Monday, October 20, 2008

Living in a war zone....

Today, we completely moved out of our kitchen.

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

I got my arm caught in the freezer, and that's why I haven't written.

Unfortunately, I wish this wasn't true. But I did get my arm caught in the freezer when I was alone in the house. I had about 10 minutes to contemplate whether the spaghetti sauce or the caponata would go best with my arm (as clearly gnawing it off was the only alternative) before I managed to rip it out. Quite painfully, I might add.

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


I have been living a lie. I have to come clean. It's been bothering me for a month now.

Remember when I wrote about my sauerkraut?

I am ashamed to admit, my fermentation experiment failed.

Five times.

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

Boat pictures...

I realized the other day that I posted about our cruise, but did not post any pictures of our trip.

Sailing is not for everyone. Sometimes, I even wonder if it is for me (that is generally when we get caught in a storm or it's really windy). However, when you wake up after anchoring in the middle of the lake, and you get to sit out and watch the sun come up over the water - then you realize what a beautiful hobby it can be.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Back to school sandwiches...

I love back to school time. I love school supplies. I love the (idea of) organizing and re-organizing. More than New Year's, the beginning of school signifies to me a fresh start. A new school year, new teachers, new things to learn, new pens... ahhh... it just rejuvenates me.

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 *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

My big bald bird...

About three months ago, we noticed what we considered to be an odd site. A male cardinal hopping around our back yard appeared to be going bald. At first, he had a few feather on the top of his head, but as the summer progressed, he eventually went completely bald.

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

Boat knitting.

We got back from our ten days on the lake late Satuday. One consequence of being on a boat for so long is that when you get back on dry land, everything still moves as if you were still on the water. Particularly if the ride was bumpy and/or wavy, which our trip was. I think I spent most of the sailing portions of our trip feeling nausous. Not fun.

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

Candied Salmon II: You should have seen the papers I used to smoke these guys...

I thought I would follow up on my earlier candied salmon experiment.

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

My first piece of real clothing...

I finished the knitting portion of this baby kimono a while ago, but I wasn't quite sure how to finish the ties off.

I'm very pleased though, and hopefully it will fit the new baby it was knitted for...

Monday, July 21, 2008


A part of the reason for our relocation was to get closer to our little hobby - sailing. Our boat is now only 20 minutes away from our house.

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....

It was exactly three years ago that Mr. H and I were adventuring our way through Spain. It was our first time in Europe (not that we have been back again... yet), and we were traipsing our way in a country whose language we did not completely understand.

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.
And because of this gluttony of ham, it made us even more sad when we found out that jamón ibérico was not available in the states. Three years ago, it was illegal to import it into the states. But trust me, I seriously, SERIOUSLY considered sneaking one of the legs into my carry on luggage.

I had heard that this ban had been lifted last year, but I had yet to see any.

Until Sunday.

Mr. H and I made a run to that city up north and stopped by the mecca of cheese and other tasty things, Zingermans. Which was where I saw the leg. And I nudged Mr. H and made a jamon comment, something like, "What does that remind you of... if only, right?" To which the guy behind the counter confirmed that it was indeed jamón ibérico. And would we like a taste? I begged Mr. H to say no, knowing that if we had a taste, we would end up buying some. It was expensive in spain, let alone imported to the states.

Two ounces. We ended up with two ounces of heaven.

Last night we ate gazpacho, a variety of cheeses and jamón ibérico. I wanted to cry.

Now if only I could find those fried peppers and fried fresh anchovies... And yes, I took a lot of pictures of ham while we were over there...

Tuesday, July 1, 2008


Saturday was my 11th wedding anniversary. Mr. H even looked up what our "anniversary solid" or metal or whatever it is, and discovered that 11 years is the steel anniversary.

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

Home alone..... fermenting...

I went to New York City for a few days with my mom and sister on a celebratory girls trip. It was a first time there for my mom and sister, and my second visit. New York feels like a potential second home to me. However, much like some of my other favorite cities, the cost of living seems so outrageous compared to the midwest, that it just seems more sensible to live here and then go on visits as often as possible.

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

Market bag...

Originally uploaded by estraub
I tried ever so vigilently to save paper or plastic bags for re-use the next time I went to the grocery store, but I would always forget to bring them. I tried to leave them in my car, but again, would forget to take them inside. Not anymore. Not with this baby.

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.

Strawberry Harvest...

You know it's bad when your spouse, who reads your blog about once a month, comments on your lack of posting.

