Resolved.

I haven't always made new year's resolutions. I try to not limit my aspirations to improve to a calendar. And this year, I got a jumpstart on both of my resolutions in the last few weeks of 2016. No need to wait until January, I figured. 

But I do believe in the power of putting something out there into the universe. Mostly because if I say it out loud, other people might here me. And hopefully hold me accountable (even if that other person is just myself). 

1. Be more creative. 

I want to find more time to exercise the right side of my brain. I'm more analytical and process-oriented by nature. Couple that with a job in technology, which requires me to sit in front of a computer screen for most hours of the day (and a few hobbies which encourage the same... Hello, Spacehulk: Deathwing), and I can go for days or weeks without pushing the other, more creative sides of my self.  My occasional fits of writing not withstanding. 

I'm trying my hand at painting (my second ever oil is a work in progress above). And I will attempt to write a bit more this year. I'm not sure if I'm up for another NaNoWriMo (although, who knows?), and maybe pick up my instruments more frequently.  I find that when I spend a bit more time exercising those muscles, it makes me better at the analytical & technical side of my life. And certainly more satisfied at both. 

2. Make healthier choices.

I know, this is rather trite. But I'm certainly not getting any younger. And see the stuff above about "sitting on my ass in front of a screen most of most days."  I don't ever expect I'll be in the same shape physically that I was way back in my early Army days. Or even when I was 30, when I realized that I needed to stop eating like I was still back in my Army days.  However, I would like o not be out of breath when I bend over to tie my shoes.

(That's a theoretical, of course. I realized many years ago that I can't figure out how to keep my shoelaces tied. So i mostly wear cowboy boots. Or anything that doesn't require me to tie my shoes).

I'm figuring that I'm not going to be so good at restricting my food intake (mmm. Goose-neck sausage). So I've stepped up my visits to the gym - something between 2-4 times a week, with a real try for the upper end of that scale. We'll see how long it lasts. I hate working out with the fiery white heat of a thousand burpees. Or something. But I really like to eat. And something's got to give. So off to the gym I go. I find it helps if I whine and bitch about it before and after. (And during, except that I usually can't manage much sound while working out except for small whimpers, and whatever that sound is where ). 

But it's not just about physical activity. A few years ago, I did some math to calculate how many of me-equivalents did I drink in Diet Coke per year. Hint: it was a lot. Sometime in the last few months, I figured out that I was not really addicted to the taste. I just really like the carbonation. Most days, I allow myself a Diet Coke in the morning to give myself a hit of caffeine (I don't drink much coffee), but otherwise, I drink sparkling water or club soda all day.  Don't get me wrong, I'm the last person to judge anyone's cola habit, having supported my own for several decades. But there're plenty of studies that seem to support some link between even diet soda and weight gain, though they're not definitive. But I figured after having supported the stock price of my one of my favorite Atlanta based companies for so long (I'm such a loyal son), I've done my bit, and I can make a switch without guilt. My Bride has told me that since cutting back so much, the sales on Diet Coke are much more frequent at the local grocery. As if they're trying to make up for the loss. 

...maybe that is a sign I should've cut back earlier. 

Besides all of this, there are healthier choices I can make in other areas of my life. Stress. Relationships. Fatherhood. I'm not sure I've mastered any of those so far, and will keep working on them where and as I can. 

So here's to a good year. For all of us. 

Goose neck sausage. Goal: complete.

Just before Christmas, my buddy who sourced our last goose sent me a note.

"Greg shot a pair of geese today. Much bigger than the last. Would you like one? This one has the head still!" 

It has the head still? Well, of COURSE I'm going to take it. 

Unlike the first one, I hung the goose from the rafters of the barn for 5 days. With game birds, the flavor can be a bit strong, and hanging them for a bit (3-7 days, per the experts) mellows the flavor. 

I took it down and brought it in the kitchen to pluck. I knew I'd have a bit of mess to clean up, but it was 20 degrees outside, and that was a bit too cold for me. Fortunately, the Boy had some friends over, and I ended up with a few helpers. 

This goose was really beautiful. I followed the same process as before - it was a bit quicker, and I was a bit more comfortable with the whole thing this time around. There's a point where the bird turns from "goose" to "meat" when you do this, and your brain switches into the same comfort level that you'd have in cleaning a turkey you brought home from the store. 

I was, however, especially careful with the real prize of this bird: the neck. 

Years ago, I had watched an episode of River Cottage, and Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall dress out a goose and set the neck aside for a special treat. A stuffed goose neck sausage. 

I have since found several recipes for this, from River Cottage and Darina Allen. Variations on the theme and method, but they all start by peeling the fatty skin back off the neck, taking care to keep it intact as one long 'tube'.  

We've bought several geese from the butcher over the years (goose is always on the Christmas dinner menu), but none of them ever come whole, or with the neck. They're prettily dressed and wrapped, just like the Butterball turkey you pick up at your local grocery. So this was a real treat. 

The goose roasted gorgeously, shedding tons of crystal clear fat, and browning deliciously. It wasn't quite as pretty as a farm raised goose, but I have to say I'm pretty proud of the way it turned out. 

I turned my attention to the neck - I stuffed it with a pork sausage (ground fresh from our pigs), mixed with diced bacon (again: our pigs), sage, thyme, salt, white pepper and a little brandy. Little bits of goose trim - heart, liver, etc. - cooked and chopped are also acceptable. 

Tie the little end of the neck up with some kitchen twine, and I set it into some goose fat to crisp the skin a bit. 10 minutes or so on a side. Then put into the oven at 300F for 30 minutes. 

The next step took me out into the snow for a bit. 

I cranked my smoker up to 275F, and put the neck sausage in for 45 minutes, with some peach wood. You can see that I didn't seal up the 'fat' end of the neck (where the neck joined the shoulders of the bird). But that's ok. I just took care to fold the loose flaps over the sausage. 

Oh this thing is beautiful. 

Every time I opened the door to check (I had to force myself not to check every 3 minutes), my nostrils were filled with the delicious smell of the meat and woodsmoke. I was practically dancing in anticipation. 

When I pulled it out of the smoker, I slipped it back into the fat and the oven to crisp a bit longer (maybe 10 minutes) while I carved the rest of the goose. (I've gotten pretty good at this by now, actually - taking out the whole breasts  before slicing, and taking out the thighs and other meat pretty neatly.). 

When I sliced the neck open, it looked like a perfect sausage.  The skin was nicely crisp, and the meat inside savory and a little fragrant with the smoke and herbs. 

I slices up the meat and sausage and we took the feast (along with creamed spinach and a sweet-potato & apple soufflé) over to my Bride's parents for dinner. The goose was a little tougher and I should have taken the time to make a gravy, but the meat was rich and flavorful, and the Boy went back for seconds and then thirds of the sausage. And then he asked if he could pack the res for his first lunch back at school tomorrow. 

I'm guessing he'll be the only kid there with goose neck sausage. 

It was a small goal, but totally worth holding out for. If you ever get the chance to order/make/try, believe me when I say: don't hesitate. It was delicious.