Dabbling in drunken torture

As a new parent, you spend a lot of time obsessing about sleep, primarily how to get more of that magic elixir. A few weeks back during a rare evening out (thanks to Alex for taking care of the baby and my friend Jo for having a birthday) I was talking to another parent about these first few weeks, months, “oh god please not years” of sleep deprivation. She pointed out that forcing prisoners to go without longer stretches of sleep (aka the magical 4 hours needed for a cycle of REM) is an actual form of torture and can lead to a lack of mental functioning similar to intoxication.

Here is a brief history of Baby Olav’s* adventures with sleep

The first five weeks – To be honest I am not really sure how we survived this, but Olav spent this period of time refusing to sleep on anything that wasn’t a human and with no real sense of day and night. So Alex and I spent our time in 2-3 hour shifts around the clock. Fortunately both of us were off of work AND we had friends and family nearby who would sometimes take an evening shift or early morning shift which allowed us some much needed breaks.

The introduction of the rocker – Starting at around five weeks, Olav finally discovered that he liked the rock and play. And glory be, so did we. This was our first adventure in all three of us sleeping at the same time and it felt glorious. Nights were still pretty broken up by feedings and diaper changing, but the idea that we no longer needed to have either Alex or I awake at all times was tremendous.

Transition to the bassinet – About a week or two before I went to back to work (both Alex and I took 12 weeks off of work), we finally got up the nerve to go back less solid sleep and see if we could transition Olav out of his constantly rocking nighttime routine and into the world of non-moving flat surfaces. And Olav did surprisingly well. In fact this is where I started to get some of those first glorious stretches of 5 to 7 hours of uninterrupted sleep.

The first routine – Around 3 months, Olav had started to form a routine that was really working for us. Down to sleep around 9pm or 10pm, up for the first feed at around 3am, sometimes even as late as 4 or 5am, then back down for an hour or two before up for the day. While that wasn’t as early a bedtime as I would have liked, that made for some pretty bearable nights that included that golden 5 to 7 hour stretch of uninterrupted sleep.

The four month sleep regression – Starting around 2 (or 3?) weeks ago, Olav decided to do what babies do and regress! According to my extensive googling and reading of sleep books, this is a stage that all babies go through when they transition from newborn sleep habits to the sleep cycles they will continue to have for the rest of their lives. Unfortunately for Olav (and me!), this means he needs to relearn how to put himself to sleep. So far, with a few exceptions, Olav has been failing at this task. Our new reality looks like this:

  • Down to sleep between 9pm and 10pm
  • Up for the first feed between 11pm and 12am
  • Then up every 1.5 (booo!) to 2.5 hours later the whole way through the rest of the night.

Since all of these wakings are responded to with nursing, there is little Alex can do, so while he would love to help, most of these nighttime wake-ups are responded to by me. Which means I am back to that blurry tortured world of intoxicated sleep deprivation. Although unlike those first five weeks, I am still expected to show up for work every day and function like a real adult.

Now I didn’t intend for this post to be a whine fest about how tired I am, just a window into my reality at the moment. The good news is that so far I am doing a pretty decent job of reminding myself that this is just a phase. And if I have learned anything over the past 5 months is that most phases of parenting are short, or at least shorter than you realize. And second, despite the drunken torture that Olav is inflicting, he remains a fantastic lovable and adorable baby. There continue to be so many amazing moments to savor where I am oh so glad I get to be this little one’s mama.

Dapper baby in authentic 80s sweater

*Not his real name, but one that was on our list of finalists

2015, a very very late recap

I started this post back in 2016, and finally got around to adding the photos 2 years later. So here you go a recap from my year as it occurred 3 years ago. It sure was a good one!

