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Picking a turkey

If you are vegan or at all squeamish, you may not want to read this post.

There’s a turkey farm relatively nearby where you can pick your own turkey and help pluck and prepare it. The birds are well cared for and fairly open range (they’re contained enough that they have a lot of space but they can’t just wander off) and the people who run the farm are good people. Xander and Katja went last year. I don’t remember what I was doing, but I couldn’t come. They enjoyed the time there, though she was slightly freaked out by the bird flapping at one point. She has talked about it regularly since then as something that she was interested in and, I think, still processing.

This year I got to come, too. It was somewhat easier because one of us could help with the turkey and the other could be in charge of Katja. Since I hadn’t been there before, Xander mostly handled Katja so I could concentrate on the turkey.

There were four other people there by the time we got started. One was a couple. The woman had been there the year before, just to pick up a turkey, but her boyfriend hadn’t been before, either. They decided to stay and watch, though the lady was very worried that she would freak out. There was also a father and son who hadn’t decided whether they were just going to pick up a turkey or pluck one. The boy (who was maybe 10 or so) ended up helping with ours.

One of the farmers went into the enclosure and got a turkey. She picked him up by his feet (he knocked her glasses off in the process!) and, once she was holding him, he was completely docile. Didn’t flap, didn’t object. She came out and handed him to me while she closed the door and put her glasses back on. Katja came around the corner with Xander and was rather surprised to see me with a turkey, which was pretty funny.

We took the turkey over to the processing area. The farmer put the turkey in a metal cone with a hole at the bottom and the turkey’s head came through the bottom of the cone. She thanked the turkey for its life and then cut its throat, quickly. The blood was really red, which I should have expected. The farmer explained that all of the turkey parts that we didn’t use got left out and the other animals (cats, dog, chickens, etc) cleaned them up. The blood was very nitrogen rich so it helped the soil when it was absorbed.

The turkey flapped a little bit in the cone but stopped quickly. There was a very large vat of very hot water a few feet away, so once the final twitches had stopped we put the turkey in the hot water to loosen up the feathers. One of the other farmers also turned it over and got the feet into the water for a while to loosen up the scales. I helped move the turkey from the hot water to the cool water bath. I ended up getting soaked down my right side, but that’s why we wore clothes that weren’t delicate.

Pulling the feathers out was interesting. The big feathers were pretty hard to get out. The smaller ones just had to be pulled the right direction. Katja helped for a while, but eventually got bored with it. Xander helped a lot with the feathers, too. We finished faster than I expected.

We moved the turkey to a table with a metal top and I pulled the rest of the feathers out with pliers while Xander and the young boy worked on pulling the scales off the feet. Apparently many people are somewhat disturbed by the idea of using the feet in stock because they’ve been in the dirt and grime, but they don’t understand that the scales are removed before the feet are cooked. The toenails also crack and come off; the quick looks like a fully formed claw, just soft. We also worked on loosening the crop so it could be easily removed later; this is where some of the food is stored. Katja was quite involved in helping with this part, holding back the skin and asking questions about everything. She wanted to know what was in the turkey’s mouth so I opened the beak and she got to see the tongue. She was a little surprised that it was pointed.

Once we had all of the feathers and scales off, the turkey was hung over a bucket and we removed the internal organs. These will be used for stock. I accidentally punctured the intestines, so it got a little messy, but I got the useful parts out and they were rinsed, first in water, then in a little vinegar just to make sure nothing was left. I peeled the lining off of the gizzard (it was almost rubbery, but since it has to contain pebbles to help with digestion, that makes sense; I just hadn’t thought about it before) and put it in with the rest of the organ meat. We then rinsed the turkey, chopped off the head and feet, singed the carcass to deal with the pinfeathers, and then bagged the body and the organs separately.

I was surprised that it didn’t bother me at all. The lady who watched but was very worried about it said that she had a new respect for her food and understood more now than she had. Once she got over the initial unhappiness about watching something die, she was actually okay with the process. Katja didn’t have any issues with it. We feel that it’s very important that she knows where her food comes from. A turkey isn’t just a big round thing on the shelf in a grocery store. It was a living creature that went through a long process before it came to our table.

