Tuesday, March 22, 2022

Ripple blanket finished and pan seared salmon...

I was successful at finishing the blanket I was crocheting for youngest son, and it has been handed over.  

What a relief it is to have that done.  I have a report that he is enjoying it, and loves that I made it extra long.  I forgot to measure its final length, but I know it was over 72 inches at one point.  Maybe its finished size is closer to 80 inches.  It's also a tad wider than normal.  My guys like big blankets.

I can't believe I'm toying with the idea of starting another blanket project.  I have so many to choose from in my pattern files.   Or maybe I should do something small.  Something that will provide a quick finish.  That would be super satisfying after not crocheting for so long.


Some might remember I was making it a goal of mine to get salmon cooking down to something approximating perfection.   Well, tonight was my second (or was it third?) chance, and while I probably cooked it a little too long still, I have discovered a way of cooking it that makes me very happy.

Pan searing.   And I used a newly acquired cast iron skillet. Hey!  That's a new thing!  Shoot.  Why didn't I take a picture of the salmon in the pan?!?   

Anyway...  the Pan Seared Salmon recipe is really this simple:

Allow filets to warm to room temperature (for more even cooking).  Generously salt and pepper salmon filets.  Don't be ridiculous, but don't be afraid of the salt.  And use fresh ground pepper if you can.

Heat olive or avocado oil in pan over med-high heat.  When hot, add salmon filets skin side down.  Cook for about 3-4 minutes on one side.  ETA:  I've recently read to let the salmon cook until the sides are looking cooked and the top beginning to look less translucent.   This should make the filets about 90% cooked.  Then flip the fish and cook and turn off the heat.  Let the residual heat from the burner and hot pan finish cooking the salmon.  This may take another 3 minutes.  Squeeze the salmon filets and if they flake a bit, it done.  This makes a nice crispy crust - even if it's not obvious in the picture below.  Squeeze some lemon fresh lemon juice on top and serve with favorite sides.  The lemon juice is not a suggestion.  It's a must, in my opinion.

I made sauteed shredded brussels sprouts again, and asparagus.   If I could just get confident about not cooking salmon a minute or two too long, I think it might just be perfect - and I'd be really happy to serve this to company.  ETA:  I've recently learned that cooking salmon to medium rare is okay, and this will keep it from getting too dry.  

I'm getting there...

So...  my new things:  

I'm learning to cook with a cast iron skillet.  Getting comfortable with things like not washing it after every cooking.  I've had to scrub it a couple of times when I let something burn in it, but otherwise, I just scrap out any food, and wipe it down with a paper towel and once the oils have had some time to soak in, store 'till next time.

The grass is turning green, and lots of things are starting to grow outside.  Hopefully, soon it will be pretty enough to take some pictures.  Quite a few new to me plants I'll be able to count as new things I think.  

On that note, I'm hoping we didn't ruin an asparagus crop by cutting down the ferns in late fall, and not mulching it over the winter.  I keep checking and haven't seen any new growth yet.  We had a very mild winter (not much sustained bitter cold as I recall), so I'm hanging onto hope that we'll be seeing spears popping through the ground soon. I just have no idea when that's supposed to happen in central Indiana.  I just checked a last-frost date calculator, and I see our last frost date this year is estimated to be April 18th.    Hmmm...  that's my birthday.  The emergence of asparagus would make a nice birthday surprise!

That's all for now.  Later, Gators! 

10 new things in 2022

Sunday, March 13, 2022

Taking stock...

Life's been a bit distracting lately.  Nothing seriously wrong, but little things have been off-kilter for a couple of weeks.  Nothing I want to write in detail about, but it seems appropriate enough to at least be that honest, and share that not everything is "raindrops on roses" or "whiskers on kittens" all the time.  

It's also not bad.  In the positive column, the pain in my thumbs (yes, it's both now) has changed from too painful to open a jar, to just somewhat and sometimes annoying now.  I've concluded, after consulting with Dr. Google, that it's likely arthritis and the next time it flares up, I'll get myself to a hand doctor because it appears there's hope for that - arthritis of the thumbs, that is.  I didn't even realize that was a thing, but it's evidently a fairly common condition for women of my age.  If you're around my age and your thumbs work fine, count your blessings.  When my thumbs hurt the worst, I found myself watching people do things like use their cell phones, or pick up their purse, or take hold of piece of paper - with no obvious sign of discomfort, and I marveled at how we take such simple things for granted.  

