Tuesday, January 24, 2012

My Single Problem with Wedding Planning

Mister's got opinions. Oh gods does he have opinions. There is none of the stereotypical "let the bride do what she wants while the groom hides" business. I wish that there was.

Mister always goes on and on about how happy he is that he's with someone with strong opinions -- lemme tell you, the feeling is NOT mutual! I don't want a doormat, but fer the love of the gods, shut up sometimes and lemme do my thing without you deciding it's a poor decision.

This came up in my head as I was rereading some APW articles, and folks were like "my groom doesn't care! waaaaaah" And I'm like whoa whoa, some people get to do this without negotiations? Without massive amounts of discussion and angry faces (from me)? Some ladies get to say: Hmm, I really like this invitation, honey buy it now plx -- and it happens?

That and he keeps saying that there's still so much to decide -- yet whenever I'm like "what do we have to talk about" he's got nothing? I'm sorry, the time is OVER for over-thinking shit, we're at decision-land. I'm getting invites out by March 1st and we have to get our caterer and band set up as we STILL have not contacted them. (Guess who's job that is? If you guessed someone OTHER than me, you'd be right!)

Then there's the fact that I'm writing blog posts about wedding stuff at 2:40pm on a Tuesday, as I've got oodles of free time during business hours and Mister works. This means that I get to think on this kind of stuff for hours before he lets the air out of my balloons.

Bah. I think my life would be easier if Mister stopped acting like he cared.

N.B. This post is merely venting. we're doing fine, even if I sometimes want to throttle him when he vetoes carefully laid out plans.

I'm Totally Awesome Enough

Lately, I found myself reading quite a few home design blogs. I also find that quite a few of the bloggers that I follow post pictures of their beautiful homes. Well, y'know what? I've totally got a nice enough apartment, and we've been keeping it reasonably clean. I want to show off, since it's been a while.

Again Rimi, this will be a bit picture heavy, although not as badly as the last one.



And that's the two main rooms of the apartment! The other rooms were not pretty the day I was taking pictures, so they'll have to wait for another time. I also find that the living room and dining room are the most "put together" of all of our rooms anyway.

Artwork Currently Set Up

Rimi -- this is image heavy.

I recently got a lot of our art put up on the walls. There's nothing like one's artwork to make a place start to feel like home. Let's do a little tour, shall we?

Here's the first. This is a print from the comic strip Minus. This is in the front hallway, facing you when you walk into our apartment.

This is immediately to the right when entering the living room. It hangs over a small bookcase. It's a Valentine's Card on handmade paper that I received from my sister's godmother years and years ago. I just love it.

This is hanging over the back of the couch. It's a self-portrait photo of a friend of mine, B, from high school. I gave it to Mister as a gift several years ago.

This is hanging to the right of the last piece. It's a digital print of what I believe was initially a colored pencil work, done by a friend, K, in high school. It's entitled: Tea with the Moon.

This is opposite the couch, over the electric piano. It's a pen and ink drawing of (two?) griffin(s), drawn by Mister's Great Aunt. General consensus is they're having sex, but I like to remember it as being a single griffin. :-P

This is hanging to the left of the griffin. It's an Artist's Proof of a rather noir block print entitled: Hello/Goodbye. It was created by my ex-boyfriend, P.

This is hanging directly below the block print. It's a pen and ink drawing that my ex-boyfriend, P, drew on the envelope of a birthday card for me. In case you were wondering, that is a stylized drawing of me playing the oboe in my little red hat (K, the one that you hate and you were ashamed that I bought :-P).

On to the dining room. This piece hangs immediately to the left upon entering the room from the living room. This is a pen and ink drawing by my friend from high school, K (who did Tea with the Moon), that my mother bought for me as a Christmas gift years ago. I call her: Úrsula.

This hangs directly opposite Úrsula. This is a painting by P the ex-bf that I believe was the gift given at the time of the birthday card mentioned. It sadly is torn due to circumstances that I don't want to get into. So it currently has some duct tape on the back. Yup.

This piece is on the right side of the dining room, when entering from the living room. This is a print of a pen and ink drawing by Mister's Great Aunt P again. This is Odin, and we're pretty sure he's about to ravish the young lady in the pic. Did we mention his Great Aunt was crazy?

This is in the hallway, to the left of the bathroom door. It is either ink and brush or a watercolor painting by P the ex-bf and entitled: First Snow.

