Thursday, December 23, 2010

Things I've been meaning to post about:

Ordering glasses online:
I did it. I looked at a bunch of different sites, and I ended up buying mine at Zenni Optical. They were about $35 inc shipping, high index lenses, and anti-glare coating. My goals were: cheap, and try someplace that does tinting so that N could order cheap prescription sunglasses once he gets his prescription updated. Eye Buy Direct had the nicest site, but charged more for the high index lenses, and don't do tinting in all frames, just sunglasses in a few high price frames. Googles4u got pricey fast in my prescription.
At first I thought I would buy some cute frames and maybe like them enough to wear them more than just when my contacts are out at night. But it turns out that I am not daring (these look nearly identical to my last pair, except for the way they fit my head far better) and I hate wearing glasses. But since the eye doctor demands that I take out my contacts every night now, it was good to get a spare pair.

Thanksgiving:

Mostly I want to fill you in on the culinary success stories.

I made homemade cranberry dressing, with orange juice and orange zest. It was YUMMY.

and N came up with the thoroughly brilliant idea of molding it in the skull cake pan! Despite it taking up a ridiculous amount of fridge space, it was still fun to scoop out some jawbone to garnish the turkey with.

I made acceptable dinner rolls for the first time ever: Parker House Rolls from Baking Illustrated. They are ridiculously buttery, which is fine for a special occasion. I'm not sure I'm shaping them right, but I end up with little folded buns that make great tiny sandwiches with leftover turkey and some dijon. mmmm. But still on the lookout for a good "everyday" dinner roll recipe.

I also tried a new variant on Hypocrite Pie, Sour Cream Apple Pie from the Modern Baker. Malgieri's version has a much better custard - it really holds together while still being chockful of apples. Unfortunately, his crumb topping is kind of bland and there's way too much of it. Next time, I'll try halving the topping.

That about catches us up. The dogs say Merry Christmas!

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Fall is for changes. And Skull cakes.

Skull cake! I am now plotting excuses to make skull cakes for every occasion. Hogwatch, Easter Crime, Pirate birthday parties (I'll be pro-pirate for skull cakes!) I just love my skull cake pan. This is yellow cake with the simple glaze I used for coffee cake. It's two pieces, one that is sort of neck + back of head and one that's the face. So it sits up and looks at you. We glued them together with strawberry jam that didn't set all the way for extra gore.

The linden tree in the front yard changed color in the last few days. All over the neighborhood, the leaves are coming down so fast you can hear them, so today was the day to get all the fall color photos.
(unknown decorative bush. it's twin on the other side of the deck appears to be dead - didn't change color.)
(the remaining apricot tree. It was about twice this big, but half of it fell over and died. We still got enough apricots for jam this year.)

News! I have a new job. It is awesome. I'm a Data Consultant at SimpleGeo. Right now that means that I'm building ways to clean up our geo data sources, which uses programming and statistics and text mining and other things that I wanted an excuse to learn more about. I cleaned out a ton of links that I had favorited in Twitter because they looked interesting - all of them are relevant to my new job. Still part-time while I wrap up this thesis (swear I'm making progress) but planning for it to become full-time after that.
N also has a new job. He's still a controller, but now he has a much better commute, and works for a larger company - a wholesale plant nursery.

Obligatory photo of adorable dog:
Vlad manages to look mopey despite having the comfy chair and all the toys. Takes some doing.

Monday, September 20, 2010

random update

Well, the big "news": I'm not going to graduate this semester. Presumably, I'll graduate next semester, but really who knows? It's research. I'm definitely making progress, and I'm happy with how it's coming together and my level of understanding. And I'll graduate when it's done.

It took me six years to get my undergraduate degree. It is astonishing to me now that I thought I could get a PhD. in less. :)

I do wish I hadn't expended all that time and energy on job hunting. But oh well. There are worse mistakes to make.

Our living room is back together. It's fantastic and gorgeous. See floor and rug and bookshelves and couch back in place.
This wall used to be grimy white wood paneling, and the old shelves against it were falling-apart particle board. We do need to figure out where to buy more of the little plastic swivels that hold the glass into these.
Dogs are still cute.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Perfect Pantry Coffee Cake

Goal: coffee cake with a decadent amount of streusel, made only of things I always have on hand.



