Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Adventures in (mis)reading

I don't like cooking. Most people who know me are aware of that fact. However, because of some silly New Years resolution I made about losing weight, I'm faced with the fact that I will need to cook. Home made dinners are better for you than the premade TV dinner type stuff. For the last 6 months, I've tried finding loopholes around the home made dinner fact and I'm giving up. What really broke the last straw was the book In Defense of Food by Michael Pollan. Foods prepared without all the added vitamins and minerals are really better for you. There's nothing wrong with plain, wholesome vegetables.

I let my dirty secret out at work (that I hate cooking and don't really cook all that much) and there are at least 2 of my coworkers who have been peering over my shoulder on occasion on my progress of cooking, or lack thereof. (You know who you are and I know you're reading this. *Grins*)

I don't enjoy cooking because the directions usually intimidate me. I have ADD and sometimes reading directions is challenging for me. If directions are written simply and each step has a separate line, that is great. I'm a happy girl. (The 4-Ingredient Cookbook is AWESOME in that regard. That's my favorite cookbook) However, most cook books write their directions in paragraph form and that's where I run into trouble. I lose focus after the second line of the paragraph and I more-or-less need to read the same paragraph several times before it sinks in. That makes me feel stupid and I hate I avoid cooking.

But I need to get over that. For my health, I need to work past my little idiosyncracy. So...I cooked today. And as with most of my experiences with cooking, I adventure.
I made Chicken Enchiladas. The recipe called for chicken, sour cream, chopped chilies, cheese, chopped onion...all of the usual ingriedents for enchiladas. I read the directions several times before assembling the ingriendents and needed utensils.

Step one, saute onions in skillet. Check. Step two, add chicken and chilies. Hmmm, the chicken is still raw, but ok. I paused to reread the directions. It did not mention stirring this concoction under heat. How long was this going to be in the oven? Is that what cooks the chicken? I scanned down to the end of the directions. The directions read to cook for 20-25 minutes at 350 degrees. Is that going to long enough to cook the chicken? It IS cubed, but still...

So I continue mixing the second half of the ingriedents (mostly sour cream and cream of chicken soup) and pour it over the chicken and chilies. I glob a spoonful of the mixture on to a tortilla before I stop again. Really? Raw chicken? What am I missing? Maybe I should COMPLETELY read the directions again. So I begin to read the recipe again from the beginning and I see this in the ingriedent list: 2 cups of cubed COOKED chicken. Geezus.

I drop the glob back in the skillet and proceed to pick each and every piece of chicken out of the mixture. I shook off as much of the sour cream concotion as I could before dropping the chicken into a new skillet to COOK.

Once the chicken was cooked I reassembled and placed the enchiladas in the oven. I just finished eating one and it wasn't too bad. A little on the bland side, but considering the fact that I can't cook something right the first time, it was pretty good.

I won't allow the mistake to stop me. It's not the first time I've goofed something up in a recipe. If anything, my adventures in cooking will be blog fodder.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Obsessed with the weather

I have a nightly ritual that I perform Sunday and Wednesday evenings. I check the weather, sometimes repeatedly, until I go to bed. I come home from work Sunday afternoon and hop on to check for the chances for rain and the temperature for Monday morning. I watch the early evening and night news, scarcely paying attention to the news until the weather pops on. Then I'm all eyes and ears, turning the TV up and keeping my eyes glued to the map of the city and the radar, searching for rain clouds or other weather warnings that may keep me indoors.

You're probably thinking I'm a little on the OCD side and maybe I am. You're probably wondering why I'm obsessed with the weather too. It's a mistnetting thing. As you know, I mistnet on Monday and Thursday mornings and the rain and even the temperature dictates whether or not we put the mistnets up for the birds. In the spring, if the temperatures are too cold (below 35 F), we either postpone our mistnetting session until the temperature rises or we cancel. The birds use an incredible amount of energy to stay warm (I read during the winter, a chickadee can lose 5% of its body weight overnight.) and as much as we love mistnetting, we do know that it can be stressful on our feathered friends. No sense on adding stress to a bird running on limited energy.

And the rain. Rain is our foe for many reasons. Human safety is the biggest reason we obsess over the weather. As you know, lightning often accompanies a good storm and our mistnets hang from aluminum poles. Many of our nets are also located on hills and in valleys where you often climb up and over nature-made obstacles like fallen trees and bushes. Imagine dashing to close a net in the pouring rain where there is mud and limited visibility. It wouldn't take much to slip and fall or twist an ankle. And of course there is the birds. Imagine yourself hanging upside down, tangled in a net with the rain pouring down your body. Birds have hollow bones to enable flight. As you can imagine, it can be difficult, if not impossible for a drenched bird to fly. A wet bird also has a lowered body temperature. So now the bird has to use twice the energy to raise that body temperature and attempt to fly to a safe place.

So I watch the news and check the internet before retiring to bed. In the morning I get up and look outside the window before sitting in front of the internet again to check the radar. Most mornings you know without a doubt whether or not you're mistnetting. But there are those mornings when you see a patch of rain looming on the radar horizon, but it looks far enough away that you could probably get a mistnetting session in but it's a gamble. I've been on the wrong side of the dice on that bet but I'm sure most field biologists have miscalculated their odds on the weather. There have been a few times my cohorts and I have gone running in the rain to close the nets.

Then there are the near misses. Last year a thunderstorm appeared from nowhere with a tornado in tow. That was an exciting morning. Fortunately the tornado went a different direction and we got the nets down before the rain hit. Just last week a cold front blew in while we were mistnetting on the prairie. Initially we marveled over the beauty of the clouds that accompanied the front, but when the temperature dropped, the wind picked up and the thunder began to rumble, we got a little worried. While debating on whether or not to end the morning, the clouds continued to swirl ominously and the wind blew, but the rain was scarce. We took a gamble and only took down 2 nets, leaving 3 nets open. We won that gamble. We received a smattering of rain before the scary clouds passed on. Turns out the storm hit just north of our location.

Yes indeed the weather is a frequent topic of discussion amongst us field biologists, especially the bird biologists. Bird watchers are also obsessed with the weather but the parameters are different, not to mention tolerance for things like temperature and rain. That topic is also a whole other blog entry.

In the meantime, I just got my weather report. Tomorrow will be sunny and pleasant. Perfect weather for mistnetting.

Until next time...

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Happy Birthday Sis

Today would have been my sister Penny's 33rd birthday. On November 19, 1995 she was killed by a drunk driver. While time and life experiences have helped me tremendously to heal, the grief never leaves. There is a scar and some days it aches. Today it ached.

I woke up with the ache and fought it off in decluttering and cleaning. But I thought of her amidst the sorting, recycling and vacuuming. I wondered what she would be like today. She certainly was a pistol from day one. She was born 3 weeks prematurely and created such a ruckus in the operating room (she was born c-section) that a few nurses ran down the hall to see what was happening. She was cute, but full of fire and knew how to push everyone's buttons.

She had a way with words, facial expressions

and gestures...

Happy Birthday Sis. I think of you often and miss you just as much. I still search for any resemblance of you in unfamiliar faces and look for hints of your personality in interactions with strangers and friends alike.

Here at home we keep your memory alive looking at old photographs, reminiscing over times past and keeping a few your things out in the house. I may not talk about you often, but know you're always in my heart.