Monday, September 6, 2010

As of Late

Not much note-worthy going on here lately, as usual.  I can't believe August is already over - it flew by, and the poor blog has certainly suffered from my lack of attention and time to devote to it.  Such is life, I guess... only a few note-worthy events worth writing about... at least, note-worthy in comparison to the daily routine.

The (very old) elevator at work has been acting up for a while now - being jumpy, opening the doors with a little gap left to the floor, things like that.  They actually had to shut it down a few weeks ago to work on it.  Lately it started acting up again though, and it got more serious.  We got a few reports of people getting stuck on it, so we'd all wait a day or two, then gradually start back into the old routine of taking it.  One morning a few weeks ago, I was the first one on, and the doors started shutting.  I hit the button to hold them open for others, but it didn't work - one guy tried to stick his hand in front of the door too, but that didn't work either.  I was quickly shut in by myself, and I just figured the door buttons weren't working.  But sure enough, the elevator just sat there with no response to my floor request, door open request, nothing.  I'm sure it felt like longer than it was, but it had to have been at least 15-20 seconds that I was standing there and evaluating my options - call my office, press the call button on the elevator, etc... Thankfully, as if it decided it had sat there long enough, it eventually started moving and made its way up to my floor.  Six floors has never felt like it took so long... and I sure was glad to see those doors open when it got to #6.  I told myself then and there that I'd take the stairs on purpose from now on.  I also emailed the rest of my branch to let them know, since we'd already been getting a few alerts from people in weeks past who had encountered issues with it as well.  I've since been taking the stairs up and down every day, and let me tell you, six floors is a lot to start out with.  It has gotten easier over the course of a week or more doing it consistently, so here's hoping it continues to get easier.
Oh, and the elevator has had an "Out of Order" sign on it since then as well.

On the home front (well, near home), they've been putting up new housing developments around here like it's going out of style.  There is one close by on my way home that has gone from woods to dirt to tractor playground to suburbia, all within less time than the past year alone, and I've been documenting the craziness as I pass by...

There is also a new development going in very close down the street, near a large intersection (don't ask how silly the driveway location is).  New townhomes keep popping up in no time, and people are already moving in as well...
Along with this have been improvements to the road and intersection near the driveway... a la a new turn lane... well as resurfacing an entire section of the road right in front of our complex, which meant milling out the existing surface.  I go that way to work every day, so for a week or two, I had to ride through the milled out section and its deep joints - aka BUMPS.  Wanna know the joy of these bumps?  The tractor trailer traffic that uses this road got to ride over them too.  This translated into noises, even in the middle of the night, that actually sounded like thunder at times.  J even said it sounded one night like someone was breaking in a door - which tells me it's a lot louder than most of the car door noise and thug music we tend to get used to hearing around here.  Anyway, last week the road was finally resurfaced, and the joint was filled in.  Not only was my daily ride smoother, but we finally weren't wondering if it was storming outside or trying to tune out all the truck traffic.  Not exciting for most people, but believe me, we were glad to see that fixed.

Oh, one more fun part of this project?  The new lane striping was started last week too, and J and I rode on it shortly after the crew had finished their initial work.  The lane this picture is taken from is the only through lane from behind it - as in, all traffic is coming into this lane...
Anyone want to venture a guess as to what went wrong here, or what you're supposed to do?  Haha, it still looks like this, so I guess we'll have to wait and see.

I also got my husband to watch The Devil Wears Prada, and he actually enjoyed it.  J and I don't usually watch a lot of movies, but every now and then, we'll DVR one and finally get around to watching it together a month or two later.  I'd recorded this one for me a while back (or us if he wanted to join, and he likes Anne Hathaway) and we finally made it around to watching it about a month ago.  This channel had been messing up sporadically, and wouldn't you know that 2/3 of the way through the movie, our recording stopped.  J was actually enjoying it too, so we both were pretty bummed.  Fast forward to a few weeks ago, and I found it on TV again.  We got to watch the entire thing from start to finish this time, and J liked it too.  Fun stuff.  Next up, I'll put in some James Bond time with him to even things out a bit.

J and I got to have a nice date night last weekend too.  We don't spend a lot of time out and about, so it's always a fun change when we do.  It actually turned out to be very relaxing and a nice time together.  We went to Olive Garden, and the waiter really took "glass of wine" literally, almost overflowing J's glass.  He even gave us the leftover half glass from the bottle.
And my Tour of Italy served me for more than two meals in total...

