Friday, November 29, 2013

A Less Traditional Thanksgiving

I'm all for big Thanksgiving celebrations.  I think the critical mass is about 10 adults, which ensures a good mixture of sides and desserts, fun conversation, and enough people to play games (of the board or ball variety). 

But with David gone all last week and Luke still recovering from that (he's had a pretty short fuse recently), we decided on a stay-at-home Thanksgiving.  Both my brother and sister worked, so we're planning to have our traditional meal on Saturday.  With that in mind, we definitely deviated from the normal menu.

We enjoyed some delicious pumpkin bread pudding for breakfast, then headed out for a hike at a local open space.  It was a gorgeous day, and I think a morning hike will be part of our traditional menu in the future.  Leftovers for lunch, then David took the kids out to play in the leaves while I worked on some custom knitting orders. 

Here's where we totally deviated--David's not a huge fan of turkey.  I know, I know.  A minor flaw in an otherwise practically perfect guy.  So we had rouladen, which is his favorite meal.  You pound out a slice of beef really thin, spread it with mustard, then roll it up with a sauteed bacon/onion mixture and a pickle.  Brown it on the stove, then into the oven with some shredded carrots and more onions.  It's really delicious.  And we still had mashed potatoes and gravy!  The highlight of the evening for Katie and Luke was the sparkling cranberry juice I bought along with some plastic flute glasses.  

We also rescheduled our Thanksgiving acrostic for Sunday morning, when everyone in my family can do it (courtesy of skype, of course).  So you'll have to stay tuned to see what I'm most thankful for this year.  :)

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Some Crumbs

Sometimes I see things happen and think, even in these little insignificant situations, God is very gracious. 

It's both a blessing and a curse to have so much information about my shop.  For example, I can see that 82 people have 'seen' my post about the new giveaway--one that requires you to 'share' another post on my site.  I can also see that a grand total of 1 person has actually shared it.  :P  Thanks, Alicia!

In the midst of this new learning experience, however, I got my second stranger sale.  There is nothing like seeing that email titled "Etsy Order Confirmation."  Again, there is nothing that really indicates it had anything to do with my recent advertising activities.  If I knew why this sale occured, I'd focus in that area, but I don't really know.  I just know it's very encouraging as I try and figure out this whole business thing. 

I'm also not sure what I'm supposed to be learning about the whole Facebook thing...whether I'm doing it wrong, or I'm not reading my audience well, or I need to make the Knit Us Together feed more interesting first.  Maybe I just need to get back to knitting.  :)

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Good Internet Practice

I sometimes feel some tension when it comes to the blog.  Like this week, for example.  The way I wrote, it probably sounded like a pretty normal week, except that David has been gone since last Saturday.

And frankly, it was a pretty rough week.  It's never fun when David is gone, but it's a lot worse when we all are sick for most of it.  I didn't feel comfortable taking something to help me sleep, since it pretty much knocks me out.  Awesome when you have a wonderful spouse who will get up with the kids; not so great when you're the only adult in the house. 

We survived thanks to some nice friends, brave family members who came over despite the germs, and judicious doses of Dora the Explorer.  There may have been a visit to the frozen food aisle thrown in there too.

Of course, I didn't feel comfortable sharing any of this with you...not that I think my readers are particularly dangerous, but it's just not good internet practice to announce that your husband will be gone for a week.

I certainly try to be honest when it comes to this blog (even when I think you may be tired of hearing about waiting and patience).  But there will always be things that I just can't share over the internet, for whatever reason.

So I guess this is my disclaimer, and maybe a little bit of an apology.  :)  Blogs are a great way to keep up with us, and it's why I write it and share it with you.  I love being able to share this journey with you, and I know geography, time, and other barriers make it hard to keep up with everyone.  Just remember that the internet is no replacement for real friendships--the kind that require time, conversations, and effort.  In this age, it's easy to forget that.

Friday, November 22, 2013

The Magic Formula

Wednesday was a great day for the shop--I actually had my first stranger sale!  I also got a lot more hits than I normally do. 

But, I kind of feel the way I did when my kids were babies.  You know, the first night your child sleeps through the night, or doesn't have gas, or whatever you're hoping for--and you begin to rack your brain, piecing together each step in an effort to replicate it.  You're willing to eat ravioli with pumpkin sauce every night for the next week if it ensured a repeat performance, but is that what did it?  Was it the combination of the warm pack and the football hold, or the bouncing on the end of the bed whilst holding her upright?  There are just too many variables, and even if you did it exactly the same way, it still might not work. 

