Monday, August 25, 2014

There be whales here (aka we went whale watching)

I suspect that no self-respecting Boston-area resident would do something so tourist-y as go on a whale watching tour (or one of those hop-on, hop-off trollys, which we've also done), but that's what Andrew and I did on Saturday afternoon. I don't quite remember when the discussion first came up, although I'm pretty sure it was Andrew who expressed the initial interest in going. We went with the New England Aquarium Whale Watch tour, which leaves from the Long Wharf in Boston, and takes passengers to the Stellwagen Bank Marine Sanctuary, (close to the tip of Cape Cod). Although it's billed as a 3 hours tour, we were out for closer to 4.
On the bow of the boat, waiting for our tour to depart.
Saturday was a lovely day in Boston, not super hot (low 20sC for those of us who prefer metric), although fairly breezy. The breeze was pleasant while we were inland, but it translated into fairly choppy water. It was recommended to us that if we went on the tour, it would be smart to bring warm clothing (long sleeves and a jacket) even if it was a nice day, since it would be much colder on the ocean. Plus, if you wanted to hang out on the bow while the ship powered through the water, you'd be much happier with a few extra layers.
On the cruise out to the Sanctuary.
It took us over an hour (close to an hour and a half, maybe) to reach the Sanctuary. We took it slow for the first few minutes to navigate the traffic in the harbour, but once we were through the densest area, the captain punched it. I have no idea how fast we were travelling, they might have said something over the loud speaker, but the rumble of the motor was such that Andrew and I had shout to talk to each other. What I can tell you is we were moving fast enough that I felt like my nostrils were being pushed open as wide as they would go--it was fast. With the water being choppy is made for an almost roller-coaster like ride, which didn't suit some people's stomachs.

It took us a while to find any whales once we reached the Sanctuary. I think the tour operators allot a certain amount of time for searching for whales (they communicate with other ships in the area to figure out where they might be feeding at the surface), and they offer rain checks to all passengers if no sightings are made during your tour. We lucked out, though. First we found a single humpback, then we moved on to find a group of four humpbacks feeding together (apparently not common, since they're typically solitary creatures). Three of the whales in this group were adults, and one was a calve.
I shot pictures like mad, trying to catch whatever I could of the whales.
I'm not sure how long we stayed at the Sanctuary, maybe about an hour given the length of time we were out. For the ride back Andrew and I stayed back at the stern of the boat. I was feeling overly wind-blown (although thankfully not sea sick) at this point and didn't much feel like hanging around at the front for more crashing through the waves.

All-in-all, if you know you a reasonably stable stomach when it comes to the rocking motions of a boat, I'd recommend going on a whale watching tour. It's pretty cool to see these animals at a reasonably close proximity. If you get motion sick, however, I wouldn't recommended. There were a lot of people on the tour that spent the bulk of it throwing up, in which case it might turn into 3-4 hours of torture.



Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Beet pie, a recipe

I don't normally post recipes. Most of my day-to-day cooking is too ad hoc to bother recreating here, never mind that there are plenty of blogs devoted to food already. Last night, however, Andrew enjoyed my beet pie offering so much that he thought I should write it up. So, I halted dinner long enough to take a couple of pictures of my plate, and now I'm taking a few minutes out of my day to record my process.

Andrea's Beet Pie:

I make my own pastry, but you don't have to by any means. I like the deluxe butter recipe from Joy of Cooking. The only change I make is that rather than the 2 1/4 cups (or is it 2 1/2...) of flour called for, I prefer to only use a scant 2 cups. I always found in Edmonton (where it's very dry) that using the entire amount of flour called for in pastry recipes ended in a dry crumbly mess. I've continued to skimp on the flour quantities here in the Boston area and it seems to have made no difference--i.e. I have delicious, flaky crusts.

Pie Filling:
1 onion
1-2 tablespoon of oil (I used olive oil)
1 cup of oatmeal
1/2 cup of almonds (scant)
3 oz of Parmesan cheese (that was all I had left)
1 lb of beets (I used Chicago beets, which I picked up at the farmers market because I didn't think I'd ever had them before--turns out they're white and red stripped in the middle. I'm sure it doesn't matter what kind of beets you use.)
3 cloves of garlic
1 handful of fresh herbs (chopped)
2 eggs
1 tablespoon of mustard
salt (Sorry, I don't really measure this, I just pour a small mound in my hand, then dump it in.)
pepper (I also don't measure this, I just sprinkle in the pepper until it looks good...this is why I don't write recipes.)


For the crust: If you're going to make your pie shell yourself, you need to do this well in advance. I actually made 2 shells on Saturday (that's what the Joy of Cooking recipe makes, the other was turned into the base for lamb pie--delicious) kept the unused disk of pastry in the fridge until yesterday, rolled it out, then stored it in the freezer until all of my filling was prepared. If you're using a pre-made pie shell, follow the directions for preparation it comes with.

For the filling:
Preheat the oven to 375F.

