then things went a little downhill. He was even more lethargic, flat out refused to eat or drink and seemed to be even more unbalanced and unsteady when he tried to walk. Back to the vet we went and I had him admitted for overnight observation and additional testing.

Late last night the vet called with the news that the results of one of the blood-tests returned a positive reading for Anaplasmosis, a tick-born infectious disease caused by the bacteria Anaplasma phagocytophilum. This bacteria is spread to dogs (and humans) by the brown dog tick, the western black-legged tick and the deer tick, all of which can also carry Lyme disease. In fact, with just one bite, a human or an animal can become infected with both Lyme's Disease and Anaplasmosis. What a nice "two for one" deal.

Before leaving him yesterday, I asked the vet for a "good bad and ugly" best guess as to what was wrong with Sonder. Lyme's disease was one of the things that he suggested so I wasn't too surprised to hear this diagnosis. I have been pulling ticks off of both dogs as recently as two weeks ago so I knew the possibility was very real that his illness could be tick-related. We did some reading last night (what did we do before the internet?!?) and Sonder's symptoms - vomiting, joint pain, changes in behavior, loss of appetite and neurological symptoms - fit this disease to a "T". In fact, one article noted that canine ataxia, (the dysfunction of the parts of the nervous system that coordinate movement), includes a loss of balance after a sudden movement, tremors and a change in gait in which the dog may stumble or appear to be drunk. So my "drunk sailor" comparison was not all that far off!

Anaplasmosis is treated with antibiotics for thirty days and Sonder received his first dose last night. Once treatment is begun, symptoms are supposed to quickly improve and he should be much better within 24 to 48 hours. The vet was going to offer him food and water early this morning and, if he holds that down and if he seems improved, we should be able to take him home sometime before 9 p.m. We are still waiting on the results of his urinalysis and some blood-work related to his pancreas but I am hoping that this diagnosis and treatment are it.

While I keep asking myself, "does it ever end?", I am just so glad this all happened this week and not next when I begin my new job. 

Have a great Saturday!

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Row Row Row Your Boat!

Caitlynne had some great finishes at yesterday's Yorktown Relays. She entered four relay events and placed in all of them!

2 x 750 meters - 3rd place

4 x 500 meters - 2nd place (she raced with the varsity girls team in this event)

8 x 250 meters - 4th place

4 x 500 meters - 1st place (mixed team).  
Her teammates on the mixed team (they received the blue t-shirts as their prize for winning).
Christopher had a heart-breaker of a basketball game last night. His team played better than they have all season against a team that was 6-2. They tied the game 50 and ended up losing by 4 points in overtime. They really should have won the game - there were many missed opportunities (let's just say that Christopher will be practicing foul shots at practice this week). 

Some members of my women's running group (myself included) began this challenge on February 1st. 
Like our daily "RR"s (running reports), posting on our group Facebook page each day that we completed our plank(s) keeps us all accountable and gives us motivation. Some of us have modified the schedule a bit because we are all at different abilities. I am on Day 8 but I am doing three planks at 60 seconds. I shake like crazy the last 30 seconds of the last plank but I grit my teeth and just get it done. I am nervous about going from 60 seconds to 90 seconds in a few days and will probably just do 1 plank at 90 seconds until I can hold it comfortably.

This Challenge is more my speed...
I ran a quick three miles before going to Mass this morning, bringing my weekly total to 28 miles. I ran three 7 milers this week which was two more than I wanted to but I thought I should get the miles in before we get more snow or ice. Although the extended forecast is for drier weather, it will still be quite cold. Where on earth is Spring?!?

Have a great Sunday!

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Ina Garten - Foolproof

I received this cookbook as a Christmas gift a couple of years ago and have made a few recipes from it. 
The kids and I like to watch Ina's show on The Food Network. Not only does she make good (and not terribly difficult recipes), she seems to be very down to earth, smart and adventurous. In 1978, Ina saw ad for a specialty food store for sale in the Hamptons, and, in a matter of days (and with no experience at all in the food business), she went from working in the Office of Management and Budget in the White House to owning that store. She has since built her "Barefoot Contessa" brand into many books, television shows, etc. Sometimes I watch the show just to get a glimpse of her home in East Hampton. It is To. Die. For. 

Last night I made this recipe for our dinner.