Recipe:

Streusel (from Bon App├ętit's Streusel Coffee Cake )
1/4 c (1/2 stick) butter, softened
1/2 c brown sugar
1/2 c rolled oats
2 tsp cinnamon

Cake (from Challenge Dairy's Streusel Topped Apple Bread )
1/2 c (1 stick) butter, softened
1 c sugar
2 eggs
1/2 tsp vanilla
1/2 c buttermilk
2 c flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
(if using unsalted butter, 1/2 tsp salt)

Glaze (inspired by Alton Brown's Doughnut Glaze )
1/2 c powdered sugar
1 Tbsp dry milk
1/4 tsp vanilla
just enough water to make pourable

Stir together the streusel ingredients and set aside.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a 9x9 pan with aluminum foil and spray with baking spray.

Cream the sugar and butter until light and fluffy, add the eggs one at a time. Stir in the buttermilk and vanilla. Add the dry ingredients and stir until just smooth.

Spread batter into prepared pan, top with streusel. Bake for 40 minutes. (Or until the center stops jiggling.)

While the cake is cooling, whisk together the glaze, adding water gradually until you have something that is just barely a liquid. Once the cake is nearly cool, pour liberally over the entire cake, it should soak in.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

It's good to have our whole house again.

The living room floor is finished, and enough baseboards are in that we put everything back in the room that belongs there. It's great to be able to use it normally again, as well as see ALL our books and dvds. And I hooked up my Super Nintendo.

We survived having both the annual judo picnic and the annual math bbq on the same day. Brought Snickerdoodle Blondies and buttermilk pie respectively. Sadly, the blondies were experimental and I don't think they make the cut. Too dry. They're great dunked in coffee or tea, but standing alone too dry for me.

A very agile squirrel left this on our (upper floor) windowsill. I wish I could have seen him maneuvering to get up there with it. The apples are almost ripe, so I guess summer must be almost over..

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Home Improvements

Engineered red oak. Cheaper than any of the laminate we liked, maybe a little lighter in color than we were thinking, but looks great in place. We did all the easy parts. Now there's the edge where we have to cut boards lengthwise and the hallway. SO MUCH NICER THAN CARPET.

Vlad likes it. Vlad is also safely off all of his meds - got the bloodwork back this week and he's looking very healthy. Even starting to lose some weight by ineffectively chasing rabbits around the yard. (We have a ton of rabbits this year!)

Gustav also likes the floor.

Yes, this blog is almost entirely an excuse for me to post pictures of my dogs.

We also replaced 5 windows with modern double glazed ones. Including the ones in the bathrooms. I'm so excited about having insulation between me and the outdoors when I shower.

I went to a big statistics conference and gave a talk. I have some ideas for how to have a better time next time I go to a big conference. Luckily it's one where hundreds and hundreds of people give talks, so there were about 5 people in my audience who weren't also speaking that session. It was still pretty scary.

Today I fought in a non-novice division of a judo tournament. Well, 3 non-novice divisions, and the novice division. 8 total fights, won 3. But two where in one division, so I took first in that one. Great fun, no injuries, way less freaked out about fighting black belts in the future.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Jam time

Apricots! The freeze didn't get them this year, and it looks like it's time to pick them and make super awesome jam. In the dead of winter, it's like a little jar of sunshine.
Last week, N made strawberry jam. Not from our strawberries. We haven't actually managed to harvest any yet. We've had a few fruit last until they are starting to look ripe, and then bang - birds, squirrels, rabbits, Vlad, something eats them. :(
I'm starting to get regular tomato crops from my little plants. There were 4 or 5 other ripe ones before these. But I ate them.
The current big house project: replacing the floor in the living room and downstairs hallway. We hated the awful stained carpet. The funky vintage linoleum underneath was too damaged to embrace. What will we replace it with? It looks like since we're below grade, the best thing to do is laminate and put in a floating floor. Laminate won't have any moisture problems, and it's comparatively cheap. But we're super picky about the texture not feeling too weird and plasticky - if we must have fake wood, we want convincing fake wood. Hopefully we'll find some we like soon. Everything has been moved out of the living room except the books - and all the rest of the floor has come up. The books will be a major undertaking.

