Monday, August 8, 2022

Cooking is Fun...And Easy!! Lemon-Dill Chicken Skillet (AND) August Happiness Challenge--Day 8--Cooking

Welcome to day 8 of the August Happiness Challenge, brought to us by The Gal Herself.  It's all about what makes you happy.  Join us in celebrating the small stuff (or big stuff) that makes YOU happy.

And cooking makes me happy.  Blogging about cooking makes me happy.  So in honor of that, here's tonight's dinner.  

Lemon-Dill Chicken Skillet (adapted from the June/July 2022 edition of Southern Living Magazine)


1-1/4 lbs small Yukon Gold Potatoes, scrubbed and halved
1 tbsp canola oil
4 bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs (I broke down a small fryer, about 2-3/4 lbs, so used 2 breasts and 2 thighs)
1/2 tsp fresh ground black pepper
2 teaspoons Kosher salt, divided
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 cup lemon juice (juice from 2 lemons) plus lemon wedges for serving (3 lemons total)
2 ounces crumbled Cotija or Feta cheese (I love the more mellow saltiness of Cotija)
Dill fronds


Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Pour 4 cups water into large microwaveable bowl, add potatoes, and cover tightly with plastic wrap and microwave on high for 12 minutes until potatoes easily pierced with a paring knife (will not be cooked through).  Drain.

Heat oil in a cast iron or other oven-proof skillet until shimmering over medium-high.  Sprinkle chicken on both sides with 1-1/2 teaspoons of salt, 1 teaspoon of garlic ' powder, and the black pepper.  When oil is hot, place in skillet skin-side down and cook UNDISTURBED (no peeking!!) for 12 minutes until fat from skin is rendered and skin is golden brown.  Transfer to a plate and reserve drippings in pan.  They will not be cooked all the way through.

Add potatoes, cut side down, to the drippings in the skillet. Cook undisturbed over medium-high heat for 6-8 minutes until bottoms are crispy and brown.  Stir in remaining 1/2 teaspoon of salt, and remove from heat.  Arrange chicken skin side up on top of potatoes, and drizzle with lemon juice.  Bake in preheated oven 15 minutes, or more accurately, until instant-read thermometer inserted in thickest part of chicken reaches 165 degrees.  Remove from oven, sprinkle with cotija (or feta) cheese, a few dill fronds, and lemon wedges.  Serve with the lemon wedges.  Serves 4.

Buen Provecho!!

Sunday, August 7, 2022

August Happiness Challenge 2022--Day 7--Naps


Naps make me happy.  I take one every day--one of the perks of working at home.  For my lunch break, I put my phone on do not disturb (except for Mom and hubs, of course) and lay down for 30 minutes.  I get up, refreshed and ready to tackle the rest of the day.  

On the weekends, I usually work from bed on my side gig computer for about an hour, and then hubs joins us and we sleep for another hour.  The bed is Maddie's happy place, and she will start herding me there by bumping my calf with her nose every day about 1230.  It's the one place where she is calm and chill 100% of the time.  

Naps feel luxurious and special to me--they are a vital part of taking care of ME.

Viva la Nap!!

August Happiness Challenge 2022--Day 6--Tin Can Alley


Yesterday was a pretty mellow day.  We ran around looking for Maddie's teeth bones, which we can usually find at TJ Maxx or Marshall's, but no dice.  Amazon it is, I guess, even though they are a little pricier on there.  While we were out running around we decided to stop a new place for lunch--Tin Can Alley.  It's one of several "food halls" that have popped up in Albuquerque in the last few years.  This particular one is made of containers.  You know, those big containers that go on ships, trains, and on the backs of trucks.  Here's a view from the outside.

Inside, it's like a giant food court, with lots of tables and chairs, couches, and comfy seating.  The restaurants, instead of your usual mall food court fare, are local.  There was Amore Neopolitan Pizza, SA BBQ, Pho Kup Vietnamese, On the Flip (Burgers/Tacos/Salads), Guava Tree Sabor Latino (Caribbean), Squeezed Juice Bar, The Cozy Nook (breakfast, pastries, coffee), and Nitro Fog Creamery (ice cream).  Upstairs in Santa Fe Brewing Company and huge covered patios with misters and fans.  Here's a shot of the main floor, where we sat.

