Chinchilla Update

We’ve had this little fur ball for almost 6 months now!  I’m happy to report that he is acting much more like a normal chinchilla after a few months of getting to know us.

At first, he was extremely skittish and anxious.  He never came out of his cage and would freak out at every little footstep and sound.  But now, after 6 months of patiently sitting with him during playtime, bribing him with treats, and giving him lots of attention, he is calmer, much more curious, and loves investigating new things.

chinchilla 2Chinchi exploring David’s head

He has been spoiled with tons of things to chew on and play with lately, ever since I found this great online store, Whimsy’s Menagerie.  Buying from this store supports a chinchilla rescue which is an added bonus!  So if you have any chinchillas in your life, this is great place to buy them some fun chinchilla-safe things 🙂

pinataChinchi enjoying a “pinata” made of willow and filled with yummy treats like rose hips, pumice, wood chunks, etc.

When it’s time for him to come out of the cage for playtime, he knows it and starts bouncing around the cage and waiting by the door for me to open it.  During playtime, he likes to perch on my leg for a break and use it as a springboard to jump all over the place or back into his cage.

chinchilla

He still loves his dustbaths, chewing on things, and recently has been trying to squeeze through the bars of his playpen to escape (he actually did escape once).  He also enjoys eating treats like rose hips, oats, and barley from my hands.

And at the end of a long night of running on his wheel and around his cage, I often find him in the morning like this, snuggled and passed out in his fleece hammock.  Such a cutie! 🙂

, chinchilla 4

He still struggles like mad whenever I hold him, but that seems to be the norm for chinchillas who haven’t been handled from birth.  And even in this area, he’s gotten better!

Once we get settled in our new place, he may also find himself with a (carefully and slowly introduced) new friend to play with 🙂 Yay

Nashville-Style Hot Chicken

Hot chicken.  I had never heard of this phenomenon until David’s coworker, who went to med school in Nashville, told us about this local specialty.  It’s basically super spicy fried chicken (although nothing like Buffalo chicken so don’t be fooled!), which sounded really good to me!  David’s coworker is a great cook so when he made some and invited us over, we were there in a heartbeat.

Eating this hot chicken was quite an experience.  At first I was self-conscious that I kept having to wipe my forehead, blow my nose, but then I realized that everyone else at the table was doing the same.   Apparently the experience in the actual restaurant is similar; everyone is sitting there sweating and eating.  I’ve never eaten fries and ketchup out of desperation, but I did that day – it was necessary in order to balance out the burn.

I was hooked after that.

But I was also intimidated to try and make it myself because I’ve never actually made fried chicken before.  So I started doing some research on both hot chicken recipes and also techniques for making Southern fried chicken.

This is what I came across:

http://www.homegourmetcooking.com/files/Nashville%20Hot%20Fried%20Chicken.htm

http://www.fromaway.com/cooking/nashville-hot-chicken

And after all the research, bone-in chicken breasts went on sale  which nudged me to finally go ahead and try it!  The first obstacle that I faced was that I could not find lard in any of the usual grocery stores that I go to.  I probably could have tried an ethnic store but I really didn’t feel like driving all over the place. So I did the next best thing and rendered my own lard from pork fat from a local butcher shop.  I felt super accomplished when it was done! 🙂

1 3/4 pounds gave me 2 jars this size.

Lard

Isn’t it pretty??  I don’t think I would use it for baking because there was still a little bit of meat attached.  But for savory cooking, most definitely.

Next, I soaked the chicken overnight in a brine of water, hot sauce, salt, sugar, and spices.  This is to keep the breast meat from drying out and also gives a deeper flavor into the meat itself.

pain

100% pain. Thanks Mollie!

Next I made the paste to coat the chicken after frying, which is typically 1 part lard and 3 parts cayenne pepper, along with some other spices.

Finally, the most important part…frying the chicken!  I read a lot of recipes and articles, but this one from Seattle Times was the most helpful.  What I did: removed the chicken from brine, dunked it in buttermilk and shook off the excess, then let it rest in the fridge for an hour after a single light dredge in plain flour.  I fried in a deep stainless steel skillet in about 1/2 inch of canola oil + a few tablespoons of lard.  Our meat thermometer is pretty useless, so I kept it at medium heat after the oil was completely heated up and ended up frying for a total of 25 minutes.

This was the result:

Hot chicken

This photo is now husband’s wallpaper on his phone.

The chicken itself was juicy, well-seasoned, and a tiny bit spicy from the brine. The crust was crunchy and not super thick or greasy, and with the spicy paste on top on top, it set my mouth on FIRE.  So good!  My mouth is watering as I type this.  As a side note, hot chicken is apparently typically served on white bread with pickles, but I like the fries 🙂 And the beer is a must.

So this was my experience with making hot chicken.   Too bad Nashville is not on our way to California, or we would definitely make a stop!

Followup on Future Decisions

First of all, thank you so much to all of you who reached out with your prayers, encouragement, and advice last week!  I was so touched by your kind words.

So, I wanted to share some followup so that we can all have some closure.

The final verdict is that I’m going to move forward with applying for another residency.

(You can stop reading here if you don’t feel like delving into the details) 🙂

I spent a lot of time  last week praying, talking with husby, and also being prayed for by my small group.  As this was happening, I had a couple of epiphanies.  The first was that I actually like being a doctor and taking care of patients, which is the reason why I was struggling to imagine myself in another career.  Yes, I was afraid of the difficulties, exhaustion, and frustrations of training, but deep down, I realized that I still enjoy medicine and being able to serve people with it.

The other issue that came to light was my inability to fully trust God.  I was still afraid to move forward because of everything that has happened in the past.  There were so many “what ifs?” floating around in my mind: What if it gets taken away again?  What if it just plain sucks and I end up really unhappy? What if…?  But God has been trying to bring me to the place where I can just trust him, and simply be delighted with life again rather than afraid of whatever challenges it may bring.  Because walking with him, although not necessarily safe or easy, is always good (yay Chronicles of Narnia), therefore I don’t have to be anxious about every possible outcome of my decisions.  All I need to do is take the next step and follow him.

And for the first time in awhile, I am actually excited to experience whatever lies ahead. 🙂