End of October already!


People keep saying, "I can't wait for this year to be over!" as if the social construct of "this year" matters at in the scheme of all things coronavirus. We're still screwed on January 1st 2021.

Although, I wonder if the election will change anything. Probably not. There are still too many of a certain generation around to continue sucking the life out of their children.

Aaaaaanyway. I had a busy week at work. I'm one of the people training captionists in our new software, so every day this week I had a presentation/training session to give. I was nervous for the first one, but actually they all went really well. My biggest concern wasn't public speaking, but rather my ability to operate the equipment needed for the presentations and training sessions. I'd hate to have a session delayed just because I can't get some speakers to work, or something.

Fortunately it all went well, just a few little hiccups that didn't really affect everyone's ability to complete training. I'm surprised that so far, no one in my training groups has asked for additional training time. All of them seem comfortable enough to use the software in a live setting. That makes me feel good, like I'm conveying the information in a digestible manner. And I kind of enjoy giving the presentation, answering questions, and helping people. It's kind of nice.

As a little treat for myself after my first successful training session, I decided to visit a local plant nursery specializing in succulents and carnivorous plants. I was looking for a pitcher plant for the house, to help catch some of the gnats and fruit flies that are following us inside this time of year. The owner didn't have any trumpet pitchers, which is what I was looking for, but she did have flytraps and the hanging-type of pitchers. I didn't buy anything but she promised to have some trumpet pitchers by Friday so I will check back in to see. She was very nice and all her plants looked wonderfully healthy :)

Although that trip didn't work out, I had already secretly ordered myself some more plants! No, I don't have a plant problem! Why would you say that???

The neat thing about carnivorous plants is that if you're buying them as rhizomes/seedlings, they're usually pretty cheap. These plants are notoriously tempermental and difficult to keep alive, which is part of why buying a large one can be very expensive (some pitcher plants go for THOUSANDS of dollars!).

It was easy for me to find a flytrap and a sundew in Florida. Sundews grow here naturally so they're fairly easy to come across, and flytraps can be found in almost any hardware store. I got mine from a local farmstead. The other two plants I ordered are from Ohio of all places! One was just a regular trumpet pitcher, which like I said I want because they do well indoors. But these are SUPER tiny, I'm talking the size of a quarter, so it will be a good long while before they're catching anything. For that reason they can stay outside in a pot.

The other plant is one I've been pining after ever since I saw it online. It's called a butterwort, and actually these grow natively in Florida as well. There are many kinds of butterwort, but I was especially captivated by the Mexican butterworts and their cultivars. Florida-native butterworts are green with long, floppy leaves. The Mexican butterworts look very similar to a succulent, growing in tight rosettes and having a beautiful white-and-pink coloring. Not only that, they are carnivorous plants after all, and at certain times of year they develop pupillae similar to a sundew.
Here is a sample picture from the interwebs:

I just had to have one. They're not expensive, and they're beautiful. You know? Why not. Here is the one that arrived in the mail. It's a "pinguicula Florian". It's super tiny, but absolutely beautiful. It will be a while before it develops digestive fluid or anything but for now I'm just happy it looks healthy.

So now I have all four carnivorous plants together. I really hope I can keep them alive through the winter...it's going to be a challenge. Wish me luck!

I was relieved when Tuesday finally arrived. I had a nice big glass of wine and Jameson and I watched the last episode of Bly Manor together. It was...intense. Still digesting that. If you haven't seen Haunting of Hill House or Haunting of Bly Manor, I highly recommend both.

On Wednesday I was feeling a little stressed, so tried to distract myself with chores and cooking. As usual.
I wiped down all the counters and cabinet doors in the kitchen. After Jameson got up I vacuumed, then went out to the garden to see how things are growing. It's still hot here so some of my less heat-resistant plants look pretty terrible. Most of the carrots are small and wilted (again), but one of them looks ok. I hope it makes it.

The jalapeno has actually produced a pretty big pepper! And there are lots more flowers, so I'm hoping we'll get a good crop from it.

The tomatoes are all sprawling and gangly thanks to the heat, with very little fruit. But at least they DO have some fruit. The cherry cutting has about eight tomatoes, while the "best boy" has only one but it looks to be growing well.

The cranberry hibiscus is now taller than me (when I planted it just a few months ago it was like a foot tall) and covered in buds. I'm excited to see it bloom!

Too soon it was time for lunch. I ate quickly, then got to work on dinner because there was a lot of prep work involved.
First I made green aji verde sauce (mayo, greek yogurt, cilantro, jalapeno, parmesan cheese, lime juice, garlic). The jalapeno I got from the store was a dud, so I ended up adding sriracha as well.

Next I cooked some chicken breasts for the filling, then shredded it with a fork.
When that was done I carmelized some onions and garlic on the stove, added the chicken and some spices and chicken broth, and let that simmer for about 30 minutes.

By the time that was done it was nearly 3pm. Jameson put on Pee-Wee's Big Adventure for us to watch, brought back a lot of nostalgia as I used to watch Pee-Wee's Playhouse as a kid.

Around dinnertime I began filling the empanadas. I rolled out some premade pie crusts and cut circles in them with a large cup, then dropped a few tablespoons of filling in each circle and crimped it closed with a fork. I poked air holes in the top, then brushed each empanada with a little egg and milk.

They came out delicious, although way too delicate because of the pastry crust. Next time I'll use pizza dough, it'll probably be a lot sturdier. Still it was a good meal!

I also made a few "pumpkin pie" empanadas! Canned pumpkin is so super cheap, and all you have to do is add everyday spices and a bit of sugar to make an awesome dessert. I topped mine with a little vanilla ice cream and homemade whipped cream. Yum!

After dinner I had class. I wasn't really in the mood but I did get to work with some new steno software so that was fun at least.

Thursday, it was very windy outside. After breakfast I meal prepped for the week and watched some tutorials on my steno software. Jameson had a busy day of starting a new term, answering student questions, grading, and course design, so I tried to leave him alone. We had planned to go get carving pumpkins today, but since he was so busy I just got them myself (I used to get them for us on the circus too). It was surprisingly hard to find pumpkins just a few days before Halloween, but I guess Christmas comes earlier and earlier every year. At Lowe's there were only a few sad pumpkins left, and they didn't look very good, so I tried Walmart and no luck. Finally I found some at Publix, but they were very big. I guess we'll just have a lot of seeds this year! I'll post pics of them when we start carving Friday or Saturday :)

Back home I decided to roast the kabocha squash I'd gotten myself earlier in the week. If you've never had kabocha squash (also called Japanese pumpkin), you should definitely give it a try! I had it for the first time while working on the cruise ship and was hooked. It roasts up similarly to sweet potato fries, but it's got a creamier, sweeter, and drier texture. Not to mention it's very nutritious, and you can eat the skin! You can go sweet or savory with it, I prefer savory so decorated mine with garlic salt, pepper, and a little cardamom. 8 minutes in the air fryer and I had perfect crispy delicious kabocha fries.