This piece is on display in the bathroom. It's acrylic on plywood. I got this and two other pieces for free from an art student on Craigslist. Apparently it creeps some people out, but I find it a really cool piece and a nice bit of color in the bathroom (it's a bit brighter than the picture makes out).

This piece is in the study to the right immediately upon entering. It had been hung above the light switch, but Mister knocked it down and damaged the frame. It is now on the bookshelf, awaiting repair. It is a watercolor or ink and brush painting by the gentleman who created Minus, the comic from the very beginning (we have about 13 Minus prints -- most are not displayed currently). This was a surprise gift when we ordered all of our prints, as it's a "extra scene" from a story arc that we bought the entire set of.

This is immediately opposite the Minus print, and facing the person entering the study. It is a sharpie cartoon created by a friend, H, in high school. It's entitled: Procrastinating with Henry. I love it. I had to fight people to get it!

These are to the right of the cartoon, but all three are displayed above a low 5' long bookshelf to the left of the closet. The top piece is a watercolor painting that my mother made when I was a kid, and the bottom one is a cute postcard that I like.

This is yet another piece by P the ex-bf. This is an Artist's Proof of a photo entitled: Teapot. It hangs above the kitchen sink.

And that's the tour of art in my apartment currently. There are so many things that I need to have framed, repaired or find a way to hang (the plywood pieces require a shelf). But I love my art, and I love that the majority of it was created by artist's that I know instead of prints of famous work or generic "Home Goods"-type pictures.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Stocking the Kitchen

Mister and I both like to entertain and feed our friends. I also like to make fun, interesting things that use up what ingredients we have. To that extent, we have three syrups in our fridge, not counting maple. We have Apple Cider Syrup, which we had accidentally left a pot of mulled cider on the stove when we went out, and Mister decided to experiment with syrup. The experiment was a success, and it is a favorite in hot toddies.

Last summer, I had attempted to make a large amount of iced tea to drink, and so had several large jars of sweetened tea-water in my fridge, taking up space and using jars. I reduced it down, steeped more strong black tea (using up some old tea bags that are of dubious nature), added that, spiced it, sweetened as needed, etc, and now have Spiced Tea Syrup.

We now have another syrup as of tonight: Cinnamon-Ginger Simple Syrup. I received a lemon in my stocking at Christmas, and as Mister was feeling unwell this evening, I finally got around to juicing said lemon. I mixed the juice with honey, ginger and hot water and he lounged around trying to feel better. I then removed the outer part of the lemon peel, and boiled it in simple syrup and cinnamon to candy it. It is drying as I type this. But then I had all of this excess syrup! So I added some ginger, and rewarmed it to infuse, strained and bottled.

As mentioned previously, these syrups are quite good in hot toddies (hot water, syrup, whiskey, lemon juice optional). They're also good mixed in hot water for a quick warm drink and you can use them any place where you'd normally use honey (drizzled on scones anyone?), but on the whole I use these for "Feel Better" drinks. There's nothing like a warm mug of something delicious and made with love. If it comes with cookies, it'd probably be better, but we can't have everything!

In an endeavor to use up what we've got, I finally got around to finishing a cordial I started 6/10/11. I steeped lemon balm in 63% rum, strained it in probably September, and mixed it 50/50 with simple syrup tonight. I had a bit of that with ginger ale for a candy-sweet but simple beverage.

As I've mentioned probably many times by now, we have a lot of peeled garlic cloves in our freezer that we got for free when a friend was moving and had to get rid of his food. I decided that tonight was a good night to make garlic soup. With a little help from Mister (who discovered some cheese that had gotten unwrapped), and a few softening potatoes, this became Cheese-y Garlic and Potato Soup. Simple really. Fry a chopped onion in bacon fat. Add a bit of flour and stir to combine. Let this cook a few minutes, stirring, until a slight golden color. Add in one carton of veg. stock (or chicken). Throw in one and a half handfuls of garlic cloves, or approximately one head of garlic. Add salt and pepper to taste. Let this cook until nice and soft. If you're energetic, mash the garlic cloves and reincorporate. Chop a few potatoes and add to the soup. Add a teaspoon of Worcestershire Sauce. When the potatoes are about done, slice cheese and add, stirring with each addition so the cheese doesn't clump. Adjust seasonings as needed and serve! This one meal used up: hardening cheese, soft potatoes, a lot of frozen garlic cloves, last carton of veg. stock, an ugly looking onion. And since I pulled two rolls out of the freezer and heated them, I also cleared out a bit more freezer space!

