Wednesday, October 28, 2009

A Letter to Our Pilot Light

Dear Pilot Light,

So nice of you to show your lovely, blue face again. Really, it's been too long. I know you must be busy, getting ready for the autumnal weather and all, but I really don't understand what made you disappear on us for so long.

You were here one day and then gone, the next. A brief return last Wednesday only lead to your complete abandonment of us for the remainder of the week.

Was it something we said? did? Were you unhappy that we replaced two of your valves that were working just fine but we were told really should be updated? Was it the indignation of being stripped cleaned after 35 years of dust and rust?

I do want you to know: William and I have learned our lesson. If it is not broken, do not do routine maintenance on it. You were not broken, just a bit worn and dirty, but all and all, working just fine. You were a victim of our desires for precaution, not to mention for warmth this winter, since the chimney crapped out on us (believe me, we have had words with it). We promise never again to maintain anything. We will only fix it when it finally breaks completely.

I hope now that you are the proud owner of a thermocouple device that we have made amends with you and that you will not blow out again. We would love to have you to stick around for the winter, heating up our radiators.

We would be ever so grateful.

Best regards,

Miriam & William, chagrined owners

Bread Envy

So, the other day, I am minding my own business, working away, when I receive this email from a California-based friend. It has this photo & message:

"Well, I don't think I've ever sent anyone a picture of a loaf of bread before but this came out the oven a few minutes ago looking soooo gorgeous that I snapped a pic. And then I figured if anyone would appreciate it, it would be you! So here you are: P's latest loaf!"

I have total bread envy. It looks perfect and I am assured just as tasty. My foray into bread making has not been successful (trying it without a bread machine) and so this makes me doubly envious.

I did retaliate with photos of my fried green tomatoes, but nothing really ever beats fresh, homemade bread.

Now, I am staring at the photo and yearning for some warm butter and a serrated knife....

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Secretly Growing in the Garden

Will discovered this growing in the Victory Garden! We did plant "it" and then forgot where we planted it (very typical of us). Today, he was looking at the mess that is the Victory Garden-- a mess because the nasturtiums have taken over and it looks quite pretty--and noticed these different leaves.

He rubbed the leaves together and smelled his fingers: not a herb. So, my intrepid gardener decides to break off and eat a stalk! And to his pleasant surprise: celery.

We found three other places where is it growing. It isn't as white and thick as what you get in the stores, but it has a stronger taste. A bit sour, so it may not be quite ready. We now have to do some research to see about harvesting times for celery.

Apple Turnovers

Having bought a bag of apples and then not eaten them fast enough, the only solution is to make an apple dessert of some sort. A delicious, cinnamon-y, nutmeg-y, apple-y warm treat in a pie/crumble/crisp/sauce form.

Or, you can make turnovers in the fun star and heart shaped molds.

Which option do you think I chose? I'll give you a hint:

Because, as you can see, the heart and the star middles aren't that big, one must take your peeled apples

and finely dice them, so you can get as much appley bits in there. And since we know Will's dislike for cinnamon, I added to the brown sugar just a pinch of cinnamon, and more all spice and nutmeg.

Having refrigerated my dough and the apples having sat in the sugar/spice mixture for a good two hours (so it was nice and juicy), I commenced turnover making.

As you can see, each mold has a mini cut out of a star or heart: for venting! That William-Sonoma, they think of everything!

The mold even crimps the edges! Egg-washed and sprinkled with more sugar, it is time for 20 minutes of baking.

The result are apple turnovers, perfect for dessert (or in this case, breakfast). Each one fits in your hand! It is a lovely way to start off a day, especially when it is a rainy, cool day like today.

Monday, October 26, 2009

4 months < 40 years

Speaking of anniversaries, this lovely couple:

just celebrated 40 years of marriage! And my mom isn't even 60 yet (work that out). Toasting in their champagne flutes from their wedding, though no longer tied together with a ribbon, Will and I were able to be there for the special occasion.

Completing the bubbly was a nice breakfast with fresh raspberries, crustless quiche, and sausage links. Thanks, Mom & Dad, for being an example to us newly-weds!

4 Months and Counting

Today, Will and I have been married for 4 months. It doesn't seem that long ago and it seems like forever. Course, lots of stuff has happened in that 4 months...

