The kitchen carnage continues…

Not only am I trying to adjust to baking at altitude, but I’m also learning to cook on an electric range again. Several glorious years of gas range/oven spoiled me. It’s so much easier to get an even heat with the gas flame, and when you are working in an environment where things heat and boil at different rates than you’re accustomed, the results can be messy.

I burned some bacon (admittedly, not quality bacon that had a lot of fat) recently and filled the apartment with smoke. A pie filling spilled over the edge of the tray I used to collect spillage, and when I baked the next item I set off smoke alarms. My dog was traumatized, and I was frustrated.

A Jewish apple cake, which I hadn’t made in years and never at altitude, was just plain weird. It didn’t hold together when sliced and eventually got rather…wet. And today’s pound cake–adapted for altitude from a recipe I found online in order to use some ingredients I’d opened but of which I only needed a portion–burned on the outside before the center was set.

There are no photos of these disasters because I was too preoccupied with opening windows to clear the room and cleaning up the mess to remember to photograph it all.

But I shall persevere, and one day, somehow, I will bake bread in this mile-high apartment. Yeast has been purchased. A promise has been made. I’ll use my favorite recipe for flatbread to start. I’ve made it countless times, so I should be able to adjust it a bit for 5280 feet and produce edible results.

Stay tuned for a full report and, hopefully, photos.

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Exercise

I hate exercise. I truly hate it. I know I need to do it, and I try. But it sucks. So when I vowed to blog about my C25K progress, I hadn’t really thought through the entire thing. What the heck am I supposed to say?

Each day, I’m supposed to run and walk. Slowly, I increase my speed and/or distance. If I get stuck, I can repeat the previous day. But in the end, it’s just running. All I really have to report is what my dogs found to eat (recent finds: a waffle, a large bag of basil, a bag of Cheetos, gum). Otherwise, my exercise blog posts will pretty much offer the same thing every day: I ran or rode the stationery bike. I hated it. Maybe I wheezed. Maybe my dogs did something stupid to trip me up. Maybe I cried a little.

Do people care what shoes I wore or which sweatpants I wore? I doubt it. I must admit that when I see people posting their runs or their reports from Nike+ or other technology, I just breeze past it in my Facebook feed. Sometimes I press like to be nice, but it’s nothing that means anything to me. (That said, I always press like and look at photos of friends who have completed a race. I’m proud of their 5K, 1/2 marathon, or marathon accomplishments.)

What other things can I discuss when I talk about exercise that would be interesting to anyone? Suggestions are welcome. Otherwise, I’m not sure what to say and am rethinking my promise to talk about it.

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Stuff my dog has eaten

The first in what I hope will be a brief series chronicling items that my 9-lb Chihuahua-terrier mix has chewed or eaten.

  • Lamp cord (floor lamp, thankfully not plugged in)
  • Pashmina scarf
  • Xbox ear bud cover
  • PlayStation earpiece
  • Various receipts
  • ABC (already been chewed) gum found on walks
  • Glass – found on a walk, but I quickly traded her for a training treat and averted disaster

We’re back in obedience class, so hopefully we’ll find some new techniques to reinforce the command “Leave it.” I read that it is a common Chihuahua trait to steal things and to snatch anything that falls on the ground. “Leave it” works when we place her food on the floor or if we play a game with a treat. But if we drop anything (edible or otherwise), she’s quick to snatch it and run. She’s responding well to the class so far, so I’m hopeful that we’ll make progress for her own safety’s sake.

It’s kind of funny to guess what the colorful blob is in her poop (there was an incident with crayons left on the ground outside our apartment), but I could certainly live without that game. It’s also really gross and sad when you have to help pull the poop out of her butt because the string she ate is still partially inside her. I’ve developed quick reflexes when it comes to spotting and blocking wrappers, string, gum, and other delicious garbage on our walks.

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Small talk

Since moving, I’ve found myself in many new situations. I’ve interviewed for jobs, interviewed for volunteer work, and gone to events and meetings where I’ve met plenty of new people. One thing I’ve noticed is [what I believe is] a change in the way people speak with each other.

To me, it seems that small talk is more difficult. By small talk, I mean the casual chit chat that we make at cocktail parties and other social situations. With people using phones to communicate with people in other locations, we don’t chat as much with those nearby. It’s easier to text a friend and avoid eye contact than it is to make ourselves speak with a stranger. That leaves us out of practice, so when we have no choice but to speak with the person in front of us, the skill is pretty rusty.

I also think that texting and tweeting have changed the way we talk when we do speak with strangers, our conversations are stilted. While there is a lot to say in support of brevity (see what I did there?!), I feel like something is lost when we truncate our speech. It makes us more guarded, less open to getting to know strangers and, subsequently, less likely to learn and grow through communication with fellow humans. It also makes it more difficult to really understand each other.

I know, I know…I sound like an old lady. “Those dang cellular devices, with the tweetin’ and the textin’ and the sextin’….” But in the last few days I’ve had awkward encounters with a number of people of various ages.

