Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Sneak Peak

I'm trying to blog more because I think it's good for my mental health. At this point in time, that is. I might change my mind, but for now: more blogging, less agonizing about blogging.


Here's a project that's slowly becoming a reality. About a year ago, I dreamed up an idea for a lego table. And then I spent FOREVER trying to find the ideal flat file (at the right price) to make into a lego table. I was about to give up and resort to a less nice Ikea-hack idea. Then craigslist pulled through. The stars aligned such that I could actually manage to get all the car seats and kids stored safely out of the way and meeting times coordinated and etc. Procuring this thing felt enormously complicated, but it's done. I've got a wood flat file. Ha. And NOW FINALLY I can get on with making the dream lego table. I think it will be a birthday present for the boys for me, you know?

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Fritz's Green Sauce System

Fritz cooked for my parents when we were in Rhode Island. They loved this green sauce for fish and veggies. My mom requested the recipe. I think it tastes good too. But beyond that, it's great for cooking ahead and freezing for when you don't have time to cook. It's become Fritz's standard lunch at the office over the last year. He's lost 30 pounds since 2012 when he always used to eat out for lunch. I think we calculated the cost of each meal to be about $4; it's less expensive than eating out where Fritz was, and definitely healthier, but not terribly cheap.

Fritz's green sauce on the fish, salad is my preferred side.
Qualifiers:
1. Fritz likes to cook, but is not a chef.
2. Fritz likes to cook in quantity with the highest efficiency possible.
3. Fritz relies heavily on the looks right / tastes right / smells right technique. So while I copied it all down as faithfully as possible, there's some wiggle room in here.

Ingredients (enough for maybe many, many pounds of fish. You can freeze the extra):
Whole Black Peppercorns
Kosher salt
Handful of fresh peeled garlic cloves
Bunch of fresh parsley
Bunch of fresh cilantro
Extra Virgin Olive Oil (about half a liter)

FRESH salmon or steelhead (we buy this at Costco)
FROZEN vegetables

1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit.


2. Put some peppercorns in a blender.


3. Put some salt in the blender.


4. Put some fresh, peeled garlic in the blender.


5. Wash the parsley, chop off the biggest stems, smash down into blender.


6. Wash the cilantro, chop off the biggest stems, smash down into blender.


7. Add olive oil. The olive oil came almost to the 3/4 liter mark on the blender, but that includes the volume of the other ingredients.


8. Blend. Sauce should be viscous enough to spread on fish. If too thick, add oil. Correct seasonings. Fritz added some more oil because he thought the sauce was too thick and he doubled the amount of salt (from step 3) after he had tasted.


9. Line a cookie sheet with aluminum foil. If the fish has skin, lay it skin side down on the cookie sheet. Spoon sauce over fish. You'll have lots of sauce left over, which you can freeze, or add it to the vegetables. Bake fish for 10-14 minutes at 425. Thicker fish will take longer. Do not over-bake.

Ann: Wait. How do you know it's not over-baked?
Fritz: It's just a feeling I have.
Ann: I can't have a post with instructions like that.
Fritz: Hmmm. Well I guess it's a few things like:

  • The olive oil will slide off the fish and pool a bit at the edges. It should be thoroughly simmering, not just at the edges, but the entire oil pool should be simmering. It's almost like deep frying. The edges of the fish are turning just a tiny bit crusty.
  • Also, the smell of cooked fish. Just barely. Just now, as it's finished.
  • Finally, the fish will come off the skin easily when served. 
Fritz asks: will your mom be disappointed with how easy this is?


10. To make frozen meals to eat later, we freeze individual size pieces of fish in plasticware. (I wish we had a better alternative than using all this plastic stuff, but in the quantities we make, I have no better solution.) We add a dollop of green sauce as well. After the fish (and dollop of sauce) is frozen, we add already frozen vegetables.


11. I try to avoid warming up the plasticware in the microwave; instead, I dump my pre-made meal on a plate and heat it in the microwave. When we started this system, we used to freeze the green sauce in little ice cube trays and then mix with the vegetables once reheated. The little star (in below photo, left hand side) is actually frozen green sauce. Too fussy! Now we just use a dollop (as in the photo above).

Still frozen on the left, reheated on the right. 

