The Dark Seal

August 17, 2009 at 9:16 pm (My Daily Life)

Last week we traded the Pathfinder in and bought this:

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The picture might be a little small, but that’s a dark green 2006 BMW X3. 

We were looking at something that was a little bigger than a sedan and would handle well in the snow.  We’d narrowed the choice down to the Subaru Forrester, which I do really like, and this.  My only comment was that they apparantly designed the Subaru cockpit for a small woman because everything fit ME so well.  I didn’t think it would fit Tom as well.  But I have never sat in such a narrow car seat before.

As it turns out, this 2006 BMW and the 2010 Forrester (the one with the new and improved handling) were the excact same amount.  Except that the BMW had already lost that 40% depreciation you get when driving off the lot in a new car.  When we looked at the ’08 Forresters, they had lost almost half their value and aren’t half the car this is.

I have to say, after a driving for nearly a week and finally figuring out how to get the seat high enough, the BMW is a very, very nice car.  The nicest I’ve driven.  Loaded with features, as you would expect.  The windshield, combined with the side mirrors, feels like you can see forever!  Huge, huge sunroof.  The best part are all the safety features – the car is meant to drive well in snow, rain, and on dry streets – and will blow up like a balloon with all the airbags should something happen.  Also, this car is certified pre-owned by BMW – which means they checked it out from top to bottom then slapped a new warranty – up to 100K miles!  It was a lease return, so it only had 30K miles on it.

We were at the point with the Pathfinder that due to the mileage, I would need both a new timing belt and new brakes next month – neither of which are cheap fixes.  We were able to trade it in for exactly the loan balance, so I was happy that we weren’t sinking extra money into it (and it’s out of warranty) and we didn’t lose money on the trade.

Tom, as usual, did an exceptional job with the research and dealing.  I gave him ideas for cars that I thought might work and he did his due diligence, researched alternatives and found us this great deal.  He’s got mad car skillz!  But I got to say, it’s killing him that I drive it to the barn three or more times a week because there appears to be NO way to get to the barn without driving down a dirt road or two.  He would like to keep it in pristine condition, but sadly, it’s going to show some dirt.

I’m auditioning names for the car.  Suggestions?

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A Point of Pride – Seattle Starbucks Baristas

January 19, 2009 at 11:25 am (My Daily Life) (, , )

I know – another Starbucks-based post!  I think it’s because now that I’ve been here almost a year, I’m seeing more subtle differences between Minnesota and Washington.  That, and the fact that I didn’t visit a Starbucks for the first six months I was here.

Anyway, the cool weather combined with the lack of latte access has driven me to unearth my Starbucks Barista machine and make myself lattes on the weekend. Since my local grocery store doesn’t carry any espresso beans in bulk, much less decaf beans, I’ve been using a dark french roast.  Yesterday, as I was making my morning nourishment, Tom asked if he could have a sip.  He really liked it, which surprised both of us, so I made him his own.  Before he had finished his travel mug, he had decided that he would like to learn how to make these for himself in the morning! 

We went to Starbucks to pick up some beans (decaf for me, regular for him) and a second travel mug.  When I was at the Starbucks in Bridle Trails over Christmas, I noticed that they were selling seasonal syrups, which I thought was very cool.  You never see peppermint syrup or pumpkin.  I asked the local gal if they still had the seasonal syrups, and she looked at me blankly.  You know, the peppermint and the pumpkin syrups, they come in a bottle like those vanilla ones over there?  To which the other gal behind the machine chimed in and said they don’t sell the pumpkin flavor, they never have and they probably never will since it’s made just for them.

Excuse me…I explained to her that I indeed DID see them for sale, in a store in SEATTLE, so is this something that’s not being sold in all the stores?  I had specifically driven the 10 miles to a Starbucks store since they are all supossed to be identical and sell the same product.  Basically, she told me that she didn’t care what I saw (crazy lady), I wasn’t getting any seasonal flavors, much less pumpkin.