I also decided to make some more granola. My goal in making granola every month is to cut down on the amount of processed cereal and other snacks that I would normally buy. Granola is a food I could eat forever, I never seem to get tired of it. And when it's made at home it's cheaper and healthier than most cereals and chips/crackers. There you have it.

This time I made cherry almond dark chocolate granola! I had some leftover almond slivers from an Asian dish I'd made a while ago, and some leftover pepitas too. The dried cherries were a bit expensive but they're SO delicious, I wanted to splurge on them just this once. I used those plus all the usual ingredients from the original recipe: oats, coconut oil, maple syrup, vanilla, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg. The last time I made granola it didn't clump, so this time I took extra steps to hopefully get the clumping effect I was looking for. I added a tablespoon of egg whites (if you're doing a whole recipe use 1 egg white, I was halving it) which is supposed to act as a binder. I was also careful to mix all the wet ingredients together before adding them to the dry. I kept a close eye on the granola during cooking and took care not to leave it in too long. When the granola was done cooking I left it on the counter for an hour and a half/until it was completely cooled.

And it STILL didn't clump. DAMMIT!

I don't know what on earth I'm doing wrong. All I can think to do is add more egg whites next time, or just give up on forcing clumps to happen entirely.

As I was getting ready for bed, an idea struck. I went back to the stove and dumped the granola into a saucepan, and put it on low heat. The dark chocolate chips began to melt...and coat the granola. I spread it on a sheet pan and waited for it to cool and harden.
After about an hour it STILL wasn't hardening. In a panic, I threw it in the fridge.

About 30 minutes later...we've got clumps people!

This doesn't fix my overall issue with getting clumping, but it at least helps for this batch. I suspect I'll need to use a different sweetener that will have a stronger binding ability, like maybe brown sugar. We'll see.

I worked on steno for about an hour while Jameson taught a class, then watched him play some spooky-themed games: Carrion and Man of Medan. Tomorrow we'll carve pumpkins, and hopefully I'll have enough time to roast some of the seeds. I want to make caramel apples too but really doubt I'll have time for both activities.

That's my week. Hope you all have a nice end of October and a Happy Halloween!

The Days Fly By

Friday, I worked from home.

Saturday, I worked onsite. I had my first "new software" training session and I was nervous about it, but it went well. I'm really glad I took the time to find and test all the equipment I'd need (it was all just regular computers and monitors and such but I needed to access several different machines, so it was good to know what was where in advance).

I felt like everything went very smoothly, and no one felt they needed additional training time after I was finished. Great!

Next week I definitely have another session and possibly two depending on scheduling. They're back to back...I may lose my voice haha.

Although I was nervous I found I was enjoying giving the presentation. Hopefully future sessions will also go well!

On the way home I picked up candy corn gummies for Jameson and I. If you've never had candy corn gummies, they taste shockingly good. You should try 'em.

Sunday was my random mid-month day off. I woke up nice and late at 10am. Trying to catch up on needed sleep I guess.
I checked on my plants and found that one of the peppers had fallen off, but the other is twice as big. Well...at least we'll have one jalapeno? Maybe we can split it...

After a chill breakfast I repotted one of my strawberry plants into a hanging basket, they seem to like dangling.
After some consideration I also decided to repot my carnivorous plants. They are very small now, but the thing is their roots grow straight down so they need a deep pot. Also the sundew started producing a flower, and I'd like it to have room for that and for any seeds that may fall. And both plants do need to acclimate to the outdoors, staying inside in the air conditioning isn't feasable for them unless I get a terrarium which I'm unwilling to do right now. For all these reasons they're in a nice blue pot and sleeping outside tonight. Hopefully the change in climate won't shock them too badly.

Do you know, I've never seen the movie BeetleJuice? Jameson was offended by this and insisted that we watch it!
I can't believe that movie was rated PG! Holy hell! The 80s were a wild and wonderful time.

The rest of my day was very chill, which honestly I probably needed. It seems like whether I realize it or not, my body or mind or both are tired and are trying to tell me so. Even on days off I have trouble sitting still...I always feel like I HAVE to be cleaning, or cooking, or doing something productive. I feel guilty if I'm not doing things at all times. Sometimes, though, we really do need to just sit still.

Monday I went in to work, and it was fine. I tried to prepare as much as possible for the training sessions next Saturday since this was my last day on-site for the next four days.

Jameson had a photoshoot for the Christmas single he and his band are putting together. He got a haircut and put on a suit, WOO WOOOO!! Heehee. He's so handsome ;)

He got out of the session late so I did some grocery shopping on my way home from work, picking up ingredients for this weekend's dinner. I ate a light dinner because for dessert I wanted to have a Quarantine Dessert Company cookie with some ice cream :p We watched Food Network and chilled.

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You Know the Drill

Another week down.
It got hot again, dangit.

My pepper plant keeps dropping flowers, I assume due to the heat. But this week two are hanging on after the petals fell off. Here's hoping there are some jalapenos in the works.

Most of my week was straightforward. There are some pretty big changes happening at work, like big enough to probably change our job descriptions after a few months. I'm going to be helping to train people in those changes, and frankly I'm a little nervous about it. So I went around on Monday and visited the training rooms in the office, and made sure I knew how to access all of the equipment I'd be using. Doing this got me some weird looks from my coworkers, which honestly kind of perturbed me a bit. I mean, if you were giving a presentation on something fairly new in a room you'd only been in once and using equipment and files you'd never touched before, wouldn't you want to at least give everything a once-over beforehand?

All I did was go into the training rooms, ensure that I knew where the programs were that I would need to access, and login to each computer (when logging in to a new computer at work it can take a while for your profile to be uploaded so doing it in advance saves like 3 minutes). Then I went back to the call floor stations and ran through some demo scripts that I'll be using for the presentations. That's it you guys! Nothing weird! Sheesh. Doesn't anyone prepare for stuff in advance any more?