I've also joined Flickr, a photo-sharing website.  I take so many photos, but I never seem to follow through with the sharing aspect of it, which kind of defeats the purpose, unless I want to be the only one ever seeing them.  Facebook has photos, but the quality degradation is terrible due to compressing down such large files - Flickr is also public, and it also allows me to easily link more photos into this blog as well (vs. just a bunch of phone pics that I typically use now).  So once I start making use of that, hopefully photo sharing will become a bit easier for me to follow through with.

We just finished up a Labor Day weekend at the beach and home, so more on that later (hopefully sooner than later, actually).  Maybe a good way to start out on a good foot with some picture-sharing...

Oh, and before we left for the beach this weekend, I'd secured a huuuuuuge centipede (the normal-looking kind this time) via the tried-and-true cover-with-a-cup method for J, but we both forgot to get it before we left.  Came back yesterday, and we finally remembered to get it today... and it wasn't there.  Darn thing somehow got out... guess those hundred or so legs are stronger than I figured.  So now I feel the need to go pull up everything in there until I find it... we'll see.  But there is a WANTED bug somewhere in my house right now, and his visiting days are numbered...

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Why Hello There

Not much interesting (or even uninteresting) has been happening around here lately.  Mainly just work... nothing new about that...

I've had multiple night meetings at work, including two in a row this week.  J has been really busy with work too.  So we're both knee-deep in all that, and finally getting home in the afternoon/evening (or even night for me sometimes) is definitely the welcoming part of our day.

J and I met up for supper and family time this past Saturday with Mom, Dad, and my brother, Jacob.  We all enjoyed some steakhouse and a bit of family hanging-out.  It's always nice to see family.

We didn't get into all the tax-free shopping with the rest of the world, but we did take advantage of a mail coupon for a new pair of tennis shoes for yours truly - much needed, I might add.  My feet are already thanking me after only a few days.

J and I ran our errands a little later than usual this weekend, so we enjoyed one of our go-to meals right now - Greek Fiesta...

On our way to one of our errands, we also passed under one of those rare moments at the airport when you time the ride perfectly and end up directly under one of the planes coming in to land.  For once, it wasn't me driving under it on my way to or from work - I was actually in the passenger seat for a change, so I snapped a pic with the phone... this never ceases to amaze me when you hear that huge plane going right over your head...

And while we're in picture mode, here are a few lovely (well, it was lovely in person...) pictures I grabbed on my way back from night meetings at work.  It seems like every time I'm coming back from one, I see the perfect photo opportunity for an awesome sunset... yet all I have is this camera phone, which unfortunately doesn't do so well at dusk or low light.  But you can see the slight idea of the beautiful light...

Day 1 had beautiful orange, pink, and purple tones throughout the sky

with straight line breaks in the clouds and tones... gorgeous

Day 2 ended a little earlier, so I got to catch some bright sun rays

followed by a big, beautiful, orange ball of fire as I got closer to home

Setting sun over the airport pond...

Well, thank goodness tomorrow is Friday.  Looking forward to some rest and downtime!  I sure do have enough (real, not phone) photos to last me through blog posts for months, but I can never seem to find the time to sit down and prepare them after work and everything else that needs doing.  Maybe that should add to the forever-long to-do list...

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Recipe: Turkey Quesadillas

We've been looking for new recipes for lunches with low GI and low carbs, and J found a quesadilla recipe we started with.  We tweaked a few things based on what we wanted in them, as well as ingredients we found in stores.  We experimented this morning with them, made some changes to the recipe, and J and I both gave them our seal of approval when we had them for lunch - they were very tasty.  They were also very handy - a great size to fit in the hand, and not too big or small.  One makes a great snack, and two would be a great meal.

The half cans below reference the fact that we're making a second batch early in the week to last us through the rest of the work week - we'll use another pound of meat and the rest of the can contents then.  So you could use just one can of the same kind of beans.  We also used a rectangle tortilla in halves, actually called Lavash bread, that we found - flax, oats, and whole wheat - very healthy.  We're essentially making little pockets that are closed all around, instead of making the typical round quesadilla that is sliced like a pizza.  These are a lot easier for transport to work than having something that's sliced open on the sides.

