Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Running to the End of Summer!

What are you reading lately?  With summer winding down officially over (it's hard to say the words...) I sadly have to say goodbye to some of the free time I spent this summer reading books.    I found some new authors and finally decided what to use my kindle for, so it's been a good summer for books.

Here's the lowdown...

I finally picked up The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.  I had heard so many good things about it.  And I have to say, it was all true!  It really is a great book - you know, the kind of book you look forward to returning to at the end of the day!  Just one complaint, and I guess this is highlighting my "American-centrisim" (yes, I just invented that word!!), but keeping up with the Swedish names of towns and neighborhoods and Swedish landmarks - they all sound the same to me!  Sorry, I had to be honest!  When the author wasn't naming where the characters were heading to, the adventure was really great!  So, be a better person than I am, and read this and embrace all things Swedish!!

I downloaded the second book, The Girl Who Played with Fire, and the third book, The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest on my Kindle.  I've pledged to myself that if a book is going to take me less than a couple days to "devour" I'm going to read it on my Kindle.  If I find a book that I really want to savor, such as Eat, Pray, Love, I'll purchase the book so I can relish the pages in my hands...ahh...I'm sensing a visit to a bookstore coming up!

I haven't finish the 3rd book, but I'm really enjoying it!  I'd recommend all three as quick, enjoyable reads!

I'm not teaching in a classroom right now - it's my 3rd year out of the classroom - I really do miss being with kids, but what I miss most is my end of summer ritual...a trip to the bookstore to see what's new in children's books!  Of course, on the bright side, I have saved a lot of money not buying the usual bags of books that I did in the past.  But, I still wander over to the kid's section when I'm spending time perusing bookstores.  Here are a couple of my favorite that I found...Dog Loves Books and Mr. Carey's Garden.  

Dog Loves Books is about a dog who uh, loves books - ok, there's more to it than that!  He loves books so much that he opens up a bookstore!  He stocks it with his favorite books, but nobody comes to shop in his store.  (They're all downloading books on their cursed Kindles, or buying books at huge discounts at Costco - no, that's not really how it goes...)  So dog spends his days losing himself in his books.  Finally, he gets a customer, a little girl.  Dog shares his favorite books with her and soon they are transported to the wonderful lands that books will take you.  Soon, everyone hears about Dog's bookstore and he has plenty of customers.  (Of course, within a year, Barnes & Noble puts this poor independent bookstore owner out of business - but that's the sequel.)  Just a beautiful book to share with your little ones!

My other favorite is Mr. Carey's Garden.  Love, love, love this book.  

Mr. Carey lives at the end of the street and has 3 or 4 neighbors.  They all tend their gardens in the summer, and like most gardeners, they are sometimes overrun with snails.  All the neighbors have their own methods to deal with the snails, and they share their ideas with Mr. Carey.  The neighbors use salt, hot water, putting them in the freezer - all crazy ideas to Mr. Carey, who never does anything to get rid on the snails in his garden.  He just listens to his neighbors and says, "Well, I see things in a different light."  They all look at him like he's a communist - ok, that's not the word the author uses.  Anyway, on a hot summer night when no one can sleep, all the neighbors end up in their front yards and they see Mr. Carey admiring his garden.  They go to see what he's looking at, (remember, he's a communist), and they see the moonlight shining through the holes that the snails have made in Mr. Carey's plants.  Of course, the light shining through creates a delicate lacey shadow and glow in the night.  And Mr. Carey explains to them again, "I see it in a different light."  Really - a lovely, sweet book!

I'd love to hear what you're reading!  Thanks for stopping by!

Friday, September 3, 2010

Running...miles and miles...


44 - no, not the highway...

44 - no, not the European road...

 44 - no, not the story by Mark Twain...

 44 - no, not the 44th president...

It's how many miles I ran in August!!  

I've never examined my monthly miles...I was thrilled and surprised at 44!  44 miles could have taken me half way to Yosemite...but then I'd have to run another 44 to either come home or actually get to Yosemite...hmmm...

Here's a random thought that always comes to me when I fill up my car with gas at Costco (love Costco, and yes I just realized that it can't be a random thought if it always comes to me).  Costco is 6.5 miles from my house, but whenever I have to do my grocery warehouse shopping at Costco, it seems so far away.  I sometimes feel like I have to plan my whole day around a trip to Costco.  But then it occurs to me that I run 6.5 miles on Saturdays, and I've even run 13 miles in a race before.  Why does Costco seem so far away?

So here's what I've been thinking lately...I want to sponsor a half-marathon...I'll call it The Costco Half.  

Here's how it would go.  We would start at my house and run to Costco.  We'd have to schedule it to arrive about 1 hour after Costco opens--to get the samples of course.  (Because everybody knows that if you get to Costco right when they open, there are no samples available yet.)  

