Monday, October 20, 2008
For the next 8 weeks, our existing kitchen will be gutted, re-vamped, a bathroom moved and the bloody awful swooshes that have haunted me for the past year will go away.
On Saturday, we had a Demolition party to celebrate the demise. We gave the kids markers and full permission to write on the floor, on the cabinets, (on each other), along with hammers and one very evil sledgehammer.
After only one handle of rum (god bless the sailors that pre-partied before they came to our house!) the fondly named Beam-Me-Up light was taken down, a countertop was blown away, the pantry was forcibly removed, as was a section of cupboards.
On Sunday we finished the emptying of the kitchen. The dining room has become our new kitchen, complete with the new beautiful cherry hardwood floor that Mr. H finished last week. We have a toaster oven, a portable stove, a microwave and a crockpot. Dishes will be done in the bathroom. The fridge is moving into the entry way hall (which I'm kind of excited about because it means going for a late-night snack is just steps away from our first floor master).
As thrilled as I am that we are getting kitchen redone, walking through the kitchen makes me a little weepy. It's not sealed off yet, so it feels like a war zone. There is no light (since the beam-me-up light is gone), there are holes punched in various areas of the walls, the cupboard doors have all been taken off. Nothing is in it, except for our stove, Lizzie (which is staying).
Although we have lived in three apartments and two houses over the 12 years we have been together, I think this is our first home. This is the first residence we have had to work on. The house feels like us, and I feel like this level of deconstruction mirrors somehow something within myself. I feel like crying every time I walk by it.
Tomorrow, the kitchen will be sealed off and true demolition will begin. We are keeping our fingers crossed that this project will be done by Christmas.
Tuesday, September 9, 2008
Otherwise, things have been busy these last few weeks. The Marvelous Miss Thing is in her third week of first grade. She's exhausted, all the time. She has also started ballet, much to my relief, as I am hoping it will alleviate some of the random pirouettes we've had in the house and school over the past year.
I am in the process of preparing for candy season. As I am officially an LLC now, I am in business. Summer is too hot for candy without a climate controlled area (which mine is not), and who wanted to eat melted chocolate, so I am just starting to ramp up now.
Today, I made chocolate chip cookie dough truffles and some buckeyes to start taking with me to various places. Free candy always intrigues people.
Friday, August 22, 2008
Remember when I wrote about my sauerkraut?
I am ashamed to admit, my fermentation experiment failed.
After the first time it failed, I tried again, which was when I wrote the original post. But that batch failed too. And the next. And the next.
What is worse, is that each time I made a new batch, I would make a slightly bigger batch, because I would think to myself "Well, *now* I know what needs to be done. This batch will work." Except that one would die too.
And the pattern was generally the same each time. The cabbage would happily bubble and ferment for about a week and a half. Then, it would stop. Just stop. I would be left with a big vat of slightly sour but mostly salty cabbage. We would leave the vat of it on the counter where I would look at it with the shame of a parent whose child turned out to be a serial killer dog molester.
After we had finally decided that it was, indeed, not ever going to turn into sauerkraut, Mr. H would take it out to the compost bin (which is now about 5 inches of non-fermenting decomposing cabbage). I have gone through approximately 40 pounds of cabbage over these few months. Thank goodness it is cheap.
I have one vat still sitting on my counter awaiting my final time of death. I think I'm giving up on this one for a while. I need to step away.
Turn on the funeral dirge.
Thursday, August 21, 2008
Sunday, August 17, 2008
Except this is the first year it is totally vicarious. This is my first post-graduation-no-school-in-sight-for-me autumn. Bummer. I keep looking longingly at the school supplies and dorm organizers.
The Marvelous Miss Thing starts school this week. First grade. Big time. Her school does not offer cafeteria services, with the exception of the importing of fast food every day. I'm not real excited about that prospect, and quite honestly Miss Thing isn't a huge fast food fan. She likes a hamburger, but isn't thrilled with pizza and has some sort of recessive gene that makes her not.like.french.fries *gasp*. Clearly, not my good Irish Catholic genes in which we ate potatoes with every meal, and french fries were the top of the potato "yum" chart.
I have been trying to come up with more nutritious yet convenient and portable lunches. The one thing she begged for at the store were those little round pre-cut frozen peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. Well, looking at the price, I figured I could make those puppies at half the cost, plus, by using my homemade peanut butter and jelly, I was cutting down on all that other crap they put in it.
Two squishy white pieces of bread (I let the bread slide. I'm not going to use good bread for this project) cut out with a water chestnut can. Peanut butter on both sides. A spoonful of jelly in the center. (It helps if you kind of squish the bread a little bit)
Seal the two slices of bread with the tines of a fork and pop in the freezer. Puffy white PB&Js. They defrost easily. Heck, Miss Thing eats them frozen.
I felt like a super genius after this little project.
Saturday, August 9, 2008
Apparently baldness is not deterrent in cardinal sex appeal, because he had a mate (I understand this, as Mr. H has completely shaved his head). We frequently see the two of them at our feeders in the back yard.
I thought this little guy was doomed. And that we had witnessed some bizarre twist of nature. Little did I know that this is a relatively common thing. Seriously.
I tried to take a picture of our little guy, but couldn't get a close enough shot.
Turns out, I don't need to given the plethora of information about bald cardinals...
The internet is a beautiful thing...
Monday, August 4, 2008
I did get some knitting in on the trip over. I finished the presents for Miss G. for her birthday/boat trip including this little shawl (man, what a pain it was to finally get that done. I tried knitting it in another yarn using a different pattern and couldn't get it right. Improvised, and it looks adorable).
I learned from this shawlet that bulky yarns can be very fun and fast to knit up, that I am a combined knitter at heart.
Wednesday, July 23, 2008
Today I smoked my second batch of candied salmon with some slight variations to my first batch.
I used approximately 1/2 as much salt as the original recipe suggested. It made a huge difference in flavor, but did not seem to affect the quality of the fish. It may mean that it doesn't keep as long, but realistically, it doesn't keep long in my house anyway.
This time, I also basted the fish periodically with the honey-water mixture, as recommended by the recipe. I didn't do that with the first batch, and this addition gave the fish a little boost of sweetness and a beautiful lacquered look.
Miss Thing ate about a half a pound today.