January

Due to my job, I got rather invested in the Seahawks and their fight to the Superbowl. Mainly because the longer they played the more opportunity my nonprofit had to fundraise.
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Alex and I went out to eat (probably for brunch, probably where there was coffee).
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We enjoyed the chance to babysit the youngest of our friends’ daughters. It was great fun to get some solo time with her and see Alex show off his future father skills.
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At some point this was my grocery list, I don’t know what I was planning on making, but I am sure it was tasty.
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February

Spent two evenings creating the adventures of Seda, a half-ling ranger, and her wolf, Akela. With the help of a cleric and a warrior, we successfully found, stole, and destroyed the crown of the long dead Lich-king.
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Reached level 7 of Ingress.
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Got to cuddle this ridiculous puppy thanks to my former co-worker Erin.
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March

Ate brunch with Alex at Volunteer Park Cafe and then walked around the Arboretum to look at signs of spring.
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Went to Olympia to tell lawmakers to fund emergency food programs. Also spent time looking at the cherry blossoms.
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Alex purchased a long-a-waited desktop computer. He was very happy about it.
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Went to the Pacific Science Center with Alex to escape a dreary weekend, mainly hung out in the butterfly garden.
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April

Got a new iPhone 6, giant computing power that fits in my pocket. Main use? Taking pictures.
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Went on a weekend getaway with Alex to Ocean Shores. Walked along cold beaches, made food that didn’t require an oven and lived in a tiny cabin 10 ft away from a hot tub = fun weekend. The more time I spend with Alex, the more I am convinced that I married an amazing person.
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Lindsay and I’s office amarylis bloomed!
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Alex and I went to hear Neil Gaimen speak at the University of Washington. Gaimen speaks as intelligently as he writes, or in other words quite well.
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Jenn, Katie and I made pretty smelling spa things. One out of three was very successful, but mostly I liked the time spent with these fun women.
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May

Seattle attempted to demonstrate just how many colors it could jam into one season
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My family came to visit!
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My friends came to visit!
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David and Sarah got married (While the highlight is truly the lovely ceremony that reflected their deep appreciating for community based activism, the main thing people talk about is the llamas).
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I went on a hike with family and one adorable dog.
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I started a tiny porch garden.
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June

I went strawberry picking with Katie, Jenn and kids. It was hot, but very delicious.
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I ate a burger at Miller’s Guild that will be included in my top ten list of things ever eaten.
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Alex and I joined up with Hedgehog friends from across the country and spent a long weekend in Cape Cod. The house was delightfully old, the beach was fantastically close, and the weather was mostly perfection. Side note: My friends seem to have only very adorable children.
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Celebrated various birthdays with the Peterson family women by eating and drinking our way through a lavish high tea.
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July

The sad departure of a friend at work brought about Bacon Hor-d’oeves day which was salty, fatty and completely delicious.
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I took the bus down to Portland to visit Meryl. Portland was in a heatwave, so we spent most of our time chatting, drinking iced coffee and seeking out air conditioning.
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We also spent one day hanging out and swimming in the nearby river – a completely lovely day.
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I reached level 8 of Ingress.
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Jenn and I hosted a baby shower for Katie and Bryan, for which we mainly focused on creating a spread of very tasty food. Highlights include the various tea sandwiches, Jenn’s Tres Dulce cake and my lavender creme brûlée.
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My amazing former co-worker Zan helped me get my very own signed photo of the Chef from Battlestar Galactica. #Nerdpoints
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August

Alex and I got very into making delicious protein salads like this one.
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I finally finished my contribution to a group knitting project – a Tardis themed baby blanket for Katie and Bryan’s baby.
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I ate homemade s’mores with my co-workers.
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I was offered a long awaited dream job – librarian and after much discussion with Alex made plans to move back to the Midwest. (No photo)

I baked a blueberry peach pie.
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I discovered an old macro cover for my iPhone and proceeded to take lots of extreme close-up photos around the apartment.
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Katie, Jenn and I enjoyed a celebratory (and final (for a while!)) ladies night by having dinner at a fancy waterfront restaurant.
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Alex and I “got sick” so we could spend the day savoring one last ferry ride around Seattle.
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We indulged in one giant weekend of RPG, trying to make up for the fact that we didn’t know when we would be able to play again. Battles were fought, Akela died a noble death, experience was gained, and so much fun was had.
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I reached level 9 of Ingress.
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September