This peeved me a little.  Remember last year when all the Starbucks around the world closed at the same time on the same day so all the employees could receive Starbucks-approved training?  It was an effort to standardize the Starbucks experience so your coffees always tasted the same, the baristas all projected the same attitude, and in general, made the stores fit the corporate mold better.  I thought it was a brilliant idea – who wants to pay $3+ dollars for a drink only to find that it’s not as good as the Starbucks on the other side of the street.  Or that the Starbucks on the west side of the street skimps on the milk, but the one on the east side gives you extra sprinkles.  All of this has happened to me before this training session – although to be honest, I don’t visit Starbucks often to I can’t say for certain that the after-training was really successful, but in my experience it seems to have helped.

My point is that the Starbucks in Minnesota seem to lack the pride that the Seattle Starbucks’ have.  In Seattle, the baristas know they are something special being part of the State-Drink.  They treat you like they should – that they know that spending $4 on a drink is a luxury and it’s something special, and deserves special treatment, some panache, and a nice attitude.  Seattle baristas know they are providing more than liquid refreshment, they are providing an escape, a treat, and a familiar, comforting routine.  They treat the customers with a sense of friendliness that I haven’t seen here – they take pride in knowing your order, or at the very least, getting it down correctly without a deer in the headlights look (even ordering beans seemed to confuse this gal).

Minnesota isn’t void of pride however.  Target and Best Buy are both locally based stores, and I have great experiences in those stores.  The people who work at Target are extremely helpful, considerate, and dare it say it – intelligent.  Shopping at Target is a much better experience in Minnesota than Washington.  I know the ability for employees to take pride in what they do and deliver a good shopping experience exists, but for whatever reason, corporate Starbucks isn’t able to communicate that to the local stores.

I came home from Starbucks and called a store in Washington.  I explained that when I was there at Christmas, I noticed they had seasonal syrups and I was wondering if they were still selling them and if so, did they still have some pumpkin.  The guy was very nice, didn’t miss a beat, and said that they did have seasonal flavors, but they were peppermint and gingerbread!  OMG – see how easy that was!  He knew the answer!  He knew what I was trying to ask and instead of telling me all the reasons why pumpkin will never be sold to the public, he just gave me the correct answer.  Problem solved and I can move on with my life.

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Not the stupidest thing….

January 14, 2009 at 11:52 pm (My Daily Life)

It’s not the stupidest thing I’ve done (lately), but it ranks right up there. 

I went to the barn tonight.  So what if the entire mid-west is under a wind-chill warning.  So what if it didn’t get into positive temperatures today.  I’m not going to let this cold weather dictate what I can and cannot do – if I don’t take a stand and push myself to go outside in cold weather, I won’t be outside until April. 

I figured that 1.) the cold weather would scare off some lesser people and give me more space and privacy in the arena and 2.) since the arena is indoors, I would be relatively protected from the cold since the wind wouldn’t be a factor.

HA!  Dude!  Where was my brain??  It was NEGATIVE ten degrees when I left.  That’s without the wind.  Yeah.

To be honest, I was doing okay with all my layers.  I had on a long underwear tank, a performance long-sleeve shirt, a polar fleece and a Brooks jacket, plus my breeches and my full chaps, plus my winter boots and half chaps.  All that was fine.  But there isn’t any way to layer up my hands and still be able to grip the reins, aside from my insulated gloves.  Every five minutes my fingers would go completely numb and hurt!  I tried to ride through the pain, I tried switching my whip to give my fingers something to do, but as the pain increased I began to worry about frostbite so I slowed to a walk and stuck my hand under my shirt.  Every five minutes I would have to walk and warm up alternating hands.

And this is TMI, but you have to understand how cold it was.  Usually, in the first five minutes of riding, I have to stop and blow my nose because it runs when it’s cold.  However, tonight I noticed I didn’t have to do this – everything from my face skin to nose hairs and sinus had frozen!!  Or so I thought until about 20 minutes into my ride and I realized that a tiny bit of snot had run down my nose and onto my lip.  And I didn’t even notice, that’s hold cold it was!!  My face was a glacier.

When I got off Felix, I noticed that his whiskers and the entire rims of his nostrils were coated in white frost, thick, white frost!  He didn’t seem to mind the cold, but I’ve never seen frost on a horse – indoors.

As you can imagine, nothing could warm me up except a long, hot shower and a hot mocha.  I’ve decided that the low teens, high singles are my limit.  Life is to short to freeze to death on a cold Wednesday night.  Thankfully, this cold snap is predicted to end on Friday.

