Tuesday, September 3, 2019

Try It: Making Gnocchi

One of my goals this year was to bake something new. I've always wanted to try making gnocchi because my oldest son loves it. It seemed simple when I read the instructions on the website, but like everything new, we had a lot to learn.



Grating the potatoes was probably the most difficult part. 







The dough was a lot larger in size than I thought it would be. It was fairly hard to work with, and I think maybe I used too many potatoes. 






We had several sheet pans of gnocchi, which meant we were cooking for a long time. 







I was not prepared to cook the finished gnocchi in the sauce right away, so I had to call in another chef (my husband) to help make a flavorful sauce ...from scratch. We didn't have any jarred sauce. 



All in all, it was an edible meal. It was way more work than I had hoped. I can't say the finished product was more enjoyable than store bought. I would *maybe* try it again, but not anytime soon.

Tuesday, August 27, 2019

Cause and Effect in Nature

At first there was only one.


Just one groundhog living under our deck.

Then on my wedding anniversary there were two. It was romantic.
Then a third moved in very soon, and I'm not quite sure where it fit in.

They aren't aggressive or harmful, really. In fact they have entertained us somewhat.

But they can shift a lot of dirt. We read they can move as much as 700 lbs.

We are worried they could undermine the ground under the deck.

I called a pest control company, and they said I could trap them (they wouldn't), or shoot them (I wouldn't).

I did some reading online and learned that basically none of the chemical repellants work. So I looked for a natural solution.

And I was delighted to learn that attracting a hawk would encourage the hogs to move to a new home.

But how do you attract a hawk?

By attracting their prey. Songbirds.

So I hung lots of bird feeders, including regular house-shaped ones, and some unique finch socks.

The squirrels loved the one finch sock I hung in a bush at the back of the house. But they didn't both the one I hung in a smoke bush on the edge of our yard.

I didn't see any finches there for a long time. Then we saw one.





Then we saw lots. We saw them every day. So I hung two more finch socks in that same bush.

But the finches only went for the first one, the one hanging over the grass. Gradually, they have eaten almost all of the seeds out of that one and left the other two alone.


The first finch sock, the one in the photo above, is almost empty! I pointed this out to my family.

"I wonder why," I mused.

"Maybe they like the shade more,'' suggested my oldest.

Whoa.

Wow.

I was amazed. I had never thought of bird feeders in the sun or the shade being more appealing. But his casual comment had me looking at the bird feeders in my yard - and the birds I see in our neighborhood - in a whole new light. And shadow.

I still don't know why the squirrels won't bother the socks hanging in the smoke bush. They certainly loved it in the other bush.

Thinking of the impact of sun and shade, of attracting prey to draw in predators, of attracting a predator to repel a minor pest, of how squirrels love a feeder in one bush but not another, are all elements of scientific thinking. This thinking comes from observation and questioning. It helps us observe and experience and understand the world around us.

Perhaps the groundhog isn't only one shifting things around here.



Tuesday, August 20, 2019

Another New Race in 2019

I've done five races this year - 5! I know I set the goal at six back in January, but I didn't know if I could actually fit races into my schedule. I'm pretty excited that not only am I about to meet this goal, four out of the five races I've done are new to me. It's good to push myself out of my comfort zone, while keeping some familiarity.

By July, I thought I'd only done one. I had forgotten about the Frigid Five I did in January. That was a new race. Cherry Blossom was two, then nothing for months. Then in July I panicked and did two almost back to back, the Yinzer 5K and North Boros YMCA 5K. Both of those were brand new to me. Even though I did new races, I was familiar with the courses.

Then in August, I did the Passavant 8K, which was a new distance AND a new race AND on a Friday evening (  love evening races), but again on a familiar course.

So now, do I do my sixth race at a new to me event? Or an old favorite like the Great Race? It's exciting to have this choice and to know I can really achieve this goal!



Monday, August 5, 2019

Goals Update!!

Some updates on my goals:


- I'm planning to run my fifth race of the year Aug 16. It's an 8K on a Friday evening.

- I did a group run for the first time in....19 years? I've run with friends and such, but this was the first time I showed up for a training run with total strangers. I only did 3 miles, and only 1.5 of that was run with other people. It wasn't a transcendent experience, but it was enjoyable. I was definitely moving at a nice pace.

- I'm attending a new conference...leaving in two days!!

- I really want to finish the YA manuscript. I don't have work for hire contracts right now. I'm wondering if I should tackle it.

- Camping...could it happen over Labor Day? We'll see. The kids want to do it.

