Sunday, March 26, 2017

A Week of Deliciousness

Our first box of Blue Apron meals is finished, with great success and enthusiasm for not only the finished products, but also the cooking process. Each recipe includes step-by-step instructions, so if you are a novice cook, just follow the “rules.”

Our first dinner was Katsu-Style Catfish, with a generous portion of cat fish fillets, jasmine rice, and red cabbage for each of us. The directions were easy to follow and put the cooking tasks into the order of longest to shortest cooking time, so everything is done at the same time. Our second meal, spice-rubbed pork, was delicious! I’m not a big bean eater, so I approached the black beans with a bit of skepticism, but they were very good and one of Y’s favorites for the week. The third meal was chicken meatballs & fregola sarda, which tasted better than it sounds. Y was skeptical that we could turn the small amount of chicken meat into the recommended 10 meatballs, but I told him to follow the rules (which is what southern cooks call a recipe) and do the tasks in order and as directed and then we would judge the results. End result? He’s delighted that there are left-overs for his lunch today.

We’re excited to anticipate our next box. We enjoyed cooking together, as well as the end result. The most labor-intensive meal was, surprisingly, the chicken meatball dinner, but that was more because the pearl pasta had to come to a boil and then cook for 15 minutes. We ended up waiting for it to finish so we could move on to the next step in the directions. That menu also came with fresh kale, which we seasoned and wilted into the red sauce, and it was so good. The seasonings were perfect and made for quite the tasty veggie, one which we will make again using store-bought ingredients.

Yep, we can’t wait for this coming week’s box of goodies. Y is especially pleased that we made dishes that all tasted like restaurant meals, rather than something far too over the top for us to enjoy. We’re doing this for a month to see if it works for us, but based on week one’s offerings, we’re all-in.

I give Blue Apron an A+ and an enthusiastic "hell ya!"

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Blue Apron's Meal in a Box

Yesterday, our first Blue Apron box arrived and we made a delicious meal of catfish fillets, red cabbage slaw, and rice. All the ingredients are premeasured and the directions are simple, so we had a nice meal ready to eat in just under 1/2 hour. When I was at my daughter's home last year, she ordered a trial of meal-in-a-box for me to prepare dinner for the 3 of us, and I really enjoyed it then, so decided to try it for Y and me and see how it goes.

We've been in a rut, with me eating badly as I always do and Y fixing huge pots full of various ingredients from the Chinese grocery store. I'm always foraging for something to eat, while Y has a 'fridge full of left-overs. One day last week I went on a rampage and threw out all the dishes filled with leftover this 'n that clogging up the fridge, but I doubt that Y even knew I had thrown out all his precious "next meal" pots of various food items. My goal is to fix a meal, eat all of it, and avoid the damned left-over part of the food process.

I told him we're going to try Blue Apron for a month and see how it goes. We get 3 meals a week and all we have to do is assemble them. The meals are ones we usually wouldn't prepare, so it's an adventure to both see what's in the box and then do the prep. The ingredients are portioned for two diners, so there aren't leftovers to have to decide whether to keep or throw away. I hate wasting food, so it's nice not to have that aspect of the dining experience. And it's a nice "team building" activity if we cook together, which we did last night. I think Y enjoyed the process as much as I did -- and he even volunteered to do the dishes!

As I explained to Y, it doesn't cost any more than dining out at a reasonable restaurant, and everything is fresh and cooked to our time table, so it's a win-win. We're going to use it for a month to give the process a good fair try-out, and then we're going to China so have to stop the service. If we really like doing this, we'll take it back up when we're back from China as it's not that expensive and it's a nice activity for us to do together.

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Beauty and the Beast

Opening day, I saw Beauty and the Beast, the newest iteration of an ages-old story. This version is not, in my opinion, appropriate for young children as it’s too realistic thanks to all the animation and cgi. As a bedtime story, beautiful illustrations capture the essence of the action in individual artwork, but the reader adds the emphasis on the fairy-tale nature of the story. The storyteller can elaborate the beauty of the female character, the charm of the animated household items, and the coldness of the snowy setting. Accordingly, the story reader can downplay the beast until the crowning moment of the story, the waltz with the beauty in a gorgeous, full-skirted gown and the beast charming in a prince’s attire. Very few children want any story beyond the waltz, so a "... and they lived happily every after ..." is all a parent needs to say to a sleepy child.

In the most recent cinema release, however, the beast is very believable as a beast, which takes away the appropriateness for children who will be frightened by the character’s appearance and actions. The animated characters are charming from an adult’s eye, but I doubt most children have any idea that they are “real” people who have been enchanted by the spell cast on the castle and are fearful for their very lives. The fight between the castle-dwellers and the townspeople is far too violent for a fairy tale, and the scenes with the wolves may scare younger viewers into wanting to leave the theater. The fight to the death for the beast is also too violent for most children, but, fortunately, this comes at the end of the film and many of the younger children will have lost interest in the movie.

