Household Habits

We’ve both been getting a good laugh out of this post this afternoon, and have been gently and jokingly exploring our mutual annoying habits.

I am guilty of:

  • not closing the shower curtain
  • TOTALLY AND INCREDIBLY steaming up the bathroom BEYOND ALL REASON
  • not rinsing out lunch containers that previously contained creamy things (yogurt, salad dressing)
  • talking about teeth.  Never talk about teeth around Shane.  Ever.
  • constantly reorganizing, resulting in Shane not knowing where things are
  • leaving lights on
  • leaving stuff (bobby pins, small pieces of trash, sunglasses) in the car door handles
  • accumulating piles of stuff on the kitchen and coffee tables
  • being totally committed to my bookshelf organization even though it makes no sense to Shane
  • tolerating much warmer temperatures than Shane, but being a total baby about the cold – though in my defense, my normal body temperature is at least a degree lower than his.
  • ignoring small pieces of paper or food scraps on the floor

On the other hand, Shane:

  • gets water everywhere when brushing his teeth, washing his face, or doing the dishes.  Basically anything involving a sink will result in water everywhere.
  • accumulates an incredible amount of stuff on his desk and dresser
  • would rather wear every item of clothing he owns than do laundry
  • wipes his hands on his socks, which his brother also does
  • always sniffs the milk carton, even if the milk was purchased and opened yesterday
  • pushes the broom away from him rather than pulling it towards him while sweeping
  • eats cereal loudly. CRUNCH CRUNCH CRUNCH CRUNCH CRUNCH CRUNCH CRUNCH
  • is just generally chore-blind.  It’s not that he doesn’t care, it’s that other things are more important and interesting most of the time
  • cannot tolerate heat at all, but is annoyingly comfortable in the cold
  • has many good ideas about improving household workflows – except that most of them only pertain to things that I do.

Good thing we have so many redeeming and wonderful traits to balance out all of these mostly minor annoyances, right?

Happy Anniversary to us!

1214 Is it spring yet?

Snow Day
Photo by di_the_huntress

I ask because the winter angst is hitting me hard.  Shane picked me up from work and I immediately burrowed under a blanket and refused to come out.  I wouldn’t come out to exercise.  I wouldn’t even come out for Taco Tuesday, not even when Shane offered to brave the cold for Sabor Latino takeout.  I regretted it later when he was enjoying his tacos, but still couldn’t be convinced to come out from under my blanket until Shane consented to turn the heat up a few degrees.

I just can’t handle the cold.  I can’t do it.  I like all the things you do to avoid the cold, though.  I like knee socks and hot chocolate.  I like sweaters.  I like cuddling under blankets in front of a fireplace.  I like coffee, coffee with whiskey, coffee with Bailey’s, coffee with Kahlua, coffee with whipped cream.  I like soup and oatmeal, though not at the same time.  Most of all – perhaps more than any of these other things –  I like taking baths.

So that’s what I did tonight.  I took a long, very hot bath.  I read the August issue of Bon Appetit cover to cover in an attempt to pretend that it was still grilling weather.  I thought warm thoughts, and then I bundled up in my pajamas and read in front of the space heater.

What do you do to cope with the winter?

Good Eats

Whew, where did the fall go?  I can’t believe that Thanksgiving is a week from today, and Christmas not far behind.  After a blur of visitors last month, things have quieted down a bit, except that now I’m working 2 part time jobs that eat into my days, nights, and weekends.  We haven’t managed to do much of anything except work, eat good food, knit (me), work out in the basement (Shane), take naps (me), brew beer (Shane), and watch a lot of Fringe for the last two weeks.

But hoo-boy, we have been eating well.  I love fall food as it transitions from the wonderful fresh stuff from the summer into the heartier meals for long, cold winter nights.  I’ve been making our friendly butcher at Plum Market work for his money, asking lots of questions about the provenance of the meats (Niman Ranch and Bell and Evans farms – not local but quite reputable) and having things prepped for me to save time at home.  Hey, it’s what they’re there for, right?  We’d like to transition to buying more local meats, but in the interim, it’s really great to have knowledgeable and helpful butchers about .5 miles from our house!

