Saturday, November 24, 2007

Food, Family, Fun

Last weekend my parents flew into town for a super-quick (less than 40 hours) visit. Sunday was both my and my mom's birthday, so my mother was excited to spend a birthday weekend together. The underlying reason for the trip was to escort my sister's cello out from Virginia, where it's been staying with my parents since she moved to Seattle almost 5 years ago.

We had a terrific visit: the corny, but informative underground tour, shopping in Pike's Place Market, homemade gourmet pizza dinner, fancy cupcakes, birthday brunch with a view (we watched a sea lion cavort with gulls), and then my parents were back to the airport.

One of the unexpected finds of the trip was when my parents led us into a furniture store to browse and Jeff and I found a hutch / buffet for our soon-to-be dining room. The store was making preparations to move locations, so was selling floor models for amazingly low prices. We've been looking casually for dining room storage for about a year now, and were making preparations to move our dining room table into what was originally intended to be our house's dining room, but we had been using as our TV room since we moved into the house 6+ years ago. Finding this furniture the weekend before Thanksgiving was perfect.

Monday, November 12, 2007

For Those Who Serve

My grandfather's younger brother, Philip, was killed during World War II. My father is named after him. Philip was engaged to a woman named Kris. After losing her betrothed, she never married. She remained in touch with my grandmother and my father's aunts and now my mother keeps up the correspondence. She sent a very thoughtful gift when I got married last year.

For Veteran's Day today, I'm thinking not only of those who served overseas, but for those who served at home. The wives, mothers, and families of those service members have sacrificed just as much, if not more, than those who actually fought. They raised families on their own with little support. While my great-grandfather was a POW in WWII, he didn't even get paid, so my great-grandmother had to find other means of financial support. While conditions (pay, communication) have improved in recent years, the situation of having a loved one overseas is just as emotionally difficult.

Thank you to all who have served and to all who have supported those service men and women. You are remembered.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Brushes with Fame?

Yesterday, listening to NPR, I heard a former classmate win Carl Kasell's voice on her answering machine. Today, watching to the Food Network, I saw a former coworker win a pie cookoff. I'm going to keep my eye on the media.
Long Weekend

Back on those long-past student days, a long holiday weekend meant no class on that day (which might be one class, or might not be any depending on schedule), but otherwise, nothing out of the ordinary. A two-hour extra block to catch up on class readings or paper writing or work hours. Now that I have a real job, I have a real 3-day weekend! With no homework! I still can't believe it.

Jeff, unfortunately, is working all weekend. His job has been very busy for the past 6+ months. This should be the last busy working weekend for the year, however, as they need to wrap up in time for holiday shopping. (Need gift ideas or a holiday card, btw?)

So this weekend for me involves:
- Sushi with an old friend who is in town
- Beer tasting event / community fundraiser
- Beer making - IPA
- Laundry & general organizing / tidying
- Appt with new doctor
- Vet appointment
- Long run - aiming for 11 miles
- Cooking - pork tenderloin with curried peanut sauce

So far the highlight has been the beer tasting: it was really nicely done in a community center with a bluegrass band and art displays and lots of snacks and alternative beverages in addition to the dozens of great beers.

The lowlight was the trip to the vet. First, I had to wake up to the fact that my cats are overweight - one dangerously so. I felt like Cartman's mom as I tried to stammer something about being big-boned. Next, George decided to freak out as the doctor tried to examine him. Spitting, cursing, and fighting, he would not let the exam continue, not to mention get the shots he needs. So, we were provided sedatives and will try another day.

Monday, November 05, 2007

A Friendly P.S.A.

Don't forget to vote in your local election tomorrow, Tuesday, November 6th! For those unaware, local government determines everything from your property and sales tax rates to your public school governance and funding; from your roads and parks to your sewage and water treatment facilities; from your health and human services to your police and law enforcement. It impacts just about every aspect of your life, so now you get to chime in and let your voice be heard!

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Entertaining Dinners - for the Veggies and the Meaties

Last night I made a fairly simple but delicious meal that would be perfect for entertaining. I had found some small sugar pie pumpkins as well as extremely inexpensive shitake and crimini mushrooms at Trader Joe's on Friday (while shopping for Friday night pizza supplies), so was inspired to make something to stuff in the pumpkins. I decided that my "faux risotto" would be perfect. I discovered the recipe for that in Oprah's magazine a year or so ago. Basically, you cook brown rice in the rice cooker using broth (I use chicken, but if serving vegetarians, I'd use veggie) instead of water with a little butter, then toss the rice with a lot of shredded parm and some veggies (I've used sauteed mushrooms and steamed asparagus). The brown rice cooks up tender, but chewy, a perfect risotto texture, but without the stirring and risk of mushiness. For the pumpkins, I borrowed from an Emeril recipe for pumpkins stuffed with mushroom risotto and roasted duck. Obviously, no duck roasting was happening (I was looking for simple), and I used my own easy-peasy faux-risotto (with tons of the aforementioned sauteed 'shrooms), but I used Emeril's instructions for roasting the pumpkins. I used about 1/4 of the butter he called for, but in retrospect, I should have used even less. I also decided to half the pumpkins so that 2 small pumpkins made 4 meals (2 for dinner, 2 for Monday lunch), and I added a clove of garlic to every pumpkin half so that I could mush roasted garlic into the risotto. The risotto piled into the pumpkin halves made for dramatic and elegant plating, and when drizzled with truffle oil, absolutely delicious.

Today, we had the usual Seahawk suspects over for the game. We've been watching the Superbowl with the same group for years and this fall have been watching most of the games with these friends. The away games have turned into serious meat cook-offs, so we wanted to impress on our first time hosting. Belgium beef carbonade fit the bill perfectly. We got the recipe from the Nov-Dec 04 issue of Cook's Illustrated and have made this amazing stew an annual tradition. It's essentially beef, beer, and onions, a magic combination that defies my descriptive abilities. I served it over smashed potatoes with a blue cheese / cherry / fennel / walnut salad on the side (potatoes and salad recipes also from that Cook's issue). It was a huge success.

Now, the fridge is full of leftovers, so I can send Jeff to work with lunches and dinners for a few days. If this week is anything like last (which I think it will be), he'll need something hearty to get him through some long days that stretch into longer evenings.

Here's to tasty meals to warm up those cold and dark autumn nights!
What Will Go on the Holiday Cards?

I've realized that in addition to not blogging, I've not been taking photos this past year. At first, I thought it was because we haven't been doing many picture-worthy things, but that's not really true. We had another amazing Halloween porch creation this year, and we never remembered to photograph it (it was a werewolf, complete with a pumpkin full moon). We had our annual Falloween party and there were a lot of great costumes including Jeff's wolf in sheep's clothing, and my sister and her husband who came as Grindelwald and Dumbledore; no photos. Jeff rode up to Mount St. Helens; no picture showing him receiving a gold medal for his efforts.

Note to self: remember to stop and document life along the way.