On the schedule for tomorrow: making veg stock with the massive amount of odds n ends in the freezer, clean house. Also go to Wegmans (a.k.a. the best grocery store in the world). Now if only I could learn to incorporate my pantry goods as well as my freezer goods...

Friday, January 20, 2012

Theoretical Cream Puffs

A friend of mine has a horrible collection of food allergies. Wheat and gluten, cow milk products (but not sheep or goat), and chicken. As she's also not a cook, she often EATS horribly as well.

I rather extravagantly informed her that I could cook and bake her whatever, as both Mister and I love to feed people and we merely look upon her allergies as a challenge. She replied: cream puffs.

So I've looked into it, and thankfully, I made eclairs last Sunday with another friend (at her instigation -- it just happened coincidentally), so I have a general idea of what I need to work with.

The basic recipe goes like this:

2 (3.5 ounce) packages instant vanilla pudding mix
2 cups heavy cream
1 cup milk

1/2 cup butter
1 cup water
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup all-purpose flour
4 eggs

For the pudding, I can make vegan vanilla pudding based off of this:

1/3 cup sugar
3 tbsp cornstarch
1/8 tsp salt
2 cups soy milk
1 tsp vanilla

However I would use tapioca starch as it's finer, and either almond, rice or coconut milk as I don't like soy.

For the heavy cream, it's apparently as easy as this:

2 cans full fat coconut milk (13.5 oz cans)
1/3 cup powdered sugar or to taste
1 - 4 Tbsp coconut flour or tapioca flour (add 1 Tbsp at a time)
1 Tbsp vanilla extract or to taste

1 - Chill the cans of coconut milk overnight in the fridge
2 - Open the cans, drain off the clear liquid and transfer the cream to a chilled bowl, using a rubber spatula to scrape all the cream out of the cans
3 - Beat the thick coconut cream in the chilled bowl with a hand mixer until thick and fluffy
4 - Add the vanilla, then gradually beat in the powdered sugar and coconut or tapioca flour, 1 or 2 Tbsp at a time, testing for flavor and consistency
5 - Using a rubber spatula, transfer the coconut cream to a covered storage container, and chill for 2 hours until the mixture firms. Serve chilled.

For the actual shell recipe, I'd replace the butter with butter-flavored Earth Balance, and probably just buy Bob's Red Mills GF Mix, as that's the easiest way to sub consistent results.

For presentation, I wish I had a pastry bag to fill the cream puffs, but I don't. :-( Looks like I'll have to slice the tops to fill them.

The directions to make the cream puffs are:

1 - Whip the coconut milk. Refridgerate.
2 - Preheat oven to 425 degrees F (220 degrees C).
3 - In a large pot, bring water and butter to a rolling boil. Stir in flour and salt until the mixture forms a ball. Transfer the dough to a large mixing bowl. Using a wooden spoon or stand mixer, beat in the eggs one at a time, mixing well after each. 4 - Drop by tablespoonfuls onto an ungreased baking sheet.
5 - Bake for 20 to 25 minutes in the preheated oven, until golden brown. Centers should be dry.
6 - Mix up pudding. Fold in coconut milk cream. Refridgerate.
7 - When the shells are cool, either split and fill them with the pudding mixture, or use a pastry bag to pipe the pudding into the shells.

And I'm done! I have figured out the "challenge" and found it wanting! I also, while searching through things, rediscovered the Chocolate Oblivion Torte which is both gluten and dairy free! :-D

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Nothing Rhymes With Orange

FUN FACT: The word orange is derived from the Sanskrit word "narangah" which means "orange tree." The Sanskrit word is derived from the Dravidian root for "fragrant."

Thank you Shaw's grocery store weekly email!

Mister and I were fairly recently discussing this, as most people learn in elementary school that nothing rhymes with orange or purple (expect nurple which is of course made up). Yet, it's also super obvious that orange is a loan word in all of Europe (l'orange, arancia, etc.). I proposed the theory that in whatever language it came from, it probably could rhyme.

Now on to find out if narangah rhymes in Sanskrit...