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

Salmon Candy

Mr. H is running in his first triathalon this weekend. He is one of those people who doesn't have to work out regularly to still be able to run a 7 minute mile. For 10 miles. Hell, probably for 20 miles. I, on the other hand, while I can run for a long time (if I so chose), at a dispairingly slow pace. My occasional trainer swears to me that I could become faster, but I remember even in high school, when I played field hockey, I was a solid 9 minute mile girl. So it's not surprising to me that in the *cough*15 or so *cough* years since then that I can't keep that pace. I still run, probably around 15 miles a week, but not that fast. (I do have something going for me, I am not wracked with leg cramps or back spasms like he is.)

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

I guess we are in Kansas now, Toto.

The family piled into the family sedan on Thursday to head back to our dear hometown of C-bus (well, it's my hometown at least. But we lived there for 12 years, so I consider it Mr. H's hometown since adulthood). It was the student recognition ceremony, and all the students who had presented something or were awarded a grant had their name read and then got to eat cheese and sip fruit punch. I won a dissertation award, quite shocking, and I was very humbled by the honor.

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

I am officially in business.

On the same day that I won Best Dissertation for my section in the college (seriously! How crazy is that! My first question to my advisor was "didn't anyone else graduate this year besides me?"), my small business license for my very non-academic company arrived. Somehow I think the cash prize I was awarded was supposed to go toward funding additional research, not funding liability insurance for my candy company.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Monday, May 12, 2008

Birds in the backyard...

One of the new joys of our relocation are all the birds that we have in the backyard. We never really had birds in C-bus, due to the new construction and the lack of trees. Here, however, our backyard is filled with all sorts of wildlife.

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

Carnivorous seedlings...

It has been two and a half months since I first planted the Carnivorous Plant Pack, so I thought I would update those dying to know how they were doing.

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.

The job hunt... Part 1

I have been pondering my job possibilities for quite some time now. A week does not go by without someone commenting on my job hunt. And by that, I do not mean my hunt for a job, but rather, the distinct chaos that goes along with finding a tenure-track position. After all, I spent many productive years avoiding work by pursuing academics instead, surely it is time for me to make something of myself.

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 moping feeling sorry for myself mourning I have come to a peaceful place about this. The tenure track was not for me, at least not right now. And I'm okay with that. Most of the time.

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

The commodity of kisses.

Two boys swinging, holding a conversation... My notes are in ()

Pete: Laura said that her mother told her to kiss me next time I did something like that (didn't hear what "that" was)

Jake: Really?

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?

Pete: Kisses.

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

Little bag

I'm so proud of my little bag, so I have to share. It was my first felting project, and I even managed to sew the beads on. It's just so darn cute.

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

No sleep....

Mr. H is out of town again, which I have become accustomed to, even in this new house. I have a security system and two of the most paranoid dogs ever.

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

What is in the water here?

I have been known to mock our new town in the eight months we have lived here. Not that C-Bus was all that metropolitan, but in comparison to our new town, it was like New York City. The traffic was terrible. The restaurants were plentiful and good. Sprawl had taken over and we had to drive everywhere.

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...

Sunday, April 13, 2008

In a pickle...

Since I started canning last summer, I have become very interested in pickles. We are big pickle eaters around here. I'm a dill pickle girl myself, with no real taste for sweet or sweet and sour pickles.

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

I think I'm in love with coffee cozies...

I do have several larger knitting projects going on. A wrap for myself on chilly nights on the lake. A scarf as a promised gift for a friend. A blanket for Miss Thing.

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

Spring days.

The Marvelous Miss Thing and I rode our tandem bike to and from school today. It was a beautiful day. It's only a mile to school.

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.

The First Day of Flip-Flops

Yesterday, April 6th, was the First Day of Flip-Flops, 2008.

A sure sign of spring.

Goodbye socks!

Sunday, April 6, 2008

I dreamt of sheep in my backyard last night.

I can't decide if this speaks to knitting or the desire to live more sustainably.

Maybe I'm looking too deeply into it.

Monday, March 31, 2008

Home Improvements I

When we bought this house, there were two things that really sold it for us. First, it has just an amazing backyard. I love sitting in this room, looking outside, even in the winter.

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

Anise 1, World 0

I thought I would reflect a bit on my most recent holiday Feast.

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.

"Trying again?"

"Hell yes."

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...