I know that a lot of people will not agree with this particular parenting decision, especially since Katja is only four years old. On the other hand, by doing it now we are avoiding making it into a huge deal. I have a few friends who grew up on farms and saw animals slaughtered from when they were very young. Life and death are intertwined and, for them, they understood that. One of them became a vegetarian until she could grow her own food and make sure that the animals were well cared for. I can understand and respect that. I’d like Katja to understand what she’s eating. I don’t want it to be a shock or a terrifying thing when she figures it out at nine or ten. She knows now that she’s eating animals. If she decides at some point that she’s uncomfortable with that, it will be a well-informed decision.

We don’t eat much meat. What we do eat, almost exclusively, is free range, well cared for, and we’ve met the people who take care of the animals. It’s something of a luxury, but one of the reasons we don’t eat much meat is so we can be careful about the meat we do eat.

It was an interesting experience and we will definitely be back next year. It is, to me, a good thing to do. Also, the turkey tastes amazing!

Our holiday feast!

We have created our own holiday to celebrate; ours is four days long and begins two weeks after Thanksgiving. We both enjoy cooking, so one thing that was important to us was to have a feast day where we can make delicious, beautiful food and share it with people we care about. This was our first year doing this and we had a wonderful time. I wanted to share it with all of you, too.

First, the menu. We printed it on nice paper. A lot of thought went into it and there were multiple drafts before we settled on these foods, but we were both very pleased with the outcome.

menu_cards1Xander put a lot of work into making this look nice; I love it.

The amuse-bouche was an idea that came from my mom, which she had at my aunt and uncle’s house. It was an excellent idea. The beets were roasted, then sliced, and softened goat cheese was spread between the layers. The colors came out beautifully. There was a concern that the chevre would turn pink, but we decided that we rather liked that idea. Beets are one of those foods that people either love or hate, so not everyone loved them, but they came out nicely. They were topped with creme fraiche.

amusebouche

The hors d’oeuvres were fun to make. Popovers look impressive but are quite easy to put together. These were especially good because a small cube of Gruyere cheese was put into the batter for each popover right before they went into the oven. The cheese melted into the popover, then extra grated cheese was added to the top just as they came out of the oven. The wine, a Pinot Grigiot, was good; I don’t know enough about wine to comment on it much.

horsdoeuvres

We both like soups, so this seemed like a nice addition to the meal. We have some very nice smoked Hungarian paprika which balanced the sweetness of the butternut squash. It was smooth and complex. The wine, a Gewürztraminer, was sweet to start and then dry.

entree

The trou normand was Xander’s idea. Pear and hazelnut salad with blue cheese. The blue cheese was softened by the nuts and the pears, and the sharpness of the endive was really good. It was quite beautiful; I am not sure that the picture caught it well.

trounormand

The main dish was vegetarian this year because one of our guests did not eat meat. I made the raviolis. It’s the first time I’ve made pasta. It was a pain, but once I got into the rhythm of it, I ended up really enjoying it. We have square cookie cutters, so I used those to make sure the size was consistent. The filling was mushrooms, onions, oregano, thyme, and a little bit of salt and pepper. Xander made the brown butter sage sauce. A dollop of creme fraiche and toasted pine nuts rounded it out. The wine was a burgundy, strong enough to stand up to the mushrooms and sage.

platprincipal

The fruit and cheese plate was the most beautiful of the courses, I think. Xander chose a wide assortment of cheese and we had fun choosing fruits that would both taste good and be pretty. The ice wine was sweet and cold. Many people don’t know much about ice wine, so this was the first time a few of our guests had ever tasted it.

fromageetfruits

The dessert was a rich chocolate cake. It may not look quite as impressive as some of the other courses, but the flavors were surprising – not just the chocolate, but the stout and the frosting, which was rich in its own right. A deep, dark flavor to end the main meal.

dessert

The final course did not get pictures. People picked coffee, tea, or hot chocolate (made with good chocolate and heavy cream, among other things) to drink. The biscotti was Xander’s idea and my creation: cardamom and candied ginger. Something to drink, something light and crunchy to finish off the meal, and another half an hour or so of chatting and enjoying excellent company.

We both enjoyed doing this. It will definitely happen again.

