Wednesday, December 30, 2009

2009-2010: Reflection and Excitement

Well, yet another year is coming to a close. We just returned from Seattle after spending time visiting our families over the holidays. Winter has begun and I find myself sitting here wondering what I should write about. I received a few emails requesting a blog post so I feel like I should deliver. Being that we're just a day away from New Year's Eve, I guess that's an appropriate topic.

I quit my job just a little over a year ago and to be honest, aside from the income, haven't missed it much. It took me about two years to admit it, but I decided that I just want to be at home with my kids for a while. Some women come to this decision much more easily than I did. I just struggled with the idea of losing my personal identity. It took me the better part of 2009 to realize that I was just beginning to define myself on my own terms. I have discovered many creative outlets that I hope will lead to my next career endeavor. Until then, I have so many things to keep me satisfied.

So, of course, there is the matter of New Year's Resolutions. I went back and found mine from last year. I think it only makes sense to address those first.

1) Start a vegetable garden
Check!
2) Find work that fulfills me
Addressed in previous paragraph- check!
3) Exercise- I'm not aiming for a specific weight goal- I aim only to treat my body with the respect it deserves.
For the record- I had a flat stomach for about 3 months and then got pregnant again- check!
4) Utilize our Netflix account- 3:10 to Yuma, while good, was not worth $60 - nice that they let us keep it for six months though
Check! we have been much better this year!
5) Enjoy time with friends and family- traveling, cooking, eating, and playing
Absolutely 100% check!

If I do say so myself, those were great resolutions! I think I could be happy tackling the same ones in 2010. I will add a few more for fun- things that I want to achieve for personal growth.

1) Learn to cross country ski
2) Learn to knit cables
3) Join a book club
4) Write more
5) Less fun but more important: learn to budget on a single income

We have so much to look forward to next year. We can't wait to meet our second baby. We heard its heart beat for the first time yesterday. Life is really good. Happy New Year!

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Message from Gavin




We couldn't keep the secret any longer- we're expecting another deMars kiddo- July 3, 2010. I'm 11 weeks along and feeling pretty good! Life is only going to get more interesting...

Snow Falling in New York


It's early Wednesday morning and Gavin is not awake yet. I woke up to a thick blanket of snow. It's still coming down hard and is supposed to change over to freezing rain later. Freezing rain is the worst- I'd prefer it to just snow. Our roadways are very well maintained so it's not as stressful when we get snow. I must be acclimating a little bit. I have an appointment later today and am not even going to cancel it due to snow- well, unless it really does turn to freezing rain and scares me off my game!

The beagles hate this winter weather- they're so funny. I let them out this morning and Starsky sort of walked the perimeter of the yard- sticking to the fence sides to try to find the most shallow snow. Max takes an actual kick in the butt to get him outside! Even then, he's outside for all of 10 seconds and then seeks refuge inside. Inside, they like their blanket or bed right next to the radiator so they get the nice warm air. It's really quite pathetic. What's next - a snuggie?

I know that it's also very cold on the west coast- we'll be heading that direction on Saturday morning. I really hope the weather takes a pause to allow our travels to go uninterrupted. We're anxious to get back home and reconnect with all of our friends and family. In the meantime, here are a few photos of our first  real snowstorm of the season. I'll likely post a few of the Gav man when he wakes up and we go play.

Starsky, making his way to find the perfect place to relieve himself.

Still looking...

My garden and patio are somewhere under there!

The porch, while dusted with snow, still looks inviting to have a cup of coffee out there!