And I used the left over brine (with a splash of added soy sauce) for some beef jerky. Have you ever had beef that tasted like candy? It tastes kind of like candied bacon. Again, Miss Thing ate as much as I would let her.
Tuesday, July 22, 2008
Monday, July 21, 2008
This will be the second year for our boat-neighborhood cruise. Three families, three boats, almost ten days on the lake. Three of those days at the amusement park. Hopefully the weather will be nice. Much rum is consumed. Much ice cream is consumed. For me, much fudge is consumed. I love fudge.
One of the largest challenges for this trip is mapping out the food. There are meals that you can only eat on the boat (because you're sailing someplace). There are days when you have no power (we have a gas stove, but no microwave when we are without shore power). And our fridge is small, so you have to consider packing one or two coolers for ten days. We use dry ice, but after 10 days in even the most well insulated coolers, it's gone too. You also can't always count on grilling - we don't have a grill on the boat, and some places do not encourage grilling at the docks. Plus, hamburgers and hot dogs get old after 10 days.
I am currently in the plans for what food stuffs to bring. I like to bring meals that are frozen but can defrost over a couple days. This serves two purposes - they last longer, and they act as an ice pack. I also tend to bring a lot of snacks - they are easy, and you don't always want a big meal. Lots of appetizers.
Some of the ideas I am tossing around to bring with us - gazpacho, sesame noodles with tofu, chicken wraps (pre-made, frozen and then thawed), pizza (this worked great when we are under power - we have a toaster oven), smoked salmon and beef jerky (already currently being brined). I made some caponata last year, and I loved it, although no one else ate it. I may make that again though. I'm hoping to get a batch of red pepper jelly made too.
The harder part for me is the sweets. I like to have a sweet nibble around. Last year I brought toffee covered crackers. I need some ideas of for travel friendly sweets.
Jamón ibérico is similar to a prosciutto, but only produced in Spain and Portugal. The pigs eat acorns, which is part of the reason it has such a beautiful flavor.
Our very first meal there was Jamón ibérico. It was sliced thinly, and served on hard crusty bread with tomato oil. We came to a sandwich shop, and I made Mr. H stop because I really, really wanted to try this jamon I had heard so much about. He didn't get it at first, but after one bite.... In Spain, I don't think we went to a restaurant that did not serve it. Just about every restaurant legs of ham hung from the ceiling. I think we ate jamon every single day.
I had heard that this ban had been lifted last year, but I had yet to see any.
Tuesday, July 1, 2008
Several web sites mentioned jewelry - for EVERY anniversary. I'm not a big jewelry girl. I like it, I wear, but don't dump tons of money into it for me. Well, maybe every once and a while you can. But not every holiday.
Mr. H purchased a set of stainless steel coffee mugs for us. This made me very happy because I lost my last mug, and have been much forlorned using the mug I have. It has fallen apart, it's bent, and it's starting to look worse for wear on the inside. I'm quite certain that I am making compost with the amount of old coffee crud on the inside of it. The new mug should even fit into my bike, so finally I can drink coffee on those morning trips to the gym.
We also decided to purchase a coffee roaster as a joint present. I had read about using a popcorn popper to roast green coffee beans years ago but never really seriously considered roasting my own until a friend showed me her automatic roaster. Mr. H and I have been occasionally whispering about procuring one of these magic things ever since.
With the anniversary upon, well, past us, we are still debating which one to finally purchase. My friend gave the I-Roast 2 a rave review, although I don't know if she would use it quite as often as we are planning to. The biggest fallback for us of the I-Roast is the size. While my friend swears that it's enough for two (of our) pots of coffee, my husband remains unconvinced. The fallback of the larger roasters is the price. It was just a little more than we wanted to spend, especially for a hobby we haven't completely commited to yet. On the other hand, I am fairly confident that we will enjoy roasting our own beans. We make our own pickles, peanut butter and jam, what's a little coffee roasting? I'm fairly certain that in the long run we will make up our investment, because the cost of green beans is so much cheaper, let alone how much better it supposedly tastes...
The decision will be made by the end of the week.
Friday, June 27, 2008
While I was gone, my urn of sauerkraut was happily bubbling away. What? You made sauerkraut, you say? Well, not yet. Sauerkraut is cabbage that has fermented in a brine. Much like a pickle. I guess it takes about 4 to 6 weeks for the cabbage to fully ferment to its fully gasous self. Being a good irish girl like I am, I came rather late to the sauerkraut game, but my german husband (and this highly german town that I live in) loves the stuff. And I like it too. It seemed natural to try to preserve it myself.
I secured 3 cabbages (15 pounds) at the farmers market the previous weekend. (on a side note, my new market bag worked fabuously - it was like having 3 ginormous... well, for lack of a better analogy, testicles popping out of this bag). Sliced them thin, and sprinked them with salt. 3 tablespoons of salt per 5 pounds of cabbage. Let it wilt from the salt. Pack the cabbage into the urn tightly. Hopefully, the liquid from the cabbage will cover the cabbage, but if it does not (and I have yet to have the water extruded actually cover it), you can make a simple brine to supplement it.
At first my sauerkraut bubbled like crazy and almost immediately started eminating that "Dear god, what has died in our kitchen" (to quote my husband). I shuffled the enormous crock of kraut down to the basement for fear that the hot weather was encouraging too fast of fermentation.
Then, after a week down in the basement, I think it was too cold. The fermentation seemed to cease.
Thank you to the Harvest forum at Gardenweb - a group of experts on such preservation who advised me to bring it back up into warmer environment.
It's been going for 2 weeks now. The kraut is not bubbling as much as I think it should, but it is definitely starting to smell and taste sour.
I'll update later...
Thursday, June 26, 2008
Here is my first cotton market bag. I love, love, love it. I love whipping it out. It stretches in ways I could not comprehend.
I put 15 pounds of cabbage in it. Along with cucumbers, and it didn't even groan. And it popped back to the original shape. (this picture was taken post-cabbage).
Love it. Making more as soon as I can.
I do have about 4 drafted posts, just waiting for me to complete them. I get started, ramble a lot, and then something pulls me away. The post is banished to neverland. I promise to get them out there. Go toward the white light little posts! Anyway....
