Monday, January 16, 2012

Seeing Red

Beautiful sunrise over Eye of Mordor with a full moon

F!#% Beets! Wow. As a Sunday project I thought it would be a good idea to finally stop putting off a project that had been sitting in my fridge for a month...

So, the day started off casually. A lovely breakfast with the hubby, plans to pick up new canning jars, a trip to the grocery store for our weeks’ stock of food - just a casual Sunday. R went on a long bike ride with friends that I declined because I’ve been a bit dizzy from the barotrauma to my ears from diving. I had visions of being the perfect wife waiting for him at home with perfectly cooling jars of perfectly pickled beets in a perfectly spotless kitchen and a cup of hot tea for him as he walked in the door, cold and hungry from spending 5 hours biking up Mt. Tam. Uh huh. I look back at these photos and think “girl, you have no idea what you’re getting yourself into!!”

It has been on the list of things to do to can. I’ve never done it before. Back in the fall, A & M were over for dinner and A was in charge of the salad. She brought over some pickled beets her mom made. Heaven. So. Damn. Good. So, I thought why not? Couldn’t be that hard. I asked her mom for the recipe, purchased a canning book for beginners, got canning supplies and stored them in the closet and waited. And waited... And bought beets. And thought about canning. And never got to it. Until Sunday. I started at 1:45p.

Chopping up beets and the subsequent compost scraps
There I was, after slicing up and cleaning 11 lbs of beets, thinking, no problem! This should be easy. But then I was starting to worry about taking the skins off of all those adorable and tasty looking slices of beets...

The final chopped product waiting for the oven

Pink hands

I throw them in the roasting pan and happily toss them in the oven. An hour later, my brine is on the stove, the  jars in the canner warming up. I test the beets. Not done. Another 15 minutes. Not done. Another 10 minutes, done! I take all the hot beets out, throw them in the sink full of cold water and start peeling. And they DON’T PEEL. WTF? 1.5 hours and they’re not done???!! Profanity pursues.

I sigh. Throw all the beets back in the roasting pan (keep in mind, this is probably about 10 lbs of beets in a heavy roasting pan with a few cups of water for steam), add more water, new foil and roast for another 30 minutes. And I upped the temperature. Then you’ll never believe this. The power went out. Serioulsy?! No power??! This is the city! I live in the city to have power! All the time! Whenever I want it!!! (insert twitter trending topic #firstworldproblems) The worst part was all the buildings around us had power. WTF?

The power went out for about an hour. Luckily, just as the last of the sun was disappearing behind the Eye of Mordor and Liberty Hill, *tada!* power! Back in business. I fired the oven back up, and roasted those little mofo’s for another 30 minutes. Take that beets! This time I was smarter. I took out one beet tossed it under cold water to see if it would peel. FINALLY. It peeled. I dumped the whole pan into the sink, then added cold water. And started peeling. Or sort of. #@$!!! They didn’t peel very well. But they were done. Are you kidding me?! And there was some damage to the exposed part of the beet because they were in the oven for so long. So I had to hand peel the little f#$@ers. After an hour, R looks at me, hair frizzed, hands pink, face red, back bent over the sink, crazy glazed over look in my eyes and says “honey, let’s go out for dinner.” I told him that he had to take the pairing knife out of my hands and force me to go - I was in a state.

We had a lovely meal at a new pop up restaurant called Rice Broker. YUM. Rice bowl. Tuna sashimi. Glass of red wine. Ahhhhhh...... Nuff said.

Went back home and peeled for another hour. Ah ah! Ready to go! It’s 8:45pm and finally the exciting part! The jars were heated back up, brine boiling, I eagerly tossed handfuls of peeled, cooked beets in all the jars - a total of 6; go to your home!! - excitedly poured brine carefully over it all... aaaaaaaand... I ran out of brine. Three jars in. OMFG. I felt like a kid in the grocery store who was about to throw a tantrum. You know that look they get when they screw up their face and turn red? Yeah, that was me. Thankfully R was on the phone with his dad so I couldn’t freak out. I had a silent tantrum, ran to grab our industrial size of white vingear as we didn’t have enough apple cider vinegar, and quickly threw together another batch of brine.

Whew. Deep breath.