1) Preheat 1 tablespoon of the oil in a frying pan over medium-low heat while you chop the onion to your preference of dice (I'm not terribly particular about my vegetable chopping).
2) Saute the onion, occasionally stirring or tossing until it turns golden brown. If you're adept at multi-tasking in the kitchen you can continue with the following steps while this happens (which is what I do).
3) Pulse the oatmeal and almonds together in a food processor until you achieve a breadcrumb-like consistency (you can also use breadcrumbs instead of doing this).
4) Remove the oatmeal and almonds from the food processor, place 1 cup of it in a mixing bowl, while saving the remainder 1/2 cup for topping the pie.
5) Either with the shredding attachment for your food processor, or a hand grater, grate the Parmesan cheese.
6) Place half of the cheese in the mixing bowl, retaining the other half for the topping.
7) Shred/grate the beets (this is so much easier when you have a food processor).
8) Add the beets to your mixing bowl.
9) Add your sauteed onions, and all of the remaining ingredients (garlic, herbs, eggs, mustard, salt and pepper) to the mixing bowl.
10) Stir until everything is combined and spoon it into your pie shell (which you should only just be removing from the freezer).
11) Mix together your left over oatmeal, almonds, and cheese. Feel free to add some more herbs and spices to this if you like.
12) Drizzle 1/2 to 1 tablespoon of olive oil over the topping to help make it clump together like a crumble topping on a desert pie, then spread it over the pie.
13) Bake for...oh...this is the tricky part. I started the pie in the oven for 20 minutes, then Andrew messaged me to say that he was running late so I turned off the heat and let the pie sit (in the oven)...then 15 or so minutes later Andrew message me to say he was on his way, at which point I turned the oven back on again and cooked the pie for another 10 or 15.
So...I'd *guess* at a continuous heat of 375F you should cook the pie for 35 to 45 minutes.


For 1/8 of a pie: Calories: 526; Fat: 37 grams; Fiber: 3 grams; Carbs: 37 grams; Protein: 14 grams.



Sunday, August 3, 2014

My big news...a couple of quick additions

I know I said I'd keep my pregnancy posting to a minimum, then I remembered a couple of things I meant to mention the first time around. This will be quick, I promise.

1. Running while pregnant: My belly is still fairly small. I mean you'd have to be pretty unobservant to not notice, but it's not anywhere near as big as it's going to get; however, I've starting using a belly band. It's call the Fit Splint and is specifically designed to keep pregnant woman active. It has two strap positions, one that supports only under the belly, and another where you can place one strap below and one above. I'm not sure how much it's doing to support me right now, but I have found that it stays where I put it, which is a major plus in my book.

2. Aerials while pregnant: As I have said to many people regarding my continuing to doing aerials--I've already been training for 3 years, I know my own strength, what I'm capable of, and what is a good versus a bad circus hurt. If I had just begun training, I probably wouldn't have kept going. Also, there is a precedent before me of  pregnant ladies continuing with their aerial training and performing (both at NECCA and Esh), so it's not as if I'm a trail blazer in this arena.

3. Fetus pet names: Andrew and I both really hate it when people refer to 'baby,' not the baby, just baby, while it's in utero. I also wanted to avoid calling it he or she while we didn't know the gender, so I suggested the alternative of 'Root.' 'Root?' you might say, 'Why?' Well, because when Andrew and I got married (almost 10 years ago) we were A2, and what's the opposite of a square function...? Groan if you will. Now we have to remember to stop calling the baby Root once they're born.



Saturday, August 2, 2014

My big news

I told close friends and family weeks ago, but I've been slow to alert my social media channels to the news that I'm pregnant. I'm a little over 22 weeks, or 5 months, along which means I'm a halfway through my journey. I know this sort of topic is not of interest to everyone, so I'll try to make this my only, or at least one of my only, posts about being pregnant.

To start, I've been feeling almost completely normal. Most of the time I really don't know what to say to people when they ask how I'm doing because I hardly feel pregnant. I haven't experienced many symptoms, mainly shortness of breath, and the obvious, weight gain. The shortness of breath is due to the baby sucking all the iron out of my body, and as iron is used to help transport oxygen it leaves me gasping after runs, and especially going up stairs.

If you've ever read this blog before, you'll know I'm very conscious about my weight. It's one of the tricky things for me about being pregnant (the others being not being able to drink alcohol, and my trying to maintain as much of my strength as possible), I have to gain weight. I'm definitely eating more than I used to, probably eating a few more processed snacks that I should, but I'm still tracking my calorie intake to make sure things don't get out of control. From what I've read, an appropriate amount of weight gain from a woman of normal weight before pregnancy is between 25-30lbs, which I'm on track to do.

My personal belief for why I've been feeling so well (as side from the fact that I'm rarely ill) is that I haven't changed much about my diet and exercise regime. I haven't had to say this to anyone, but if anyone asks me if I think I should stop biking, or running, or doing aerials while I'm pregnant, my prepared response is: "I'm only pregnant, not ill or disabled."

So yes, I'm still running twice a week (albeit rather slowly), I'm still biking to work everyday (I've got bike lanes almost all the way), I'm still doing body weights at home with Andrew, and I'm still going to aerials. When I told the folks at Esh (where we take classes) I was immediately told to keep training for as long as I wanted--and so far it's been fine. I did have to stop going to the advanced silks class because we were doing a lot of drops, many of which required ties around my waist, but it means I get to work on an apparatus I haven't used in 2 years, the trapeze. Not that I exactly love trapeze (it hurt so much more than silks, I swear!) but it keeps me going--and I can still train basic stuff on the silks on the weekend.

I think that's about all I've got to say about being pregnant right now. I'm seeing a midwife at MIT, and so far things are good there. We still need to replace our beloved Smart car (I will write a moratorium when we finally buy a new car), which is being held up while we wait to hear about other decisions that aren't exactly in our hands. Then we can make a few more of the major baby purchases like car seat, stroller, etc.