Tuesday, August 26, 2008

A Visit from Laura

It was over two weeks ago now since cousin Laura was down from Virginia, so here are a few pictures at last. We ended up going to the Daniel Stowe Botanic Garden which was in full splendor for the summer.

We saw some different plants...

..and more bugs on the plants than we thought could possibly exist!

It was a mild day for the summer, but still hot and humid. Luckily there were lots of fountains in the garden keeping everyone cool. We parked by one fountain to eat our picnic lunch and people watched. More people were at the fountains trying to get wet and get a photogenic shot than at the plants looking at prize flowers.
We got some great ideas for gardening and had a nice day outside to boot.

We later went to the Discovery Place and then went home to make taco salad and watch My Super Ex Girlfriend. It was a really fun day! I've still got more pictures at home that Laura took, as she got some better shots of the garden. For some reason my camera seems to be washing out the colors.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Crock-pot Pork with Sweet Potatoes

One dinner with a lot of potential that I tried in the crockpot last week, and that we are still having for leftovers in our lunches, is a pork roast with granny smith apples and sweet potatoes. Here's the recipe:

~2 lb pork roast
2 granny smith apples, peeled, cored and sliced
2 sweet potatoes cut into large chunks
~ 1/2 cup or so of brown sugar
~1/2-1 tsp. of ground cinnamon
sprinkles of ground cloves

Add the meat, apples and potatoes to crockpot, sprinkle with the sugar and spices and set the crockpot onto low and cook for 6~8 hours. Actually, I set mine on before leaving for work at 7:00 and then it goes onto warm mode after the set cooking time. I get home around 6:00 so by the time I get home it's been in there a long time. I think the meat turned out a tad dry (overcooked) , and the apples disintegrated into applesauce (although the juice added a lot of flavor). On a day when I'm home, I will try again and check and see if maybe 6-7 hours cooking time would be more appropriate. Give it a try though! The taste was excellent and only took about 10 minutes to prepare.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Still here, but not here...

I think this is about the longest time I have gone without posting since starting my blog a year ago! My studying for the geology test has kept me busy and very preoccupied.

I have pictures to post of my cousin's fun visit a week and a half ago, but they are on my home computer. Problem: when I'm home, I'm studying. I think about these things when I'm at work and try to remember when I get home and promptly forget. I feel like my mind is a jumbled mess right now!

Hope all is well with you all.... I will try to get my ideas organized and resume posting more often.

Friday, August 8, 2008

Crock Pot Chicken a Success

Wow this Kitchen Aid crock pot is super deluxe. The chicken was set to cook for 10 hours and then the crockpot automatically switched the temperature over to "warm" to keep the dinner hot for when we came home from work and were ready to eat. The vegetables had more texture to them than when I cook in my older crockpot, and nothing got burned.

The chicken recipe required that just before serving you take 1 1/2 cups of lite sour cream and blend with 1/4 cup of flour. Then mix in some juices from the crockpot and then add the whole mix to the crockpot vegetables. While that is thickening in the crockpot, I worked on deboning the chicken which was not too tough since all the meat pretty much fell off the bone. There was a lot less meat wastage cooking the chicken this way since it was so easy to separate the meat from the bones. I pulled everything out onto a cutting board to do this so we didn't get little bones falling off into the vegetables while I was sorting.

This is supposed to be a low fat recipe IF you skin the chicken before cooking. "Heck no" is what I said, since the skin adds a lot of flavor. I removed it after cooking, though.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Exciting Times -- New Crock Pot

Back in April my mom and dad gave me a gift certificate to Bed, Bath and Beyond for my birthday. I've been saving it for something special-- one choice was new sheets as we are going to upgrade to a king size mattress sometime this year (for now, our queen mattress is on our new king bedframe so we keep bumping our shins getting in and out of bed). Another choice was curtain rods and tackle. But, I recently decided I really wanted the 7 qt. Kitchen Aid "Slow Cooker" (I will always call them crock pots, even though that is a brand name) that has great reviews.
My crock pot that I've had for years is a ~3 qt. cooker and I use it often to do chili and soups but it is not large enough to make a big batch for leftovers, and it isn't large enough to do roasts and chickens. Now that I am Miss Study for the Test, I thought it would be a good time to make the jump to the jumbo size and get dinner ready in the morning since I'm already up at the crack o' dawn anyway to get Paul off to work. This way I'll have more study time in the evening.

So this weekend we went and got the cooker and this morning I have a whole chicken in it with new potatos, carrots and onions with garlic and chicken broth, salt and pepper and various herbs. I'll let you know how our chicken turns out tonight. Thanks, Mom and Dad, for the birthday present!!

Monday, August 4, 2008

Geology Exam Preparation Begins

One of my goals for this year is to take the national geology exam to become a "professional geologist." I am finding it so hard to get back into studying after being out of school for awhile now. I used to be able to sit down for 8 hours and study, but now I need a break after an hour and a half. I am so thankful for Paul who is being very helpful by taking care of most of the chores, giving me quiet time to study, and being there as a "rock" of support, a quartz monzodiorite, to be exact.
Yesterday, I was feeling reallllly stressed and test anxiety set in even though it's still 2 months away... there is so much information and I could not see how I was going to rememorize the things that I had 4 years to learn. Paul gave me a big hug and sent me upstairs to have a bath. My flashcards came with me, but laying in the warm bath calmed me down and allowed me to focus.
It's going to be a rough few months, and so the blog may get a bit quiet, but I'll do my best to keep posting if there's anything besides studying going on. For one thing, my cousin is coming down next weekend, so that will be fun, fun, fun! All the more reason to get my studying in early.

Friday, August 1, 2008

Interesting Forecasts

It's been two weeks now that I haven't ridden my bike to work- every day except the days I had marked out to do grocery shopping (and hence, can't leave the bike in the car with the roof down at the grocery store) have been predicted to have afternoon thunderstorms. We have had threatening clouds and rain nearly every afternoon if only for a minute or two. But I check http://www.accuweather.com/ every day to see 'what's up' just in case it's a good day for a ride.

Well, whoever has started posting the daily forecasts on accuweather for the Charlotte area has made the forecasts more interesting. Most of them say things like, "partly sunny with possible rain in the afternoon." or "hot and sunny with high humidity." But lately there has been some variety in language used, not every day, but some days. For example today's forecast is "Times of sun and clouds with a thunderstorm on the prowl in the afternoon." Who can read that and not laugh?" So fun.