Mar 21, 2013

I Saw the Sun

Wow do I have a lot of catching up to do...almost two weeks worth!  On the docket for today's post:
  • The Time I Went to Florida and Saw the Elusive Sun (that's right, it does exist!)
  • The Time Murphy Decided to Give Me a Heart Attack
  • The Time I Cooked a Bunch of Stuff and Didn't Share it on My Blog
Between going away, starting my new job, and worrying about Murphy, I've had a lot going on.  Hence the long delay between my last post! 

Let's start off with the Florida trip, since I'm sure everyone is super sick of the snow, and really wants to look at pictures of someone else's trip to the land of palm trees and sun (jealous, anyone?)


So last Thursday, I hopped on a plane and flew down to St. Petersburg to visit my long lost high school friend, Justine.  And I just barely made it, because my flight took off only a couple of hours before the snow started in New Jersey!  Justine and I spent the night chatting while munching on finger foods and sipping wine.  It was so good to catch up after 2 years apart!  I also finally got to meet her boyfriend of 2 1/2 years (and make sure he wasn't a creep).  

Friday we started off the morning with brunch in downtown St. Petersburg and then spent the rest of the afternoon walking around the shops and sampling the local gelato YUM.  I really enjoyed the assortment of fun shops and boutiques, especially Savory Spice Shop and Kalamazoo Olive Company (of course my two favorites would be food-related).  

These pelicans were checking out the scene on the Pier 
in downtown St. Pete

Old friends!  As in, we're old now.

Saturday Justine and I checked out the local Renaissance Fair that was in town for the month (I have to say, it's not usually my thing, but I wanted to be a good sport!).  I did enjoy the jousting performance, mostly because there were horses.  We ended the day at a beach bar to grab some drinks and appetizers and a beach walk, although it was a bit chilly!

Sunday was finally warm enough for the beach!  Justine and I packed up and headed down to the beach with some snacks and spent the day relaxing in the sun.  Unfortunately, the water was about 60 degrees.  Too cold for swimming, even for me.  

Pre-sunburn at the beach.  

After soaking up several hours of rays, we got a late lunch at another beach bar (I sampled the grouper, which was fantastic), and then walked around the cute shops at John's Pass (where I picked up a souvenir for BearFace).  

And THEN it was time for our evening at The Melting Pot!  I have been wanting to eat at a Melting Pot for months, ever since I learned that there was such a thing as a fondue restaurant.  And it was definitely worth every penny!  Justine's boyfriend was originally supposed to accompany us, but a change of plans left the two of us on our own.  I'm pretty sure the restaurant staff thought we were a couple, because we were asked what the special occasion was about 4 times.  So it definitely is a more romantic setting... but either way, you should check out the website and look for one near you!

That's what I'm talking about...a big pot of melted cheese.

Here's the cool get to cook your own dinner in the pot!
I chose the Seafood Trio.  Yum. 

And to top it off...a pot of melted chocolate for dessert.

Monday Justine had to work for a while, and I spent a few hours at the beach relaxing.  She left work with just enough time for us to get lunch and have our nails done before she had to drop me off at the airport.  I was happy to get home and see my wiggly boxer and BearFace, but it was sad to leave my old friend behind! (And also the warm weather...) 

And now, about the time Murphy gave me a heart attack.  

It all started Wednesday night.  When I took him out to pee before bedtime, I noticed that he was limping, but wasn't too concerned because he does have trouble with his knee sometimes.  But I did start to feel concerned when he was also limping on one of his front legs the next morning, and sporting his best pouty face (which isn't too hard for a boxer).  I brought him to work with me on Friday to test for Lyme disease, which I was convinced he had.  But no!  The test came back negative.  We put him on some doggie Aspirin and glucosamine, and hoped that would do the trick.  Unfortunately, nothing is ever easy with my dog, cute as he may be.  

By Friday night, I was REALLY getting concerned, and Murphy seemed to be getting worse and worse.  He looked like a little old man hobbling around!  It was hard to tell where he was hurting, but I suspected his back, since he was very hunched and did not want to bend down to his food bowl on Saturday morning.  I decided to send out his blood to the lab while at work on Saturday and wait for the results on Monday.  By the time I got home in the afternoon, he was still worse...trembling, hunched, droopy-eyed, and breaking my heart with his pathetic face. 

Ok, this picture was post-crisis.  But still, look at that face!  
It's pathetic even when he feels fine, imagine when he doesn't!