Tuesday tidbits

I went to the grocery store over the weekend and I came across a food I had never heard of. That’s a weird enough occurrence for me to stop and take a second, then third, look. The tag said “Dragonfruit” and it looked like this:

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I did a little research and found enough information to decide to buy one. It was $3.00 for one, so I figured we could split one to decide if we like it. That’s a bit of money for one piece of fruit.

I brought it home and Xander said he’d see it but hadn’t bought one the last time he was at the store. I put it in the fruit bowl and forgot about it for a day or so.

When I finally decided to open it up, it looked like this:

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It was very pretty. I like the color contrasts. I scooped out the fruit, chopped it up, and put it into bowls.

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I thought the remaining rind was rather pretty, too.

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We stuck it in the freezer for a while. Hot day plus warm fruit was just not appealing. Once it had chilled a bit, though, it was quite nice. It has a very delicate flavor and I can’t describe it well. It isn’t too sweet, but it is pleasant. I’m not sure I would seek it out again. If someone offered me another, though, I would certainly eat some! It’s a cactus and it can put out both roots from its base as well as aerially. I love finding out random bits of information. I hope you enjoyed this short trip!

Tuesday tidbits

This week for lunches, I made this recipe to go inside these. I used to not like lentils, but summer tomato lentils are now one of my favorite recipes. I think that my dislike of lentils probably comes from not having them in anything other than lentil soup, where the lentils were a little grainy and the soup was too salty because of the ham. It just never did much for me. If lentils are cooked without salt, though, they don’t end up grainy, and the lentils themselves are not salty. I could quite happily have just eaten this recipe early on, when it’s just cooked lentils, goat cheese, lemon zest, and lemon juice, but every new ingredient that got added just kept making it better. It’s really very good, if you hadn’t figured that out.

Katja is an amazing little person. She is cheerful all the time except when she’s tired or hungry. She loves music and waves her arms energetically whenever she hears something she likes. She laughs a lot when I sing to her and she seems to really enjoy patter singing, which makes me laugh. I like watching her figure out new things. She and Nyx are starting to have a relationship of sorts; Katja laughs whenever Nyx licks her, and Nyx seems quite happy to say hello by licking Katja’s face. I’m sure they will get along even better when Katja starts on solid food and becomes a provider of random munchies for Nyx.

I’m back to walking more at lunch. We also walk on Saturdays as long as the weather is nice. It’s not consistently nice yet, but it’s getting there.

We went to several baseball games last week. Katja can get bundled up and zipped inside my coat. We were the warmest people in the park the night it started snowing. We also went to one that had beautiful weather. I think she enjoyed that one more. She has started recognizing people at the ballpark and smiling at them. She’s a very outgoing little person!

Life is pretty good right now. A wonderful husband, a little girl whose smile makes my life infinitely better, and excellent food all help remind me that life is worth getting up for in the mornings.

Relationship with food

I do not go on diets. They aren’t healthy for me. Not so much physically, but mentally. When I was dieting, I got extremely obsessive about counting every single calorie, and my well-being was predicated on the number the scale showed every morning. Worse than that, though, was that I would get frustrated and angry. If I ate a few too many calories in a day, I’d decide it didn’t matter and eat more because I was so angry about having to be so careful. I don’t want to be obsessed, and I’m not pleasant when I’m angry. I did not like who I became while I was trying to diet.

That being said, I have lost seven pounds in the past six weeks.

I am not dieting, at least not the way I think of dieting. I do not pay attention to calories. I am trying to change how I approach food and exercise, and I am not getting angry or obsessive.

Michael Pollan, an author of several books about the relationships that people have with food, came up with this: “Eat real food, not too much, mostly plants.” I add to that “exercise more” and you get my whole approach to eating at the moment.

In general we do not eat a lot of meat. Maybe once a week we will have dinner with meat, and we try to have fish fairly regularly, but meat is not a huge part of our diet. Also, we do not eat out very often, and when we shop, it is from the outside edge of the supermarket, not the inside rows with all of the processed food. This is not a moral decision, mind you, and we will not lecture anyone on how they should eat. We both like to cook and eat, and the processed foods take much of the fun out of it. We do buy some canned goods, but not even a lot of those. We have canisters of different kinds of flour, many types of dried beans, a few kinds of rice, and various other odds and ends that we have purchased for various recipes. In other words, the “real food” and “mostly plants” parts are not very difficult for me. We already do that.