Vlad has been weened off all his pills - check up in a few weeks to see if he's doing ok without them.

I'm officially in the advanced class at judo, though I sometimes get talked into helping teach the beginners. The advanced class is SO HARD. I'm covered in funky bruises and I have a lot of days with ibuprofen every 4 hours. First tournament where I fight in the senior division (get beat up by black belts) is in two weeks.

Friday, June 25, 2010

A very random collection of things

This is what leeks look like when they're about to bloom. This is what happens if you never harvest your leeks. I would be so ok with this bed being taken over by leeks and garlic. We don't eat that many leeks now that my free subscription to Bon Appetit ran out, but it would be kind of neat to just have plenty on hand, right there in the dirt.
Both tomato plants are doing great, starting to get little green tomatoes. I have a cherry tomato plant and a grape tomato plant, and the shape difference is even apparent with little baby tomatoes. The basil next to them is doing well enough that I'm already looking forward to more homemade pizzas. mmmm. basil and tomato and roasted garlic. (the little tomatoes I grow just get eaten whole - I buy bigger ones to put on pizzas.)

We've discovered baking potatoes and roasting garlic at the same time. Easy dinner of baked potatoes that may or may not be covered in garlic, and then left over roasted garlic for sandwiches or pizza later in the week.

Judo tournament last weekend: Fought novice division - one person in my weight class, and I had way more experience, so I got first place for the first time. Also my lungs and stomach were far more cooperative so I had much more fun all day. I was so incredibly hyper and talkative afterward that I had to keep wandering around finding new people to talk to because I could tell I was annoying people.

The week before, we went to a WWII style hangar dance. It was fun, but probably not something we need to do again. A good adventure though, and something we'd been talking about doing way back when N did more reenacting. Pics are on facebook.

I went and saw someone's thesis defense. It was good to find out what they are like in our department, and some of our committee members overlap. It's basically just a 1 hour talk, and then time for 30 minutes of questions. It was not a grilling, there were very few questions during the talk and an hour is just not that long considering I've already given 30 minute talks over just part of it. I'm really glad it occurred to me to go - it was just a sudden brainwave.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Project Complete: Oven Trim

Before we moved in: there were two separate wall appliance holes. Presumably one for an ancient microwave or something. N (with some help) cut the divider out and made it one big hole for our double oven.
Our double oven fit - but wasn't the exact dimensions of the hole - see the hole across the top and the ragged edges on the sides.
Eventually, we developed a plan. It's not the perfect plan, but it's better than a hole! We spent some time in the trim/molding section at Home Depot, mostly considering things like the dimensions of what we were trying to cover up. The side pieces are something called "shoe" molding, and the top is just crown molding. We originally thought we'd just do the top to the edges of the hole, but the edges were not super clean, and we decided this looks better. We stained them to the approximate color of our cabinets, and boom! No hole. I love it.

Friday, June 4, 2010

time to be outside

Project Complete: Deck Trexification. Last year we had a few stairs break on the deck. Rather than replacing them with wood, N replaced them with Trex, some kind of recycled plastic product stuff that doesn't rot and doesn't splinter. This summer, he finished replacing all the stairs and all the flat railings of the deck. Every thing else would be a more major rework to replace, and more importantly, doesn't need it yet.
This year's tomato plants. I got one of the kind that did so well last year, and a new different variety. Both are flowering already, so I have high hopes.
The strawberry that lived! See all the fruit on this guy? Hopefully the birds won't. We did nothing at all to help it live through the winter (I meant to look up whether I should cover it, but didn't get around to it... ) and it came back strong. It's got something like 10 little fruit ripening now.
Irises in the side yard. More plants that just survive with no attention - those are my favorite.

We've entered the part of the year where afternoons in the shade are fantastic. There are few things I like more than reading on the deck, listening to the breeze in the trees all around me.

