the gregarious homebody

Monday, September 29, 2008

Imagine My Confusion...

...when I was asked at my first Rosh Hashanah celebration (before I converted), if I'd ever "blown a chauffeur."

Here's the real thing, kids. A "shofar." And I could never blow like this guy.

To the Jews in the house--
Happy Rosh Hashanah!

xoxoxo, Jen

Saturday, September 20, 2008

A New Blast

M is taking trumpet lessons at school. Now, with that and the tuba being played by S, there are tonal farting sounds emanating through the house instead of one deep one.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Cue the John Hughes Soundtrack

The night I met the man who is now my husband he was someone else's boyfriend. No, I was not that kind of girl; in fact, according to my mom, I was exactly the opposite. In her words I was, when I was 16 years old, "Everyone's friend, nobody's lover." Yep, that was me and yes, that's the way my mom saw it. I had a ton of guy friends but had only really admired boys that way from afar.

The second time I saw him (true story), I was at his college's football game (in my hometown) with a friend. I was sitting in the stands trying to watch the game (sort of) and some guy was running up and down the stands like a lunatic, his face covered in a Kiss-like design in the college's colors.

"Who's that asshole?" I asked someone who obviously attended the college. "That's Steve ****," they said.

And, as my husband likes to remind me, I'm the one who married "that asshole."

After that we saw each other quite a lot because he was the music director at his college's radio station and I was a sort of intern there through a program my high school had. Then, when the summer came, I got my very own radio show and he was staying at school to take some classes. By then I thought of him differently. He was cute people, even with his assholey ways. Dumb, dumb, gelled sticky-uppy hair and a real attitude, but super cute and despite the (NY) attitude, really really nice.

And he had absolutely no idea how to take care of himself as far as eating well went. His idea of a "light bite" was a pack of Tasty Cakes. A "real meal" was a deep-fried eggplant parm sandwich. His "fruit" was a large lemonade. True to character, I told him I would cook a real dinner for him sometime.

That was me flirting.

SO the summer was waning and he had his sister's wedding to go to and a trip to England planned. I kind of thought that would be it, but when he got back to school, our friendship picked up where it left off. Except he called me all the time.

"He likes you," my mom told me. "I know. I like him too," said I, the non-lover. "No, he like-likes you," said my adolescent mother.

Even though I was thinking of him all the time, I think I assumed I wouldn't find a real boyfriend until I went to college and could assume a new persona: Flirty Slut Girl Who is NOBODY'S Friend. I was scared to think otherwise and risk getting hurt. I wasn't all nervous innocence, though. At one point during the Fall, Steve called me to tell me he and a friend were going to visit another friend at Union College for the weekend. This "friend" they were visiting was a girl and someone Steve thought maybe he'd like to try being "more than friends with."

"Bad idea," said I. "You certainly wouldn't want to ruin your friendship."

My mom was so proud.

So that friend remained only a friend and we picked up where we left off. We spent a LOT of time together and talked on the phone when we weren't. My mom could NOT take it.

"If you don't tell him how you feel, I will." But but BUT.... was my only answer. How did I go about doing that? Would I ruin OUR friendship? My mom's advice: just plant one on him.

So, the night before he went home for winter break, I went over to his dorm. We hung out and had fun but I felt like I was going to barf from the tension inside me. The night was coming to an end and I had to go pick my mom up at work. Steve walked me to the door, we said goodnight and see ya when you get back and I turned to walk away. Something made me turn back around and I said,"I just have to say--"

And he grabbed me and kissed me.

We've been together ever since, for almost 21 years, 15 of them (as of today), married. We've been through family BULLSHIT, births, deaths, and a lot of the other stuff that makes a life together.

He makes me INSANE sometimes (oh, don't let me count the ways), but no one loves me as much as he does, even with my foibles, one of which is not always being a "sure thing."

Sorry, honey.

He even allows me little crushes on men who I will never meet and doesn't get jealous or douchy about my girlfriends and I drooling over them or the fact that my son, if asked, will say that a certain Scotsman is his real father.

He is a serious mush. The incessant snuggling puts me OVER THE EDGE sometimes, but I would miss it if it stopped.

He lets me be me. No matter what shape I am or how greezy my hair might be.

He's the best.

So, I just want to say two things: Happy Anniversary and I love you, Ewan.

STEVE. I love you, STEVE.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Appliance Lust and Rainy Day Baking

Today was a day when we were forced to be inside. Thanks to tropical storm Hanna, there was no baseball and no yard work or other outside chores could be done. The only logical activities were baking and reading.

I started the famous No-Knead Bread last night since I heard the forecast for today and it needs at least 14 hours from mixing to baking. I wish I could get it together enough to always have this bread on hand because it's so good. Every time a loaf comes out of the oven, I marvel at how professional it looks. And I am a professional baker. I haven't experimented much with altering the recipe (wheat flour, etc.) because it's perfection as it is. AND, I got to bake it in THIS!

behold...4 working burners and two ovens

So the bread was rising and M and I decided to really bake. Butter, eggs, and sugar were needed! And even though Nigella's baking recipes are often spotty, I've been wanting to try a recipe from Feasts in a long time. I even had a somewhat odd (to Americans) ingredient in my pantry lying in wait for this particular recipe. And the Cream-Filled Hearts are delicious! Wonderfully sandy in texture, not too sweet. My kind of thing. The dough was very soft but handled surprisingly well.