Monday, November 30, 2009

Sunday Morning Hike at Thacher Park

Sunday morning we were being lazy, just lying on the couch when I suggested we go take a walk through a park I had heard about. Thacher Park is a state park that is just 20 minutes from our house. There are about 30 miles worth of hiking trails and some beautiful scenic views. It was a beautiful morning- mid 40s and lots of sunshine. We all had a great time- our only regret was not taking advantage of this park sooner.
Gavin is at such a fun age right now. I said to Adam that while babies are awesome with all of their milestones- the fun is just really starting to begin. Gav had so much fun running around, throwing rocks, and just being a kid.
He's really growing up!
The beagles enjoyed some nature as well. We just wish that they would be better off leash. It is such a great place to let your dogs loose but unfortunately these hounds just can't (won't) listen!
Gavin grunted while walking up the hills- totally hilarious. I think this was one of our favorite family outings- we're already planning on going back this weekend. Even with the snow just around the corner, we think we might start snow shoeing with Gav. I think he could handle it - the boy likes adventure!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Friends Thanksgiving

We hosted an early Thanksgiving celebration with all of our Albany friends on Sunday. It was a really fun day- complete with football and lots of good food. We decided to celebrate early because everyone had family plans or had to work on Thanksgiving Day. Adam decided to bring down the t.v. from our bedroom so we could watch multiple games. And if two screens weren't enough, he also set up our iMac to further up the "awesomeness." The guys definitely appreciated the effort and I have a feeling this is how we'll be watching football every Sunday from now on.
My mom had told me about a turkey recipe she saw while watching Food Network- Brined Herb-Crusted Turkey with Apple Cider Gravy so I decided to try it out. I put the turkey in the brine on Thursday. I love this method but it's always a challenge trying to accommodate a 5 gallon bucket in the refrigerator. It soaked in the brine until Saturday afternoon. Then, you put all the veggies and apples in the roasting pan, place the turkey on top and spread the herb butter crust all over it. Then is simply sat in the refrigerator until Sunday afternoon, when it went right into the oven. It turned out very good- beautiful dark color on the outside and extremely flavorful on the inside.
Everyone brought a side dish- we had it all: two types of dressing, mashed potatoes, grilled sweet potatoes, salad, brussel sprouts, mac n cheese, cranberry relish, and lots of pie! We had a really fun time and are very thankful for meeting such great friends.
Wishing you all a wonderful Thanksgiving- go get your grub on!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Homemade Stock- yes, it's all that it's cracked up to be!

I have been making my own chicken and vegetable stocks for several months now. It's really easy and makes a tremendous difference in how soups and stews turn out. If you're like me- you go through a lot of chicken stock this time of year. I also make a lot of roasted chickens so I finally started to keep the carcass to make stock the next day. It's a great way to use up wilting vegetables as well.

Today I am making Chicken Stew with Biscuits. This Barefoot Contessa recipe is delicious! It will satisfy anyone- (well, maybe not a vegetarian, but you get what I'm saying). Her recipe calls for using bone-in chicken breasts, that you roast and then shred. I am using a whole chicken because I wanted to make my own stock. I don't have the frozen pearl onions- so instead, I'm adding celery, chopped rosemary, and also some button mushrooms. It's just a chicken stew- feel free to use what you like! Also- I don't use quite as much butter as Ina. Use what you're comfortable with!

Now, back to the stock. There are thousands of recipes for making chicken stock. I have found that the key is to use a lot of aromatic vegetables and herbs and to simmer for a long time. When I use a carcass from a roasted chicken- I will simmer for 3 hours. In today's case, I don't want to overcook the chicken- so I will remove it once it's done, shred the meat, and then return the carcass to the simmering stock for another hour. If you give it the time, you'll end up with a beautiful dark stock- looks nothing like store bought stock.

Here is my "recipe"


Chicken Stock:

1 whole chicken (or carcass)
2 or 3 carrots, washed, and chopped in 3 pieces each
2 or 3 stalks celery, washed and roughly chopped
1 whole onion, peel left on and quartered
1 head garlic, cut in half horizontally (I didn't have garlic today- so I substituted leeks)
Bunch of fresh thyme
2 bay leafs
Freshly ground pepper- ground coarsely
Pinch of kosher salt

Cover the chicken with water- only enough water to completely submerge the chicken. Add vegetables, bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer. Simmer for 3 hours*. Make sure pot is covered but that the lid is slightly cracked. Keep an eye on it- making sure your water does not evaporate.

After stock is done simmering, strain through a sieve into a clean pot/bowl. Refrigerate the stock after it's cooled. The fat will harden at the top, which can easily be removed.

