Learning each and every day

My quest to edify myself a bit every day

Archive for the month “February, 2012”

Day 57 – February 26

I haven’t watched a new release movie in ages. In fact, I don’t remember the last movie I watched. Oh, wait, it was Mr. Popper’s Penguins . . . .a friend and I got our gaggle of kids together to watch it. But before that, I think it was Finding Nemo, around 2 years ago. Yeah, I just don’t watch movies that much anymore. It’s weird, because I used to watch them all the time. At least once a week, sometimes more. Sometimes I’d come home for lunch, start a movie, and then continue it when I got home from work. Or I’d spread it out over several lunch breaks. I have to say, I don’t really miss the movies . . . my life is no worse given my lack of cinematic knowledge.

Which leads me to my discovery for the day: the Oscars are rather boring if you’ve a) not seen the movies and/or b) not heard of the movies. Some of the jokes were entertaining, and it was interesting to hear some of the speeches. But, by 9pm, I was done with the Oscars, and I went to bed, not at all interested in who won Best Actor/Actress or Best Picture.

Funny how your opinions can change over time!

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Day 56 – February 25

Sabbath is a day of rest. A day when we take a break from the daily grind and stop to spend time with family and God. As such, I’ve decided that I’ll also be taking a break from actively trying to learn something on Sabbath. Up until now, I’ve always managed something, but it just goes against the spirit of Sabbath for me. So, if I happen upon something new, I’ll blog about it, otherwise, I’ll just skip the day. Yes, that means that I won’t have learned 365 new things this year, but I’m okay with that.

Day 55 – February 24

Remember the Ford Excursion? The giant beast of a vehicle, well-known for it’s abysmal gas mileage? Well, I learned today that it’s actually not as big as everyone makes it out to be.

We test-drove one today, which included schlepping all of the babes’ carseats from our F-150 into the Excursion. It was a little weird for the boys to be so far away in the 3rd row, but they seemed to enjoy it. My first impression was that it sat lower than our F-150 (4-door supercrew), which seemed strange since it’s built on the F-250 chassis. We drove it around for about 20 minutes, and even took it into a parking lot to see how it parked. I did a perfect back-in parking job on the first try, and DH did a perfect head-in parking job on the first try. We were both quite surprised as we expected to have a little trouble parking it since it had the reputaion of being such a beast of a vehicle.

The interior didn’t seem quite as roomy as we thought it would, but I’m pretty sure that’s because we had a whole slew of carseats in there with a few rear-facing (READ: takes up alot of space).

So we got home and DH did some looking around. Come to find out, the Excursion is basically the same length as our F-150 and only about an inch or so wider. So really, I have no idea why everyone says it’s so enormous? Who knows. In any case, if we decide to get an Excursion, driving it won’t be much different than driving our F-150. This is good news.

Day 54 – February 23

I think I’ve discovered the perfect way to eat mediocre tomatoes. You know, the kind you get from the store, oh, most of the time?

Roast them.

Seriously, to. do. for. I really don’t like cooked tomatoes at all, like tomatoes on pizza, yuck! But roasted tomatoes are delicious. Sweet, juicy, perfect.

So today, I decided to take this knowledge and try to make the perfect tomato pie. If you’ve even made tomato pie, you know that the bottom crust can end up a soggy mess if you don’t remove the seeds and extra liquid. Frankly, that just seems like a big pain to me. Enter, roasted tomatoes.

Here’s my adaptation of Deb from Smitten Kitchen’s Tomato and Corn Pie recipe.
ETA: forgot to tell you when to add the corn!

4 large roma tomatoes, sliced
2 T. olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
1 cup corn
3T watercress leaves, roughly chopped
1 1/2 cups cheese (any kind you like, I used cheddar)
1 pre-made pie dough (you can make your own dough, which would likely taste better . . . I was feeling lazy today)
1/3 cup mayonnaise
2 T lemon juice

Preheat oven to 500 degrees. (It doesn’t HAVE to be this hot, but it roasts the tomatoes faster). Pour olive oil onto a cookie sheet. Drag the tomato slices through the oil, making sure to coat both sides. Sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste. Place on a rack in the bottom third of the oven and roast for about 10 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool.

