I’ve now spent three days elbow-deep in assorted shrubbery. Today, I had the good fortune of having a slightly altered view-that of an overcast sky through some dense tree foliage. Unfortunately, that tree was a holly and I had selected today as my trial day with a short sleeve shirt. My arms look like they have hives but really it’s just a million holly leaf pin-pricks.
Starting a new job is always such a bizarre experience, regardless of how much ‘experience’ you have. There’s always that anxious/excited/scared feeling wondering what it all will be like and will you like it. And even if nothing out of the ordinary happens, it still just takes some time before the routine actually feels routine. My new job as a pruner is not particularly difficult, physically nor mentally. The people I work with all seem pretty amiable. I’ve been on time each day and do as I’m told. That all being I still feel uneasy. For one, I have no earthly idea what I’m doing. There is no training program or how-to book. Someone just handed me a pair of pruning shears and pointed me in the direction of a bush. Now and then I pick up little tidbits if advice. Don’t cut boxwood branches. Grab high, cut low. Angle your cuts so you can’t see them. Always step back to see the whole picture. In the military we had a name for this. We called it “oh jay tee” AKA On the Job Training AKA we’re not going to tell you what to do but just start working and we’ll tell you when you screw up. Not my preferred method of learning but I’m rolling with it. I guess its better than I’m just trimming plants than trimming someone’s head of hair. And I admit I find myself more and more curious about plant related topics. For example- the boxwood. The adage of grab high cut low does not apply to a boxwood. Why? What’s it suppose to look like? Why is it different? What should you do instead? Glad you asked, because I just looked it up. Boxwoods (don’t ask me to pick one out of lineup yet) are sort of the stereotypical hedgerow bush. It has lots of little, compact leaves on the outside but because its so dense, no light can get through to the inside so no leaves grow on the inside. The goal of boxwood pruning then is to thin out some of the denseness so light can get through and leaves will grow. That way, if it ever gets too large you can trim it down without killing the plant. AND the reason why you don’t cut branches is because it exacerbates the problem of interior growth. Or so says google.
Regardless of how little I know about what I’m doing or supposed to be doing, I do enjoy being out of the house, outside around pretty greenery. Sure I get hot and sweaty and sometimes scratched, often with sticks or leaves stuck in my hair but none of that bothers me that much. Instead I find myself appreciating the quiet time and let my thoughts wander wherever. In that sense, it’s almost like running. Perhaps I’ll become just as devoted to this new hobby as I am to the old hobby.
Last week I mentioned my initiation of this baking project. I wasn’t particularly into the idea. I love baking, but generally I prefer it if my baking results in some sort of delicious dessert. Not an appetizer. Appetizers are for cooking. And Sauteeing. And searing. But not baking. It only adds insult to injury considering I’m still in the midst of my starch-free diet extravaganza and thus am not supposed to taste test the result. But I digress. I have flour and I have eggs and I have a lot of time, thus, I will bake.
This recipe begins with a basic brioche dough. From what I could tell, there were at least 4 other brioche-related recipe in the Julia book so I went ahead and made a full recipe of the stuff, figuring I could divide the dough into quarters, and just make mini-batches of everything. I have no need for 16 brioche pockets. I barely have need for 2 brioche pockets. Anyway. I digress. I really enjoyed making the dough. Not that it really involved a whole lot of effort on my part. I let the yeast rest for a bit and I let my mixer mix for a bit and TADA! I have dough. I did spend some effort caressing my KitchenAid. I was about to put a pack of frozen green beans over the motor to try and keep her heat down but she did well. She endured. Good job Kay (that’s the KitchenAid). I did wonder how the old frenchies used to make this kind of bread prior to heavy duty mixers. Generally I’m all for through some dough around on the counter but considering the mixer needed a solid 20 minutes of mixing, I was afraid of how long it would take me to get the dough to the right stage.