“Not too much”, on the other hand, can be a significant challenge. I like food. I like eating good food. Portion control is not my strong suit. I mostly need one meal a day with some snacking the rest of the day, which I only recently learned. I am switching from having that main meal be lunch to having it be dinner because I think it is important to have dinner together. It is something that was very important to both of us growing up, and we would like to give that to our child, too. Considering how difficult it will be to set new habits with a new baby, we are working on setting that habit now. That did not work if I had already eaten my main meal for the day, however, so I am shifting to adapt. I eat fruit and popcorn throughout the day, but not too much. I am less hungry now, which makes it easier, and eating more slowly keeps me from eating too much. Also, if I want two eggs, I’ll have one instead. I end up pleasantly full, and the next time I think about two eggs I remember being content with one. It is getting easier.

The piece I added, “exercise more”, is another habit I need to form. I decided that I would spend the summer exercising in ways that did not require me to spend money to do them. That means running, for the most part. I am not doing Zumba, swimming, or belly dancing at the moment. I hurt my shoulder earlier this year and running does not make it worse, which is good; it is most of the way healed at this point. I do best when I exercise in the morning. I get up and climb into running clothes almost before I am awake. If I wait until I have fully woken up, I will often talk myself out of it. I had the same problem with swimming, so I know this problem. Once I am dressed, though, I feel like I might as well go and get it done. My running clothes are always on the floor next to the bed and I can put them on in the dark, so I do not have any excuse for not going running.

I do not count calories. I am tracking my weight on the Wii, but only the simple test because that way I don’t get commentary on whether or not I’m doing well enough. There are days that I eat too much, like last night – we went out to dinner. With this approach, though, I don’t care. It’s okay to have gone up a little bit in weight over a day as long as the general trend continues downwards.

I’m trying to build these habits so that once we have a child the habits will be sustainable. I would like to lose weight, but I refuse, at this point in my life, to spend the energy to obsess about it or to let it affect my moods. I need to be stable and happy as much as possible. There is enough other stress in my life; why add to it? This lets me adjust my eating and my approach to food and exercise without the guilt that comes with diets or goals or any of that.

I’m changing my relationship with food, and so far it is going pretty well. Guilt-free weight loss without weird chemicals! I’m actually having fun, which I never thought I would say in any way associated with losing weight.

Comfort food

Stew sounded good tonight, but we didn’t have anything that seemed perfect to go into a stew, so I decided to skip perfection and just see what came out.

We have friends who hunt, and periodically we trade fresh bread for fresh meat. Some of it ends up in the freezer because we can’t finish all of it at once. One of the packages was elk stew meat, already chopped up into small-ish chunks. That seemed like a good place to start.

We always have stock of one sort or another, so I found beef stock and added that to my idea. Potatoes and carrots, which we generally have, were next, so I peeled the carrots, washed the potatoes, and chopped them. I found a can of stewed tomatoes and chopped those up, too. Oregano, marjoram, thyme, basil, bay, and a few cloves of garlic went in, as did salt and pepper. I decided I wanted more tomato once everything was cooked, so I added in some tomato paste, both as thickener and to get more of a tomato base.

It’s good. It isn’t amazing, but it suits my needs right now. I needed comfort food, and tomato soup is something that generally helps my state of mind. This is more like stew, but it fits. I remember, when I was little, when it rained we would get to go outside and play in the rain. When we came in, we’d dry off and climb into warm clothes, and by the time we came back up there would be tomato soup and grilled cheese sandwiches waiting for us. I don’t know how many times it happened, but that’s a memory that is comforting on many levels. I wanted a piece of that memory tonight. I didn’t want an exact replica, since I was not in the mood for grilled cheese, but the stew helped.

Sometimes food helps ground me. It reminds me of simple pleasures. Cooking something and then eating what I have cooked makes me happy, too. It is more satisfying than buying soup in a can or at a restaurant. I can spice it exactly to my taste, make as much or as little as I want, and add random things as they strike my fancy. I am still not used to throwing food together without a recipe, but I had fun tonight, and the results were quite good. I have lunch for a few days, too.

