Free money

I’m mad at myself. I think I lost my chance to get my $100 gift card from Boeing on the Move – and not just because my daily step counts have been pathetic since my surgery. One of the requirements to get the gift card is to record your step counts in the online tool at least once a week. Sounds easy enough, but when I logged in on Friday night I discovered that it had been eight days since I had last submitted any of my data. Crap. I couldn’t figure out if that automatically disqualified me from the potential rewards, but I have a bad feeling that it does. This is bothering me much more than it should. It’s not like I’m going to have to pay $100 out of my pocket so I didn’t really lose anything, but I might no longer have the chance to get the free money I was so looking forward to. I know that I only have myself to blame and I hate it. But I’m not going to let this completely derail my fitness routine! Not that I have much of a fitness routine at the moment. More like plans to resuscitate my extremely neglected routine in a couple of weeks. I’m not allowed to do any strenuous exercise for a little while longer (I have my follow up appointment for my surgery on Friday so I’ll ask about it then), and I’ve been working so much this week that I haven’t even gone outside to take a walk since last Sunday. Pitiful. I really must do better. But I’ll write another post about that soon. But anyway, I’m going to continue to log my step counts for Boeing on the Move for the rest of the program even if there’s no chance to earn a gift card anymore. At least I’ll get the satisfaction of not giving up after this silly setback of my own making. My health is more important than free money (even though I really, really wanted it).

This reminds me of a situation I was in last year. While doing some cleaning and organizing over the holidays I discovered that a few of my college textbooks that I’ve saved for all these years were actually worth some money! It was like finding money in the pocket of some pant you haven’t worn in years! So I went through the Amazon trade in process, boxed up five textbooks that they told me they were willing to give me almost $250 of credit for, and dropped them off at the post office. Unfortunately the box never arrived. I assume they books were too heavy, the box wasn’t properly taped shut and ripped open, and my textbooks that were going to earn me a sizable amount of Amazon credit disappeared into the ether. I was really mad. It wasn’t exactly free money in this case since I had to pay for the books in the first place (even if it was 10+ years ago), but I still lost out an a chance to get something for practically nothing. Even so, I didn’t really lose anything. There are more important things to worry about in my life these days!

Holiday baking failures

Salted caramel brownies
You guys know I only post a recipe if it has a generally positive result, right? Well, I also try quite a few recipes that range from just okay to really bad! Those are the ones you don’t hear about…until today! I’m going to share two of my biggest baking failures which both happened during the 2012 holiday season. Let’s start with the salted caramel brownies in the right hand side of the above photo. (FYI, the salted caramel chocolate chip cookies on the left were awesome. They were chocolate chip cookie recipe #18.) This picture does not even begin to illustrate what a disaster these brownies were. I’d had this recipe for Sweet and Salty Brownies pinned for a long time and I was really excited to make them for a Halloween party last year. However, I was a bit lazy and didn’t exactly follow the recipe. Instead of making the caramel sauce as directed I used a jar of ice cream topping instead. I assume this is where it all went wrong, but I’m not sure. As I usually do, I lined the pan with aluminum foil, but the caramel seeped out and stuck to the foil during baking. This made it really hard to cut the brownies after they’d cooled. Luckily I was able to salvage enough without bits of foil stuck to them for the party, but I was pretty fed up by the end of that ordeal. I love salted caramel desserts so I really wanted these brownies to be awesome, so I might have to try them again, following the recipe religiously, to see how they turn out. Maybe for Halloween this year!

Sparkling cider pound cake
When Christmas rolled around I wanted something appropriately festive to take to a party at a friend’s house. This is the same party I made the wildly popular snickerdoodle bundt cake for, but the second dessert I made for the same occasion was less successful. I was really interested to see how this Sparkling Cider Pound Cake was going to turn out, but I ran into a few roadblocks. I followed the recipe pretty faithfully except for using all butter (1 c) rather than a mix of butter and shortening (1/2 c each), but I don’t think that was the cause of my problems. The difficulty came during baking. I don’t have a picture of this cake to share because the outside of it burned before the center was fully cooked, and then it fell apart when I tried to turn it out of the loaf pan. What a disaster. I take full responsibility for the cake falling apart, but I think the recipe needs a few minor tweaks. I suspect a slightly lower oven temperature (probably 325 deg F) and a slightly longer cooking time (probably about 60 min) would make this cake a complete success. I only got to taste a few bites, but the flavor of the unburned portion of the cake was scrumptious! The sparkling cider flavor was very prominent and I really liked it. I am definitely going to try this recipe again later this year to see if I can get better results. I think there’s a great deal of promise there. It’ll make a great Christmas or New Year’s dessert!