Monday, January 16, 2012

OMG Salad Dressing

I can only take so much of this. Why is it that any time someone does a recipe for salad dressing, they have WAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAY too much oil? It should be an even 1:1 ratio of oil to vinegar, and THEN you throw in whatever else you want. Grrr...

"¼ cups Red Wine Vinegar
1-¼ cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil"

^ this was in my inbox, as it's the most recent recipe on the Tasty Kitchen blog. There is no where's near enough vinegar. It makes me sad, and it makes me want to rescue people from their tragic lack of vinegar. My recipe for salad dressing?

Let's say 1/4 c. flavored vinegar (I particularly like Spiced Fig Vinegar), 1/4 c. olive oil (sometimes I have infused olive oil), 2 tsp. tasty mustard, oregano, salt, and tons of pepper. Shake it up and you're done! And for the love of the gods, don't put too much oil!

EDIT: Even P-Dub's most recent recipe involves waaaaaay too little vinegar! :-(


Warning: slight bit of angst ahoy. Do not continue unless you're a fan of Russian literature.

This is not my favorite thing. When I'm home alone, I sleep too much, don't eat enough, don't bother getting dressed, and get quite bored. Luckily, I'm also broke, so I'm not tempted to go out and spend money willy-nilly.

It's times like these that I want kittens. I could chase them around the house, and there'd always be some little body around.

Or, I just sit at the comp and wait for Mister to get home. It's never as quickly as I'd like (a.k.a. when I wake up!) and often I am crabby by the time it happens and we get into little spats.

[Uh oh, I think I really should have refridgerated that pudding... maybe I'll drink some water...]

For example, I learned yesterday that even though I've been intending on doing my own invitations since the very beginning, he'd rather PAY someone to do it. With a fricking printer. Ugh. I think that's just the tackiest thing. He also doesn't quite seem to realize that shipping invitations is going to run us about $60-75 and not using the invitations that are sitting in our basement waiting to be used will cost us an additional $50-60. That pretty much doubles the cost of invitations. I, rather pissily, informed him that if he wanted printed invitations I'd rather just open up FileMaker and use a paper cutter. Which was when he informed me that he was busy applying to jobs and not paying attention to the fight I was trying to start. How rude! He's not allowed to be responsible when I'm in a fighting mood!

Even now, although I'm ostensibly doing something for myself that I create while alone, I'm spending more time blankly staring at the screen than blithely typing away. I think my stats include a line like:

"Able to be alone: -3
Need to be near people: +5"

That's not to say that I don't mind the occasional bout of solitude -- rather, I like it for about 5 mins. Tops. Even if we're doing completely separate things, I'd rather be doing them in the same room as another person.

... and now we have a warning at top of this post. Blah. I am just so bored! I'll probably go find something to eat that's not possibly-bad-for-me pudding-that's-already-in-my-stomach.

Friday, January 6, 2012


When I was a kid, I always loved books. True today as well. :-P I love notebooks covered in leather, beads or fabric, old hardcover novels and well loved paperbacks. I love books of all shapes and sizes and uses. I particularly love the cute little quad-graph Moleskine notebooks that I try to keep in my bag at all times. But when I was little, one of my favorite books to look through was my mom's recipe journal. It was a lined notebook, covered and padded with blue flower fabric. It was also covered in doodles, full of odd bits of wisdom, and smelled of old oil from living in the kitchen and being covered in food messes over and over again. It also had a yellow frontpiece of such a sunny color and great contrast with the cover.

When I was probably 8 or so, my mother filled up that notebook, and bought another. I STILL don't like the new one as much. It's hunter green, with a leaf-like pattern and pale leaf-like patterned frontpiece. It is slowly filling up with just as much lore and delicious recipes, but it is still not the original.

When I was 13, I started regularly making messes in the kitchen of a determined nature. I decided that I had THE recipe for cinnamon buns. (FYI -- I didn't) I also decided that I was a fabulous baker. I followed these decisions up with the fact that I needed a recipe book. I was sorely disappointed when my mother merely searched the house for a notebook that had been previously bought rather than take me out to the bookstore to pick out a pretty one. I was even more disappointed in the fact that MY notebook was a mere 1/2" wide, whereas my mother's were close to an 1". ... all in all, way too much disappointment for a little notebook, I can say upon reflection. :-P

But I put an index in the back, wrote the date I started it in the front and started filling it with recipes. I copied out the recipes that I liked from my mother's books, and a handful from Fannie Farmer. I learned the valuable lesson of not putting recipes in the book that had not previously been tested -- I now have wasted real estate on the most horrific butter cookies I have ever had the misfortune of tasting. As time went on, I filled my little notebook -- it is listed as officially finished November 6, 2008. At last the time was at hand to go out and buy a pretty one!

