Rainy morning breakfast

I know there are those of you who are saying to yourselves after reading this, "D, haven't you had enough of the breakfast foods already?"

The answer would be "no".

I love breakfast. I love breakfast foods. I love getting up in the morning and cooking. It's all so very throwback to an earlier time before I became an academic and before life was so busy that I felt like I was on a dead run all the time. So I cook breakfast and, when I can, I take the time to sit at the table and enjoy it. Perhaps this is one of the reasons I am usually up for 5 hours before I can make it to work.

In any event, I would have blogged about the cinnamon roll instruction class I held yesterday, but I was too busy demonstrating the finer art of gaining weight to take pictures. Besides, my own personal photographer had shown up to document the whole thing. Although I think she may have overemphasized the contributions of a 3-month old baby and a brand new rescue dog. Alas, I have learned not to criticize the artsy types and just let them do their thing. It all works out in the end and micromanaging takes more energy than I have. I consider it a personal achievement that not one of the pictures she posted showed me shoving a cinnamon roll into my mouth.

The class was not my idea. One of my Colombian friends begged me to show her how to make these goodies and, because my receipe is supposed to feed 8 people (but only if those 8 people are big, fat piggies), I invited any interested grad students to join us. I thought maybe 4 people would come. Imagine my surprise when ten people arrived! Wow! Alas, this is the lure of the cinnamon roll. Because these are yeast rolls and yeast needs time to rise, I made a batch of dough ahead of time and we rolled it out to get ourselves started, and while the rolls were baking, I showed them how to make a batch of dough from the start. They had all gone home about the time THAT batch of dough was ready for rolling. In all, we made about 50 rolls. D-friend Bek made a caramel-pecan icing and I made an espresso icing. The original recipe calls for maple icing. I tried it once and it wasn't my thing. I have also made a vanilla icing and I've made the rolls with orange marmalade filling (instead of cinnamon) and used an orange icing. But just a different icing on the plain cinnamon roll creates vastly different flavors. The caramel-pecan roll was more like a sticky bun. The espresso roll was lots of flavorful fun. Both great! I think there were about 10 rolls left after we had stuffed ourselves silly, so maybe this is a recipe for 8 people or maybe the lure of the cinnamon rolls turns people into big, fat piggies!

And no, I didn't eat those 10 extra cinnamon rolls myself. I sent folks home with the baked goods that remained, and I prepared two trays and took them over to D-bro D who is fishing at the local lake this weekend. He and 10 of his Chicago-style buddies enjoyed 23 giant cinnamon rolls with espresso icing this morning. Am I a good sister or what?

Unfortunately, I still have a half a recipe of dough in my fridge. Looks like Tuesday will be cinnamon roll day in the department.

So cooking in general and cooking breakfast especially is a sort of hobby for me. And I like to experiment in the kitchen. Mostly I try to recreate great recipes I've had in restaurants or at people's houses. I think I have a rather refined sense of taste and can detect ingredients in foods fairly well. Other times I just experiment or want to try out an interesting recipe I've seen on the internet. That's how I came to make my first batch of Pioneer Woman cinnamon rolls.

Yes, the recipe I taught isn't my own. Although I hardly think that Pioneer Woman thought it up herself. The best recipes are passed down and passed along and this is part of the joy of cooking. I really don't understand people who hoard great recipes like some secret. And I actually work with one person who does this. *Massive eye roll*. Selfish people suck. But to me, it's just a challenge. I'll figure out how to do it better myself.

So when my Colombian friend asked me to show her how to make the rolls, I was pleased to oblige. And cinnamon rolls are a great breakfast food, but I'm an ovavore. I could (and do) eat eggs for breakfast, lunch and dinner. I slide eggs into salads. I add them to my soups. Yummo. Oh, I have FINALLY found a reliable source for local eggs, too. Yay! And I love eggs just about any way, but my favorite way is poached.