So back to Knit Us Together...was it the giveaway on Facebook?  Was it the three new listings I put up (the purchase was NOT one of those three)?  Was it listing them on Wednesday afternoon, which I've read is the 'sweet spot' for etsy browsing?  Was it just totally random?  Like my babies, I don't think I've ever know.  :)

Nonetheless, it was pretty exciting.  Going forward, I still think my best bet right now is to increase the number of listings.  Even if the one scarf that I have listed now is the one that's bought, I think it helps when a customer can make a choice from a series of options.  So hey, I should keep doing what I love--knitting more things! 

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

A Brief Update on My Life

1.  How did it get to be November 20?  It seems like the days are just flying by...except, of course, when it comes to the adoption.

2.  I actually managed to deal with all of that pork!  The last of it (two bones) went into the stockpot yesterday, and now I have some yummy pork broth to put into soup today.  So technically, I guess I'm almost done.  :)

3.  This week was shaping up to be a crazy one, so of course, Luke and I have come down with colds.

4.  Still wondering what my song is?  O The Deep, Deep Love of Jesus.  It's the first hymn I learned to sing alto for, and I've always loved the music and words.  While some may call it dirge-like, I think it's beautiful.

5.  I've been biding my time for doing some advertising for Knit Us Together.  I'm not sure what's been holding me back--perhaps the thought that if I don't try, I won't fail?  Well, my brother suggested I view all these entrepreneurial activities as learning opportunities, rather than opportunities to succeed or fail.  So I'm trying a giveaway on my FB page for the number of likes I get.  Have you liked it yet?  Even better, share it on your FB page!

6.  Before I started blogging and being all entrepreneurial, I was 'this' close to exiting the FB world.  Sigh.

7.  I had planned to finish all my shopping by Thanksgiving.  I have done none of it!  But there's still time...

Friday, November 15, 2013

A Song of Comfort

Hymns were a big presence in my life as I grew up.  We often sang hymns around the breakfast table (eventually in parts!), and I can count many occasions when God used them to speak to me.

Although we usually sing at least one hymn in our church service, I feel like the breadth of hymns that I sing in a congregational setting has decreased dramatically.  I especially don't want Katie and Luke to miss out on this rich heritage, so we sing from the hymnal before going to bed every night. 

BTW, I am seriously considering taking an exacto knife to our old hymnal and just keeping the ones I know.  It gets pretty sparse at the back of the hymnal. 

Back to the adoption thing (waiting is annoying) can be very therapeutic for children, but one adoption book recommended that lots of different songs may be overwhelming if a child isn't used to it.  Instead, the authors suggest choosing one 'comfort' song to use for naps, bedtime, calming, etc. 

So, what song would you choose?  It needs to be one that is relatively soothing, not too complex, and most importantly, easy to sing over and over again.  I have mine for sure--my favorite hymn since I was a child--but I'm curious what you would pick!

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Another Busy Week

Sometimes, I plan busy weeks to help stave off the impatience.  And sometimes, pork shoulder is $.99/lb.

I'm down to 10 lbs (that's about 38 lbs in the picture), but I'm definitely in the middle stages of this process.  I cooked about 10 lbs using the first carnitas recipe that I posted, but I still need to bag it and/or make some casseroles from it (enchiladas, probably). 

The second 10 lb hunk went to this recipe.  The verdict?  Of course a seasoned, broiled fat cap is insanely addictive...but the meat itself was so-so.  I'm debating how to use the leftovers without resorting to enchiladas.  I'm thinking some kind of pork ragu, just to mix up the cuisines a little.  I could probably make it into soup too.

The third 10 lbs went to pork bulgogi, which I consider much more much so that I'll be making the last 10 lbs into the same thing.  I cubed the meat into large chunks, used 6 recipes of this marinade for about 8 hours, then put it in the crockpot overnight.  I pulled the meat out to cool and defatted/shredded it.  For the sauce, I strained off the fat, then cooked it down and added it to the shredded meat.  Delicious!

Friday, November 8, 2013

The Other Carnitas Recipe

In between tutoring chemistry and pondering cookies for the bake sale (pistachio and cardamom?), I figured I'd better get on with pork shoulder week.