The BBC had a great article today about men marrying 'younger' and smarter women and how if they do, the marriage is sure to last. Since I am five years younger and am smarter than the average bear, Will declared "OMG - see - nothing but happiness in my future!" when he sent me the link to the article.

Yea! Happy 4 Months!

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Idgie Threadgoode's Is Proud

We have a lot of tomatoes that didn't ripen this year. Though today was a strangely spring like day, all sunny and warm, the vines are actually pretty much dead and so no chance for the tomatoes to reddened up. Most of them, in fact, were already on the ground.

What does one do with a lot of green tomatoes? Really, do you have to ask?

After slicing them up and dredging them through milk, flour, salt & pepper, eggs, and bread crumbs, it was time to fry them suckers!

In the hot oil, I fried them about 8 minutes on side, until they were a nice golden brown. Some which has some cream cheese in the mix, took a bit longer to cook.

But these tomatoes were absolutely delicious. With a little side of ketchup, this was a wonderful dinner. Idgie Threadgoode and Ruth Jamison might want my recipe, in fact.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Pour Some (Burnt) Sugar On Me!

Good friends Sandy and Genevieve came to visit.

Their visit meant a special dessert
(and an excuse for me to use a couple of wedding gifts).

Creme Brulee is a favorite of mine and
so I made my custard with my
vanilla bean (gift #1)

Baking in wedding gift #2
(not the ramekins, the stainless baking dish)
and after a few hours of chilling,
the custard was ready to torch (gift #3).

Burning sugar is fun. Proof:
Martha, eat your heart out!

And while the custard wasn't *quite* custardy enough
(it needs more than 4 hours to chill),
the group effort torched sugar was perfect!

Friday, October 23, 2009


It has been years since I have eaten veal. I don't agree with how its made, so to speak. But I watched an episode of Gordon Ramsey's "The F Word" and he had a bit on about British veal and how good it can be for you if it is grass-fed and range-free. So, after years of not eating veal, I decided to try it again, once I discovered from my local grocery store that the veal was local, grass-fed, and allowed to roam the hillside of of the Maryland farm. I bought a small roast.

In looking at it to prepare it for dinner, I realized that it was too much for Will and I to eat by ourselves. In comes The Italian and her Sidekick, Maddalena and Bryan, willing to take one for the team and eat veal so as to not let it go to waste or too much appear on our lips and hips. So nice of them to come to our rescue, don't you think?

I found a recipe in the Larousee Gastonomique that I wanted to try: Veal Roast with Salsify. Now, I had never heard of salsify, but apparently is quite popular in France and Italy-- though the Italian had never heard of it-- and grows naturally in every U.S. state but Hawaii. It is tuber that is also known as goats beard or oyster vegetable, tastes like an artichoke, and looks like this:

Alas, no one had heard of these at two Whole Foods I visited. In fact, no one I have asked has heard of these vegetable. I had to choose surrogate tubers: rutabagas and turnips. It will be fine, right?

Upon arrival to my house, there was literally nothing prepared. So, Bryan and Will relaxed in the "new" TV room with cheese and crackers while Maddalena and I set about creating and modifying the recipe.

The Italian adds her special touch

Will and Bryan soon realized that this was not going to be a quick process and came back into the kitchen to watch the pot simmer (it could have been us giggling that made them want to be in there too). Which, after 15 minutes or the stock reduced to 1/2 what it was, then had to be baked for another 40. And we all know about a watched pots trying to boil, er, simmer...

Still, after modifications, stock not quite boiled down, vegetable substitutions, keeping the carrots and onions in the jus, and perfectly cut chives, this is what we created:

why, yes! That is my *new* china!
Isn't it so pretty?

A delicious meal of roast veal with rutabagas and turnips, and a side of asparagus. (Yes, I appreciate the irony of spring and autumn vegetables served together at one meal). To go along with the evening, Maddalena donated one of the wines from her region in Italy. All in all, a tasty and experimental evening. And yes, I will be eating veal again, especially when the table looks this inviting.


