Monday, December 10, 2018

the quotidian (12.10.18)

Quotidian: daily, usual or customary; 
everyday; ordinary; commonplace

Mornings when I write, they fend for themselves just fine.


For creme pat, followed the recipe exactly and still, way too thick: what gives?

With whipping cream, salvaged.

Choirboy selfie.

Baby thrills.

Deer eyeballs: for science class dissection .



This same time, years previous: when the dress-up ballgown finally fits, welcoming the stranger, yeasted streusel cake with lemon glaze, Italian wedding soup, in my kitchen (sort of): 4:15 p.m., stuffing, pimento cheese spread, winter quinoa salad, peanut butter cookies.

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

my sweet beast

Well hello there, m’lovies. It’s been awhile.

This morning I made a pot of coffee for me, my husband, and our older son. But then my husband noticed that coffee was spilling all over the counter, none of it going in the pot. So he tossed the whole grainy mess, washed out the pot, fixed the do-hickey spout thing that our older son had put in backwards — SON! — and started again.

But, same thing. All the coffee ended up on the outside of the pot.

So he tossed that, too, and then we all blearily scrutinized the evil machine, trying to figure out how we were to get the coffee to go where it was supposed to. And then my husband figured out that another do-hickey (how many do-hickeys does one coffee pot need, pray tell?) was flipped up instead of down.

This time, though, instead of brewing yet another a pot of coffee right away, I insisted on running a half cup of water through, just to be sure everything went where it was supposed to go. It did, so then I made several more cups of water, just to be sure. And then my husband flipped because What? Still no coffee?

But I didn’t much care about his flipping because I’d already made my own cup with my aeropress and was happily sipping away while flipping the pancakes on my new stove.

That’s right, people. I have a new stove! 

Or rather: I HAVE A NEW STOVE!!! !!!!!!! !!!! !!!!!!!!!!! !! !! !!!!!!!!!!!! !!!! !!!!!!!!! ! !! !!!!! !! !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

(FYI, that’s me happy-ventilating.)

Remember that post where I asked you all for stove advice? You were great — so much useful advice! — and after reading all your comments and doing a bunch of research, I actually pretty much settled on the stove I was going to get. But then we decided to volunteer in Puerto Rico for a few months, and no income meant no purchases which meant, sob, no stove.

When we got back home, my rinky-dink borrowed, but still functional, electric stove of thirteen years began to throw me some curveballs. The oven door stopped closing all the way. The big burner occasionally refused to downshift out of high gear. One of the small burners tipped violently so my kettles would slide off. None of it was critical. Just, I had a feeling the end times were drawing nigh. If I wanted to be proactive, not reactive, I'd best get on with it.

I plunged back into research. My husband and I drove to actual stores, checking out our options. We read reviews and watched sales. After a lot of mature, very adult-like (and decidedly unlike us) consideration, we finally settled on this one, but from Costco (and no longer available).

Last Thursday, after a two-week wait, it arrived, finally.

My husband stayed up late that night to install it...

And in the morning when I woke up, there it was, my new best friend.

Except currently we’re not besties just yet. More like wary acquaintances. No longer can I just waltz into my kitchen and bang pots and pans all over the place, oh no no no. This stove is far too serious for that. It’s big and solid, intimidatingly so. It’s something to be reckoned with, something to be considered.

Today, with snow in the forecast, I took a day off from my normal write-and-run routine in exchange for a baking marathon. While I'd been using the stove on a daily basis (we do have to eat, after all), it'd been sort of tentative, just a little here and there, as necessary. It was high time, I decided, I quit tiptoeing around the beast and actually got down to the business of figuring out how this thing worked.

There were those pancakes first off, and then I roast a couple butternuts and some brussel sprouts. The butternuts refused to get brown and I sort of freaked for a little there — What good is an oven that doesn’t brown vegetables? Oh no! I'M GOING TO HAVE TO SEND THE WHOLE THING BACK AND START OVER AGAIN, wahhhh! — but then I kept playing around. I tried the broiler. I cranked up the heat. I experimented between “convection roast” and “convection bake” and regular “bake.” I swapped trays. In the end, the butternuts got beautifully caramelized (whew), and then the brussel sprouts blackened gorgeously, and fast.

Now, as I type, I have French chocolate granola toasting. Next up is a cranberry walnut crostata, and then a loaf of ciabatta for supper, to go with our roasted veggies.