Anyway, I'm not hurting like that at this point, and I'm happy to learn when I'm ready, and if I need it, treatments are a possibility. 

And the knee pain I developed right after we moved into our new place has subsided.  Has felt pretty normal for a few weeks now, in fact.  That is a relief.    

And robins have begun making their presence known here, and nothing says spring in Indiana like robins on the lawn.  Gauging by the number I've seen in the backyard, I'm expecting at least a few nests are under construction in the vicinity.  Their nesting season lasts from April to July.  And did you know that robins have up to three broods in a season?   I just learned that.  I had no idea.

Moving on... I've been able to just about finish crocheting a blanket that has languished for nearly a year and a half.  This was meant to be a birthday gift to youngest son in autumn of 2020.  I'm hoping to give it to him when I see him this week.  That's not so late, is it?  There were all kinds of reasons why it didn't get done until now, but we'll not focus on those.  

Once I get all the ends woven in, I'll try to take some glamor shots of the finished blanket.  If my thumbs continue to behave, maybe I'll be sharing more handcrafted items soon, as I've been wanting to get back to stitching and working with yarn. I need to start justifying moving all of those craft materials to our new home!

And, lastly...  as we all face empty shelves and high prices, I thought I'd share a little something that almost went unnoticed.  Last week when The Mister went shopping at Menards, I asked him to pick up some Era laundry detergent.  It's the brand I've preferred for decades now, and it's always been its best price at Menards.  He texted me that the price had gone up $2.00 per jug.  I wasn't completely surprised since it's actually been one of the more affordable laundry detergents - up until inflation started taking its toll on the price of everything.  

He brought home three large jugs.  As I was finding a place to store these large containers, when I picked one up, it seemed lighter than I expected it to be.   I grabbed an old bottle and put it next to the new bottle and they appeared to be the same -ish.  

FWIW, the pictures were not taken in the order of the story...

While it's more obvious in the above photo, in person it's difficult to immediately discern that one jug is slightly larger than the other.  The labels are nearly identical, and both labels claim that the contents will wash the same number of loads, both have 2X's the Cleaning Power - nevermind one says it's Ultra Concentrated and the other doesn't.  

Normally I lay these bottles down in the pedestal drawer under my washing machine and when I went to do that, I noticed that I could stand the bottle upright.  Wait a minute.  Is that right?  I tested an old bottle, and yep -  it was too tall to stand upright in the drawer.  Pulling them both out again, I put them side by side (still not able to see a difference in the sizes) and finally checked the amount that was each one.   

Sure enough...  while both claim to wash the same 96 loads of wash, the old bottle contains 150 ounces, while the new bottle only contains 138 ounces.  

I know this is nothing new; it's happened for decades.  I think it may feel more pronounced because the increases in price seem more significant right now than they have in years past.  The price increases used to sneak up on us, whereas now we are expecting it.   This little discovery just makes me wonder what else I've been buying in the last year or so that has not only gone up in price, but has decreased in size or possibly gone down in quality.  Probably everything.  I'm over it for the most part, but I'm still trying to figure out how both bottles wash the same number of loads...

The one good thing to come out of this is I can now easily store the larger jugs upright in the pedestal drawer under my washing machine - making that space better utilized.  So another check mark in the positive column.

Old habits die hard, but I'm wondering if I've run out of reasons to save those smaller jugs that for years I've transferred detergent into from the larger jugs. We'll see how clunky these slightly smaller larger jugs are to use, I guess.

Curious what prices are doing in your location.   The sale price of boneless skinless chicken breasts here has hung in there at $2.29/lb for a few months now - when it's in stock, which it usually isn't.  And I feel excited to find a dozen eggs at Meijer for $1.69.  The eggs look a little less inspected and perfect as the next least expensive eggs look (which are more than $2.50/dozen), but I can deal with that.  The price of regular ol' unleaded gas dances around $4.25/gal - going up or down a few cents daily, it seems.   

I know Indiana has historically had a better cost of living than say, states on the coasts, so maybe these prices are amazing compared to where you live.  What specific changes like this have you seen?  Has a favorite product of yours succumbed (probably again) to inflation?

Sunday, March 6, 2022

Thinking about Lent...

I did not grow up in a church that observed Lent, and have not taken up the spiritual practice of observing Lent as an adult. But that said, even without a full understanding of Lent's purpose (and the purpose behind fasting and giving things up throughout Lent), I can certainly appreciate the value it brings to observers of this Christian tradition.