Friday, May 21, 2010

New job! sorta

Only I manage to find a new part-time position when I start looking to have a real job on graduation. I'm glad they like me enough to make a spot for me! I moved from Marketing Science to Global Sales Technical Support this week. I'll be doing less crazy mathematical models, but I think I'm a lot more likely to see actual decisions being made based on data, which makes me happy. I am having to think about statistical significance carefully though, which is good for my brain. Our gimmick is business cases - explaining how well programs and projects worked, backed up by real numbers - with language and framing so that people who make decisions can use it. I think it's going to be a great skill to have for whatever business I end up in. So new job, new department, but same company, same hours and work situation.

We did buy a new toaster so that our appliances match. I think the matching can opener is one of the first things I ever bought for my sweetie - establishing early on how important the kitchen is to us both.
Vlad is confused by the camera. But cute! He had a checkup this week after being weened off his super expensive drugs - and he's doing GREAT! He's kind of tubby now, but not enough for us to worry, just enough to joke about. (The vet checked him over and said "He has butt cheeks!")

Friday, May 14, 2010

Dinner Detectives, Kitchen upgrade - we're all about food!

Saturday, some wonderful friends took us to a comedic mystery dinner theater show. It starts with everyone checking in, milling around and asking questions, then a seated dinner with periodic bursts of actor activity. They hand clues around to each table (about 90 people or so all together) and at the end, give you an answer sheet asking who did it and for as many details as you can give about how you know it was them. You did NOT need to actually talk to all the other people to get the clues to figure it out. Reading all those mystery novels seemed to pay off though - we won!
Wednesday, our refurbed KitchenAid stand mixer arrived. All those fancy cakes that have been a pain to make are now easy. The world's best brownies will be even better. (I'll finally beat the eggs for long enough) Pictured with the peanut butter blondies that it helped make. (Stand mixer not needed for this recipe, but I had to use it!) I sprinkled chocolate chips on them instead of messing with frosting. That same day, our new cooktop came in!

old and busted
new hotness

All the burners are usable! they self ignite! it's all shiny! *swoon* We may have to go out and buy a new toaster this weekend just so that all our appliances are cute. Yes, we're totally like that.

Taking suggestions for recipes that need 3 burners - cause now we can! woohoo!

Friday, May 7, 2010

Everything is blooming - even the weeds

grape hyacinths under the crabapple
The crabapple. We missed its most brilliant shade of pink, but its still pretty impressive.
The neighbor's apple tree. It will produce little green apples that Vlad will eat.

We had the tiniest sprinkle of snow this morning, but now it's totally gorgeous out. I'm trying to make a habit of doing at least one quick round of yard work every nice day - more because I want to get out in the nice day than because of the yardwork, though of course there is plenty to do!

I haven't quite conquered the no-knead bread. It just doesn't rise enough to suit me. Summer temps will prove whether it does better if it's warmer, which should give me an idea if it's worth it to do longer rises when it's cool. But it IS super super easy - it was great to have a batch sitting in the fridge when the dogs stole the last loaf of bread - new bread in just a few more hours, with almost no effort.

Working Version of No-Knead Bread (adapted from Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes a Day)
3 c lukewarm water
1 1/2 Tblsp yeast
3/4 c dry milk
1 c whole wheat flour
5 1/2 c all purpose flour
1 Tblsp coarse salt OR 2 tsp table salt

Makes 4 lbs. Can make a half recipe. Stir it all together in a bowl you can cover. Stir til all the flour gets integrated. Let it rise, covered, for 2 or 3 hours, then either shape for baking or refrigerate (covered). The book says it can stay in the fridge up to 14 days - I think it goes gross after about 7.

Use 1 1/2 lbs to make a loaf. Let rise 40 minutes if still warm, about an hour and 40 minutes if just out of the fridge. Bake for 35 minutes at 400 degrees.

It makes pretty good pitas - preheat the oven to 500, grab a handful and roll it out to about 1/8" thick - I think I need to err on the side of thicker, the thinner ones were tougher. Bake for 5 to 7 minutes, put them straight from the oven into a big ziploc to get them to soften up.

Off to use up the last of the most recent batch. I've got a weird little bit left that I think I'll roll out and fill with chocolate chips to bake. Also it's time to feed the sourdough starter, so pizza for dinner. And I better not forget to spend some time outside!