What’s been going on

As I’ve mentioned, I had surgery on Friday the 14th. It was relatively minor surgery, but I won’t go into details (trust me, it’s not something you guys want to read about). Luckily it was an outpatient procedure so I got back home about three hours after I checked in to the hospital. Unfortunately I was unaware of the true extent of the recovery time then. After about half a dozen calls to the nurse I deduced that I’ve got about two months of recuperation ahead of me before I’m back to normal. Ugh. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

I was already planning to take a week off from work, but of course I got a cold the Monday before my Friday surgery. I felt terrible about it because it wasn’t that bad of a cold, but I stayed home from work that Tuesday and Wednesday to avoid infecting everyone with my germs. And it couldn’t have happened at a worse time work-wise. Luckily the cold didn’t affect my surgery because I didn’t have a fever or chest congestion. It just meant I had to use more sick time than I planned. The only upside was that I had plenty of time to clean my apartment from top to bottom before my parents arrived from Florida on Thursday! I had to hurry and finish furnishing my guest bedroom before their visit, but it was a small price to pay for all of their help during the first several days of my recovery. I really had no idea what I was in for when I checked into the hospital that Friday morning and I needed my parents much more than I could have imagined. They were here for a week, but they didn’t really get to go anywhere or do anything outside of my little neighborhood. I feel really bad about that, but I am so grateful that they were here and that I got to spend some relatively relaxing time with them. I’ll write more about that later this week.

A week after my surgery I made my bed for the first time. Pretty pathetic, huh? It took about the same amount of time before I could walk more than 2 blocks without getting winded. I tried to go to Downtown Disney for lunch one day after my parents left and I got lightheaded walking from the parking lot to Earl of Sandwich. Sheesh! And the pain wasn’t fun either. My doctor gave me Percocet and Ibuprofen and there were times that I needed both to keep from being completely miserable. But that passed. I’m now eleven days post-surgery and I’ve been back at work for two days. It’s crazy busy there so I don’t have any time to dwell on my discomfort while I’m working. But I think I’m doing pretty well. I’m down to only taking a single Percocet before bed each night. Believe it or not, I think I’ll survive!

When I was twenty

The night before my surgery I read the pamphlet my doctor had given me about all of the preparations I needed to make before I checked in at the hospital. One of the items was to remove all jewelry. I thought that would be no problem because I don’t normally wear that much to begin with, but then I remembered my belly button ring. I got my navel pierced almost fourteen years ago (7/10/99 – Kathe was there holding my hand!) when I was twenty years old, and most of the time I don’t even remember the ring is there. Until the night before my surgery I hadn’t removed it, not even once, in all that time. I didn’t even know how to take the little ring apart. I wasn’t sure I’d be able to! But that night I popped the thing apart, took it out, and threw it away. At this point I don’t know if I’ll replace my navel piercing, but for now I’m leaving it out. Maybe I’m finally growing up? We’ll see!

Belated Foodie Friday – Toffee brownies

OK, I’m working on a post about my surgery, but it’s not ready yet so here’s a recipe for belated Foodie Friday instead! These brownies are amazing. I really wish I had picture of them to show you how dense and fudgy they are. I was blown away the first time I made them. I’ve always loved a simple recipe and this one is about as simple as brownies get. Melt the butter, stir in the rest of the ingredients, and bake. Easy as that and so delicious. After several days of very limited activity following my surgery I finally had a surge of energy on Wednesday so I decided to do a little baking. My parents were leaving to go back to Florida the next morning so I figured some of these toffee brownies would be the perfect snack to take with them on their travels. Luckily this recipe is pretty flexible because I had to make a few substitutions. I only had about 3/4 c semi-sweet chocolate chips so I supplemented that with 3/4 c dark chocolate chips. Also, I didn’t have any white sugar so I used all light brown sugar instead. And with all that the brownies still turned out great. Rich, chocolatey, and insanely delicious. You should whip up a batch right now!