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Boys and their toys

December 9, 2008 at 3:57 pm (My Daily Life)

Hello all, from cold and snowy Minnesota!

img_2971We got our first real snow last night.  We’ve gotten a few dustings here and there and a few inches were already on the ground, but last night 5 inches was predicted.  Tom came home and put together his snow-blower.  He’s been looking forward to using his snow-blower since we purchased it last March.  We had the snow-blower before we had the keys to the house!

img_2967Petty cool, huh?  He can lower and raise the scraper parts, and he can turn some apparatus to change the direction the snow blows.  He was able to get the driveway cleared before the new snow started falling.

This morning, we had 5 new inches of snow, which officially made the back yard a Lola-Unfriendly-Zone.  Poor dog – I’m not sure she was touching the actual ground.  The snow was up to Spice’s belly, but she has the height to bound through the snow.  Lola goes only as far as she needs to, does her business, and hightails it back to her doghouse to wait for someone to let her inside.  So Tom had a brilliant idea – he would blow a few paths through the grass so the dogs could get around better!

img_2968Note the apparel change – Tom realized he needed some winter clothes, so he’s now the proud owner of a pair of snow pants, a lined flannel shirt, a face-hat, puffy gloves and snow boots.  Isn’t he cute?  And look!  Grass!!

img_29731Um, Hon?  Um, Sweetie??  Did you mean to blow the entire back yard???  And what did you say?  You ran out of gas??

OMG – what are the neighbors going to think?  Can you imagine the conversations going on at their dinner tables tonight?  “Hey, did you see the neighbors yard?  That fool from Seattle shoveled his whole back yard!”

What can I say?  Tom really enjoyed snow-blowing; it looked like the most outdoor fun he’s had in a long time.  The snow-blower is a great toy, and Lola isn’t complaining – she can move about much better now!

Wishing you all a Merry Christmas!!

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Shopping Report

October 16, 2008 at 6:45 pm (My Daily Life)

Let’s just get it right out there, my shopping stamina is about 2.5 hours.  I know, sad, isn’t it?  So the fact that I lasted FOUR hours was a huge deal.  I think it helped that I saved DSW for last, like the carrot at the end of the stick.

First priority was to find a cocktail dress for the dinner.  I was hoping that it would be easy, but hey, that never happens.  I started at Macy’s, but they only had one really ugly black dress.  I specifically didn’t want black – too boring and makes me look really pale, and this one wasn’t flattering.  So on to Nordstrom where I tried on a champagne colored dress that had these horizontal layered panel things.  Too hard to describe but anyway, the color wasn’t good for me and again it wasn’t flattering.  I was off to Bloomingdale’s hopeful that in their huge department I would find success.

Unfortunately, the petite section of that department was small, and then when you weed out the more casual dresses and the longer dresses, I had a very small selection.  And for whatever reason, the petite sizes that fit at Nordstrom were about 2 sizes too small at Bloomies so that was wasting my time.  I just didn’t find anything that was flattering, young-looking, or would work with my undergarments.  Becoming slightly desperate, I returned to Nordstrom to try on some of the separates I saw and discarded.

Back at Nordy’s I saw a red dress that I had initially dismissed because you all know how I try to avoid the primary colors; they aren’t the most sophisticated color choice on me.  But I figured I should at least try it on since I had nothing after several hours of trying.  As it turns out, once it was on it didn’t scream “Nancy-Reagan-Red”; the color was somehow cooler or something.  Anyway, after debating the fit for a few minutes, even consulting the sales girl (wearing elastic pants all the time can really screw with your perception of what actually fits), I decided to purchase this dress.

And, it doesn’t show off too much cleavage!  I could actually just wear a regular bra, but the corset thingy eliminates the need to suck things in.  I got a pair of peep-toe heels at DSW but they aren’t the best fit – a little sloppy – so if I see something better I would swap them.  I like this dress – it’s cute and the price was good, $168.  But if mom and I are out and see something better, I would try it on.

Next, let’s talk jeans for a minute.  I really wanted a new pair of jeans.  My favorite pair has turned against me in a tratorious manner and is not flattering the belly region anymore.  My other pair of jeans has sparkles sewn into the front, so not exactly an every-day pair.  And that’s it.  I’ve noticed that all of my jeans tend to be higher in the back and scoop lower in the front, the better to cradle the pooch and create a muffin-top.  And there isn’t anything to be done because the rise is small and they have to be tight enough to actually stay on.