*Remember- if using a whole chicken and not just a leftover carcass- remove the chicken once it's done cooking, remove the meat- then return carcass to pot.

This will make about enough stock for a homemade soup and in this case, my chicken stew. It freezes very well, but I tend to use it right after I make it. I still have to rely on store bought stock- but if you have the time- I highly recommend treating yourself to homemade. It really will take your recipes to the next level.


Thursday, November 12, 2009

Fallen leaves = Blah!

All the leaves have fallen from the trees, leaving a very drab and dull landscape. I have felt a bit off ever since daylight savings occurred. I don't enjoy short evenings. It feels like 10pm when it's only 5:30pm. Although, we have been enjoying fairly mild weather - even made it to 70 degrees last weekend.

I finally planted spring bulbs today. Last spring, my neighbor's yard looked so nice with pretty tulips and daffodils popping up. I was a bit jealous so I made a mental note to plant some bulbs of my own this year. Now if only those a-hole squirrels will leave them alone!

Gavin is really starting to talk. He isn't using complete sentences but he is good at getting his point across. Like most kids, he finds it is most effective if he just adds the word "no" in front of another, such as, "no night-night" or "no eat". Everyday he has something new to say- it's pretty cool.

Adam has been exhausted lately- the 5:30am wake-up is starting to get to him. I cannot even fathom getting up that early. He is working somewhere between 50-70 hours a week. It varies depending on what types of cases he is assigned to or if he is on call. I think he is fine with the workload- it's just those early mornings that are a struggle. The good news is that he seems to enjoy anesthesia.

Well, that's about all for this week. We are planning on doing some exploring on Saturday so hopefully I will gather some more writing material. Things have been a bit dull- haven't even had any interesting mishaps at Starbucks or Price Chopper to rant about!


Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Autumn in New York

Well, here we are - beginning of November. I can't believe how quickly time is flying by. I had hoped to take more day trips but we've just been really busy with things that I can't even remember doing! Plus, I had the cold/flu from Hell and did not have much energy. I'm not sure if I had the notorious swine flu or not because I never went to the doctor. I'm basically surrounded by doctors in our social circle and they all gave me the same useless advice: rest and drink fluids. Seriously, so glad we paid thousands of dollars in medical school tuition for that! I keep telling Adam that if he was really ambitious, he'd find a cure for the common cold! Instead, he is learning to put people under and keep them alive while having surgery. What a slacker!

Anyhow, before I knew it; November arrived. The trees are dropping their leaves and the nights are getting cold. We are busy winterizing the house. We decided to put plastic up in the windows to try and conserve some heat. Last year we paid ridiculous amounts of money to heat this house. Sadly, the house was still pretty cold because our radiators sit right beneath the windows. Money was literally going out the window. So, last month we bought the plastic insulation kits and got out the hairdryer. I have to say- it makes a huge difference! The house feels warmer already. We'll see how it is when the temperature falls to the single digits. In the meantime, I did promise some fall foliage pictures so here are my favorites from this year.
This is the view of Albany from Thatcher Park, which sits up on the hillside.
Another shot from Thatcher Park
Gavin and his pumpkin...
I've been raking up the leaves in our yard- Gavin has so much fun playing in the piles!
And napping in the piles...
Needless to say, we still haven't cleaned up his fall playground.
And really, when the leaves are this much fun- why should we hurry? Happy Fall!

Friday, October 30, 2009

I Heart Fantasy Football

It's true. I totally love having a fantasy football team. It's kind of ridiculous! I guess after being married to Adam for nearly 9 years- I finally gave in and started to enjoy watching football. What I have never enjoyed, however, is watching football ALL DAY. I got really nervous when Adam told me that he wanted to get the NFL Ticket because I knew that's how we'd be spending the next 15 Sundays or so. By the way, I think the whole NFL Ticket thing is kind of a genius win for males. I'm convinced that the guy who came up with the NFL Ticket was a husband who's wife didn't want him watching so much football and this was his secret scheme to rationalize it. For example, the only reason we got it was because Adam couldn't get any Seahawks' games back here. I felt bad for him and suggested that he go ahead and get Directv. Little did I know, it's kind of expensive. And here is where the genius lies- now because he spent so much money on the damn thing, I want to make sure he gets his money's worth! It's a total win for him! I'll admit- this might be a bit far fetched.