We are coming up on the end of strawberry season for this part of the woods. So far, I have made about 20 jars of jam, a huge vat of strawberry vodka which needs to soak for the next 3 weeks, and today I am making strawberry leather (aka fruit rollups). I'm hoping that Saturday's farmers market does not leave me hanging, as I would like to get about one more round of strawberry stuff. We'll see...
Tuesday, June 3, 2008
Anyway, the whole family is piling into the car at an ungodly hour of the morning this weekend to be in that overrated city (although I still like it) by 6 am. Seriously. I'm going to bring my lounge chair and try to catch a nap.
As Mr. H is away on business tonight, I decided to work on a small protein present for him. Two batches of beef jerky, one of which I'm going to try to smoke on my smoker tomorrow, rather than just using the dehydrator. In addition, I'm experimenting with a batch of salmon candy.
Candied salmon is salmon that has been marinated/brined in a sweet brine, then hot smoked. Or at least, I believe that is what it is. We have been buying it from Whole Foods for as long as it was open. Miss Thing loves it. The only problem is the price, at $18 to $20 per pound, it is an expensive treat. Especially when the 5 year old would eat a pound of it herself. On our recent trip home, we bought a little stash of the stuff, but it just left me longing for more.
I decided to try my own version of candied salmon. Turns out, there are many recipes for the brine. Duh, I guess I just had to look for it.
I decided to use a recipe that included a lot of sugar and maple syrup. The recipe contained (what I thought to be) an awful lot of salt, but since this was my first time, I figured I should stick to the recipe. The brine makes a lot - much more than my 3 pounds of salmon needed.
I brined the chunks of salmon for about 24 hours, and then smoked them over hickory chips for about 3 hours. I still don't think I have the timing for the salmon right - I'm still not quite accustomed to deciding when a chunk is done. But for the most part, I think it turned out well. The fish was sweet, with a nice texture, and a good smokey flavor. Personally, I thought it was too salty, and next time I will not use so much salt. I apologize for not having a picture of the fish but I will get one as soon as I can.
On the upside of this adventure though, I made 3 pounds of candied salmon for about 18 dollars, rather than 19.99 a pound at that store! In addition, I threw the leftover brine with some of the beef that I was using for jerky in an attempt to persuade Miss Thing to like the stuff. I then smoked it. It tasted just like bacon!!!! She loved it.
Sunday, June 1, 2008
Anyway, there was an unspoken tension going down there this weekend. While we have been in this rust belt community for about 10 months now, I still considered C-bus "home" and, not to sound snobby, but in some ways superior to our current location.
And there were definitely things I miss about C-bus. It feels clean and new. There are a plethora of the cute and yuppie (for lack of a better word) markets, stores, bakeries, wine shops, restaurants, etc. It is, for the most part, a very educated city, and because of the many high-tech and white collar jobs, there is an air of civilized living. But my god I forgot how much you have to drive to get to all those places. Friday morning, we drove around for over 4 hours, and only ran 5 errands. There was no place we could ride a bike to, even if we wanted to. I went to a yarn store, hoping for something cool and interesting, but realized that everything they had there, I could find at home.
We did get to do some favorite things. Croissiants at La Chatalane at the Saturday Farmers Market. I wanted to get some strawberries for jam, but they weren't there, unfortunately. The Whole Foods there is ginormous, much bigger than the Ann Arbor one, and carries some very specific items that we can't seem to get up here otherwise. We feasted yesterday on candied salmon, our favorite Spanish goat cheese and stocked up on our Indian frozen dinners. I also bought close to 15 pounds of chocolate.
By the end of the weekend, C-bus started to feel like an old boyfriend I had idealized after I had broken up with him. You know, the guy who you clearly broke up with for a reason, but over the years you forgot those reasons, and you spend days pining over all the good points. But then you run into him again, and realize, eh, he's not that great.
Saturday, May 31, 2008
Monday, May 12, 2008
We have eight birdfeeders currently up (two of which are hummingbird feeders). We love to sit in the sun room and watch the visitor come within feet of the house.
Miss Thing's favorite is the goldfinch and we have been delighted to observe the change in plumage from dull brown to the bright yellow of breeding. We believe we have a breeding pair visiting; a male and a female that consistantly come together. We also thing we have a breeding pair of cardinals visiting regularly. The female cardinal has been hopping around Mr. H's office window, and we joke about her checking him out. (I personally think that she sees how chaotic his office is and figures it would be a safe place to nest)
Mr. H loves the red-breasted nuthatch (most of whom have left for the season).
However, yesterday, we saw our first red-bellied woodpecker. I'm not positive, but I think these too were a breeding pair. We aren't sure if there are two or just one, but I think again, there is a male and female around. I'm always surprised how BIG these woodpeckers are, especially compared to the Downey woodpeckers that we see so frequently. The same with the blue jays. I knew they were big, but they seem massive when the balance on the shephard's hooks and tower over the goldfinches.
And Mr. H just told me that he saw the first hummingbird of the season darting around the house too...
Thursday, May 8, 2008
We stratified half of the seedlings as directed (stratification is the chilling of seeds for a period of time to encourage germination), and planted the other half right away.
Those planted earliest took the longest to germinate. Seriously, like 7 weeks for the seedlings to emerge. I was about to give up on the whole thing and pitch it when I noticed the first ones. Those seedlings are still the smallest, although developing their second set of leaves, and located in the smaller two sections of the planter.
The stratified seeds germinated in about two weeks and are quite large already.
The pack came with the blue rocks for decoration, and the plastic "bog buddies" to eventually entice small insects to our bog. I had no idea that flies like small fake plastic yellow snakes, but what do I know?
The little bit of research I have done suggests that a plant may need to be upwards of 2 years to be able to eat a bug (depending on the plant, of course).
If you click on the picture, I have highlighted where all the seedlings are.
It was about a year and a half ago that I first went on the market. While I had not completed my PhD, I had an approved proposal, a data collection schedule, and a plan to graduate in the spring. Approximately 30 applications went out. I did not have the luxury of single candidate. Every time the jobs were posted, Mr. H and I sat down and went over them. Applications were decided on as a family. Is this a place we could live? How do we think that Miss Thing would do in this area (she was preparing to start kindergarten the following year)? Is it conducive to Mr. H's career as well? And, is it close to a major body of water (Mr. H's major criteria)?