2019 Goals

Things I can complete
  • Run six races this year (As of July 22, I've done 4! Thanks to my amazing family for running the Yinzer 5K and for my oldest for running the North Boroughs YMCA 5K with me!)
  • Finish my YA manuscript
  • Finish the Rosalie manuscript - Revision completed, in process of sending this out
  • Go camping 
  • Co-Read a book with each kid - I read "The Great Brain" out loud to the middle and youngest on a car trip. That's 2/3 for sure. The oldest and I are reading "A Separate Peace." He's NOT loving it. 
  • Bake something new - We didn't have to bake mochi, but we made this for the first time! The oldest and I also made gnocchi, which again didn't require baking, but was tough and delicious. I have added Croque Monsieur to my "to bake" list. 
  • Go for a group run - COMPLETED! 
  • Attend a new conference 

Monday, July 22, 2019

2019 Goals - July Update


How are your goals going for 2019? July is almost done and that means the year is over halfway. I like that I'm hitting goals. It means I'm staying focused. The one thing I've definitely lost focus on that I doubt I'll do this year is finish that YA manuscript. 

2019 Goals

Things I can complete
  • Run six races this year (As of July 22, I've done 4! Thanks to my amazing family for running the Yinzer 5K and for my oldest for running the North Boroughs YMCA 5K with me!)
  • Finish my YA manuscript
  • Finish the Rosalie manuscript - Revision completed, in process of sending this out
  • Go camping 
  • Co-Read a book with each kid - I read "The Great Brain" out loud to the middle and youngest on a car trip. That's 2/3 for sure. The oldest and I are reading "A Separate Peace." He's NOT loving it. 
  • Bake something new - We didn't have to bake mochi, but we made this for the first time! The oldest and I also made gnocchi, which again didn't require baking, but was tough and delicious. I have added Croque Monsieur to my "to bake" list. 
  • Go for a group run
  • Attend a new conference 

Ongoing things I want to do well:
  • Moms volunteering - doing a state level project
  • SCBWI volunteering (Now I'm the RA!) 
  • Writing coach 
  • Writing club - almost done our first ever session. Completed our six weeks and had an amazing book launch! Lots of people asked if I'd do it again. Then I coached two weeks of writing camp! I've learned a lot here. 
  • NHSC - my last season as Commissioner is underway. Spoke too soon....probably will be commissioner again. 

Stuff I will work hard on but can't guarantee: 
  • Find the right agent
  • Write more for the educational publishing market - Signed a contract March 1, 2019! 
  • Continue to write for Highlights - Achieved in Feb 2019!
  • Continue to write for Cricket magazine - I have some fun stuff coming out this October!
  • Sold a story to a new magazine, Smartypants Magazine for Kids

Monday, July 8, 2019

Try It: Colorado Vacation

We just finished up a wonderful family vacation in Colorado. We stayed in Monument and Breckenridge. We visited lots of lovely other towns. And we tried LOTS of new things.

The kids tried new foods including pate, Caeser salad, chicken wings, trout, venison jerky, and pho.



We tried new activities, like horseback riding.



We did white water rafting which was very, very cold and a hot water springs pool which was very, very warm.




We tried two escape rooms. We solved them both.





We tried hiking into caves, up to mountain tops and hanging lakes, and under waterfalls.






We tried panning for gold. Twice.




We tried wearing cowboy hats and oxygen bars.











We also tried sitting around together and doing nothing. That was kind of hard at first, because we are so used to doing something.

But after chatting, laughing, and sitting by the fire, and more laughing, it felt really good to just spend time together.







Saturday, June 22, 2019

Try New Foods Using This Poster

A friend gave us this poster and it's kind of cool. I like how it shows all of the new foods we have tried and how many more new foods we need to try.



There are 132 different dishes on this poster. I am not sure we've tried even half!

I'm always encouraging my kids to try new foods. We like to eat out (and we're lucky we can afford it). There are some decent options in Pittsburgh, but I do wish there were as many as places like DC or Chicago. I know we'll never get to NYC level. We do try to pick new and unique places here in Pittsburgh, but it's hard to have a successful restaurant if people aren't familiar with your cuisine.

From the poster, you can see we're not too familiar with a lot of Scandinavian and Eastern European dishes. We definitely have to work on that. The nice part of this poster is that it suggests foods I've never even heard of. So, I can try cooking them myself.

I'm willing to make new foods at home, but when I don't know how it should turn out, I don't know how to judge if it was any good. That doesn't always stop me. A few months ago I decided to make Yorkshire puddings even though I really had no idea what they should look like. I got pretty good at it.

I'd love to try this with a South American and Asian poster. But in the meantime, I'm going to visit the website below and get some new recipes.

If you've cooked something you can read on the poster (I know it's small print) and can recommend it, please leave a comment!