Anyhow, when I was asked to take over a fantasy football team, I never expected it to be so fun! My team is doing really well too! I took over at 0-2. I am now 4-3. I'm in 4th place and am playing the 3rd place team this week. I have made a lot of adjustments since I last told you about my team. First of all, I guess the NY Giants were overrated. I still have Eli Manning but I've sat him on the bench the last few weeks in favor of Matt Schaub (Houston). I didn't even know who he was until I started playing fantasy football. That's why this is so fun- I actually have a vested interest in all these football games. Matt Schaub has been solid week after week- so I'm going to stick with him on Sunday. At running back- I have Thomas Jones from the NY Jets and Ray Rice from Baltimore. I have DeSean Jackson as WR - which should work out well for me this week because the Eagles are playing the NY Giants. The Giants haven't been great at defending the passing game- so hopefully that will work out. Speaking of which, I dumped the Giants Defense for Minnesota. I'm not sure about this choice since they are playing in Green Bay. However, maybe this rivalry will work in my favor. Wish me luck!


Tuesday, October 20, 2009

A Week with Old Friends

Last week our friends Chelea, Keith and Hannah came to visit. And, of course, they wanted the big east coast tour! We had a really good time exploring NYC, Boston, and Newport, RI. We had a busy week. Here's a quick recap of all the activity:
On Monday, we took the train down to New York. We headed over to Washington Square and watched the street musicians. Gavin really enjoyed this jazz band. Washington Square is near the NYU campus and it's filled with energy.

Keith and Adam didn't waste any time getting hot dogs from the street vendors. I'm sure Keith will appreciate this photo of him!
We then walked through Greenwich Village and Hannah decided to have her Carrie Bradshaw moment. (Sex in the City, for those who missed the reference) The streets have so much character, lined with brownstones.
We headed over to Central Park after having lunch in the village. Gavin had fun running around with Hannah.

What a memory, changing Gavin's diaper right in the middle of central park!
It's becoming increasingly more difficult to get a good family picture with this crazy kid!
We went to the Central Park Zoo- Gavin got very tired and decided to nap on the ground!
Chelea and Keith at the zoo. After we spent more time walking through Central Park, Gavin fell asleep and we were able to enjoy a nice meal before the deMars clan headed back up to Albany. Chelea, Keith, and Hannah stayed in the city that night so they could take in a Broadway Show and Time Square.
On Wednesday morning, we drove to Boston. We had fun walking the Freedom Trail and taking in all the sights. This was my third trip to Boston- I just love it. The city is gorgeously maintained and the energy is pretty mellow.
A few democrats sitting on a donkey. Or as Adam put it, a few asses sitting on another ass!

Chelea and Hannah on Newbury Street. We had fun shopping while the guys walked to Fenway Park.
Keith and Chelea - North End.
I love the architecture of the North End- I guess the locals find the neighborhood too touristy, but I love it anyhow!
Adam and Gavin walking to Faneuil Hall and Quincy Market... lucky little kid got a nice ride through the city!
After breakfast on Thursday, we headed down to Newport, RI. Unfortunately, it was pouring that day but the views were spectacular anyhow. There is a 3.5 mile cliff walk that goes past beautiful gilded mansions.
Gavin had an absolute blast running in the rain. Keith, on the other hand, kept asking, "why are we walking in the rain?"
I could definitely spend more time in Rhode Island. The town of Newport is really cute. We stopped for bowls of chowder at the White Horse Tavern, said to be the oldest continuously operating tavern in the country.
On the drive home, we stumbled upon Purgatory Chasm. It's a state park in Massachusetts. The chasm was formed by glacial movements near the end of the last ice age. The rock walls are as tall as 70 feet! It's a really cool spot- hopefully we'll get a chance to go do some hiking there next spring. It was actually snowing there on Thursday evening!

We had a great time with our friends. Next time they visit, I think we may go visit our friends in the north- Montreal, baby!

