Saturday, May 28, 2011

Broccoli Orange Chicken Stir Fry

Well, I did a little experimenting, food-wise. Two recipes, one success. I am not a chocolate cake fan, so I don't know why I chose to mess with the heavenly delights of carrot cake, but I did. Maybe it was because I have this amazing dark chocolate cocoa powder. Or maybe it was because I was just excited to have found a recipe that didn't call for eggs (translation: I could make it that night and not have to wait until the next day). Either way, I gave this chocolate carrot cake recipe a go, and either way I won't be doing it again. It was a strange recipe anyway, calling for boiling water to be poured onto the carrots. I should have known that that would result in, well, chunks of cooked carrot lodged throughout the black-as-night cake, which was also kind of rubbery from (I'm assuming) the boiling water. No, the recipe didn't call for chunks of carrot, but in an effort to save some time and, well, effort, I tried using my new toy which resulted in a whole heck of a lot more work than if I had just grated them by hand. I skipped the cinnamon, as I'm even less of a fan of chocolate with cinnamon than I am of just plain chocolate cake. I topped it off with a classic cream cheese frosting which, although it helped, wasn't enough to save this experiment (but was enough to help me eat almost the whole thing). So, much like the Ryan Gosling movie mentioned here, I wouldn't recommend it. 
 Moving on. For today's lunch I made Orange Chicken Stir Fry. It called for bean sprouts, but I opted for broccoli instead. I used dark soy sauce since that was all we had, and aside from the (also) black-as-night coloring of it, found no ill-effect. In fact, I read that it actually has less sodium than light soy sauce which, if you ask me, is never a bad thing considering its nutritional reputation. In other substitutional news, I had to use white sugar since I had just used up the last of my brown (sent by my mom and used miserly) on the last of several batches of these. But I did use freshly squeezed orange juice and extra zest, which must have made up for it, right? I think it turned out pretty darn good, and Tomáš agreed. I was glad to have not overcooked the chicken to the point of toughness, which I usually do in fear of all things undercooked chicken. Did that make sense? It sounded good in my head. And I must say this dish was a big step up from another stir fry I'm just now reminded of that was one of our first meals together in our flat, eaten on an upturned cardboard box, which I can't believe I'm about to admit to...four words, hot dog stir fry. And it's with that mental image and taste in your mouth that I bid you all adieu.   
Orange Chicken Stir Fry

1C orange juice
1T orange zest
1/4C soy sauce
1t salt
3 cloves garlic
1T brown sugar
3T vegetable oil
4 chicken breasts cut into 1'' cubes
2T flour
bean sprouts (or another veggie)
chow mein noodles or rice

In a small bowl combine the first six ingredients and mix well. Heat oil in a large skillet or wok over medium-high heat. When the oil begins to bubble add the chicken. Saute until cooked through, about 7-10 minutes. I cut a large piece in half to check for pinkness just to be safe. Add sauce to the chicken and cook until the sauce begins to bubble. Add flour, a little at a time until it's thick to your liking. Spoon over rice or (as the original recipe called for) chow mein noodles. 
*I don't know if we had a lot more chicken or if we just love our sauces, but I probably should have doubled it.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Little Quirks

     Lily has a curious and wonderful habit of putting her hands to her face to make herself fall asleep. It started maybe just a little bit before my mom came to visit in March. I kind of feel like I hit the sleep jackpot with her. When she was younger it was a chore to get her to go to sleep. I mean a chore. I had to walk her to sleep every single night and more than a few nights there were tears. Mine. I'm telling you I did everything wrong. Everything sleep experts tell you not to do, (walk/rock them to sleep etc.) and then one day she just put herself to sleep and has ever since. Lily is a heavy baby. She was over 23 pounds (10,6 kilo) at 6 months old, who knows how big she is now! And I had visions of walking her to sleep as a ten-year-old. But then she just up and gave mama's back a big ol' present. Now the girl sleeps from 5:30 or 6 pm til 5:30 or 6 am waking only once to eat. Pretty lucky.
     And secondly a little while ago she started doing the cutest thing. Watch this...

It is such a joy seeing her little personality develop. I could go on and on but I'll just leave it at that. Happy Wednesday, all. 

