Sunday, September 27, 2009

Eggs and other Adventures.

We have less than 2 weeks to go until the wedding, but instead of freaking out or feeling exhausted, I am suddenly in the mood to try lots of new recipes. Maybe it's the fact that fall is coming, maybe it's that Nico is treating his sleep apnea and his happier, more-awake attitude is catching. Maybe it's the zoloft, or the fact that I read Bourdain's Kitchen Confidential recently and it's inspired me. Maybe it's that now I'm reading Amster-Burton's Hungry Monkey, or maybe it's just an avoidance tactic for dealing with the real stress of the wedding. I'm not sure. Whatever it is, it sure tastes good.

This morning I sous vide'd a couple eggs for breakfast. Basically it's poached eggs, but instead of dropping the egg directly into the water you make a little package of it inside some buttered and seasoned plastic wrap. It works! The poached egg comes out perfectly. There's a great tutorial on . But be sure you're using the microwave-safe plastic wrap. Don't ask me how I know.

And it turns out I love poached eggs. I've never had them before. I've never had any eggs where the yolk isn't thoroughly cooked. Uncooked yolk has always seemed kind of queasy to me; I even order my omelets well-done. So I'm very surprised that the runny yolk in a poached egg is, in fact, not bad. It's even, dare I say, good - mopped up with some buttered toast. Next stop: eggs over-easy.

On Friday I made boeuf bourguignon. Boeuf bourguignon! But I didn't make Julia Child's version, which is for the advanced class. Instead I made the easier, simpler but still Frenchy-French version that the NY Times covered here. I see that now the actual recipe calls for you to log in/register with the NY Times. If you want me to email you the recipe, I could do that. It's a good recipe. It takes a long time but it isn't overly fussy. When it calls for the stew to simmer for a couple of hours I transferred it into the crockpot, which was preheated on high. It simmered nicely and I was able to leave it alone and go do other things without worrying. And the stew itself was amazing. I've never had boeuf bourguignon before but with the first bite I immediately recognized it as the beef stew that I've been trying to make for years without ever quite succeeding. Fan-freaking-tastic.

I mentioned that I've been reading Amster-Burton's book Hungry Monkey. It's a sort of food memoir (with some recipes) about a man trying to feed his little daughter things that he and his wife might actually enjoy. I checked it out from the library based on the NY Times book review, and because I thought it might give me some ideas for things that aren't too hard to make and that Nico and I could both agree on. Nico's tastes are certainly more sophisticated than those of a toddler, but when it comes to spicy foods and vegetables he is definitely the picky one in the relationship. The book is a nice light read and the two recipes I've tried so far have been utterly successful. The Thai Shrimp Curry (p. 228) is infinitely repeatable and works even better with some chopped potatoes or squash and some frozen broccoli and cauliflower thrown in. I can tell it's going to become one of our winter-time staples. The Stacked Green Enchiladas (p. 55) were a novelty what with the stacking and broiling, and the tomatillo sauce was surprisingly excellent. In fact it makes me want to try growing tomatillos next year, since the quality available at the local supermarket leaves something to be desired. I'm also looking forward to trying out the recipes for pad thai sauce, duck ragu, larb gai, roasted parsnips, broiled teriyaki mackerel, thai salad dressing, Cornish pasties and potstickers. Whew!

Even Nico's been stretching his cooking muscles by making Irish sausage rolls with a mushroom sauce. This was also his first exposure to working with puff pastry dough and store-bought bread crumbs. It turned out pretty good, and he's going to do a repeat of it tomorrow. No complaints here.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Ready, Steady, Go

What a summer it's been. There is now less than a month until Nico and I get married, and I've spent a lot of this summer getting ready. We're pretty close to being done, it's mostly the small things and the things that have to wait until the last minute that we have still to do. Though make no mistake, those last-minute things are a big deal. Things like making all the cupcakes and making corsages and bouts. But we'll have family and friends here to help then, and I know we can get it all done.

