Friday, February 25, 2011

New Apartment

My mother just left yesterday, after arriving Monday to help us get settled into the new apartment. All that remains in the old apartment is approximately six items -- all of which require a car trip to themselves. Hence why they're still there. :-P We'll be out by the first and happily so!

There still remains much in storage of my stuff, but I did make one trip out with a friend and got a full carload of some kitchen stuff, artwork, and other useful items. I don't know when we'll be fully out of there, but I would like to be out sooner rather than later (it IS all my stuff!).

Mister's mother is in town for tonight and tomorrow for business -- so has brought us two 6' tall, 3' wide bookshelves. Yay! The only bookshelf we currently have is a 5' wide, 3' tall bookshelf that may or may not hold a TV on top. (As my piano might be journeying out, the piano may occupy such space.) The bookshelves that I used to own are no longer -- one barely made it into my last apartment not with Mister (I left it for the incoming tenant), and the other did not FIT into that apartment, and was destroyed by weather. [Due to circumstances, I had to remove all of my bookshelves from the apartment previous to that -- I was not going to leave the Roommate From Hell anything useful!]

Thanks to my mother's help, we are well settled into the new apartment. Most of what remains to be unpacked are books and odds 'n' ends. Mom and I went grocery shopping, so we are back to having staples in the house. We've been here long enough that it was time to do laundry, so I'm running a few loads (there are about three) before I go to work. My mom washed the windows (which sorely needed it -- they refinished the wood floors, so there was dust everywhere), and brought coffee, :-P and it is feeling like HOME. I even swept the basement stairs and the laundry area today to make it more my own.

I still need to buy batteries, but you will get pictures soon, I promise!

Omnivores All

I am currently enacting a strange dichotomy: yesterday, Mister and I pledged to eat less meat (more on that later), and I am frying lamb meatballs. The meatballs are going to go in the freezer -- I had had frozen ground lamb, and thawed it the other day but wound up not using it. So, it must be cooked sooner rather than later, and meatballs freeze nicely. 1.3 lbs of meat made about 5 dozen small meatballs. I threw in some ground coriander, ground cumin, black pepper, paprika, an egg, a clove of minced garlic, and diced half of an onion. FYI? It's really hard to get tiny pieces of onion. I chopped it smaller than I think I've ever chopped onion, and they still stood out blazingly white against the meat. The last batch is frying merrily, and the rest are in my ghetto rig to drain the grease. It's a cooling rack suspended over a casserole dish. Luckily my cooling racks are a grid instead of the parallel lines that my mother has -- the meatballs would have wiggled through.

Regarding the less meat stance: On February 11th we packed up the kitchen and had been eating out exclusively. Well, for quite a bit of that (the later end especially), Mister and I have had ... unpleasant bowel experiences. On Wednesday, I made a vegetarian Moroccan root vegetable stew (I should post the recipe later -- very simple) as the first meal cooked in our new place. It was delicious, and following that, we had normal bowel movements. But last night, we went out with Mister's cousin to celebrate his 21st birthday, and ate at a barbeque place -- unhappy tummies that night.

Looking over our eating habits, we realized that we think of eating meat as a treat (we don't usually cook it), and so usually order it when out. But eating out for two weeks straight is a lot of meat! The only time we HADN'T had cramping and discomfort was the vegetarian stew that I'd made! Because he likes eating out, Mister lamented for a bit about the lack of vegetarian entree choices and about how Americans like meat and think similarly to how we do (that it's a treat, and one eats it when going out).

