The past few days have been a roller coaster. A cliche I know but the simplest way to describe life.
Something spooked the budgies at 5 a.m. this morning, which in turn spooked the cockatoo. I had not caged the cockatoo as we had a rough day yesterday and she was mad at me. So I turned the light on to soothe everyone and Nala (my Goffin) flew into my bed with me.
This blog will be mostly a random list of nice things with pictures and a review of McDonald’s spicy nuggets.
So let’s handle the review first.
Angel’s Review of McDonald’s spicynuggets
I like them. Very much. Good with a side of ranch.
For more on our trip to McDonald’s for Buy One Get One nuggets — with TWO teenagers— see our video on YouTube: Taste Test: Spicy Nugs
MY teenager had her first day of Zoom classes as part of her hybrid public high school yesterday. Her friend, who will affectionately be “the second teenager” in this space, joined us.
After class, we visited our friends at Feline Urban Rescue and Rehab to get a large crate for our Greek Pride Foster Kittens so we could segregate Hermes as he has ringworm.
The teenager wanted to get out of the house yesterday and I knew as a responsible adult we needed some fresh produce.
With the Coronavirus still keeping our state on lockdown, I’ve been trying to explore as many small local businesses as I can that are adapting to the situation.
I’ve never been to Tucker, an Australian Cafe at the Simon Silk Mill in Easton. They hosted an amazingly successful benefit to raise money to fight the Australian brush fires.
So they already have my admiration.
The only friend I know who ate there was not impressed— she felt rushed and a tad snubbed by their waitress.
But I’ve been intrigued by their recent business model… They’ve adapted by becoming “Tucker Provisions” and it’s like a drive up general store.
They feature a a variety of other local and regional farmers, vendors, and small businesses. The apples in the picture are from Bethlehem’s Scholl Orchard. The golden raisins are super plump and juicy, so good.
And I am so looking forward to trying the potatoes, zucchini, Brussel sprouts, rhubarb and broccoli.
I even splurged on some Mexican soda.
While we were out, the teenager spotted these:
“Mom,” she says as the car is stopped. “There are some really nice rocks over there.”
“Go get them,” I tell her.
Maybe she’ll be a geology major.
For supper last night I decided I wanted homemade cream of broccoli soup. We have some heavy whipping cream in the fridge that’s past its date, more than a week past, and I hate to waste.
And Tucker had broccoli.
Now I never follow a recipe, never exactly. Either I never have all the ingredients or I just don’t want to. This was a little of both. While I prepped the soup, I roasted some of the Brussels and our last radishes and the smallest of our fingerling potatoes.
I made mini bread bowls out of the heavily discounted fresh baked but day old dinner rolls I bought at Weis last weekend and tossed in the fridge. I even toasted the removed guts of the bread bowl to make croutons on top.
Good stuff. Looking forward to enjoying it for lunch if the rain keeps up.
I’ve been allowing myself to sleep in a bit and these days I’m waking up between 6:15 and 6:30. I lay in bed sometimes until almost 7, but I’m always dressed, with pants and everything, and at my desk with a hot cup of coffee by 8:30.
I’ve enjoyed sharing an office with my birds— three budgies and a Goffin’s cockatoo—all of whom must be enjoying the electronic swing I listen to at my desk and the bird playground I have assembled for them.
Yes, that’s the teenager’s kitten who refused to get out of the cockatoo’s cage.
Now, when Nala the cockatoo destroys toys I save the salvageable pieces and put them in these spare dishes and she plays with them and throws them at the cats.
I think I have some new toys coming for the parakeets, and I also need to order them more ladders and perches because they have suddenly destroyed everything in their cage.
Work passed easily, I feel like I was quite organized and productive. And I’m offtomorrow. I took an unplanned paid time off to take care of some health issues. So it will be part trip to the pharmacy, part virtual doctor visit and part mental health day.
There’s a contact we have at work at a local company that is the point person for a rather large food drive that benefits our agency. Because of the state lockdown, they can’t host this food drive so the employees contributed cash instead, but she didn’t want to mail it and our offices are closed.
So the teenager and I took a road trip. It’s strange when a 25-mile round trip to the next town and back feels like a major outing. I donned my mask, put on my gloves and we exchanged an envelope of cash in the parking lot.
That might be the closest I will ever come to feeling like a drug dealer. Nope, scratch that. I’ve driven around with a trunk full of Girl Scout cookies.