For six months I got rejection letters. Sometimes, I didn't even get notified if my application was received. I got a couple nibbles, people commenting on the strength of my vita, only to find that an influx of even stronger candidates (those who already had a position elsewhere) made me not as appealing. Plus, I'm not a "typical" PhD in my field. My expertise lies squarely in the middle of several different areas, and I think I had some problems finding my niche, or people envisioning me in the department. After the fact, my advisor got a lot of positive feedback on my vita, what a good candidate I was, but there was just someone else who had X. X could have been anything - it just depended on the school. I liken it to a house on the real estate market - people all loved the house, but nobody wanted to buy it.
A very disappointing six months. It was much like going through infertility treatments - a whole lot of trying and waiting only to find a big ole negative on that stick. My advisor assured me that I always had the following year. Which didn't exactly turn out to be the case, but never the less...
And then there is the reality of the tenure track. As I already have a young child, and a spouse with a promising career as well, I feared that my situation would never lend itself to a tenure track position. Mr. H travels a lot, with very little notice ahead of time. I know how stressed out I was trying to balance it all while in grad school. Articles in the chronicle did not make me feel any better about my prospects to have a normal life, let alone a child who recognized that "mommy" is not her nanny, but rather, me. But even with all of that, I still, in my heart, thought I would land a tt position.
After a period of
It's still hard, everyone once and a while. Graduation, where everyone was talking about their post-docs and their new assistant positions was hard. There are times when I read something research-based and cringe, and wish I could do something about it, but without a faculty position, some of those opportunities are limited. I fear that I am letting my advisor, or some of mentors down because I'm not pursuing this more aggressively at this point.
So that's where I am. Part 2 later...
Tuesday, May 6, 2008
Pete: Yeah. Yuck.
Looks of disgust are shared among them.
Jake: Maybe her mom is a witch.
(I'm hiding my laughter at this point. I don't want them to know I'm listening)
Pete looks ponderous: Yeah. Besides, I'm not really into her. I'm saving up.
Jake: Saving up what?
Jake: You're saving up for what?
Pete: So I can have a wedding with (The Marvelous Miss Thing). (he shoots me a look to see if I am watching)
Jake: Oh yeah.
So my question is... what is the commodity of kisses? How many do you have to save to get married. I'm really not down with this whole boys-and-girls thing at this age. I don't like it at all, and we heavily downplay it in my house, although it can not be ignored. But even I can't deny that it can be cute.
Monday, May 5, 2008
It seemed terribly environmentally irresponsible to try to felt it in my front loading washing machine given it's small size, so I hand felted it using a bamboo sushi mat and some hot water. It took about 10 minutes. I don't remember what web site gave me that tip, but it worked beautifully.
It took me only a couple days to knit up and felt (I'm not that fast of a knitter yet). Given as a gift to my new dear friend from the neighborhood...
Tuesday, April 29, 2008
We have a large glassed-in sunroom in which about half of what would normally be a roof is also windows. In the last few weeks, Cyrus has become more and more disturbed by the black dog in the those upper windows that appear to taunt him. If we can't kill the lights, he will bark at that mysterious dog for an hour. Usually we can pet him, and he will come to the realization that it is not an intruder.
When Mr. H is away, the boys become particularly protective. I swear they can sense his absense. So I have also become accustomed to the increase in barking due to their viligence. Between the phantom dog, the deer that roam the backyard and who knows what other wildlife back there, we have many things to be protected from.
Around 1 am last night, Cyrus starts going nuts. I let him express his displeasure for about 15 minutes before I started to get annoyed. I walk out into the sunroom where he has his head tilted up to the sunroof again and scold him for barking at his reflection. Back to bed. Cyrus starts up with the barking again. I tried to ignore him again, but then Cisco joins in the fray. Cisco has this high pitched annoying bark that could shatter glass. Strange, coming from a 60+ pound dog. Again, I walk out to the living room, try to calm them, and go back to bed.
About five minutes later, guess what happens? Now, I'm getting pissed. It's after 2 am, I'm tired, I'm starting to get a little freaked out by the insistent barking. It's really dark, it's raining, Miss Thing is still asleep (I don't know how). I don't want to let them out.
So I stomp out into the sunroom again and almost poop myself when I see the large furry thing moving around my sunroom roof. It's a racoon. A small one, too. Only about two feet from nose to tail. Clearly, the dogs are quite upset by this intrusion. I have never heard the caliber of this bark.
This racoon is not bothered that I am standing about a foot away from it. I turn the light off and on. I wave my hands and jump. The noise thing hasn't bothered it so far. I throw a book at it (at the window, really). This thing does not move. Well, I take it back, it wanders around the roof so it can get a better view.
Because it was not afraid of me or the dogs, I couldn't decide if it was just young and naive or had distemper. Because of the latter, I didn't want to let the dogs out to chase it.
It eventually crawled beyond my sight up the roof. I hope it left. I have fears that there is a racoon den close by.
I went to bed close to 3 am last night. Miss Thing did not awaken during this mess. Mr. H called me bright and early at 7:30 this morning so I will be looking for a nap today at some point...
Tuesday, April 22, 2008
T-town seems to be a dying city right now. Heavily based in industry, many jobs have been lost over the past few years. The local government seems to have some issues. I think a lot of people are just burned on the turn the economy has taken. It's a bad situation. For example, Mr. H and I were at a local bar, and a couple asked us if it would be okay if we scooched down a bit so that they could pull up a second chair. Of course we would. But, the couple actually bought us a round of beers because, as he put it, "most people in this town just would have said no." Fistfights are a lot more plentiful here as well.
That is, until you step into our neighborhood. Here in the bubble, life is completely different. A primary example is our garbage service. You are not allowed to put your garbage cans out for pickup. Oh no, they come up to your driveway to pick them up. And you can even leave a key for them to enter into your garage for you if you do want to bother to put it out.
This morning, after waking up and remembering that today is trash day, Mr. H scrambled to get it out as our sanitation engineer was coming up the driveway. They stopped and chatted for a while. The guy kind of laughed and said that if we hadn't gotten it out in time, he probably would have swung by later just to check to see if we had forgotten (huh? seriously?). Oh, and what a great day he was having. He got to ride his bike to work today and it was a beautiful day. He and Mr. H probably talked for a good 5 to 10 minutes out there.
I'm not sure how much prozac is being peed out in this village, but it is seriously affecting some people...
