Tuesday, September 30, 2008

blue like jazz

i am so humbled and convicted, and i'm only 1/3 of the way through. donald miller has such a lovely voice. i want to be in love with God like that. why can't i?

Monday, September 29, 2008

trashy acts of kindness

when i came home from work tonight, our trash cans were not sitting by the sidewalk like they usually are after the trash man comes around. it was very strange. did someone actually steal our trash cans? how weird, but then, stranger things have happened. when i pulled into the driveway and opened the garage door, i noticed that our neighbor had pulled them up the driveway over to our fence (where they get put away) for me. when i went over to thank him, he explained that i shouldn't be doing heavy lifting in my condition.

usually brian does the trash cans and spares me that chore. it's very kind of him and i always appreciate it (though i think i don't tell him that enough) because i don't like running around the house emptying all the little cans and hauling the big bag out to the bin. (my job it to replace the kitchen trash bag.) but brian is in kentucky so taking out the cans was my job this week. it's not a hard job, of course, and brian is so sweet that he even made it easier for me by doing all the collecting and hauling the night before he left, so all i had to do was put the cans actually out in the street. so that was actually the first trashy act of kindness to happen to me, and our neighbor was the second.

it was such a little thing that our neighbor did for me this evening, and it was so nice. it really made my evening and i liked sharing it with brian, so i just thought i would share it with you too.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

i miss sf

not just the city, the entire bay area. i also even miss esco. it is just so darn flat here. nowhere for your eyes to rest, kind of like an unpainted room with no artwork. it kind of gives me a topographical headache.

i also miss my hubby, who is in louisville (kentucky) for a week of work-related training. he only left this morning, but it is just so quiet here without him around.

on the other hand, one of the [very, very few] nice things about him not being around is that i don't have to listen to the television all the time. brian always has it on espn, the giants game, the niner game, or some bad movie on the sci-fi channel. it gets a bit annoying and that high-pitched whine that the tv makes when it is on gives me a headache by the end of the day.

the only other nice thing about brian not being here is that i can eat all the soup i like. i adore soup and could eat it for every meal. pretty much any kind of soup too with the exception of anything seafood (as i do not eat anything seafood). brian however thinks soup is an appetizer, not a meal. hence whenever i make a pot of soup i also have to cook a "normal" dinner to go with it. very rarely do we both just eat soup as a meal. and if there is any soup i positively adore, it is chicken noodle soup. i love love love chicken noodle soup and i have perfected my chicken noodle soup recipe. it can be a bit labor-intensive though, which is why tonight i made minestrone instead, because i was feeling lazy. but it is well worth it.

of course chicken noodle soup is not hard. but here are a few things i do to make it (imho) special and uniquely mine:

1. most important: i make my own egg noodles. if you don't know how to do this, it's easy. this is the most labor-intensive part of the soup-making and i agree, it's a bit martha, but it's so worth it. store-bought noodles or pasta will work in a pinch, but they just don't have the same texture, and they end up getting all water-logged and soggy and fall apart in your mouth, while homemade egg noodles don't. to make them, just dump 4 c. flour onto a wooden cutting board and make a large well in the center so it kind of looks like a volcano crater. carefully crack three whole eggs into the middle. add a pinch of salt and a teeny drizzle of evoo. then using a fork, carefully beat the eggs while starting to incorporate the flour. after a while you have a nice dough. knead it for a couple minutes till it feels smooth and elastic, let it rest a little, then roll it out thin, like 1/8" if you can. if you have done it right and it is really nice and elastic, then the rolling out will be the hardest part. mine never wants to stay flattened and always springs back a little thicker than i would like. just be patient and keep rolling, and then cut it into strips with a knife. i make strips that are about 2" long and 1/2 wide. usually for soup this makes about a double batch, but pasta dough freezes really well. i have not yet figured out the proportions for my mixer or food processor so if anyone knows, please tell me, i would love to simplify the process.

2. i use leeks and shallots instead of onions. i think it gives a much subtler, more nuanced flavor and goes better with the chicken. imho chicken is a pretty delicately flavored meat and onions are too strong. i usually use four leeks cut into thin slices (sliced lengthwise and then crosswise) and about 2-3 shallots.

