Experiment #17 – The After Dinner Drink

On many evenings after dinner my husband will indulge himself in a glass of whiskey.  Each time he offers me a glass, but I shake my head in disgust.  Whiskey on its own or even with ice is too strong a potion for me.  Yet, I love the idea of an after dinner drink or the night-cap.  There’s just something about sitting in front of the fire on a cold winter’s night curled up with my husband, our dog and enjoying a night-cap.

The idea of finding this night-cap of choice has been running around in my head for while.  Yesterday, I made the opportunity happen while stocking up on few bottles of wine at one of the best grocery stores in the world, Moore Wilsons.

My requirements for my night-cap were simple:

  1. No whiskey
  2. Nothing too strong
  3. Something with a bit of sweetness

Based on those requirements the obvious choice to me was Port.  Yay!  I always wanted to be a Port connoisseur or a connoisseur of something.  How does one get started at this connoisseuring thing?  Easy, stare at the Port section long enough and someone will come and help.  Fortunately, the girl who helped me was a lover of Port herself and knew exactly which Port I should start with, Ferreira, Late Bottle Vintage Porto.  She described it as good entry-level Port without blowing the bank, but also not cheap quality.  Perfect, a good place to start my Port building expertise, especially since my only basic knowledge of Port is that it’s from Portugal.

The two night caps I indulged in had the right effect on me. The sweetness of the Port was mild and not overpowering, while it warmed me up.  Not sure if it was the Port or my brain on over drive, but I did have a difficult time falling asleep.  I guess that means I’ll have to experiment with the Port not just in taste, but on the effects of my sleep.

I have a lot to learn before I become an expert, let alone a connoisseur.  I am looking forward to this ongoing experiment.

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Experiment #16 – The Retriever That is Retrieving Challenged

When you spend all your time at the dog park searching for the balls your dog has lost, you need to take that as a sign your dog may have retrieving issues.  At least that’s what I should do.

The concept of retrieving is quite simple.  It’s composed of three steps:

  1. Throw ball, stick, pinecone, anything that appeals to your dog
  2. Said dog chases the ball, stick, pinecone
  3. Dog brings back ball, stick, pinecone
  4. Repeat steps 1-3 until desired outcome of exhausted dog is achieved

With our Jessie it goes a little more something like this:

  1. Throw ball, stick, pinecone, anything that appeals to Jessie
  2. Jessie chases the ball, stick, pinecone
  3. Jessie runs around with the item in her mouth
  4. Mum or dad try to retrieve the item from Jessie
  5. Jessie escapes her parents clutches with a big smile on her face
  6. Repeat steps 4 and 5 until mum and dad give up on playing fetch with their beloved dog

The end result of playing fetch Jessie’s way looks something like this.

Jessie retrieving her way.

Jessie retrieving her way.

The experiment of teaching Jessie to retrieve started 9 months ago when we welcomed her as a 11 month old Chesapeake Bay Retriever, into our home.  The first experiment wasn’t actually experiment, it was more of an assumption.  We assumed that because Jessie is from a retriever breed she would retrieve anything, like a duck takes to water.  Well, that was a wrong assumption.  Then we tried teaching her to retrieve with a long lead on, so that we lured her back to us after she got the ball.  It still wasn’t clicking for her and the risk of us getting our arm pulled out of its socket with the long lead approach didn’t bode well for us.  We read the dog training books, we watched YouTube videos on retrieving tips and tricks, but nothing worked.  Eventually, we stopped bringing a ball to park because  after only one throw it stayed with Jessie.  Instead we let her run around to make her own fun, which is just as good but doesn’t allow us to engage with her at the park.

Retrieving is in Jessie’s blood, which means this innate ability must be teachable.  The running after or pouncing on her prey, whether animate or inanimate comes naturally to her, but the idea of bringing it back to us didn’t appeal to her . . . that is until recently.

The answer – – two balls.  That’s right!  Such a simple solution for a simple challenge.  Take two balls with you when you go to the park and follow these steps to effectively teach your dog to retrieve:

  1. Have your dog stand by your side and have them wait while you throw the ball, this will minimise your dog overrunning the ball and damaging their legs.
  2. When the ball has stopped let your dog go after it by saying a word such as “go.”
  3. With the second ball in your hand, lure your dog back by calling their name and showing them the second ball.
  4. If all goes well, they will come running back to you and drop the first ball or at least allow you take it from them.
  5. Throw the second ball.
  6. Repeat steps 1-5 until desired outcome of exhausted dog is achieved.

