Friday, January 27, 2012

Dinner Disappointment and the Sad Face of Procrastination

Maybe you all don't fall into this same trap, and in which case that makes you smarter than I so go pat yourself on the back.  I sometimes find that I have allowed myself to be led down a rosepath by something someone says on the internet (shocking, I know).  Not so much recently, as there are fewer and fewer sources that I fail to take with a huge helping of salt.  Especially where food is concerned.  I mean, look at some of the stuff out there.  Somebody called themself a genius and put this up as a recipe, a hot dog wrapped in a tortilla.  Oh, and the hilariously mocked Rachel Ray classic "late night bacon" recipe is good for a laugh (at least, the comments are).

The Pioneer Woman has a good track record in my kitchen, and usually doesn't steer you wrong for recipes.  With sites out there like Smitten Kitchen, Savory Sweet Life, and the Pioneer Woman, with step-by-step photographic instructions, I allow myself to be lulled into a false sense of kitchen security.  I can make anything with the proper instruction, I insist to myself.  I can be a kitchen goddess. (No, I cannot)   And likewise, they wouldn't post it if it weren't good?  (Yes, yes they would)

I've been burned by this sentiment before. 

Early in our relationship I invited D, then pre-boyfriend, over for a dinner.  I wanted to make something new and fantastic rather than something tried and true and less exciting (this I came to call Mistake #1). 

I found some blog on the internets touting this stew with red wine as one of the ingredients.  It looked good in the photos and I trusted it would come out looking like the photos (Mistake #2).  And I'd had hobo stews around the campfire for years on our family's canoe trips, so it was just switching out the beer ingredient for a wine ingredient, and therefore would be so much fancier.  And when it said to use the entire bottle of wine (Mistake #3), I tipped 3/4 of it into the stewpot, tra-la-laaa, congratulating myself on erring on the side of caution. 

I don't need to tell you about my confusion at the resulting purple swamp in the stewpot.  Nor my embarrassment.  Nor my urgent, panicked arm-flapping when D arrived expecting dinner and finding instead a mystery muck that wasn't even food-colored. 

*Like eating this, but less good

I was not unduly prideful about it, no, I insisted (post-taste-test) no no, we don't have to eat this, why don't we go out instead?  Poor D, opting for what he knew to be the chivalrous approach, counter-insisted that he would eat what was prepared for him.  While I gave it up as a total loss and I think I ate some carrots out of the fridge or something.  He wouldn't hear a word against the wine stew at the time.  He didn't just fall off that cliff, he took a flying leap.  Two bowls.  After he had this relationship thing nailed down he fessed up in detail about the resulting severe stomach and intestinal distress.  Two bowls. 

Fast forward to the present day; I have redeemed myself in the cooking department since.  D didn't really need to be cajoled into trying the recipe for Eggs Florentine with Goetta that I found on the internets.  All that was required was that I began my text to him with the word:  GOETTA

*Here be Goetta
 Though we have merely adopted Cincy as our home, rather than being born into it, D is probably more ravenous a goetta-supporter than some Cincy natives.  He tells me that Cincy is the biggest consumer of goetta on the planet now, thanks to folks whose families immigrated here generations ago.  And yes, we've been to one of the Goetta festivals here.  Not the other one though.  Maybe this year. 

But I digress.  D is a huge fan of breakfast-for-dinner (though not of dinner-for-breakfast).  An egg casserole-type dish using spinach and cheese and a meat just sounds hard to screw up.
For the time it took to prepare on a weeknight and unexceptional blandness, I was sorely disappointed in this recipe.  Granted, I didn't follow it to the letter.  Honestly, who has 18 spare eggs sitting in the fridge?  I had surmised (incorrectly) that it would just bring out the flavor of the other ingredients that much more if there were less eggs.  It appeared out of the oven looking quite lovely and smelling great too.  But it was so bland that we had to grudgingly go through the leftovers with HP sauce, with worcestershire sauce, with okonomiyaki sauce.  Disappointing. Perhaps if I had used 18 eggs instead of (ahem) 9, it might have been good.   Although I'm inclined to think it would just have tasted more eggy.

But a silver lining there was, in the wake of this culinary defeat.
(probably as a result of, let's be honest)

D has taken an interest in taking up his Alton Brown cookbook and teaching himself how to properly cook.  Which I applaud and support.  If this week's brussels sprouts were any indication, I shall enjoy my continued support of his endeavor.
In other news: 
My happy little heuchera friends kept waiting for me to bring them in to the garage (there's a window in there).  But the weather was so mild, and they seemed to do well enough so I left them.  And left them.  And when winter- real winter- finally hit, it hit with a sheet of ice.  All of the planters were frozen to the porch. 

This is the face of procrastination.

Poor guys. When D tried to pull one of the planters inside, he failed to dislodge it but succeeded in shearing the ceramic so hard it cracked.  So we actually had to leave them out there.

Even the grass froze.  

Not sure the heuchera can survive being literally (not figuratively) frozen solid.  Time will tell I suppose. 

Photos are used without permission.
*All other photos belong to me.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Kitchen Before and After + Dishwasher Cabinet

The eye adjusts to light and dark, and, often, when the eye becomes familiar with something, it no longer notices it.  This is how clutter breeds unnoticed and yet right out in the open.  Probably this is what happens to hoarders.  It's certainly happened in my own home. 