Once the dough had reached it’s soft silky stage post-butter addage, I flopped it into a large bowl for it’s rise time. I LOVE risen dough. It’s like seeing macaron feet. It’s like the food is letting you know – hey! You’re doing things right! Keep going! So I did – on to the filling! The filling in the recipe was a mashed potato/asparagus/onion mixture which did NOTHING for me. I am not a fan of starch-filled starches. Even sans crazy diet. The idea makes no sense to me. You should be mixing opposite food types. Starch +meat. Meat+ vegetable. Starch + vegetable. Even go for broke and go Starch+meat+vegetable. But never a double starch! Bad! I was hoping the google machine could help me find alternate filling ideas but it didn’t. Not really. And I wasn’t feeling very creative. I made the mashed potatoes. But I added a bunch of cheese. Little did I know that would be my downfall… Fast forward a week. When I realized I had a ball of brioche dough and cold mashed potatoes sitting in my fridge and I was supposed to make something with it. By this point I was really not feeling a asparagus-onion-mashers filling. What I was feeling? Bacon. Bacon goes with mashed potatoes. I could even do a take on a fully loaded baked potato filling. So I did. Bacon+cheesy mashers+more cheese+chives. That could work. Into the dough they went. I put the little dough hat on top and attempted as best I could to make a cutesy curl with the dough. It didn’t really work. But this point I was thinking maybe they could be ready in time to be served with dinner (beef stew) so I started rushing a little. I probably only let them rise for about 10-15 minutes but frankly, they had already been sitting on the counter for a bit while I figure out what to do with the filling and were already spongy to the touch. So I threw them in the oven. By this point they missed their dinnertime arrival so I wasn’t paying much attention. The recipe said a deep golden brown due to all the egg wash so I went for the full time allotted. I should have pulled them out earlier.They did look nice but the bottoms were a bit too toasted. I’d like to say I bit into one and delightful flavors of bacon and baked potatoes enveloped my tongue but alas. No. Such. Luck. Instead it tasted strongly of swiss cheese and I don’t like swiss cheese. And I don’t know why it tasted like swiss cheese because I didn’t add any swiss cheese. I did add a lot of ‘italian cheese mix’ in addition to plain old cheddar and maybe the parmasean overpowered everything? I was also disappointed by the bacon, which while initially crispy went to soggy and chewy in the oven. Tres unfortunate. This was not a winner in my book, and while it was probably more my fault than the recipe I can’t imagine trying it again. Life’s too short to retry a mediocre recipe.
Clearly Carrie over at Loaves and Stitches disagrees as her pockets came out looking delish. Jealous!
Today was a big day for me on a couple of levels. For one, I started a new job. I got a part-time working for my future mother-in-law’s friend, pruning shrubs at rich stately mansions (Hence the title…get it…new leaves…har har…knee slapper, I know!) I wouldn’t say I’m excited about my new job but it will give me something to do, give me some extra cash to help offset our crazy wedding spending and teach me a bit about gardens and plants which is an area about which I know very little.
Today was also momentous for an entirely different reason. Today marks my last official day as an active duty Army officer. I’ve spent the last 7 years of my life traipsing around the country/world on military orders so I’m pretty excited to once and for all gain back control of where I go and what I do. I also blame those 7 years and my tomboyish college years for my general lack of knowledge concerning the domestic arts. But I have that excuse no longer. Can’t blame the giant pile of dirty laundry or the popcorn-for-dinner on my 12-hr work day anymore. Civilian life and all that that entails begins tomorrow. It’s a strange feeling and one I’m not sure I’ve fully processed. Life is about to get real.
Young naive girl meets mysterious older man. Goes to live with him at his gigantic estate where she starts to pick up on some creepy secrets dealing with his first wife. Wife stuff is remedied in dramatic conclusion and also the house burns down.
Can we say Jane Eyre much?
In all honesty I did enjoy the book. I felt like I related to this poor naive girl who was so unsure of herself and didn’t know how to handle any situation. She was trying to be perfectly amiable and not upset anyone however theres a fine line between being pleasant and being stepped on. So many times I wanted her to lash out at Mrs. Danvers. How dare one of the employees talk to you that way!! But she was too meal and mild and hadn’t fully grown up yet. I guess I saw a lot of parallels with Downton Abbey which I’m watching and imagining the help talking out of turn to Lady Mary.
I did think many of the plot twists were pretty predictable. I could guess during the big fancy party her costume was going to bomb. It was such an easy lay up. I could guess Mrs Danvers was going to play tricks. I could guess something bad was going to happen at the very end because Rebecca had to get the last word in. To her credit though, Daphne did throw in some interesting surprises that I wasn’t expecting (the results from the Dr.’s visit for sure) and it was a quick read. I mean, I did finish it in a week and the daily requirement to do so was not excessive. So yay. One more book checked off. And I think it may even be on a modern book list top 100. Hooray!
I had a mission this morning. That mission: to enter the Danger Zone and buy ONLY the required items on my shopping list, all within a 1 hour block of time. The Danger Zone I speak of? None other than Michaels.