Lower oven to 400 degrees. Prick the bottom of the pie dough with a fork. Place on a cookie sheet in the oven (either shelf) and cook for about 10 minutes. You want the dough to be partly cooked so that it won’t be so doughy, that will help with the doughy mess that sometimes happens with tomato pie. You don’t want the dough to get browned, so keep an eye on it. Remove from the oven and let cool a bit.

Place a layer of cheese in the bottom of the pie dish. Layer the tomatoes on top of the cheese, then sprinkle half of the watercress leaves on top and half of the corn. Repeat the layers, ending with a final layer of cheese. Mix the mayo and lemon juice with a whisk and pour over the pie.

Your pie is now ready to bake. Place it on a cookie sheet in the oven and bake for 25-30 minutes, until the cheese is bubbly. Remove from the oven and allow it to cool 10 minutes before serving. Slice and enjoy.

It turned out really well, I was pleased. Next time, I’ll make my own pie dough. The roasted tomatoes gave it an amazing flavor and there was no mushy pie dough or runny filling!

Day 53 – February 22

We’ve had our pizza stone for about 7.5 years, and have used it a fair amount. Until today, I thought we were using it the right way, and always wondered why the pizza had a funny taste after using it. Well, I learned today that I’d been using it wrong all along.

My old method:

Get the pizza ready, set it on the stone, bake it, slice it, eat it, wash the stone with soap and water.

The new method:

Preheat the pizza stone in a VERY hot oven, around 500 degrees, for 45-60 minutes.
Place the pizza on the stone and bake, slice, eat.
Allow pizza stone to cool completely and then wipe with a damp cloth. If there are bits of cheese or anything stuck to it, use a spatula to scrape it off. If that doesn’t work, stick it in the oven again and they try to scrape it off.

I couldn’t have been more wrong! Washing it with soap and water was a BIG mistake. Apparently, the flavor of the soap will get embedded in to the stone and then into your pizza. (So THAT’S the funny flavor!) There was an obscene amount of smoke pouring out of the oven while I was using the stone today. I’m guessing that was all of the soap getting burnt off of the stone. The stone is now a nice toasted color, and from what I read, it’ll likely get to be pretty black with repeated use. But I get the feeling it’s like a cast-iron skillet: the more you use it (correctly, of course), the better it gets.

Now I’m wanting to make pizza every day for the next few weeks to test out my newly found knowledge. The babes would LOVE that menu, I’m sure. Alas, not exactly the healthiest menu, so I’ll have to be patient and spread my learning and experimentation out over a few weeks!

Day 52 – February 21

Dr. Seuss books are really quite amazing. Today, I discovered just how amazing they are. I’ve been reading them to the babes for about 6 months now, and they have really enjoyed the stories. Now that the 4 year old is getting to be a much more proficient reader, we’ve started reading books together: I read one page, he reads the next. He does quite well, but with the Dr. Seuss, he is even starting to add in vocal inflection and dynamics while reading. I’m convinced this is because of the way the books are written.

1) The words are very simple, with very few words having more than 5 or 6 letters.
2) There is a TON of repetition throughout the book.
3) Each page is filled with all sorts of words that rhyme. So once you get the hang of one word, the other similar words just fall into place.
4) The words themselves are written in a musical way, with a natural ebb and flow, rise and fall.

I can’t say enough good things about the books: they are fun to read, entertaining stories, long yet still engaging, and excellent for the beginning readers. One caveat, be sure to get the books actually written by Dr. Seuss. There are several other books by the same publisher that are just not the same. Better to stick with the classics:

Mr. Brown can moo, can you?
Marvin K. Mooney will you please go now!
Green eggs and ham
The cat in the hat
Hop on Pop
One fish two fish red fish blue fish

So head out to your local library, grab your beginning reader and get ready to be engrossed in the world of Dr. Seuss!

Day 51 – February 20

You may have noticed that my daily posts have been lacking for the past two days. Chalk that up to being sick, laying around doing nothing, hence, learning nothing new.

Today I learned about molar pregnancies. I’m continually amazed at the new things I learn about pregnancy, being a female and conception. I’m in my 30’s, have three children, and I”m still learning. I would’ve thought that I knew most things on this topic. Clearly, not. So a molar pregnancy is not a good thing, it’s an abnormality. It happens to about 1 in 1000 women, so not hugely common, but it does happen. The tissue that would normally develop into a fetus instead becomes a growth in the uterus. This can still trigger pregnancy symptoms and if you pee on a stick, you’ll get a positive result. But, there is no fetus. Molar pregnancies are discovered in routine ultrasounds in early pregnancy, through a blood test, or a pelvic exam. Because the tissue is a growth that is not supposed to be there, it’s really important that it be removed so as to not cause any problems to the mother.