I harvested the tiny red fruits of my porch plant labor and my spider plant decided to have lots of babies.
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Meryl came up for a visit and we talked, ate, laughed, Ingressed, talked, walked and laughed some more. Meryl is such a gem, I miss her lots.
2015-09-12 10.06.15
I went to my first ever Steampunk Tea and Painting Garden Party in costume and painted an owl. Somehow during my three years at my last job, many of my co-workers became dear friends.
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A baby was born! It was truly incredible to see such a tiny new life, only 24 hours old and to see two of my favorite people step up and become outstanding parents.
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David and Sarah treated us to an incredible meal at a fancy restaurant. We caught up on life and ate lots of tiny amazing food. This was dessert.
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While packing for our move, I found some outstanding old newspaper clippings that attest to both my extreme neediness and my brother’s early start to activism.
2015-09-17 18.21.45
As part of our farewell (for now) tour of Seattle, we spent the day at the zoo with our friends and their amazing daughters. It is very true that zoos are more fun with children along.
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After a feverish week of goodbyes, packing and much hecticness, Alex and I hooked up rented Uhaul and trailer and started our 5 day journey across the country.
2015-09-23 09.09.03
After a 16 hour first day, we took it a bit easier and traveled through Yellowstone on Alex’s birthday.
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Alex indulged my childhood love of the Laura Ingalls Wilder books and we spent one night and part of a day exploring the tiny town of De Smet, South Dakota.
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We finally arrived in Goshen, tired and ready to say goodbye to our Uhaul. My parents welcomed us with open arms and plenty of help with the process of unloading.
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Being back in the Midwest means getting to see several of dearest girl friends more regularly. This makes me very happy.
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October

On Oct. 1, I fulfilled a dream I first started to have back in 2006 and got my first full-fledged librarian job. While changing careers is always hard, I am excited to say this job continues to inspire me and make me excited to grow in new ways.
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After our arrival in town, my parents promptly left on a week long vacation, so Alex and I took care of their chickens for the week.
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Another favorite of my fall was getting to see my younger brother Jonathan more regularly and get to meet his really awesome girlfriend.
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While Seattle will always win in terms of mountains and water, the Midwest really takes the cake in autumn.
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A quick weekend trip up to Evanston brought with it fun city adventures and more time with Jess, who is always incredible to hang out with. This also brought about my first visit back to the Chicago Botanic Garden is probably over 5 years. It was as lovely as I remembered.
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November

Part of the advantage of living closer to the middle of the country is that one can easily take a day off of work and make a quick trip east to attend a cousin’s wedding. So good (if all to brief) to see family. (No photo)

The Midwest delivered a spectacular first snow of the year. 6 or so fluffy white inches and one very gleeful Norwegian husband.
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Another highlight was the indulgent Saturday spent with girlfriends watching all of the previous three Hunger Games movies in anticipation of the release of the final one. Fun was had by all. (No Photo)

Thanks to our interest in cooking and disinterest in choosing only one kind of cranberry sauce, Thanksgiving was an expansive feast including three different red (or pink) dishes.
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I reached level 10 on Ingress.
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Family fun also included a game of disc golf, whereupon the four non-Jonathan members of the family attempted to beat the frisbee king at his own game by playing together on one team. We were unsuccessful.
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Jonathan’s dog Mathilde is the cutest.
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December

I love living closer to more of my family. Now all that we need to do is find a way to bring Tim and Charlotte a bit closer to this part of the country.
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My growing appreciation for my new co-workers reached new heights with Ugly Christmas Sweater Day.
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Winter means seeing a lot more sunrises, this is not always a bad thing.
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We decorated the christmas tree with my parents.
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My co-workers are intelligent, dedicated and also incredibly goofy.
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Alex and traveled for the week of Christmas to Seattle where babies were cooed over, dear friends were hugged, coffee was imbibed, chats were had, food was eaten, presents were opened, family was enjoyed, and then we flew back to Goshen to celebrate Christmas in Goshen.
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Bagels were baked, sweaters were knit, games (oh so many games) were played, food was cooked, presents were exchanged and lots of laughter.
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We finished up our time together with a day trip to Chicago on the train.
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Ahem, venturing into the long dead world of blogging