Turkey Quesadillas

Small tortillas of your choice
1 lb ground turkey breast
2 cloves garlic (we used garlic powder)
2 tsp ground cumin
1/4 tsp ground pepper
1/2 small can enchilada sauce
1/2 can dark red kidney beans
1/2 can black beans
Shredded cheddar cheese

1. Preheat oven to 300.
2. Combine turkey with spices, and cook in skillet over medium-high heat until no longer pink.  Try to break up into as small pieces as possible.
3. Rinse beans in colander and add to pan.  Add enchilada sauce, and mix all ingredients until coated with sauce.
4. Add mixture by spoonful onto a tortilla until majority of area is covered, leaving edges free.  Do not pile high, as the top tortilla will need to easily reach the bottom one.
5. Sprinkle with cheddar cheese.
6. Using a basting brush, lightly coat the edges of the bottom tortilla with water.  Add the top tortilla, and sqeeze the edges together so they stick and enclose the ingredients.  Lightly coat the edges of the top tortilla with water.
7. Bake for 15 minutes.

Servings will depend on how many you make and how much you put into each one.  Out of the pound of meat and full can of total beans we had in there, we got 12 quesadillas total.

The original recipe offered all kinds of suggestions for toppings - salsa, avacado, etc.  I think sour cream would do nicely as well.  But honestly, these things are really good on their own - the bread is very tasty too, much better than a regular flour tortilla in my opinion.  And with the combination of the beans, cheese, and sauce, you don't even taste the turkey, which is usually the most bland part.

One tip I have is to only use the water right before you're going to seal them up and put them in the oven.  I had to do multiple rounds of them since only 4 would fit at a time, and I quickly learned that the water is definitely the secret to getting the edges to stick together.  So just wait to seal them until you're ready to get the next batch in, then spread the water on the edges and stick the top layer on.

We used our pizza stone to bake them on, since it gives a nice crisp to food without the scalding that comes from a metal pan - they actually turned out nice and firm, much more so than I expected, so they're easy to handle and pick up to eat.  We also cooled them on a cooling rack as they came out of the oven.  The only thing to watch out for is sometimes the sauce may leak out of the bottom slightly, so just flip over when you take them out of the oven.

Ready to go into the oven...

After coming out of the oven, nice and crispy brown on the sides...

Hot and steamy!

Yum yum!

We ate 4 today, so the remaining 8 are ready to take for lunches...

They certainly were awesome straight out of the oven.  But the only unseen factor is how it will be when we take them for lunches at work.  Microwave is typically the only option, but I think they'd still be great if we had access to a toaster oven.  We shall see.

Next up:  Greek food.  We've been enjoying Greek Fiesta more and more, and I'm on my way to learning how to recreate our favorite meals they have here at home.  Got some items at the store yesterday, so we'll see how that goes.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

The Day That Started Last Night

(aka "The Night Post That Almost Was")

Today was quite a day.  It actually started during the night last night with me waking up nauseous and sicky feeling.  I haven't had that feeling in a long, long time, but I used to get it in college - basically indigestion that makes me feel awful unless I'm sitting up.  No clue what made it happen randomly last night, but I do know it's the one time I've actually wished it was just time to go ahead and get up for work - no such luck.  I tried to lay halfway propped up on my back pillow for a while because I was so darn tired, but all that got me was a sore neck and some light rest.  I was thiiiiis close to just getting up and coming downstairs, which inevitably would have led me to do exactly what I'm doing right now, because everybody knows there's nothing on TV at 2 or 3 am.  But somehow I was able to fall back asleep, because next thing I know, I was being woken up and told it was time to get up for work.  Hooray...

It's funny, because today was a big meeting at work, and I had some mapping to finish up this morning before lunch and leaving for the meeting this afternoon.  So I had actually done really well last night with getting things done early here at home, pulling everything together for today, getting showered, and winding down before turning the light out at a decent time so I could get some good rest and be ready to go today.  Haha, shows what I know.

Due to that extremely weird schedule, I had some really foggy moments at work, as well as some really on-the-ball moments.  Meeting went well, but a lot of the day was spent in the rain, trying to keep maps and meeting materials dry.  Not complaining though, because we desperately need the rain, and it certainly helped cool things down a bit around here.  But the rain definitely doesn't help with my drowsiness!