That was my big excitement for the week, the rest was normal. I am sneakily preparing some of my boyfriend's gifts as his birthday is coming up. No details here because I'm not sure if he still reads this ;)

On Tuesday after I finished work we moved all the deck furniture off the pool patio, because on Wednesday someone is coming to power wash it for us. I moved all of my plants to the side of the house, but left the large planter because we decided it's too difficult to move.

After that we ordered a pizza and I made wings in the air fryer. Love those air fryer wings! Zero oil required, I just toss them lightly in the sauce, cook for 20 minutes, then coat in the sauce and cook for another 5. They come out perfect every time, crispy skins just the way we like 'em! We also enjoyed some beer from a local Tampa brewing company. One of Jameson's friends introduced us to this beer last Fall, so we've been looking forward to it's arrival. I was finally able to find some last week. I don't drink beer often at all but this beer is worth it: it tastes like coffee and chocolate and pumpkin spices and it's just fabulous. Cheers!

We watched an episode of Haunting of Bly Manor before Jameson had a Call of Duty hang with his friends. Although it's not cooling off here in Florida yet, watching scary movies and shows puts us in the mood for the season :)

On Wednesday the deck guy came around 10am and got to work. It took several hours because he had to wait for the power wash to dry and then the layers of sealant. In between layers I drove to the grocery for dinner ingredients, and mostly just hung around the house for the day. Jameson also didn't have much to do so he played Doom and did some work in his studio.

When the deck was finally done it looked awesome, super clean. I forgot to take a "before" picture, bummer!

Doing this is very expensive, like to the point where I question affordability. But for now I think it's worth gritting my teeth and getting it done. It keeps weeds from coming up between the bricks, and prevents ants from making nests in there too. Gets rid of a lot of mildew and things that build up over the course of the year. Florida humidity breeds tons of nasty stuff no matter what we do to prevent it.

Anyway, with that done I got started on dinner. Last week I discovered that Cooking Comically recipes are now available on WebToons, and there are many recipes featured there that are not in the cookbook. I found one for salmon in a lemon honey butter garlic glaze and decided to try it out. The recipe calls for baked salmon but years ago, after my first bite of sous vide salmon, I swore I'd never bake salmon again. So I sous vide the salmon with some herbs and the lemon/honey/garlic, then when it was done I seared it hard and coated it in the remaining glaze. For a side I made a mushroom, pea and mint farro recipe from The Mediterranian Dish, we've paired it with salmon before and the earthy flavors of the farro and mushroom match nicely to the flaky citrus-coated fish. It was pretty delicious if I do say so.

Later on we watched more Bly Manor, then Jameson played Call of Duty with his friends while I had a fight with my computer (the audio jack is dying).

Thursday I woke up way later than usual. I've been extra tired all week, maybe some things are catching up with me!
After a nice breakfast I meal prepped and de-boned some chicken breasts for tonight's dinner (the grocery gave me bone-in breasts for some reason, I think the dude was new and I wasn't watching him bag it). In the middle of that the doorbell rang. It was one of Jameson's friends, dropping off the cookies he'd ordered from Quarantine Dessert Company! This is a startup run by two ladies who've lost their jobs with Disney and are trying to earn some income. Fortunately they are wonderfully talented bakers, so they've been getting a lot of orders! They usually sell out within a few hours of opening for orders.

Jameson got us six pumpkin spice cookies, and six salted chocolate chip cookies. Man are they delicious. I can tell they use a butter-based recipe because the cookies are fairly flat, soft and chewy. Mmmmm.

These cookies are really big so I usually cut them in half and eat half at a time. Since there are so many I'll probably throw some in the freezer after a few days to help preserve them.

The rest of the day was pretty chill.  I cleaned the shower and did a few resistance band exercises and watched anime. Jameson played some games and watched concerts on YouTube and helped his students when they needed it. In the afternoon we went for a walk and talked about various things, like we do. Then we came home and got showers, and while he worked with a student I started on dinner.

It turns out that the air fryer makes some excellent chicken parm! I gave the chicken the ol' flour-egg-crumb dip, preheated the air fryer to 360, and cooked two pieces of chicken at a time for 6 minutes. Flipped them, added a dollop of basil marinara and mozzarella, then back in the air fryer for another 6 minutes. They turned out absolutely perfect, crispy on the outside and perfectly cooked on the inside. I boiled some whole wheat penne and made a salad and garlic knots for the side (the garlic knots were store bought).

After dinner we cleaned up and watched a little TV together: The Final Table, which is kind of an international version of Iron Chef + Chopped, and some more Bly Manor. Man that show is getting intriguing! Then we had cookies for dessert, and while Jameson played Call of Duty I wrote this blog post and chased a fly around the kitchen, hoping to feed it to my venus flytrap or sundew. I did catch the fly and put it in a bag with the carnivorous plants, but I think the sundew was too small to hold such a big bug and the flytrap wasn't hungry. I came back a few hours later to find the fly drowned in the water at the bottom of the bag. I suspect it got tangled in the sundew's sticky goo and fell down there, couldn't get out, and drowned. Lame.

On the other hand, my sundew is making goo! I've been worried about it because for the first few days after I got it home it was looking pretty dry. It's too hot for these plants outside and too dry for them in the house, so the best I can do for now is to stick them in a ziploc bag with the top open and leave them in the window to get some sun. The bag helps to replicate the humidity they're used to in a greenhouse. Hopefully once it starts cooling off I'll be able to put them comfortably outside. The fact that the sundew has started producing digestive juices again is a good sign that it's comfortable for now. yay! And it looks so pretty <3

It's been another week of the usual.
Tomorrow I work from home, and we'll start putting furniture back on the deck.
Saturday I have my first presentation at work, wish me luck.
Sunday is my "extra day off" for the month of October, no plans so far.
Monday, work in person. Tuesday, work from home. And then another weekend.
Pretty soon Halloween will come, so I'm looking into places to get pumpkins and researching how to make the best seeds.
We also want to make caramel apples, and I want to roast some Japanese pumpkin in the air fryer.

What should I make for dinner next week?

Plants and Food are Life Now

I didn't feel good at the start of the week.
No, it's not covid. It's probably the coconut milk in that curry to be honest :p

Or maybe it's stress built up over time. That's a thing.