A sample menu from this week:
Sunday: Balsamic Pork with Shallots, served with Al Dente mushroom fettuccine ($2 at work!)
Monday: Pollo alla Cacciatora
Tuesday: leftovers of the above, served with polenta and Zingerman’s parmesan pepper bread
Wednesday: Pasta e Fagioli soup, served with Zingerman’s parmesan pepper bread
Thursday: family-style dinner at SELMA – we’re bringing an apple cake and Shane’s hard cider
Friday: By the end of the week, I usually want to fall over, and we’ve usually run down the fridge and need to go grocery shopping, so we tend to go out and/or get food from the Plum Market salad/hot bar
Saturday: Braised Chicken Legs with Cider, Apples and Mustard

And in case you’re wondering, we’re sticking to a grocery budget of $100 or less per week, including alcohol.  I’d like for it to be even less, but since we’re spending next to nothing on going out and/or entertainment expenses, this budget seems just fine.

Almost Go Time

We leave for Michigan in four days. I can’t believe it’s already time. My last day of work was Friday, and tomorrow is Shane’s last day.  The movers are coming on Tuesday to pack up our apartment, and then our stuff leaves on Wednesday. Our going away party is Wednesday night at the Galaxy Hut, where we’ll be DJing – and then Thursday morning we’ll load up the car and the cats and be on our way.

At some point I imagine we’ll stop to reflect on our time here – but right now we’re both in a bit of a daze.

The good thing about this move – as opposed to other moves – is that it’s been relatively low stress up until this point.  We’ve had relaxed evenings of dinner and conversation – an afternoon lying on shaggy carpets with babies and friends – a long, lazy overnight at the lake with friends and good beer and sunshine.  This is the way to go out.

June in brief!

June was, in short, insanely busy.  First, Tina and I ran in the Race for the Cure and raised money for a good cause.  And then we ate waffles.

Team Helpful Paws
Then the next day Mel and Ray arrived from Seattle and hung out until we went to Bonnaroo.

Photos of Mel, Ray, and Fred stolen from Kevin’s wonderful Flickr.  Kevin, Jill, and Fred joined us for a fun brunch and a lot of catching up.  The next day Shane went to Michigan, returning the day after that so that we could go to Bonnaroo:

Bros

We saw some science bears play video games.

Science Bears

and connected with a bunch of Shane’s college friends!

U of C crew

After getting home and trying to beat summer colds, I flew to Illinois for my sister’s bridal shower:

Ladies

I also got to be home for Father’s Day, which was especially excellent since I thought it was the previous weekend!  We made brunch for Pop since everyone was home.

Family

No sooner did I return, then the next wave of visitors arrived. Dan stayed with us for a few days while wooing Basil:
Basil loves Dan

We went to the first Fort Reno of the season with a bunch of friendos:
First Fort Reno of the year

Linda and Jeremiah came to visit for a week from Colorado, which was very excellent. We went to a baseball game and yelled at the Red Sox:
Linda & Jeremiah

The last day our friends were here, we got the news that we’ve already posted about, which is pretty awesome!  Also Richard and Piotr were in town and we had dinner with them, but I forgot to take pictures. And then we took two days of vacation for a staycation, during which we wore funny glasses and went to Baltimore.  More on that later!

That's a look.

Kitchen Meme

From The Boastful Baker:

metal or non-stick?
– Depends on what we’re cooking.  The non-stick is in heavy rotation for breakfast items, but the cast iron grill pan does its fair share with the meats and quick dinner items.  We also have this workhorse of a pan that is excellent for stovetop-to-oven items, but I’m not sure its specific make-up.

cast iron or stainless?
– More cast iron than stainless of late.  We’re pretty inspired by all the things Kevin does with his.

cutting board: silicone or wood?
– We have both, and use whatever’s handiest.  Usually silicone for things that are going to be messy, wood for kneading bread and eating cheese.

knife: carbon steel or stainless?
– Wüsthof all the way, though we still have some dingy steak knives that need replacing.