When looking at this information, it became clear to us that we need to reduce our meat intake, and Mister said that he wanted to eat it once a week, max. When I said "sure babes, I have no problems being flexitarian" he became a little huffy and responded "no, that's called being an omnivore!" Which got me thinking about so many of the food movements -- their call for less meat, but needing a new label. It needs a new label because "Everyone Knows" that humans are omnivores, but in order to differentiate between regular average human diet and what's healthier for you, it needs a shiny new title -- otherwise most folks would just ignore it. But a Movement -- aha, there's something interesting going on! It just makes me think of Alice's Restaurant:

And the only reason I'm singing you this song now is cause you may know somebody in a similar situation, or you may be in a similar situation, and if you're in a situation like that there's only one thing you can do and that's walk into the shrink wherever you are ,just walk in say "Shrink, You can get anything you want, at Alice's restaurant.". And walk out. You know, if one person, just one person does it they may think he's really sick and they won't take him. And if two people, two people do it, in harmony, they may think they're both faggots and they won't take either of them. And three people do it, three, can you imagine, three people walking in singin a bar of Alice's Restaurant and walking out. They may think it's an organization. And can you, can you imagine fifty people a day,I said fifty people a day walking in singin a bar of Alice's Restaurant and walking out. And friends they may thinks it's a movement.

And that's what it is, the Alice's Restaurant Anti-Massacre Movement, and all you got to do to join is sing it the next time it come's around on the guitar.

I think we should take back Omnivorism. I'm not a flexitarian, I'm not a pescatarian, I'm not a vegetarian or vegan -- I'm just an omnivore.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011


So, quick mini-update: we're alive, we're mostly in the new place (little fiddly bits remain, as well as all of my stuff in storage which we're getting Friday) and life is good. It still smells of paint though. :-\

Strangely, the weather worked with us even though we thought it wouldn't. On Monday, it was in the 40s. On Tuesday (the day we moved) it was in the teens and 20s. So Monday afternoon, Mister and his friend D broke up some of the ice in the backyard. But that left quite a bit of ice remaining. So for most of the move, my friend M was out chipping ice to give us something to grip onto (fyi -- ice chips and textured ice is not slippery!) while Mister and M's boyfriend J lifted heavy things with either me or M spotting, and I'd load the car with boxes. We had a ziptruck for the big stuff, and just kept loading up the car to have that ready to go quickly. The fact that all four of us are the "get shit done" kinda people, J and Mister are very strong, and we're only moving THREE BLOCKS AWAY made a lot happen in a very short amount of time.

The mattress was the scariest part, but I think it was mostly because the ice problem hadn't been dealt with. We moved it first because "if it fell over, its soft".

We need camera and batteries in the same place (a.k.a. here) and I'll get you guys pics of the new place!

Friday, February 11, 2011

Four More Days!

I cannot believe that I am four days away from sleeping in my new apartment! We're planning most of the big move for Tuesday day and Wednesday night -- this is working around my work schedule. Mister also made the executive decision that I'm not cooking until after we move, so's we could pack what was in the kitchen. Don't -I- feel silly for having bought leeks and carrots yesterday in anticipation of cooking for 7 today... :-P

Ideally, we'll have all of the stuff from here moved in by the weekend (I'm off next Friday and Saturday) so's we could run up to Lowell and get to work on moving out the stuff in the storage unit. I have A LOT of stuff. And because my mom is coming into town to help us unpack stuff, I want to actually have enough to do.

So I've reserved a Ziptruck for Tuesday the 15th so's Mister, M and I can move the mattress and big furniture. I can't wait!

The question is of course when to pack up things we're using? When to pack up the comps? Have we even set up comp service in the new place?

So much to do, and so much of it is dependent upon timing...

N.B. Not looking forward to moving the mattress down the three flights of the outside back stairs, through the garden with its icy dog-tred paths and from thence to the truck... I could see it ending badly.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Chocolate FAIL

My company is having a party this Saturday, celebrating Valentine's Day. Due to beautiful work politics, the person who decided the snacks chose such fun items as Hershey's Kisses. For a company that supposedly cares about ethics and supporting green, sustainable and ethical companies, this is a big no-no.

Half of the WORLD'S supply of cacao and most of the US's eating chocolate comes from West African child workers. This is not a cool practice to support! Also, as of 2008, Hershey's refomulated many of their chocolate products to NOT USE COCOA BUTTER. Using vegetable oil instead. Hershey (and other companies such as Nestle) have also been lobbying to be allowed to use hydrogenated oils in their products.