3. carrots and celery, of course. and garlic. there is no such thing as too much garlic, no matter what my sister may say. and i really like to chock it full of veggies, otherwise it is just broth and chicken chunks and noodles and where is the nutritional value (and taste) in that? i mean, come on, we're not making junk food here. sauté it all and then dump in the chicken cubes.

4. i use broth, not water. no sense in leaching the flavor out of the chicken and veggies. usually i make my own broth with bouillon cubes and not the canned stuff, because bouillon cubes are easier to store than mountains of cans and i use broth for everything. for my chicken soup i use half vegetable and half chicken bouillon, because i think it tastes more interesting than just chicken. also herb-ox bouillon has no msg. nice.

5. i like "french" herbs in my soup. i feel like they're a little more delicate. they also make me feel all fancy schmancy and gourmet, like i am making some elegant dish and not just comfort food. so i dump in tarragon, chervil, herbes de provence, a little parsley, some savory, a dash of marjoram, a dash of thyme. other stuff in the cupboard if i feel like i need it. sometimes some pepper but not usually. and you don't need to add any salt if you use broth or bouillon instead of water.

6. then you add the noodles. yes, it looks like way too many. yes, they all float to the surface at first. yes they cook pretty quickly but no they don't get soggy and overcooked. you only have to cook the soup for about a half an hour and then the chicken is cooked through (from the boiling water) and the noodles are done.

if you try tweaking your recipe my way, let me know how you like it.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

baby alien

today's three things to be thankful for is short, because it is only one thing (and a semi-announcement):

yep, we're pregnant. we thought i was 8 weeks 2 days along, but according to the ultrasound i'm only 7 weeks 3 days. no matter. baby alien is that large blob in the circle (the small gray-ish blob under it is the yolk sac, which nourishes the alien until the placenta forms) and is only 1.21cm long. that's about 1/2 inch, for those of you who do not faithfully use the metric system.

the most amazing thing was, we got to see its teeny tiny heartbeat. brian said it kind of looked like it was clapping its hands. it was right under that darker line in the blob (brian is convinced the left end is its head). the alien is only the size of a blueberry, but it already has a tiny beating heart, and it's beating strong enough for us to see it on an ultrasound.

if you want to follow this craziness, i'll be posting semi-regularly (or at least trying to) over at the adventures of baby stenz.

can you get any more amazing? i thought not.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

t3 9/18

today i am thankful for:

1. my husband, who loves me beyond belief and really does care about how i am feeling. sometimes i feel like he wants me to be superwoman, despite how run down and worn out i'm feeling. then he sees me sick, like this morning, and reminds me how caring he really is, and that it's really myself who pushes me to be superwoman, not him.

2. my job, for being so understanding and flexible right now when i am so up and down.

3. that it is almost friday, which means it is almost the weekend, which means i can sleep in. and we're going to the zoo on saturday!

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

overheard at my house

"honey, which one is the oven?"

yelled up the stairs by someone who shall remain nameless, because i have been threatened (with what?) that i should not post this, but it was so funny that i am going to anyways. please note that said unnamed quotee has many, many talents and skills, just not those of the culinary persuasion. which is fine by me, because i have many talents and skills also but am also severely lacking in certain areas (most notably, anything relating to plants).

Monday, September 15, 2008

cheese update

by the way, my cheese never really turned out. (in case you missed it, i was thrilled by the idea of making cheese and it was going to become my newest hobby. in addition to the bajillion other things i dabble in. because, you know, i need more hobbies.) i was so excited to make my own ricotta and it was supposed to be way easy. way easy for who, pray tell? not me. supposedly you just boil whey for 30 minutes until it starts to precipitate, and then you strain it. i must have boiled that whey for a good two hours, and it never precipitated. ever. i even added some buttermilk, because i read that you can do that also to kind of help speed the precipitation process along. no dice.

i also wanted to try making goat cheese, which also did not work out. well, it kind of worked, but it tasted awful. and i had used a half a gallon of goat's milk, which i was kind of pissed about afterwards (when it tasted so bad and i had to throw it out), because i could have used that to make some perfectly good soap. i mean, there is a hobby i am actually reasonably competent at, and i wasted perfectly good goat's milk on a cheese experiment and now i have none for my soap. damn.

i think i am sticking to panir, and otherwise giving up the dreams of a cheesemaking hobby. i think i'll stick to sewing, and soapmaking, and knitting, and scrapbooking, and, and, and.

