the gregarious homebody


Thursday, December 30, 2010

A Walk to Beautiful


I don't realize enough how lucky I am to be born in this country, as a woman.  Our health care may be...difficult to deal with in a lot of ways but at least I--and my daughter--will never have to worry about {this}.

I think one of the first things I will do when I'm gainfully employed is to make a donation to {this foundation}.  No one should have to live a life like these poor girls have have had to.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Pret-ty Pleased with Myself (Another Before-and-After)

 This break has found me finishing some projects.  *SHOCKER*  
And I'm feeling pretty good about it.

Behold:
Before (duh):  nice lines, disgusting-colored wood.  Awesome (?) hardware under all that tarnish?
After: My go-to white, Behr Linen White semi-gloss, nice and shiny brass hardware (thanks to this ), glass top (which came with it!!!).  BTW, does anyone know a good way to not have wires show??? TOTAL price: $54 because I had the paint and Brasso!  Woo-hoo!
Next purchase: a chest of drawers or some kind of buffet to store office supplies. 
 Stay tuned!






Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Gifts on a Stick

I'm probably the last one to blog about these.  I know...I made them last year too.  But they're just so friggin cute and delicious to boot.  I think these make a nice gift all winter long (hostess, Valentine, whatever).

The recipe is here from King Arthur.  I made another recipe last year that had cocoa and they just weren't as good.  Nothing beats realchocolate and heavy cream.  Just make sure you don't cut your tongue on the sweetened condensed milk can.  

I have no personal experience with this, I've just *heard* it can happen.

Anyway, here's the step by delicious step:

Okay, not exactly step by step, but melting chocolate isn't very interesting.  So, I simmered the heavy cream and condensed milk and then dumped the chocolates in and melted them. Then I poured the whole mess into a *foil-lined pan.  *Note: HH thought I was a genius even though I told him this wasn't my trick.  To line a pan with foil, turn the pan over and then smooth the foil on, folding corners like a present.  Then flip pan right side up and the foil slides right in.
 So the recipe says to let it sit overnight but who has time for that? Let it set up a bit (why? I don't know) at room temp and then throw it into the fridge until it's solid.  Then, cut into 36 squares.

While those bad boys are setting up, you're going to make your own marshmallows.  YES.  You ARE.  Because it's easy and because the crap in the supermarket is only good for camping trips after you've tasted these!  Follow this recipe but don't line the pan with parchment and do NOT sprinkle the pan with a mixture of cornstarch and powdered sugar, even if you've heard this is the right thing to do.  Because corn starch is gross and makes a squeaky sound akin to Styrofoam and I hate that.  Just spray the pan with nonstick spray, sift some powdered sugar over the top of the goo once you've poured it in, and  when they're ready, dump them out onto more powdered sugar.  Cutting them is a pain in the butt--I've tried scissors with success but think I'm going to try my mondo pizza cutter next time.  Because there will be a next time.
Now get ready for sticking!  You've already bought some sticks from here, right?  Next time I'm going to put them on a candy cane, I think.  Yeah.  Anyway, line everything up and have at it.  After I was done putting everything together on a big piece of parchment, I cut it into squares around the chocolate so they wouldn't stick to the plastic wrap I was wrapping them with.  LEARN FROM ME:This was stupid Spend about 3 minutes cutting out about a million 2-inch squares and then plop the finished stick onto the squares instead of cutting around them like an idiot.  I'm here to make the mistakes so you don't have to.  I'm a giver.
See? Like this.  I got smart(er) with the second batch.  Then wrap them up in nice cellophane or not-as-nice saran wrap because damn-it, that's what you have lying around, and tie with a ribbon.  I put 4-6 each in coffee bags with windows I got from here last year.  I'm almost out of them and I love them. Then give to your friends and they can make this:
Or they can just be like my barbarians children and eat the whole thing right off the stick. Whatever.