Rain

This week’s Indie Ink Writing Challenge was a good one for me; I love this subject.

I challenged The Onion, who did a nice job on her challenge, and my challenge this week comes from Jan. “Rain. What does it do to you? Write about a memory or a story that involves some powerful emotions and rain.” I amended it slightly because there isn’t one specific story to tell, but there are several small vignettes.


When it is raining outside, when it is pouring down and thundering through the sky, I sleep better than any other night. Even if it is just a light rain, the water pattering on the roof and the windows lulls me to sleep and holds me there all night until I wake, rested. I don’t always sleep very well, so when the rain comes it is a boon.

I sometimes sit outside and watch the rain fall on the plants that need it so much here. There is little rain, so it feels like the plants expand to catch all they can when it does come. I’m probably anthropomorphizing, but I can live with that.

I grew up in a place where it rained fairly often. It was generally a warm rain, so, when we were very little, our mother would let us go outside in almost no clothes and play in the puddles in the backyard. I would turn my face up and catch rain on my tongue, feeling it sliding over my face and into my hair. When we came inside, she would dry us off, tell us to get dressed, and sometimes, if we were lucky, she would make tomato soup and grilled cheese sandwiches. I still love that as a meal.

I used to ride to school in the rain. I would take off my glasses and just go, everything in my backpack bagged so it wouldn’t get wet, no worries. I felt free, speeding down hills and meandering up them. I could ignore the traffic more easily because of the sound of the rain. I would get to school soggy and dripping, but the pool had warm showers after swimming practice anyway, so by the time I went to class I was warm and happy.

When I separated my shoulder and was impatient for it to heal, the rain would calm me enough that I could sit and read for hours. Some days I would pace, wanting to be moving more than I could, but rainy days I could settle and be glad that my arm had a chance to heal without more damage.

Rain brings me peace. Rain helps me remember spring, something in short supply in the desert. Rain keeps me from feeling lost and alone. Hot chocolate or cider when the day outside is dark and dripping feels cozy and comforting. Sometimes, on very bad days (of which there have been a few lately), a hard rain will come to the desert, and I will go out and stand under our huge maple tree, letting the rain pour down from the sky and pound all of my pain into the ground. I can feel my muscles relax as the water soaks me to the skin. I need the rain to be happy, I think, and sometimes I miss it a lot living here. Someday I will go back to a rainy place and I will remember more of why I love it.

A good weekend

I spent last weekend puttering around. I made three different kinds of bread – a basic whole wheat, French bread for garlic bread, and pizza dough – and I got the house cleaned up a bit. I spent some time at the gym, got a haircut, and helped bling up a belly dancing costume for a friend. Sunday evening we had guests for dinner, so Xander and I cooked together. The menu consisted of pizza, garlic bread, and hot wings, and Xander made his blue cheese dressing as a dip. Our guests brought a very good salad to add to the mix. Somehow, at least for me, cooking together helps solidify what we love about each other. We play together in the kitchen, an imprecise dance in which we ask for help, hand over required ingredients, and are careful to avoid poking each other with sharp objects.

We’ve been playing with various pizza crusts for years and have never found one that really works. The biggest problem is that we often don’t finish the pizza the same day we make it, so by the next morning it is soggy. Last time we made pizza I used a crust recipe from Moosewood Restaurant Celebrates. The recipe has to be cut at least in half, as it makes a lot of pizza dough. We tend to halve it and then make two pizzas with the dough, which gives a slightly thick crust. The next morning, after we’d used this recipe for the first time, I took a piece out for breakfast, expecting to have it fall apart. It held together and the crust was not soggy at all. Considering how much we had loaded onto that pizza, I was pleasantly surprised.

We have also been working on grilled pizza for about a year. The basic approach is make a pizza crust, brush one side with olive oil so it doesn’t stick, throw it on the grill, cook until that side seems done, brush the other side with olive oil and flip it over, and then add toppings and cook until it all looks done. The smoky flavor from the grill adds nicely to the flavor of the pizza. This requires a somewhat burly crust too, though, especially if we load it up too much with toppings. We have learned. This time the toppings were Portabella mushrooms sliced thinly, mozzarella, asiago, roasted pine nuts, and fresh garlic. The toppings were spread to cover most of the crust, but the pizza wasn’t loaded down. That’s one of the benefits of having a crust with some taste to it; you don’t have to load up the pizza to have it taste good.