Friday, April 18, 2008
Sunday, April 13, 2008
I decided that the smell of fermenting cucumbers or cabbage might not be the most appealing when one is trying to sell one's house, so I've been toying around with the idea of brining some pickles and/or cabbage since we moved into this new house. Last autumn, I bought some cabbage from the farmers market with the full intention of making saurcraut, but didn't get to it fast enough.
I saw some pickling cucumbers at the market these past two weeks. Last week I pickled some cucumbers in a vinegar solution. "TOO SOUR" exclaimed Miss Thing making that scrunched up face that animated characters do when they eat lye or a lemon. I knew a brining was in order.
Last Sunday I followed Alton's recipe for cured pickles. I can tell you that those cucumbers just looked beautiful.
I checked on those pickles this morning, with the full intention of seeing those little bubbles that indicate successful fermentation is taking place. Nothing.
The water that was once clear is now a little murky, but not cloudy as I expected it to be. Now, it's only been three days. And maybe I'm not sure what I'm looking for. It's also been rather cold in my house (damn this never ending winter), so we'll give a few more days before I decide this is a failed experiment.
Saturday, April 12, 2008
And yet I can't drag myself away from coffee cozies. I love having them. I hate using the paper wrappers on coffee shop paper cups - it's such a waste. I love knitting them too. They are a quick knit, and I can practice doing new techniques (like this more complex cable design). Plus, unlike some of the other stuff I am working on, I can see the progress of my work, and complete something.
I'm probably going to have to change to beer cozies with the summer months coming soon.
Special Instructions: C7B - Cable 7 Back. Slip next 4 sts onto cable needle and hold at back of work, knit next 3 sts on left-hand needle, slip from cable needle onto left-hand needle and purl it, then k3 from cable needle.
1 row (RS) K6 [p1, k3] 5 times, K3
2 row (and all even rows): K3, P3 [K1, p3] 5 times, K3
(Rows 3-6: Repeat rows 1 & 2)
7 row: K3, [k3, p1] twice, C7B, [p1, k3] twice, K3
9th row: (row 1)
11th row: K6, p1, [C7F, p1] twice, K6
13th row: (row 1)
15th row: K3, ([C7B, p1] twice, C7B, K3
17th row: (row 1)
19th row: as 11th row
21st row: (row 1)
23rd row: 7th row
25th - 28th row: Repeat rows 1 & 2
Mattress stitch the two sides together.
Monday, April 7, 2008
I have been pondering the reality of my situation, the tenure track process (and prospects of such), and my previous experiences over the past twelve years or so.
I realized that a year ago, I would not have ridden my bike with my daughter to school because it would have taken an extra 20 minutes total. I couldn't waste that kind of precious time when I could use it for prepping for a class, working on my dissertation or reading some article. Even twenty minutes was a precious commodity.
I was writing up a post about my pursuit of a tenure track position, but I think I'm going to let it simmer for a while. It's not that I don't want one. Or, that I didn't want one. But these past three months "off work" have made our family so much more balanced and happy. Mr. H and I don't fight about work and whose career is more important. We're not trying to schedule personal and couple time in conjunction with work time. No one is worrying about Miss Thing getting her homework done.
I still enjoy working. I've got my little gig on the side, and Mr. H and I are seriously discussing starting a small business in conjunction with my candies. We think it has legs. I've gotten some really positive feedback recently.
However, in reflection, I would hate to be too busy to ride my bike with my daughter to school on a beautiful day again.
Sunday, April 6, 2008
Monday, March 31, 2008
Secondly, it had "good bones." Which means we like the layout of the house for the most part, but hated the decorating of the house. It has old carpeting. Lots of wallpaper. Some pretty hideous bathrooms.
For most of the winter, we have ignored it. Miss Thing's room was painted when we first moved in, as was ours (because Mr. H was concerned about his manhood being permanently sucked away due to the heavy pink walls and carpeting). We were also going to do the kitchen this winter, but decided to wait so we could save a little more. We made due with the rest of the house with the occasional spackling and 3 corner tear to the wallpaper. These, we said to ourselves, were to inspire us to get working on the house.
Yesterday, Mr. H had originally planned on working on the boat, but the weather was not quite warm enough. So instead, we through caution to the wind, got the living room primed and stripped wallpaper from the dining room. The dining room should be done by today or tomorrow, and then I get to work on the hallway wallpaper. The carpeting in the dining room is disgusting (especially so after spending the day soaking it with a vinegar solution from wallpaper removal), so we will be ripping up the carpeting and laying down hardwood in some form (I really love the concept of bamboo as a sustainable resource, but damn if it doesn't look funny).
The goal is to have all of this done in time for a graduation party in the late spring/early summer. Or maybe late summer. Since several of our friends are sailers, it's hard to throw a party when the weather is nice enough to go sailing.
I have never removed wallpaper before, but I have heard what a pain in the patootie it is. While it is time consuming, honestly, I didn't think it was that bad. If I could manage to peel the top layer off, getting the glue and backing off was fairly easy with a mixture of boiling hot water and vinegar. I took my time, trying to make sure I could get all the glue off, and trying not to damage the plaster. It appears that they did put a primer down before they papered, and I'm pretty sure that helped a lot. It took me about 5 hours to get through half the room. One wall came off like a dream, but the other ones needed a lot more time and care. I hope to get through the rest tonight. As I sit here and write this, I listen to Mr. H and Miss Thing peeling off wallpaper making happy cathartic noises, much like I did when I would sunburn and then peel the skin off. Quite similar really.
I'll scrape tonight again. Mr. H will sand down the walls and then paint.
Wednesday, March 26, 2008
Black licorice. I don't know anyone who likes it (except I think my mom likes it). I remember eating pizzelles that were heavy on the anise flavor and just gagging with disappointment that the crisp delicacy had been poisoned with that flavor. At one of my favorite college coffee shops, I used to pick the anise seeds out of the rock-hard biscotti that I would eat (one piece would last a whole week. I hope to write about that later). I still don't care for italian sausages that rely heavily on fennel seeds for flavor.
Then about three years ago, I bought a little french taragon plant, and I fell in love. For some reason, tarragon's mild anise flavor seemed so much more delicate, so gentle. Nothing at all like the harsh explosions from anise seeds. I started using it in everything. I made a tomato-tarragon spread that I use on bagels and crackers. People can't place the taste. (I even took the plant with me when we moved up here. It overwintered successfully, and I almost wept with joy - I hope it makes it to planting).