Friday, April 16, 2010

Judo Tournament #6. Only Not.

Tomorrow my club hosts its 42 annual judo tournament. Last year, I was sure that I never wanted to compete, and was patting myself on the back at having dodged it. This year, the only question was how many divisions would I compete in. Until I sprained my stupid ankle. Bah. /end pityfest

When we host, we offer a lunch for the judges, and we have a party after the tournament. It's a potluck, and it being me, I'm baking. The world's best brownies just came out of the oven, and I'm planning to throw together an applesauce cake as well. Tonight I'll help move mats to the tournament location, and tomorrow I'll help with the lunch and party setup. I am looking forward to seeing all the people I miss from judo.

The ankle is well enough for pretty much everything EXCEPT judo. And the physical therapist is hinting that I might be able to start back as soon as 2 weeks from now. The bills have started rolling in, and despite what some people told me, it appears that xrays do not cost thousands of dollars. whew.

We lost a good friend to cancer five years ago today. Fuck cancer. Joe, we miss you. Wish I'd had time to get to know you better.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Just an update

The apricot started blooming right after I took last week's photos. Hopefully it won't freeze too bad this year and we'll get some apricots for apricot jam! I even saw a bee among the flowers.

We seem to have made a tradition of hosting an Easter brunch. It's a lot of fun, and a good excuse to make hollandaise sauce and drink mimosas. We've done it enough times that I feel safe looking forward to it every year. I love traditions! (and eggs benedict!)

This was my second week of physical therapy. (With the physical therapist's ok) I also started yoga and ellipticaling. I'm definitely not up to full speed, and no one wants to discuss how long til I'm back at judo, but at least I'm able to do something again.

No Knead bread recipes are coming along. Dry milk helps the flavor immensely, but I think I need to start lowering the salt. Their method for making raisin bread is a clear winner though. (Roll out some bread dough. Hit it with an egg wash, some cinnamon sugar and some raisins. Roll up, stick in loaf pan, allow to rise, bake as usual. Awesome.)

We're finally making progress on the downstairs bathroom. If the paint/texture of the new half of the ceiling had matched, we'd be done, but nooooo, it never works that way. So we're half a ceiling worth of paint and texture away from cleaning it up and putting it back together. SO CLOSE.

And now that it's spring, there's a ton of yard work to be done - good thing I can walk! I've started cleaning up the winter debris from the front yard, one wheelbarrow full at a time.

Friday, April 2, 2010

It's Spring!

I can tell, all the snow melted. (Not that we won't get more, just that there's not still a big patch of it next to the shed.)




In order: mint, strawberry(!) and oregano are alive. More amazingly, there's some live grass in our backyard. Not enough to be photogenic though.

No new recipes. Not being able to stand much kind of puts a damper on baking. I have been experimenting with Artisan Bread in 5 minutes a Day - I'm not happy with it as plain bread yet, but it was good for making Bierocks last weekend. My big caveat with that book - all the recipes expect you to use coarse/kosher salt, but the book only says that right at the beginning, not in all those recipes. Even using coarse it's a pretty salty dough, but with table salt it was almost inedible. I'm not a fan of the recipe writeups in the book at all, but some of them are quite good if you can puzzle them out. And the method is super super easy, so I think it's worth tinkering with to get something I'm happy with out of the recipe.

I'm out of the orthopedic boot and starting on physical therapy. I'm going to try going to yoga next week. I'm still wearing a soft brace for most of my walking, but if I'm careful I can walk without it.

I leave you with an obligatory dog photo:

Saturday, March 6, 2010

It finally happened


I finally injured myself at judo.

This is my lovely boot. So far it allows me to stand if I'm careful and don't put too much weight on my right foot. But soon it will let me walk! Which is awesome, because I am some seriously terrible at crutches.

We were doing speed/form exercises - all forward throws have a part where you crouch down in front of the other person and spring up. We were using that motion to propel us into a short sprint, return, and fling ourselves back into the crouch. On my last one, my foot missed the turn, I tried to walk to the tops of my toes, and my ankle went sideways.

