Wednesday, November 30, 2011

A Quick Gloat

After writing for five hours this morning and then grading for four this evening, I am too tired for a real post. I just wanted to say:

I'm seeing David Sedaris tomorrow!


Monday, November 28, 2011

Good Enough

 It's been a productive six days off! I crafted, and cooked, and wrote, and best of all, saw Joe for most of every day.

And, the couch is finished! It's not perfect, but for a first time try, it's not too bad.



I need to get it some legs. Also, some of the sewing is a little funky and bunchy, but I'm not fixing it!

I had just enough of the green fabric to cover one side of the pillows . So, if I wanted, I could flip them and have all yellow pillows.

Way-too-much-work couch, meet took-an-entire-weekend coffee table.

I'm not sure I like the green and gold, but Joe says the gold is good for our chi.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Citrus Walnut Salad with Fennel and Goat Cheese

This is a refreshing, light salad that we'll be making often. The brightness of the citrus, the deep licorice flavor of the fennel, and the creamy goat cheese are delicious.

1 medium orange--peeled and cut into segments
1/2 medium grapefruit--peeled and cut into segments
1/4 medium red onion--peeled, cut in half, and sliced into half rings
1/2 fennel bulb--cut in half and sliced into half rings
2 small radishes--thinly sliced
1/3 cup goat cheese--crumbled
1/3 head red butter romaine--chopped
handful of walnuts

For the balsamic vinaigrette
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
2 tbs olive oil
pinch of salt
pinch of pepper

Whisk the vinaigrette ingredients in a small bowl. Place butter lettuce on serving dish, top with the remaining ingredients, and drizzle with vinaigrette.  

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Dinner Time

It's a little dark for pictures, but here's our little feast:

Salad: Red butter lettuce, fennel, red onion, radish, grapefruit, orange, goat cheese, walnuts, and a homemade citrus balsamic vinaigrette.

Chicken Roulade filled with goat cheese, pancetta, and sauteed kale. This tasty dish was kept company by some homemade bread stuffing and mashed potatoes and parsnips.

Dessert: Chocolate, walnut, and pecan pie. We also made a cranberry orange creme brulee, but our broiler decided to die while it was preheating. Maybe we can try tomorrow.

And now it's time to relax. 

Happy Thanksgiving

To distract ourselves from the fact that we can't be with our families in Michigan today, Joe and I will eat what we want at any point in the day that we want.

I'm starting with some cranberry orange oatmeal. Last night I made my first batch of creme brulee, flavored with cranberries stewed in a pot of sugar and Gran Marnier. This morning I put the leftovers in my oatmeal, and it is perfectly sweet and tangy. Oh and the walnuts on top are a texture must.

Last night we decided against making dinner. Instead, we stood over our kitchen counter with a glass of wine, some excellent cheese, and a crusty loaf of bread. The baguette was a little dark, but still so soft on the inside.

And the cheeses were all so different and delicious. The cheese sections in a couple of our stores are impressive, and my first time seeing one, I spent half my morning reading and oooohing at all of the labels. The best part: they sell little sample sizes, so you never have to make a decision again. Just get them all!

My favorite was the brie on the right. Joe also made some balsamic/olive oil dipping sauce with some Parmesan. A dinner of cheese and bread is good enough for me any night.

For the rest of the day we'll be cooking, and snacking, and watching movies. I always think I won't miss seeing the whole family that much, that it will be a relaxing day of lounging in pajamas, but as soon as one of them calls, and I hear everyone yelling and laughing in the background, it's hard to keep it together. I'll save the desserts for that moment.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Guess what I'm sitting on...

The couch is almost finished! Yesterday I sewed all the cushion covers. I even conquered my slacker habits and bought a special upholstery needle and special upholstery thread. I also hand-stiched the sides of the couch that were being held together by pins and have developed some lovely calluses. 

I still need to hand sew all of the open cushion ends so you can't see it yet, but you can see the fabric I bought for the cushions. After getting halfway through the sewing, I realized I was making a couch in NMU colors. Hmm... Not sure I like the look, but it's too late now!

Monday, November 21, 2011

Low on Fabric, Energy, Mental Capacity

This weekend was consumed by our couch. Friday night, we went out into the snow and ice to see to a great reading, Debra Gwartney.  After the reading, our friend Jonathan offered us his old couch! And there went the weekend.

Saturday afternoon, Joe and I drove out to Cheney and picked it up. Here it is after we got it home and I spent the rest of the evening dehairing it (our friends Jonathan and Amy own two mysterious cats (after staying there for a few days, I think I only saw a glimpse of one) and an adorable Newfoundland). Amy kept insisting, "you don't want this couch!" But it's a huge step up from our broken futon.

There are also some tears in the cushions, so I thought, hey let's just recover it really quickly. Yeah! Last-minute, unplanned, never-tried-before-projects always turn out great!