I even left work for home before rush hour, since I'd gotten to work early this morning.  But this immediately began the most tense part of my day by far.  The traffic on the ramp to my main thoroughfare to get home was at a stand-still.  After trudging along and cresting the hill, I could see something a ways away that was completely across the road, blocking both outbound lanes.  As I got closer, we all had to merge into one lane to turn off into a neighborhood... at 5:00pm... in Raleigh... downtown.  As I turned, I got a good glimpse of the problem:

Maybe got stuck pulling out?  Trying to straddle the median and see what his truck can do?  I have no idea.  I do know that I sure hope he wasn't taking that SUV back to its owners.

Those neighborhoods are all somehow connected over to another major road... that just happens to be shut down in various areas right now for repair.  Of course.  And I don't even know my way through these little neighborhoods anyway, but I just went the opposite way of all the stupid traffic.  I followed what my direction sense was telling me, and at least made it back to downtown, not even a mile from my work.  Great... just wasted 30 minutes.  But I found another way out to try, which turned out to be not so bad.  I even got to ride through the new Hillsborough St. project, which was neat to see...

Pretty new medians...

I eventually made my way back to my main thoroughfare to get home, which I had to do because this whole time, I was in the staff car.  Gotta love that I not only had to detour all around Raleigh for the heck of it, but I couldn't even be in the comfort of my own vehicle to do it.  Oh well.  If another person has to drive the staff car before I have it again next week, I hope I can plead my case to them as to why I didn't refill the gas tank.

To top it all off, on the way home, this was the weather (which also reflects the general feeling I had by this time)...

Dreary and worn down...

Regardless of the good and bad, overall, today feels like it was one of the busiest I've had in a while.  Which is odd, because time-wise, it really wasn't.  But it's funny what the contents of your day can do to how you feel about it.  Yet another reason I'm not a fan of Raleigh.

Well, at least it ended pretty nicely.  I have a kind husband who was waiting at home for me and willing to head out for a nice, relaxing dinner out at the steak house for a change.  Now I'm home, a good hot shower helped wash off the day, I'm in my comfy clothes, squishy socks have replaced the day's nice shoes, and it's time to get some rest and try to replace last night's weirdness.

Tomorrow is another day!

Sunday, July 25, 2010

For my Fellow Engineers

(and all you nerds too...)

Just a little something to enhance the fondness for our self-proclaimed nerdiness...

A coworker sent this last week, and I got a good laugh.  It displays not only our thought processes, but also the way we hunt to make an answer work, instead of just searching for the only correct answer.

(Due to the fact that I don't typically worry "for" things, I'm thinking this was made by someone with a little bit of lingering language barrier... and I'm assuming the medical student said "However."  Regardless, funny...)

There's your knee-slapper for the day...

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Letter to the Centipedes

To any monster centipedes still hiding out in my home, or those outside thinking about coming in:

I've just about had enough of you for one season (or a lifetime).  I was quite taken by surprise the first time a freakishly fuzzy thing scooted out from beside the bottom stair when I was putting on my shoes a month ago, and I had to trap you with a cup.

I had never seen your kind before, so I had to google you.  Google said you liked warm and humid places, so I figured you were just lost.  We have nothing in here for you, and it's most definitely hotter and more humid outside than it is in our house.

Then your buddy decided to scare me by making his presence known under my vacuum another morning.  He really pushed my buttons though when I came back with a killing tool and was gone, and I had to leave him in my house all day.  We made amends though when he showed his face that afternoon and was taken captive.  J would have let him live in the great outdoors, but he had a homing beacon on our house, so he met his end.

One of your little ones really pushed the limit when they were found playing inside my lunchbox... even worse, inside my cup inside my lunchbox.  NOT COOL.

A few nights ago, one of your elders who apparently has been around a long time decided it was safe to come out in the wall on the stairwell.  Guess he thought we were upstairs for good, but little did he know, I had to go back downstairs.  J was in no mood for bug-saving games, so a huge wad of tissue was called in for duty.  Sorry if this guy was important or something.

But you guys have now gone too far.  This morning was the last straw - coming into my bedroom?  No sir, I'm not going to take it.  The thought of you guys near my bed and in my clothes... not gonna fly.  J found one of your young'uns in the kitchen again too, so I'm thinking you guys have gotten a little too bold with what you think is OK around here.