I tried on jeans at Macy’s.  No good.  They didn’t have petite jeans at Bloomies, and the ones at Ann Taylor surprised me the most.  First, it’s the only thing in AT that isn’t vanity sized, so even though I was wearing a pair of AT jeans in the same size, there was no way the new ones were going to fit.  And I had the same problem with the low rise/scoop issue.

I decided to try on some of the jeans at Nordstrom because they had several brands.  Thankfully, the sales girl was younger than me and took pity on me when she realized I was shopping the Tummy-Tuck Mom Jeans and steered me toward their “premium” jeans.

I’ve always wondered about the premium jeans – I mean, really, are they that earth-shatteringly good?  Will they rock my world, make me look thinner, taller and get the raise?  Or is it all hype?  Unfortunately, these were good jeans.  I say unfortunately because even though I SAID several months ago I would be willing to pay premium prices, with the recent economic times and my fore-coming lack of employment, I was reconsidering this offer.  And these jeans were $158.  *Gack*

But!  But!  When I zipped these jeans up, it was like strapping into a decent bra – instantly I could feel that there was support!  And comfort without having to suck anything in, or smosh anything around!  I didn’t have to do the shimmy to get my underwear in place.  They felt snug over my hips and weren’t baggy through the butt.  And best of all, they buttoned just below the belly button, closer to my natural waist, so I  knew that since the front was nearly the same height at the back, there would be no unflattering stretching later to embrace and exhibit the pooch.  Damn it, I think these were going to work.

The gal said that they can stretch up to a half-size in between washings, and since I am wearing the smallest size anyway, she suggested that I wear them around the house for a while and if they stretch too much, take them back.  And I totally will for $158.  But I’ve been wearing them all day today, at the computer, on the couch and had a BURGER AND FRIES in them and they haven’t stretched yet.  And frankly, after that burger they could stand to give just a little.  I’ve rationalized the price as thus: I only wear one pair of jeans since 5 days of the week I’m in work clothes, and my jeans last me, on average, 3 years, so when you do that math, it’s not unreasonable.  When I broke the price to Tom, he commented that you pay for what you get, and I believe that adage to be 100% true when it comes to my bras so I think that applies here.

BTW: I played a game this morning with Tom and first tried on the traitorous muffin-top-inducing jeans, then the sparkly ones, then the new ones and asked him if they didn’t look “SIGNIFICANTLY” better.  I figured that for the price, if they didn’t make me look twice as good at the cheaper ones, I wasn’t going to keep them.  He said that they did look good and that they looked more “grown up”.  Which is true.  And that was before I told him the price.  Here they are:

Ok, so now I have jeans.  At this point my feet are killing me and I realized I have to STOP wearing those Cole Hann loafers, so at DSW, I bought a pair of Soffit loafers.  Ahh, comfy.  I had tried them on with Samantha and decided on some plainer ones, but once I was home and wearing those around, I decided they were too plain.  So now I have comfy shoes again, and I’ve been wearing them all day, so I think they are good.

And in case you curious about the Tummy-Tuck Jeans – the reason they can tuck everything in is because they button under your bra!  Seriously, I haven’t worn a pair of pans that buttoned 1 inch above my belly button in years.  Wow.  I couldn’t get past that par.

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Mish-mash of stuff

October 9, 2008 at 3:46 pm (My Daily Life)

Lola is on the mend.  It seems to have taken a while for her to work this little bug out of her system, but she hasn’t had a bad asthma-like attack in a couple of days.  She has a few moments, but she’s getting much better.  I’ve been putting her sweater or coat on her in the morning because the cold air seems to affect her at the moment.

Spice has been very needy – she needs Lola to hurry up and get better so she can work out some of her energy in dog play.

I have a couple of recipes to share.  We tried these when Samantha was visiting.

First is a recipe for Margaritas.  The sum of the parts is much greater than the individual ingredients.  It’s different, but very good.

1 can of frozen lime aid concentrate
1 cup Sierra Mist
1 cup tequila
1 cup water
1 12oz. bottle of Corona Beer

Enjoy!  And let me know what you think.