My secret mission for the past two years has been to try to make anise more accessible. My biscotti, although edible without a jackhammer, uses a mixture of anise, vanilla and almond. I couldn't think of it without the slight anise tinge. I experimented with springerle this past christmas season with a heavier anise flavor. Again, even those who profess not to like anise ate the cookies.
However, I have not been able to move past to fennel. Inevitably, someone sees it, and turns their nose up. Two years ago at Thanksgiving, I made a mixed greens salad with fennel, orange and onion. No one touched it (now, this could also be in part because I made WAY to much food. Two 15 pound turkeys for 12 people? WTF was I thinking?). I would buy it, and Mr. H would just shake his head.
I am happy to say, that this Easter, fennel won. I made a potato-leek-FENNEL gratin. And one of the cousins asked for the recipe. Now, you have to keep in mind that most of my family considers things that don't come with a powdered cheese sauce gourmet. And I don't mean that in a disparaging way, but more as a description of their context. I usually joke about the ingredients I'm sneaking into the meals. I love sharing things that my family hasn't seen or tasted before. I gave my step-mother-in-law her first taste of blood orange this weekend, and I just loved seeing her face at the different taste. Anyway, I digress....
The gratin was really tasty. Sure, you couldn't really taste the fennel that much. And it was covered in heavy cream and cheese. But the fennel DID add something to the dish, and I wouldn't leave it out...
2 tablespoons (1/4 stick) butter
3 chopped leeks (white and pale green parts only)
2 medium-size fresh fennel bulbs, sliced very thin
About 3-4 large red-skinned potatoes or other waxy potato, peeled, thinly sliced (2 lbs?)
3 cups grated Jarlsburg cheese
1 cups chicken stock or canned low-salt chicken broth
3/4 cup whipping cream
Saturday, March 22, 2008
After hosting Thanksgiving and Christmas, it is now time to host the next major holiday. I'm trying to keep the menu fairly simple, without sneaking too much weird new stuff into the food. We are going to deep fry another turkey, at the request of my father in law, but since I had already bought the ham at that point, we're going to do both meat groups.
I'm trying a couple new recipes that I'm eager to share, but I'll wait to see how they go over first. Below is the menu for Easter at our house..
In the beginning...
Sinking our teeth into it...
Deep fried turkey
Potato Leek Gratin
Tossed salad with Blood Oranges and Onion
While I would probably fall into that generic pick-up line "spiritual but not religious," I do love a good holiday feast. More on the rest of the feast later, but one request this year was for an easter cake. The Marvelous Miss Thing had been prowling around Andersons admiring the half spheres of shortening-laden sugar all week. Egg cakes and bunny cakes called her name. I promised her a cake for easter (as if we need any more sugar in this house right now).
So above is a quick hustling together of an easter cake. I didn't have much time as I have other things on the menu, but he'll do. I made the frosting with a heavy whipped cream base, which although makes for a creamy and soft frosting, also means it's a bitch to frost with, especially with a chocolate cake. It's hard to tell, but I used my ball mold, so inside is a mountain of almond-flavored whipped cream. Some leftover fondant from another party makes the mouth, nose and teeth. Mr. H really emphatically believed that the bunny needed more anatomically correct eyes, but I told him to shove off, I had a turkey to deep fry and fennel to ponder.
Just for kicks, I'm going to submit the cake for the easter cake IMBB (is my blog burning?) at A Slice of Cherry Pie. Not one of my best cakes, but after nibbling on it for several days, it was super tasty.
Monday, March 17, 2008
This scarf is officially known as the dissertation scarf because of all the similarities between this scarf and my dissertation. First, there are many flaws, but I pray that no one looks close enough to find them. Secondly, there are sections of it that I had to redo an ungodly number of times (I think that 11th repeat I knitted, ripped out, and knitted again 6, count it, S-I-X times). Thirdly, I put a lot of myself into it, and I'm darn proud of it. Fourth, they were both, at times, pushed to completion because of the hovering spector of my advisor.
Fortunately, I think she loved it. It's the perfect color her. It was a little longer than I had thought it was going to be, but all in all a beautiful piece of work. I found some beautiful engraved shell buttons to sew on the end.
Things I learned from this scarf:
1. How to use lifelines (thank you Emily)
2. How to troubleshoot mistakes. I learned how to fix dropped yarnovers and all sorts of errors.
I think about 700 people received their degrees on Sunday. The stadium was packed. But now, it is done.
Saturday, March 15, 2008
Tomorrow is graduation. I get a snappy hat and for once, my name called. I have informed most of my family (my parents, Mr. H and Miss Thing excluded) that they are not to attend, but rather encouraged them to watch the streaming video from the comfort of their homes.
After tomorrow, I am officially a PhD.
Saturday, March 8, 2008
Credit(s): Paul Fürst (after J Columbina)
The plague has struck our house. Truly. So far, I am the only one still left unscathed, but since Mr. H is scheduled to be gone this week, it is almost predestined that I will come down with it the night before he leaves. The Pitiful Miss Thing is starting to perk up slightly, but she is still running a fever, as is Mr. H. And of course, due to the weather, I can't run away and escape.
I am going to be wearing one the above getups for the next week to scare off this foo.
Thursday, March 6, 2008
I'm at home today with a Pitiful Miss Thing who decided at about 9:00 last night to run a 103 degree fever. Thursday is her favorite day to get sick, because Friday is just a little too soon to see a doctor, and by the third day of a fever which is usually when I take her in, it is Sunday, and there is no one who will see her. By the time we have spent 4 or 5 hours sitting an an urgent care, she will somehow become miraculously cured just as we finally get a doctor to see her.
This also means we have been cooped up at home for two days straight since yesterday was a snow day. Mr. H has been swamped with work this week so I rarely even see him come out of his office. And if he does, he has his stress hat on.
While I have an inferno child pressed up against me for the next 12 hours, I hope to get close to finishing the present for my advisor since graduation is next weekend! I have saved all my crafty karma from the past ten years to pull this one off. Under the care and advice of my highly crafty mother, I think I have several nice things planned, which I will share later since it is a gift. I hope I can pull this off. I have been so unsuccessful in the past. Feel free to sacrifice a small animal to the crafty gods for me.