Hubs had a BBQ combo platter from SA BBQ, and I had a Cubano with Yuca Fries from Guava Tree.  The food was outstanding, the atmosphere was fun (there was even an arcade upstairs that you could borrow board games from), and the whole experience made me happy.

We recently heard that this same company is going to be building another food hall on our side of the river, about midway between our house and Mom's building.  How exciting!

Friday, August 5, 2022

August Happiness Challenge--Day 5--My Niche


Welcome to day 5 of the August Happiness Challenge, brought to us by The Gal Herself.  It's all about what makes you happy.  Join us in celebrating the small stuff (or big stuff) that makes YOU happy.

Interestingly, I was just looking back through last year's post, because I didn't want to repeat myself (too much).  What caught my eye was a post about my new (now old) job, and how happy I was to be leaving the old (now new, again) job.

I didn't like auditing.  I found it crazy boring, compared to utilization review, also known as UR (which is reviewing medical charts for appropriate levels of care, medical necessity, and so forth).  It was like reading the same paragraph over and over for 30 days.  Different hospitals, different charts, same paragraph.  I wanted to poke my eyes out with a Bic pen, I swear.

About the time I was wondering WTF I was going to do, my previous VP called me and begged me to come back to UR.  I realized that this was an opportunity to do some negotiating (because she was desperate), and I negotiated a nice fat raise and a change in schedule to 4-10s.  She agreed, and here I am, back in the old job, with my former co-workers, and permanently working from home.

The CFO emailed me and told me how absolutely thrilled she was that I was back, and I realized something as I was thanking her.  I have worked as a critical care RN in ICU, in operating rooms, as a director of nursing in nursing homes, and in case management for insurance companies.  NONE of those things brought me as much happiness as doing UR for hospitals.  I feel like I'm fighting for patients against the big bad insurance companies and fighting for my company (to ensure we get paid for what we do) and it is my NICHE, people.

Realizing that after 30 years of being an RN makes me pretty effin' happy.

Thursday, August 4, 2022

August Happiness Challenge 2022--Day 4--Hubs


Welcome to day 4 of the August Happiness Challenge, brought to us by The Gal Herself.  It's all about what makes you happy.  Join us in celebrating the small stuff (or big stuff) that makes YOU happy.

So if you didn't know, I've been married 3 times.  Yep, it took me a while to get it right.  To meet someone who loved me for who I was and not what he could make me into.  And a person who I didn't feel like I had to be someone else for.  That's hubs.  

I can be as geeky and goofy as I want, and he'll be right there with me.  He tolerates my neurodiversity, and I tolerate his.  We both need an inordinate (well, that's what the ex said) amount of personal time and space, and we give it to each other.  We had some really tough times, and some really amazing times, and managed to stay together through all of it.  

We've known each other going on 20 years, and have been married for 17.  He makes me happy.

Wednesday, August 3, 2022

August Happiness Challenge 2022--Day 3--Mom


Welcome to day 3 of the August Happiness Challenge, brought to us by The Gal Herself.  It's all about what makes you happy.  Join us in celebrating the small stuff (or big stuff) that makes YOU happy.

Today's happiness?  My Mom.  In November of 2020, my Mom decided to move to New Mexico.  The pandemic was freaking her out, as she lived out in the country, and my brother couldn't get over there much (he's almost 2 hours away).  She felt very alone and overwhelmed with the acre and a half that she and my dad used to keep beautifully landscaped.  It's a lot for one person.  We were talking one day, and she told me she was thinking of selling the house and what did I think about her moving to New Mexico?

Well, I was thrilled.  After Dad passed, I always worried about her, with me being here and knowing that my sister-in-law and brother have their hands full with her older-than-my-mom parents and so forth.  We started planning, and she put the house on the market.  It sold for significantly over asking, in less than 24 hours.  We had to push our timetable a bit, lol.

I love having my mom here.  I love showing her what I love about this state, love spending time just hanging out, shopping, exploring, and talking.  Lots of talking.  I've learned things about my mom I never knew, and I'm sure she's learned things about me too.

