Earth Day Rockets 2017

The boys watching rocket launches

Our tiny little down didn’t have a March for Science today, so our act of protest was engaging in a shitload of science at a rocket launch: the physics of the rocket stuff, geology in the dirt and rocks we examined, a little animal biology discussing the large femur we discovered at the launch site. Twin 1 insists it’s a fossilized T-Rex bone; Twin 2 is gunning for triceratops (likely a cow).



Pie Day, mofos

Tomorrow, I’m gonna try to bake a pie. Specifically, this pie.

I haven’t done this in over a decade. And I’ve never baked a pie at high altitude. This may be fun. Or may be a disaster.

There’s no wisdom in wisdom teeth

I am in pain. The neck pain from Monday turned into an excruciating toothache  by Monday night, one that kept me up for most of the night. An emergency trip to the dentist showed an abscess/infection in my upper left molar, exacerbated by the impacted wisdom tooth pressing against nerves. Apparently I have all four wisdom teeth, and most have cavities. Gross. So now I get to have my wisdom teeth surgically extracted, which is something I’m decidedly not interested in experiencing.

The added wrinkle in the situation is that I live a couple hours away from the nearest oral surgeon, so on top of the usual rigamarole of scheduling issues, I have to factor in, ya know, getting there as part of the equation. Two weeks of classes left, plus one week of finals, and then I guess I’m flexible.  Only I don’t know if this is something that can wait three more weeks.

I’m on antibiotics now, and the dentist yesterday said that should eliminate the infection, which in turn should alleviate the pain. I hope so. I mean, I haven’t had a “level 10 on the pain scale” moment since Monday night, but I’m also not down into realm of the manageable. The whole left side of my face hurts – to the bone – and it’s also exacerbating the neck stuff.  The toothache pain causes the muscles in my face and neck to tense up, which in turn makes the spasm worse.

The bright side is I have meds I can take to help with the pain; the downside, however, is that I can’t take those meds and be a functional adult. So I’m sitting at work now, with 2 hours left until I teach my final class of the day, and 3 hours left until I can take that sweet, delicious pain-relieving medication and crash.

And just so this post isn’t entirely overrun by my toothache-addled whining, my husband made this soup for me last night. It was delicious, and even the kids approved. They both had several spoonfuls of mine (after they’d finished their own supper of burgers and tater tots) before getting bowls of their own. They’re not the biggest soup eaters, or cheese eaters, but they gulped this down and asked for daddy to make it again.


Mondays, man

I seriously got hit with the Monday stick today – woke up to a flare-up of this nerve/muscle/spine pain that I’ve had periodically for the last decade. It decimates my range of motion in my neck for the duration of the flare-up, making it nearly impossible to turn my head from side to side. I’ve been to several doctors, chiropractors, and physical therapists over the years, and they’ve all been helpful in the short-term. But this condition is definitely stress-related, and no amount of x-rays and PT exercises can eliminate that.

I’m at least pretty clear about what triggered it this time, which is an improvement over previous flare-ups due to generalized stress. Yesterday, I had to take one of my sons to the emergency room, and that triggered a PTSD recurrence.  Thankfully, these recurrences are becoming fewer and far between with every year; however, put one of my kids in a hospital setting – even for something as a benign as the eye irritation that brought us there yesterday – and BAM! it’s there.  I’m right back in the NICU, watching my 30-week preemies struggle to breathe, unable to touch them or hold them and beating myself up for what I saw as my body’s failures.  It’s comforting to know  now that this is an actual thing, and that I’m not the only parent who struggles with it.

But anyway, I’m pretty darn certain that the neck flare-up is tied to yesterday, and although that doesn’t do anything for the physical pain, it’s reassuring to know that I’m beginning to be able to identify triggers.

Only 15 class days left in the semester. I can do this.

Did I mention I love owls?

Because I do. I’ve been watching this Owl Cam religiously since I found out about it early this month. Currently, the Mama is snuggling with her babies – those the little dude on there might was a little squirmy, trying to get out from under her just now.

Owl Mama and her Babies, 4/14

I keep a window with the cam open on my work computer, just to check in and make sure all is well. This morning, I got a good view of the babies as I was prepping for classes (because I got to work at 7:20am because everyone in my house was awake before 6am for some reason?). Owl babies are little squirmy alien creatures that must be snuggled to stay healthy.

Witness the cuteness:

Three barred owlets, snuggling

Admire this cuteness, and go lose yourself in the hypnotic Owl Cam.

Yes, I’m that asshole

You know the bad reviews and comments on recipe sites? Those reviews, the ones that start with “I didn’t have any of the ingredients so I substituted…” and only get worse? The Toast (RIP, The Toast) had an awesome article about them back in the long-long ago that you can check out here.