Example: there's a pile of coupons that I haven't clipped yet, that have been sitting on there on the end-table.  After the first day or so, I didn't notice them.  Then we had company this week and in the process of cleaning the living room, *bam* it became noticeable again.  As though a cloaking device had been turned off.   How long has that pile even been there?

This is what happened in the kitchen too.  When we bought the house, the kitchen looked like this


Then we repainted it, bought a dishwasher, and D built a cabinet for it out of plywood. 


He fashioned a black-and-white tile counter to go on top.

A chunk has chipped off already.  What kind of glue should I use on tile?

And we promptly forgot about the naked boards. And thus it has remained for the last three months.  Aesthetically scandalous, I know. 

It was mentally filed as just one of those things we'd get around to eventually, surely.  Not a priority.  However, while emptying the dishwasher this weekend I thought I noticed some darkening of the wood.  Maybe the beginning of water damage or mold, maybe not, but the wood needs to be protected from the moisture and spattering water from the dishwasher.  So that's what I did Sunday morning after my sister-in-law left, and before our friends came over for football, okonomiyaki, and Cranium. 

Bobby helped
I found a can of paint in the basement that looked white-ish and said "kitchen and bathroom"  so I figured it would work with either what the wall tiles were painted with or what the cupboards were painted with. 

After + dog

This is the result.
Blends right in.  It looks like it was all painted at the same time to me, and I couldn't ask for better than that.

One less thing to do.  

*Update 1/17/12:  "Materials used were plywood for the side and non-treated lumber for the main fixture.  2x4s on the sides to mount and top to fix the counter in place.  The whole thing supports my weight.  ...  Regular lumber can handle the heat and humidity just fine."  from D

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Places That Never Leave Us

A permanent spot on my personal blog-roll belongs to Boutanical Brouhaha.  I first found it in reference to flowers when trying to arrange my wedding, but I kept coming back because ... I like flowers.  It's a pretty little pick-me-up on a drab day.  She's got a fantastic eye for color, texture, and space.  Look at the kinds of stuff she finds!

via Botanical Brouhaha

via Botanical Brouhaha

Normally its not the chatty type of blog where the author pratters on about inane things (unlike this one).  But, this week, the bloggess shared something in her personal life.  She wrote about a feeling that resonates with me, and maybe with you too.  It strikes a chord about the places we leave that never leave us. 

"I wake up early and roam the streets and the beach soaking up every ounce of the experience because I know it will soon be over and I’ll not return for months or years. I want to remember the feelings, the contemplation, the inspiration…I want to take it all home and live a passionate life. I want to feel these same raw emotions in my daily life…instead of marching through my days checking off a “to do” list and taking care of chores. At Rosemary, I think and DREAM about life."

Sometimes its like the years I spent overseas were another life entirely.  It was so long ago that it practically was a lifetime ago, and on the other side of the world to boot.  I took from those years self-sufficiency, and learned not to take things for granted.  I learned that if I wanted something I had better make it happen, because in a town of a million people nobody knew me and nobody was going to make it happen for me.  I learned to find joy in solitude.  I carved out a life there, however insignificant, and it carved out a significant place in my heart.  Every time I go back it may be for the last time.   


I didn't even crack the surface; didn't even begin to learn its delightful and dirty secrets.  But I knew where my favorite Izakaya was, I knew where to get the best milk tea, I knew my favorite spot for people-watching, and I knew where to go where people knew me, and where I could be by myself surrounded by people.  

I still think about the many kindnesses I received, and the debt I owe to pay those kindnesses forward.  There was a lot of laughter.  And confusion.  And no less than two stolen bicycles.  The friendships with good people now scattered to the corners of the earth, and a time that, of course, can never come again.     

D has never been to Japan, and though I know its probably not in the cards for us in the near future I do so want to go there with him.  I have a mental catalog of all the things I want to show him and all the places I want to take him.  A hazy, far-off someday.  A set of uncaptured photographs in my head.  

If the yen ever settles back down.
Ah well. 

Monday, January 2, 2012

And Now For Something Completely Different

Not to be an overachiever, but by January 1st I had already hit one of my resolutions.
I learned something new and did something I've never done before.  I've acquired a new skill.
Four-In-Hand Knot (Wikipedia)

Yes, the internet has taught me how to tie a tie.  D helped.  A little.  Mostly he fidgeted and craned his neck to see around my head in order to watch the game.   No, that's not true.  He showed me how he normally ties his knot and called it a Windsor knot. 

 According to Wikipedia, "James Bond never trusted a man who boasted a Windsor Knot; "It was tied with a Windsor knot. Bond mistrusted anyone who tied his tie with a Windsor knot. It showed too much vanity. It was often the mark of a cad."

Turns out D's knot wasn't the Windsor Knot.  My dad uses the Windsor Knot.  D has been using the Four-In-Hand knot.  So I learned that one first, and then picked one I liked better. 

Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you the Pratt Knot., not D's neck

As a woman I have never before had the need to tie a tie.  Nor do I have the need now, actually.  Also I learned something about myself.  I cannot read a tie-tying schematic to save my life.  I had to watch a video to figure it out. 

In other news, I just loaded up on new musics.  Perfect for my newest time-sink, the swing dancers' section of  If you are unfamiliar, it's like a chatroom for music appreciation.  Which its quite nice just to sit and chill and listen to music with people who like what you like, and introduce yourself to new songs to love.  And it already has!