1/2 c (1 stick) unsalted butter
1 1/2 c semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 c flour
1/4 tsp kosher salt
1/2 c granulated sugar
1/2 c packed light brown sugar
2 large eggs
1 egg yolk
2 Tbsp vegetable oil
1 c toffee chips
1 c chocolate chips or chunks (optional)

In a large bowl melt the butter in the microwave (45-60 seconds on HIGH). Stir in the 1 1/2 c semi-sweet chocolate chips until melted. If the chips don’t melt completely, put the bowl back in the microwave on HIGH for 10-15 seconds. Stir and repeat if necessary. Add flour, salt, and sugars. Stir until partially combined then add the eggs, egg yolk, and vegetable oil. Stir until combined then fold in the toffee chips and optional chocolate chips or chunks (I usually skip these). Transfer the batter to an 8×8″ pan lined with aluminum foil and coated with cooking spray. Bake at 350 deg for 35-40 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool completely on a wire rack before slicing and serving. Enjoy!

Based on Picky Palate’s One Bowl Homemade Chocolate Chunk and Toffee Chip Brownies.

My new wardrobe

I like to think of myself as a non-judgemental person, but I used to wonder about women I saw running errands in yoga pants. They make sense if you’re either on your way to or on your way home from the gym (or working out somewhere else), but otherwise I just don’t understand why anyone would wear them out of the house. Then last week I became one of those women. I’ve worn yoga pants every day since my surgery last Friday. They’ve become my new best friends. I tried to put on some jeans on Saturday, but it only took me about five minutes to realize they weren’t going to work in my current condition. I have a feeling I won’t be wearing jeans for a while. So yoga pants, it is! At least until I go back to work on Monday. I’ll get a lot of use out of my dresses, I suppose! More details on my surgery and the last week tomorrow.

Thanksgiving dinner 2012

I started writing this post about six months ago, but I haven’t polished it up enough to be ready to publish until now. I never got around to writing about the awesome Thanksgiving I had with my brother in San Francisco, but you can see some of my photos from the trip in my Thanksgiving 2012 Flickr album. I do want to make sure to tell you a little about our actual Thanksgiving dinner. It was AMAZING. Kenneth and I ate at the house his girlfriend Naomi shared with a few friends and I couldn’t believe how much delicious food they served. There were some very talented chefs in that group. It was one of the best meals I’ve ever had – and I’m not just comparing it to other Thanksgiving dinners! But before we went to dinner we did a lot of food prep at Kenneth’s apartment. I must admit that I got pretty full due to all of the snacking we did during that time, but the dishes Kenneth and Naomi were making were so good I couldn’t help it! Naomi is from NYC so she got her recipe for Roasted Cauliflower, Hazelnut, and Pomegranate Seed Salad from the New York Times. See it in the foreground of the photo above? Doesn’t it look great? My mouth is watering just thinking about it. And the roasted Brussel sprouts that Kenneth made (in the background of the photo) were so tasty that I ate them like candy. I never thought I would say that about Brussel sprouts! I’ve got to try making them myself because I don’t mind eating vegetables when they are that delicious. Anyway, see the list below for all of the yummy food I ate on Thanksgiving 2012. Unfortunately I missed dessert because I was so exhausted by the end of the evening that Kenneth walked me back to his place so I could go to bed. I know I missed a scrumptious dessert spread and I’m very sorry about that, but I slept ten hours that night so I definitely needed it!

Eaten at Kenneth’s apartment while cooking
Pomegranate seeds
Roasted pumpkin seeds
Roasted walnuts
Cornbread and cheese
Roasted Brussel sprouts

Appetizers at Naomi’s house
Pumpkin and cheese fondue (made by Naomi)
Pickled okra

Dinner at Naomi’s house
Stuffing with dried cranberries
Mushroom gravy
Homemade cranberry sauce
Roasted Brussel sprouts (made by Kenneth)
Cauliflower salad (made by Naomi)
Macaroni and cheese