I still got through my day all right. There are some changes happening at work that seem kind of...unexpected. I can't say anything about it, confidentiality and all, just that the nature of the work is going to be different. I hope it'll still be enjoyable. Nuff said.

Is it weird that I already know what I want to make for dinners over the weekend?
One day blends into another, and even at the start of my work week it feels like time is short.

I woke up on Friday to the news about Trump & wife finally catching the covies.
I'm not a person who can wish a complete stranger dead, and I won't wish that on Trump & fam.
However I think that when you tempt fate, quite often karma is right there to give you a swift kick in the ass.
Posturing and bravado only make one look like a fool in the end.
Death comes for us all. There's no reason to pretend otherwise.

But what do I know.

We'll see what happens. A lot of people seem to think he's faking it, but Trump's administration aside I don't think the hospital would go along with someone faking an illness. And if they do it's time to look at Canadian citizenship.

On Saturday night Jameson and I watched a YouTube video of people making Taiwanese peanut candy. It looked SO GOOD. I felt stupid, I forgot how much Jameson likes peanut brittle (his favorite candy bar is PayDay!)
Not only that, I have seen these candies before! Of course they won't be as fresh and soft as they would be freshly made like in the video, but it's the next best thing. The Asian grocery is on my route home and I knew exactly where to look.

These are for him, but we both tried a piece of the powdered peanut biscuit. It was crunchy but also light and sweet, very very tasty! I had the pleasure of watching my bf's eyes roll back in his head as he took his first bite haha. It's the little things. We can't travel and explore right now, but we can experience new foods and cultures at least. Very grateful for the Asian grocery!

In fact, we had another surprise experiment later in the week. A little less "cultural".
Not sure if y'all have heard, but Brach's has released a "turkey dinner" candy corn.

Yes, EEW. Definitely gross. And yet. The urge to try it was so strong.
En route to and from work I stopped at every Walgreens along the way (Walgreens is the only store carrying it) and was unable to find it. Everywhere I went it was sold out. After checking online I realized that only one Walgreens in Orlando had it in stock, and it was on I-drive, a notoriously touristy area of the city.

Well, whatever! I was there the very next day when they opened the doors at 7am. And they only had two bags left!! Sheesh!
After work I drove home and we cracked them open.

Flavors clockwise from top are: green beans, ginger glazed carrot, stuffing, sweet potato pie, roasted turkey, and cranberry sauce.
Sweet potato pie was the only one that could be called “good”.
The cranberry was the most disappointing, it was like an artificial and overripe raspberry flavor, no tartness at all. Jameson’s favorite Thanksgiving food and he was not impressed 👎🏻
Most accurate award goes to the stuffing, we could not BELIEVE how disgustingly accurate it was! I could taste the gravy! 🤮
Runner up for accuracy was ginger carrot, it really did have carrot flavor (you can get freaking stuffing and carrot flavors into a candy corn but not cranberry, really Brach's? Lol!)
The green bean was just odd, we agreed that it tasted neither like green beans nor like anything else we could think of.
And the turkey was by far the most disgusting, it somehow did have a “roasted meat” taste! 🤮
Yeah it was mostly gross and weird...but also fun and amusing 😁

That same day I welcomed two new plants into my little "garden".
While checking messages during a short break at work, I saw that someone was having a plant sale not ten minutes from my work!
I used my lunch break to rush over and check it out. They had a lot of exotic plants, most of which I wasn't familiar with. But they also had a nice selection of carnivorous plants, which if you were following me in my circus days you know that I propagated venus flytraps for several years while traveling the country. They died when I moved to Florida, because I underestimated how hot Florida is in the summer.

Anyway, I couldn't resist picking up a beautiful little flytrap with deep red coloring in the "mouths".
And they had sundews as well! Not the Florida-native pink sundew, which I would have loved to have but it's illegal to sell them.
These were some common green type, but still super adorable and must-have. I bought them and raced back to work just in time.

Since it's October these plants will go into dormancy soon, so maybe it was stupid to buy them. But, too bad. It's stupid to buy everything I've bought this week. Life is short y'all.

The rest of my week was fairly normal. I had some leftover mango from the curry I made last week, and some bananas that were just coming ripe, so I bought a can of pineapple and threw them all in the blender. I added a little ginger for warmth and brightness, and a chocolate mint leaf from my garden just for decoration. Tada! Banana mango pineapple popsicles! They're probably my final popsicle creations of the summer.

Here are all the popsicles I've made this year: mint mojito, strawberry watermelon, peaches n' cream, key lime pie, honeydew lemongrass coconut, matcha fudgesicle, and banana mango pineapple. I'm excited to try more flavor experiments next year!

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Welcome to October

Holy wow, it's October.

This week started off pretty busy.
I had work-from-home on Friday, and during my down time and breaks I cleaned up the house as best I could in preparation for Jameson's friends. I managed to get the bathrooms done and the tile floors mopped before my workday was over. There's no way I could have gotten so much done if I hadn't been working at home. Very grateful.

After work I finished cleaning by dusting and vacuuming, then went to Publix to grab us some dinner and the ingredients for the "fruit dump" for Jameson's friends. Back home I made a batch of whipped cream (only takes a few minutes, a cup of cream and two tablespoons of sugar!). I also blended most of the ingredients for the filling: blueberries, blackberries, raspberries, strawberries, and a small apple, all tossed in brown sugar, bourbon, and vanilla extract. The berries will marinate in that overnight, and when I get home from work tomorrow I should be able to just dump the filling into a pan, top with crumble, and bake. It's too bad I couldn't make the crumble in advance but it's not hard to do anyway.

Partway through the evening we got a package, a soundproofing window insert for our bedroom! Jameson found it somewhere online and got it for us. Since this is a vacation rental neighborhood we sometimes have very inconsiderate guests staying in the house next door, blasting music and getting wasted late into the night. We get that it's a vacation for them but for Jameson and his insomnia and me with my 5am wakeup time, it ain't fun. This is hopefully a solution the next time loud obnoxious people are staying next door.

Right before bed Jameson's friends cancelled on us. What to do! Well, the house was nice and clean and we had the berry cobbler already started...so what the heck. After work on Saturday I picked up some wings, and we had wings and berry cobbler for dinner!

I screwed up the "crumble" part of the cobbler, I doubled the recipe but completely forgot to double the butter. I was really irritated with myself, but Jameson reassured me that it would still be very tasty. And it was! Could have been better, obviously, but with bourbon-soaked berries and homemade whipped cream and vanilla ice cream, it was 90% delicious!

