Archive for October, 2010

Learning to Relax

I am writing to you from Lake Brome in Quebec.  Currently, I am sitting on what was doubtless a very expensive couch from Pottery Barn or some such store while look out at the rippling waters of the lake.  Music from my Ipod is playing throughout the house on the built in sound system.  In the corner of my eye, I notice the sauna and hot tub (in ground) that Mr. Cookie and I spent so much time in yesterday.

When Mr. Cookie’s cousin offered us her “cabin” outside of Montreal for however long we wanted it, neither of us was expecting anything quite this fancy.  It’s pretty clear that unless his cousin miraculously has way more time off from work than we know about that this “cabin” has seen the touch of a designer.  It’s beautiful.  The kitchen is about the size of mine but so much better laid out (it doesn’t hurt that the living, dining, and kitchen are on an open layout).  

We’ve both had trouble relaxing lately.  For me, work has been uncharacteristically stressful.  For him, work has been uncharacteristically lacking (I guess that’s what happens when you quit your job).  So, once we got here I made the decision to call in sick for today (oh the horrors!) and make it a long weekend.  We’ve become professional relaxers.  Saturday, we spent a day wandering around Montreal.  If we saw something interesting, we went in.  If we got hungry, we stopped and ate.  We climbed Mont Royal (half in a car, half on foot) and looked out at the city.  We strolled slowly while joggers, cyclists, and parents with active kids and dogs zipped by.  We basked in the hues of the foliage.  At the end of the day we had clocked 7 miles, according to Mr. C’s pedometer.  Not that we had a goal.

Yesterday, we didn’t hardly leave the house.  I had a short workout in the basement, we used the sauna and hot tub, we went for a short drive around the neighborhood and went into a local grocery store (guess what, guys:  Canadian grocery stores have just as much crap food as US grocery stores).  In the evening, we went out for dinner where we tried escargot and duck from Lake Brome.  Verdict:  both were delicious.  I had the pork tenderloin and both Mr. Cookie and myself were stunned when I was asked if I wanted it “rose” (that should have an accent over the e) or well done.  Not in the US!

An evening was spent by the fire that my husband built and we read with big mugs of hot chocolate.  Then, when we tired of reading, we watched a movie and had some wine.  I feel so calm and happy.  Sometimes, it’s so easy to get caught up in the hullabaloo of life and forget to enjoy the moment.  But we’re learning.  

Slowly and surely.

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Mom’s Manicotti

When I was a kid, birthdays were treated as sacred days.  You didn’t have to make your own bed, you didn’t do any chores (including supper dishes!), and most importantly, you got to pick your favorite meals.  There were a few staples in our house.  I know a lot of kids love to order pizza on their birthdays, but where we lived the pizza options were pretty bad and besides, why would you want that when your mom was such an awesome cook?  One of the recipes that was a standby birthday request for me and the family was manicotti.  Now, I have no idea where my mom got this recipe from.  As an Air Force wife, she collected a lot of recipes over the years from fellow military spouses.  Or maybe it came from her family.  I have no idea.  We’re not Italian, so I’m going to guess the former.  This is comfort food at its best.

Cheese Manicotti

Shells

A shell cooking

4 eggs

1C flour

1C water

dash salt

Mix in a food processor (no, seriously.  I tried not to and they were just too lumpy.  Alternatively, you could try a blender).  Pour 2 to 3 T of the mixture into the bottom of a non-stick frying pan on medium low heat and swirl the pan around to spread the batter out in a circle.  Let it cook until it’s flippable and leave briefly on the second side.  Turn out onto a plate until you’re ready to start filling them.

 

The batter

 

 

Cover the bottom of a 9×13 casserole dish with sauce to prevent sticking.

Cheese Filling

2lbs ricotta cheese

1T dry parsley (or 1/4C fresh parsley)

1/4C parmesan cheese

8-12 oz grated mozarella

salt and pepper to taste

 

Blurry action shot of spooning the cheese into the shells

 

 

Mix all the  ingredients together and spoon into the shells.  Lay in a single layer in the 9×13 casserole.  Once all the manicotti are in the pan, cover the whole thing with more sauce and bake at 350 degrees- 30 minutes covered and 10 minutes uncovered.  Enjoy!  If you want the recipe for sausage filling, let me know.  They’re just as yummy.  🙂

 

 

Somehow, I failed to get a picture of the finished product. Whoops.

 

Imagine the above picture with more sauce on top.  I fail at documenting my cooking.