Crispy Mustard-Roasted Chicken
4 garlic cloves
1 tablespoon minced fresh thyme leaves
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 cups panko
1 tablespoon grated lemon zest
2 tablespoons good olive oil
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
½ cup Dijon mustard
½ cup dry white wine
1 (3½- to 4-pound) chicken, cut up
1. Preheat the oven to 350℉.
2. Place the garlic, thyme, 2 teaspoons salt, and 1 teaspoon pepper in a food processor fitted with the steel blade and process until the garlic is finely minced. Add panko, lemon zest, olive oil, and butter and pulse a few times to moisten the bread flakes. Pour the mixture onto a large plate.
3. In a shallow bowl, whisk together the mustard and wine.
4. Pat the chicken dry with paper towels. Sprinkle generously with salt and pepper. Dip each piece in the mustard mixture to coat on all sides, and then place skin-side down only into the crumb mixture, pressing gently to make the crumbs adhere.
5. Place the chicken on a sheet pan crumb-side up. Press the remaining crumbs on the chicken pieces.
6. Bake the chicken for 40 minutes. Raise the heat to 400℉ and bake for another 10 minutes, until the crumbs are browned and the chicken is cooked through. Serve hot, warm, or at room temperature.
Serves 6
 I added a lot more garlic and thyme than what was called for.
I hate, hate, hate using my food processor. It is such a hassle to set up, attach the bowl and then clean. We received it as a wedding gift and I think, in the 17+ years, I have used it less than 20 times. However, sometimes it is an absolute necessity. 
My work station.
I used (store brand) boneless & skinless chicken thighs and probably wouldn't do that again. While the chicken looked beautiful in the package, the thighs were folded/displayed in such a way so as to hide all of the fat and goop attached to them. It was so gross and I had to spend about 20 minutes cleaning them up. I felt so nauseous after I finished. I would use either what the recipe recommended (a chicken cut up) or Purdue boneless & skinless chicken breasts (which, although more expensive, are always cleaned the way I like them). 
 Out of the oven!
I served the chicken with a side of green beans (not our usual broccoli!) and Israeli Cous-Cous (as Christopher always says, the food so nice they named it twice!) tossed with pesto sauce. I fell in love with Israeli Cous-Cous before we moved to Australia but forgot about it until I saw it in a sales flyer for Trader Joe's a few weeks ago. I thought to look for it at our local grocery store and was able to pick up a few boxes. My original plan was to toss the Cous-Cous with Parmesan cheese and olive oil but decided to go with the pesto and add some color to the table. 

Yum! The chicken was very good too. My only complaint was that it was very salty. Almost to the point of not being able to eat it. If you attempt this recipe, I would recommend only adding half of the amount of salt called for and see how that tastes. 

I puppy-sat Ridley yesterday afternoon while Jan went out for a run...
She is getting noticeably bigger and developing quite a personality!

While we had a lot of fun playing together, she was happy to see Jan return.
 And my boys. The Yin and the Yang.
Another crazy weekend ahead for us...Caitlynne has a crew competition at a high school in Arlington, I have a crew parent meeting, Christopher has team photos for basketball and then a basketball game, he has tryouts for the AAU baskettball team and we have a family dinner (Kevin's brother is visiting from Seattle). Whew! 

Have a great Saturday!

Thursday, February 6, 2014

A Challenge In The Kitchen - Chicken & Gnocchi

Yesterday, I totally stepped out of my comfort zone and made the recipe below that I saw in the February 2014 issue of Southern Living magazine. I made a few modifications but those were made out of necessity (or poor planning?) rather than preference.

Like pasta, gnocchi is so versatile and I have many ideas for using it in other recipes and with other sauces. I thought all gnocchi was potato-based but this recipe uses flour and breadcrumbs instead. I was looking for more gnocchi recipes yesterday and learned that, similar to sauces, different regions of Italy use different ingredients to make gnocchi - some regions use flour, some use potatoes, others use ricotta cheese and breadcrumbs. Obviously, with such a variety of ingredients, there are many, many recipes for gnocchi out there. Now that I know how easy it is to make, I plan to try a few more. 