Friday, December 24, 2010

A Very Jewish Christmas

I have always loved Christmas.  When I was a kid I celebrated it the way a lot of people do--not religiously but in a steeped-in-tradition way.  When I converted to Judaism, I only celebrated it with my parents, not in my own home. I cried for about 3 years in a row, driving home to my apartment I shared with HH that did not have a Christmas tree.  It was a huge transition for me and really, the only real one when I converted, this not celebrating Christmas in my own home. But I felt it was right one.  If I was going to embrace Judaism I was going to have to give up those old traditions and make my own new Jewish ones.
Chinese, Japanese, whatever.  It's not a baked ham.  Not that there's anything wrong with that.
Fast forward to now: I still love Christmas.  I love the tiny (and not so tiny) lights on the trees.  I love the giving.  I love the food.  And we have our own traditions. We always see a movie.    In the past we've gone to the movies with our non-Jewish friends who also see a movie every Christmas eve.  We often have Chinese food (like every other American Jew in the world)
No teenagers were forced into having their picture taken here. This time.
Most of all what I love about Christmas is being together with my kids and HH in our undecorated Jewish house.  The best part is the being together with my little family part.  The kids literally have NOWHERE ELSE TO GO.  
This man would trade all this togetherness for more sushi.
Who needs caroling when you can eat chocolate mochi and play Boggle?
 It's a forced togetherness but I'll take what I can get.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Before and After

I'm totally copying {Design*Sponge} because I'm so proud that I got something done around the house.
BEFORE (duh)

AFTER





Credenza from {here}, painted with Martha paint in {Cornbread}, then distressed with sandpaper and finished with {Butcher's Wax}.  Total cost: $65.97.  Woo-hoo!

Saturday, December 11, 2010

I Love My Girlfriends

L'Chaim!  Or however people on the Mayflower toasted Hanukkah.

Every time I have a party we have a million people and I love love love it.  The only thing I don't like is that it leaves me wanting more--more time to talk, more time to laugh with my girlfriends.  More time.

Her ankle injury was sustained before drinking.  I have no explanation for the glasses.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Even My Camera Has a Layer of Oil On It

 Hey kids!
It's time to celebrate the oiling of the colon!  
It's Hanukkah!

Seriously, I do this every year.  I make a ton of latkes the week before our annual Hanukkah Open House and I eat about a hundred of them while I'm making them until I make myself, well, sick (ifyaknowwhatImean).  


They are so delicious though.  Crispy around the edges, lacy and weirdly crablike in appearance, fluffy creamy and mashed potato-y in the middle....yum....

The recipe I'm going to share is the one I make all the time.  I see no reason to fiddle around with others.  It may seem like extra work if you're accustomed to making the regular shredded raw potato latke but it's the only way to get the crispy and fluffy combination that I love so much (you will too!). 
See?  Fluffy AND crispy!

I've posted the original recipe which I noted some time ago makes 6 dozen mini latkes (cocktail size--really mini) but I always triple it and get a couple pans of oil going to knock out a load of them.  I then *freeze them in a single layer on the pan they've been draining on and finally dump them into a plastic container.  The day of the party I take them out of the freezer and hour before and then recrisp them at about 300 degrees.  
After they've cooled to room temp, put them in the freezer just like this until they're solid

*IMPORTANT POINT: If you don't freeze them and instead make them fresh the day of your party your house will smell like Burger King.  AND NOT IN A GOOD WAY.  Reheating them during the party only makes them release a bit of their delicious scent--it won't be overpowering--and your guest will thank you for not sending them in their french fry-scented holiday sweaters.  Seriously, don't give people any more reasons for hating the Jews!