The enormous — no, cavernous — oven really is out-of-this-world dreamy. Convection bake is incredible: I love, love, love being able to pop things into the oven at any level, and pies and pastries and bread bake up a gorgeous golden brown. The proof setting is sweet, and I haven’t even gotten around to experimenting with time bake. With space for seven racks (ordering a couple more is on my to-do list), I haven’t even come close to maxing out the oven’s potential. It’s a real workhorse, a beast, rawr.

But you wanna know the very best part? The big glass door and the oven light!

You know how in The Great British Baking Show the contestants often kneel on the floor in front of the oven to anxiously watch their bakes? Well, that's me now! I CAN DO THAT. I can squat on the floor and watch things bubble and sizzle, brown and rise, to my heart’s content. Such thrills!

Not everything is perfect, of course. The oven puts out a lot of heat. As in, the kitchen’s temperature shoots up an easy two or three degrees every time I bake. This is fine in brr-cold weather, but in the muggy summer heat, I’m afraid it’s going to be wretched. I paged back through the stove reviews to see if I overlooked some critical complaints, but a preliminary skimming didn’t reveal any comments regarding this issue. Am I the only one bothered by tremendous heat output?

Also, certain burners don’t seem to get hot enough, and others don’t go low enough. In fact, I don’t feel like the burner flames have much variation at all. But maybe I just have to get used to them?

I keep telling myself to stop panicking over every little glitch. There's gotta be a reason the stove has nearly five solid stars. Plus, I’ve been a good twenty-some years with an electric stove, so it only stands to reason that a fire-breathing monster is going to take some getting used to.

I'll get the hang of it. In no time at all, that stove and I will be BFFs. Just you watch.

This same time, years previous: books and movies, by a thread (if you need a laugh), writing: behind the scenes, in the sweet kitchen, oatmeal sandwich bread, nanny-sitting, the college conundrum, Thanksgiving of 2013, sushi!!!, baked ziti.

Thursday, November 29, 2018

Thanksgiving of 2018

You wanna know a trick for making your ordinarily-sized house feel enormous? Simply stuff it full of people for three days and then when they all leave — ta-da! — you’re swimming in empty space!

It’s great wintertime therapy, really, both the intense people pick-me-up and the “my house is now HUGE” buzz you get afterward. So remember, when you’ve got a raging case of cabin fever come February, a monster sleepover for days on end is the cure. Easy-peasy.

We’ve hosted lots of people before, but I don’t think ever for so long, or for so many, or during such cold weather. Well, my blog tells me that we did, indeed, host this number of people before (the same ones, in fact), but this was back when the kids were a fair bit smaller. Now, most of them are solidly in the teen category, bookended by two preteens and two young adults on either end. Plus, Cousin Kenton made a guest appearance the last night. A few of the cousins got to know him in Puerto Rico and demanded (okay, okay — politely suggested) that he come, too, so he did!

oh, and there were two extra dogs, too

How does one go about pulling off a three-day bash, you might ask? Well hey! HOW ABOUT I TELL YOU.

What you do is this:

Regarding readying the house...
*Put your husband in charge of all the cleaning. I repeat, ALL the cleaning. As in, one hundred percent of the cleaning. Offer, as needed, tips, suggestions, pointers, and an outline of what needs to be done and when, but do not — I repeat, do NOT — do any of the cleaning yourself. (Except for last-minute room checks. It’s okay to do those.)

*As far as sleeping arrangements go, fix up the kids’ clubhouse (insulate, drywall, paint) and then pack in as many teen girls as will fit (between six and seven, FYI).

Regarding food (this is the fun part)....

*Plan the menu, thinking through every single solitary detail. Balance heavy meals with light ones. Leave empty, no-cooking spaces in the day. As much as is possible, choose dishes that can be made ahead. Nix all snacking, limit sugar, and pile on the veggies.

*Schedule about three, six-hour chunks of time to do massive batches of pre-holiday cooking. Excellent make-ahead foods include: ludicrous mashed potatoes, unbaked pie pastries crimped and then frozen (you keep oodles of pie pans on hand for this very reason, use them!), sausage lentil soup, braided bread, stuffing (prepped, except for the milk and egg, and frozen), roasted and peeled sweet potatoes, multiple batches of cranberry sauce, extra turkey legs (roasted, deboned, and frozen in broth to keep moist) for in case one 19-pound turkey isn't enough, boiled and peeled eggs for salad, granola, raisin bread, baked beans, etc. It's dreamy, having a freezer and fridge full of ready-to-go items. Makes me wonder why I don't treat myself to such loveliness more often.