So what started as a desire to organize my personal Google Drive files (who doesn’t love the chance to add a little file management fun into their lives!), led me down the path of a folder entitled Rough Drafts. Which is where all of my blog posts from the past 4 years (yep almost 4 whole years have gone by since I last blathered about into the world) have lived and died. Reading through some of those made me nostalgic, which made me curious, which eventually, after some googling of wordpress login sites, made me dust off my blog and hit the new post button.

For most of my life I have always felt like pretty much the same person. Yes my location, friendships, career, level of knowledge, appearance, etc have all changed, I have long felt like the difference between me and my 16 or 25 year old selves was not that huge. That despite the learning and maturing, some core part of me remained untouched, essentially the same, basically the same version of Abby. However today as a 34 year old, reading these posts from my twenties and early thirties, I feel like I am on the other side of a chasm.

During my twenties, of which I spent the majority of the decade single, I used to say I didn’t need to find a special someone immediately, I just wanted to know if that would happen. I felt that I would only truly enjoy my singleness if I knew whether or not it would one day end. Of course, I didn’t get that piece of knowledge and had to live my life one day at a time, which meant that I struggled to truly appreciate the freedom (and yes even the loneliness) that comes with singleness. Meeting, dating and eventually marrying Alex was a wonderful journey, one that shed light on both my previous reality of singleness and the new lessons of life as a part of a couple. But I can say even that big life change didn’t alter my sense that I remained essentially myself. It wasn’t until this year that I feel like my outlook has fundamentally shifted.

Well, you may have already guessed what propelled me to this side of the chasm. This life of no free time, dependency, sleep deprivation and drool. Alex and I had a baby.

At some point during those first few weeks I tried to come up with analogy to describe being a new parent. And all I could come up with was the idea of being squeezed through a very adorable and cuddly meat grinder. All your old preferences, tolerances, and limits get mangled and changed when faced with the idea that this tiny little lump needs you and your love constantly in order to grow and develop. Seeing as I am only 4 months into this, I am still not exactly sure what my new post meat grinder life will look like. Am I a fresh pork sausage, or perhaps a meatloaf surprise? Who am I as a mother? Where does that identity begin and end? What parts of my life will eventually return and what parts are forever changed?

As I said on Facebook when announcing my pregnancy, what has happened billions of times here on planet earth, still manages to feel unique and earth shattering when it happens to you. Becoming a mother feels like the first part of my life that has intrinsically changed who I am. I am not better or worse for having gone through this experience*, I am just different.

Meeting my baby, becoming a mama

*I remain very committed to the idea that, like marriage, parenthood is not a requirement for individuals to live fulfilling lives!

Penance

This morning just as I was contemplating how to atone for my missed posts, my Dad emailed me about my blogging commitment and pointed out that perhaps I should blog once a month in 2015 to make up for my missed days.

My current plan is to just keep posting into December for however long it takes to get to my original 30 required posts. But perhaps throwing in a monthly post promise for 2015 is a good idea too.

So to catch up from my last post, what you mainly missed was my weekend. I really enjoyed the chance to spend some quality time with my friends, starting with a Friday night together time (which included a round of Tichu in which the women were victorious!) leading into babysitting on Saturday night and concluding with going to see Guardians of the Galaxy for the 3rd time on Sunday.

Other tidbits are mainly work related and include a raise, two early mornings – one for a chance for my org to be on TV and another because Alex helped one of our drivers.

So despite all the business of life, this started blooming this week.

Christmas cactus

Why you should go to happy hour with your co-workers

Today we had a good-bye for a co-worker who is moving to a different state and I went along. As previously stated, I have a strong disinclination to do things that keep me from changing into my PJs right after supper and hibernating on week nights (at least during the dark months of the year). So at 2pm or so, the usual impulse to cancel and just go home came, but I pushed on and found people to carpool with. And I have to say I really do work with super fun people.

