Week 2: The Andromeda Strain, Salsa Chicken and the Dorm Room Workout

Already completed week 2!  Wish to hell I could get these posts out sooner.

So, while Playhouse has been off-the-charts busy this week and I’ve started a new part time job at an upscale condominium building across the bridge, I’m proud to say that my Year of Growing Personally hasn’t completely come off the rails.

In fact, I got this kicky new haircut!

But here’s what happened with everything else.  I promise this time to not be such a hater; In fact…I stumbled upon some real gems this week.  As it happens…

THE BOOK

The Andromeda Strain wasn’t one of them.  This is not to say that it is not an impressive piece of writing, just maybe not my flavor.  Let me explain.  The book is one of Michael Crichton’s first, written while he was in medical school.  It wasn’t technically the first novel he ever published, but could be considered his “big break.”  The “strain” mentioned in the title is an exceptionally virulent airborne microorganism that clots the blood of pretty much anyone it comes into contact with, rendering all others insane to the point of suicide.  The plot revolves around a team of scientists with Project Wildfire who try to contain, study and overcome the spread of the strain.  Wikipedia defines it as a “techno-thriller” but over 1,000 readers on GoodReads.com (1,620 to be exact) would classify it as science fiction.  Count me as 1,621.

I was expecting the type of story that was told in the movie Outbreak, I’ll admit it (which was also based on a book called The Hot Zone and is about ebola.  Mental note: Must read this later).  This book was much more science and much less fiction; in fact, on http://www.crichton-official.com, the profile for Andromeda Strain indicates that many readers in the 60’s wrote to Crichton asking him if it were true.  The style is mock-non-fiction.  Think Blair Witch Project meets the Harvard Chem Lab.  There’s a LOT of techno mumbo jumbo going on, lots of “status reports”, “contamination factors” and “bilirubin counts” and, especially towards the end, a lot of talk about amino acids and bases.  On the plus side, I feel crazy smart after finishing the book.  On the flip: I just couldn’t get that motivated to read it.  It read like a textbook.  Like I said: Impressive, but not my cup of tea.

This was my first outing with Michael Crichton.  I’d always wanted to read some of his work, because Jurassic Park is my favorite movie, as you’ll hear more about in late May/June when I read Jurassic Park and The Lost World before the premiere of the hotly anticipated quadquel Jurassic World.  Halfway through The Andromeda Strain I got scared: was Jurassic Park going to read like a trip to the Natural History Museum?  But then I found out that my husband has read both books and says JP dives right in and stays pretty suspenseful throughout. He felt the same way I did about Andromeda. Yay.

THE FITNESS

Was more up my alley this week.  I completed the Dorm Room/Apartment Workout to smashing success.  I discovered this masterpiece on Pinterest, no less and LOVED it.

First of all…it’s only a half an hour long, much less daunting than the hour requirement for Richard Simmons last week.  To that end, they even had a time counter in the upper left corner of the screen.  It was like my own private cheerleader coaching me on.  I took none of the wimpy “water” breaks that were so popular last week, even though, technically, I was doing (in my opinion) a lot of moves that were more demanding than Disco Sweat.  The only time I hit pause was when puppy Matilda broke out of her playpen and charged at me with intent-to-maul.

Speaking of which, when that happened… I was doing crunches.  You heard me.  I did the crunches.  By the end of Disco Sweat I had been so emotionally drained that getting down on the floor and flopping around like a dying fish just seemed beyond my dignity and motivation.  But something about the efficiency of this workout told me I could do it.  I didn’t make it through all of them, there were some that simply drove by with me still on the metaphorical curb.  But I did over half of them, and that’s a huge improvement from last week.

Overall, the biggest difference between Dorm Room and Disco Sweat was that the instructor prepared me for what was coming, whereas Richard vaguely described what was happening as it was happening.  I didn’t feel as foolish or confused.  Because it was designed to be done in a dorm room, the activity didn’t require as much floor space.  I even got the added kick of role-playing as a college girl, since the instructor quite frequently referenced “the cafeteria” or “carrying those books.”  What a way to make me feel young again!

The best part?  Two days later…I was still sore.  I actually am looking forward to trying this one again.

THE RECIPE

As many of you know, the man I married is a food snob.  I’m literally not allowed to make Kraft Dinner in the house, it offends him.  So, that being the case, I rarely ever cook, since most of what I concoct comes out of a box.  It is for this reason that you should be impressed with the Salsa Chicken recipe I cooked this week:

*blush, blush, blush*  You guys…I did it.  And…it wasn’t really even that hard.  Here’s the process:

INGREDIENTS:

2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs, trimmed
  Boneless and skinless?  Do I have to de-bone this myself?  Ok, Jason says no, just buy it pre-de-boned, as he “doesn’t think I’m there yet.”  Ok.
Salt and pepper
1 cup jarred salsa
Awesome!  I’ve got some peach mango desert salsa in the fridge that needs to get used
Juice of 1 lime
LOL.  I squeezed some lemons in there.
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
I’ve never used fresh cilantro.  Best to buy fresh from grocey?  Yes?  Yes.
2 tablespoons chili powder
That we have
1 teaspoon cumin
That we have
1 tablespoon honey
3 cloves garlic, minced
Cooked rice or warmed tortillas, optional
Ok, so I really have all of this just laying around in my kitchen.  
Essentially, the most difficult part of this recipe was finding the lid to my crockpot.  Seriously.  But, unlike last week’s Shepherd’s Pie, it got me a little further out of my culinary comfort zone.  I’d never done a crockpot recipe; I was nervous at first to leave the house while something was actively cooking, but Jason persuaded me to go out for a trip to Jungle Jim’s.  By the time we came back…dinner was served.  Also: I’d never trimmed the fat on chicken thighs.  This is one of the reasons I rarely cook meat: how do you know when you’ve trimmed enough fat?  The answer: (at least for this recipe) it doesn’t matter.  I’m sure I left a little too much on there, but five hours later scarfing it down…I never noticed.  Served it over some basmati rice and added some shredded cheese and a few lime tortilla chips.   Ta Da!  In the end, it turned out delicious.
And I wasn’t the only one who thought so.
Here’s what’s on the docket for next week:
 
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