Have you ever tried to poach an egg? It's not as easy as it sounds. Some tell you to swirl the water like a tornado before you put in the egg. Some tell you to add vinegar. Some tell you to just drop it in and hope for the best. I've never met anyone who claims to make a perfect poached egg. Even chefs fail at poached eggs. My poached eggs generally turned out looking a whole lot like egg drop soup. Without the soup part. Yes, you can buy a fairly expensive egg poaching pan, but then you have to store that bad boy in your kitchen and who has room for a special pan just for eggs? I've tried using various glass cups but they are difficult to remove from boiling water without burning yourself.

Then, I heard about these silicone Poachpods. Silicone poached egg holders that don't require a special pan and best of all are collapsible! Yes, I could have ordered them off the internets and waited a week and saved myself a few pennies, but I don't have that kind of patience. So I went to Bed, Bath and Beyond and found them for $9.99 for a set of 2, which is like 3X the price they are on the internets, but what the heck. And they are such a lovely matching set of avocado green. Reminds me of my childhood. Deep, wistful sigh.

Ok, back to the eggs.

First you have to grease the inside of the pods with something. I chose this.

Then you put a pan of shallow water on to boil. Crack the eggs inside the pods and float them in the water.

Cover the pan and wait 4-6 minutes.

I waited 6 minutes. Now we're talking!

Then you pluck out your poachpod and slide your perfect poached egg onto your plate. Then the other. Mmmmm.

And look! They are perfect. Add a little pepper and dig in!

Goes well with grapefruit, bagel and cream cheese, and coffee.

Breakfast on a rainy, soggy Sundays is great! Even if you don't have any cellulite-producing cinnamon rolls left. And you can always count on me to SHARE my recipes and great finds!


Howdy, Scout

Say hello to the newest member of the D household.

Howdy, Scout.


Human behavior and why it baffles the clueless

So yesterday, someone told me I shouldn't have been offended by their offensive behavior.

So after I had to "get over it", I also had to get beyond the idea that someone who knows nothing of me outside of my professional environment honestly believes they can tell me what I am allowed and not allowed to take offense at. Whenever someone tells me that I should or shouldn't feel a certain way, they get filed in the people I really don't want playing an important part in my life. But why is this anyone's response? I mean, I don't respond this way. If I offend someone, inadvertently or not, and I am made aware of it by them, I will apologize, correct my behavior, and move on. I will not tell them that they shouldn't be offended by my behavior. I especially will NOT continue in the behavior that caused offense and think all is well because I instructed the person NOT to be offended.

I mean, THAT sort of behavior would finger me as a clueless fucking idiot.

This exact scenario happened to me by a person I will loosely call a colleague. If she brings it up AGAIN, I'll explain to her exactly why her behavior is offensive. For the second time. Maybe she needs repetition for it to sink in.


An untimely end

And no, I didn't do it. This was a big pig. I think it probably left a pretty significant dent in the car that did it. There were two of these. The horror of the first pig's untimely demise prevents me from showing you what happened. This guy must have been an afterthought.


Are You a Prairie Chicken?

Yesterday, I stopped by the Attwater Prairie Chicken NWR. I don't know squat about prairie chickens. I know they gather on leks and compete for mates. Off the top of my head, I'd guess they look a little like a grouse.

Hence, I thinking I didn't see a prairie chicken today. Too bad, I couldn't come back tomorrow when they were having their annual hootnanny and were taking people out to the "mob grounds". I bet I'd have seen a prairie chicken tomorrow. Alas, the road is my middle name and by tomorrow, I'll be half a state away.

Here's what I did see.

A few cows. (Gotta keep that short-grass prairie short!)

What a beautiful prairie!

Coincidence? You Decide

Only in Texas do they have to feed the deer to get them to come to your yard.

The question rather asks itself, doesn't it?


Is this somehow related to the three signs that preceded it? Disturbing thought.


What a difference a day makes

Today, I have a lot of things I didn't have yesterday.

A farmers tan.

Two plants I didn't have for my research.

A shower.

I want to how you some of the plants I've encountered in Texas. Wildflower season is upon them.