I called N and we had a nice little trip to urgent care (where the doctor told me she was considering taking judo back up, but that I was really hurting judo's case in this argument) got some x-rays, decided my ankle wasn't broken (but that she thought she saw something a little weird in my x-rays), got my lovely boot and went home. Painwise I'm doing great - she gave me a script for Vicodin if I need it, but so far I'm doing great on ibuprofen. I'm not even doing the thing where you keep close track of when you're allowed to have your next dose.

Next day, I call our normal doctor, who starts out all "if it seems to be doing fine, you don't need to come in" then hears the "maybe something weird in the x-rays" and changes tunes to "please go see the nice podiatrist lady." So I do. More x-rays, including ones of my other foot for comparison. My bones have all their little corners, but the shin bones on my injured leg are a smidge further apart than the ones on my left - so she's worried that the ligament holding them together also ruptured. She thinks I'm going to be at least 4 weeks in the boot, then physical therapy (no timeline) before back to normal. And by normal she means wear a supportive brace whenever I'm active for at least a year. Worst case is that I do need minor surgery either for the shinbones ligament or if the outer sprain ones refuse to heal nicely. But won't be able to tell til after physical therapy.

I'm terrified of what all this will cost. Also what my stress levels and metabolism are gonna do without regular exercise. Not much I can do about any of it right now.

BUT - Vlad is MUCH better, and it looks like we don't have to take him to the vet for about two months - as opposed to every two weeks. So I guess my ankle is getting all the money we're saving on vet bills :(

Thursday, February 18, 2010

My Current Sourdough Recipe

This is based strongly on the Extra-Tangy Sourdough Bread from King Arthur Flour, but I wanted to include some whole wheat and I needed to enlarge the recipe to make loaves big enough for sandwiches.

morning: Take starter out of fridge
noonish: Use 8.5 oz of the starter to make pizza crust, feed starter
afternoon: start this bread

In a large bowl with a lid, mix:
8.5 oz starter
2 c whole wheat flour
2 c all purpose flour
2 c water

Put lid on. Let sit out for about 4 hours.
Stick in fridge overnight.

morning: take it out of the fridge, let sit about 2 hours so it's not so incredibly cold.
Add
2 3/4 tsp salt
1 Tblsp sugar
all purpose flour as needed - (I'm trying to get a measurement on this instead of just throwing in handfuls til I can knead it. I added 1 1/2 c last week, and that was too much. Which seems really weird looking at the original recipe..)

Knead about 6 minutes.

Let rise about 5 hours.

Shape into 2 loaves.

Let rise 2-3 more hours.

Slash tops deeply.

Bake at 425 degrees (I actually preheat for this one because it relies so much on oven spring) for 30 minutes.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Red Dawn Watching Party


I totally made red velvet cupcakes and piped hammer and sickle designs (after dying the cream cheese frosting yellow) on them.

For those who don't know: Red Dawn is a movie about a bunch of high schoolers in Colorado who form a group of partisans when the Soviets invade. Also, N is pretty active in a survivalist group here. There were members of that group that had not yet seen Red Dawn.

So we fixed that. If nothing else, we had to do it before they release the remake! (I hadn't seen it either. But then, I don't claim that I am prepared to go live in the mountains for a few months if I had to. I just bake the cupcakes.)

Then we watched Zombieland. Everyone was happy and it was a very late night.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Sourdough Pizza Crust

adapted from King Arthur Flour's recipe

  • 8.5 oz unfed starter
  • 1/2 c hot tap water
  • 2 c flour
  • 1 tsp garlic salt
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/2 tsp yeast
Knead 5 minutes
Rise til doubled, 2-4 hours
Divide dough in half, shape roughly into 6 inch discs
Let rest at least 15 minutes
Preheat oven to 450 degrees
Shape to final pizza size, poke interior with fork to prevent bubbling
Bake crust 5 minutes
Add sauce and toppings
Bake an additional 10 minutes (if you may need to rotate the pizzas if they are on different racks halfway through this.)

It is really, really good. It still gets pretty thin, and it is nice and crispy and holds up to the sauce well. The crust is chewy. It doesn't brown prettily like you'd expect - sourdough is weird about browning.