It's a good thing I don't have pets or babies around yet.  Because the bug spray is coming out this weekend in full force.  There will be no entry surface to cross without walking through our poison.  I'm sorry, I know you're all God's creatures too, but you've overstepped the boundaries here.

I hope you've enjoyed it while you can, because next week will be like walking on hot coals for you... well, hot coals coated with poison.  And one day, when our home isn't rented, I promise you my windows and doors will be sealed so well that you won't even have an option.

In closing, I think it's time to terrorize someone else now. Move on please, because even though I really can't stand your creepy-crawliness slinking across my floor and walls, I still don't really care to pick up your poisoned bodies either.

Please pass this along to all your friends.

Sincerely (and not kidding),

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Home Grown Food

I think there's nothing better than homegrown and home-prepared food.  It's natural, good for you (usually, ha - depending on the method of preparation), and you know exactly what's been put into it.  Nothing processed about it, and the flavors are just amazing and fresh.

I got to see my maternal grandparents last weekend, and my grandpa in his 80s still keeps a big garden every year.  We've grown up with his incredibly tasty green beans, lovingly called GGBs (Grandpa's Green Beans).  Silver queen corn is my absolute favorite, which we get every summer there.  And at some point in the last few years of my life of not liking raw tomatoes, my tastes have changed and I can now be guaranteed as much tomato as I can possibly handle at their house, as well as a bagfull to come home with me for continued enjoyment.  We got to enjoy a seemingly unending supply of all 3 of those things last weekend at their house, along with some tasty roast and my personal favorite... fried okra.  I don't think I could ever, ever get tired of fried okra.  However, I could do without the itchiness that comes with raw okra... but that's another fun story.

So I came home with the aforementioned supply of extra homegrown garden food.  I haven't had a chance all week to enjoy any of it - it's just been sitting on my counter.  Two squash, 3 ears of corn, and a big back of tomatoes have been waiting and beckoning me.  So last night, I got in the kitchen and set to making myself a yummy meal of fresh-from-the-garden food.  The first thing I started was a plate of fried squash.  I grew up eating that at the grandparents' house probably every time we were there, and I haven't had it in years and years.  I couldn't even remember the taste of it, but I could remember how much yummy goodness was involved.  I used safflower oil, which we use around here instead of vegetable oil, and a little cornmeal, salt, and pepper.  I think I probably ate 10 or 15 pieces just during the cooking process between frying rounds.  And I think I melted with the first bite - so good.

Next was cooking an ear of corn, and last was making a tomato sandwich.  Now I am seriously not a fan of mayonnaise - but I don't think I've always had this strong of a dislike for it.  Somewhere along the line, the consistency, smell, and taste began to make me queasy.  To this day I shudder when I have to cook with it.  And I still did when I got it out last night.  However, you absolutely can't have a true tomato sandwich without it.  So I did put a thin layer on the bread (as I still shuddered at the nasty glopp-i-ness of it).  I can't even taste it, but it really does make the sandwich, along with a little pepper of course!  When I finished getting everything ready, I showed it all to J, who wasn't in the mood for any of that food that night, but actually said it looked reeeeally good.

So here is evidence of the incredible yummy goodness of a home-grown and home-prepared meal.  I may or may not have eaten an entire squash and an entire tomato all by myself.  That's ok, right?  Right??

Also, more evidence of the goodness of homegrown food:  the peach.  You can buy canned peaches all day long, but nothing will ever, ever, ever compare to the incredible taste of a fresh peach right off the tree.  We had 3 right off the farm, and I ate them 3 different ways.  Observe...

Whole, of course

Freshly sliced for an easy snack at work
(Anyone else see mandarin oranges here?)

My personal favorite, freshly sliced in a bowl of plain cheerios - I know Dad favors this too, because he's the one that used to make it for me!

I didn't try it with the skin on, because for some reason that's not very appetizing to me.  And coincidentally, smoothies have been on my mind this afternoon.  I suppose I could have made myself a nice peach smoothie too, but it didn't occur to me then.  Guess I just need to find me some more fresh peaches!

So here's to homegrown food.  We had a small garden in our backyard growing up too, and I always thought that was a really special thing.  Hopefully, one day I can be one of the people cooking from my own garden and handing out extra vegetables and fruit to folks.