The second recipe is for this chocolate cake.

This recipe is apparently the same as one in Nigella’s cookbook.  It contains 5 eggs, sugar, butter, chocolate and ONLY 1 TBS of flour!  And you believe it??  This thing is like solid chocolate.  Good thing good quality chocolate is easier to come by, and I got European 100% butterfat butter at Target.  The general rule of thumb is the fewer number of ingredients, the better the quality of those ingredients needs to be, and I believe that adage for something as important as this cake.

You would expect this cake would be very, very dense, rich, and sweet.  It’s not.  Don’t get me wrong, it’s chocolate heaven if that’s your thing, but it was surprisingly light.  Not angle-food light, but light enough you could serve it after a dinner of spaghetti and meatballs.  And it’s not super sweet either – probably because of all that dark bittersweet chocolate.  It was incredibly easy to make too, came together very easily.  It took about an hour in my oven to bake, but that may just be me.  Use the picture and common sense to guide you.  When mine was baking, the sides kept rising about 2 inches over the side of the pan, like a souffle, but the center was obviously still liquid.  When the center was finally done and I let it rest for 10 minutes, it all deflated to about the same level.

The author of the blog is a Seattle resident who writes for Bon Appetite magazine and for her wedding last year in Bellingham, she personally made 20 of these cakes in lieu of a traditional cake.  So I figured any foody who would forgo traditional cake must know something.  We got about 6 servings out of this cake and it’s different enough, but special at the same time, that I might enter it into my “entertaining” desert rotation.  Certainly cheaper than buying fresh fruit in the winter.

Lastly, I have this recipe for you, Garlic Chicken with White Wine Sauce.  This could be a good low-carb option for those of you interested in that sort of thing.  We all agreed that the garlic was actually very subtle and wasn’t overly garlicky at all.  I would make this again – it was quick and easy.

Lastly, her is the link to my Netflix profile.  I’m not sure how this sharing this works, but if mom or dad is interested in trying it out and seeing if it’s helpful, give it a whirl.

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Another Horse Update – I KNOW!

October 8, 2008 at 4:09 pm (My Daily Life)

Ok, not sure where I left off, but to recap quickly, Jones wasn’t going to work out so last week I test rode a couple of horses at a barn about 15 miles away.  One was okay, but pretty well trained and wouldn’t give me much of a challenge.  The other horse, Bart, was younger and less trained, but still very calm, docile, and agreeable and I thought he might be a good match.

The only hesitation I was having was that the arena was small and very dusty.  I think it was smaller than the arena in Enumclaw.  Hard to visualize, but much, much smaller than the current arena I’m at.  Additionally, Cathy’s arena is heated, which, not knowing how bad the winters get, sounds appealing to my wimpy, blood-deprived limbs.

I went back to Cathy and explained that neither Jones nor Bling were going to work for me and she suggested I give Felix a try.  A Mexican horse!  No, not really.  He’s an appendix and has the TB head on a QH neck, with the big TB ears you look over.  Um, a little homely, poor guy.  His owner is a High School student and involved in sports so she only gets out once a week, if that.  He’s trained in some sort of jumping and has all the training I’m looking for, but is rusty.  Cathy assured me that I didn’t need her around to test ride him and that he was perfectly capable of being ridden without lounging, so on Tuesday, I gave him a whirl.

My impressions are as follows: he’s rusty but he’s sane and I feel relatively safe on him.  I walked him quite a bit in the arena and unlike the young horses, if he saw something unusual, he stopped and I let him stand there and investigate until he was willing to move forward, and after that he was fine.  He didn’t try to dance sideways across the arena or forever avoid an area because of some boogy-man.

He seemed very rusty and the first few minutes I did wonder about the sanity of a horse that appeared to prefer to trot INTO a wall rather than bend, but he warmed up.  He’s really, really heavy in the bridle.  I woke up this morning and my triceps and that muscle that anchors your boobs to your chest (you know the one ladies) is sore.  We need to work on that as there is no reason he can’t hold his own head up.  And he doesn’t respect the leg at all – the concept of bending around the leg seems a bit foreign to him.  Staying in a straight line seems difficult for him too.  And, he’s out of shape so toward the end of the hour I was having to push him on quite a bit.  And now my legs are sore too.