In one conversation, a woman grew visibly restless when I spoke more than one sentence at a time. She looked eager to cut me off, only to reply to me with a short response of a few words. I quickly felt uncomfortable, like the old lady who rambles while the young person rolls their eyes at how slow and boring they are. But she’d asked me a question, and I really didn’t think I could explain the answer in just 140 characters. My replies weren’t that long, but soon they were incredibly short and also inadequate.

One could say that if she didn’t want to hear the entire answer, then I shouldn’t worry that she didn’t get the correct one. That’s her loss. But it also made me wonder what I was losing in the exchange. Her short answers (not curt–she was quite pleasant) forced me to ask more questions in order to get what I needed from her. But because I was already uncomfortable from her body language in the beginning, I was afraid to continue asking my questions for fear of being difficult or slow.

These exchanged also left me wondering if the person really wanted to be there. In most of the situations, the other person initiated the conversation (after I contacted them online about volunteering, meeting up, applying for a job). But when they only spoke in text-length sentences, I wondered if they were truly invested in the exchange. If they were bored or uninterested, I didn’t want to prolong the meeting and waste everyone’s time. However, what if they were only speaking in the new norm? Should I adjust my conversation to mimic their manner of speech? It was incredibly uncomfortable and frustration, not knowing if I needed to learn the new manner of conversation or if it was a signal that the other party was done with the interaction.

Have you noticed this change in speech? Or is it just a new manifestation of my anxiety when meeting new people?

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Quiet…TOO quiet.

Recently I attended a series of classes about using WordPress. In the process of using my existing account to create a test blog for the class, I inadvertently hid this blog and made some wacky changes. I didn’t notice the changes for quite a while. But I’m back, and posts will resume.

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*GASP*

The change in environment has really taken a toll on me physically. While I still had allergies in the desert (stupid golf courses!), they were not nearly as bad as they are here in Colorado. Last time I lived here, I went to a great allergy clinic and got immunotherapy injections, which greatly reduced my symptoms. Then we moved, and I had different allergies in a Pacific Northwest climate. Also, my allergist (the only one in the county) closed his practice and I was unable to complete the process.

So here I am, back in the place where I needed an inhaler regularly. I only used an inhaler twice in the last three years away. And the allergies immediately returned. Since I’ve been back, I’ve been congested and sneezy and my eyes itch. I take over-the-counter medications and use a nasal saline rinse, but sleep is still rough due to the symptoms.

Today things reached a head. I’d had tightness in my chest and some coughing recently, but during today’s run I had a full-on asthma attack. My asthma is, as a physician explained to me, ‘cough-variant’ asthma. It is brought on by allergies, and it manifests not as wheezing but as terrible coughing. There’s a little wheezing, but mostly coughing, making those around me think I’m a contagious monster. It’s great!

Health care coverage kicks in soon, so I suppose I’ll be at the doctor soon to request an inhaler. In the mean time, I’m taking herbal tea, OTC meds, and just trying to lay still and ride it out until the coughing subsides.

As for running, I’ll have to adjust some things. Exercise can bring on the asthma, and I think that going outside into the cold weather might make things worse. So I might have to bring it inside for a while. I can go to the fitness center in my building and ride my exercise bike.

But I promise that I will NOT quit. See how dedicated I am? I’m willing to STOP BREATHING before I stop exercising.

Things found/encountered on recent walks:

  • A group of gentlemen waving what appeared to be TV antennae (metal detectors?) around the park
  • Jerky
  • A cyclist laying on the sidewalk (someone was already tending to him, so I didn’t approach him with two curious dogs)

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Baking at altitude

The last time I lived in Colorado, I bought a great book about baking at altitude. I still have that book, and it would sure come in handy now that I’m back. Unfortunately, I haven’t found the box of books that contains my cookbooks. It’s in our storage unit, and I can’t bear to tackle that right now.

However, I have been really excited about cooking and baking again. In the desert, it was too hot to turn on the oven or to boil water. We kept the toaster oven outside and sometimes cooked in that, but the heat made even the food prep indoors difficult.

Since the move, I’ve been on a cooking and baking binge. I’ve made a lavender sour cream cake, several batches of brownies, pancakes, cookies, and more. Much of it tasted good, but none of it was bakery quality.

I love a challenge, so I am going to try to conquer cooking & baking at 5280 feet. In addition to the book I own, there are web sites with guidelines for adjusting recipes for altitude. I’ll work on cakes, pies, and such first. The cooking will be easier; a few adjustments in liquids, salt, and cooking temps/times should do the trick. Then I’ll move on to bread, which has never been my strong suit, even at sea level.

Of course, I also need to pay more attention to more subtle changes in height. While making cookies, I thought I’d speed the process by putting both trays in the oven at the same time. As you can see below, rack placement gave me two very different trays of cookies. Looks like I need to learn to use my new oven correctly, too.

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