If your dog doesn’t take to step 4 initially, then get them to engage with you by throwing the second ball near you, while they still have the first ball in their mouth.  When they get to the second ball they will inevitably have to choose one ball, unless they have a big mouth and can fit two balls, which Jessie can do sometimes.  that is your time to grab one of the balls and continue with the game.

Now, Jessie has not perfected this technique yet, but she is well on her way to being a star retriever.  Soon, we won’t have to pick up lost balls of other poor retrieving dogs or spend our time at the park searching for her lost ones.  This is an ongoing experiment.

Experiment 15 – Getting back on the yoga wagon

About 9 months ago I fell off the yoga wagon and I fell hard.  For almost three years prior to my fall I pretty much lived and breathed yoga.  Not only did I have a regular practice, I was teaching yoga, and I loved it.  But then, three things happened in my life – – a change occurred at the studio where I taught, I took on a big project at my 9-5 job, and I got the world’s cutest dog.

From the point that I stopped teaching at the studio, my practice slowly dwindle away to no practice at all.  I could not believe how easy it was for something that was such a big part of my life for so long sleep so easily away, almost as if it never happened.  Wanting to practice was always in the back of mind and it often made it’s way to the front of my mind.  I still kept a yoga mat at work, in hopes of going to a lunch time class, which I initially did.  My yoga mat at home was tucked away behind a speaker in the lounge in visible sight almost beckoning me to pull it out and use it.

I wanted to practice and wanted to teach even more, but I believed and still believe you cannot teach yoga without your own yoga practice.  It’s like asking a doctor, who hasn’t practiced medicine in a long time to suddenly perform a surgery on you.  Would you trust that doctor or the one that is regularly in the operating room fine tuning is practice?  A bit an extreme comparison, but you get the point.  So I continued to not practice and not teach.  Yet, I always missed it and thought of the day it would make a regular occurrence in my life once again.

Then there were three things that happened to let the yoga door reopen – – our dog would constantly do her beautiful down dogs in front of me, as if rubbing it in my face, a work colleague asked if I was the yoga teacher teaching at the nearby school, and I passed my children’s yoga teacher training.  So maybe Jessie’s down dogs weren’t really opening the door, but it got my yoga mind going again.

Now I am taking baby steps in my relationship with yoga.  All it really took was looking at my life from a different angle.  I realised that I can use mornings my dog goes to daycare as time for me to do a practice because I don’t need to walk her; on the evenings that it’s not my turn to cook I can spend 2o minutes doing yoga nidra; and if I only spend 10 minutes doing yoga, that is still a yoga practice.  These little changes have made a difference.  It has only been a few weeks since I have brought yoga back in, but I already feel a change.  My knots and tension in my shoulders have subsided, I’m more relaxed and my flexibility is returning.  I’m still a ways off from teaching again, but I can see it as the light at the end of the tunnel.

Have you lost your way with a practice?  How did you get back onto the wagon with it?

Experiment #14 – Leaf Turning

No, I’m not talking about the changing colours of leaves on the trees as we say goodbye to summer and welcome autumn.  Actually, it’s about me attempting to turn a new leaf on life.  Originally, this blog was to be a new leaf, but I continue to struggle with my commitment to it.  The question I am posing to myself, is do I really want to write/blog? Or, is it the idea of it that is attractive to me?  It is a question I can repeat, where I replace write/blog with teach yoga, practice yoga, mountain bike, cook, photography. . . pretty much all things this blog is to be about.  What can I do to change and move forward with yet another new leaf?  Thus far I have attempted the following:

  • Make to-do lists. . . many of them
  • Carry a notebook around to make notes when I have a post idea
  • Keep the camera near the kitchen
  • Make a to-do list on my smartphone
  • Think about blogging, cooking, yogaing, mountain biking
  • Do yoga every once in a blue moon

They all work to some extent.  I just need to push myself on this whole idea because I’m full of ideas on experiments that I want to share to not only to myself, but to a wider audience.  Here’s a list of some things I want to experiment with:

  • How do you re-connect to your yoga practice after taking a break?
  • Why is your dog more stubborn than you when it comes to training?
  • How many ways are there to make a frittata?
  • What is the job description for a g-d parent?
  • How do I master the German apple strudel?
  • Why can’t I get back into the mountain bike saddle?