You may be laughing at me, but Michael’s ranks way up there with Target on the list of stores where it is physically impossible for me to not buy things I did not intend to buy. Walking into a Michaels is like walking into a domestic crack den. My little ADD brain can’t handle it. It goes on over drive. Ooo! Yarn! I could learn how to knit! I bet I could knit a sweater! Oh perfect! A clay pot! I was just saying how I wanted to repot poor Basil! And and of course I need the extreme cake leveler. For all those times I’m making a layer cake for a super fancy event. And let’s not forget fancy calligraphy pens. And puff paint. And photo frames. And seed beads (because obviously I’m going to start making my own jewelry to start selling on etsy). It never ends. It’s like my brain calculates all the possible hobbies it could have and decides it wants to try all of them. Simultaneously and immediately. It’s ridiculous.
Today I was smart. I had pinterested for hours leading up to today, working up the ideas in my head for wedding craft projects. And I decided on only a few that I thought I could legitimately take care of without turning myself super crazy. They are:
1) Table Escort Cards
2) Table Number Cards
3) Wedding Favors
4) Table Menus
5) Hotel Info Packets (No goody bags. That’s a straight waste of money IMHO)
6) Guest Book Picture frame + advice jar
So the stuff I picked up: pre-formatted cardstock for escort cards (surprisingly cheap), cardstock for the menus, treat bags, pretty cardstock and ribbons for the favors, a nicely sized frame with plenty of matting and pretty markers for guest sigs, and flower wire to make holders for the menus and table numbers. Also picture is my new fancy paper cutter from amazon. Many of these projects only required to me to acquire the supplies don’t require too much work beyond that. For example, for the guest book photo frame, the only thing left to do is print of a nice picture of the two of us to stick in the frame instead of the stock photo. The escort cards have to wait until we have all the RSVPs in and have worked table seating plans. I need to acquire childhood photos for the table numbers so that’s on hold. So basically, for the next couple of weeks my focus is going to be trying to do the favor bags and trying to finish all the menus. I don’t foresee our menu changing but I could always just cut and print everything and have it ready to go and wait until closer to the date to glue everything together. The favor bags I KNOW will be a pain to do. I was attempting one tonight and realized they don’t have the depth I expected them to have. They’ll still work though, so I’m running with it. What I put in them of course – still in the air.
This week’s running went pretty close to plan, but I’m certainly feeling the wedding diet in the longer runs. Taking starches and sugar out completely has really taken a toll on my energy levels. It’s made me seriously rethink the HM I had planned on running the first weeks d in June. I’m going to stick to the training plan for now, and see how I feel on the next couple of long runs. Right now my focus is leaning out for the big day, not shedding a couple minutes off my race pace. That can happen in the fall.
This week’s training consisted of 2x2mile run, 1 x 5mile Tempo run and a long run of ten miles. I also added in some body weight style exercise twice this week to keep my non-running muscles from going to complete squish.
1st 2miler-wasn’t feeling nearly as energetic as the previous week. Did a 1/2mi warmup and cool down and 2 miles in the middle at a 6.0 per training plan guidance.
2nd 2miler- I was feeling pretty sore from some lunged I had done the previous day so I did the required two miles but made it into a pyramid up to a 9:00min pace and back down.
5 mile tempo- I exclusively do my tempo runs on a treadmill so that I can regulate my pace, but this week, it just so happened to be a be-yute-aful day so I decided to try running outside. My plan was to jog a warmup and cool down mile and try to pick up the pace during the middle 3. Mistake #1) I didn’t set out til late morning and it just so happened to be our first 80 degree day. Or at least that’s what it felt like. Mistake #2) I started out waay too fast. Thinking the ‘I feel good at this pace’ might last. It did not. By the 3rd mile the heat starting getting to me and by mile 4 I was starting to need walking breaks. FAIL. I did finish my 5 miles but my pace was all over the place.
10 mile long run- My intent was to run a nice slow jog, up the rock creek park trail. It was a great day for a run, blue sky but with cool air. Little chance for overheating. So off I went. The best word to describe the run is ‘sluggish’. I felt the lack of starches like whoa but I trudged on. My mile averages were in the 9s so I just stuck with it. My knees were pretty achy for a chunk of the run but weren’t stabbing with pain so I kept going. My hip was getting really tight too. But I kept going. I had a camelback full of water that I sipped on frequently and took two GUs every 4 miles so at least I didn’t bonk but I was very very pleased once the app voice told me I hit ten miles.
Of note-on my long run I wanted to try running with two separate running apps: mapmyrun and runkeeper. Generally I use runkeeper but after it erroneously told me I ran 13.35 miles during the last HM I’ve been questioning its accuracy. I used mapmyrun as my primary audio cue app to see how it compared to my usual. When I stopped at my 10mile cue I checked on run keeper only to see that it had me at 9.82 miles. Whaaat? Oh and it also said my pace was 20s slower. So my questions over accuracy remain. I may try to use both apps again along with my garmin and see how every pans out.