Sunday, March 2, 2008
The original recipe came from Epicurious. The below contains my modifications.
1 1/2 sticks (3/4 cup) unsalted butter
1 medium onion, chopped
1 large garlic clove, crushed
1 teaspoon minced fresh thyme
1 teaspoon minced fresh sage
1 tbls minced fresh parsley (plus some for garnish)
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 lb chicken livers, trimmed (I wish I knew what you were supposed to do to trim the liver. That will be my next step)
2 tablespoons whiskey (because I didn't have bourbon)
1 tbls Port wine (because I have a whole bunch of Port)
Melt 1 stick butter in a large nonstick skillet over moderately low heat, then cook onion and garlic, stirring, until softened, about 5 minutes. Add herbs, salt, pepper, nutmeg, and livers and cook, stirring, until livers are cooked outside but still pink when cut open, about 8 minutes. Stir in bourbon and port and remove from heat. Purée mixture in a food processor until smooth, then transfer pâté to crock and smooth top.
Melt remaining 1/2 stick butter in a very small heavy saucepan over low heat, then remove pan from heat and let butter stand 3 minutes. Skim froth from butter, then spoon enough clarified butter over pâté to cover its surface, leaving milky solids in bottom of pan.
Chill pâté until butter is firm, about 30 minutes, then cover with plastic wrap and chill at least 2 hours more. Garnish with additional parsley. Serve with mustard, and those little french pickles.
- How to knit. At least, how to knit into the right hole (boy, that sounds perverted)
- How to cable. Much, much easier than I thought.
- How to weave in ends. There are a lot of stripes in the scarf, and I learned a lot of different techniques (aka - I messed around a lot) to weave in ends.
- Some of the differences between good yarns and not so good yarns. This particular yarn was an alpaca blend and left fuzz everywhere. In addition, when wet, it actually smells like an alpaca.
A successful experience. I learned a lot. Mr. H is happy. I'm happy it's done. On the to next learning experience.
Tuesday, February 26, 2008
I am huge fan of Project Runway, the reality show where designers are given fashion challenges and a limited time frame and budget to complete them. I've been watching since the first season. Down in C-bus town, there would generally be a small pool and much weekly discussion about whose outfit was best, who brought the best drama to the episode, etc. etc.
(I even got a chance to meet Kara Janx from season 2 at a charity fashion show a couple years ago with some of the other grad students. The picture is bad, but Kara is the one in the middle.)
In honor of Project Runway, Mason-Dixon Knitting is holding a Teeny Runway contest in which enterprising knitters must create a fashionable outfit for a non-bear object (you can read the whole story and the rules ) which wil then be voted on by the general blog-reading public.
I haven't gotten through the pictures yet today, but since we now have a snow day, and even my Master Gardener classes were canceled, I may try and peruse a bit.
Monday, February 25, 2008
These salads become especially important when I look at the calendar and realize that we only have a few months until the days of baggy sweaters and jeans will vanish with the snow. I lost about 40 pounds a few years ago and I am still fearful of putting it back on again. Winter is particularly tough since it's harder to justify walking around the neighborhood when you are knee-deep in snow.
Anyway, back to the salads. We eat two core salads in this house - a caesar salad and a mixed greens salad. And it's really more that we have two core salad dressings, and the salad revolves around that.
Make salad dressing is such an easy thing. It does take a little longer than pulling a bottle out of the fridge, but the results are so much tastier, and I control what I'm putting into it. I have tried making a larger portion of salad dressing a couple days in advance, but have found that it loses too much of its flavor, so we're back to making it immediately before dinner.
Tonight's dressing is a honey-citrus-mustard dressing. It's very, very simple. It works best with mixed greens or something slightly on the bitter or tart side to compliment the sweetness from the honey. I probably wouldn't serve it on romaine or head lettuce.
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 tbls dijon mustard
1 tbls honey
about 3 tbls to a 1/4 cup citrus juice- we frequently use lime because it is what we always have in the house. I really like it with lemon, or even a lemon-orange mixture.
Mix the above together well.
Take a good bottle of olive oil and slowly drizzle it into the juice-mustard mixture, stirring constantly. An emulsion should form. I'm not quite sure how much olive oil I put in. It's not a whole lot.
This dressing is a re-creation of one I had down on a mixed green salad at Enormous U served with roasted veggies and cumin spiced black bean hummus (super, super good - I highly recommend the combination) . We also eat it with the above salad - mixed greens, onions, sundried tomatoes, sea salt and pepper. And homemade croutons.
Friday, February 22, 2008
The actual instructions note not to feed your plants actual meat. I don't know if I would consider flies and insects "meat" but I guess they aren't exactly herbacious either.
Monday, February 18, 2008
Our job was an appetizer. When I spoke to our most gracious host to inquire what she was making so I could coordinate the appetizer, she replied "a meat." So, assuming that she had not settled on the main dish yet, I was left to my own devices. Which, for the first time, I could not come up with a damn thing. It's not like me not to know what appetizer to bring. I totally love appetizers. But we had some considerations - because we were going to someone else's house, it needed to be portable, able to travel easily, not needing to be cooked and immediately served.
So I tried something new that I found on the Epicurious web site - dates stuffed with parmesan cheese and then wrapped in bacon. I'm rather unfamiliar with the whole date thing. I'm not a big fruit person in general. But I love parmesan cheese, and I liked the concept of the salty cheesey and the sweet date (even though I almost gagged when I tried a date by itself). And who doesn't like bacon? I could eat just about anything wrapped in bacon.
So here we go.
My first surprise was the need to pit the dates. I had never seen a pit from a date before, and was very surprised at how much they look like beetle larvae (unfortunately my picture of it did not turn out well).
After pitting them however, I had a gaggle of hungry little mouths like wrinkly pac-men.
Next, came the cheese. Little wedges of my good parmesan (you know, the stuff that has the crunchy crystalized salt or something in it - I love it. I really love it melted) shoved into these bad boys' mouths. I kind of felt like I was in Little Shop of Horrors and danced around the kitchen singing "Feed me Seymour".
Then, after squeezing the little mouths closed, wrap them in bacon (I partially cooked mine because it was thick-cut) and bake at 400 degrees until the bacon is crispy and golden.
