logisticslad: (Default)
Last summer, I had a long saga of trying to get my A/C fixed (with about ten service visits), which ended up with my replacing the entire system. Last week during the heat wave, I turned it on and discovered that it was not working properly. Today I had the A/C guys here and they seem to have fixed it by rebalancing the charge and the fluids and giving it a tune up. This is the last thing I needed to deal with during finals week.
logisticslad: (Default)
I accomplished my second stab at cooking tonight! I decided to make Apple Chicken from my new cookbook and I invited my friend Jan over to give me feedback as to whether it was any good.

Ingredients:

3 apples (Granny Smith, Golden Delicious, Macintosh or combination)
1/2 Lemon
2 Tbsp unsalted butter
1 Tbsp sugar
2 whole boneless skinless chicken breasts (1.5-2.0 lbs total)
1 small onion, finely chopped (1/2 cup)
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1/4 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup chicken stock
1/2 tsp salt

I had gone to Trader Joes a few days ago to obtain ingredients and they did not have any of the apple varieties suggested so I bought Fuji apples. They also didn't have single lemons. I was able to get a lemon elsewhere and when I was over at Jan's the day before, he had given me some Granny Smith apples that he had left over, hence the inspiration to have him taste the final product. We agreed that if it wasn't any good, that we would throw it out and order pizza. Fortunately, we didn't need to resort to that.

1. Core the apples, peel them, and cut them into 1/4 inch thick slices. Rub them with lemon to prevent discoloration.

This was actually the hardest part of the recipe, as I lacked the correct tools and skills. I do know how to core an apple, but peeling it was a challenge! I started by trying to use a paring knife and realized that my skill with it was so poor that it was only a matter of time before I cut myself. So I looked for my potato peeler, but couldn't find it. Then I noticed that my cheese grater had a long knife slot opening and I was able to use that. It took me about half and hour to core and peel these three apples, but the lemon really did work to keep the slices from turning brown! I realized that I could probably have used lemon juice instead of a lemon, but it did smell nice and fresh. I put them in a bowl for the next step.

2. Melt 1 Tbsp butter in a skillet and saute the apples over medium-low heat, 5-7 min. Sprinkle them with sugar, and cook over high heat until lightly browned. Set apples aside.

I found this pretty easy to do, and the apples began to smell good as they cooked, which was encouraging.

3. Rinse the chicken and pat it dry. Cut each chicken breast in half. Flatten each breast with a meat pounder until thin.

No problem, although I actually forgot to tenderize and flatten the chicken breast, but it worked out ok.

4. Melt the remaining 1 Tbsp butter in a large skillet. Raise the heat, add the chicken, and cook until lightly colored, 2 min on each side. Remove chicken and set aside.

Ok, done. It's not fully cooked yet, but I suspect that there is a plan here...

5. Add the onion to the skillet, cover, and cook until tender and slightly carmelized, 8-10 min. Uncover, raise heat to high, and add vinegar. Cook the mixture down to a syrup, 1 min. Then whisk in cream, stock, and salt.

Ok, I'm very glad that they reminded me to cover the onions, because I would not have known to do that. Oops, I added the vinegar and the stock together. I'm pouring it out and just adding the vinegar to the onions. Ok, now to add the cream, stock, and salt. Hmmm, the onions sucked up most of the liquid so there isn't enough to whisk. Let's see what happens next.

6. Return chicken to the skillet and simmer gently in the sauce, basting often, until the sauce has thickened and the chicken is cooked, 3-5 min. Do not overcook.

Done. Actually, this took a bit longer because I had forgotten to flatten the chicken. But cooking chicken in a skillet is one of the things that I know I can do, so I was able to roll with this one. There wasn't a whole lot of sauce for basting, but there was some.

7. Remove the chicken with a slotted spoon and place on a serving platter. Add the apple slices to the skillet, cook over high heat until the sauce has reduced and the apples are thoroughly heated, 1 min.

Done.