I REALLY REALLY want to find some link to animal testing or animal abuse, because that is the ONE THING that my company will literally drop everything for. But on a surface search, I can't find one. Aha, apparently Hershey's pledged not to condone animal testing, but Mars and Nestle still do. I have no confirmation of what they're testing, only that they do.

Why can't we just make vegan cookies? Easy peasy, and you KNOW WHAT IS IN THEM. Oh I so hate this saint's day and all that it entails.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Bread Making

I was reading Tips for Better Bread from Farm Girl Fare, and realized that I wanted to jot down a few of the more pertinent points I think.

1 -- make the same type of bread over and over again until you understand it.
2 -- keep a bread journal, and write down details every single time you bake bread -- even if it's for the 456th time.
3 -- use good ingredients, including filtered water
4 -- add salt after autolyse.

Things that I intend to do:
1 -- make double and treble batches of dough. I already know how well bread freezes, and I only want to have one baking day a week.
2 -- consider getting a bread box. The only person I know with one is my grandmother, but she certainly doesn't use it properly. She keeps her bread in the fridge year round.

I cannot wait to be settled in the new place, and start putting all of my plans together!

Plans for new apartment thus far:

Gardening Thoughts
Ideas for the New Apartment
Plans for 2011
Fridge and Freezer Plans
Pantry Plans
Plants that Grow in Shade
Food Storage Tubs

New Task

So I've added a new item to my list of things to do this year: clean out my jewelry box. I have so much crap in there, I can never find a thing. And I don't even keep my nice jewelry in there, and perhaps I should. I've just always had a ton of jewelry, and I've lost so much of it... I'm sure that I've lost more earrings than some people have ever owned. I've lost rings, necklaces, the whole she-bang. So, a great organizing is due. Perhaps I'll take pictures when it happens. :-P

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Being "Thrifty"

a.k.a., "Not Being Able To Drink A Full Cup of Coffee In One Sitting".

So, every now and again, I decide that what I really need is a cup of coffee. Lots of milk, lots of sugar, and enough caffeine to get me energized for a while. However, I'm a really slow drinker of beverages in general, and coffee is no exception. (The only real exception is tea.) So inevitably, I wind up with half full cups of coffee hanging about wherever I am. If I'm at work, I'll just nuke it and call it good. But you have to be careful about reheating coffee: a) the oils in coffee can make a paper cup catch on fire in the microwave (no idea why I'd know THAT...) and b) having already put milk in there means it could curdle if heated too high too fast. So, I'm really used to drinking lukewarm coffee.

But lately, when I've been home, I've made delicious concoctions. Since we're in Apartment Clean-Out Mode, part of this mode means "if we use it, we don't have to move it". So I've been making mochas with leftover coffee, a bit of water and random hot chocolate mixes. Thus far I've polished off what remained of a box of Swiss Miss (10 packets), and two little single-use tins. I've got a single use packet remaining, and am also eyeing the nearly-full canister of Ghiradelli hot chocolate.

So all in all -- tasty beverages, I'm still utilizing the caffeine and the money that I've foolishly spent on coffee, and I get to use up the hot chocolate mixes. Yay!

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Supplies for Music Lessons

I ran downtown today to pick up some supplies for my music lessons. After my non-preparedness last time I wanted to be sure that the lessons would actually be going forward.

Considering I had beautiful service from both locations (one of which I have worked with before), I will certainly name drop.

At Rayburn Music I bought a box of five 2 clarinet reeds, a box of five 2 1/2 clarinet reeds (for my student) and a box of 10 3 Vandoren clarinet reeds for me. I also bought a reed holder for myself that will hold 8 reeds as well as a "Reed Vitalizer". Silly Rico. When will you learn that you aren't that fabulous? I would have gotten the Vandoren one, but it only held 2 reeds and was 2/3rds the price of the one I DID buy. Silly Vandoren as well!