My teenager and I have the best conversations while in the car. We talked a lot about financial responsibility and budgeting and how important it will be for her to determine her own style of fiscal management. She admires my discipline, chicanery and creativity with making my money work for me.
I taught her about different ways to trick yourself into putting money into savings. The first of course is to set up automatic transfers. Another is to have a portion of your paycheck direct deposited into savings.
The easiest is to always, as soon as you take a new job, decide on a number of how much goes into retirement if your job offers a retirement plan. That way before you even see how much your take home pay is, the money goes into your future.
And if your job doesn’t have retirement options, go to your bank and contribute to an IRA. Every year. Because money saved when you are young goes far.
That motivated me to go ahead and take the plunge and use that last $1,000 of my stimulus check that I had put into savings and use it to prepay for 400 gallons of fuel oil for next winter’s heat at $2.199.
That was painful. But at least it’s over. Next I need to contact the dentist about the $859 bill they sent me for my crown. My insurance company didn’t cover anything but $17. I’m annoyed because the dentist thought they’d pay 50%, the tooth still isn’t right AND the bill they sent didn’t include the credit for the $394 I already paid.
But paying for the fuel oil was enough adulting for today.
The teenager made an amazing steak dinner.
And Nala loves onion rings.
The teenager discovered, because I sent her an Instagram post, that The Attic thrift store has an online sale and bid on a red dress. That she won.
I love the ingenuity our local small businesses are showing. I hope it continues after the lockdown ends.
Last but certainly not least, I tried this Cascara tea which is supposedly full of antioxidants and it tasted really good.
I started today with the debate of whether to blog about Nala, my Goffin’s cockatoo, or my thoughts on what makes a good day or a good weekend, something the teenager seemed insistent upon us having.
But the cats started climbing the parakeet cage, I made the “mistake” of reviewing some news coverage of Donald Trump’s handling of the Coronavirus pandemic, and frankly, I’ve lost my train of thought more times than I can count.
So while I’m still lost in a sea of randomness, watching Mistofelees (my daughter’s formerly feral/stray kitten) decide how to get off the budgie cage without crossing Nala’s path, let me also say I used the hydrating hair mask from last month’s Ipsy Glam bag and my dry curly hair is remarkably not puffy today.
The first time I tried it, I didn’t see any results. This time was very different.
I washed her new sheets and hung them on the line yesterday. I helped her make her bed and I hope she had a lovely night of sleep on them. She picked the most colorful ones first.
In the next order of randomness, I think I’m going to make a Buffalo chicken spaghetti squash casserole for Easter dinner.
Now, shall I even expound on my thoughts on the Coronavirus situation. Perhaps briefly.
I think the isolation vs. develop herd immunity arguments both have merit. It’s hard for anyone to know what is “right” in any major situation. What makes a good leader is the depth of response, the logic behind it and how organized the implementation is.
Those who have resources and power will always sacrifice those who have less to maintain their resources and power. It is true of most humanity. Even those will less. Look at the hoopla over toilet paper.
I think this change in how we live and work could have some broad implications. I would like to see, in my Pollyanna nirvana, a world where we all slow down, shop less, and spend more time with our loved ones. But in reality, I think we will see shifts in service delivery (perhaps huge changes in public education), reductions in consumer goods available/continued shortages, and more poverty.
Our civil liberties have changed since 9/11/2001 and they will continue to decrease. The notion of privacy is almost completely dead if not buried. I remember when science fiction warned us we would all be microchipped and have our physical money taken away. Now, the core of our lives are tracked, spied on and connected to a mini-supercomputer we carry with us everywhere we go. We call it a smart phone.
Technology companies are developing identifiers for each of us via our phones to track who may have been exposed to Covid-19 and alert those they with whom they came in contact. This technology will no doubt track us all in other ways in the future but I’m not against it. Because, see previous bullet, in today’s world there is no real privacy boundaries left.
So let’s enjoy this sunny Easter and celebrate life and spring.
With the pandemic looming, and people still struggling in the every day ways, you have to rejoice one moment at a time.
I’ve been binge-watching Gordon Ramsay. Thanks to snippets I saw on Facebook watch, I started watching Kitchen Nightmares on Hulu. I got through about 3 seasons, and starting checking out a few other television programs featuring the chef.
I love food. I love men with accents. And I like to cook. The more I watch the more I am drawn to his two sides, Gordon inside vs. outside a restaurant kitchen in the middle of service.