New-Age Latkes

1 1/2-1 3/4 pound large red potatoes, whole (don't peel!)
1 medium onion, peeled and quartered
4 eggs
2 heaping tablespoons flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
Black pepper, to taste
 About a quart of vegetable or canola oil (oy!)
  1. Place potatoes in a large pot and cover with cold water.  Bring to a boil on the stove.  When it comes to a boil, set a timer for 10 minutes and continue boiling.
  2. Drain pot in colander and put potatoes back into the pot, covering with cold water.  Drain again and repeat with the cold water.  Let potatoes sit in cold water for 5 minutes.
  3. Place your pan or pans over medium high heat and pour in about 2 inches of oil. Ideally, it should heat to 365 degrees, but I can't find my candy thermometer so I fry a cube of bread to see when it's ready (the bread immediately starts to brown when it's ready.) I LOVE my cast iron pan for this.  It holds the heat so well.  My other pan fluctuates in heat when I add the latke batter, which makes them greasier.  I also love that HH bought that pan for me at a garage sale for 25 cents.  Score!
  4. Next, drain and dry the potatoes.  Really.  Put each of them on a paper towel and dry them off lovingly and thoroughly .
  5. Now, either shred potatoes and onions in food processor using a shredding disc (the way I do it) or shred by hand into a large bowl.  Add eggs, flour, salt, baking powder, and pepper. Mix well (I use my hands) and taste to correct seasoning (don't be a panty-waist--the raw egg WILL NOT KILL YOU).
  6. Time to fry!  Drop a teaspoon-ful if you want minis.  Go larger if you want them, well, larger.  The important thing is to let them go for a bit and not mess with them.  When you can see the edges begin to brown, turn them with a pair of tongs.  If you're going to freeze and reheat them (and you are, RIGHT??), don't cook them for more than a minute or two on the other side.  You want them light brown so that they don't burn when you reheat.
  7. Drain on paper towel-lined cookie sheets.  I put a layer of newspaper under my paper towels.  I think it helps. 
  8. Freeze in a single layer or eat right now until you feel the need to, ahem, stop.
L'Chaim!


Saturday, October 23, 2010

Something New

Today was a really good day. And it felt like what the next chapter will be like and I think I like it. 

Today I spent the day with my husband.


This may not sound earth-shattering but when you've been pretty much consumed with the daily life of having children for 14 years, a simple day out doing things that have nothing to do with them is pretty amazing.  

HH and I went to a {really cool used furniture store in K-town} to look for some paintables cheap.  Score!  We agreed on a gnarly orangey desk with awesome hardware and a cool/weird drawer that has these wooden slats in them for files (I think) and a long credenza to help reconfigure our family room to create two areas--one for tv-watching and one for a home office.  The price for two solid wood pieces of furniture that need at most a paint job and at least a cleaning up?  $53.  Take that, IKEA.  AND the place had the entertainment factor of employing the most {burnt} guy on the planet.  The dude is WEIRDLY fascinating.  

After that, a trip to the farmer's market for lunch, some candy, and 20 pumpkins (work event!).  THEN (this keeps getting more awesome) a trip to my favorite {Mennonite store} which HH was impressed by simply because of the juxtaposition of them selling wasabi powder AND all the accoutrement for making homemade sausage.  Finally, a slow ride home through the country, a nap, and a {popcorn dinner}.

Heavenly.


I get sad thinking that someday the kids will be gone.  I worry that they won't want to visit or that *shudder* they will feel the way we do about some of our respective kin, but today was a spark of the great part of this upcoming change.  

I think it's going to be fun.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Dear Blogger,

Your new "template designer" sucks.  All I wanted to do was change my font colors to a more Fall-like palette.  All I wanted to do was update the season on my little tiny blog.  But NO.  Change is a must with you, Blogger.  Change is ALWAYS good according to you. If it's not broke, then by all means, fix it Blogger.  

Now my blog looks stupid with its way-to-the-left off-centeredness.  Is it too much to ask to JUST WANT TO CHANGE A FONT COLOR?

By the looks of the number of people who have typed some form of this letter into your "Help" (ha!) feature, I am not alone.  Until you make it easier to do things the way they were done before, I'm not speaking to you.  Get back to me when you realize that oldies are sometimes goodies.

Suck it,
Jen

Monday, August 23, 2010

FINALLY

 See?  {Huuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuge}.

 
We have tomatoes! My plants are HUGE and have been full of large green tomatoes for what seems like months but they're finally FINALLY ripening.

And some of them suck.

SADNESS.

Because I am an erratic record-keeper when it comes to my gardening (and, okay, my life), I can't remember two of the tomatoes I planted.  I mean I remember planting them, but I have no idea what kind they are.  They are both "heirloom" and therefore, supposedly tastier.  Supposedly is the key word here because the red ones taste exactly like nothing.  A wet nothing.  The other one, which is a beautiful yellow (and HUGE) are delicious.  So it would be helpful if I remembered their names because there is no way in hell I would buy the first one again and the second one is a Must Plant for next year.  Oh well.