Yesterday morning I waited for Joe to wake up so we could go buy fabric. He slept and slept and slept. I baked and baked and baked. I made a pumpkin spice cake with brown butter and pumpkin glaze:

Then I made us some baked eggs (never tried it before): I sauteed onion, spinach, and tomato, mixed in some mozzarella and parmesan cheese, spooned it into individual ramekins, cracked a couple of eggs on top, and baked them for what felt like forever. It was really good! No picture!

The rest of the day was devoted to couch covering.

2:00 Find awesome green and black upholstery fabric for 2.49 a yard.

2:01 Debate whether the 8 yards they have left will be enough.

2:02 Hope it will be.

2:59 Seek advice from family: use a staple gun! Sew less!

3:20 Drive to Home Depot and buy cheap staple gun.

3:50  Begin project. Get two staples in before the gun breaks. Try to fix it for twenty minutes. Become irrationally angry and whiny.

4:10 Drive to Home Depot. Exchange staple gun for twenty-dollar version: THE POWER SHOT.

4:30-5:30 Make and eat dinner--fabric and cushions looming.

5:30  Stare, cut, staple.

6:00 Stare, grimace, cut, staple.

7:00 Stare, scowl, shake head, yell "what are you doing? you can't do this!" cut, staple.

After getting the main part of the couch finished, I ran out of fabric. The cushions will have to be covered in something else.

Somehow, Joe managed to get all his grading done in a room where some crazy girl was shouting at fabric and throwing pillows. And Cedric is exhausted:

And now, it's Monday morning, Joe has left for school, and I must venture out for fabric.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

The Geese are Gone!

For the last few weeks, there has been an amazing amount of geese and swans covering the beach next to campus. And today, when I finally remembered to bring my camera, they apparently decided they had enough.

It took some pictures anyway to show you again what I get it to look at every Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday. 

 Are those rocks way down there, along the water? Nope...

Found em! Except there used to be a lot more. These guys don't seem to be enjoying themselves too much.

Tomorrow's Friday, which means I drag myself out of bed at seven and drive to Coeur d'Alene for my three-hour morning class. Maybe the geese will teach it for me.

Gorgonzola, Walnut, & Spinach Triangles

Today I made a recipe from Rachel Ray, and then I mixed it up with some new ingredients.

Rachel Ray's Feta and Pistachio Triangles looked like the perfect snack to bring to a housewarming party I was attending, and I already had the phyllo dough and feta. This is only my second time using phyllo, a super thin pastry dough you can find in the freezer aisle. My first time was a failure. I layered way too many sheets together and they hardened into a weird mass that hurt my teeth. This time, I decided to follow some directions!

You can find the recipe for Rachel Ray's Feta & Pistachio Triangles here.

They had a great tang from the feta and the pistachios added some crunch and a nice color.

And below is my experiment version. Same process, different filling.

Gorgonzola, Walnut, and Spinach Triangles

6 sheets phyllo dough
3 tablespoons melted butter
1/8 cup Gorgonzola crumbles  
1/4 cup finely chopped walnuts
1/4 cup finely diced granny smith apples
1/4 cup chopped fresh spinach 
1/8 cup finely diced onion 
1/2 teaspoon balsamic vinegar 
Honey to brush on top
2-3 tablespoons chopped walnuts for topping


Preheat Oven to 350 degrees  *  Makes 18 small triangles
1. In a small bowl, combine gorgonzola, walnuts, apples, spinach, onion, and balsamic vinegar, stirring well to distribute the Gorgonzola and eliminate any overpowering clumps (some of us can't handle it in large doses).

 2.  Place three sheets of phyllo dough next to each other and coat each with 1 teaspoon butter. (I did the third sheet last after I realized I had so much leftover filling.)

  3.  Place another sheet of phyllo on top of each buttered sheet. 

  4.  Cut each sheet into six width-wise portions.

5.  At one end of each strip, place a teaspoon of the cheese mixture.

6.  Starting at the end with the filling, fold the strips into triangles. If I had any stray pieces at the end, I just cut them off, but I'm sure there is a way to tuck the ends in if you want them extra pretty.

7. Brush with butter and place on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or tin foil to bake at 350 degrees for 15 minutes.

8. Brush with honey and sprinkle with walnuts.


Saugatuck Wins

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

I managed to complete over half of my weekend to-do list. After working on the coffee table, making curtains, and fixing Joe's backpack for him, I was ready to stop avoiding the school portion of the checklist and start grading.

But first I had to drop off some contest essays I judged at Spokane Community College. I went early in the morning and planned on checking out a park right by campus. After walking the entire campus (though it wasn't really that big) looking for the "Main" building, I started asking for help. I accused one girl of giving me bad directions (in my head) and wondered why the girl I was meeting didn't know which buildings I was by when I called her. I came upon a sign with the campus map on it. There was no Main building listed.  Then I read the big blue words at the top of the sign: Spokane Falls Community College. Not Spokane Community College.