Moving to Seattle was a huge transition for me in terms remaking my community from the ground-up. Granted I did have a few close friends from college to start with and a boyfriend (now husband), but making friends in Seattle (even 3 years in) has been quite difficult. Part of it is the same struggle I had in my early Chicago years when all I wanted to do was to find a nice guy to date. However all I also wanted to just stay in my apartment, do jigsaw puzzles, and not go to bars. Going to bars seemed to be like the only real viable option presented by society in terms of meeting people, however I knew that anyone I would want to actually date would probably also prefer to stay at home and do jigsaw puzzles. Which presented quite a dilemma for my romantic prospects.*

I have had a similar, but more platonic issue when I moved to Seattle. Seattle is very much a city of introverts, which works well for me, I fit right in. However turns out introverts also like to stay home and do jigsaw puzzles. Which means neither I, or my future friends, are really out there meeting each other.

Fortunately I had a back-up plan which was work at places where you genuinely like the people you work with. That has proven much more successful for me. I have gone to bachelorette parties for my co-workers, attended crafting parties, drinks and movie events, holiday parties and more. My co-workers have helped me move, planned my wedding decorations, crafted incredible wedding centerpieces, been the go-to day of coordinators for my wedding, thrown me engagement parties, seen me cry, made me laugh, offered me advice and genuinely become some of my closest friends in Seattle.

In my three years in Seattle, I still haven’t found the same community I had in Chicago, or branched out and met lots of people. However I have found the perfect friends I need to help me enjoy this strange, cloudy, and introverted city.

*I solved this by writing letters to this Lutheran bachelor from Seattle long enough for him to write me letters back and then eventually marry me.

Salad Monday

A major point in favor of marriage (or shacking up with the awesome person of your choice) is how you sometimes have dinner waiting for you when you get home. Tonight was one of those nights for me – lucky duck. While this is not as seasonally apt as it was when we ate it 2-3 times a week this past summer, this basic salad with seared pork, feta cheese and delicious aged balsamic vinaigrette is a classic fav for both Alex and me.
Delicious salad

Point for cleanliness

Today was a relaxing day full of reading, chatting with family, and actually a little productivity. Behold the great bathroom cleanup of November 2014. While I still really need to get some organizing baskets or something, at least the counter is finally clean and the stuff factor is reduced significantly.

Before and After Bathroom

Comfort food and cast iron

I forgot to post this yesterday right up until I was falling asleep. So instead you will get two blog posts today.

Chicken Gravy with Biscuits
(A recipe made up by Abby on the fly, feel free to adapt accordingly)

chicken pot pie

 Ingredients

  • a leftover roast chicken
  • 1 onion
  • 2 carrots
  • 1 bell pepper (although celery would be great here too)
  • some frozen peas (Alex kindly pointed out that I forgot this key component
  • butter
  • flour
  • salt
  • pepper
  • spices that sound good (I used oregano, thyme, tarragon, and a pinch of paprika)
  • milk
  • water
  • biscuit recipe

A convoluted set of directions

Okay start off by picking all of the remaining chicken off of the roast chicken placing it off to the side. Take the remaining chicken bones and such and put them in a put with enough water to full cover them. Get this to a medium boil.

This is where the cast iron comes into the scene. Heat it to medium and add a splash of cooking oil or butter. Dice the vegetables and sauté them until the onion is translucent. Lightly chop up the leftover chicken and add that to the pan.

Next comes the gravy. Turn the heat down to medium low. Then take a nice pat of butter and add it to the mixture. Then dump a similar amount of flour (I used 2-3 tablespoons) into the pan. Stir quickly and thoroughly to give the flour time to get absorbed by the butter. The mixture should look sticky and mostly absorbed into the vegetables and meat.

Now add milk, I started with 1 cup and eventually ended up adding 3 cups. Stir after each addition. Let this simmer for a few minutes and then start adding your salt, pepper and other seasonings.