Sometimes it's fun to be bad for a night :p

The rest of my week was uneventful. This is my work-at-the-office-only week, so I will not get to work from home on my usual two days per week. I'm a little bummed but not nearly as bummed as I'd be if it were taken away entirely.

The bumming out continued when one of my dear friends posted that her cat, Lyra, had passed away.
She got Lyra while we were in college, best friends renting a house together with four other musicians.
I remember bringing her home as a kitten, shaking and terrified of everything, farting like mad haha.
As she grew older she got a lot less nervous. She was a beautiful, aloof, independent yet strangely affectionate cat.
After college she lived with my friend as she traveled across the country to find work, eventually settling down in New Mexico.
There she lived to the ripe old age of 16.

In a small way, she was my cat too. I cared very much about her. It hurt to hear that she's gone from the world.
I made sure to send a small memento to my friend. This year has not been kind.

On Wednesday I got up and went outside to check on my plants. It rained very hard these past two days so I expected a little damage, but everything seems pretty good. The lemons are getting more and more yellow. For comparison, here is a photo taken in July vs one taken today:

They'll be ready soon!
What should I make with them?
Lemon bars? Meringue pie? Lemon ricotta pancakes? The possibilities...

Wednesday was the first day it was actually cool outside. It was wonderful. Very breezy, and although it was still close to 80 degrees that's way cooler than it's been. I can't wait for fall.

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Asian Adventures, and Gardening Finally

My cooking fun began a little early with an extra day off on Sunday.

A while ago Jameson mentioned making ribs in the air fryer, specifically "char siu" Chinese spare ribs. Considering how crispy the wings turned out, I thought this was an excellent idea and very doable!

After work on Saturday I went to Whole Paycheck for a rack of St. Louis-style ribs, from which spare ribs are derived.
I used THIS recipe to make the marinade. The ribs marinated all night. I wondered how they'd turn out.

But there was all day Sunday before I'd get to find out. In addition to the ribs Jameson had also mentioned crab rangoon, so I figured why not try those as well. And recently we've been watching some youtube videos of people sampling Asian snacks, all of which has really gotten me in the mood for a trip to iFresh, our local Asian grocery!

Now, I know we're all supposed to be social distancing and limiting our trips to the grocery. So I feel somewhat guilty about doing this. But frankly, at this point, I'm just willing to take the risk even though it's selfish. I still have to go to work in person three days a week, with people who have contracted and gotten through covid. I haven't gotten sick myself, and if I were a carrier I think we'd know by now because a lot more of the people in direct contact with me would have gotten it by now. I have a mask, sanitizer, wipes, and will take every precaution including leaving if others aren't being responsible. I don't know what else I can defensibly say about it. If I don't do something, one thing, outside of this house, I will lose my mind.

Speaking of doing things outside the house, Jameson got to have a rehearsal with his bandmates this past weekend. Everyone was responsible and social distancing, but they won't get to rehearse again after this for safety's sake. It seemed like he had an awesome time and they got some great recordings that will now be edited and further developed for a little Christmas project they're doing. Stay tuned.

Anyway, my point is we all have to use our judgement, and try our best to be considerate and safe while still living life.
I'm going to the dang Asian grocery.

Ok, here we are.

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Well, another week down.

Some slight changes at work. A lot of supervisors applied to work from home, but not all of them have gotten to yet. And if they let any more supervisors work from home there won't be enough coverage at the office. So the solution they've come up with is to start a weekly rotation. They've assigned all of us to four groups (A B C and D) and each week one group will work entirely at the office, while the other three will continue their 2 home/3 on-site work schedules. Basically for one week per month I'm going to have a week where I don't get to work at home.

I think this is really fair, and I'm glad they chose to do a rotation rather than taking work-from-home away from some and giving it to others, or taking it away from all of us. This way we all get to enjoy it. I'm sad to have one week per month that I'm going to kinda dread, but I'm sure it won't be bad at all.

It was a really speedy work week for me...for whatever reason my tasks seemed to go very quickly.
Steno school is going all right, I'm on Chapter 31 which is words ending in -ly or -ty or -kly, etc, you get the idea. Sometimes I can't tell how well I'm doing but I just do my best and my teacher seems ok with that.

I'm taking it easy on cooking this week just to give myself a little break, but also because since I have Sunday off I have extra cooking plans coming up. We're still finding out what the air fryer is good for, so since I'll be hitting an Asian grocery on my extra day off I'm planning to make air fryer crab rangoon and Chinese-style spare ribs (you know those bright red, super chewy ribs you can get as an appetizer? Those). I'm not sure how it will got but wish me luck!

Although I'm not gardening, there's a lot going on in my little garden without my help.
The meyer lemons are really starting to turn yellow now. It's very interesting to see! They're changing color in a blotchy sort of way. Having lived most of my life in the northeast US, I have zero experience with growing citrus so I find this fascinating!

The vanilla orchid is absolutely insane. It has been raining every single day for about two weeks, and while some of my plants (like my poor thyme) are suffering from it, the vanilla is like YES PLEASE and has absolutely taken OFF. It is somewhere up in the treetops wraping itself around a branch. There are aerial roots appearing all over the place. I'm glad it's looking nice and strong now, because alhtough winters in Florida are mild one good freeze could kill this plant. Let's hope that doesn't happen. I would love to try for flowers next year.

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The Usual

Another week down.

Gosh, I just realized I've got to check my voting status. I'm definitely registered to vote, but I think I'm still Independent. I might need to change that to Democrat? Not sure but there's a project for me for the weekend.

My work week was very normal. They are handing out thermometers at work which is a little weird, but considering how on top of things they've been with social distancing and mandatory masks and being willing to invest in paid sick leave/hazard pay, I guess I shouldn't be surprised. I mean hey, I could use a new thermometer. Mine is old and cheap and kinda janky.

Nothing deeply exciting happened this week, Jameson has been enjoying streaming and I am trying to keep myself occupied by cooking. Not sure if I've mentioned it before but my sister is pregnant again and it wasn't exactly planned. She is of course happy to welcome another child, but the timing is less than ideal with her trying to go back to work (as a school teacher in California, yikes). I'm hoping to get some time off in February to visit her.