This picture was taken before the final baking, but you get the drift. They were all that they were promised - gooey, sweet, salty and smokey. They were best right out of the oven, but they held up well on the ride over, and they were surprisingly almost completely consumed. I wasn't sure how they would go over. Even if you are a little concerned, give them a try!
Friday, February 15, 2008
But Mr. H is going to be gone that night.
And it's spring break for the Marvelous Miss Thing.
So I need to try to find a babysitter and maybe someone to try to go with me. I'm not sure I'm going to be able to make this happen. I wouldn't mind going by myself, but it would be nice to drive with someone else.
Mr. H called to let me know that he had bought me a little thing while at his conference. I briefly panicked - he knows how I feel about Valentines day, but I hate not reciprocating.
So quickly, I made him this...
Based off a pattern that I found on Raverly. I did make one change to it.
Tuesday, February 12, 2008
And yet I can't get the freaking thing to work correctly. Somehow everytime the stitches end up screwed up. Sometimes I have too many. Sometimes too few. And based off my understanding of math (given, I only really understand calculus, comprehension of arithmatic still eludes me) these things should not be happening. I have plotted the stitches out. I have drawn pictures. I think i know how this thing should work, but apparently I don't, because it never looks like the picture.
I have knitted and unknitted this project 4 times in fluffy MOHAIR. If you are familiar with this, you know its a bitch to do. I then decided to practice on my wool yarn - and I have knitted and frogged that piece 3 times.
I'd like to get this piece done by March. It shouldn't take that long. I may have to have someone else look at it and tell me if I'm either doing it wrong or doing it right and think I'm doing it wrong.
Update: Indeed, I am an idiot. It took me a long time to figure out what I was doing wrong. A ball of yarn may have been thrown across the room. But I figured it out. It was my bad. I was yarn-overing wrong. For every yarn-over, I was yarn-overing AND knitting the stitch which always brought my stitches out wrong.
The Master Gardener program trains volunteers in horticulture, who then take those skills and assist in educational programs throughout the state. Run through the land-grant institutions, it works through extension to train people in every county of most states (at least, this is my understanding). Educational programs may include working with community gardens, with organizations such as botanical gardens or zoos, conducting plant informational sessions, working the plant hotline.. etc. etc.
In my case, classes run all day, once a week for nine weeks.
I've been eyeing this program for about 5 years when a former coworker joined the ranks of Master Gardener upon retirement. But I have a casual agreement with myself that I will not pursue more than one serious educational endevour at a time, and the whole doctorate thing won out.
But since I'm between gigs right now, this is a perfect time to get into this - I have the time to offer the 50 hours volunteer time required for your first year as a Master Gardener (after the first year it goes down to 10 or 20).
Today's topic - vegetables in the morning and soil in the afternoon. The veggie topic wasn't anything particularly new for me (Mr H: "What did you expect? You throw yourself into everything"), and I was slightly surprised that more people had not really explored the joys of growing veggies. I collect heirloom tomato varieties, although my collection has suffered due to the limited gardening of last year's move. I'm hoping maybe to get some people talking about their veggies in future meetings.
The soil topic was interesting but my chemistry was never good enough to hold my attention for the conversation on adhesion and cohesion and how it explained that water moves quickly through sand and slowly through clay. The speaker was engaging, but my eyes kept being drawn to the large quantities of snow that kept falling. I still can't believe what a difference 120 miles north makes in climate.
Sunday, February 10, 2008
This may sound a little out there, but that was in part how this whole thing started. Now, realistically, this is a lot more about relying less on supermarkets and such, and supporting local farmers, watching the chemicals I put into my body, etc than preparing for doomsday, but one too many late-night Nostradamous shows got me thinking about how little I know about supporting my own daily needs.
So I learned more about gardening. It then turned into canning. I haven't learned plumbing yet, but I did teach myself to knit.
And now, I have created a hat. I have made my own clothing.
I was knitting into the back rather than knitting into the front, so it's all knitted into the back). And no, it doesn't really look good on me. But the Marvelous Miss Thing likes it, so I made a big white rose to stick on it, and she now has been wearing it nonstop.
And I can now make my own clothing. Ok, so it's a hat, and a sweater is pretty intimidating because I'm not really good at following detailed directions (see my recipes), but I have created Fuzzy Things to Keep Me Warm.
Friday, February 8, 2008
I love to create cakes. I'm no Chef Duff or anything, but I love to play around with different textures and possibilities.
I try to take pictures of my cakes as well.
Now that I'm at home, I have less opportunity (or excuse) to make a crazy cake, so I'm just going to reflect on some previous ones.
Wednesday, February 6, 2008
In the meantime, the weather is crappy too. It's been raining for days, mixing with snow. The snowman that the Marvelous Miss Thing and I built last week gave up its slow backward limbo and now appears to be lying in the corpse position in our front yard. You can see the bottom snowman, and his stick arms lying directly out from the ball on the ground.
And to add to it, in my need for croutons (Mr. H and I are back in salad-mode), my damn garlic turned blue again.
If you have never seen blue garlic (which I had not prior to two years ago), garlic will sometimes turn blue due to a chemical reaction between the sulfur in garlic and an acid. It supposedly happens more frequently with immature garlic. The garlic is still completely edible, and it does not affect the taste. The blue that I have seen is fairly unnatural looking. Rather smurf-life. (because I am feeling too crappy to take and post my own picture, here is someone else's picture of it)
The first time I had it happen, it was when I was roasting tomatoes. Nothing more disturbing than what appears to be mold growing all over one's precious tomato harvest. It was a huge panic moment. Later, when I was pickling jalepenos, blue garlic struck again.
Today, I have blue-flecked croutons.
Fortunately, with continued heat, the blue color will fade away. Right now my croutons have some blueish-gray specks on them, but soon all will be golden brown.
Sunday, February 3, 2008
I looked at the scarf that I have been working on for Mr. H. It's not really noticable, unless you know what you are looking for...
Update: I can now totally notice, but since I was half-way through the scarf before I realized it, Mr. h is just going to have to suck it up.
I also have been looking at Debbie New's book Unexpected Knitting. I am totally in love with what she has done. Once I know how to knit. properly. I am going to start playing around with some of free-style stuff. I think it will suit me better. While the idea of knitting a sweater is intriguing, I don't think I'm disciplined enough...