8. Spoon the apples around the chicken, pour the sauce over, and serve immediately. Makes 4 portions.

Done and done. Actually, I think I used too much onion, which must be why there wasn't a lot of sauce, so I left a lot of the onion in the skillet. Jan and I enjoyed the apple chicken dish. I made some polenta (from a Trader Joes mix) to go with it and that also worked well. Jan noted that the chicken was perfectly cooked (whew!) and that the onions and apples went surprisingly well together. I liked it, but didn't love it. Then as I was describing what I had done to make the sauce, Jan asked if he could try something. He went to the kitchen and added more cream and stock to the onions and suddenly the sauce, which had indeed been sucked into the onion came out! We added it back to the chicken and this greatly enhanced the flavor of the dish! I knew that onions could suck up a lot of liquid, but I had no idea that one could make them give it back. Very cool. The mix of the tart apple, the sweetness of the apple saute, the vinegary onions, and the creamy stock sauce created several layers of flavor which really complimented the chicken. I'm very glad that Jan gave me the Granny Smiths, because I don't think the Fujis would have worked nearly as well.

I made another new dish and actually served it to someone. I accepted some helpful feedback on what I had done and learned something. And I cooked something yummy! I'm so proud of myself! Yay!!!
logisticslad: (Default)
One of my New Year’s Resolutions is to become more comfortable with cooking and to create occasions for me to cook for others. I had recently gotten a new set of KitchenAid cookware and a new set of dishes when I thought that I might be hosting Thanksgiving for my family. Since I didn’t actually do so, I realized that I haven’t even used them, yet. So to support me in this, [profile] puzzld1 gave me one of her favorite cookbooks, The New Basics Cookbook by Julee Rosso and Sheila Lukins. This one has lots of recipes with explanations of how to execute various techniques and judge when things are done – just what I need! So I stopped at Trader Joes and bought the ingredients for my first attempt at cooking for the New Year. I decided to make Macaroni and Cheese, and here’s how it went.

Ingredients:
1 pound penne
4 cups milk
4 Tbsp unsalted butter
6 Tbsp unbleached flour
1 tsp paprika
salt and pepper to taste
12 ounces Gruyere cheese, grated (4 cups)

1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add the penne and cook at a roiling boil until just tender. Drain, rinse under cold water, drain again and set aside in a large bowl.

Ok – water is set to boil in my new pot. I decided to use filtered water since Philly water is choc full of minerals that can affect the taste of things. Ooh, my pot has insulated handles that should allow me to move it without hotpads! We’ll see…

2. Preheat the oven to 350 oF

Done. Even I can turn on an oven ☺

3. Bring the milk just to a boil in a heavy saucepan and set aside.

Okay, I’ve added the milk to my new large saucepan and turned on the flame (I’m using a gas stove, which is what I’m used to, BTW). Check the conversion table: 4 cups = 1 quart, which is what I bought. Good. I used nonfat Lactaid milk – will that matter? I guess we’ll see.

4. Meanwhile, melt the butter in another heavy saucepan. Add the flour, and whisk over low heat for 5 minutes. Do not brown. Remove from heat.

Ok, that’s 3 things on the stove at the same time – I’m getting a bit nervous. Oops, the butter is frozen. Well, it will melt… Yes! It did. Now to add the flour and whisk. Yes, I actually do own a whisk, thank you. Ok… my wrists are hurting. Who the hell can whisk for 5 minutes? This is supposed to make it fluffy, right? Ow, it’s been 2 minutes and I’m tired. It looks mixed – I’m declaring it good enough. Oh look, the penne looks done – I’ll fish one out to taste it. Ok, that was harder than I thought – note to self, hot penne does not always stay on the fork. Done! Try the insulated handles – hey they work! Drain and rinse. Place in large bowl. Wait – check the milk. Ok, it’s just started boiling. Whew!

5. Add the hot milk to the flour mixture, and whisk well. Add paprika, salt, pepper and return pan to heat. Cook over medium heat, whisking constantly, until the mixture thickens. 5 minutes. Add to the penne, and toss well to coat completely.

Hold on – I used the large saucepan to the milk and the small one for the butter, so I’m going to add the butter to the milk instead. Whisk again! Crap! Ok, here goes… Whew, that’s a lot of whisking. Aren’t there machines to do this? Now to add it to the penne. Yum, that actually looks pretty good.