I feel blessed to have her 15 minutes down the road, which is the first time that has ever happened in my adult life.

She makes me happy.

At the Botanical Garden 2022

Whale Watching off Cape Ann, Massachusetts 2021

Tuesday, August 2, 2022

August Happiness Challenge 2022--Day 2--Talin Market


Welcome to day 2 of the August Happiness Challenge, brought to us by The Gal Herself.  It's all about what makes you happy.  Join us in celebrating the small stuff (or big stuff) that makes YOU happy.

If you've followed me for any length of time, you've heard me talk about Talin Market.  I love, love, love to cook and so does my hubs.  We especially love exploring the foods of other countries by cooking them.  But we live about 45 minutes outside of Albuquerque, NM....not a place you'd normally think of for international foods.

Oh, how wrong you'd be.  Albuquerque isn't just a mecca for great New Mexican cuisine, but also has a very robust International community.   And the center of that community is an amazing grocery store called Talin Market.  Somewhere between the size of a Costco and a regular grocery store, Talin is divided into aisles denoted by a city in the country that the food on that aisle comes from.  It carries, Caribbean food (Havana), Indian food (New Delhi and Bombay), Korean (Busan and Seoul), Philippines (Manila), Japan (Osaka and Tokyo), China (Beijing and Taiwan), Middle Eastern (Beirut), Vietnam (Saigon), the US (New Orleans), Great Britain, and those are just the ones off the top of my head.  

Image Credit

In the corner is our favorite restaurant in Albuquerque, Pop-Up Dumpling House, where dumplings and soups made by a Chinese couple are made to order.  Another corner is fresh seafood and meat.  I love that they have meats cut for certain cuisines, like galbi (Korean beef) for example.

There are fresh and frozen foods, kimchi, quails eggs, sausages from every corner of the world, every kind of noodle you can think of, spices galore, and a whole utensils section.  The produce section is wondrous.  Seriously.

Every time we go, it makes me so happy.  It's about an hour from our house, but we make a day out of it.  We plan meals, hit up our recipes, and get cooking.  It's just a fun, happy time.

Monday, August 1, 2022

August Happiness Challenge 2022--Day 1--Happiness in a Dog Shaped Package

I'm super glad this came up just now, because I have been having a devil of a time blogging right now.  Thanks to The Gal Herself for this great challenge!  

Here's a brief explanation of the Challenge: "Each day in August you are to post about something that makes *you* happy. Pretty simple. And, it doesn't even have to be every day if you don't want it to be. It's a great way to remind ourselves that there are positive things going on in our lives, our communities, and the world."

You're invited to join me. Visit me with a link to your daily happy, and I'll come read it. I've found that experiencing other peoples' everyday pleasures is a great moodlifter.

It helps if your Happiness Challenge posts are marked with an icon. Just something that means "happy" to you.

This year's icon is another picture of our Texas Heeler (Australian Shepherd/Australian Stumpy Tailed Cattle Dog cross), Maddie.  She just makes me happy every single day.  I lost my Dad and my beloved dog, Ginger 1 day apart in March 2019.  I was in SC, and Joe was here.  It was the most crushing one-two punch ever.  Two weeks later, we went to Watermelon Mountain Ranch, our local no-kill shelter looking for a dog.  They didn't have any at the Ranch, but showed us a picture of "Noelle" who was in foster care.  We made arrangements to meet her the following Saturday at an event at PetSmart.  

We walked up to the foster mom, and Maddie took one look at us, and we at her and she came and sat at our feet, and looked up at us with a face similar to the one in this picture.  LOVE ME, it said.  And we did.  From that moment.  Maddie has had her challenges--she was starving when found, had been mistreated, and has severe anxiety about just about everything, especially noise.  She developed a seizure disorder.  Between her behavioral vet, training, meds for anxiety and noise aversion, and the regular vet, we've spent thousands.  WORTH EVERY PENNY and I'd do it all over again and twice on Sunday.

She is a sweetheart, and a good canine citizen who's living her best life.  When I think of her starving, out in the desert, with 8 puppies, I want to cry.  Then I look at her, and the sun comes out.  She's happiness in a doggy package.