M decided she would try her hand at Fairy Cakes, I think tickled by the English name for cupcakes. For this one we tried another Nigella recipe--Burnt Butter Brown Sugar Cake from How to be a Domestic Goddess. The batter was delicious, but M thought the raw batter was better than the baked cake. And after *burning myself while making the burnt butter (and having to wait about 30 minutes for it to resolidify) and then seeing the cakes sink in a really disappointing way and come out of the pan like doody, I think this is one of Nigella's duds. I keep trying with her recipes, I think, because I like her so much. Her books are a hoot to read. M and S didn't care that they sank and had fun anyway, decorating them with half a ton of candy and garish royal icing (a la Brocket). I think I'm actually liking using royal icing more than buttercream because in my sick mind it's less fat than regular buttercream so I can eat two.

S's funny face design...see it?!

Classy decorating! My
children believe more is more and I think they're right.

So on my only whole day off from cooking I happily spent it in the kitchen. Am I a masochist? Hardly. Just look at this! Home-baked bread topped with tomatoes from my own garden (finally) and yummy cheese, toasted in the next best thing to sliced bread, my Maytag Gemini, followed by baked stuff topped with candy. Can't get much better than that.

tomatoes on toast and salad...with tomatoes!

*Sometimes I am convinced that I am functionally retarded. The burnt butter required me to stir butter in a pan over medium heat until, well, burned, and then to pour it through a strainer. It looked so good and smelled so nutty, I immediately stuck my finger in to the previously boiling FAT.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Cinnamon Swirls and Comfy Quilts

from one of Beth Hensperger's books. She has the best books on bread.

There is nothing quite as exciting for me as coming home and finding a package from amazon on the porch. Nope. That's all I need to get my blood pumping (last post to the contrary). And this particular box was especially sweet because it containted two books that I've been waiting for ages to arrive. I immediately made myself a cup of tea and snuggled into bed to start reading.

The writer of both books, Jane Brocket, has a lovely blog called yarnstorm. It embodies all the homey things I love--baking, reading, spending time with family--along with knitting which I aspire to enjoy some day. Her blog feels like a cup of tea and a cozy afghan. When I read it, I find myself yearning for a slow-down, some time for a look around at what I'm lucking to have. A stay-at-home day. Her blog is extremely popular because there are apparently a lot of us homebodies and because of her great writing. And her books don't disappoint.

Cherry Cake and Ginger Beer extolls children's literature of yesterday and the wonderful food writing found within. This subject speaks to me because reading Laura Ingalls Wilder's fond memories and wonderfully descriptive writing about such things as maple sugar candy being made and the heart-shaped cakes that Ma made when precious sugar was available was a huge influence on my writing and on my career as a chef. I wanted to crawl into those books for so many reasons and tasting the plain and lovingly-made food was a huge part of it.

There are so many wonderful examples of delicious food in children's books. Cherry Cake and Ginger Beer makes me want to load up my tote bag at the library with old favorites almost forgotten and new books I've never read and spend a weekend alternating between reading on the sofa with my girl M and covering the kitchen with flour to make such yummies as Mrs. Beaver's Gloriously Sticky Marmalade Roll (from The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe) or St. Clair's Eclairs (from Enid Blyton's Five Find-Outer books, a new book discovery).

Brocket's other book, The Gentle Art of Domesticity, was published in Britain in 2007 and I've been waiting almost that long for the American publication of it to come out. I found out about the book from reading a variety of blogs from Europe and America. Everyone in the blogosphere seemed to be on the Jane Brocket band wagon. I had to find out what the fuss was about and that's what led me to yarnstorm. The Gentle Art is an extension of her blog and as much of a treat to read.

My first thought before reading it, however, was that it would be a book about homecare-- cleaning tips, sewing project, recipes and the like. I already have the granddaddy of those kind of books, Home Comforts by Cheryl Mendolson. I've already taken a perverse pleasure in reading chapters like "Vacuuming, Sweeping and Dusting," even though that aspect of homekeeping is (obviously to my home's visitors) not exactly my own priority. So I was wondering if this new book would be more of the same.

not mine (from Beth's book)--but mine looked just like this (but blurry!)

Ha! I think Jane Brocket herself would laugh at the idea. Because, while keeping a nice home is obviously a priority in her life, "keeping" has a much different meaning from the one in Home Comforts. Brocket is much more interested in the feelings that home conveys, not the image. The bright colors in her own home (pictured in the book) and cinnamony smells coming from the kitchen are much more important to her family's soul than a perfectly folded sheet or a tidied book shelf. She is more interested in snuggling in the sheets and reading the books.

the reward--a cup of tea and some yummy toast

The Gentle Art of Domesticity's subtitle "Stitching, Baking, Nature, Art, and the Comforts of Home" illustrates the varied topics she covers. It's a book you can pick up and open to any page, reading a snippet of something that will make you feel good. And while I love reading a cover-to-cover kind of book, it feels somehow more gentle that it's in this easy-going format. And, judging from Brocket's caring touch in everything she does, I'm sure that was exactly what she intended for her readers.


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