Over the last year we've attempted this system with chicken, steak and even pork. Nothing tastes as good reheated as the fish. Also important: start with fresh fish, not frozen. Guten Appetit!

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Uncrated

This weekend we got the new-old furniture uncrated. It's so nice....to have those crates out of our garage. Just kidding! It's nice to have the furniture set up. It makes me feel all warm and fuzzy and gemütlich(!), feelings that I never expected to have by resurrecting my parent's furniture. It's way more comfortable to sit on the sofa and chairs now that there are tables to put things on. Boy, did I miss tables.

I kept the baby and Christmas cards, because I didn't want to bias you unfairly.
I'm digging the change. But key aspects of this room (rug, pigeon blue leather stuff, plants) are so strong that you might not even notice the difference on first glance. I still find it interesting to compare, thus the before and after above. With the tables and shelves (without the hutch) the room feels a little less bottom heavy, I think. And maybe a little warmer, too? I hadn't really thought about it before but, you know, chairs and sofas create a really strong datum line in a room. Use a dry, masculine voice to say the following: Here is the bottom of the room. (Pause.) Here is the top of the room. (Pause.) Tall shelves and plants are a nice way to break up the datum. If that's what you want, of course.

Sometimes, I think it's perfectly acceptable to intentionally create two halves (but mostly not). Sometimes, I think my palm plant reminds me of a German coffee and cake shop (that would be bad, too). Six of one, half dozen of another.

Okay, one more photo, different time of day, different perspective; then I better go do some mom-work.


Friday, January 17, 2014

Furniture

Remember how I was anticipating some furniture in December? My parents packed up their 70s furniture (that I remember from MY childhood) and sent it to us. It held up to the abuses of my brothers and me. The hope is that it will also hold up to my kids.

The furniture arrived while we were in Rhode Island. My neighbors very kindly opened our garage so that shippers could forklift the crates inside. Whoa. Did you catch that? FORKLIFT. CRATES. Uncrating forklifted furniture feels a little daunting. But yesterday I was able to liberate the first (smallest) piece. Here it is:

I know, get him off that table, right?
Sometimes I think my kids and climbing are like dogs and peeing.

This table has a glass top, which is not in the photo above. The glass is recessed into the table's frame. It sits on the cross pieces on which Mattias is balancing. The glass top is almost 40 years old and it never, ever broke, although surely my brothers and I did crazy things to this table. (Don't worry: it doesn't break in this post either.)


The glass top had its own special wood crate lined with styrofoam that required unscrewing about 12 screws to open. I saved this project until Mattias was at school and Trixie was sleeping.

When Mattias came home from school, I had the glass inserted into – onto? – the table. There was a little bit of gasping: oh, wow, new table, yay! And then Mattias picked up this suction cup toy from the floor and started lifting the glass out of the table with the toy suction cup.

[photo removed]

Bang! went the glass as the suction cup released.

Tidbit: my brother (who didn't destroy the furniture 30 years ago) had given the kids these suction cup toys over Christmas. And it took the 3 year old about 2 minutes to figure how to bang the glass around. Damn it! These fancy, new-fangled toys may be the destruction of the 40 year old furniture.... (Or is it: Damn it! Theses fancy, new-fangled parenting techniques may be the destruction of the 40 year old furniture....)

I took Mattias' photo, told him he was very clever. Then told him he should never, ever do that again. And I took away the suction cup toys, just to be sure.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Things

There's a lot of sweeping to do when there's a crawling, cheerio-eating baby (but no dog) in the house. Sweeping is the perfect activity for thinking up mundane topics to blog about. Also, I'm probably more in tune with these THINGS right now because we just returned from vacation. Being away for a couple weeks can do that to you. Usually, I don't like to write about THINGS because it makes me feel like an advertisement. Which I'm not. Well, okay, I kind of am here. But I'm not a paid ad. Also, when my favorite, trusted bloggers write about things unsolicited, I find it interesting, even though I don't rush out to buy the stuff. 

Okay, let's talk things:

Like this Olive Oil and Lavender hand soap from Savon de Marseille. Fritz got me some in 2012 for Christmas, and it was the first thing on my Christmas list for 2013. In fact, I kept pestering him, Did you get me that hand soap yet? I really, really would like that hand soap. Did you see they make refills, too? I'll send you the link. I would never justify the price of this soap for myself, but if someone gives it to me.... I use mine in the kitchen, although it's probably too aromatic to be an appropriate hand washing soap for a food prepping area.