6. Butter a 13 x 9 x 2 inch flameproof baking dish, and fill it evenly with penne and sauce.

It’s a good thing that they reminded me to use a flameproof dish, no really. But the one I have is square, not rectangular. Well, it looks like it’s about 12 or 13 inches long and wide, so that should be big enough. Cool, it all just fits!

7. Distribute the grated cheese over the top and add pepper and paprika.

Ok, now to grate the cheese. Crap, I only bought a wedge of it. It says it weighs 0.44 pounds – how much is that in ounces? Check the handy conversion tables – convert pounds to grams, then grams to ounces. Ok, I have about 7 ounces of cheese. Will that be enough? The recipe calls for 12 ounces. Wait, I’ve got some mozzarella in the fridge… oh good, it says that one can use that, too, and even mix it with the gruyere. Well, let’s see if I’ll need it…

Ok, found my cheese grater and it’s a bit rusted. Stop laughing! I’m scouring the rust off of one side. There, now to grate the cheese. Can one eat the rind of gruyere? Yes, I think so. Wow, grating is almost as tiring as whisking. Really, stop laughing!! There we go. There’s absolutely no more room to add extra cheese in this baking dish, so I’ll hold off on the mozzarella and hope for the best.

8. Place the dish on a baking sheet, and bake until hot, 20 to 25 minutes.

Why do I need a baking sheet? Is that in case it boils over? Well, it's right up to the top of the dish, so I’d better do it. It doesn’t say to cover it, so I won’t. In it goes. Now to feed the cats, who have been wondering why I’ve been spending all this time in the kitchen without giving them their food. Done. Now I had better clean up all the used posts and utensils. I know myself well enough to know that if I don’t do it now, then they’ll be sitting there all week. Done.

9. Place the dish under the broiler, 4 inches from the heat, until the top is slightly golden and bubbling, 3 to 4 minutes.

Broiler? Do I have a broiler? Ok, it must be this shelf at the bottom of the stove. Hmm, it’s not hot down here. Wait, there’s a broiler button on the controls. I can set it for Low or High. I’ll try Low.

10. Serve immediately. Makes 8 portions.

Wonder of wonders, it actually worked!!! It even looks like mac and cheese. And it tastes pretty good, too. I think next time, I will buy some fresh spices, since the ones that I had were pretty old. I may also try a different cheese or a blend. The gruyere works pretty well, but it doesn’t have that familiar comfort food flavor that I expect from mac and cheese. Although, I’ve got a lot of leftovers, so I may come to like it after I get more used to it. But I did it! I actually made something for dinner that I had never made before! I’m ridiculously proud of myself! Go me!
logisticslad: (Default)
Today [profile] puzzld1 and I went to a Linens 'n' Things, which was having a going out of business sale. With her help, I bought a number of useful things for the house - all at 20% off! I got new towels, a shower liner, a toilet paper stand with a magazine rack, a new set of sheets, a pair of high quality cookie trays, a pair of spatulas, and a 12 piece matching kitchen set. I'm delighted to be able to upgrade some of these things that I've been wearing out for many years!
logisticslad: (Default)
After researching things in Consumer Reports, I went to Sears and bought their Kenmore Progressive Direct Drive Upright 35922, which was CR's #1 Best Buy. I am beyond pleased! The vacuum is quiet, self-adjusting for different levels of dirt, able to deal with pet hair, and easy to use. It quickly turned my gray-with-pet-hair carpet back to white. Using it once has noticeably brightened up my house. It is well worth the price!

Vacation!