Here's the other recipe I like, although given my bent toward savory, I replace the orange juice with broth or water.  This one is equally delicious, and I pretty much follow the recipe besides my one substitution.  I love the Cook's Illustrated method of cooking down the liquid and broiling the sauced meat, and I've borrowed it for a few other pork shoulder recipes.

Cooks Illustrated Carnitas from The Bitten Word

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Pork Carnitas, aka Mexican Pulled Pork

Before making Mexican-style pork shoulder, you need to ask yourself:  sweet or savory?  If you're not into the sweeter variety, steer clear of anything with orange juice.  A little brown sugar is great, but I prefer a more savory variety. 

If you're looking for over the top super simple, here's the recipe:

Mexican Pulled Pork

You don't even need to marinate or sear for a pretty delicious pile of meat, but I'm sure that would only make it taste better.  But if your pork has been thawed in the fridge for two days because it wasn't quite thawed before you left for a weekend trip, just getting it into the crockpot will turn out great.

I 'deglazed' the crockpot with a little hot water, then put the sauce in a separate container and chilled it so I could remove the fat.  I would serve this with some Mexican-style coleslaw and/or lime cilantro rice (aka Chipotle rice).  Since I didn't plan far enough ahead on Monday, we just ate it in burritos with some lettuce/salsa/cheese/etc.  It was still pretty good.

This one has more warm spices, which gives it a certain flavor.  Tomorrow I'll post another Carnitas recipe that's a little more complicated, little different flavor, but still delicious. 

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Pork Shoulder=Perfection

If you're not a pork eater, don't bother reading this post, because I'm about to sing its praises.  :)

Pork shoulder is my favorite cut of meat to cook with at home.  First of all, it's pork, which means it would be delicious just roasted with salt and pepper.  But it's a lot more than just tasty. 

--It's versatile:  you can flavor it in a lot of different ways (Korean, Chinese, Mexican, BBQ, Caribbean, Italian, etc.), and I'm pretty sure they will all taste good.

--It's versatile (II):  you can eat it in burritos, enchiladas, rice wraps, lettuce wraps, sandwiches, salads, plain, in soup, in ragu...

--It's super easy:  the recipe I made on Sunday called for a spice rub, marinating time, and searing, but I didn't even bother with any of that.  Just seasoned it, plopped it in the crockpot, and came back to ambrosia the next morning.  It also tastes better the next day.

--It freezes well:  especially in a sauce.

--It's flavorful: which means it fits into my 'meat on the side' food philosophy.

I'd say the only issue is the fat, except that's what makes it sooo delicious, right?  I deal with that by making it ahead of time, pouring the sauce off into a separate container, putting it in the fridge, then taking the fat off the top after it's hardened.  (Problem) solved.

I'll be posting some of my favorite pork shoulder recipes this week.  Mmmm, carnitas....

Monday, November 4, 2013

Weekend Aftermath

I made it home from my whirlwind weekend with my baby fix all fixed up for a while.  :)  I had forgotten how little and cozy 3-week-olds could be, and Mya is such a sweet, sweet little baby on top of that.  She had a few stretches were she was alert and looking around, but mostly she slept.  My brother and sister-in-law were gracious enough to let me hold her most of that time (well, during the day), and I even got her a few times after the grandparents arrived.  I didn't bring my camera (and failed to get the pics from Mom's), so I'll have to post pictures another time.  And I got the blanket done!

We also spent some time at Wheaton College--the other reason for my visit.  The campus was simply gorgeous with all the leaves turning colors.  It was a pleasure just to walk around and remember my time there, so full of good times. 

The main event was the endowed scholarship dinner.  I was a little jittery about reading my letter, but thankfully they put me right at the very beginning.  It went pretty smoothly, and of course it was very encouraging and uplifting to hear how God is working through the endowed scholarships at Wheaton.  I was able to meet my scholarship donors' daughter, and we also got to meet the student who received money from our scholarship!  :)  It wasn't much, but we're excited to see how God will use our scholarship as it grows.  

The only downside was the amount (or lack) of sleep that I got.  I took a nap yesterday and today, in addition to hitting the sack at 8:30 last night.  But I'm getting back to normal and beginning to consider a) what happened to October and b) how to best use November.