I admire Gordon’s marketing and business acumen, and the food always looks beyond amazing. How does it make it look so easy?
After a day of much laundry, dog-sitting (perhaps literally, if you take a look at the photo) and a church service to represent the office… Gordon might have gotten into my head.
I don’t have many groceries left in the house and the budget is a tad tight right now. (The extra mammogram and ultrasounds my doctor ordered in October ended up costing me, as the first bill rolls in, $500, thanks to my old high deductible medical plan.)
For supper I started with some potatoes getting very old, cut them into wedges and seasoned. I sautéed some leftover ham and some peas in a skillet, sprinkled it with some grated Parmesan and served plated to the best of my ability.
Maybe I should lay off the Gordon Ramsay programs.
I woke up at 6 this morning, but laid in bed for a while afraid to wake the birds.
I opened the curtains for them slightly before 8. Here is a glimpse of them in the pink nightlight. Good morning, Birds
I fed the cats, the birds, made coffee, put in laundry and hung wash before making a giant hot pocket for breakfast.
Ham, spinach, scrambled egg, homemade mozzarella.
I cut some cantaloupe. The teenager had a mango.
Then I did dishes. A second load of wash. Vacuumed the kitchen, living room and half the dining room. And the furniture.
I washed the living room and kitchen floor.
Picked up the teenager’s stuff and moved furniture.
Then I stopped to visit the kitten. Which the third kitten has returned. If the neighbors catch it, we have a former neighbor interested in it. But she is going on vacation with Sobaka’s mom so then we would get to foster Misty’s sibling!
Sobaka might be here in as little as an hour. I need to shower but I also need to rest.
I watched an episode of Gordon Ramsay’s The F Word last night and an episode of 24 Hours: To Hell and Back. His original BBC show and his current one.
Perhaps one day soon I’ll do an essay on my new obsession.
Sometimes I think we, as Americans in the 21st Century, stress too much and obsess too much about failure.
In the last six months, perhaps even the last year, I’ve hedged a lot of bets on new things. Some are simple things, like buying a car. Others are more complex, like accepting a new job and later a promotion into a position where I have no experience, only passion and my wits.
I enjoy new experiences, not everyone does. I love learning. I love challenges. I love some competition.
But with that comes failure. And sometimes we spend so much time on the failure that we don’t see how much progress we made before we failed.
It’s not even 9 a.m. on the last day of a long weekend. Probably my first relaxing long weekend since I started my new job in April. My time off prior to this was filled with parental duties or medical appointments.
Of course, I’ve slept in until 7 a.m. every day so the alarm tomorrow is going to be brutal. I have some very important projects on my desk and some meetings this week that also give me some concern.
The living room is completely dismantled, unpainted, and the furniture will arrive by the end of the week.
The teenager has a holiday concert on the same night I agreed to attend a party with my CEO. (In my defense, I thought she had her interior design class, which she does so she’s double-booked, too.)
But this post is about failure.
If you look a few posts back, you’ll see that a good friend inspired me to buy The Whole 30. I read most of it, even did some grocery shopping, but never implemented it. It did force me to think more about what I was eating. I started tracking my macronutrients again and reducing my carbohydrates. Not in a low carb way. In a balanced way.
I am debating canceling my Planet Fitness membership. It’s been seven months and since school started, my teen and I have only gone 2-4 times a month. We both need it, but we’re not going. And I have free weights and the tools I need to get started again here at home. I joined the gym to motivate her and have more options since I’d maxed out at home.
So right now the gym is a failure, but at the same time fitness is very much on my mind and I wish I had it in me to resume my disciplined body building. (I did two or three home workouts this week. My goal is to break my bad habits before considering “New Year’s resolutions.”)
And finally, for the first time since I started making homemade bone broth a decade or so ago, I failed at that. For two days, I’ve had chicken bones from my freezer and the Thanksgiving turkey carcass in my crock pot. Somehow, overnight, ALL the liquid boiled off. ALL of it.
My “waste not, want not” attitude kicked in and mourned this tragedy. Then I remembered: I don’t like poultry broth. My daughter used to love chicken soup. But she doesn’t so much anymore. And I don’t really have room in the freezer. So maybe we didn’t need homemade soup right now.
Failure isn’t always bad. Sometimes it keeps you from expending energy in the wrong direction.
While I was recovering from my minor winter ailment, somehow I stumbled upon Gaz Oakley, the Avant Garde Vegan on YouTube. I’m not even sure how or why, but something mesmerized me.