After paying (with a mysterious 31% discount on all items...), I asked if they had any cleaning swabs, as I'd forgotten to ask. The guy working said 'yes', and asked if I was a teacher. (I had previously mentioned that I wanted the shitty reeds for a student and was not willing to buy them Vandorens!) I said that yes, I have the one student, and he gave me the cleaning swab gratis.

Folks, please frequent Rayburn Music, as I have a great appreciation for them right now.

I also stopped at Music Espresso to pick up the lesson book that my student had ordered but not received (Breeze Easy Book 1), and a folding stand. The folks at Music Espresso are great, and not only have a huge selection of sheet music and books, but will order for you anything that you need. Their staff is also friendly and knowledgeable. Please frequent Music Espresso as well!

I spent $70 at Rayburn Music and $24.33 at Music Espresso for a total of: $94.33. I also stopped at CVS for a small notepad, pencils and a sharpener for: $4.52, bringing my grand total to: $98.85.

All I forgot to pick up was: a cleaning swab for me (I didn't have the heart to ask him for two when he was giving it free), and disinfectant spray. But I can probably order those online with no detriment. It seems like most music stores have to order the spray anyways (I quickly looked around both stores to no avail -- I also checked my WW shop back home while I was there).

Relooking through Breeze Easy book 1 has gotten me excited for the lesson today. How soon she'll be playing music!

Update: This was a really good lesson -- the girl is SO excited about her instrument, and she's doing really well. It's a good thing that I picked up the supplies, because if we were waiting upon the order her mom made, we'd still be waiting for something to do!

Potato Soup

So yesterday, while packing the kitchen, I decided that I needed to make potato soup. Why? Because there was a bag of potatoes just chillin'. Turns out, this was a good idea, as I had about 8 potatoes squirreled away in a cupboard beggin' to be used.

Looking for a recipe I first searched Tasty Kitchen -- only to be sorely disappointed. To the writers of Tasty Kitchen, I ask you this: what part of making soup starts with canned soup? Specifically Cream of _____ Soup of any variety? Maybe I want to MAKE Potato Soup on my own, instead of relying upon Campbell!

Thoroughly disgusted with TK, I searched my cooking blogs. I wound up combining the recipes for Baked Potato Soup from Smitten Kitchen and Carrot, Potato, Cheese Soup with Corn from Pinch My Salt. Ladies, your soups are lovely, and I appreciate your aid.

To start, I chopped all of the vegetables.

~8 c. Potatoes

Slice the top third off of a head of garlic (minus a few cloves apparently) and remove any extra papery outside.

Mince what remained in that top third of the head of garlic. Also, chop a whole onion but forget to take pictures.

Melt 3 Tbs of butter and toss the onions in, stirring to fully butter. Let them cook down until mostly translucent.

When the onions are nearly translucent, toss in the minced garlic and 3 Tbs. more butter. Stir occasionally, you want to get the garlic nice and buttery.

When the garlic and onions are as cooked as you'd like them, toss in 6-8 oz. of flour.

Stir until completely combined, and cook down for a little bit, stirring constantly. This is your roux + onions and garlic. Cook until as dark as you'd like -- I kept mine a light roux.

You're then going to add your stock. I had 3-4 c. of vegetable broth in the fridge, and also used half of a bottle of Better Than Bouillon Chicken -- with the water to match it.

Toss in your potatoes and your 2/3 head of garlic. Let this cook for at least 30 mins, making sure to stir occasionally, and don't let the liquid boil. I also added my spices -- about 1 Tbs. Worcestershire Sauce, 2 tsp. spicy brown mustard, lots of ground black pepper and some chili powder.

After your garlic is soft, you're going to want to fish the head out, pop out the cloves and...

Mash it with a potato masher! Add this back to the soup.

This is a good time to toss in most of a bag of frozen corn.

When the potatoes are cooked through, fish out 1/3 - 1/2 of the potatoes and mash them with a potato masher. Add them back into the soup.

Let this cook together a little further, and then serve!