Wow.  And I can't even pretend I didn't know there was more than one because I spent last spring finding and applying to every college in the area. Anyway, it took three hours to do something that should have required thirty minutes, so after that, I went home and yielded to the unproductivity.

Time to make up for that now! But first it's pumpkin oatmeal time! Oh yeah. Yesterday I got a little overzealous and put way too much pumpkin puree in. I tasted more like baby food. Today, I reigned it in.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Sand, Stain, Finish, Wait, Wait, Wait

My weekend project is finally finished! When I started sanding the eight-dollar coffee table I found last weekend, I imagined having a finished product that evening. And as usual, my idea of how things should transpire and the actual time required for such a project were much different. It's Monday morning, and the coffee table is just now ready for use.

Here's the before:

This table clearly got some abuse in its previous life. I like the worn look though, so I planned on keeping most of the scratches.  

Joe referenced the show Dexter as I was laying out all the plastic. Sanding only took a couple of hours (maybe less). I used a 60-grit sandpaper first and sanded it until it was smooth and all the original finish was off. Apparently you should wear a mask while you're doing this, so you don't inhale all the weird particles. Once the entire table was smooth, and I'd sanded down the major scratches and dents, I finished it off with a 150-grit sandpaper. Although, I only went over it very lightly because my arms were getting tired by then, and I didn't really care at that point.  

Staining it didn't take long either. The stain I bought was darker than I expected, so I only gave it one light coat, being careful not to let it pool or drip anywhere. By the time I was finished, I looked out our front window and this was happening:

Unfortunately, it was gone by morning. Joe had informed me the night before that I still had to put some kind of coating on the table. Yesterday morning, I bitterly drove to Ace to find some polyurethane. After slathering that on, I waited impatiently for it to set. And this morning, it has finally decided to dry. We have a coffee table!

Goodbye final McDonald's french fry box!

Now it's time to do that grading. 

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Sweet Potato Shrimp Curry

Tonight's dinner turned out exactly like a lot of them do. It started out with a recipe, and then depending on what ingredients I like/don't like or have/don't have, it transformed into something very far from the original.

I started with a recipe for Coconut Curried Crab from The Newlywed Kitchen, a really nice cookbook I got from my friend Sarah. 

Coconut Curried Crab sounded good, but we were in more of a shrimp mood. And I could only justify buying half a pound of shrimp (instead of the recipe's one pound of crab-meat), so I threw in some sweet potato and baby corn. I also didn't have a tablespoon of fresh ginger, so I substituted ginger powder. And, because we don't have any tumeric or garam masala lying around, I used curry powder instead, hoping they might be included. I also omitted the brown sugar because the coconut milk seemed to add enough sweetness already. But, you know, that's all. Just some small changes. :)

We enjoyed this over jasmine rice, which we began cooking before starting on the curry. Here's my altered recipe:

Sweet Potato Shrimp Curry
3-4 servings

1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 tablespoon stone-ground mustard or mustard seeds
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
2-6 small red chiles depending on your heat preferences 
1/2 cup yellow onion, finely diced 
1 1/2 teaspoons curry powder
2/3 cup coconut milk 
1/2 pound of cooked shrimp, thawed (I used large prawns and cut mine into thirds)
1 cup baby corn, cut into bite-sized pieces  
1 medium sweet potato, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch to 1-inch pieces
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
Fresh-squeezed lime juice (I used about 1 1/2 tablespoons)

  1.  Place the sweet potato pieces into a medium sauce pan, cover with water, boil until tender, and drain the water. 
  2. While your potatoes are cooking, add the vegetable oil to a large skillet, and over medium to medium-high heat, saute the mustard seeds for 1 minute. (My burners overheat, so I used medium heat to avoid burning and extreme oil splattering).  
  3. Add the onion, ginger, and chiles into the pan and saute for 5-6 minutes or until the onion is golden brown.
  4. Add the coconut milk and curry powder and stir until mixed well. 
  5. Add the shrimp, potato, and baby corn, simmering  2-3 minutes or until everything is heated
  6. Stir in salt, pepper, and lime juice.

Serve over rice and top with Greek yogurt, which adds a great tang. We also had some flatbread!

The Weekend Came Back!

It's Friday again! It was a good week. Here's a recap:

Tuesday was such a great day that I wore stripes with a floral pattern. Oooh yeah, talk about exciting.

We finally have a desk area to work at! And I found some good coffee: Pete's Coffee.

And because I knew I'd never use all the half and half I bought for coffee, I made some delicious cream of mushroom soup, which gave me an excuse to eat most of a baguette.


By the way, have you ever sauteed mushrooms in some form of alcohol? Red wine? Port? Burgundy? It doesn't matter what kind. Just do it--even if just for the smell.
What else? Oh, you know, just this:

Can't wait!  Exclamation pointssss!!!!

I also just found out I get to teach a business writing class in the spring! 
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