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Full Weekend

     Weekends around the Štrbavý household are usually very, um, chill. But last weekend we had a chance to get out and visit and be visited. Tomáš and I keep Skype on throughout the day while he is at work so we can chat here and there to ask little questions or whathaveyous. On Friday I told him that it would make my week if we could go here with Bug when he got off work to have something to drink. He gets off early on Fridays and it's right next door to our apartment building. I guess it's the American in me (ha!) that makes me feel like going out all the time, but the Slovak in him just doesn't understand this. I know it's good to save money and yes we can have it cheaper at home but to me going out feels like an event, even if it's just for a 60 cent Kofola. I don't mean to insinuate that my husband is cheap. In reality I'm waaay cheaper than he is. He just doesn't get my penchant for dives and seedy pubs and the appeal of sitting in a public place rather than in the comfort of our own home. But I digress. Last Friday he indeed made my week. There was precious little in the way of people-watching, but as it turns out the only person I was interested in watching was one little lady in a stroller anyway. So after that wild and crazy outing Tomáš wanted to watch a movie called Stay. I asked who was in it and he answered quickly, "Gregory McEwan,'' and I laughed really hard, thinking he just made up a random name until I realized he meant Ewan McGregor and then we laughed even harder. We were excited because both of us like Ryan Gosling, but in the end we were just confused and left with the image you never thought possible in our heads; a terrifying Janeane Garofalo.  I wouldn't recommend it.
     Saturday morning was lovely and warm until a storm rolled in which, incidentally, was also quite lovely. At four we went to one of Tomáš' best friend's house for his birthday. They actually moved into one side of the grade school Lily will go to that the town has renovated into a flat, and it was really cool! Everything in it felt like a flat except for the double door to the living room, which felt like a gymnasium. Lily got to say hi to three cute little boys, we had a quick cup of pomegranate tea and probably the most delicious schnitzel I've ever had and then I had to run home for a quick put-to-bed. Tomáš stayed at Pid'o's for several more hours and I watched Project Catwalk (Britain's cheap version of America's Project Runway) online. I know, I live life on the edge.
     Then on Sunday we had our dear friends, the Baloghs, over for burritos. It was a nice time except for the fact that my threadbare hosting skills were made painfully apparent as Tomáš scurried around after me offering drinks and heating up soup. I've never been the world's best hostess, but I must have left what skills I did have on the other side of the ocean altogether. Shameful. Anyhow, they were gracious with our store-bought cookies and scurrying and in the end we had a sweet little time together, highlighted by their three girls' sweetness with Lily and Monika tromping around in Eva's heels.
     One last little (tiny) tidbit, Lily now has one central incisor. Hehe, I just thought it'd be fun to say that. She has taken to chewing on her pacifier, which totally cracks me up and reminds me a little of (sorry Mom) this.
This reminds me of this.
These remind me of Missoula farmers markets and my birthday.
This reminds me of my brothers.
Thumbs up to barefoot weather on our walk Friday.
And this reminds me a little of this
Pid'o, Adamko, Lily and Daddy.

Janka, Eva, Jaro, Monika and Lucka.

Monday, May 16, 2011

More Things

Well, I've been working on my 35 things, and they seem to be coming mostly in sewn form, which pleases me. Sewing is one of those things I've been interested in since I was little, but never really had the patience to learn to do it right. Not much has changed, as you'll see, but I still feel a sense of accomplishment in the doing. In the trying. So, when Lily was born she got lots and lots of hand-me-downs (both given and lent), which I am extremely grateful for. I decided to take some of the stained onesies and spiff them up a bit. I like that word, spiff. It looks even better in italics. I sewed a mint green flannel heart on one onesie. Then I had been playing around with the idea of this choppy heart in my head, so I screenprinted it on another. It turned out so so. I wish the lines hadn't touched on that one spot in the middle. (By the way, this is what Lily looks like about 70 percent of the time nowadays, trying so hard to sit up. Abs of steel are on the way). Thirdly are these bibs (hanging on the radiator). I don't have a closeup of the red one, which is just as well considering it's pretty junior high home ec., if you know what I mean. I had been kind of fed up (no pun intended) with bibs made out of material that doesn't absorb very well. So I decided to whip these up out of an old cloth diaper that had a hole in it. The green one's not perfect either, but they soak up drool and baby puke like champs. And then there were the black pants made from an old t-shirt. I purposely made the picture blurry because they were that bad. Laughably uneven hems, crooked seams, HUGE waist. I got a good chuckle out of it when I tried them on her because she looks adorable in anything, but she will not be wearing them out of the house. And then lastly was my attempt at making baby leggings (beggings? Anyone, anyone?) Bug had a few pairs of them and every time I put them on her I just cracked up because leggings, by their very essence are supposed to be slim and fitted. But babies, by their very essence, well, wear huge bulky diapers. Anyhoo, I wanted to make something out of the awful nightgown I wore in the maternity ward. When I gave birth. I had bought the cheapest one I could find because I knew it'd likely be destroyed and also I didn't aspire to have it fit me for very much longer. But of course it also held a lot of sentiment so I thought I'd try passing it on. So I used one of her old pairs of leggings (I keep typing leggins, which is somehow more fitting [more fitting! Leggings! Oh, the puns. They just happen to me, I have no control over them]) as a guide. They turned out ok, which is a miracle given the headache level of working with knit. It makes me want to swear. Why oh why did I try to sew knit without a Serger? Anyhow, so that means six new things, plus the first one makes seven (although technically I started the bibs before the challenge so I'll knock those out if I manage to make...THIRTY MORE THINGS in THIRTY NINE DAYS!!! Thanks for readin.'     