Although I love love love gnocchi, I have never attempted to make it nor have I ever even thought about making it. I am so glad I decided to go ahead and make this dish. If this recipe/my photos look even the slightest bit appealing to you, please make it! Tonight! It is absolutely AMAZING! All thumbs were (high) up from my critics. 
Photo: Hector Sanchez; Styling: Buffy Hargett Miller  

Chicken and Gnocchi

Southern Living FEBRUARY 2014
  • Yield: Makes 4 to 6 servings
  • Hands-on:40 Minutes
  • Total:1 Hour


  • 1 cup soft, fresh breadcrumbs
  • 1/2 cup chicken broth
  • 1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • 2 large egg yolks, lightly beaten
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • Vegetable cooking spray
  • 2 fresh thyme sprigs
  • 1 fresh sage sprig (optional)
  • Kitchen string
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 2 carrots, thinly sliced (about 1 cup)
  • 1 celery rib, finely chopped (about 1/2 cup)
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 4 cups chicken broth
  • 1 Parmesan cheese rind (optional)
  • 4 cups shredded cooked chicken


1. Prepare Gnocchi: Stir together first 8 ingredients in a large bowl until smooth. Very gently fold in flour just until blended.
2. Spoon dough into a zip-top plastic freezer bag. Snip 1 corner of bag to make a 1/2-inch hole. Squeeze 10 to 12 (1-inch) dough pieces into a pot of boiling salted water; cook 2 to 3 minutes or until gnocchi float. Lightly grease a jelly-roll pan with cooking spray. Transfer gnocchi to prepared pan, using a slotted spoon. Cover with plastic wrap. Repeat procedure with remaining dough.
3. Prepare Chicken: Tie together thyme and, if desired, sage sprigs with kitchen string. Melt butter in a Dutch oven over medium heat. Add carrots, celery, and herb bundle; cook 5 minutes or until carrots are tender. Add garlic; cook 1 minute. Stir in wine, and cook 2 minutes or until reduced by half. Sprinkle with flour, and cook, stirring constantly, 1 minute. Gradually whisk in broth. Add Parmesan rind, if desired.
4. Bring mixture to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to medium-low, and simmer, partially covered, 20 minutes or until slightly thickened. Discard herb bundle and cheese rind. Stir in chicken and gnocchi, and cook 3 to 5 minutes or until hot.

On to the nitty gritty...

The recipe just specified "cooked chicken" and I poached three chicken breasts in a mixture of water, white wine, salt and pepper. I chopped (rather than shredded as the recipe called for) the chicken and I did not measure exactly how much I used. 
As with last night's recipe, I "upped" the veggie amounts from what the recipe called for. I used 3 stalks of celery and 4 medium sized carrots. I was also very generous with the amounts of sage, thyme and garlic used. And, I will confess, I bid my "no wine" pledge adieu and had a glass from that bottle. It was calling my name. 
 I cannot tell you how good my kitchen smelled while I was sauteing the herbs, carrots and celery. 
 The addition of the garlic made it that much more aromatic!
Oops No. 1. I didn't read the recipe closely and dumped the wine and the chicken broth in at the same time. My fix was to let it all simmer for 3-4 minutes before whisking the flour in. I then let it cook for the suggested 20 minutes and it noticeably thickened. No harm done. I guess. 
Then it was on to making the gnocchi. Although this was the one part of the recipe that I was determined to follow to the "T", I had quite a few "oops!" here. 

Ooops Nos. 2, 3 and 4. I forgot to leave the white bread out during the day so it would be stale enough to crumble and use for breadcrumbs. My last minute fix was to bake in the oven for 10 minutes and finely cube with a knife. Not exactly "crumbs" but oh well. I also forgot to pick up parsley at the store so I had to use the tubed variety. And, my Parmesan cheese was not freshly grated but out of a bag.

 My gnocchi mixture ready to be piped into the boiling pot of water.
Okay, now I know these gnocchi do not look all that appealing but they were amazingly delicious! The recipe called for them to be placed on a greased jelly roll pan after cooking but, since I don't even know what a jelly roll pan is, I put them on a greased plate instead.
On the table...I served with a bowl of Parmesan cheese for additional flavor.
 Ready to eat!
One last confession, as I was making the gnocchi (and anticipating a huge FAIL!), I was contemplating what food from which take-out restaurant would end up on our table for dinner. I am so happy that it turned out as well as it did. Everyone loved it and there was just enough left for Kevin to take some for his lunch today. 

After I saw this photo on a friend's Facebook of a creepy crawly found on the ISB campus (the kids' former school), I remembered one of the reasons why I am so glad we no longer live in Thailand...
Have a great Thursday!