Jul. 29th, 2008 11:46 am
logisticslad: (Default)
Now that my summer course is done, I've decided to take a vacation. Actually, it will be mostly a "staycation," since I plan to spend much of it working on house projects and catching up on reading for fun and watching Dr Who, as well as visiting with family and friends. So far, I've gone to a birthday pool party, helped my brother take the kids to two kid birthday parties, seen Dark Knight (it was wonderful, but it did give me nightmares), played bridge, bought light sconces for the bathroom, mowed the lawn, noodled around on facebook, and played with the cats. I received a clean bill of health at my dental check up, and I got myself a haircut. My major house project will be finishing all the fine detail touch up painting in the upstairs bathroom. I do have a bit of work to do during my time off (final grades, getting pieces of a new grant together, writing some recommendation letters), but I can fit it in at my leisure. After lunch, I plan to do battle with the strangling clematis vine that is clinging to my lilac and butterfly bush. In the meantime, I am trying to remember what relaxing feels like.
logisticslad: (Default)
I have several area rugs that could do with a bit of cleaning. When I vacuum them, they still have a layer of cat hair and have taken on a grayish appearance. The small ones would fit in the washer, but might unravel. Are there any useful rug cleaning products out there? Should I rent one of those Rug Doctor things from the supermarket? Any other advice on how to clean them? Should I do anything different for my wall-to-wall low pile carpeting upstairs?
logisticslad: (Default)
I have several flat area rugs that could do with a bit of cleaning. When I vacuum them, they still have a layer of cat hair and have taken on a grayish appearance. The small ones would fit in the washer, but might unravel. Are there any useful rug cleaning products out there? Should I rent one of those Rug Doctor things from the supermarket? Any other advice on how to clean them? Should I do anything different for my wall-to-wall low pile carpeting upstairs?
logisticslad: (Default)
I'm officially tired of being sick. I've just started by second round of antibiotics and am definitely feeling better, but not 100%. I'm frustrated that I cannot breathe well enough to do cardio at the gym. Hopefully, this time the drugs will clear things up. Regardless, I plan to go to yoga tomorrow and do what I can.

In order to get myself out of the house, I decided to run some errands and was gratified by finding more than I expected to. First stop was Homo Despot in order to pick up the new energy saving lightbulbs. This was very satisfying because I've had two lights out for the last week and a half and no bulbs to replace them! The new bulbs work great and are supposed to save a noticeable amount of energy. I also bought 9 volt batteries to replace the ones in my smoke alarms. And I finally bought a mailbox! Since I moved into the house 4 years ago, the postman has been delivering mail inbetween the screen door and front door. That's actually how many people on my block receive mail, but I figured it was time to put up and actual mailbox and randomly found a nice one. Now all I need to do is to borrow a friend with a drill in order to put it up.

Next stop was Linens and Things where I found a heavy duty mildew resistant shower liner. I definitely needed this. Nuff said. To my surprise, I also found that they had a reasonably priced beard trimmer. This was great since mine had died a few months ago and I was tired of trimming with scissors. I also bought a gift card as a present for my grad student who got married this weekend.

Then I went to Trader Joes and stocked up on yummy food. They were having a tasting of Korean spiced beef and vegetable fried rice. Score! I bought some for dinner tonight. Finally, I walked over to Staples to buy a set of colored index cards. This is for my new home improvement plan - I am going to write down all the things I want to do with the house on the cards and use colors to denote various rooms. Then I will pull out a card every week and make that the thing I do for the house that day. On my way out, I asked them if they sold postage stamps as I had been paying bills earlier and had run out. They did! So I am very very pleased with all I accomplished today with my errands.
logisticslad: (wolvie)
Last night when I tried to park on my street, one of my neighbors waived me off and asked if I could park on the other side as he was saving the spot in from of his house for a guest. The open spot on the other side was in front of a partial driveway, where I have never noticed a car being parked there, nor is there any marking on the street (like there is for every other driveway on the street). I asked him whether he knew if this was indeed a parking spot and he assured me that this neighbor wouldn't mind. So rather than park three blocks away, I agreed. I even tried to park so that if someone really needed to enter the partial driveway, they could gain access from the sidewalk. This morning I received a threatening note on my car requesting that I not park in that driveway and that if I do so again, the neighbor will have my car ticketed and towed. So much for being nice :-(

