Thursday, November 29, 2012

Creature Report

So. Do you want to know about the turkey?!

We drove to Ocean City on Thursday, and we planned our massive feast for Friday. Once we arrived, got settled, and put Bria to bed, we got to work on some food prep. This included brining our bird. This was the first moment of truth. I get squeamish when dealing with a raw chicken tenderloin, so I knew it was going to take some serious guts. I opened up the turkey, and began rinsing it. I tried to work mechanically, but for some reason it was shocking to me how much the whole thing moved like an actual body. And when it was turned on its breast, I couldn't get the image of an infant having tummy time out of my head. That turkey was so soft and floppy! Then there was that whole thing about the neck and giblets. Again, not sure what I was expecting, but pulling that turkey neck out of the cavity was the most traumatizing experience of the whole event. I can't even begin to process how disgusted I felt. I kept filling up the cavity with water, swishing it around, and dumping it out, hoping the giblets would come with it, but I didn't really see anything come out. I hoped I could call it good, so I just put it in a huge bag o' brine, and stuck it in the vegetable drawer of the fridge.

Twelve hours later, it was time to spatchcock. I was feeling a bit jittery and anxious about the whole thing-- definitely wondering if I was crazy to attempt this on my first ever turkey. I fetched Elisa to give me moral support, and she stood by my side telling me over and over "there is no use for a turkey other than food!" In my extreme raw-meat phobia, I covered the counters in garbage bags, then parchment, which turned out to be genius, because then I just folded up and threw it away at the end. I rinsed and dried the bird yet again (oh, and when I rinsed it, hey! there was a little paper bag full of giblets that was poking out the end!) then rolled up my sleeves, put up my hair, and got to work.

When I bought my new shears, reviews said they cut through bone like a dream, so here I was imagining it would be like cutting butter. Clearly I have not spent a significant amount of time thinking about turkey carcasses. The first instruction was to cut from the tail up to the neck, along one side of the spine, cutting through the ribs. Again, I tried to rid my mind of the image of a tiny human body (so soft! so floppy!). That first bone (it must have been part of the pelvis. ack!) was hardest, and I wondered, yet again, if this was a bad, bad, bad idea. But I soldiered on, hacking my way through bone. Little bone shards kept flipping out as I sawed and pushed and wriggled through, but eventually I made my way up to the neck. Done! Now for the other side. Again the first bone was hardest (the first cut is the deepest?), but I maneuvered up, trickier this time, since I didn't have the stability of the spine being attached to the other side. I pinched my fingers in the shears' handles (it hurt! I have a blood blister!), but kept going and going until I snipped through that last chunk of skin near the neck.

Lest you think the hard work was over, I then flipped the bird on its butchered back and splayed the legs outward in a manner which can only be described as inappropriate, and tucked its wings back into its widened neck. Then, to break the breastbones, and to make the turkey lay flatter, I pressed on the breast of the turkey, trying to get good leverage. This proved rather difficult and resulted in my feeling as though I were giving the turkey CPR. Seriously disturbing. I think my height was the problem-- I couldn't get my weight on top of the turkey, so I enlisted Sam. Sure enough, he was able to get those key pops and cracks out of the bones. After slipping enormous pats of butter underneath the skin, we placed the bird onto a cooling rack within a foil-lined baking sheet. Underneath the rack I put chopped vegetables and herbs to keep the turkey drippings from scorching and smoking. Then, it went into a 450 oven for 90 minutes. (Only ninety minutes!!) She emerged crisp, golden, juicy, and cooked to perfection.

**guys! help! blogger says I am officially out of photo storage! is there an easy and free solution out there for me?? I really want to post the picture of me holding the turkey spine triumphantly...

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

In Which I Unleash My Inner Artist

Up until about a year ago, if anyone said the word craft, I would shudder. There was something about doing crafts that seemed to epitomize being a stay-at-home mom, which was really hard for me. Yes, I'm aware I am a stay-at-home mom, but I've struggled having that be part of my identity as well. So I developed this aversion to crafts because it felt like I would be letting myself go to enjoy them, and I wanted to resist! I didn't want to lose myself to tole painting and vinyl letters. You should know I realize this is absolutely ridiculous. But it was real enough to me that I actually brought it up to my therapist. Ha! Soooo, over the last year I have worked through some of my stubbornness and have come to really enjoy creating things. (I even got a sewing machine for my birthday!) Granted this means my projects sometimes (often?) look like an eight year-old did it, but I don't even care.