I do remember the name of the third plant for some reason.  It's called a {Green Zebra} and they are a small tomato--not cherry-size but small. They are gorgeous and delicious when fully-ripened or not.  I got {rully rully} excited and thought they were ripe because they were this awesome bright yellow with the green stripes and were delicious like that but then I just found some that had turned red (wow!  a red tomato!  ...this is the kind of gardener I am) and they too were delish.   But holy crap, I just checked the link I just sent you to and they're supposed to be yellow so now I'm totally confused.

See the stripes?  Cute and delicious!  Like Robert Pattinson! And my husband!
 Again: organized.  That's me.

So anyway, I picked all these ripe tomatoes and then wondered what the hell to do with them because 3/4 of them tasted like the aforementioned nothing.  I pondered the crazy amount of tomatoes that taste like nothing that I have coupled with the impressive amounts of tomatoes that taste fantastic that I have and had my yearly "Why do I plant so many tomatoes when I'm the only one in the house that really really likes them?" conversation with myself.  


So I made some {roasted tomatoes}.  And HALLELUJA they are phenomenal.  Unbelievably delish.  EVEN THE NOTHING ONES. Now I've had roasted tomatoes before and loved them but assumed they had to be made from tomatoes that tasted like tomatoes to be good.  But ALL OF THEM were delicious.  Scrumptious even.  They were so good that after I peeled off all the skins in preparation to freeze said tomatoes, I ate the skins.  They were that good.

 This looks awful.  It is glorious.
You can't tell this pan is clean (because it's old and seen a lot of action) but it is.
Because I licked it.
I wish I were kidding.
With the other yellow tomato that tastes good all on its own without embellishment, I made an old standby from {Farmgirl}.  You absolutely must click on {this} or {this} or {this} because you need to make this

Behold, a thing of biscuity beauty.

It's made out of biscuit dough, people, so how could it be bad?  My kids even like it even though they are ridiculous and pick out the tomatoes but still. (So technically I guess that means they like pesto, biscuit and cheese but whatever.)  I sacrifice myself and eat their scraped-out tomatoes that still have some pesto on them because I am above all, selfless.




Farmgirl's Savory Tomato Pesto Pie
Makes One 9-Inch Pie
Pesto (homemade or store-bought)

For The Crust:
2 cups all-purpose flour
4 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (1 stick/ 4 ounces) cold butter
1 cup (about 2-1/2 ounces) finely grated pecorino romano (or other hard cheese)
3/4 cup milk

Combine the flour, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl. Mix in the butter using a pastry blender, fork, or your fingers until the largest pieces are pea-size. Stir in the pecorino romano. Pour in the milk and use a fork to gently form a soft dough. Do not overmix. Divide the dough in two pieces, making one slightly larger than the other.

On a generously floured surface, use a rolling pin to gently roll out the larger piece of dough into a circle about 12 inches across, rolling from the center outward. Sprinkle dough with flour if sticky. Gently fold the dough in half and transfer into a 9-inch pie pan. If the dough tears, simply press it back together with your fingers. Roll out the remaining piece of dough into a slightly smaller circle and set aside (or wait until you have the filling in the pan and then roll it out).

Assembling The Pie:
1 cup pesto, divided
2-1/2 pounds of the best plum tomatoes you can find, sliced lengthwise into 4 or 5 slices each
8 ounces mozzarella, grated or thinly sliced (I used fresh which can't be grated)
1/2 cup (about 1-1/4 ounces) finely grated pecorino romano (or other hard cheese)

Using a spoon, spread 1/2 cup of pesto over the bottom layer of dough in the pie pan. Layer about half of the tomatoes over the pesto. Cover the tomatoes with about 2/3 of the mozzarella. Layer on the rest of the tomatoes (you may not need them all to fill the pan). Carefully spread the remaining 1/2 cup of pesto over the tomatoes. Cover with the remaining mozzarella and the pecorino romano.

Roll out the second piece of dough if you haven't already, and carefully place it over the pie. Fold the edge of the bottom piece over the top piece and press together to seal. Use your fingers to make a crimped design around the edge. If any dough falls apart, simply press it back together with your fingers. Don't worry if it isn't perfect. The handmade look has much more charm. Cut four slits in the top of the pie for steam to escape. Bake at 375 degrees F in the center of the oven until the crust is golden brown, about 40 minutes. Cover the edge with foil if it starts to brown too quickly.