So this is when over-protective and slightly hypochondriac/paranoid Mom took over the sane part of my brain.  My conclusion?  MY DOG IS DYING.  SO, my options were: spend all weekend worrying until the bloodwork comes back Monday, or drive 2 hours back to CT to see Dr. Matz (my previous boss).  Of course, I chose to drive the 2 hours.  Not that I don't trust my new boss, but Dr. Matz is a special breed of veterinarian.  So Murph and I spent the rest of my Saturday night at the vet, trying to determine where he hurt.  And he was not telling.  We eventually decided to take x-rays, which showed some degenerative changes of his spine (kind of arthritis-like), but still did not really explain the way he was acting.  We finally settled on starting him on antibiotics, just in case he had some kind of tick-borne infection that wasn't showing up yet.  I took him back to my parents' house for the night, where he was lavished with grandparent-ly attention and sympathy.  He didn't even want to play with Ruby :(  

And then, on Sunday, a miracle happened.  The antibiotics seemed to have kicked in and he was wiggling all over the place!  Now, this seemed to support the theory that he did have an infection, so I was convinced that his bloodwork would show that.  False.  Like I said, nothing is easy with him, and the bloodwork came back perfect.  However, he seems to be getting better each day, and is back to his goofy self, although there still is no answer as to what happened.  I can only hope that when we finish the course of antibiotics, he is still feeling good!  Either way, it does not change the fact that he does have degenerative changes as a 3 year old, so it will be something we have to deal with as he gets older. 

Back to snuggling with Dad.  And sporting demon eyes. 

The lesson of this long story is: It seriously pays to work for a vet.  On top of major employee discounts, I have the attention and services of veterinarians at my finger tips!  The downfall of working for a vet, however, is that I know too much.  When something like this happens, my mind instantly goes to all the terrible things that he could have (i.e. MY DOG IS DYING).  My new theory is that Murphy was faking!  He knew that he was due for a bath, and figured this would be a good way to avoid it.  And also get some new orthopedic beds out of it. 

And lastly, I cooked some stuff.   

Crockpot Chicken Tikka Masala

I originally got this recipe here, and modified it for the crockpot.  Basically, I just put everything in the crockpot and then turned it on low for 7 hours (the chicken breasts I used were still frozen.  If you use thawed chicken breasts, I would try low for 4-5 hours).  Since I am finally working again, I've been relying on my crockpot for dinner on my late work's so nice to come home to dinner ready to be eaten!  I also doubled the recipe so we would have leftovers for lunch and dinner the next night as well.  I served the dish with some brown basmati rice.  YUM

Spicy Turkey Lettuce Cups 

I got this recipe from a cook book I have, but can't find it online!  

3 tbsp oyster sauce
2 tbsp dry sherry
1/4 cup water
1 lb ground turkey meat
1 red bell pepper, diced
5 scallions, sliced thin
1 tbsp Asian chili-garlic sauce
1 tbsp grated fresh ginger
1 head Bibb lettuce, leave separated and left whole (I used romaine...Bibb lettuce is another one of 
          things I can never find in the store)
1/4 cup chopped peanuts (optional)
  1. Whisk oyster sauce, sherry, and water in a bowl.
  2. Cook turkey meat in skillet over medium-high heat until just cooked through, 3-5 minutes. Remove from pan, leaving fat from turkey in pan.
  3. Add pepper and scallions to pan and cook about 3 minutes over medium-high heat until pepper softens. 
  4. Push pepper and scallions to edge of pan, and add chili-garlic sauce and ginger to center of pan.  Cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds.  
  5. Add cooked turkey and oyster sauce mixture to pan and cook until thickened, about 1 minute. 
  6. Spoon meat mixture into lettuce cups and sprinkle with peanuts.  

This picture flatly refused to rotate, no matter how
many times I tried.  Oh well. 

Sweet Potato and Sausage Soup

Once again, I converted this one for my crockpot.  I tossed everything in there (except the spinach), cooked on low for 6 hours, then mashed up the sweet potatoes and added the spinach just before eating.  I was afraid it would lose some flavor because I wasn't browning the chorizo and onions, but it came out just fine.  BearFace and I loved it!  If you do have time to brown them before tossing them into the crockpot, I think it would add some extra flavor, but it is still tasty without.

It seems like cheating when it comes out so yummy with so little work!

And that's all folks.  I'm finally more or less caught up, and hopefully nothing catastrophic will happen to throw me off course again.  I'm off to do some errands, chores, and prep work for the upcoming weekend...BearFace and I are entertaining some CT friends in our new place for the first time on Saturday!  

