Monday, March 31, 2014

Getting out of the house, streamlined.

My new job seems to be going well.  I'm enjoying it, and it's good to be employed again.

One thing I was worried about is that I'd spend a lot of money on meals out.  I have been pleasantly surprised by how this has not been the case.  Unless I have plans to meet someone for lunch, I'm eating in. (I think the cold winter has helped in this regard; I have been reluctant to leave the building.) I haven't been cheating by going out for lunch or grabbing breakfast, even though I am up before dawn. I'm not bragging (I still get snacks since I never seem to have brought enough). I've just gotten into a routine.

So, as  you know, my days are long. My commute, thanks to traffic and the subway, can take anywhere from one and a half to two hours each way.  Most of that is on a bus, which is great. The bus is quiet and comfortable and it goes right into the High Occupany Vehicle Lane.  The bane of my commuting existence is the subway.

However, because the commute is so long, and because I like getting to work on time, I'm up at 4:30 in the morning. Well, my alarm goes off at 4:30. Sometimes I stay in bed until 5:00.

How do you get ready in the morning when the sun isn't up yet? Well, it helps to do most everything else ahead of time. It also helps that I just have the cat to take care of. If I had kids this whole thing would be nuked before it started. (Seriously, I don't know how you parents do it.) It also helps that my hours are regular. I'm not working split shifts, or varied hours.

My clothes are picked out so I don't have to stress about what I've got and what I'll wear.  I don't eat breakfast at home, I eat it at work. I bring it with me, along with my lunch. And I don't make my lunch the night before. I make it several weeks ahead.

Basically, I make a lot of something I like, freeze it, and grab it for my lunch in the morning.  So far, I have been making burritos--either bean burritos or burritos from leftover meat.  I made a batch of chili last weekend and froze it in small containers to take with me to work. I'll do the same thing with curries, stews, soups, and creatively repurposed leftovers. I'm not a big sandwich eater, and I have found that making sandwiches is kind of a pain, especially when you have to either make them the night before or make them at 4:30 in the morning. I might not be able to do it the night before.

I also made steel cut oatmeal in the slow cooker one weekend.  This was actually quite easy and I will do it again. Grease the insert of the cooker.  Combine two cups of steel cut oats, six cups of water, and two cups of milk (I used almond milk).  Add 1/4 cup of brown sugar if you want it a little sweet, and 2-3 peeled chopped apples if you like. Cook on low for eight hours or high for four hours. Have some right off the bat if you like as it's delicious. Allow it to cool, and save one cup portions in plastic freezer bags. Freeze, and grab and go in the morning. I do take a little almond milk with me as well in a small container as the oatmeal gets very thick when you reheat it. But it's good and it's filling.

I also bring yogurt and fruit. I'll probably bring vegetables and hummus.

Now, I just have to tackle keeping the house orderly during the week.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Bavarian Pork Roast

My parents came over for dinner on Sunday.  I wanted to do something a little different from chicken, so I perused my slow cooker book and decided on this recipe (my mother likes German food).

It was very easy to do.  The pork was flavorful and tender, the gravy was delicious, and the leftovers will be good in burritos or a casserole (or just as they are with the gravy).

Here's the recipe:

Bavarian Pork Roast
1 11/2 to 2 pound boneless pork shoulder roast
2 tsp caraway seeds
1 tsp dried marjoram, crushed
3/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1 tbsp olive oil or cooking oil
1/2 cup water
2 tbsp white wine vinegar
1 8-ox carton dairy sour cream or plain yogurt
4 tsp corn starch

Trim fat from roast. Combine caraway seeds, marjoram, salt, and pepper, and rub all over roast.

Brown roast in hot oil in a large skillet.  Drain off fat.  Place meat in slow cooker.  Add the water to the skillet, bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring to loosen brown bits in bottom of skillet.  Pour skillet juices and vinegar into slow cooker.

Cover and cook on low for 8-10 hours or high for 4-5 hours. Remove meat from cooker, keep warm.

For gravy, skim fat from juices, measure 1 1/4 cups juices (add water, if necessary).  Pour juices into a saucepan; bring to boiling.  Combine sour cream or yogurt and cornstarch.  Stir into juices. Cook and stir over medium heat until thickened and bubbly.  Cook and stir 2 minutes more.  Slice meat and serve with gravy.


Monday, March 3, 2014

Good news

Yes, I have some good news!

First, the house is all repaired.  All that is left to do is to get the town inspector to come and sign off on the permit, which should be done tomorrow.  Then I will have to bribe my friends into helping me move my bedroom furniture into the newly-repaired master bedroom.  Hooray!

Second, I got a job! It's a long commute away but the good thing is, I don't have to drive much. I drive 11 miles to the bus. From the bus I take the subway, which is a giant pain, but the bus is relaxing and I get a lot of reading done. Also, it seems like a great place to work so far.  I have a nice boss, great coworkers, and the place has fantastic benefits.  Also, I think I'm going to learn a lot.

I have to say, I am very, very lucky to have the people in my life that I do.  My friends and colleagues (and my old boss) rallied right around me when I got laid off and helped me--they sent me job leads, connected me with people who connected me with other people, and basically through them I was able to get interviews and job offers.  I am deeply, deeply grateful.

Also, with the house thing--well, I have a carpenter friend who painted the inside and tore up the grungy carpet for me (and wouldn't take money outside of materials, despite my numerous attempts to pay him).  He put me in touch with a good contractor who was able to fix the house after the car hit it, and this contractor has been a gem.  He's done some extra things around the house as well and is basically a good guy.

You know the saying that bad things come in threes? Well, I've decided that good things come in tens.

(They don't, really, anymore than bad things happen in threes, but we're so good at looking for patterns and finding them, and confirming our own biases that I figured confirming a happy bias would be a good thing.)