So, there you have it a list of ideas!  Best get cracking!  Actually, that won’t happen. . at least not right away.  Instead, from this moment on, thanks to the suggestion of my Writer’s and Wine group, I will commit myself to posting a minimum of once a month.  If I use the above ideas, then there are posts for the next six months.  Let’s take that one step towards that goal.  See you next month!

Experiment #13 – Oregano Pesto

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One of the many joys about a herb garden is the way you can experiment with how they’re used in cooking.  While in the garden the other day I noticed that my oregano was very bushy and on the verge of going to seed.  So I took a pair scissors to it; gave it a wee haircut; and came away with two big handfuls of cuttings all ready to be turned into pesto.

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And, now it is confession time.  Sometimes I forget to add an ingredient or two into a recipe.

In the case of the pesto, I remembered to toast the pinenuts.

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I remembered to add a few cloves of garlic.

I remembered to add a bit of lemon juice.

I remembered to add the olive oil.

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And, yes I remembered to add the oregano.

But, I forgot to add the parmesan cheese. . . . oops!

Surprisingly, it did not impact the flavour of the pesto. 

 

Ingredients:

  • 2 big handfuls of oregano
  • 2-3 cloves of garlic crushed
  • Juice of half a lemon
  • 1/4 c toasted pine nuts
  • 1/4c to 1/2c extra virgin olive oil
  • salt and pepper to season
  • Parmesan cheese (optional;))

 

Steps:

Pile all the ingredients, except the olive into a blender.  

Blend the ingredients for about 5 to 10 pulses.

Then, with the blender running, slowly add the olive oil.

Blend until all the ingredients are well blended.

Pour into a jar and seal.

The pesto will keep for up to a week in the fridge, unless devoured beforehand.

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Experiment #12 – The dreaded filler word

As we embark on a new year, 2013, it is out with the old and in with the new.  I am not one for resolutions at the first of the year because I feel that resolutions are meant to be made throughout the year.  However, this post was meant to be posted ages ago, but now it seems just as fitting to post.

I don’t know when it happened.  I don’t know where it happened.  I don’t know how it happened.  But, somehow the word “so” moved into my vernacular as a filler, unpacked itself and doesn’t seem to be leaving anytime soon.

One day it wasn’t there and then the next day it was appearing in every part of my conversation.  At the start of sentences, “So, let’s grab a bite to eat.”  In the middle of sentences, “There is this project I’m working on so I’m quite busy.”  When I became aware of it, it knew, so (hah!) I unwittingly threw it in when I was talking.

The use of filler words, whether it is so, um, uh, and, is common for most people.  Some of us use them more than others.  Sometimes they appear only when doing presentations.  Sometimes, like in my case, the appear all the time.  Once you realise the filler is there it can be extremely annoying.  It can also be the kick you need to minimise the use of them.  That is exactly what I have experimented over the course of weeks and now months.

When I noticed how often “so” was creeping into my conversations, I stopped and asked myself why.  Understanding the reason behind it showing up was the first step to eliminating it from every single sentence I spoke.  Quite simply, I don’t always stop to formulate my sentences before I speak, which leads me to throw in “so” until my brain catches-up with my voice.  I am quite notorious for speaking before I think.  Yes, I have suffered from putting my foot in my mouth because of it.  Using “so” sort of stops me from doing that. . . I hope.

One of the ways for me to extricated myself from using this filler word is to face it head-on.  So (for one last time) here goes my attack on my dreaded filler word, SO:

Dear filler word “so,”

Your time in as a member of my vernacular needs to come to end.  Please back your bags and leave.  You may come back for the occasional visit, but you are now officially been issued an eviction notice.

Regards,

Rosy Experiments

Experiment #11 – Butter and sugar

One day my kitchen bench will house a beautiful Kitchen Aid Stand Mixer to cream all the butter and sugar I need for my baking.  Until that day arrives I continue to experiment with other creaming appliances.  Those appliances consist of the hand mixer, the food processor and the mighty wooden spoon, with a twist of elbow grease.