*When people offer to bring something, delegate food items that travel well and that you’d otherwise have to purchase: hot dogs, fresh fruit, juice, coffee, chips, cereal. This cuts down on your grocery bill and, hopefully, simplifies their workload because they are, after all, the ones doing the dirty work of packing and driving (ugh).

*To keep the kitchen tidy and reduce the risk of food getting eaten out of order, hide all food (that you’ve pre-made or that people have brought). Out of sight, out of mind!

*Freeze all leftovers ASAP. This clears up precious fridge space and ensures that you’ll be eating like kings for days to come, whoo-hoo!

Regarding activities....
*Plan some! How and when will people get outside to burn off energy? What’s there to do if it rains? Do guests need to bring along sneakers for running and gloves for hauling wood (yes and yes). You might never get around to doing all (any?) of them, but knowing you have options reduces pre-hosting anxiety.

our very own 5(or 6)K Turkey Trot

free labor

always playing

preparing to crash my parents' Thanksgiving party

and ogle their food

and sing to (with) them

Regarding sanity-saving practices...
*Don’t feel obligated to participate in everything. When everyone decides to go roller skating, it’s fine to stay home to vacuum the floors and read by the fire.

*Since your entire house has now been taken over by a million talking, laughing, loved ones and you have no place to go, spend all your time in the kitchen, quietly prepping meals and cleaning up from them, all while enjoying the happy, and sometime utterly deafening, chaos that surrounds you.

the competition is for real

they had this weird obsession for group workouts

all. the. time. 

*Break your “I never give up my room to guests” rule, turn it over to the couple with the most seniority, and go sleep in your parents’ pristine, cozy, and very quiet house. Slip between the crisp, smooth sheets and wish a thousand blessings on your mother’s head, for she truly is the queen of gorgeous bed-making. (But then, when the sheets are so crisp that they crackle and snap in your ears every time you roll over and actually wake you up, fuss. Your mother will feel bad and offer new bedding, but you’ll be too lazy to upgrade the bed. No worries — by the third night of noisy sleeps, you’ll mostly adapt.)

before hitting the road: one more round of this year's theme song, Bring Sally Up

proving his mettle

*When everyone leaves, take advantage of the freshly emptied places and go on a cleaning tear. Thirty minutes of wiping down and vacuuming up and a tidy, HUGE house is all yours. Collapse on the sofa and read, read, read. Actually, you can probably play the “I’m recuperating” card for several days. Milk it, baby.

Until next year!

This same time, years previous: Chattanooga Thanksgiving of 2017, Chattanooga Thanksgiving of 2016, and of 2015!, the day before, kale pomegranate salad, monster cookies, butternut squash pesto cheesecake, all a-flutter, apple chutney.

Monday, November 26, 2018

the quotidian (11.26.18)

Quotidian: daily, usual or customary; 
everyday; ordinary; commonplace

To counteract the holiday glut.

The glut of which I speak, YUM.

Ludicrous mashed potatoes deserve to get mashed ludicrously.

Roasted and all ready to slip out of their jackets.

Getting my puff on.

Last-minute cramming: the guest quarters.

Thank goodness for showers.

November's end.

This same time, years previous: the quotidian (11.20.17), curried Jamaican butternut soup, apple crumb pie, apple raisin bran muffins, the quotidian (11.25.13), Thanksgiving of 2012, cranberry pie with cornmeal streusel topping.

Monday, November 19, 2018

the quotidian (11.19.18)

Quotidian: daily, usual or customary; 
everyday; ordinary; commonplace

Sometimes I get hungry (there are beans and rice under there, too).

Breakfast biscuits: self-rising flour, butter, sour milk.

Taking peanut butter apples to a new level.

Coming up: apple, grape, cherry, shoofly, etc...

Cleaning out the fridge: a bit o' rice, grilled chicken, collards, lemon, squash.

Bread flour by the old-fashioned-ladies-with-bustly-butts tin.


Seasonal confusion. 

Ice leaf.

The wireless keyboard that I bought because my laptop keyboard stopped working 
is now also breaking, whimper-sob.

I have paparazzi. Therefore, I am.

Also, this is why I no longer comb my hair when it's dry.

This same time, years previous: smoking success, spiced applesauce cake with caramel glaze, in my kitchen: noon, how to use up Thanksgiving leftovers in ten easy steps, red lentil soup with lemon and spinach.