If I'm repeating myself from previous posts, sorry. That's what happens when you get old.
One of my coworkers this week thought we were the same age (he's 27). He called me "kid" and I burst out laughing, and he was like, "What? We're about the same age!" and I was like, "Bruh, I've got almost a decade on you!" His shocked reaction was the only flattery I need ;)

Before the weekend hit I decided to make a new batch of popsicles, now this I'm pretty sure I HAVE mentioned previously! I couldn't decide between fudgsicles or matcha green tea pops, so figured why not make matcha fudgsicles! There was no recipe out there for what I wanted to do, so I sort of combined aspects of different recipes to come up with what I had in mind. For the base liquid I used chocolate and vanilla soy milk. The chocolate soy milk was paired with some Nutella (per a fudgsicle recipe I'd found) and the vanilla soy milk was blended with matcha green tea powder (per a coconut milk matcha pop recipe I'd found). Thinking that I'd make too much if I made the full recipes, I halved each one and that turned out to be a big mistake. I didn't have enough of either mix to fill all of my molds :/ But I worked with what I had, and I think it turned out fine!

The layering made me pretty impatient, and some of these did not turn out nearly this pretty because I was in such a rush to add each layer. But the layering was important, because can you imagine these two colors blended? BABY POOP POPS.

On Tuesday night after work I taste-tested one of my smaller pops. The fudgsicle parts are VERY good. The matcha parts are also good, but the texture is much more icy and less sweet. I think if I make these again, I might use some sort of pudding or a little nut butter for the matcha mix to get the texture closer to the chocolate mix. But still, the flavors were excellent and I'll definitely enjoy having these as a semi-healthy dessert option!

On Wednesday I woke up late (late for me is 9:30) and spent a few frustrating minutes scraping aphids off my milkweed and getting a zillion mosquito bites on my feet. After that I had breakfast and looked for things to do for the upcoming holidays. Man, it's a dismal selection out there. We're going to have to get creative.

I did find a craft bazaar/farmer's market coming up, that just happens to be on one of my extra days off. Supposedly it's well social-distanced, but like most things you never know until you get there. It's unclear whether it's indoors or outdoors, and it's about halfway to my workplace (so a 30 minute drive). At this point I feel so starved for something, ANYTHING different in my life, that I'm willing to at least go have a look. And if it's not safe, Orlando's "little Chinatown" area is just a few blocks away. My big exciting plan is to go check out the market, pick up lunch from somewhere safe and nice, and explore the asian grocery stores in Chinatown. Jameson has expressed an interest in attempting crab rangoon in the air fryer, so maybe that's the weekend to do it!

It's so weird to be talking about going to a farmer's market, a restaurant, and an asian grocery like it's some big adventure. Sigh. But I'm definitely excited about it.

After that I went to Lowe's for some pH strips to test my dirt acidity and nutrient content. I'm not getting plants yet because although the temperature has dropped, it's still in the 90s and it's still raining every single day. I figure in the meantime, may as well do what I can to get ready.

My soil pH seems to be pretty neutral, so I'll probably add some coffee grounds (most veggies prefer slightly acidic soil).

I got a soil sample and mixed it with water for the nutrient test, I had to wait for the dirt to settle overnight...

...but when it did, here were the results:

It seems to me that it could use a little bit of everything, but especially nitrogen. This is not surprising; the dirt is about a year old and everything I've planted in there has consumed nutrients, not to mention with it raining every day nutrients are certainly getting washed out.

As I was stirring up the planter soil to get my samples, I discovered a pleasant surprise: earthworms!!
This is surprising because it's a planter filled with store-bought soil, and the whole planter is kept inside a lanai pool screen. I didn't expect that worms, or worm eggs, would make their way into an enclosed planter bed three feet off the ground. But here they are, and I'm really happy to have them!

So with all of this information, I will be

          - adding coffee grounds/spent tea leaves to the soil to gently raise acidity,
          - working fertilizer and/or compost into the soil to improve the nutrients,
          - and mixing some wet paper into the soil, because apparently earthworms love paper and the plants can enjoy it too :)

Hopefully as we get closer to October I'll be ready to go for my new plants!

After this I was a little bored, Jameson was doing a Twitch stream so I decided why not make some granola. We had enjoyed the first batch a lot, and this time I wanted to use fewer nuts and see if I could get the finished product a bit crunchier. This batch used molasses and brown sugar instead of maple syrup, half the oil, flaxseeds instead of pecans, and the leftover pepitas and dried cranberries from the last batch. I also cooked it a little harder near the end (which was almost disastrous, I pulled the pan out just in time to avoid burning it!). The result is a very nutty, smoky granola with a crunchier texture.

I think I do actually need the amount of oil called for in the recipe and will not reduce it next time. Also I'd like to see if I can get the flaxseeds to bind a little better, most of them didn't stick to the oats and I know I'm going to end up with nothing but toasted flax for my bottom-of-the-bowl scoops. But the flavor is on point. I think a little bit of honing will make this a keeper recipe!

For dinner I made "guilt-free" fettucinne alfredo, recipe from Half-Baked Harvest.
The cream that you'd normally use in the sauce is replaced with hummus, whihc imo is a little odd. How can you possibly make hummus taste anything like cream? I followed the instructions exactly, but overcooked the pasta somewhat. The sauce was a little thick so I kept trying to add pasta water to thin it out (this was in the instructions) but all this did was make the pasta even softer. I'm not sure I'll make this again, but it did taste good!

At night I had steno class while Jameson played Call of Duty with some friends. He also had a really cool experience with a former NASA employee crashing one of his live streams! We couldn't believe it! It was interesting to hear him describe his work with NASA and Microsoft. I hope we'll see him around again.

On Thursday I went out to the garden again to scrape some mealybug eggs off my cranberry hibiscus, and while I was crouched at the base of it a pipevine came over to sample the milkweed. I was able to sneak up and get some nice footage.


After that I had breakfast and got to work with meal prep for the week. My "meal prep" is just making overnight oats to help save time in the mornings. I fill some containers with oats and flaxseed, then soak that in vanilla Ripple milk and a sweetener (usually honey or maple syrup). I put a layer of frozen berries on top, then a layer of fat free Greek yogurt on top of that. I top it off with cinnamon and nutmeg. I never get tired of oatmeal so this is a quick easy breakfast I can enjoy on those early mornings before the commute to work.