Ok, this leads me to share this link where you can see two shirts I painted for Bria using a stencil from the Alison Show. Serious crafty skillz I tell you-- cutting and painting! Anyway, I love her crafts over there because they are really accessible, but also because they're cool. It doesn't make me feel like I need to wear Mom jeans and perm my hair to make them. If anyone wants to have a craft night to make some things from a Hip Handmade Holiday, let me know! I'm totally game.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Planning Ahead

Did you know it's proven fact that the moment you notice your child has been in a really good, happy, cooperative stage, they are within days of turning the corner and unleashing their eternal fury? This is true. Therefore, it would be wise to never notice or express gratitude for good behavior, lest you curse it away.

 That being said, I woke up to this little love note right next to my pillow (the image is flipped, obviously).

Also, I feel like I want this playing on a loop at my funeral:

Sunday, November 18, 2012

When I started this blog, I wanted it to motivate me to focus on happy, positive thoughts (read my header up above). I get really bogged down focusing on the negative, and I want there to be more light and positivity in my life. So, inspired by my sister Whitney, who has been doing this for years, I try to make little happy lists. So here it is for today.

 Organizing the shelves by my fridge. This is the spot where we put everything in limbo. That bill I need to look up? Shelves. Spare bobby pin? Shelves. Burned out energy efficient light bulb that needs to be taken somewhere special to be recycled? Shelves. Random coupon for floss? Shelves. Stationery? Shelves. Anyway, they get messy and crazy really quickly, so it was so satisfying to get them all straightened.

My sister Lindsay and I have been texting quick little videos of our kids back and forth. Those cousins love each other, and they're always happy to share a little dance, joke, or well wish.

I bought our Thanksgiving turkey, and it's a beaut! Excited to butcher, brine, and bake that little thing.

I saw Breaking Dawn part 2 last night with some friends, and it was lovely to sit next to a friend who has never read the books or seen the movies so we could laugh through the whole ridiculous thing. Sam cautioned me to be kind before heading out (when am I anything but? ;)  because he said I might be the only one in the group seeing the movie ironically. Thank goodness there was someone to share a couple of snarky comments.

Since I met Sam, he has lauded the movie Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans, the Best Picture winner of the 1927 Academy Awards. This may be one area where Sam's snobbery exceeds mine, because I'm typically not one to choose silent black and white films for our viewing. So for almost eight years, I've heard him talk about how amazing it is. I finally bought it for his birthday in July, and we watched it last night. Of course I had just seeing Breaking Dawn, so the contrast was even more stark, but Sunrise was poignant and beautiful, rich with symbolism and motif. I recommend it wholeheartedly to everyone. It made me happy to finally share in something Sam has loved for so long.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Well, hello.

So now I'm curious. Ummm who is reading this thing? I had been toying with the idea of starting a new blog for a long, long time. In fact, I started this blog in January! But it was private up until this point while I was deciding what to do. I mean, I am a serial blog starter, and I find it obnoxious. But I wanted a place where I could talk about anything I wanted-- didn't have to be food and didn't have to come with pictures of Bria (but could definitely include those things too!). So we can call this my hybrid blog. Anyway, hi! I project this blog has a life span of either four months or four years.

So. Let's talk Thanksgiving real quick. I'm making the turkey for the first time! In fact, I have never roasted any sort of bird, and I'm super nervous. I am going to try brine (though I can't decide if I'll do wet or dry), and I am going to spatchcock that thing. The idea is to cut out the backbone of the turkey so you can lay it out flat and the legs will cook at the same rate as the breast. I'm terrified. But I bought new poultry shears, and I'm hoping I can channel my inner surgeon so I don't mind the sound of snapping bones.

A couple more random things about next Thursday:

I read these 10 Laws of Thanksgiving and loved them. I'm so excited and starting to feel all sorts of festive. (But I am a scrooge. Please let's not talk about Christmas until Friday, ok?)

If you're going to have green bean casserole, please volunteer to make it and follow this recipe, ok? Martha is Martha for a reason, and no one should eat canned green beans on Thanksgiving. Or ever. 

Bria is most excited about the brussels sprouts. Like, even more than pie. I love that girl.

Monday, November 12, 2012

In which I run 13.1 miles and wax philosophical

So, I ran a half marathon on Saturday. No big deal.

It's been on my life goal list for a while now, but I've never followed through. But when my exercise partner went out of town for the summer, and I heard my friends talking about running the Richmond half marathon, it felt like the perfect storm (in a good way). This year has been really, really hard, and I needed a project: something that would make me feel alive and would help me remember (or maybe learn) that I can do hard things. Earlier in the year, I never could have considered running the half, because I should have been eight months pregnant right now. When I started considering the half, I wondered if it would be possible because hopefully I would be 3+ months pregnant (again), but I figured it would just be a good way to keep me exercising during that sluggish first trimester-- I definitely worried about having morning sickness on the day of the race. But now, here we are, and the only thing that made me nauseated on race day was my own nerves. I found a lot of catharsis in training-- there were plenty of runs when I was glad to be alone on the path so I could squeeze in a good cry while I ran. I thrived on thinking how proud I would be crossing that finish line.