Yet as is apparently the theme of these notebooks, there was not one of the appropriate size and shape! My first notebook, which was perfect except for not having enough pages, is 1/2" taller and 1" wider than my second notebook, although it has the appropriate amount of pages and is 1" thick. They are fairly complimentary in color scheme, being both blue designs on white. But here the story had paused. Not long after I bought this second notebook, I began a blog. And so even though I was experimenting with many recipes and cooking much more than usual, I was no longer writing them down. I also felt that it was not worth writing down recipes that were so easily printable and readily accessible.

However, after Christmas I needed a break from stuff. And I had had my recipe books down to add in my grandmother's 60 Minute Rolls recipe. And I realized that I wanted my recipes in there. So I took on the task of going through my archives and finding recipes. The number of times I have to scour my archives to find a recipe? Several times a week. Now it'll be much easier. Also, with adding in all of those recipes, I relearned several techniques that I had used and forgotten. Sometimes, I'm far cleverer than I remember! So after my archive digging, my second recipe book went from 12 recipes to 53. I also included things like the timetable for roasting chicken, and instructions for trussing a chicken -- the two things I look up the most!

There's something very comforting in the weight of these two recipe tomes -- and I do prefer handwriting to print. I hope my own kids enjoy recipe books as much as I do -- for they'll have a lot to inherit!

Sunday, January 1, 2012

New Years Thoughts

Well here we are in a new year again. Some thoughts as to what I want to have happen in my life:

-- get back to sourdough bread regularly. I managed I think 3 weeks as the max for making bread regularly. I just need to DO IT. And having bread on hand will ensure that I eat the products I make (like jams) and always have food around, so we stop eating out quite so much.

-- in addition to always having and using the ketchup that I made, I'd like to try making mustard regularly. here's a few more recipes to try. The ketchup really is quite good (I want to try this ketchup too) and I was making excuses to use it! I was using it in place of tomato paste in soups and sauces, etc. I love love LOVE mustard, and my fave has left my local co-op. So, why not attempt my own? It should be fun.

-- yet again, I would like to do UPick this year and can my bounty. Maybe this'll be the year that comes true!

-- I will buy in bulk grains, beans and dried fruits. I will also USE them at least once a week.

-- Maybe this'll be the year that Mister and I get into eating yogurt regularly. Or perhaps make cheese. Let's strive to make one milk-related project this year. Or I could pull a Tigress move and make a year's worth of butter.

-- I will figure out what to do with that back yard. Mister and I need to kill that trumpet vine for good and re-lay the brick. So 2012 will be the year we set up the backyard.

-- I won't kill myself over the wedding planning. So help me gods, if there is anything uncompleted a week before the party, it's going unfinished.

-- Get back into foraging. So far I've managed one per year. Two years ago it was grapes, last year it was chives. Let's aim for TWO items!

And to round it all off, let's look at last year's goals.

-- sort through jewelry box: nope

-- make my own bread: sorta, see above goal

-- more seasonal scavenging: not really, see above goal

-- get a cat: not yet, but Mister has finally come around :-P

-- look into chickens: Mister is still anti-chicken

-- have all gifts be handmade: eh, not too shabby

-- make more liqueurs/cordials: I started making one, and still haven't finished. Whoops!

-- learn to use spices: surprisingly, yes!

-- involve friends in the food process: I meant "can with friends" so not really

-- do UPick often: failure

-- put up more food: yes!

-- keep the budget down: eh... nope

-- eat out of the pantry: yes and no

-- store 6 months of food: nope

-- garden this year: yes, but it was not a success overall

Stored/Made Food Overall:

-- several #s of frozen rhubarb
-- 1 small bag of frozen blueberries
-- 1 jar chive blossom vinegar
-- 2 jars of spiced fig vinegar
-- 2 8-oz jars of blueberry peach jam
-- 10 8-oz jars of applesauce, 1 qt-jar of applesauce
-- 3 8-oz jars of ketchup
-- 1 jar apple cider syrup
-- 1 half-pint jar of berries in syrup
-- 1 jar candied ginger vinegar
-- venison from my dad