When this was done I did as much dinner prep as I could to avoid having to run around like a chicken with my head cut off later. I blanched the asparagus so that all I'd have to do is reheat it for dinner. I boiled the potatoes for "smashed" potatoes and smashed them after they cooled off and dried out a bit. I was hoping to start cleaning out my planter after this, but it started raining as soon as I put my shoes on. Instead I wrote this blog and did laundry. When there was a break in the weather I went to work on the planter and managed to get all the dirt out, get it rinsed out and put back together.

By the time I was finished it was about time to start dinner. While the smashed potatoes cooked in the oven I seared bone-in pork chops on the stove, then added balsamic vinegar, honey, thyme, and peaches. When the potatoes were almost done I turned on the broiler and put the chops in the oven, trying to caramelize the peaches. I should have let them go a bit longer, but I was worried about the chops being overcooked so pulled them a little early.

The finished product was served with feta cheese and basil, potatoes and asparagus on the side.

The rest of my night was uneventful. I cleaned up the kitchen and watched Holey Moley with Jameson.
Another week ahead. I'm sure I will try to capture footage of bugs, and try to improve my cooking game.
I'm very grateful to have the time to work on cooking and gardening and schoolwork.
But I also hope for some sort of small break in the routine before the end of the year.

Day xxx

Holy hell. Is it really September already??

What a weird year.

I miss the gym. I feel like a bloated whale. My weight actually hasn't changed at all, in fact I weigh a little less probably due to muscle loss. My clothes still fit fine. It's more a feeling of being more "squishy" or "floppy" or something. Not a fan.

"Why don't you do some outdoor activities?" you might inquire. Well, the biggest issue is that on weekdays my only time to exercise is between 5pm-7pm before it starts getting dark. The problem with that time is that's thunderstorm time. I'm not even kidding you guys. Literally every single day, somewhere between 3pm-8pm, there is a massive tropical thunderstorm wherever you are at. And they're insanely difficult to predict; the clouds form directly overhead, they don't come from elsewhere, so you could leave the house and it's all sunny and nice and fifteen minutes later you hear thunder but oh it's ok it's over there somewhere, and as you turn the corner "over there somewhere" was apparently one block over and you can literally see the rain coming and you have exactly 30 seconds to get back into the house before you're absolutely soaked.

So there's that.

That's why I haven't planted my garden yet either. Right now it's hurricane season, and the rain tends to be really heavy and direct, very capable of snapping seedlings. I would rather wait another few weeks to see if things get any better. And if it rains less, and gets a little cooler, well maybe I'll get to exercise more too.

We've missed our walks for the past two weeks thanks to sudden thunderstorms right when we were tying our shoes to head out the door.
Dumb. But I still do my "cubicle exercises", which are mostly squats and leg lifts and Billy Blanks-style air punches.

In other news this week, it was the same as last week.
On Friday I worked from home and we ordered pizza and made our own wings. I LOVE the air fryer! The wings turned out crispy and crunchy, just like we like them. And no oil was added at all, I just tossed them in a little salt and pepper, cooked them for 20 minutes, coated them in buffalo sauce, and cooked them for another five. Perfect wings at half the calories and half the price? YES PLEASE.

Yeah I know it's my own fault if I feel fluffy. But listen. The only reason I've stayed even close to the same weight this year is because I count calories every single day. I ate wings, but I only ate three wings. I ate pizza, but I only ate two slices (and it was coal-fired, not fast food pizza.) Counting calories has saved me this year with my physical activity so limited. Highly recommend.

On Monday Jameson got to go to Animal Kingdom to celebrate a friend's birthday. I was jealous! But it looks like everyone had a great time :) They got to see lots of animals, there were no lines, and everyone was distancing responsibly thanks to incredibly watchful and insistent Disney cast members (I hope they're getting a pay bump right now).

On Monday night I had steno class, it went well. I found a big typo in my book! So there :P

The rest of the week was normal, working at home for two days was nice but it was also nice to go in and socialize a bit, and caption a bit.

On Wednesday I had kind of a busy day. Got some chicken marinating in the morning, and did all kinds of voodoo to some sweet potato fries in the hopes that they'd crisp up in the air fryer (spoiler alert: they didn't). Then I had a dentist appointment at noon. I was a little apprehensive because social distancing and all, but I mean come on. Dental tools and offices are already pretty damn sanitary. The only differences that I noticed were that the waiting room was empty, there were only two patients allowed at a time, there was a temperature check, and the dentist wore a face shield in addition to two masks. I wore my mask of course until instructed to take it off. Overall it was a good experience, and I was definitely in need of a good cleaning so it was worth it.

After that I did a little shopping. I went to Sedano's because it was only a block away from the dentist's and I needed some cotija cheese for one of my meals this weekend. Then I hit Lowe's for a new filter for the fridge, and Whole Paycheck for some skirt steak and matcha tea powder.

Back home I put everything away and started on meal prep while Jameson updated his Twitch stream.
I took the marinated chicken breasts and cooked them on the stovetop, then melted some Swiss cheese over each piece.
We topped our chicken with applewood bacon, lettuce, apple slices, whole-grain mustard, and mayo on toasted brioche buns.
Like I said, the sweet potato fries didn't get crunchy. I think they're just one of those things that you really do need to fry.
We also had some lentil tabbouleh that I'd gotten at Whole Foods since they're too snooty for cole slaw apparently.

It was a pretty simple dinner overall, but good and easy to make. I made extra chicken so we could make more sandwiches during the week.

Thursday was a very slow day. I legit had nothing to do (could have done some hard-core house chores I guess, but who wants to do that!)
I prepped for the work week, took a dip in the pool, and admired my plants. The lemons are starting to look a little less like limes. I remember when they were dark green.

I'm expecially pleased with the basil plant. Basil doesn't always grow back when you cut it, but this one is coming back in beautifully. Something has been munching on it a little, but that's ok, just leave enough for me and my pizzas!

For dinner I made skirt steak quesadillas with onion, peppers, pepper jack cheese, and avocado.
I made elote corn salad on the side (elote = Mexican street corn, if you've never had it it's fantastic).
Yes that's right, look at me, complaining about feeling like a whale and then cooking stuff like this. Sigh.

I was pretty disappointed in the skirt steak. I guess I cooked it wrong because it came out very chewy and not very pleasant at all. This could be because I tried to cook it in the air fryer (there was a recipe for doing this, so why not). Or it could be that I'm just really bad at cooking red meat (I've rarely gotten a recipe involving beef to come out right, outside of ground beef). We still ate it. The flavors were very good, I just wish the meat had been better.