Friday, October 16, 2009

Oh no she didn't!


It took two recipes, one bag of flour, and four weeks- but I did it! I made sourdough bread- and it was delicious! I now have a strong starter and a method that works. The bread came out fantastic- chewy, yet airy. A perfect crust. I am basking in culinary glory. The end.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Sourdough Debacle

Ok, so as I had warned- this had a possibility of failing. This was in fact, a bust! I attempted my first loaf of bread and it didn't rise. I think the starter is just too weak. Maybe I shouldn't have "dumped that hooch!"

So- we have two options: Try again or Visit the Bakery...

Well, those who know me well- I am not a quitter! So- I am starting all over with a new recipe that I found off of the King Arthur Flour website. They call for using a packet of yeast- which let's face it- I need all the help I can get. I will let you know when I actually get a loaf of sourdough bread. They also have a recipe for a grape sourdough starter but from what I can tell- you need wild grapes. I should have taken some when I visited the Finger Lakes!

Friday, October 2, 2009

Demarzzzzzarati....

Ok, so it has come to my attention that not all my readers are quite as enthralled in my sourdough bread-making. So I thought I'd share another project I am working on as of last Sunday.

Last Sunday, I received a call from my friends, Chelea and Keith Kent. They told me that they needed someone to take over a Fantasy Football team in their league because the previous manager had to drop out. The buy-in was just $15 but the bad news was that my team was in last place 0-2. I agreed to take over the team because Adam signed up for the DIRECTV NFL Ticket and all we do is watch football on Sundays. I might as well make it more interesting. Keith renamed my team Demarzzzzzarati! How sweet is that? I only wish I had come up with the name myself! Well, I didn't have time to make any adjustments to my team because I didn't take over until games had already started. But- my team did win and now I'm 1-2.

This will be the first week that I actually managed my team. I spent some time making changes and researching players. I think I have a strong chance of winning my next game. I have Eli Manning starting as quarterback- Adam says he's extremely overrated but I choose to ignore his commentary. After all, he is 0-3 in his own fantasy league. I will admit that I don't think Eli is as good as Peyton, but I just like those Manning boys- they're so nice! I chose the Bears defense because they are playing Detroit- they should do very well. I have Percy Harvin, wide receiver for Minnesota. My thought is that Brett Favre is going to go big against Green Bay and he'll turn to his WR. I won't go into all the other decisions I made- but I assure you that they are very well thought out. Anyhow, this should be a fun way to pass the fall as I enjoy some good smack-talking.

Now, what could be better- Football on Sundays, curled up on the couch with a bowl of chili and some freshly baked sourdough bread? Not much...

* I dedicate this post to Steve Davey. Steve was my manager for many years at Washington Mutual. There, I endured hours of lengthy fantasy football discussion (not all at once, but if you add up all the discussions together, it'd amount to hours and hours). I feel that this has prepared me better for taking on my own team. Particularly, when the biggest take away is- fantasy football is just an excuse to talk trash to your friends (and husband).

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Quick Sourdough Update

Ok, I looked at my sourdough starter this morning and there was a layer of water that had separated from the doughy section. I went and googled this and apparently it's not a big deal- some referred to it as "hooch." Hooch is where the yeast creates a sort of alcohol-like liquid. Some advised to pour that out and some advised to just stir it in. I decided to dump the hooch. Wow, never thought I'd write that sentence on this blog! I poured half the starter out and added more flour and water. I am making soup so I placed the starters next to the simmering pot- hopefully, we'll get some action soon.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Apples and Goats

We took Gavin to Indian Ladder Farms last weekend to pick apples. Apple picking is a big deal around here and is a tradition for many families each fall. We went early on Saturday morning and had breakfast in the cafe. Apple cider doughnuts are amazing! We also had fresh mulled cider, pressed right there at the farm.

Afterwards, we took Gavin to meet the farm animals. We took a video of him feeding the goat- his laugh is so adorable.
video
We picked 1/2 bushel of apples, which I will be using to make apple sauce, apple butter, and some other treats. Here are a few pics of our apple picking adventure.