Here are a few websites if you want to read more about it.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hydatidiform_mole

http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/molar-pregnancy/DS01155

http://www.webmd.com/baby/tc/molar-pregnancy-topic-overview

Day 48 – February 17

I learned a great trick today for cooking asparagus. Actually, it’s not for the actual cooking part, it’s more for the “getting the asparagus ready to cook” part. I really love asparagus, but I hate getting the chewy and tough parts at the bottom. Until today, I had chosen a spot about an inch or two up from the bottom, and chopped, hoping that I got all of the tough part off. That sort of worked, but invariably, I would still end up with some tough sections. Enter, “the snap”. At least, that’s what I’m calling it.

Hold the asparagus stalk with both hands, keeping one hand towards the center and the other towards the bottom. Now bend it until it breaks. It’ll break right where the tough part begins. Really, it works. I was actually dubious, so I saved all of the broken bottom ends and cooked them along with the rest of the asparagus so that I could try them out. Sure enough, every last one ended up being tough and unpleasant. I really thought that some of the pieces would be soft since some stalks had a fairly large chunk break off. Nope, the family happily munched on nice tender asparagus and left the tough ends for me to try. Next time, there won’t be a need to save those ends, I’m fully convinced. I love it when I bump into great cooking tips like this!

Day 47 – February 16

I’ve had this recipe for make-ahead burritos pinned for a long time and have been wanting to try it out. For some reason, I got the bee in my bonnet to do it today, so I did. I made a fair amount of changes. The rest of the family doesn’t eat meat, so instead I sauteed up some veggies (carrots, zucchini, onion) and tossed in a packet of Goya seasoning. I scrambled the eggs in my own way, I made migas. (Migas – scramble the eggs, just before they are set add cheese, salsa and crushed tortilla chips.) The potatoes were a total experiment. I wanted to use my Kitchen Aid shredder/slicer attachment since it was out and I’d already been using it for other parts of the meal. Dicing isn’t on it’s list of tricks so that was out. I thought about hash browns, but didn’t want to have to boil the potatoes before cooking them. So, I made hash browns, without cooking the taters first. =) It took about 15 minutes and I had to be constantly stirring to keep them from totally sticking to the bottom of the pan, and they weren’t really brown or fried, per se. But they more or less turned out.

It took me about two burritos to get into the flow of how to fold them. Her directions are different from how I fold tortillas for enchiladas . . . my brain had issues with the switch. But once I got it, the assembly was super quick. I haven’t eaten one, as a burrito, but I did taste the combination of ingredients (minus the tortilla) . . . these burritos are going to rock my world! I’m saving them for that “Blech! It’s 5:30 and I have no energy to make dinner” time. So, I’m sure I’ll be back sometime in the next few days with a follow-up review! =)

Day 46 – February 15

It’s pretty clear to me now, I should never buy breakable souvenirs, and people shouldn’t gift them to me, either. It would seem that I am unable to keep them in one piece. Let’s take my high school trip to Europe as an example. I had just bought a fun little mug at the Christmas Market, and the people had wrapped it in newspaper (I think) and put it in a paper bag. I hadn’t owned it for more than two minutes when I dropped it on the ground, where it shattered into what I could only imagine was a thousand pieces. My friends all said, “Oh no! Your mug!” And I said “Shoot!” I carried te bag around until we got back to out place for the night, and timidly opened it up to survey the damage. Yep, tons of pieces. Thinking it might still be salvageable, I carried the broken mug around in my suitcase for the rest of the trip. Amazingly, I managed to super glue it back together (yes, it WAS like a puzzle) and have been using it for about 20 years now.

Fast forward to last week. DH came home from a trip to Africa, and brought me a beautiful wood carving of a woman wearing her baby on her back in a simple piece of cloth. I loved it! I’m sure you can guess what happened. Today, it fell off of it’s shelf and broke.

I knew it was going to happen, but I couldn’t get my hands under it fast enough. I haven’t had the heart to see if wood glue will fix it. I hope it will! But seriously, I didn’t even have the carving for a week before breaking it. So what did I learn today, I’m unable to keep fragile souvenirs in one piece!

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