We would arrive at Costco and make our way through the samples, the food court, maybe order a set of tires while we're there, purchase a few Fleming's gift cards and movie tickets - since they could fit in our pockets - and then begin the 2nd leg of our half marathon back to my house.  Our 2nd leg would probably be a little slower than the 1st leg, due to the food intake we had for energy, but how can you turn down all those samples?  

Everyone would then get a goodie bag (love the goodie bags) with Costco gift cards, more samples, gas cards, a 1-hr early shopping pass, and some clothes.  We'd even have medals created from Costco membership cards! 

Anybody willing to sign up?  And really, you could just meet us at Costco for the samples, you don't even have to run!

Thanks for stopping by and listening to my wacky ideas - it's Friday, and I'm a little loopy right now!  And I haven't even had any wine (that's directed at you - Wine Gurus!)

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Running with Chicken...Burnt Chicken...

Bo inspired me...he so often does...this time he inspired me to buy a cast iron skillet.  Bo, over at Bo's Bowl had this fantastic recipe for an Orange Skillet Pancake that had to be made in a cast iron skillet.  All summer I dreamt of making that delicious pancake, but alas, I didn't own a cast iron skillet.  But...here came my birthday, and I received some money (thank you Sister).  So I hightailed it over to Sur La Table - I actually like saying the name even more than I like visiting the store!  I found a sturdy 10 inch skillet.  I was very anxious to put it to use.  My Fine Cooking magazine had just arrived, so even before I had a chance to try Bo's pancake I was lured in by the fried chicken recipe in Fine Cooking. 

Now, here I have to tell you about my family.  My grandfather (maternal) was Filipino.  He was one fabulous cook.  He made traditional lumpia and pansit, but the best dish he made was fried chicken.  My grandmother (paternal) was straight from Missouri.  Her speciality was of course, fried chicken and biscuits.  I also had a babysitter, who took care of my sister and me from the time I was born, till I was in 6th grade.  She was from Arkansas - and, yes, she could make delicious fried chicken.  Knowing that friend chicken was practically in my blood, I figured, how hard can it be.  I had my family history, and a recipe from a magazine!  I even went back to Sur La Table and bought a deep fry thermometer.  How could anything go wrong?  (Do you hear the ominous music playing in the background?)

I soaked my chicken pieces in buttermilk - overnight.  Rolled them in spicy flour and waited for my oil to heat to 400 degrees.  
The recipe said that the oil must heat to 400 degrees or you might have soggy, oily chicken.  Not wanting that, I waited, and waited...  It actually never reached 400 degrees, but the oil smoked and after 20 - 30 minutes, and the smoke alarm going off, I figured I may as well add my chicken to the oil.  In addition to my deep fry thermometer, I had an instant read thermometer to test the temperature of my chicken.  The recipe also said that as soon as you add the chicken to the skillet, the temperature of the oil will drop, so keep an eye on the stove.  Well, as soon as I added my chicken, 2 things happened:  1) the oil temperature instantly rose to more than 450 degrees - I say "more than" because the deep fry thermometer only registered up to 450 degrees and that needle was straining at the end of the the thermometer, 2) my chicken, which I had lovingly soaked overnight in buttermilk turned black...not just black, coal black, the black of the inside of a volcano, the black that you see when you are in a cave...BLACK!  

Not wanting to give up and abandon the chicken altogether, I figured I would keep frying till the inside of the chicken reached 140 degrees - according to the recipe.  I kept checking the chicken with my instant read thermometer and it only registered 38 - 40 degrees!  I'm standing there thinking..."How can my chicken be black on the outside, and the still be cold on the inside?" 

Did I mention that my instant read thermometer registers Celsius and Fahrenheit with the push of a button?  And, would you believe that somehow the Celsius button was on - not the Fahrenheit button?  Would you also believe that once I figured that out my chicken was actually 160 degrees inside - Fahrenheit that is - not 40 degrees?  That answered my question about cold on the inside! 

Now, don't think all was lost - I only put half my chicken into this bubbling cauldron of oil.  After I retrieved my "Coal Chicken" from the skillet, I put in my 2nd batch -  you have to know that I'm an "eternal optimist" - and to my delight - it didn't turn black!  

It actually turned, dare I say it, golden!


So, here are my thoughts and confusions. 
1)  my ancestors were able to make fried chicken without a recipe, without a digital thermometer, and make it delicious!
2)  why did my chicken instantly turn black?
3)  why did my oil heat up so fast when I added my chicken?
4)  why did Baby Boy ask me if I was going to try this again, and then smile when I said, "Probably not"?

I need some help here, because I actually want to be a "fried chicken master"!  I want to casually throw some chicken in  a cast iron skillet and not have to keep looking at a recipe or have to keep checking my array of thermometers!  I'm calling out for help to 2 of my favorite food/cooking bloggers - Bo and Linda over at My Kind of Cooking!  I'm also open to any comments - please - anyone - tell me what I can do!

And thanks for stopping by today!  Here's to fried chicken - old style!
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