Inspired by blogger, TB at The Forty-Five last week, after reading this post entitled Apathy (and subsequent comments), I've decided to spend some time considering the ways that I have perhaps grown apathetic to how sin creeps into our lives.   Or rather, into my life.  I've pulled the following book from the shelf and intend to read and contemplate the thoughts in it:

Several years ago a friend shared about a meaningful sermon she had heard on the subject of Lent.  I can't do it justice, but the pieces that stuck with me had to do with disciplining ourselves to reign in our lawlessness.  This lawlessness is not about breaking laws that will earn someone a ticket or a stint in the county jail (or worse).  But rather, this is a law-less-ness that comes from living without personal constraints, or limits.  As Christians we don't live under the Mosaic law, but that doesn't mean that we are simply free to do what we want with no concern of the consequences.  No one who's healthy minded and has a conscience believes we can live that way, but am I the only one who, when I'm being really honest with myself, can see that I sometimes behave that way?   

Stick with me, if you will.  And please don't let my "religious" words put you off, thinking this is all irrelevant to someone who doesn't profess a particular faith.  You may not take this topic in the direction I do, but I don't think one has to be of any faith at all to understand what I'm going to write here - if I'm able to write this understandably.

Most, if not all, of us can name things we do not actively participate in because doing so would violate our conscience, or may harm us or others.  If the Bible calls these things sin, as a Christian they would be sin to me - even if they are completely allowable by culture and the law of the land.   Some may call them vices.  You call them whatever you want.  We've all got things we don't do  - for our own health, for the sake of our well being, for the sake of other's well being.  Sometimes because "the Bible tells me so".  Or our "moral compass" keeps us in check.

While we all have things we wouldn't do, we sometimes vicariously participate in these activities (or sins) by what we allow to pass by our eyes and ears - through the things we watch, or read, or listen to during our times of relaxation and entertainment, or maybe we stumble onto them doing research or while mindlessly browsing YouTube or even when just innocently passing some downtime blog-hopping.   

In some very real ways, in today's culture we cannot escape what lands in front of our eyes.  The problem is not just that something accidentally passed before our eyes that we have no business looking at, and we shouldn't listen to, but it's that we feel things, we think things, we may imagine things we can't unimagine, we may begin to seek out the thing.  We may internalize things that are harmful, possibly to our conscience, our peace of mind, maybe to our habits, most assuredly to our spirits.  Desensitized by what we see or hear regularly, we may begin to do or say things that we know (or at one time knew) were wrong for us to do or say.  But regardless of our outward actions, Jesus was pretty clear in Matthew chapter 5, vs 21-28 that if we entertain the thought, we've as good as done the deed when it comes to the heart.  

My experience of living as a Christian is that there is a continual tension between things like freedom and constraint.  Between being redeemed, and continuing to find myself in need of forgiveness.  And there's believing that when I confess my sin "God is faithful and just and will forgive..."  -  all the while knowing I must not take God's mercy and grace for granted.   

So back to Lent.  

And the idea of law-less-ness.  

And challenging oneself to not live as if harmful things are harmless.  

Choosing to give up something(s) any time of the year for the purpose of reigning in a law-less self makes a lot of sense to me.  I can see how a time of considering one's law-less-ness (or life lived without limits or constraints), or perhaps the alternative - a concentrated period of time spent actively doing things one knows are being neglected, especially when being prayerful and mindful about it all, can turn one's heart and mind toward Christ.  And that seems a very good way to spend the weeks leading up to Easter (and beyond).

I am of the mind that these things should be private disciplines, so I'm not proclaiming things I will or won't be doing.   I'm just sharing these thoughts, along with the title of a book I intend to read in the upcoming weeks - in case someone else is interested in checking out said book at some point.  This isn't a recommendation to do so.  The book could possibly be a dud - I've barely started it.  I doubt it will disappoint, though, and maybe I'll come back and write about the book itself at some point.  I do expect to be convicted - I hope to the point of some change.  I'll probably be humbled.   And I hope drawn closer to a life lived with some constraints or disciplines I may not be practicing, but know that I would be happier and more God-honoring if I did.

The back cover of Respectable Sins by Jerry Bridges

Meanwhile,  let's encourage each other to pray for the people of Ukraine and the madness that Putin has unleased and is directing.  I've appreciated so many others who've posted suggestions of ways we can help those who are suffering.  Thank you.

Peace to you in this time of uncertainty.