Mar 6, 2013

Rejoining the World

A quick correction before I get started.  In one of my recent posts, I recommended a video my friend Jenny put together of her horse, Molson, and his kitty friend, Stripey.  I checked it the other day and realized I copied the wrong link, so here is the correct one:  Moo and Stripey .  Sorry for the mistake!

So things are starting to look up here in Sussex County!
  • As of Monday, I am officially employed.  I interviewed at a nearby vet hospital last week, and was offered a position there as a full time tech. It is a HUGE relief to know that I will have a regular paycheck again! Time to put down the giant weight I was carrying on my shoulders and breathe a sigh of relief. 
  • I found a horse to lease!  Haven't been on a horse since January 31st, and I am definitely in major withdrawal (just ask BearFace. I am much nicer when I am riding regularly). I did some googling and found a horse up for lease in nearby NY. I will be meeting Chase and his owner in a week or so, and hopefully we will hit it off!  He is boarded at a 100 acre farm with access to miles of trails and fields (we all know how much I love a good gallop). And yes, Murphy is allowed there, too!  Kind of sounds like my all-time favorite place in CT, Ayer Mountain Farm.  You can be sure we will be back on the trails in no time. 
  • Murphy has made some new friends. We recently discovered our town's local dog park, located a convenient 5 minutes from our house.  He has been playing with a few Great Danes, a Rottweiler, and a couple of labs every evening when the weather is good!  
  • I'M GOING TO FLORIDA!!!  That's right, be jealous.  I'm leaving tomorrow afternoon and flying down to St. Petersburg to visit one of my long lost school friends, Justine!  We first became friends in 8th grade, and have remained close through high school and college.  A lot has changed since the days of sleepovers, summers by her pool, and working together at my neighbor's store. I am beyond excited to catch up with her...we've only been able to see each other briefly in the past 3 years (HOPEFULLY this storm will not cause my flight to be cancelled, or Mother Nature and I will have a serious issue on our hands).

Back field of AMF, looking towards the barn.  
Million dollar view, and oh so much galloping space.

Now that we're all caught up on my life, I'm hoping to be blogging a bit more regularly once I start my new job and can have a normal schedule.  I tend to get a little lost with too much free time (as in, I forget what day of the week it is...). 

I do have one recipe to share!  BearFace and I took a quick trip to CT this weekend, where we both caught up with friends and family. I made this delicious and dairy-free appetizer to bring to Sarah Towle's housewarming party on Saturday night. I was a little worried that it wouldn't go over well being a cheesehead pizza, but it got great reviews and was devoured within 15 minutes! 

Mushroom Pesto Pizza  (I originally got this idea here, then did some modifications of my own)

1 15 ounce refrigerated pizza dough
2 cups crimini (baby bella) mushrooms, thinly sliced
1 cup shiitake mushrooms, thinly sliced
1/2 cup canned artichoke hearts, roughly chopped
1/4 cup sundried tomatoes, sliced in thin strips
1 jar basil pesto 
Olive oil
Salt and pepper 
1 tsp garlic, minced
  1. Place pan in oven and preheat to 500 degrees. 
  2. Heat olive oil over medium heat, then add onions, garlic and mushrooms. Add salt and pepper to taste, and continue to sauté for about 10 minutes. Mushrooms should be tender, not mushy. 
  3. Roll out pizza dough on floured surface to fit pan, then spread pesto on a thin layer to cover pizza. Poke dough liberally with a fork.
  4. Spread mushrooms over pesto. They should completely cover pesto. 
  5. Top with tomatoes and artichoke hearts. 
  6. Bake for 12 minutes. 
Since I wanted it to be hot at the party, I put the pizza together at my parents house and then baked it at Sarah's. Unfortunately her oven is from the 60's and might potentially be the first oven ever made. Needless to say, the temperature was a little off and ended up burning my tomatoes.  I just picked them off and no one knew any better!

This thing was a work of ART before the oven ate it!

 Aside from getting to see Sarah and some other UConn barn friends, I also got to meet up with Rachel, Jen, and Caitlin!  I haven't seen any of them in a while, so I was really glad we got to catch up.  Of course Murphy and I made sure to spend time with my parents and their dog Ruby, too. Murphy definitely misses her, but was happy to catch up on his napping when he got home. 

And now I'm off to finish laundry and packing for my trip!  Crossing my fingers that winter storm Saturn won't get in my way...