It freezes beautifully.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Dear Mommy,

       If you were here today, there is so much that I would want to say to you.  I don't think we'd ever stop talking.  Some of it is pretty mundane stuff, like I would want to tell you that I could indeed train not only one puppy myself but two because yes I DID have enough patience.  

And I would want  to tell you that I don't live in a teeny little house that you have to walk through my bedroom to get to the baby's room anymore but instead have a medium house that I've "decorated" with stuff I love and I think you would love.  

Not mentioned in the letter below: it was okay to NOT breastfeed.  Thanks, Mommy!


I would tell you that I'm back in school and then you would say
  
"WHAT???!!!!!!???" 

And then I would tell you that so far I have a 4.0 but I'm really afraid of this coming semester because I have to take Statistics.  And then YOU would say that you don't know where I got my math ineptitude because both you and my father are very good at it but you're really really proud anyway.

And then we would talk about gardening and the kids and the husband and whatever we'd read recently or watched on tv.  We would just chatter and say "I really should go" and then either talk a 1/2 hour longer or hang up and call right back with "just one more thing."

I would do nothing except maybe kill someone in order to have these every-day, whatever kind of conversations with you.  But I'd really consider homicide if I thought I could talk to you about one thing---raising a daughter.


You always said that you would rather raise 10 girls than even one boy again not because I was such an angel but because those boys in our house were, ahem, a handful.  But I could be an emotional handful too.  So here's what I would say to you if I could:

I don't even know where to start with this.  
I grew into my forehead since then but came to understand that
bangs are my friends.

  • Thank you for telling me I was beautiful even though there were times I was definitely not (see above) and never making me think you didn't mean it.  Now I know that you actually did mean it because a mom can look through the tell-tale awkward phase and see the girl within.  Most of the time (see below). 

  • I'm sorry for that time at the mall when I walked 6 feet in front of you so no one would think I was with you.  I remember you telling me how much that hurt you and now I can safely say that I feel your pain. 

  • Thank you for putting up with other inexplicable moods that had nothing to do with you but were nonetheless aimed at you.  And having the where-with-all to photograph it because I laugh/cringe every time I come across it.  By the way, I also forgive you for allowing me to have that hair.  
That, my friends, is a PUSS on my face.  I was going sailing and my mom MADE ME.  Poor thing.
  •  Thanks for giving me a lot of freedom.  I know some of this "giving" was actually exhaustion on some level (reread the part about the boys in my family, above), but still.  It's hard to send a kid out there and to let them spread those wings.  And when there's a car involved I really have to hand it to you.  But, speaking of cars, I also thank you for having the smarts to know that teaching me to drive would probably cause damage to our already tenuous-at-the-time relationship and hiring a driving teacher.  Smart. 

 
This picture was taken right after I got my license and right before I left for the four
hour drive to Penn State. Without a cell phone. I just got my license. Get it??!!

  • Thanks for letting me buy a $200 dress for the prom because it was the only one I really liked and you thought it was awesome too.  Now, in retrospect, and with my current shopping experiences with my daughter I realize that writing out that $200 check might have been exhaustion too. But thanks anyway.  I felt like a very hot Minnie Mouse. 

 
                                                                                          It was the 80's alright?  And this dress still rocks.
  • Most of all, I would thank you for sticking it out with me.  I think you knew we'd be back to being close, that I would no longer wage that battle within myself of needing you and hating you for it but instead just needing you and liking you again.  You told me that age 12 to 17 were a little rough but that even though you sometimes didn't like me, you knew you would again.   

 

  • Lastly, I would tell you that I wish you could come back here for at least the next 5 years to remind me that even though my daughter will probably bruise my heart like I did yours, we'll be more than fine in the end.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

The Gregarious Homebody is...

Reading

Really good.  
Like, let-everything-around-me-fall-to-pieces-while-I-read good.




Listening to
Read by a really fine narrator.
Even more sadistic than the movie.
Yikes.


Wearing
Always a sucker-for-packaging, I am now also apparently afflicted 
with the marketing disease my friend Ray has:
picking paint by its color name.
This one: Iris I Was Thinner 




Watching
I'm cringing a little while I watch because I'm positive {my Tony}
snickers about her upbeatness and cuteability.


Dreading

What the **** IS this?
Unfortunately in about a month I'll be able to let you know.

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