We got our engagement pics back from the photographer this weekend. We had them taken two or three weeks ago at the downtown branch of the Seattle Public Library. A librarian getting her engagement photos done at the library, don't you love it? Yeah, well, this particular library has some great architecture and it's hard to turn down an excuse to go to Seattle. Here are some of my favorites:

Whew. I can't choose just one. Does that mean I'm vain?

But it hasn't been all wedding, all the time. I've been able to get some useful things done. My garden, for instance. It's done OK, not fantastic, but alright. I've gotten enough roma tomatoes to make a smallish batch of marinara, augmented with some basil I grew from seed. I'm going to freeze the marinara and save it for a pick-me-up on a bad day. I've also put some of my tomatoes and Anaheim chiles into a batch of my roasted salsa roja, which I canned in little half-pint jars. And I made three different batches of jam with berries from Spooner Farm stands. Also canned those. I like canning. In small batches, anyway. People say that if you've got your own preserves it's like having money in the bank. I disagree. I think it's like having sunshine in the bank. That along with the marinara sauce and a couple bags of chopped up rhubarb from a coworker's garden in the freezer and I feel almost ready for winter.

Which is good, because winter is coming. Oh yes. I like to say that in this part of the country fall starts on Sept. 1st. And it does. Sept. 1st this year saw us with rain and gray skies after a long stretch of sun. Now the trees are just starting to turn color. There are a couple of early maples here and there that are already almost completely yellow, but the others aren't too far behind. The first seasonal squash is also beginning to show up at the grocery.

And finally, Nico and I had a chance to get outside and play a little when Olympia had its first-ever Zombie Walk. We talked about using this as our engagement photo, but decided against it in the end.

Friday, August 28, 2009

At last the hellish experience of dress-fitting is over.

I just got back from my second/final dress fitting at, where else, David's Bridal. Whew. You know, going to try on the dresses was actually fun. My sisters were both in town, we got a great saleslady, and the dress seemed perfect.

That was last November. The dress has been hanging in my closet since January, and last month I went in for my first dress fitting. Alone. I had no idea what to expect but I probably should have based on the many people who've had bad experiences with DB. You see, I've gained weight since last Nov (Thanks, Genetics! Thanks, Sedentary Job, 2-hour Commute and Depression!) and, since I was alone, I needed help getting the corset-bra latched in the back. God forbid. My alterations lady was not happy she had to help me, and at one point she even muttered the phrase, "My God!" I admitted to her that I'd gained weight, although not so much that I couldn't make it into the dress or anything.

Now, I'm kind of an awkward girl. I'm introverted and I generally don't have very much to say to strangers. I'm bad at small-talk. But I also fear awkward silences with people in service positions. Maybe that's because I'm usually the one in a service position. So what do I do? I throw out all the fat acceptance rhetoric I've learned in the last year and a half and I make a fat joke. About myself. Because for some reason I think it's important for the alterations lady, who I've never seen before in my life, to like me. I wanted her to be comfortable even though I sure as hell wasn't. Never mind that this is her freaking job and I am a paying customer, never mind that she probably sees 50 brides a week and I mean nothing to her. Nope, I'll do anything for a laugh, even one at my own expense.

And she did laugh, a little. But the rest of the fitting was spent in uncomfortable silence and halting shop-talk. She told me she could let the dress out 2 inches since I'd gained that weight, and I chose a style of bustle. Not much else to say, I guess.

Fast forward to about an hour ago, when I went in for my second scheduled fitting. This time I was smart enough to have Nico strap me into the bra before I even left the house and it's a good thing I did because the alterations person this time around was a guy. And have you noticed that the women who work at David's Bridal wear, well, whatever, but if a man is working there he's always in a tux? Even the alterations guy? Seems a little incongruous to me.

So I dive back into the dress, stand on the little podium, get a quick tutorial in bustling then shimmy back into my street clothes all wrapped in a nice warm blanket of Awkward. At least this guy didn't comment about my weight, and neither did I. Although I did adroitly complement his well-executed bustle by telling him I didn't think I would end up stepping on it. He didn't laugh.

But now it's over. I think I deserve a glass of wine, and if I weren't so tired I'd probably have one.