KitchenAid or hand mixer?
– My KitchenAid is such a beast, but I love it.

cooktop: gas, electric, induction?
– Regrettably electric.  I really miss having a gas stove.

side-by-side, freezer on top, fridge on top?
– Freezer on top.  We had to buy a shelf for our freezer because it had no internal organization and was Out Of Control.  I wish I’d taken a picture of it when it was loaded down with the summer’s produce.

apron or whoops?
– I’m a fan of the dish towel over the shoulder approach, but I’ve been trying to wear an apron more.  SB’s good at the apron.

mashed potatoes: by hand, ricer, or mixer?
– When we make mashed potatoes for the holidays in my family, we usually make five pounds at a time.  There’s no way I’m doing all of that by hand.  Why else do I have a KitchenAid?

sandwich or wrap?
– Sandwiches please!

pb & _________ ?
– Celery or apples as a snack, please!

pancakes: syrup or applesauce?
– Syrup if they’re regular, lingonberries if they’re Swedish.

cake: scratch or mix?
– I can’t remember the last time I baked a cake.  It was probably from a mix, but I’d like to make ’em from scratch in the future.

chili: beans or no?
– Either way is fine by me!  As a former veg, it always seems a bit weird when chili doesn’t have beans; however, my favorite recipe doesn’t have any, so do with that what you will.

napkin: cloth or paper?
– Cloth.

BBQ: takes the whole weekend to make or take out?
– Take out.  We’re not Southern enough – or at all – to make true BBQ, and we don’t have a grill, so there’s only the occasional cook out in these parts.

chicken: white or dark?
– I prefer white, but Shane enjoys the dark.  We’ve been eating more chicken thighs lately, but I’m not sure if they’re white or dark.

ice cream: cone or dish?
– Cone if we’re out, dish if we’re home.  I would also like jimmies and a cherry on top.

Bread Love

Our friend Chris asked for my bread recipe, and since I’ve been raving about baking bread, I thought I’d also post it here.  I won’t promise that it’s foolproof – but it’s solid and not precise, which is probably what makes it solid for me.  This recipe is from Jamie’s Dinners, and has been slightly adapted to reflect my experience of making it at least 15-20 times in the last 3-5 years.

For a single loaf:
~3 C flour
1/2 oz yeast
~1 1/2 C warm water
1 T sea salt
1 T sugar

Put the flour in a mixing bowl and create a well in the center.  Add half of the water, then pour the yeast, sugar, and salt into the water in the center of the well.  Combine slowly, adding enough water to make shaggy dough.  I do this in my mixer with the dough hook – you can also do this by hand, but it’s a little messier.

Turn out onto a floured board and knead until lovely and elastic – about 5 minutes if you’re doing it all by hand, about 2 if you’re just finishing off the kneading started in with the dough hook.  Place in oiled bowl and cover loosely with plastic wrap or a clean kitchen towel.  Let rise until doubled.  In the winter, I turn the oven on to the lowest temperature and place the bowl with the dough on the counter right next to it to make sure there’s enough warmth to help the dough rise.  This usually takes around 40 minutes.

Turn out dough again and work into the shape you want it in for baking.  The instructions say to knead again, but I find that just moving the dough around into loaf shape (or whatever) is enough to get the right texture.  Place in loaf pan (or however you’re going to bake it) and let rise another 30-40 minutes.  I like to line my baking pan with parchment or wax paper as it makes removing the loaf INCREDIBLY easy.  Seriously, this is the biggest improvement in my baking in the last month.  It’s like a dream world improvement over what I was doing before, which was just greasing the pan.  Preheat the oven to 375.

Bake ~40 minutes at 375, or until thumping the bottom of the pan produces a hollow sound.  Remove the bread from the pan and let cool on a baking rack.  If you used the parchment paper, this is dead easy – it should just lift right out.  Slice and enjoy!

I have had baking mishaps with this recipe, but I think the flexibility has made it way better for the way that I bake.  If the dough is wet, you can add a bit more flour.  If it’s dry, add more water.  Etc.  The more you bake, the more you’ll get to know the way it should look and feel, and then it’s really easy to make small adjustments.  There’s also the no-knead method – but this has been so reliable and so rewarding for me that I don’t see any reason to go another way.