We used the pizza crust we had tried with the last pizza as the base for the grilled pizza and it came out very well. The small amount of honey in the crust added a touch of sweetness which balanced well with the smoky flavor from the grill and the tang of the cheese. The garlic was nice and not overpowering, and the mushrooms added a mellow note to the assembly of tastes.

The wings were a new experiment. I had never made chicken wings before, but a few weeks ago I cooked a chicken in the slow cooker with a sauce made of beer and sriracha. The recipe called for chili sauce, but I think they meant something with a little less bite than sriracha has, because the sauce was very spicy. It tasted good, but it cleared out my sinuses really fast. Anyway, once I had put together the chicken and vegetables and used as much of the sauce as I wanted, I still had about two cups of sauce left. I was not sure what to do with it, but Xander looked at it, tasted it, and said “Wing sauce!” We put it in the freezer. This weekend, since we knew we were making pizza and pizza goes well with wings, we decided it was the perfect time to use it. The wings came out very well, and the blue cheese dip was, as always, excellent.

I forgot to take pictures, but the food was quite good. I am still tasting garlic a little bit this morning. Earl grey tea with a hint of garlic is odd, but not unpleasant, surprisingly enough.

Cooking for more than just the two of us is nice sometimes. Left to my own devices, I probably would have had popcorn for dinner. It’s easy, fast, and I can season it any way I want to. Knowing that we had people coming over, though, meant that we had reason to play in the kitchen. It was nice having good company, especially company that appreciated good food, and the conversation never lagged.

We are both introverts. Xander is absolutely an introvert, and I am right on the cusp; I test as introvert or extravert depending on the day. We’ve had people in our house lately for the home study for adoption and it felt like an invasion. I had begun to forget that having people over, preparing for company and then enjoying the conversation and companionship, could be a very good thing. This weekend helped me feel like our house was our home again rather than someplace that people would be judging. I like our home, I like what we’ve done with it, and it feels more comfortable again now that we have had friends over to share good food.

Panettone is better than I though

I’ve had panettone before, years ago. I’ve had two types. One had too much fruit and was gummy and rather odd. The other was dry and unappetizing. I had heard people talk about how wonderful it was, but I never quite understood.

A couple of weeks ago, I happened to be online when @FreshPanettone asked for food writers/bloggers who might be interested in reviewing his panettone. I am not exactly a food blogger, although I am working on it, so I responded. Nick Ignazzi was kind enough to send me a panettone to review. I opened it with a certain amount of trepidation due to the earlier not-terribly-good experiences. This is what I saw when I opened the box (with Nick Ignazzi’s approval, I used one of his photos because none of mine came out well):

Definitely a good beginning!

I took a deep breath. An almost floral scent mixed with fruit and a little bit of yeast wafted up. This already was an improvement over the others that I had tried.

I cut a small piece for me and one for Xander. We both enjoyed it. It is definitely bread with fruit in it, and the bread itself is a little sweet. It wasn’t dry at all, despite its travel time, and it was quite good without any additions. We each had another piece.

I took the panettone to work with me the next day. While it was very good, three pounds of panettone was too much for two people. I gave pieces to several people and they all liked it very much. One even asked for a card because she had decided what she was going to get her family for Christmas this year. I was quite amused by that!

The next place I took it, later that night, was to belly dancing practice. They each ate a piece and declared it good, too. Both the dancers and the work people who tried it would have been very happy to tell me whatever they felt about it, since I’ve tested food on them before. The responses to food experiments have mostly been positive, but if they don’t like it, they’ll tell me, and they’ll make suggestions. This, however, was all positive, which was interesting partly because of the wide variety of tastes these people enjoy.

I had about a quarter of the panettone left. I wanted to do something interesting with it rather than just eating it, so I did what I do with many leftover bread products and I made bread pudding. There wasn’t a whole lot left, so I used a small loaf pan. Eggs, milk, vanilla, a little bit of sugar, and chopped up panettone all got mixed, soaked for a while, and then cooked. I like bread pudding in general. It is one of my favorite things. This was even better than usual; the taste of the fruit permeated the bread pudding and enhanced the texture.