Potato-Fennel Gratin (based on the recipe from epicurious)

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

Preheat oven to 375°F. Butter a large glass baking dish (mine was a little larger than a 13x9). Melt 2 tablespoons butter in large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add leeks cook until tender, stirring occasionally, about 10 minutes. Remove from heat.

Layer potatoes so they cover the bottom of the dish. Sprinkle layer with about 1/2 of fennel and 1/2 of leek mixture, follow with 1/2 of cheese (you're going to end up with about three layers - top layer being potato). Layer potatoes on top of the cheese, repeating the previous fennel, leek and cheese layers. Top with a layer of potatoes. I was dangerously close to the top of the gratin at this point, so I pressed everything down.

Heat cream and chicken broth and pour over potato mixture. The liquid will come close to submerging the top, but probably won't submerge the top layer. I pressed down the potatoes so they got some moisture on them, but wasn't terribly concerned. Several people had reported that there was too much moisture in the original recipe, so I cut it back and just kept an eye on it.

Bake for about an hour or so or until the top layer is golden brown. As it cooks, the potatoes should shrink a little, and the liquid covers them. If not, add a little more cream-chicken broth liquid to them. You don't want too liquidy of potatoes.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Happy Easter from the Fam-i-ly

My favorite christmas song describes a car crash of a holiday party. I wish I could re-write it for easter. There is definitely some car crash potential. Hopefully all will go well.

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...
Deviled Eggs
Veggie Tray
Scotch Eggs

Sinking our teeth into it...
Deep fried turkey
Potato Leek Gratin
Tossed salad with Blood Oranges and Onion

Sugar High
Egg Cake
Easter Cheese

Bunny Cake

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

The Dissertation Scarf

The present for my dear advisor was completed. On time. Even in time to block it. Amazingly enough.

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.

Just one in a sea of many...

All the PhDs get to wear the red and grey robes, bachelor's and masters wear black. There were about 120 PhDs yesterday that received their hood with their diploma. I also got to see two of my previous students graduate with their bachelor's, as well as a very good friend of mine from my previous staff position at Big U.
My advisor (about 5 inches shorter than I am) managed to get my hood on even though I hugged her too soon. I cried. They called my name. I cried. I shook the hand of the president of the university, and I think I had snot running down my face when they took my picture. I txted Mr. H and waved to Miss Thing through most of the ceremony.

I think about 700 people received their degrees on Sunday. The stadium was packed. But now, it is done.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

No, I haven't abandoned this already....

It has been a busy week, too busy even to blog. I haven't cooked. I've barely knitted. I actually *gasp* worked most of the week on two very different projects. One academic related, one food related.

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

Bring out yer dead...

"Doktor Schnabel von Rom" ("Doctor Beak from Rome") engraving, Rome 1656 From en-wikipedia
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

Sick kid

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

My first pate

There are a lot of people who don't like liver. I suspect it is because there are a lot of people who have never tried liver. As a child, I remember my irish-immigrant grandmother used to order liver and onions if available (that is, when we weren't eating at McDonalds which along with it's never ending supply of fish sandwiches seemed to represent to her all that was good with this country America). I remember my aunt making pate for special occasions - big bowls of the brown squishy stuff slabbed on crusty bread. All the adults ate it. I don't recall liking it back then, but I used to like the smell of it. Earthy and meaty.

Mr. H's grandfather used to make liver and onions as well, and regale with great horror stories of the smell of liver and onions in the house. I never thought it smelled that bad, but I always liked onions.

In Las Vegas one year, I ordered an appetizer of duck ravioli served on seared foi gras at Sensi (don't hate me for the foi gras). Mr. H recoiled at the idea, but I asked him to try one bite. His eyes lit up, and marveled at the texture and taste. He practically ate the whole thing. Over the next few years, I have gotten him to try pate as well. He likes it, kind of (grumpily mumbling "not as good as foi gras") and not enough to cook it at home, so when we had an improptu get together this weekend for a few friends, I ventured to make my first pate. I had it on good authority that at least one other person liked pate, so I was hopeful that it might get consumed.

It was fairly easy to make, and the liver did not smell up the house when cooking (one of my biggest fears. I was concerned that I might throw Mr. H into a full-fledged psychotic breakdown re-living childhood memories of beef liver). It was also well-recieved. I thought it had a bit more of a "liver" aftertaste than I usually like. Plus, it's so damn rich, you can't really eat much of it. The eight of us ate about a quarter of it. I split it into two crocks, so I hope to freeze the other one.
My final rating: Good, but I'm not sure it's worth the calories. So few people actually like liver, and many won't try it because it IS liver, or like my mom, can no longer eat liver due to health reasons. I have a reciped for a lentil pate that tastes remarkably like the real thing, so I'll probably stick to that from now on.