Friday, September 12, 2008

pzev update (or, vindication)

a while ago i ranted about subaru's partial-zero emissions vehicle as a marketing ploy, because anyone who has gone through high school math and still has half a brain should remember that there is no such thing as partial zero. i wrote it off as a marketing ploy. apparently, it's not really: it's more a shameful cowing to pressure from detroit by the state of california, according to click and clack's column in the "drive" section of today's sacramento bee. i couldn't find a link online for the sac bee, but since it's a syndicated column, here is a link to the washington post reprint of the article. they even note that there is nothing like partial zero, so i know i'm not crazy. (anal retentive and something of a stickler fr details; wrong, no.) they also note that our lovely state of california wanted to be so much better than the epa standards, so they mandated so many zero emissions vehicles by such-and-such a date. carmakers whined and howled and apparently california slunk away with its tail between its legs and meekly allowed fewer zero-emissions vehicles - and called them partial-zero emissions vehicles to save face.

when i wrote that post, i kind of thought in the back of my mind that i was a little nutty. now i don't feel so nutty. man, i love being right.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

love me some dutch baby

i've had food on the brain lately. seems like it's all i can think about. so here is a yummy breakfast recipe that i absolutely love. i really like making it when we have company [read: mother-in-law] stay with us, because it looks and tastes somewhat impressive and is insanely easy to whip up in the morning. i am not much of a cooking for breakfast kind of girl - cooking first thing in the morning, before i've even had my coffee (or even while i'm having my coffee), is so not my idea of a good time. ergo hubby never really gets pancakes or waffles or even eggs for breakfast. but sometimes he does get this, because i love it, and as i've mentioned before, we don't always have everything brian loves. sometimes we have things i love too.

today i am thankful for:

1. warm sunshine. man it does me some good to live in a sunny place. until i moved out of san francisco, i did not really appreciate how much i needed and missed the sun. until i moved out of marin, i did not realize how much i adore sunshine and warmth. i thought it was sunny and warm in marin. it is a thousand times sunnier and warmer here.

2. that i am insanely normal and healthy. earlier in the week, kaiser decided they wanted to run a billion tests on me, so they took five vials of blood (i mean, who needs that much?!?). everything came back normal and contrary to brian's thinking, i am actually healthy. (i keep telling him so, but he is a man and never believes me.) i have enough red blood cells and white blood cells and platelets and my kidneys function great and i'm not diabteic and my liver is doing what it's supposed to and i'm not anemic and i'm immune to rubella and i have a positive blood. so there's my shout-out to average, hooray.

3. german pancakes, or a dutch baby, or whatever you want to call it. i think this would be kind of fun for kids, but maybe that's just me. i like turning on the light in the oven and watching it poof up and up and up and then collapse back in on itself. and man is it ever yummy.

german pancakes

3 eggs
1/2 c. flour
1/2 c. milk
1/2 tsp. salt
2 T. melted butter

preheat the oven to 400' and butter a cold 10" cast-iron skillet. beat eggs well. mix in flour, milk, and salt and beat hard until smooth. [i use a food processor or mixer.] drizzle in the butter and stir until well mixed. pour into buttered skillet and bake in the oven 20-25 minutes or until golden. serve immediately with butter, lemon juice and powdered sugar, fresh fruit, syrup, or jam. a double recipe can also be made in a 10" skillet.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

i thought they were okay

i went out on a limb and picked up a couple new recipes from the food network for dinner last night. they were from my favorite girl rachael ray, whom i adore even though i cannot seem to make an entire meal in 30 minutes no matter how hard i try. i made mac and cheese lorraine (brian: what, put a girl's name at the end of it and all of a sudden it's fancy?) and sesame and herbes de provence chicken tenders, and brian did not appreciate my dinner. he commented that if we never had them again, it would not be soon enough. he also threw my printouts away because he said i did not need to make them again. hrm. i did not think they were that bad, honestly. i'd make 'em again, except for that man.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

well, that was easier than i thought it would be.