Saturday, May 14, 2011


My favorite bush is in bloom. If it is indeed a bush. And if they can actually be called blooms. I think it's actually just related to my favorite bush, because the one I was in love with had teeny, tiny little hair-thin needles that turned from dark green to blush pink in the spring. It was the loveliest, most ethereal looking plant I think I'd ever seen...until they hacked it down. I had only ever seen the one here, and it was on my walk home from the bus station. I always looked forward to seeing it, and one day I looked..and looked..and thought I'd passed the house until I saw this sad looking choppy stump. Sad day. I had never seen anything like this pink beauty until I moved here. Same with this. Then one day I noticed this guy across the street from our building and got really excited, but upon closer inspection, the needles are thicker and ribbed. I'll take what I can get, though. Also on the pink front is this pre-school. It's the one Lily will attend when she's old enough potty trained (although I still hope to be home with her). It's a stone's throw from our flat. And you can see her elementary school on the left side of the bush, which is just behind her doctor's office. We don't own a car. I love that it's possible here. And rounding out the theme is this stunning Gerbera daisy, which also just bloomed again. It was given to me by my cousin when she left to go back to St.Petersburg. Never hurts to rouge up your life, eh? Where's the pink in your life right now?

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Post-baby Run

Yesterday I ran for the first time since having Lily. It'd been a good long time. I was trying to remember how long it had actually been and I couldn't. It's been that long. I know I wasn't running when I got pregnant (haha that sounded funny..around the time I got pregnant) because it was winter, and I'm pretty sure by the time spring hit I was leary about running pregnant (although I may have run some), even though they say it's safe. So I guess it's been something like a year and a half. Eesh. During my pregnancy I walked a lot. Often three hours a day or so, between all my teaching gigs and the foot time required to get from one to the next (and the next and next). Then three weeks before the birth I hurt my back. Or, rather, my back hurt me. There was no one thing I did that caused it to go out, just one day I almost couldn't walk. And then some days I couldn't walk. There were times when I had to crawl around our flat. My mom thinks it was sciatica. It hung on for quite a while even after the birth. Then, of course, there was the craziness of having a newborn coupled with another winter, and my running routine got pushed not to the back burner, but behind the stove all together. Until yesterday. I had been wanting to get out and run for a long time. I missed it. I think I was scared I'd hurt myself or be so out of shape I'd literally be unable to run even in the slowest, most awkward way. I had visions of setting foot to trail and melting into a pool of Jell-o right there like a cartoon. But it went fine. I only ran about 20 minutes to start out with because I can feel my overall weakness. I had never had problems with my knees in my life, but after the pregnancy I started to have creaky knees and other new noises : ) So I plan to just build up slowly. Don't be a hero, as they say. But it felt wonderful. I went at 6:30 after Tomáš got home and Bug was asleep. The weather was gorgeous, the fields neon yellow and green.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Thing One

So, it may not be gourmet, or all that creative, or even something I haven't made before, but it's what I had time for, and it's sooooooooooooooo delicious. I have a handful of other things in the hopper, but last night I completed these shortbread cookies. It's the simplest recipe I've ever encountered (three ingredients!) and one of the tastiest. Also, it's a pleasure to make (you knead the cookie dough).
And in other food news, these cute spoons will be put into use since Lily has officially started solids. We started with carrots. Day one I was hopeful because she didn't hate it. Day two, she hated it. I don't blame you, baby, I'm not much for boiled carrot puree myself.

Friday, May 6, 2011

35 Things Before 35

I turn 35 on June 24th and I've been thinking about what I can do in the meantime to sort of make this occasion more meaningful. I've thought of lots of things like writing and sending 35 letters (but frankly just don't have the funds for that right now) or something having to do with running, but when I really thought about what I'd like to accomplish between now and then it boiled down to this; I want to make 35 things before I turn 35. Now, I am the kind of person who dabbles in a lot of things but is not really good at any of them. But, I do believe that you can improve anything with practice. So the areas that I want to make things in will include: sewing, cooking, baking, writing (excluding this blog) and some kind of visual art like painting or drawing. With Lily I find that my creative inspiration is at an all-time high, but my energy and motivation are at all-time lows. She gives me a good two-hour window almost every day in which I could do something creative, but I generally tend to choose to catch up on sleep or clean or just go online for some brain vegging. And there are sure to still be some days like that from now til then, so I'm allowing myself 49 days to make 35 things. I hope most of them will at least be worth writing about, like a new recipe or something gourmet rather than, ''I made scrambled eggs for dinner." Stay tuned...