The real joy is that it uses unfed starter - that's the stuff you can't use in most recipes because it's not very active. Instead of throwing it out when I feed the starter from the fridge I can make this - I expect that will happen a lot. May also try making the dough and freezing it - either for future pizzas or for a big batch of breadsticks.

Friday, January 22, 2010

brothers

Sourdough bakeoff! KAF recipe using Stinky. Stinky bread is on the left, Arthur is on the right.
They both had huge ovenspring.
But Stinky's bread only rose right in the center. Flavor is fine, maybe even a bit better because Stinky eats only whole wheat flour. But for bread rising purposes, Arthur is the better starter. I haven't quite brought myself to throw out Stinky yet. Theoretically, I could grow a new wild starter anytime I have a week to spare. But Stinky is my first! Still since I can barely use enough starter to keep one going, I'd just be throwing out a lot of it to keep two alive.


(The invalid and his brother, Mister Shoveybutt.)
Vlad is off steroids! Hopefully that will go well and we can stay off of them. Now he should: be less thirsty, be less hungry, and grow his fur back better. The first two will hopefully mean he will start letting us sleep through the whole night. I can't wait.

I just happened to catch this bird enjoying our hanging planter while I was taking the other pictures.

Other news:
N has his darling car back.
I learned how to start the patent process at work, which involved commuting for a workday and talking to people.
New recipe: Frenchified Beef Stew - great with fresh sourdough, awesome the next day. We used stew meat instead of short ribs, parsley instead of chevril, and discovered our shared love for pearl onions.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Sourdough bakeoff!

The starter from King Arthur Flour arrived, and I made my first batch of bread from it. (To henceforth be known as Arthur.) I made the accompanying recipe, which makes annoyingly small loaves. (I think they mean for them to be freeform, but we like making sandwiches out of everything, so use loaf pans.) It never rose all that much, but I gave in and stuck it in the oven 2 hours past the suggested rise time. HUGE oven spring that made it almost a respectable size loaf. Fantastic texture: seems almost professional. Stinky's bread comes out like english muffins, but Arthur's was much more like bakery bread. Much, much softer.

Experiments to still be done:
  1. Try the KAF recipe with Stinky
  2. Modify the KAF recipe to include whole wheat flour
  3. Modify the KAF recipe to produce larger loaves.
Other things:

The insurance company is going to fix N's car (they scared us and threatened to total it: would have been a huge pain in the neck mostly because we have never dealt with such a thing before.) He's got a rental Accord in the meantime, which is ginormous compared to our cars.

Today is my 9th anniversary with IBM. All as a co-op. I wish I knew who to ask to find out if that's a record!

I got a new computer for the first time in almost 5 years, a Mac Mini. As soon as I get the proper video adapter for my antique monitor (hey, at least it's LCD) I will get to be properly excited.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Last weekend we finally went to a thrift store near a nice part of town (it's not IN a nice part of town, but it is right next to a bunch of antique shops) Our theory paid off - the store itself was small and dingy, but the selection had a lot of great quality stuff. We'll have to go back sometime before I need an interview suit.
Sadly, someone rearended our parked car almost as soon as we got there. We saw it happen (from half a block away) and got the guy's insurance info. The insurance company will take care of it next week - the poor little miata needs a new rear light assembly and maybe some love to get the trunk lid to sit just right again. :(

I tried letting sourdough rise until I would normally put it in the oven. Then I re-kneaded one of the loaves and let it have a second rise. It took FOREVER, and came out super sour. I'm not sure I can coax a well-rounded loaf out of Stinky, so I gave in and ordered a starter from King Arthur Flour.

Judo started back again this week. It was great fun but I hope that next week it does not make me quite so sore.

Today I went to school and signed up for thesis hours for the semester. 7 this semester leaves 3 more before I graduate. Wow.

Vlad continues to improve, and is taking another step down on his steroid intake.

Friday, January 1, 2010

Happy New Year!

2009 had a lot of downs. But even with all the craziness, except for Vlad, we're all in a better place than when we started it. Glad to move on to the next chapter. 2010 will have its share of big plans, but I hope tempered with more stability!

Also, I know everyone else has already said this, but: 2010! TWENTY-TEN. That's the freaking future.