People, I have returned to the blogosphere: my new (replacement) laptop arrived. I can now blog again at home. And my friends, do I have some things to tell you about:

  • boilers
  • roofs
  • Rocky Mountain creme brule
  • boot-scootin' weddings
  • Mini Mouse and Pete's Dragon
  • fences
  • the last of the vegetables

The list goes on and on... so stayed tuned. I know you have missed me, just as I have missed you. I will try to make up for lost time... but in the meantime, I have to make sure that my laptop is loaded up with all the software, etc.

Talk to you soon. I promise.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Chimney Monkey

As loyal readers of this blog (all three of you) will know, we have had chimney woes. Woes such as being told that our chimney needs to be relined; it is covered in cerasote; and (my favorite) it is no longer attached to the house.

Basically all bad news. We have started the round of bids coming and yesterday, was a visit from Company #2.

It employs a monkey, who bravely (stupidly?) walked along the roof ridge, down the slope with all the loose and slipping slate tiles, and climbed up the chimney that is supposedly no longer attached. He then peered into our chimney to see what was there to see.

In the meantime, I am having heart palliations palpatations as I watch this person kneel on the chimney cap after he tells me that the first two layers definitely need to be rebricked. Otherwise, the chimney needs to be lined and repointed (not rebricked).

Still, he was kneeling on my chimney. Without safety equipment. In sunglasses.

That monkey has some guts.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Praying Mantis

On Sunday, I went to get the paper and was greeted by this little dude on our front porch. They are the coolest bugs! I even filmed him walking--which is super slow. And, while this short film (which could make some motion sick) is *not* the best film job I have done, it is rather hilarious. Turn on/up your sound...not to super loudness, but just make sure it is on.


New TV Room/Library

Our t.v. room/library is complete. We got the new sofa last week--the only bright spot last Wednesday, when the workmen were giving us quotes on all the repairs needing to be done on the house. Isn't it pretty?

I also have organized the library. We have the German history together, the US history sorted, the World War I information away from the World War II. A travel section is underneath the European History section. Fiction (both trashy and classic) is in the entertainment section, along with the dvds. Africa and the Middle East history take up one shelf and Russian history a shelf and half. We are missing is the Far East/Asia section, but I will be working on that in the coming years. I do have nice collection on Empire.

The next step will be to actually alphabetize the books, but I think that I might need an intern for that, and have her or him create a card catalog for me and possibly a way to borrow them. I know you are all dying to read the about cabaret in Weimar Germany or the history of British food (yes, apparently there is a something other than meat pies in British cuisine).
And if history isn't your thing (then why are we friends?, I mean, ohh too bad), we always have the flat panel and loads of old British comedy series: Dad's Army, Blackadder, Yes Prime Minister! and you can snuggle down into the new couch with one of our lovely blankets....

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Still pouring

So, after the break-in on Monday, and the key fiasco on Tuesday, one would hope that Wednesday would have been easy. Or Thursday.

Not so, my friends.

Wednesday, we had a slew of workmen at the house only to discover that the boiler needed more repairs and maintenance then originally thought. $700 more to be exact. But, now the coils are clean, the flue repaired, and the back flow preventor value brand new.

We had the chimney scheduled to be cleaned. Ahhhh, again. Something so easy and cheap ($114 for being a member of Angie's List!) turns out there is a need for it to be a completely rebuilt: terra cotta liner, new external bricks, caps, and all the creosote running down the inside like a river to be cleaned away. Oh yeah, and a minor detail of the chimney no longer being attached to the house because the crack, which starts at the roof flashing, is so bad. $13,200 is the current bid.

Then, there are the windows. The old, leaky, unlockable windows (which are now nailed shut) with their charming wavy glass but their broken sashes. We have 49 windows that should be replaced and the average cost to replace them: $2,000 a piece. I will let you do that math....

Uh-huh. You got that amount?

Add that to the chimney estimate. The boiler repair. The roof cost. The dormer addition expenditure. The attic remodel quote. The new fencing price. Yeah, is your head spinning at the thought of these? HmmmMmmm, that was our Wednesday.

So far, Thursday hasn't been much better: three hours of waiting to get my new license, forgetting my phone and a book; and Will is stuck in Dallas on his way to L.A., as his plane to failed take off. Twice.

Oh, and to add insult to these injuries: I have a trail of 16 23 spider bites on my thigh to my knee. And they itch like crazy.

Can't a couple catch a break?