Simply Organic's Italian Salad Dressing. I'm only speaking for the Italian Dressing, here. Their other dressings may be fine, but this one is incredible. When we were in Rhode Island, I kept having cravings for it every time I ate a salad. I couldn't find it at any of the grocery stores out there. Even here in Colorado, I sometimes have a difficult time finding it. It's either sold out; or the store carries many Simply Organic packets, but not the Italian in particular; or the store just doesn't carry it. I buy A LOT when I find it. For added amusement, you can premix the dressing and keep it in one of those old-fashion dressing dispensers. Ours belonged to Fritz's grandmother and I felt especially tickled to be able to use it.


Coaches Oats are another thing I really missed. I'm not exactly sure how to describe these oats – they're different from the oatmeal you know – they're chewy, I suppose. Not steel cut, not rolled. Not crushed, either. I've never seen them for sale any where other than Costco, but they're so delicious and satisfying. My breakfast staple. Trixie has also started to eat them with wild abandon. But then, she eats almost everything with wild abandon.


I was going to write: that's all I've got for now. Then I realized that, actually, the fact that I've got these things after a few weeks away from them feels really special and luxurious. Funny how mundane things can grow significant.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Out

I spent the morning referee-ing Trixie and Mattias. Now that Trixie can crawl she wants to play with all Mattias' toys. The good news here is that she completely tuckered herself out with all that crawling and exploring. She fell asleep when we dropped Mattias off at school; and she was so deeply asleep that I managed to unbuckle her, carry her to and through the school building, get her back in the car, drive home and transfer her to her crib without waking her. Yay!

[photo removed]

What an outfit, no? I'm still trying to get a handle dressing a girl baby. It's a different thing than dressing boy babies. We noticed over the holidays that Trixie was more interested in her clothing gifts than Noah or Mattias were as babies. My MIL theorized the reason for this is that girl clothes are so much colorful and fun to look at. Honestly, I tried to be fun with the boys' baby clothes, but there really weren't as many options. After 6 years of limited options, it's almost overwhelming to be on the other side.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

That Thing with the Polar Vortex

We just got back from a two and a half week vacation to see my family in Rhode Island. It was only suppose to be two weeks, but then, the thing with the polar vortex happened, and we found ourselves extending our vacation for another three days due to air traffic problems.

It was really great to be with my family, and honestly, I could have just stayed around indefinitely: eating lunch with my brothers, giving armchair renovation advice, going on dates with Fritz, running childless errands, plucking my eyebrows, all while the kids were lovingly cared for by Grandma and Grandpa. But Fritz was LIVID about the delay and ready to get back to Colorado. We flew JetBlue; between their smallish size, the extreme cold, and our large traveling party (4 + a lap infant), it looked like it was going to take FIVE extra days to get home. (Fritz: "Inconceivable in the modern world!" and "This is not reputable airline!" and "The primary job of an airline is to get you from one location to another in a timely manner. Regardless of how good the service is or much leg room there is.")

Watching the jetway

I spent hours on the phone with JetBlue trying to get us back to Denver earlier, finally moving my family, in small groups, onto the same (earlier) flight. I'd watch the JetBlue website, see a new seat open up on a flight, and call JetBlue to move someone. I moved us to an earlier flight for Mattias, even though Fritz was the more whiny vocal critic. Mattias was terribly homesick. His homesickness manifested itself as crazy mood swings. One minute he would be sobbing over a stuffed animal he had left at home, the next minute he would be cheering to spend three more days at Grandma and Grandpa's. Well, three-year-olds are like that anyway, so you'll have to take my word for it when I say the mood swings were particularly bad.

It was nice to be away. It's also nice to be home. Now 8 months old, the changes in Trixie over the 2.5 weeks we were gone are significant. She discovered her (loud) voice just in time for the return flight.  She started waving, clapping, and CRAWLING while we were gone. With both the boys, I seemed to baby-proof as they grew. Between Trixie's age and the length of time we were gone, I'm behind on baby proofing. That became very obvious and urgent as soon as we got home.

There's laundry to do and furniture (!) to be removed from crates. I'm looking forward to Monday, when the boys return to their regularly scheduled programs (because 2.5 weeks, even on vacation, is a lot of togetherness).