Depending on the thickness of this and your own whimsical preferences, add a ladle-full or two from the simmering stock pot on the back burner. Continue tweaking and tasting until the gravy is perfect.

Now times for the biscuits. Turn your oven on to 425 degrees. Make your favorite biscuit recipe. Once the biscuit dough is ready tear it into small bits and place on top of the gravy mixture. You want the gravy to be completely covered.

Pop into the oven for 15-20 minutes. Once the biscuit tops are all nicely browned take it out and allow to cool for an additional 10 minutes. Then enjoy

P.S. Once your chicken stock has released all its tasty goodness, strain, pour into a glass container and freeze for the winter ahead.

 

Good things

  • The Abhorsen trilogy by Garth Nix: It had been way too long since I had read a high fantasy novel, so this set of books has been a real treat. Long, aimed at young adults, taking place in a fascinating magical world, full of fascinating and well-balanced female characters, all mean that these are quick becoming favorites. I am only half way through the second in the trilogy, plus the author recently came out with a 4th book as a prequel to the trilogy, so there is plenty left to read!
  • Between listening to the Shovels & Rope that Jonathan pointed me to and my other new favorite Lily and Madeleine, I am awash in good new music.
  • It is Friday and to celebrate Alex cooked me breakfast for dinner. Pancakes, bacon and sautéed spinach are the perfect way to say good bye to a week.
  • In-laws that are a treat to be around – Alex’s grandparents took us both out for Indian food earlier this week as belated birthday treat. They are in the 80s, but sharp and still living independently in the same house that Alex’s father grew up in. Hopefully Alex gets some of those longevity genes.
  • Cold spell in Seattle: I know that those of you in the Midwest probably don’t really consider mid-30s cold, but for Seattle those temperatures definitely register so. But the real reason I like the cold is that it brings with it clear sunny skies.
  • Odd genetic quirks: Thanks to a combination of Alex’s strange Norwegian ideas about temperature and my own childhood mantra of “Just put on another sweater” we haven’t actually had to use our heat yet in our apartment. Maybe we can make it to January?

Some things I recently bookmarked

Jonathan sent me this video to his new obsession Shovels & Rope. Sadly I read the email too late toto see them live in Seattle. If you watch this video, you will know I missed a lovely time. (P.S. After you watch this, you will probably want to see their Tiny Desk Concert on NPR Music)

I still read a lot of blogs, but not nearly as many as I used too. One that I still read every post of is Linda at Sundry Mourning. When I first started reading her blog, she lived in the Seattle area with her family, but they have since moved to Oregon. What keeps me coming back to her blog is her frankness, humor, and willingness to share insight about her own journey through alcoholism, motherhood, freelance writing and so much more.

“I’ve been thinking about coming to terms with those past moments and acknowledging that while they happened, they’re behind me now. I don’t have to carry them with me, every prickle and hurt, flying them in bitter winds like hurtful flags of shame that keep me from being the person I know I’m capable of being. They don’t have to box me in, they don’t need to reduce who I am now or who I am going forward. They don’t have to make me a less valuable, lovable person.”

Go read the full post: Golden repair.

My brother Tim posts lots of interesting things on Facebook, however this one felt particularly relevant to both Alex and I’s struggle to get to bed on time.

“Since most of us can’t sleep later in the morning than we currently do, the only option is to get to bed earlier. And yet we don’t. Why? The reason is twofold. First, we’re so busy during the day that the only time we have to ourselves is late in the evening – so we stay up late because it’s our only downtime. Second, we have less willpower when we’re tired, which makes it tougher to force ourselves into bed.”

How to Spend the Last 10 Minutes of Your Day

While I still haven’t watched Game of Thrones, I have read all of the books and so I loved this list by local nonprofit blogger – Vu Le (Nonprofit with Balls).

“I will hurt you for this. A day will come when you think you are safe and happy, and your joy will turn to ashes in your mouth. And you will know the debt is paid.”—Tyrion to his sister Cersei.

Perfect for: A coworker who ate your food from the office fridge without asking you.

10 Game of Thrones quotes you can use at work