 

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Applesauce: An Essay in Photos

Okay, maybe there will be some words, too.  Mr. Cookie and I went apple picking last weekend.  The orchard we went to did a lousy job of labeling apples and we did a lousy job of identifying them, so I have no idea what kinds of apples we picked, just that we did so because they were tasty and sweet.  We ate a lot of apples that day (so good!) and got the best the orchard had to offer.  This is my third year making my own applesauce and canning it and also the first year I did it completely on my own.  I missed having the help of a friend, but I have to say that even though I was processing more apples than in past years, I think I’ve finally developed a system and it went really fast.  And it wasn’t that I couldn’t have had help; several friends asked me to.  Life has been so crazy busy though that by the time I could have gotten around to coordinating schedules my apples would have gone bad.  😦  Read on to see me making and canning my applesauce.

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Things Teaching Has Taught Me (or, passive aggressive rant)

As a teacher, there are certain things you learn pretty quickly.  So, I wonder how it is that I’ve figured these out after four years and yet some one of my colleagues still haven‘t hasn’t seemed to figure this out in a couple decades.

* It’s not you against them.

* You’re the adult.  Act like it.

* Kids will piss you off.  You have to smother it (not the kid).

* Every day is a clean slate.  It’s probably not a great idea to scream at a kid that if they’re going to suck today, they can just stay outside your room (as said kid’s walking in at the start of class).

* Have fun!  If you’re having fun, the kids just might too (potty jokes work very well “Number TWO!”)

* It may be easier to bitch and moan, but it’s happier to find a solution.

In other news, today the sun was out, the sky was a brilliant blue, I made several but/butt jokes and it was a GREAT day.  🙂

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The Kitchen is My Studio, Food My Artistic Medium

Well, I currently have about a half bushel’s worth of apples glubbering away on the stove, ready to be canned and put away in the basement.  The hot water bath canner is coming up to a boil and the jars are sterilizing in the dishwasher.  I adore this time of year.  It is a time of apple cider donuts, crisp air, crunchy leaves underfoot, and hot cider.  I also bought some pumpkins at the orchard yesterday and used them to make homemade puree.  SO COOL!  I’ve already used some of the puree to make a pumpkin jelly roll for my mom’s husband, whose birthday it is tomorrow.  They are in from Alaska and his birthday just happened to fall during their trip so Mr. Cookie and myself are helping them to celebrate.  On the menu:  manicotti; italian sausage, onions, and peppers; salad; roasted nuts; the aforementioned cake (which tastes amazing, btw); hot apple cider; and cinnamon ice cream.  Yum.  I’ll try to update this later with pictures of the apple sauce and I’ve also got a post coming later this week on how to make your own delicious, homemade manicotti.  Yum!

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Racing Myself

It’s been awhile since I posted a running update.  After the half marathon, I felt like you guys could use a break.  Well, break’s over!  I’ve always hated losing.  Card games with my sister would inevitably end in my bottom lip thrust out, arms crossed, and hot tears streaking down my face while I hiccuped “nuffair!”  That translates into “not fair,” for those of you who don’t speak child.

One thing running has helped me with is the realization that I’m not the best, and that’s okay.  So instead, I find myself racing against myself.  It’s not about crossing that finish line first.  It’s about challenging myself to go faster, be less tired afterward, pass just one, maybe two more people at the finish.  I’m happy to say that for the majority of the races I’ve done, I’ve accomplished a personal best.  It’s crazy to see times from two years ago for the same courses.  For example, there’s a local 5K in early October every year.  Here are my times for the last three years:

10/4/08  34:52  (11:15mi)

10/3/09  31:13 (10:04mi)

10/2/09  29:09 (9:19 mi)

So, the first time I ever ran it (and actually, that was my first race ever), I finished with a 11:15/mi pace.  I remember my goal for that race was to finish it in under 35 minutes and I was so excited when I came in so far under.  Then last year, I wanted to break a 10 minute mile and when that didn’t happen, I was bummed.  Until I realized how very very close I’d come.  This year, I really wanted to get in under 30 minutes.  I was secretly hoping to come in under a 9:30 pace but decided it was probably a long shot.  My fastest 5K to date was in June, when I had a 9:36 pace and that felt crazy to me then, even with fewer hills.

I would be willing to bet that the fastest runners finished the course in around 15 minutes.  And that’s cool.  They’ve probably dedicated a lot more time to this and no doubt look like this.  I may not be the fastest, but I can sure as heck be faster and stronger.  And that’s pretty cool.

Upcoming races:  Tufts 10K (next Monday), Gobble Gobble Gobble (Thanksgiving morning).  I’m wicked excited.

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