Also today Nico and I had our engagement shoot at the down town branch of the Seattle library! Our photographer, Amanda, is totally awesome! She's so sweet and has so much energy. I can't wait to see how the photos turn out.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Woodland Creatures

I think this is the darling that started helping itself to my garden recently. As my friend Jenny says, it's a good thing they're cute.

I've been spraying deer repellent to keep them from devastating my plants like they did last year. But poor thing, it looks so skinny. I kind of feel sorry for it.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Day Trip to Astoria

On Memorial Day we headed down to Astoria, OR to meet up with a couple friends, fellow Tucson-transplants Andy and Chiara. Nico was excited to make the pilgrimmage to the town where much of The Goonies was filmed. I was just happy to cross another thing off the to-see list and hang out in the sun with friends.

The first thing we did was head on over to Fort George Brewery for lunch and a couple beer samplers. We got to try each of the beers on tap and were most impressed by the Sunrise Oatmeal Pale Ale, the Nut Red Ale, and a seasonal brew, the Illuminator Doppelbock. Tasty beers, nice atmosphere, less tasty fish tacos. But I'd eat there again in a heartbeat.

Next we went up to the roof of the Hotel Elliott for one of the best views of the city. The Hotel Elliott is a renovated 1920's hotel and they keep their rooftop open to the public. Made me wish we'd driven to town the day before so we could've spent the night there. Here are some views:

After that we wandered around downtown for a while before walking over to the Captain George Flavel House Museum (with a quick stop in front of the Goonies-featured County Jail so Nico could take some pictures). The Flavel House was built in 1885 for one of the richest and most-respected families in coastal OR at the time. The grounds have been renovated and most of the house has been renovated as well. We took the tour and then relaxed for a while on a stone bench beneath one of the large old trees.

Then we drove out to one of the beaches closer to the mouth of the Columbia before heading over that rediculously long bridge to the WA side of the river, then on into Longview for some surprisingly good Thai food.

And no matter what you may hear, I really didn't get that sunburnt.

Mostly it was just a great day of exploring and catching up with friends. A little beer, a little sun, a little history. An adventure. The good kind.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Something Old (warning: soppy)

I've been giving some thought to buying myself a nice handmade hankie off etsy for the wedding. I have a soft-spot for quaint old-timey things and I figured if there was ever a time I could justify buying a lacy hankie, this might be it.

While I was browsing the myriad of handkerchiefs etsy has to offer I stumbled over a few that had been stitched into baby bonnets. Wait a minute, I thought. I HAVE one of those.

So I dug through my old trunk and I found my baptismal gown from when I was a wee one. And with it I found this strange little baby bonnet that I knew I had seen before, covered with lace and ribbons:

And with it there was a card with a hand-written poem. The hand-writing is, I believe, my mom's. Or possibly my grandma's. Neither of them are with us anymore. The poem itself was written by god knows who, as it is the same poem that accompanied the hankie-bonnets on etsy:

I'm just a little hankie
As square as square can be
But with a stitch or two
They make a bonnet out of me.
I'll be worn from the hospital
Or on the Christening Day
Then I'll be carefully pressed
And neatly put away.
Then on the Wedding Day
So, I've always been told
Every well dressed bride
Must have that something old.
So what would be more fitting
Then to find little old me,
With a few stitches snipped
A wedding hankie I will be.

When my mom packed this little bonnet away for me almost 29 years ago I'm sure she thought that someday, when the time came, she'd be the one to dig it back out for me. She didn't know that she wouldn't be around when that day came. She just tucked it away, a good wish for the future.

And now I'm the one who's remembered it and found it and snipped away the complicated little stitches. I have my wedding hankie, I have my Something Old, and I have the quiet little wishes my mom pressed and set aside for me all those years ago.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

The arithmetic of the damned

8 hours of sleep + 2 hours of getting ready in the morning + 1 hour commuting + 8.5 hours of work + 1 hour commuting = 3.5 hours in which to have an actual life and fulfilling relationships each day.

Not enough time.

What's your damnable arithmetic?