Warning: this soup is not safe for Vampires.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011


There's nothing like caffeine and Gloria Estefan to getcha moving and get shit done!

Life Update

So the store I manage is closed again today -- all we need is to have the temperature drop 3-4 degrees F and it'll be a world of ice outside. This is on top of the 6 inches of snow we got yesterday.

Strangely enough, because all of the skylights and the roof was covered in snow yesterday, the squirrels kept scrambling about on the roof. I have squirrel footprints in the snow on my skylights! There were enough of them, that they woke me up yesterday morning. Mister was like "what was that?" I said "squirrel, and I just saw one through the skylight"!

I wound up making the tasty galette for dinner yesterday -- which turned out amazing. I used butter in the crust for the first time and OMG what a difference! I'd only ever used shortening, but I have to say -- never again. I had the same revelation with lard in pie crust, and now again with butter. Suffice to say: shortening, you are officially off the island. Although, when the author said that the galette was sweet, she was NOT lying!

As we're moving soon (2/15 is the start of our new lease!), Mister and I are in the process of packing. We've got a mere 12 boxes packed thus far, but we've got some time. Luckily, we're only moving three blocks away, so a lot of stuff like dishes could be wrapped in a towel and carried in a laundry basket. Most of our kitchen stuff will probably travel in such a manner. My main worry is having laundry get away with us: I don't want to be doing a zillion loads of laundry when we're in crunch time, but I also know that we've got 13 days until then, and we're going to be wearing clothes! I'll probably do a big load or two next week.

Our current apartment did get rented, thankfully. We were worried that we'd have to be paying for two apartments simultaneously. (Our lease on this place was until 5/31.) The new guy isn't moving in until 3/15, so that gives us time to move out, and one month overlap is not bad at all. I just wish there was a way to leave a secret note for the new guy warning him about the cleaning lady the LL will suggest... I want to be all Dune-esque and leave a message in braille on a leaf, but when I told Mister that, he informed me that I was a goof.

I'm not sure whether or not I'll want to do my music lesson tomorrow. It's only the second lesson, so I should probably go -- but it'll be a 40 mins walk in GOOD weather, and probably close to an hour with the weather tomorrow. :-\ That and I have to fetch some things from the music store: reeds size 2 and 2 1/2, a copy of the lesson book, disinfectant spray, and a folding stand. ... I wonder if there's a way to make disinfectant spray on my own... I don't want to be covering a 12 year old girl's clarinet with grain alcohol!

Lots to do, lots to do. I guess it's time to put the kettle on, the tune's rockin', and get some packing done!

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Tasty Recipes

As I am making this Apple and Squash Galette for dinner tonight, I was browsing Perry's Plate to see what else Natalie had.

Tons! Is the answer.

Amish Baked Oatmeal
Pecan Crusted Chicken with PB & Maple Drizzled Apple Salad <-- the tastiest salad I've ever seen!
Pie crust recipe as well as a tip on incorporating butter into flour -- grate frozen butter! Note: definately don't use a box grater and use a plate, not a bowl for your frozen butter -- it will stick to everything.

So much of her food looks so tasty, and her site is very well organized. I might be making more from her in the future...

Oh Snow

This is our... fourth? snowstorm this winter.

It's very weird when at 10 o'clock in the morning, I have to turn on all of the lights in my apartment. Our current apartment is on the top floor, faces south, and has five large skylights that bring in lots of light. However, all of our skylights are covered with snow! And with the snowstorm, there is no sun... so the lights are on. I keep wanting to say 'this didn't happen LAST year...' but, we got no snow last year. So it's hard to make a comparison.

I canceled work at the store that I manage today, and hopefully I'll get canceled at the store that I don't manage.

UPDATE: just got an email that my favorite coworker from the one store is LEAVING. I am incredibly saddened by this -- she's the person who made that job wonderful and made every day a delight. She was just so high energy and full of life that it'll be hard to summon up enthusiasm for my job and my customers without her there. What a sad bit of news for an otherworldly day.