Very different from Chaps – I think Chaps was in better condition to begin with and he’s not a leaner with his head.  I got to the barn early and was able to take Chaps out to pasture.  He’s such a sweet horse.  Totally bonded and I need to stop hanging around him, but he’s leaving in a week anyway…

Back to Felix – I think there is something to work with, and the fact that I love that barn pushes me into the Yes column.  If Bart, the other horse, was at Cathy’s place, it would be a no-brainer.  Or even if it was springtime and I would be able to ride Bart in the larger outdoor arena, I would consider it.  But a heated HUGE indoor arena is hard to pass up.

I’ll stick to my routine and ride Felix 3 times a week.  Since I’m starting the month late and will be gone for 2 weeks, I’ll only pay for half the month, which is good.  I plan to use the extra money and get a lesson with Janna on Sunday.  Normally, I would ride him for a few weeks and get some conditioning on him, but with the leaning and the lack of leg respect, I’d like to practice right from the start getting him used to the proper aids.

Interestingly, I asked Janna her opinion of both Bling and Jones and she commented that both seemed spooky to her.  A lady is going to ride Jones in a lesson with Janna this weekend – she’s working Jones for Cathy – and she made the comment that Jones will need lots of time on the lounge line before the lesson!  Am I glad that I got off that train wreck licky-split.

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Test Rides Update

October 1, 2008 at 8:58 pm (My Daily Life)

Just a quick update – I test rode two horses tonight.  Bart, the 5 year old Appendix who is 16.3 hands, and Ike, a 15-something hand quarter horse who is 11.

Bart was a nice horse.  Tom made the comment that I looked more comfortable on him.  He’s young, but calm.  She tied him in the aisle, he stood nicely, and she got the bridle on him, even though he can be prickly about his ears.  Basically, his ground manners are everything that Jones’ aren’t.  He’d be ridden twice today so he was a little tired, but he did everything I asked without fuss.  He has no muscle in his neck, which is something I could work on.  Being so big, he’s got a lot of real estate to move around, but he tried.  No pinning ears, no stopping, no getting cranky. 

Ike was a nice horse also, but he’s older and has more training.  Tana wants to sell him because she bought him for a project and he fulfilled her goals and she wants to move on.  And I get that because he’s about 2 months away from being nice and round and collected.  But she’s done more western with him lately, so he’s a little more lazy.

I liked Bart better.  He’s done more English more recently.  He has a shoeing problem right now.  I noticed it right away and I felt odd about saying something because no one wants to be told their horse is lame.  He’s not lame, but he takes steps with the front and doesn’t always have a sure footfall.  She mentioned that the owner said he was due for shoeing this week, and that makes sense, he’s doing the same sort of trip/falter step that Chaps was doing a couple of weeks ago with his long shoes.

I’m going to talk to Tana tomorrow.  She might have someone interested in buying him, still at the same barn, an I might be able to lease from that person.  We’ll see.  But I like him much better than Jones and think I could work with him and feel confident on him.  I’d like to do a two week trial just to be sure.  I’ll keep you posted.

Here is a UTube video of Bart from last May.  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lQWSjp2AbKE  He tries to cheat with his headset, he tucks his head instead of reaching for a contact, so I’ll have to figure that one out, but he seems like a nice, willing, calm horse.

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The Perfect Baked Potato

September 24, 2008 at 12:46 pm (My Daily Life)

Yesterday, I wanted a baked sweet potato (actually an orange yam) for dinner, on the of the soft delicious ones that you get in the south.  But every time I’ve baked sweet potatoes, they’ve come out tough or not fluffy.  So I turned to my best buddy, Google.  What do you know, Cooks Illustrated did this whole thing on making the perfect fluffy baked potato.  Unfortunately, to access the article you had to sign up for a free 14 day trial, but you also had to supply a credit card.  So I kept googling and eventually I found a newsgroup text link from like, 1997 or something, when people still communicated with each other in basic text forums, not in comments or blogs.  It was cute, in an old fashioned way.