The settings, the costumes, the singing, the acting -- all are above average. The special effects and cgi are excellent, and the movie holds the attention of an age-appropriate viewer (and some of us who are way past "fairytale" age except as it applies to reading the classics to the next generation).

The summation of the film: young adults and older adults will enjoy this presentation, but children will be scared by it. For the parent who wants a child to know this fairytale, I recommend reading it to your children and saving the film experience for older children who express an interest in seeing the movie and will be able to recognize the difference between a fairytale and the realistic special effects of this presentation.

Thursday, March 9, 2017

A Pain in My Side

I have a sharp pain in my lower left abdomen. Since it began after I had a colonoscopy, I asked the dr who did that procedure what it could be. He said a pulled abdominal muscle and sent me on my way. The pain increased in occurrence and intensity and led me to make an appointment with my primary care physician.

Of course, I never see the actual doctor, but the PA said it could be female issues and sent me for a CAT scan. That came back with a list of “nots,” but no idea what it is. Then the pain really got intense and sharp, like a hot knife being inserted into my left abdomen, twisted, and then removed. This time, I went to urgent care.

The staff doctor at urgent care told me it could be female issues, which I told him had been checked and ruled out, but a quick urine test revealed a UTI, which now became the ah-ha! that’s what it is moment. I got two prescriptions: one for the UTI and one for the pain. The symptoms lessened in frequency, but not intensity, and then ratcheted up upon completion of the prescriptions.

So, back to the primary care doctor for a what next? Well, said the PA, it could be hip pain, so let’s go have x-rays taken of your hips. Perhaps a bit more than somewhat skeptical, off I went to the imaging center. The results came back this week and I have acute issues with both of my hips, according to this study, and need a steroid shot and, perhaps, hip surgery in the near future.

I’m still skeptical that the acute hip issues are causing the abdominal pain, but at this point in time I’ve got one foot nailed to the floor and am going around in circles. I don’t seem to communicate that the pain is in my left abdomen and, according to a data search on the web, could easily be one of at least 10 different issues presented in a nice, tidy list. Now I’ll agree that this list does include female issues, which is one of the could-be’s we’ve already included in possibilities, but nowhere on the list is the left hip causing intense issues with the lower left abdomen.

I’m getting a steroid shot tomorrow and will hope that either confirms or rules out the left hip as I’m a bit worried, after reading the list of 10 issues that could cause intense pain in the lower left abdomen, that this could be “something” I really don’t want to have causing the pain.

UPDATING: I had the steroid shot and it didn't feel any different for that day; however, the next day I noticed that the pain was lessening in intensity, but still present. The next day, both the duration of the pain and the intensity came under control. Today? No pain! Guess the doctor who said the pain was caused by the acute arthritis in my left hip is correct.

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Life Lesson

Some days, it's the little things that make a difference in our lives. I was reading an online post from a crafter, a woman who knits to be specific, and she said something that made such good sense that I wondered why I had never thought it.

For relaxation, I either crochet afghans or I knit washcloths. After gifting perhaps half the universe with afghans and washcloths, I sometimes wish that I could break the habit, but I buy all cotton crochet yarn and make washcloths and go into my happy place when I find 4-ply knitting worsted on sale. I have yarn, lots of yarn, but that's another post.

This post is about looking at things from a different perspective; specifically, knit washcloths. I usually have a pair of needles filled with an in-progress washcloth, with several balls of yarn awaiting their turn to become a washcloth. I browse websites looking for things to do and I came across a woman who also seems to compulsively knit washcloths, and she said something amazing: she decided one day, when she cast on the 50 stitches for on washcloth and still had lots of empty needle, to cast on a second cloth with a second ball of yarn -- and knit two at the same time.

Voila! What a great idea. In almost the same time that it takes to knit one washcloth, two are finished and ready to go into the "some day" pile. It also uses up yarn from the stash at a faster rate and does lead me to browse the yarn aisles looking for more washcloth yarn, especially on sale. There are new colors and new variegated yarn and always the temptation to just buy a couple of skeins.

When I knit fingerless gloves, I knit both of them at the same time, so I'm not sure why I didn't apply that same logic to washcloths.

The moral of the story is not to stop buying washcloth yarn, or to stop knitting washcloths, but to bathe in the glory of using up the stash faster by knitting two at a time so I can now justify buying more yarn when a bright color catches my eye -- or a sale tempts me beyond resistance. I have to live in the reality that I'm never going to use up my stash and/or stop buying yarn when something catches my eye ... but I can bask in the efficiency of simply knitting two at a time!

And my next post will be about the self-delusion of thinking that doubling the amount of knitting cuts the time in half for making two washcloths.