Old Favorites

This is my all-time favorite picture of Jake.

It was taken in my mother's back yard shortly after I joined her and Jake for a year-and-a-half stint of divorce healing, undergraduate work, and getting my life back in order. When I tell you he used to sit in the yard and look proud, this is the look I'm talking about. Interestingly enough, it is also:

1) the first picture I ever took of Jake.
2) the first digital picture I ever took.
3) taken with a rinky-dink digital camera I got free for signing up for dial-up internet with Earthlink.

This is my second favorite picture of Jake.

And this is my all-time favorite picture of Nevada.

This is all.


Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution

So tonight was the premiere of Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution. I really enjoyed the two episodes they put on. My sister called me this evening and reminded me to watch because, apparently, we had a relative interviewed for the program. She called my Gram to find out the person's name that we were related to and the nature of our relation. Turns out, it was the DJ who gives Jamie such a hard time during the first episode and the fellow is my Dad's first cousin. I believe Jamie calls the guy a bastard. I have to agree. Relative or no. He was a jackass to Jamie.

Now, I will admit that radio personalities often try to stir shit wherever they can, and this guy was stirring the "hillbilly" pot if ever I saw it, and had an "outsider" on whom to project every perceived slight and for that I think the DJ is wrong.

Yes, people in West Virginia are the butt of jokes. Yes, the people of West Virginia have some obstacles to overcome (poverty, poor education, lack of economic opportunity, and a dysfunctional culture that is stuck in a self-perpetuating circuit). BUT, in many ways the people of that region (and I can speak to this from first hand experience because this is where I grew up) have only themselves to blame. Oh, don't get me wrong. I love the region. I love the people. I loved going to university in Huntington. But honestly, some of the folks from home actually take pride in their backwoods obstinacy and ignorance. They confuse a lack of worldliness with a pride of place. They reject change of any sort. They take pride in traditional ways, even if it is counter-productive. These are the people that I have written about many times before who are proud of "never having left the state" or of living next door to mom and dad, gramma and grampa, auntie and uncle, and cousin Beuford and Buelah. But when someone comes and shows you your own reflection in the mirror, you can't cry foul. You can't play the "Appalachian card" just because someone tells the naked truth about you. And it wasn't a truth about that region in particular. It was a truth about America.

We are a nation of fat asses.

I will watch more of these shows.


In Search of Good News

Yesterday was a wash, what with my internet security software attacking the very computer it was supposed to protect. In a nutshell, the folks at BitDefender made me regret my 3-year licensing agreement when they released an untested update that quarantined every single file in the operating system. For every single user of their software. Every. Single. User. After that bit of fun, it started systematically quarantining program files. Reports had begun trickling in from other unfortunate users who had shut off their computers only to have them unable to reboot. By the time BitDefender had figured out that it was a problem with their own update (a false positive), I had more than 900 Windows files locked up in quarantine. In essence, BitDefender unloaded their own trojan on their customers. Totally bites the big one. Luckily, it only affected one computer (albeit the one I use most), but the one with Windows 7 X 64-bit. Of course, I did have to drive to work to make sure that all hell wasn't breaking loose on my "research computer". So yes, yesterday my panties were in a knot. All I have to say is thank the dieties for the system restore function and startup repair that comes built-in to Windows 7. In the end, BitDefender didn't repair my operating system, Microsoft did. What a bunch of fucktards.

So I was feeling the need for some upbeat news. First on the upbeat news front: spring is here. It's official. My jonquils are in bloom and there was a softball game in the park yesterday.
Today, however, was when the real upbeat news came. I stepped on the scale and realized I am 20 lbs down from my New Year's Resolution/Diet & Fitness Plan. This seems a pretty decent moment to reflect/brag/do the happy dance. So yes, the remainder of this post is about my weight loss.

