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

Thoughts from a bus

Tonight I had the pleasure of hearing Anne Lamott speak. Which I can now say with authority, you should definitely take advantage of if given the chance. She is occasionally profound, sometimes rambling, frequently witty and always raw and loving.

This was the first stop for her book tour for Small Victories: Spotting Improbably Moments of Grace, a collection of essays. She is the author of any other beloved books I have read and many other that I plan on reading. She was also suffering from a sore throat, which she handled with grace while speaking and reading to a packed crowd.

As for how I ended up there? I must admit this event had several strikes against it.

  • It was on weeknight evening during the months in which I leave work after dark.
  • It was held in capital hill which is not the easiest trek for me.
  • I didn’t have anyone to go with me.

But in spite of those perfectly good reasons to stay inside and read, I am so glad I went.
On the bus ride there I read an email from my uncle which included a long wonderfully rambling update on Grammy. Which included the reminder that next week on the 19th it will be 10 years since Pappy died. I find that idea mesmerizing. I honestly don’t believe time has progressed at that rate. Perhaps it is because my memories of that experience are sharper in that way that dealing with death often does to life? Or maybe it is just that ever expanding sense that life is going by too fast for me to soak it all in?

Either way Anne talked about death and grief and how we are rarely allowed by society to grieve at length. While I miss my grandparents it is not with a sharp ache, but more with a fond tug. But it is good for me to remember them and cry, like I did tonight. Grief doesn’t work on time tables.

Well my bus is almost home, so I will end this by saying read some Anne Lamont, go hear her speak if you can and remember as she said tonight you are loved even when you don’t feel it.

A post written to be skipped

When in doubt I like to go with the bullet-point list:

  • This Friday I will be spending the whole day in a Drupal training day. I always love a chance to pretend that I am true techie.
  • Tomorrow night I will get to see Anne Lamont talk about her new book Small Victories.
  • Today was another beautifully clear autumn day and actually quite brisk by Seattle standards.
  • Which reminds me now that we have had our first frost, I really need to get a scraper for my car.
  • This evening we watched Agents of Shield, which was fun. I watch so very little live TV, that adjusting to the concept of un-pausable commercial-laden programming always takes me a little.
  • Also, if you are looking for delicious popcorn, I recommend adding a few shakes of pre-grated parmesan cheese. It’s the best.