Anyway…to make a perfect fluffy baked potato, the posters said that Cooks Illustrated found that you have to bake the potato without piercing it.  That’s interesting.  I’ve always pierced my potatoes before baking them, even if I wrap them in foil.  But Cooks found that if you bake the potato with no vents, the steam cooks from the inside and keeps it moist.  Then, as soon as you take it out of the oven, slice a cross in it and squeeze.  And you only need to bake for 35-45 minutes at 450 degrees and they found that you can use shortening on the skin or wrap in foil, but neither improved or detracted from the final results.

So I tried this last night with both a sweet potato for myself and a regular potato for Tom.  Don’t be a dunce like me and forget to put some foil under the sweet potato to catch any of the juice that runs out.  Otherwise, at the 45 minute mark, I took them out and popped them open.  When I popped the sweet potato, it was like looking at a candied yam from a can.  Soft, so very soft, and moist and beautiful in color.  I just added butter and it was great.  Ok, maybe not great, we should reserve that adjective for the times you dress the sweet potato up with brown sugar or apple butter or something.  But it was good and healthy and importantly to me, soft and easy to eat.  Not like all the other sweet potatoes I’ve tried baking.

Tom’s potato was fine.  He drowned it in sour cream and bacon and cheese, so frankly, I don’t think the fluffy state mattered much.

Obviously, this method is for the oven only – Andrea, Don’t microwave a potato without piercing it.  🙂  But since it only took 45 minutes, you could do that easily.  I think there needs to be more experimentation with this method to see if it holds in a variety of kitchens and circumstances, so if you do try it, let me know your results.  I for one will be eating more sweet potatoes since it was good and relatively quick.

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Leasing update

September 23, 2008 at 3:36 pm (My Daily Life)

In case there is anyone who doesn’t know – Katie decided to take Chaps back to school with her to join the collegiate team.  While I disagree with the decision whole-heartedly, I’m not the owner so I have no say and I certainly don’t offer my two-bits because we all know how annoying that is.  It’s the owners call.  Can’t help that the owner is an idiot.

Cathy, the barn owner, offered to let me test drive a couple of horses this morning to see if I would like to lease either of them.  Both are her horses that she has in training and for sale, but neither is being worked very much.

First up was this 8 year old TB names Jones.  Nice boy.  He does a lot of head tossing at the walk but as soon as you start trotting, he puts his head down and goes.  He has very, very smooth gaits and really uses his rear end well.  He canters better to the left, in the right direction he’s a bit off balance.  Overall, he has the basics down but is unsure of himself and what he should be doing (the head tossing is his way of trying to find the contact because he knows it should be there but you’ve relaxed it a bit).  I can tell much of his training will just be hours in the saddle, drilling and drilling until he feels confident that “oh, I’m supossed to put my head here ALL the time”.  That kind of thing.  And some ground manners, he’s a big baby and doesn’t realize he shouldn’t be quite so pushy.

The next horse I rode was Bling.  Cathy told me which pasture she was in and said “she’s the biggest, fattest chestnut mare out there.”  That she was.  No joke, she’s got to be 1200 – 1300 lb.  To give you an idea, I have the girth on Chaps on the fourth hole on each side and on her I couldn’t get it on.  Fat.  Not cute.  Ugly head.  And the kicker?  She’s the spookiest damn horse!

It’s breezy today (no duh) and all the horses, including Chaps, looked at one corner of the arena suspiciously.  There is a tarp on the other side of the wall so this seemingly normal corner now has flapping tarp noises they can’t see.  But where as Chaps and Jones investigated, calmly, once and went about their business, Bling would have nothing to do with going near that corner.   A couple of times I tricked her into walking calmly past it, but then the noise would spook her from behind.  And she spooked at something going back out to the pasture.

So even though Bling is the better trained, more advanced horse of the two, I prefer Jones.  I don’t like dealing with spooky horses.  They un-nerve me.  Geldings are so level-headed and Jones just handled things much better.  Additionally, and more importantly, I’d like to try my hand at working with a greener horse and seeing how much and how well I can improve it.  A mini-project for me and Jones seems like a very willing horse.  He’s trained as a hunter and he’s got nice movement and in the end, I think he’ll be the flashier of the two.  And I think my girth might fit him.

I’m going to do one last lesson on Chaps in about a week to work on my technique, and then I will begin riding Jones.  Should be intersting.  Except I think he stays in the field so I might have to go soon to Fleet Farm and get some rubber muck boots, which I was going to do anyway, just looks like sooner.

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