Irish dinner.

For St. Patrick’s Day, I whipped up a lovely corned beef dinner, that I think even my Limerick-born dad would have enjoyed. Instead of cabbage, I opted for Brussels sprouts; they’re like tiny cabbages 🙂

Sláinte!

Bloody good.

As a young person, I began donating blood as soon as I was old enough. It was just what you were supposed to do. And I felt good about it.

About 20 years ago, the United States FDA imposed new restrictions on who can donate blood, in response to fears from the mad cow disease outbreak in the 80s and 90s. At that time, the spread to humans resulted in 200+ cases of the deadly variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease, which was linked to consuming tainted meat from the UK. I lived overseas as a kid, and it just so happens that my situation placed me into the CANNOT DONATE category, making me ineligible to donate blood when the new rules were implemented around 2002. It also rendered ineligible practically any member and family member of the US Armed Forces or US embassy/mission workers that served in Europe in the 1990s if their commissary sourced meat from the UK. So many potential donors were summarily blocked from giving blood!

I learned recently that the FDA finally relaxed those restrictions last year, along with a number of other eligibility criteria, in light of blood shortages during the pandemic lock down. You can see the full announcement here. Through the second half of 2020, individual localities worked to implement the less restrictive rules in their donor screening. As of the end of 2020, my blood donor location, weareblood.org, incorporated the new rules.

I’m happy to report that I resumed my donations today after nearly two decades! It wasn’t easy, it took me about 3 months of contacting the blood bank people to get back on the “eligible to donate” list. As you can imagine, there is a huge backlog of donors who are eligible again and want to donate.

Please consider being a blood donor. There are not many ways ordinary citizens can save lives. This is one.

If you are not sure where to donate in your area, the American Red Cross can help you locate a place near you, see this link.

Birthday boy.

Happy birthday, Monte! Julie and Ryan brought their vaccinated selves over last night for a lovely dinner of steak and risotto, to celebrate with us. After dinner, we had cake and ice cream, and wii-ed a bit. 🙂

Wood-fired pizza.

Julie and Ryan came over this weekend with their new toy – a wood (pellet) fired pizza oven! It’s made by ooni. They set it up out back and we made pizzas until we couldn’t eat another bite. It worked really well, and the pizzas were delicious.

I made my favorite, a knock-off of Brick Oven’s Tuscan Truffle pizza. It has a mushroom and truffle oil pesto, with a little bit of prosciutto. It is topped with arugula and shredded asiago cheese after it comes out of the oven. Stupendo!

To make the mushroom pesto, blend the following in a food processor:

  • 8 oz brown mushrooms, coarsely chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped
  • 1/4 c extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tsp white truffle oil
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/2 tsp ground pepper
  • 2 oz shredded parmesan cheese

A couple of Catalinas.

After four months of work, Julie and Ryan’s sailboat is ready to be enjoyed. This week we sailed alongside them, and then rafted up together. It was their first time taking Arya out in high winds (gusting 25 to 30 knots!) and they did great.

It was also their first raft-up, and they christened their new grill. A good time on the water. Can’t wait for Spring!

Finally out of the deep freeze.

Wow. What a week. We had nearly 6″ of beautiful, powdery snow Sunday night into Monday morning. Then Texas broke. Or at least the electricity generators did, leading to a majority of homes in Austin and other cities throughout the state to have their electricity turned off. It wasn’t a rolling blackout for many. It was several days without electricity, with temperatures between 0 and 20 degrees Fahrenheit for most of those days.

We didn’t lose power at our house, for which I can only attribute to sharing a circuit with hospitals, a firehouse, and a couple of assisted living facilities. But crazy, scary times for many people.

Five days later, the temperatures are now in the high 50s, and will be even higher over the next week.

We drove to the lake today to check on the boat, and everything looks fine. The water temperature keeps the hull warmer than freezing, which insulates the plumbing that is below the waterline.

There was a little snow left on the decks almost a week after it fell, a first for us to see.

I am thankful for our good fortune, and hope that life soon returns to whatever normal it was before the cold weather arrived.

Snow day.

The coldest part of this wave of winter weather arrived overnight. Our thermostat says it’s 6 degrees Fahrenheit outside. But it’s pretty!

The current electric demand in the state of Texas is more than the supply, so we will enjoy rolling blackouts today. Fingers crossed for no broken pipes. Stay warm folks!

Zee polar vortex is coming!