My training was a little crazy. I was exercising consistently before signing up for the race, but I was not in running shape, and hadn't run more than 3 miles since high school. True to my nature, I procrastinated starting the training, so for the first few weeks, my long runs increased by two miles instead of one. But once I hit seven miles, I started feeling pretty good. I knew I would finish the half (even if I had to walk), and I also knew I never wanted to run another half marathon ever again. I skimped on plenty of my weekday runs, and even injured my hip and had to skip my 10 mile run. I had consistent knee pain the entire time, and got in the habit of icing my knees every night before bed. By the time I ran 11 miles, every. single. step. hurt. (I finally invested in some new shoes, which helped some.) As race day neared, I kept saying how nervous I felt, but when people asked why, I couldn't really come up with a good reason. I knew I was ready-- I think it was just the excitement and nerves of doing something I had never done before, and it felt like a big deal. (Plus, I had been nervous before every long run.) I was also feeling embarrassed about my pace and had to keep reminding myself that it didn't matter how slow I went-- even if it took me over 3 hours. All I wanted was to finish!

The night before the race I had this great philosophical moment. I realized that whenever I think of the various life goals I have (like running a half marathon) I imagine the Courtney who does those things to be without flaws. Like, when I finally achieve (blank), I'll finally be fit, be organized, never procrastinate, know what I want to do with my life, etc. (because obviously I couldn't achieve all those goals if I didn't!) But I realized, hey! I'm still the same Courtney who is running this half marathon. I'm still very unorganized, I'm too uptight, and I often feel like I have no idea what I am doing. But even with all that, I am still running a half marathon. So this Courtney, seriously flawed Courtney, can achieve anything. (Isn't this awesome and cheesy?) But also, I put in the work and I got better at something. It was really hard work, but it was also gradual, and I slowly got better. I mean, seriously, whoever thought 4 miles would be considered a "short run"?

The day of the race was awesome. I was still feeling embarrassed about my speed, and I was trying hard not to make self-deprecating comments to my friends. But I was also feeling pumped! We got to the starting line, took a group picture, and it wasn't too long before we were off! I started my running tracker, to tell me when to take walking breaks (1/4 mile about every 2.5 miles), and started up my AWESOME playlist (I spent hours fine-tuning that thing). The first song was rockin the suburbs by Ben Folds. Perfect. I got a huge grin on my face, and started off. Around three miles I got a little choked up. I thought to myself "I am running a half marathon!" and I couldn't believe it. The first five miles flew by-- I didn't want to take that first walking break, but I did knowing I needed to conserve energy. And my pace was super fast! I knew it was from the adrenaline, excitement, and the crowds of runners, but try as I might, I couldn't (and didn't really want to) slow down. Even after the second walking break, I flew through. We ran through Bryan park, and I knew the halfway mark wasn't too far off, where I could expect my awesome fan club to be cheering me on. Coming out of the park were some hills, and sure enough, there were Sam and Bria giving me that boost I needed to keep going. After my next walking break, my knees were really starting to bug me. I was keeping a pretty steady 10:20 pace, which was much faster than I was used to, and I knew that the walking and starting up again was particularly hard on my knees (a slower pace is more conducive to injuries), so it was important to keep going. But I got a little worn down. I had an energy gel, and just tried to keep moving, but I started thinking about how I still had five more miles to go. And that seemed like a lot. Until-- wait, no! I was wrong!! Somehow I had gotten mixed up, and here I was coming up on the 10-mile marker. It was like Christmas morning! I got choked up again, thinking about how far I had come (this happened again at mile 11 and mile 12). One last walking break, and I was on the home stretch. My last interval was 2.6 miles, and it went like lightning until mile 12. I thought that last mile would be the easiest, but I felt every step. My knees were really starting to hurt-- actually worse than they ever had before-- and I was starting to worry I was doing serious damage. We rounded a corner, and suddenly, there it was: mile marker 13. This was it! I was trying to keep it together, but as soon as I saw the finish line, I was like a blubbering baby. I was trying really hard to not sob, because that just seemed awkward, so I just focused on maxing my pace for that last .1. I focused so hard I forgot to even look for Sam and Bria in the crowds. And as I crossed the finish line, I looked at the clock and it was 2:29. I covered my eyes and limped out of the finish area while I tried not to cry too hard. I did it! And not only did I finish, but I smoked my goal with a respectable first-time finishing time!

So, will I ever run a half marathon again? Every day of training I swore I never would, but the actual race was so awesome, I can't say that I'm shutting the door completely.