After that Jameson had a class, I cleaned up the kitchen and worked on my steno, and we watched Holey Moley and some other shows to wind down our day.

I'm wondering if I'll be able to start my garden next week, or the week after. Hope so.
I have a plan for a new batch of popsicles. What flavor will they be? Stay tuned!

End of August

Another week in this Groundhog's Day scenario.
Every week feels exactly the same, with tiny little changes.
Last week I made enchiladas, this week I'm making spaghetti.
Last week I did more cooking, this week I'll do more cleaning.
Stuff like that.

I'm definitely starting to look into things Jameson and I can do to entertain ourselves for the holidays.
For example, outdoor mini golf. Drive-thru haunted houses, which we've seen ads for.
Maybe we can visit that blueberry farm haunted hayride again if their setup is covid-considerate.

I don't know. But I still want the holidays to be special.
It goes without saying that if we find ourselves alone together for the holidays we'll cook ourselves a fancy meal and watch the classic holiday movies and all that junk. But I want to add in a few things on top of that to bring a little more holiday spirit, to help ease the ache for family.

I say that, but this month has been incredibly expensive (my own fault). The main costs were car maintenance, and buying some stocks unexpectedly in hopes that they'll pay off thanks to covid (what? All the wealthy people are profiteering. Can't let them have it all.) Plus lately I've been buying all the ingredients for my little food experiments, and while it's cheaper than eating out it also ain't cheap.

And then I went and got a new phone last week, which is worth it and was needed if not now then soon, however that doesn't make the new phone bill any less painful.

We are also going to invest in soundproofing for our bedroom windows. Our bedroom is directly across from the pool deck of the rental house next to us, putting it maybe two yards away from loud parties and enthusiastic conversations at night. We can hear every word, and the music sounds like it's being played in the bedroom. The current renters have been having a non-stop party for almost two weeks now, and while they do tend to wind down at midnight, idk, what if we wanted to go to sleep BEFORE midnight?? It's just obnoxious. So Jameson found a company that makes soundproofed window inserts. They're expensive, but we think they'll definitely be worth it.

On Wednesday I had a very chill day, just watching Jameson play Call of Duty and Fall Guys and checking on my plants. My tomato is pretty tall but is not producing fruit, so not sure what to do about that. The meyer lemons are looking pretty good, they're supposed to be ready to harvest in fall/winter.

The cranberry hibiscus cutting that I got from my little plant exchange is doing well, getting taller every day. I think when it's about twice as tall as this I'll harvest some leaves and practice brewing tea. Today I broke off a leaf to taste...it IS a lot like a cranberry! A kind of tart/sweet sour flavor. I hear the leaves are good in salad too.

My vanilla is SO BIG. It's taller than me, and disappearing up into the branches of its tree.
I love the gradient of the light leaves near the base to the dark at the top.

If it survives the winter, I'll start the process of getting it to flower. Supposedly what you have to do is make sure part of the vine is dangling back down toward the ground, which encourages flowering. We'll see!

The pollinator garden is doing well, although one of my coreopsis flowers died for unknown reasons. Most everything else seems to be either flowering or getting larger, so perhaps it got crowded out. The milkweed is at my eye level, not sure whether I'm supposed to cut it back. The bulbine has bloomed again and the bees absolutely love it. The slomo on my new iphone is definitely higher quality. Can't wait to catch butterflies with it!


The butterflies were not out in force on Wednesday, probably because it was pretty windy. I also notice they don't sit still on the flowers for very long when it's hot out.

But while I was checking on my plants, I found a tiny baby racer hiding underneath my lemon pot!
Oh my gosh, look how CUTE he is! And I love how some of his scales are irridescent and pearly-looking.

I wanted to pick him up so bad! But he was very anxious that I had found him and got defensive as soon as I got close. So I ended up just herding him gently to the grass using the pool net. What a nice surprise :)

For dinner I made knockoff PF Chang's chicken lettuce wraps. Mostly I just wanted to use up the ground turkey that's been in the freezer for like three months, and the cashews that have been in the cupboard left over from another recipe. And the zillion types of Asian seasonings taking up space in the cabinets. If you have ground meat, onion, soy sauce, honey, hot sauce/sriracha, and ginger, that's more or less all you need to make this. You can add whatever veggies you like, this time I used a red bell pepper and water chestnuts. Then grab butter, romaine, or iceberg lettuce, and fill the leaves with the mixture. Top with nuts or chives or just eat straight up. Yum!

After dinner we watched some Game of Thrones making-of clips while eating dessert (strawberry ice cream for him, leftover peach popsicle yogurt and lemon poppyseed cake for me), then I had steno class for the first time in a week and a half. It went pretty well, although it never fails, my teacher always goes over the thing I studied least haha. This time I was supposed to review ten chapters over the break, and I did, so she went over the new material only which of course I'm not as strong on yet. Figures!

Thursday I tried to get some butterfly footage but they just weren't out. I do definitely still see butterflies around but they just won't settle on the flowers. Maybe I'll cut back one of the milkweed that has smaller sprouts at the base and see if the small sprouts will flower after the large sprout is cut. Not sure what else I can do. In a few weeks I want to get a Joe Pye weed, which I hear is good fall food for butterflies...maybe that will help.

I did see this cloudless sulphur actually land on a flower...before I knew what it was I called this a "spaz butterfly" because it never seems to land on anything, just rockets all around the yard. Even once it landed it was really hard to photograph because the wind was blowing.

I didn't do much for most of the day, just swept the pool deck, practiced steno, watched some anime, prepped my meals, and took a dip in the pool. For dinner I made "summer spaghetti", a recipe from Dude Diet that we've made many times because it's easy and tasty. Zucchini, tomatoes, pancetta (or bacon), shallot, pepper flakes, vinaigrette, pasta of your choice, basil. In the pan, on a plate, top with shredded ricotta salata (or parm reggiano which is similar and easier to find), put it in yer face. Easy weeknight dinner.

After dinner Jameson did some Twitch streaming while I enjoyed ice cream.
Tomorrow I work from home supposedly...forgot to mention that on Tuesday all the work from home people had to come to the office because none of us could access our monitoring system. Hopefully I'll be able to do my job at home for real.

It was a good week, but the weeks are so repetitive...I'm glad for little differences like finding the baby snake or getting an email from my dad or having a video chat with one side of my family. If it weren't for these differences I don't know if I'd even know what day it is.

My family.