I spent eight years as a vegetarian before my daughter was born and went vegan for six months back in my twenties. I never was a big fan of meat and I hated touching it. I also disapproved of factory farming practices and the use of hormones and antibiotics in our meat. Basically, I never had a problem with eating meat, but I did have a problem with the big business of food production and the amount of processed foods and chemicals in the standard American diet.
When my daughter was young, I made 90% of her baby food, most of our bread products and bought a lot of our food from local farms. Not the Farmer’s Market but the actual farms. I also gardened and preserved our food in the almost-lost art of canning.
As life got busier, I lost some of my good food habits. And I burned out a few food processors making homemade nut butters, blending dates for use in snacks and grinding my own flours. Oh and I made ridiculous amounts of hummus.
Something about Gaz and the way his cooking style incorporated the types of foods I like had me hooked. It was his high protein meal prep that truly mesmerized me and made me want to eat it all. I needed to cook again. Really cook.
And he did the things I used to do when I destroyed my blender.
So what did HE use?
I read all the comments on his videos about the blender system and its comparison to a Vitamix. Now frankly, I don’t want a Vitamix. It’s a blender. I have a nice Black and Decker blender with a glass pitcher that suits me. I need a food processor.
Then I saw it at Target. The Ninja Professional. $199.
I wanted it so bad. So I made a Facebook comment. Suddenly, my family is offering to buy me a Ninja.
I had no choice.
I bought a Ninja. And started cooking again.
I have cooked for four days straight. My husband teases that I can’t make a meal without firing up the Ninja.
I am in love.
Gaz’s Sriracha Meatballs and my spinach yogurt sauce
In my free time, I write fiction. My husband says it makes me an easier person with whom to live.
My writing focuses on a Parisian high fashion house inclined to supernatural events. The creative director is Étienne d’Amille and he’s been in my life for decades.
So, he’s my best ever imaginary friend.
He was born during the interwar era in France– March 14, 1959. Every year I try to mark his birthday in some way. When he turned 50, I took a group of my friends (the ones who “knew” him, i.e. read about him) out for dinner and margaritas.
Many of my celebrations are quiet meals at home, where we often discuss what we’d get him for a present or what he might be doing now.
This year, I made steak au poivre.
A day late.
I had intended a lovely dinner, perhaps even by candlelight, for this charming imaginary Frenchman whose memories I confuse as legitimately my own. Then I agreed to work for a colleague in the evening and my mom visited taking my daughter away. (She would have been extremely disappointed if we ate the steaks without her.) To further complicate matters, my husband and I used the early afternoon for other activities (or more accurately, one adult activity) that I’m sure Étienne would have also enjoyed.
This particular version of steak au poivre has its own “comedy of errors” moments but let me say, it might have been my best ever. After college, I became a vegetarian. This lasted eight years primarily for two reasons: 1. I don’t approve of modern factory farming and 2. I hate touching meat. Étienne, though, as a Frenchman and a divorcé, likes to cook so I got over my discomfort of dealing with meat “for him.”
Étienne’s Belated Steak Au Poivre
4 small chuck tender steaks, angus beef (I got mine on markdown at Target)
Himalayan pink salt
half a stick of butter, cut into four equal pieces of on tablespoon each
garlic powder (should be shallots but I didn’t have them. I often substitute fresh chives but didn’t have them either)
1/2 cup brandy (I’m a liar. I didn’t have brandy. I had ginger brandy and spices rum, so I mixed them. It worked.)
3/4 cup heavy cream (I’m lying again. I didn’t have cream, so I used half and half)
(I put photos on Instagram: angelackerman.)
With a heavy-bottomed skillet (mine, of course, is Le Creuset), smash peppercorns. I couldn’t find my grinder, which had my peppercorns in it. I did find a small container of peppercorns and salt that had exploded from the grinder at some point.
Next, pat steaks dry and smash them with a skillet too. Cooking can be great as a form of anger management. I bet Thug Kitchen would agree.
Sprinkle both sides of the steaks with salt and press the peppercorns into the meat. Cook them to desired doneness and place in a warm oven.
Now, the cream sauce.
Take half the butter and cook your shallots or chives or whatever. I added about two teaspoons garlic powder. When it’s appropriately incorporated pour in the alcohol. When that starts to bubble, add the cream and slowly bring it to a boil. Let it slowly thicken, then add remaining butter. When it melts and blends into the sauce and you just can’t take it anymore, smother those steaks and eat!