Most baking recipes instruct you to cream the butter and sugar, until it’s light in colour and fluffy in texture.  The aim is not to have chunks or bits of butter, otherwise it impacts the baking.  When it comes to using the hand mixer if you put on the medium to low speeds the result is bits of butter not mixed into the sugar.  If you take the mixer up a notch, the end result is still bits of butter not mixed and half of the butter and sugar sprayed all over one’s kitchen.  While it seems like the quick and easy way to get creaming, it is the least effective.  The hand mixer is best left for whipping egg whites or whipping cream.

Jamie Oliver reminded me that the food processor isn’t just a kitchen tool for making crumble topping, hummus or soups. In fact, it’s a well kept secret, until now, that it’s great for creaming.  So when I made his carrot cake recipe from his Cooking with Jamie cookbook the food processor was put to use.  It’s a similar concept to using the food processor to make pie or any other type of dough, except flour is replaced with sugar.  Once the butter and sugar is creamed you transfer the mixture into a mixing bowl and continue with your recipe.  It’s less painful than the wooden spoon, less messy than the hand mixer; and there’s only a few extra dishes to clean at the end.  I’ve only tried this technique the two times I’ve made Jamie’s recipe so I’m interested to see how it does with some of favourite recipes.

When I went to culinary school one of my chef tutors taught us that before you use electrical appliances for baking and even cooking you must master the manual techniques.  It was painful in the arm, but well worth it in the end.  You end up getting a better sense of the right textures of things because you’ve got your muscles working at it for a wee while.  You’re also putting your love into this.  I’ve actually returned to this method most recently.  If your butter is soft, then it’s easy peasy.  If not, then I suggest either chopping the butter into 1 cm cubes or using a cheese grater and grate the butter into your mixing bowl.  Snuggle up in front your fire or heater with a bit brainless tv and start working those arm muscles of yours until you achieve that creamy consistency.  It will take you about 30 minutes or so to mix about 70 grams of butter (not supper soft) with about 1 1/2 cups of sugar.  Be patient; think of the muscles your developing; and think of the love and effort you went through to makes some delicious baking.

What I may try is a comparison of Jamie’s recipe using the food processor and the wooden spoon to see if there is any difference in the taste, look and texture of the carrot cake.

I encourage you to explore trying these different tools for creaming butter and sugar.  I especially recommend if you haven’t done it with your own arm strength ever, or in a wee while then give it a go.  You will really respect and love your kitchen appliances more and definitely the finished result.

Experiment #10 – Posting and public

Today’s post is short and sweet.

Spring is in the air and we’re only three days into it. With the new season comes new things.  For me spring’s about confessions and announcements.

I confess that I did not write a post over the weekend and I don’t feel guilty.  I feel good!

My announcement is that I’ve made this blog public!  It seems that having to create a username and password is a deterrent for some people connecting with Rosy Experiments.  So, I went public!

I look forward to the wider world coming across this place and feeling freedom from posting everyday.

If you know someone that might enjoy this blog please share it with them.

Experimenting #8 – Writing my Will

This is an interesting topic to bring up on Rosy Experiments, but I got to thinking about my will, or lack thereof after reading, Half of Kiwis do not have a will, on Stuff.  That’s a pretty surprising figure.  My partner and I are part of the half that don’t have a will.  It’s not that we haven’t thought about writing ours.  It’s more that we didn’t think we needed one yet.  We were of the mindset when you buy house, you buy life insurance.  When you have a baby, you write your will.  We’ve got the house and the life insurance, but no baby.  So, no will.

After reading the above article that is all going to change.  Writing a will must be a scary experience because you are inevitably thinking about your death and what you want to happen to all your stuff after you’re gone.  Not a very easy thing to do.  At least it isn’t for me.

My parents weren’t ones to talk about this kind of stuff when I was young.  They didn’t want me and my siblings to worry about those things.  Just last year I found out who the executor of parents’ will is. . . weird.  Now as an adult, I’m left to figure this stuff out on my own.  Isn’t that what life is all about?

Over the next few weeks I’m challenging myself and my partner, he doesn’t know this yet, to draft our wills.   I’m not expecting us to get down into the nitty gritty details of our possessions.  I want to make sure that we are both ok in the eventual end of our lives, hopefully not for many years to come.  I’ll just have to ponder what to do with my childhood stuffed toy and baby blanket?  What I’d like to know from you all is, do you have a will?  What led you to write one and when?  What feelings did it stir up?  It’s more about you thinking about the process than really sharing with Rosy Experiments.  Grab a cup of tea and have think.  That’s what I’m going to do.