Anyway…I realized as I was prepping supper tonight that I’m that asshole, only I don’t have the time patience to write comments on recipe sites. Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, I present the following evidence.

I decided I wanted some sort of Nawlins-inspired rice dish tonight. Not authentic Cajun cuisine, mind you, but “inspired by the Mahatma Red Beans and Rice packets that my mom and I would have with whatever the cheapest brand of horseshoe-shaped smoked sausage we could find” comfort/convenience food of my childhood. (BTW, I didn’t even know they still made that and I am totally going to order me some, posthaste!) That’s something I’m starting to push back against now – I grew up with a working single mom, so cooking was a task to finish quickly after the workday, not something to do slowly, to relish in the process.

So I went on a google-quest for a recipe good for my beloved Instant Pot, and found one that fit the bill (keyword: EASY). Only, as I got into the prep, I realized that I didn’t have the right kind of sausage. And we only had brown rice instead white. And what do you know, I have this can of black-eyed peas that would probably be good with chicken and andouille sausage and rice! And so on and so forth, ad nauseam.

And where does that leave us now? My concoction that isn’t really following that recipe at all is currently cooking in the Instant Pot, and I’m crossing my fingers that it isn’t terrible.

Update: Success! It tastes good and is cooked and everything! Huzzahs all around! Only I’m sure my kids will hate it.

Chicken, andouille sausage rice thing.

Domesticity, Creation, and Slowing Down

Since making the decision to transition out of the academic grind, I’ve started to dip my toes into being more creative on the homefront. This domestic kick has been, in large part, the result of the Instant Pot that came into our lives at the end of 2016. Over the last couple months, I’ve been cooking more (read: AT ALL), and in the last few weeks, I’ve gotten brave enough to actually try the stuff that had been frightening me.

My new favorite kitchen tool

Scary Test Project #1 was Yogurt from This Old Gal. My first result was a little bit runny and thin, but it tasted delicious.


My first attempt at yogurt, straining in the fridge.

Delicious enough that I tried again this last weekend, with greater success all around.  Unfortunately, I didn’t take any pictures of that more successful yogurt.

But my big happy success of this week has been…dum, dum, dum…PANEER. MY VERY OWN HOMEMADE PANEER.

For this Scary Test Project #2, I read a gazillion recipes for homemade paneer (and homemade cheeses in general), and ultimately landed on my own Instant Pot version of this really easy recipe from the Kitchn. I just started everything in the Instant Pot, using the Yogurt feature on Boil to heat the milk, and vinegar as the acid (because it’s what I had on hand). It was so cool to see the curds forming quickly, and everything went exactly as the recipe laid out. (Note: I’m a relative novice in the kitchen, at least when it comes to complex or complex-seeming things, so when things go according to plan, I get excited.)

Ladling the curds into the strainer.

Milk + vinegar + heat = my very own homemade cheese!

Soft baby paneer, ready for straining!

After separating the curds and whey, I got to squeeze the baby paneer into a tight little ball of cheese to get all the excess liquid out. This recipe (starting with 1/2 gallon of milk) produced about three mason jars of whey, which I can apparently do shit with later. (We’ll see how that goes). After squeezing and squishing every last bit of whey from the cheese ball, I got to shape it into a rectangularish block in preparation for the pressing.

Pressed paneer, ready for the fridge.

After it was pressed, I stuck it in the fridge overnight to firm up more. The next morning (Monday), I made an easy marinade (some of my too-runny first yogurt + a tablespoon of garam masala) and stuck in that. Last minute changes to our dinner plans meant that the paneer got an extra day to soak up the marinade before turning it into glorious chunks of grilled deliciousness for last night’s dinner curry.

Not exactly a quick-fix for when I want Indian food in this tiny Southwestern town 2 hours from the closest Indian restaurant. But still, it’s delicious. And mine.

grilled paneer
Savory, ambrosial delight: aka, grilled paneer

Once we move, we’ll have greater access to ethnic foods, but I think I’ll continue to make my own paneer. And branch out into more cheeses.  Because there’s something satisfying about making something from raw materials, creating this staple food.

In over a decade of life in academia, I became conditioned to being “too busy.” This sort of task was a pointless indulgence; meals were something to prepare and consume quickly. Why make shit like this at home when you can buy something easier at a store or restaurant?

It is my hope that this transitional phase of my life will allow me to pause and enjoy the details, to trust the process rather than accepting that the tunnel-vision that comes from focusing on distant, unreachable goal has to be standard practice.