Co-op

Nov. 28th, 2007 10:54 pm
logisticslad: (Default)
Tonight I finished this year's work allotment for my food co-op. Weaver's Way asks us to put in 6 hours per year, which is very doable. I like to work the clean up shift after closing, because it makes me feel productive and it counts for time and a half (so I only need to do 4 hours for the year). It's time and a half because it truly is work. I spent the first hour vacuuming under every shelf. This involved getting down on the floor and manipulating the vacuum underneath as well as moving stuff around to get at it. We don't normally do this for clean up, but the store has been having some problems with mice, so we figured that the less crap lying around in hard to get places, the better. After that, I cleaned the glass doors of all of the display cases and wiped out the door tracks. I got to use a super cleaner called Citri-Solve, which took the old labeling tape right off the glass in a snap! After my shift, I went and signed up at the gym so that it will count for a work out. Given how tired I am now, I feel completely justified :-)
logisticslad: (Default)
It's finished!!! Everything is installed, checked, and it all works!!! I now have a new furnace, A/C, thermostat, and humidifier (so that neither myself nor the cats will get static all winter). Hooray!
logisticslad: (Default)
So the guys who my installer contracts with to remove the old furnace dropped by yesterday and were baffled that the old furnace wasn't sitting outside for them to remove. They also didn't realize that I would be at work. So they called me at 7:00am today to ensure that I would be here and then arrived at 8:45am. They made a number of decisions that I was glad I was awake enough to reverse. First, they propped the door open, not realizing or taking the time to find out that I had cats. Next, they tried to roll up the carpet that was protecting the nice hardwood floor, because they didn't want to dirty the old carpet. And finally, they were about to make off with the air filter cap before I stopped them and snatched it off the truck. Other than all this, they were pleasant and respectful, but clearly not the sharpest tools in the shed. After they left, the installer's office called me to let them know that they'd be coming and were surprised to hear that they had come and gone. Now I'm waiting for the installer to return to finish the final stages of the job...
logisticslad: (Default)
So after four days of installation, they have hooked up the furnace and A/C and it looks like everything works! They will still have to return next week in order to install the humidifier and remove the old furnace. Someday, this will all be done...

Meanwhile, I made a number of substantial revisions on my grant (which is due Monday), and I'm starting to think it's pretty good. So I feel like I have the time to visit with friends and family over my birthday weekend!
logisticslad: (Default)
So after working on it today and last Friday, they feel they are about 70% done. The new A/C, humidifier, and furnace have been installed, but the ductwork that connects the furnace to the duct system must be modified. They've rigged it so that I can turn on the heat tonight if I need it, but they must return later this week in order to finish the job and tie all the systems to the thermostat control. So they will call me tomorrow to let me know when they expect the new duct parts arrive.

Well at least I have had some time to catch up on Dr. Who and try out the new vampire detective show Moonlight...

Furnace

Oct. 12th, 2007 12:16 pm
logisticslad: (Default)
I'm home today while the service guys install my new furnace and A/C. They promised that if they don't finish it today, then they would arrange it so that I have heat from my old furnace over the weekend. The cats have been very mellow about the disruption and have been keeping out of the way, so I haven't had to confine them. Here's hoping that it all goes well.
logisticslad: (Default)
Last week, my coffee maker produced some bitterly awful coffee. At first I thought that it was due to my having changed my Brita filter, because when I tasted the newly filtered water, it didn't taste right. So after running a fair bit of water through the new filter, that went away, but my coffee didn't improve too much. It had been wisely suggested to me that I clean my coffee maker, so I bought some vinegar and was about to pour it in, when I realized that there might be an actual procedure. Here it is:

http://www.wikihow.com/Clean-a-Coffee-Maker

I'm glad I looked! So I diluted 1 part vinegar with 2 parts water and ran it through, then ran just water through a few times. Lo and behold, my coffee tastes much richer and fuller this morning, without the bitterness.
logisticslad: (super)
I feel like I am in the midst of many long term projects this year, both at work and at home. Taking [livejournal.com profile] yesthattom's advice about time management to heart, I have been trying to break them down into manageable portions that I can accomplish each week. That way, I can always feel like I am making progress.