Brine in jars. Beets in jars. Lids and rings on jars. Jars in canner. Water is boiling. 30 minutes. Halle-f$#@ing-lujah it’s 10:00p and they’re finally done.

And that my friends, is seeing red.

You'd better be tasty in a few weeks. Or I might cry.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012


First, I have to get this off my chest: coming home from vacation is not pleasant. The realities of a corporate job are not fun to face. Being stuck in a cubicle is NOT for me. My commute sucks. This situation has to change in 2012. I’m trying to be optimistic right now, I am quite honestly struggling. I hope to get out of this funk soon!

Ok, enough of my griping - here’s a recap of my vacation to Cozumel:
Anenome (similar to the one that Pepe fed a Lion Fish)

On New Year’s Eve, R and I hopped on a flight to Houston to stay the night with my uncle and aunt who live there. Luckily, Houston happens to be a hub for Continental, so staying the night wasn’t a problem and then we didn’t have to take a red eye (really, Continental? a red eye??). R and I met my parents and my other aunt at the airport and headed to the house. We were greeted with a fantastic meal and spent the evening with friends and family. The next (hung over) day, we headed off to Cozumel. Through some excellent fluke, I got upgraded to first class with R, however, we couldn’t enjoy a glass of hair of the dog as we had a checkout dive planned. After getting to our beautiful condo, the dive company we were using pulled up at our dock, we met Pepe and headed out for our check out dive. It was incredible! I get pretty anxious and nervous about things like this, but I really enjoyed it. Once I’m under the water and blowing bubbles at fishes, I relax and enjoy it. On our first dive, Pepe found a lion fish. They’re extremely poisonous, luckily not aggressive, but are an invasive species. Pepe grabbed the lion fish with a pole and fed it to an anenome! The dive masters and instructors of Cozumel will kill lion fish simply as they’re destroying the habitat.


On Monday, R and I slept for 12 hours (!!!) and spent the day relaxing and exploring the downtown area. My uncle went diving for the day without us. Annoyingly, the wind picked up that evening and the port was closed for the next two days - GRR. No diving. We spent Tuesday exploring the island, seeing some Mayan ruins and having an excellent lunch on the beach. Wednesday was another day of relaxing and then finally on Thursday we were back out on the water.

We essentially had 2 dives per day on Thursday, Friday and Saturday. Thursday and Friday we dove with Ernesto, a dive instructor who does cave diving and is a clinical ENT for the barometric clinic. Saturday we dove with Roger who was hilarious and is a dive master. I think the pictures explain it all. We saw nurse sharks, turtles, eels, rays, parrot fish, grouper, tons of coral, lobster, shrimp, a lion fish and so much more. It was really a visual feast and sort of hard to grasp all at once. All of our dives were drift dives, so the current would pull you north. It was too much work to fight the current, so it was sort of like sitting on a couch and watching everything fly by!

Nurse Shark hiding under some coral

Saturday night we went to a really nice restaurant in the north part of the city and had a great birthday dinner for my Dad. Great way to finish celebrating my Dad’s 60th Birthday and to finish the vacation... but I was in denial. I didn’t want to come home!

I think I’m realizing that I really am an adrenaline junkie. I think that’s one reason why its so hard to be back in San Francisco right now. Diving every day made me nervous but after the first dive I couldn’t wait to hop back in the water for the second dive. I woke up happily every morning at 7:30a to get breakfast and then nervously wait for the boat to pick us up at the dock. Dive, eat, dive, eat, repeat! The only drawback is that I have a really hard time with clearing my ears. Currently, I have some barotrauma so my hearing is muffled, my ears hurt and I’m a bit dizzy. Yuck. But SO worth it. There’s talk of us doing a bike ride this weekend, so I guess I’ll get my adrenaline fix then (assuming I feel better). I’m getting antsy to ski, as there is a massive lack of snowfall in the Sierras, so I’m really, really hoping it starts to rain soon (ie snow in the mountains).
Toad Fish - endemic to Cozumel and found no where else in the world

Beautiful Sea Turtle

Palancar Gardens - huge coral structures that we went in between

Sting Ray

Even though it’s January, get out there and so something that scares you every now and then! You might be surprised by the experiences that you’ll have. I never thought I’d be ok with swimming with sharks- after seeing 3 nurse sharks, I think they’re beautiful creatures and would happily get back in the water with them again.
R & Myself