at the moment there is nothing so lovely as a painted garage. it is finally done, thank heaven. it really could use another coat, but i'll be damned if i'm going to paint the entire thing again. it makes for much brighter ping-pong playing too, which is nice.

i finally got to sewing for myself, especially since i had cut out this dress last weekend and then did nothing with it. i got to thinking i had better get it sewn, because pretty soon i won't be able to wear it. even though it is linen, i'm hoping the color can take me into fall, especially with a cute cardigan and some tights:

it is simplicity #0508 and it took me all of about two hours to complete, not including hang time nor the time i spent beading the neckline. i like bias dresses, but i'm just not sure about this one. it seems kind of shapeless, on the sewing body and on me as well. maybe it will be so comfy that i won't care. i think it would be cuter belted, but i don't have a great belt that i would love with it, so i think i'm going to opt for the cardigan-buttoned-across-the-waist look instead.

Friday, September 5, 2008

friday's t3

whoops! with everything going on yesterday, i completely spaced on thursday's three things to be thankful for. so today it will be friday's three:

1. my husband, again, who suprised me earlier in the week by doing the hard work painting the garage (though it still isn't done yet - some girl has been shirking her duties) and then again by getting us a spa. he always tries so hard to make our life fabulous, and he succeeds.

2. a minor miracle which at this point shall remain nameless. just keep your fingers crossed, and in due time i'll share it with you.

3. broccoli and chicken and ravioli deliciousness, which i will share with you. this has become my go-to when i don't know what to cook and i haven't really thought as far ahead as dinner, yet it somehow seems to be dinnertime. and i love this so insanely much. it's very much a throwing-things-in-the-pot-until-it-looks-good kind of recipe, so i'm sorry there aren't really any measurements.

1/2 onion, coarsely chopped (or so)
chopped garlic
broccoli (i like broccolini, but zucchinis would work too), coarsely chopped or chunked
julienned sun-dried tomatoes in oil
1 pkg. raviolis or tortellonis or just regular pasta in a shape like rotini or fusilli or something (i think about 8 oz.?)
1 14-oz. can chopped tomatoes, drained
1-2 chicken breasts, coarsely chopped
parmesan cheese

pour a little of the sun-dried tomato oil in a large skillet and heat. sauté the onions in it and then add the garlic, the add the chicken and cook well. (i add a little more sun-dried tomato oil if it looks like it needs it.) cook the ravioli/tortelloni/pasta just to al dente and drain. steam the broccolini (if you're using zucchini, i think i would add it to the chicken/onion mix and sauté). mix everything together - when i do it, i scrape the chicken/onion mixture into the [drained] pasta pot because it's bigger. everything means everything - pasta, chicken/onion mix, vegetables, some sun-dried tomatoes, and some parmesan. you can add a little more of that sun-dried tomato oil when you're tossing, too, if it looks like it needs it.

i bet it would be good vegetarian, too. and i bet it would be good with some fresh chopped basil, too.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

paint (part 2 of...?)

i thought we were going to paint the garage together this weekend, but apparently my lovely hubby had other ideas. namely, the idea to surprise me and paint it himself. (he also surprised me by neglecting to clean up, which i discovered only after the roller, et cetera, had been sitting for about an hour. grrr.) the corners and annoying little bits are my job, because i think brian would go out of his skull if he had to do that tedious stuff, so it's not finished yet.

i am in love with the color. it's behr's white clay, in an eggshell finish. it's warmer than i thought it would be, which i love - i was afraid we'd have this cold sterile garage. i mean, i know it's just a garage, but still.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

apparently i am a glutton for punishment

because i let my husband talk me into painting the garage yesterday.

this is an idea that has been marinating with us ever since my mother visited two months ago and mentioned that we ought to paint the garage at some point [in our tenure in this home]. apparently this has been marinating a little stronger in brian's head than mine, because sunday he decided that it needed to be done. since the entire [3-car] garage is raw, taped-and-mudded drywall, it also needed to first be covered with sealer/primer. so guess what i spent my labor day doing? oh yes. and we get to repeat the whole process next weekend with actual paint, because he decided that it was too big of a job to do by himself on his days off (the original plan). oh boy, don't i love diy.