So today I returned to the task of painting my bathroom. Some of you may recall my story about how hideous the original bathroom had been with three different kinds of wallpaper, a sponge painted ceiling, and wooden molding. Over the last three years, I have removed the wallpaper, covered the plaster with drywall, sanded everything down, primed and painted the ceiling white and the walls a light blue color that Benjamin Moore calls "sapphireberry." I liked it, but I didn't like the contrast that it made with the wooden molding. So I decided to paint the molding a darker blue. Actually, since I had left the painter's tape up for so long, I realized that I had grown attached to that color, so that's the color I've chosen to paint the molding! Today I primed an painted the bottom molding, and I think it looks great! I've also painted the rims of the hideous metallic green light fixtures the same color and may even get around to reinstalling them some day. The next steps are to remove the tape from the upper molding and paint that, and then take a tiny brush and work on smoothing out the transitions between the dark and light blue paint.

It felt good to accomplish this today and the cats helped by staying out of the way while the paint was drying.

My next house task is to decide whether or not I'm actually going to replace the gas forced air heater this year, and possibly get a central humidifier and air conditioning. I've obtained several quotes and I feel like I'm close to making a decision. The hardest part will be planning out how to afford it. Since I don't truly know when my potential salary increase will take effect (that will come whenever my promotion happens and the earliest would be end of January), I am trying not to count on that in my plans.

Another long term task that has been going pretty well has been my weight management program. I've been eating more mindfully, keeping a food journal and documenting my increased exercise in order to figure out how to reverse my creeping weight gain. Success! I have lost 5 pounds over the last three weeks, and I am very glad to feel like I am finally getting a handle on managing this.

I've been working from home one day a week starting this summer and that has allowed me to make progress on a number of backlogged work projects. Because of that I have been able to submit three manuscripts, get four others to the point of being submitted soon, and submit four abstracts for conference poster presentations. That's excellent productivity for the summer!

So by focusing on what I can accomplish on a daily or weekly basis, I am avoiding feeling overwhelmed with all of these long term projects. I'm proud of myself for making it happen and look forward to keeping it up through the upcoming rollercoaster ride that the Fall often is for me. Stress reduction through progress is a wonderful thing!
logisticslad: (totoro)
You spend the evening with friends, and instead of playing games, going dancing, or making music, you go shopping at the new Target that has just opened in the space where the Adam's Mark hotel used to be! We had a blast exploring the store, seeing what they had, and comparing prices. It looks like it will become a place that I will visit often for house necessities and sundries. I still can't get over the idea of shopping in a store that is built over the remains of the longtime Philcon site...

Ouch!

Jul. 21st, 2007 06:12 pm
logisticslad: (wolvie)
I did battle with the jungle growing in the backyard this afternoon. After mowing it into submission, I went to work on the strangling vines and in the process of removing them was stung by a wasp. Ouch! Fortunately, I am not allergic to them, but my wrist did swell up where I was stung. I took an antihistamine and decided that that was enough for today.

I had accidentally broken the cool tumbler with Japanese characters on it that I use as my cats' upstairs water dish, so I stopped by BloodBath&Beyond in order to see if I could find a replacement. Alas, the one they had in the equivalent style was much too small to serve as a water dish. Next stop is Linens&Things. The cats seem to be wondering why I've taken their beloved water away...

Did half an hour on the elliptical at the gym and felt tired but good about it. Then ran some errands with my gym buddy including stopping by Benjamin Moore paints to select a nice royal blue color for the trim in the bathroom (Note that I've been working on this bathroom since I moved in almost 4 years ago, so there is obviously no rush in my mind to complete it - however each step I take toward finishing it feels good to accomplish). I found several possibilities, so I took some paint chips home to see what it will look like under the actual lighting conditions of the bathroom. This may motivate me to finally remove the painter's tape that's been up for over 6 months :-)

On our way through Chestnut Hill, we noticed lots of kids and adults dressed up as wizards and a number of outdoor displays. It looked like everyone was having a lot of fun, so we smiled and waved as we drove by.

My dear friends P&L have loaned me their newly arrived copy of Harry Potter (since they are each in the midst of rereading the series and don't expect to be done htis week). Woo-hoo! I know what I'll be doing tonight!!!

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