The original recipe came from Epicurious. The below contains my modifications.

Liquored up Pate

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.

Lessons from a Man-Scarf

I finished Mr. H's scarf the other day. It has been blocked, and he has even worn it (once).

Things I have learned from this scarf...
  • 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

Teeny Runway...

Make it work.

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

Salad days part 1

During the summer, I gorge on fresh veggies. I could eat them roasted, grilled, raw whatever. Winter months bring sadness and gloom to me because there are so few fresh veggies available. (Yes, I know they bring them in, but once you get used to eating tomatoes from the summer months you can not touch one of those hard nasty tasteless things they stock on the shelves). I try to compensate with a lot of salads.

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.

Citrus-Honey dressing

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

Feed me Seymour...

After the whole date thing, I remembered the package Mr. H had recently received. One of the fun parts of his job is that he gets all sorts of little swag and weird perks. Once, he was sent a remote control car that can go up to 30 mph for filling out a survey. Around the holidays, he was given some credit to a geek store, where he used the credit to get a star-scope thingy (because I like astronomy) and this....

It's a little plastic grow-dome and a whole bunch of carnivorous seeds (edited to add - the seeds aren't carnivorous - that would make things a whole lot more dangerous. The plants they grow into are carnivorous). We had set it aside assuming that we should plant it when it gets a little warmer, but I broke it open today to see what the actual instructions said.

Given the number of varieties, I'm really tempted to try and get a bigger terrerium before I try and plant these. Carnivorous plants are a little persnickety and take care. I haven't grown any before, but I'm really looking forward to it!

And here is my favorite part of the box...

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.

Some of these plants take up to 3 to 5 years to mature, so we have to be in it for the long haul. They certainly aren't native to this area of the US, so I'm going to have to be careful with them.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Dinner Club - Appetizer Edition...

In an attempt to meet some people in our new neighborhood, I signed the poor, unsuspecting Mr. H and myself up for a dinner club. Although I am a bit of an introvert, Mr. H. loves a random social engagement, and could quite possible entertain anyone on his own for several hours.

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


My favorite band in the whole wide world is coming within an hour of my current location in the near future. It doesn't happen very often. I missed them last time they were within two hours due to my dissertation stuff. I don't do concerts very often, but this is one that I would really, really like to see.

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.

Love is a warm coffee.

I don't do Valentine's day. This is a well known fact in my house. However, a little girl's love will change things a bit. She thought it was cool that she and I went out to dinner since Mr. H has been on the road again.

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.

On the back, I sewed in a pocket. To hold sugar, or maybe a full card worth a free cup of cappucinno that I had been saving for a special occasion from the local coffee shop. Love is coffee. (One note - the pocket is not really crooked - the pocket is a little small for that card, and it pulled the pocket wonky).
And for me? Well, Mr. H knows I have a weakness for geekwear.

I heart it so much. Most of my "geek" shirts are men's which makes me look not only like a geek, but also a poor dresser. This has a girl fit and its a cute color.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

I feel like a knitting idiot.

I have been working on the same "simple" pattern for three days now. It's a simple lace scarf. It should be simple. Everyone else says it's simple. I understand the stitches.

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.

Mastah... mastahhhhhhh.....

Today was the second day of master gardener class.

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

A small step closer to complete self-sustainability (aka my first hat)

After watching too many Armegeddon and "How the World Will End" shows on the Discovery Network and such, some people might consider how they would sustain themselves if something catestrophic would happen. Don't mock me. Have you thought about it?

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.

It is my first "beyond scarf" project. And no, it's not knit correctly (this was before I learned that 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

Cakes cakes cakes...

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.
If you click on the picture, I have added notes to the Flickr image, if you are so inclined.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

I've got the blues, and my garlic does too.

I feel crappy. What's worse, I can't tell you exactly what is wrong, but I know I don't feel good. Mr. H offered me the hope that it is what he had last week ("I felt like crap, and it lasted a week"). Fan-TAS-tic.

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 just realized that I have been knitting wrong

Bugger. It's not a huge deal, but I have to re-teach myself the physical motions. From what I can tell, my knit stitch is actually a knit into the back loop or I was using the combined knitting technique (but not on the purl stitch).

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...