I was worried that I would not be able to write a good review of this, since I had not had good experiences in the past. I decided that I would write whatever was true, good or bad, and I wouldn’t worry about it. I got a free panettone and it ended up being good enough that I will probably send a few to people I think will enjoy it, too. It’s a pretty, nicely scented, good tasting food. Presentation and taste combined is always good.

Looking for the good things

I haven’t been writing much of anything lately other than Indie Ink Writing Challenges. I have been enjoying those, and I’ll keep participating. I thought, perhaps, that I should write something else once in a while as well, so I’m going to try to get back to posting twice a week, even if it is only snippets of things.

I’m not very good at waiting. The adoption process is going well, as far as we can tell. The home study is being reviewed and should be completed soon. It’s nice to have that done. Now, though, the wait begins. We have no idea how long we will have to wait for a match. We’re a little hard to match in a couple of ways. We are not religious, which is one mark against us. We also don’t want extensive contact with the birth family. We’re comfortable sending letters and pictures as often as they’d like, but we’re not interested in having the birth family directly involved in the child’s life. In this age of completely open adoptions becoming the norm, that is not a particularly politically correct stance to take. On the other hand, when I go to sites that list people thinking about giving up their baby for adoption, a lot of them say they want letters and pictures and don’t mention visits. I’m sure that someone will come along eventually that matches up with us. For the moment, we wait, and waiting is not something I have ever been very good at. I suppose it is good practice, though.

Overall, life is pretty good. We’re stable, have enough income, and we’re both basically healthy. I know that’s more than many people have in these bad economic times. There are days when I wish we had enough to relax about money, but we make enough to cover bills and go out once in a while, which is good. I still budget everything, and someday I’d like to not have to worry about that, but as long as nothing catastrophic happens, we’re fine. I have to remind myself of how lucky we are when I get frustrated at having been on a very, very tight budget for years. It’s okay to be frustrated, of course, but a tight budget means that we have enough, and that’s a very good thing. I have to turn it around and look at the fact that, for the first time in a few years, we can get some of the luxuries. Not a lot, but some, and that’s really nice. I get to buy new work clothes soon, which will be especially good since the ones I have are starting to fall apart. Someday soon we will have a stand mixer, which we’ve been talking about since we got involved. It’s one of the few things neither one of us had in our kitchens. We took a day off and went to see movies and eat out, which is very unusual for us, and it was a very nice day. There are a lot of good things going on in our life, even if sometimes I forget. I only have one job. I work forty hours a week instead of the seventy that drained me for two years. We have good friends and interesting jobs. We get to go to two weddings this year of people who are very dear to us.

I think I’ll have to come back and read this the next time I get into a funk. It’s important to remember the good things.

We’re starting to plan our yearly BBQ. I love this tradition. We started it the year we bought the house, and every year since we have had an Inauguration of the Grill. Xander makes excellent burgers, we provide beer, buns, and anything to go on the burgers, and everything else is a potluck. There are people we don’t get to see often who show up for this like clockwork, so we get to see them at least once a year. There are always new people, too, and somehow they always manage to fit in with the people who have been coming regularly. We have musicians, dancers, fencers, work friends, and a variety of other people. One of the neat things about having intelligent and interesting friends is that they can almost always find something to talk about with other intelligent, interesting people. I love hearing conversations ranging from childrearing to physics to card tricks. A lot of work goes into making the party go well, but it is absolutely worth it. I love seeing the interactions, feeding people good food, and getting to reconnect with people I don’t see nearly often enough. It makes me happy on many different levels, and I’m looking forward to it this year.

I’m getting my brain back on track. I try to be a relatively positive person, but the past few years have been a long, hard slog. The death of my grandmother knocked me back in some ways to the death of my brother, which was wrapped up in the infertility grief, which was also surrounded by working too much and a lot of stress. I just have to work on remembering the good things and focusing on what we are working towards rather than looking back for too long.

I’m taking a few deep breaths, looking around for a good thing to think about, and moving on. The only way in life is forward, whatever else happens.