Twenty-five years ago this week I moved to Austin. It snowed the day I arrived and everything was frozen. Since then, it seems like a cold snap happens almost every year around the middle of February, even if we’d enjoyed spring-like weather before then.

Well, it’s happening again this year. The polar vortex that brought deeply sub-zero temps to the northern United States is on its way south.

It’s sleeting out right now, and the trees and power lines are heavy with ice. It will only get worse in the next 4 days. And the forecast on Monday is currently for 4+ inches of snow, and a low of 7 degrees Fahrenheit!

It’s about to get real. More later. 🙂

Big day.

Today was the day to re-raise the mast on Julie & Ryan’s boat. New windex, new lights, new halyards, new topping lift, new flag halyard, new sheaves, new wiring, new switches, refurbished outboard motor, replaced bulkhead mid-ships in the salon, chain plates reinforced, and some much-mended sails and boat canvas. I can’t wait to get out on the lake with these sailors. Next up: installing the boom, mainsail, and jib. Then we’ll take her for a sail!

Does this bag make my boat look big?

🙂

I have entered the “bag” phase of my maker existence. I decided to try to make a bag styled like the classic LL Bean Boat and Tote. We were gifted a pair of them as a wedding gift, and have been using them hard and constantly for almost 2 decades. And they still have much life left in them.

The LL Bean totes are made with 24 oz cotton duck. I already had some 15 oz, so I used that for my first bag prototype. I also used some 8.8 oz navy cotton duck for the bottom and straps. Duck cloth is supposed to shrink anywhere from 5-10%. So, I’ll have to see how my design holds up over time.

The finished dimensions of this bag are 17″ W x 14.5″ H x 7″ D, which is pretty close to the Large-sized LL Bean Boat and Tote. The ones we already own are the Medium and X-Large sizes, so this will be a nice addition.

If you’re interested in trying to make one yourself, here are my notes:

I used V-92 polyester thread, and a #18 needle. My Sailrite LSZ-1 cuts through all those layers like butter.

I may try making one with Sunbrella material for the bottom and handles, instead of the 8.8 oz duck cloth, as I see that marine Sunbrella is 9 oz, so fairly close. Though Sunbrella is much more pricey than duckcloth…

Next challenge: making bags out of a used mainsail that friends gifted me. Stay tuned.

What the dukkah?!

Colleen turned me on to a new taste treat, an Egyptian-heritage nut and spice blend. Apparently Trader Joe’s sells some. Instead of running out to the store, I asked Google for help finding a recipe and picked this one because I had all the ingredients for it. I just made some and I like it. You can serve it in another dipping dish alongside bread and olive oil, pita and hummus, or veggies and hummus, or whatever else floats your boat.

Click through here to see the recipe as I found it. I used almonds instead of hazelnuts.

Biscotti on my mind.

I will do a bit more baking before the temps start hitting the triple digits again in Austin, at which point I am loathe to turn on the oven. I still have a couple of months.

I made almond biscotti yesterday (that recipe was posted in an old Sheila365 post here). Today I made a batch of chocolate biscotti. I love to dip one of these in my coffee in the morning.

Chocolate Biscotti Recipe (Preheat oven to350 degree F, makes about 2 dozen)

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup sugar
1 cup sliced almonds
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon


2 tsp water
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 large eggs
1 large egg white

Combine first 8 (dry) ingredients in large bowl.

Mix next 4 (wet) ingredients in small bowl with a fork.

Add wet to dry ingredients and stir until all is crumbly but moist. Then use your sparkling clean hands to massage and knead the mixture in the large bowl until it holds together in one moist loaf.

Spray a baking sheet with non-stick spray and place the dough on the baking sheet. Shape with your hands into a flat loaf, about 3/4″ high and 4-5″ wide. I like to square the ends so each piece is approximately the same size.

Place in a 350 degree Fahrenheit oven for 30 mins. Then remove loaf and place on cooling rack for 10 minutes. Reduce oven temp to 325 degrees Fahrenheit. After cooling, slice the loaf into individual biscotti pieces about 1/2″ wide. Place each biscotti on its side on the baking sheet.

Bake in 325 oven for 10 minutes, then turn each biscotti piece and repeat for another 10 minutes.

Cool on rack, and enjoy!

If you care to count your calories, you may like to use a recipe calculator to estimate the calories per serving for your favoite recipes. I use the one at VeryWellFit.com. I plugged in the details for this recipe (assumes 24 pieces) and it says one biscotti is about 100 calories.

Enjoy!