There seem to be two schools of thought on getting fit. The first is that we measure our progress by weight loss, and the second is that we measure it by lost inches. Of course, I believe we should also throw "improving muscle tone and aerobic capacity" in the mix somewhere, but no one listens to me.As I mentioned above, by weight loss, I'm down 20 lbs. I take my weight in the morning on the same digital scale, which is accurate to 0.2 lbs. I have also taken my weight on digital and balance scales at the rec center, and the results are comparable. I consider the weight loss to be both accurate and precise.
By inches, I'm down as follows:
Neck: -0.5 in
Bicep: -0.75 in
Forearm: -0.75 in
Chest: -2.5 in
Waist: -3 in
Hips: -3.5 in
Thigh: -0.5 in
Calf: -0.75 in
Now keep in mind that the precision or accuracy of measurements that are not stable is impossible to determine, especially since I'm using a measuring tape I got for free, so you have to be pretty loosey-goosey about those readings. Still, I was rather surprised by the hips measurement. I mean, I carry most of my weight higher than my hips. I'm more of an "apple" than a "pear", so to see weight coming off my hips first...well, I was surprised. To give you some perspective, my bust, waist and hips all fall within a 3.25 inches of one another. A rather depressing fact that puts me at a much higher risk of heart attack and stroke. Great, huh? Still, I had expected to see greater weight loss in the bust and waist area. I guess I'll take it wherever it occurs, but that fat tire around my middle sure is being unnecessarily stubborn IMO. I may have to have a talk with it later.

I was also surprised by the size loss in my arms. After all, I'm lifting weights, and pretty intensely at that. When I rotate my forearms now, I can see muscle definition. In addition, I've been eating an extraordinary amount of protein (for me), which I thought would speed up the growth of muscle or at least offer my body the proper nutrients for muscle gain. Since many of my lifting exercises involve my biceps in particular, I didn't expect to see lost inches in that area. However, I can reason that the muscle is there, it is still somewhat hidden under a thick layer of fat. So if I am trading old fat for new muscle tissue, I'm willing to cut myself some slack on the size of my arms. Besides, there is no way around it--they look better.

Now I have blogged on my love/hate relationship with my bust. Let's just say that an ample bosom is a mixed blessing. It's a plus in the dating arena, and a minus if you want to do anything remotely bouncy. Like jump rope. Or exercise. Or get in a mosh pit. Not that I'm hanging out in mosh pits, mind you, but I'm just saying. Oversized breasts are a pain (literally) when trying to exercise--one reason you don't find big busted women taking up jogging. I will spare you all (for the moment) my successes in finding appropriate support garments for the girls that have allowed me to jump, hop, and run with wanton abandon since I began my exercise program. So I am not in the least unhappy with the loss in my bustline.
By some miracle, I remembered to take some pictures for the before-and-after files on my weight loss. However, this one that was taken on Day 1 sucks.

Old camera. Out-of-focus. And Jesus H. Christ. Look at my cheeks!!! I can't believe no one every said anything to me. Although, in their defense, they were probably afraid of upsetting me for setting off a heart attack. And look at me. Wearing a long-sleeve black t-shirt that hides my greatest flaws. Apparently was too depressed to do my hair that day! I think maybe it was my vanity keeping me from picturing reality. So since the Day 1 photo is a total fail, I'm going to use this one as my starting point, because I think it is more appropriately revealing of the challenges I faced in my fitness program.
Ugh. Do I ever hate this photo. I guess that makes it all the more valid. I am shocked at the moment by the fat encompassing my forearms here. My little watch looks like it's straining around my wrist. And don't get me started on the boobage. Hate. Hate. Hate.

So here I am today dressed normally.

And here I am today with something that shows my shape.

And here we have a side-by-side, past and present.

Exhibit #2.

I think my boobage is about 6" higher in the photo on the right.

Exhibit #3.

And while I was tempted to say "before and after" in these comparisons, since I haven't reached my goal that didn't seem appropriate. I have quite a ways to go, but the change in my arms alone is enough to keep me motivated.

Although, I feel quite certain that there will continue to be gratuitous photos of me eating corn dogs in the future. I am looking forward to getting that shot at summer's end for comparison again.

Hope you find a reason to be upbeat today, too.