Week in Review: 22-28 July 2018

Yes, I’m back. I’ve taken an assessment of all that I have going on in my life and decided that blogging can fit in. A few things got taken off my plate to accommodate it (regular letter-writing, most notably) and I’m pretty confident I’ll be sticking with this for awhile. So, let’s get going, shall we?

Life of Lizzie

This week, she picked up a habit of saying, “Get it?” Except she’s not using the typical application of saying it after a joke that didn’t land well, but for just about any declarative statement. “I had a Popsicle today. Get it?” “I want to wear this dress today. Get it?” Once I figured out it didn’t mean she had tried to make a joke, it made everything make much more sense.

The non-allowance allowance experiment continues. This last week, we owed her two week’s worth, $8, and she decided to spend it on the fish-catching came that I remember from when I was a kid. Turns out, it’s pretty hard for her so she quickly forbid Matt and I from playing and chose to play it by herself for quite awhile the day she got it. I need to encourage her to try again so she doesn’t forget about it entirely. Maybe we’ll even be allowed to play with her again.

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On Thursday night, I took her out for a special “date” so she could have extra time with me before I was gone for the weekend. (More on that later.) The original plan was to wander around the toy section at Target then go to Chick-fil-a. We did wander Target very, very slowly. After she got her game, she insisted we get 1) Cheerios – “they’re for the weekend” and 2) crazy-shaped Annie’s boxed mac and cheese. I will admit I pushed her to the mac and cheese rather than going out as I’d had Chick-fil-a for lunch and it was going to start pouring soon.

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(Yeah, that’s her feet under a toilet stall door. She does this anytime I need to do my thing, to make sure she stays close. Very literal interpretation of “I need to be able to see your feet.” I try not to think about the fact she’s got her face pressed up against the door.)

On the Needles

Most of my week was spent knitting – then pulling out and re-knitting the Campside shawl from Alicia Plummer in Berroco Ultra Wool DK in the Heather colorway. More about what happened with the first attempt in a bit. The second attempt is going really well and I’ve only got the final pattern of eyelets then the ribbed border to go. This will be given to a coworker who enjoys a muted color palette – and is opening her house to our team to watch Spaceballs next Friday.

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I’ve also made a tiny bit of progress on the Vestigial socks in Neighborhood Fiber Company Studio Sock in the Parkland colorway. I like the pattern plenty but haven’t been in much of a sock mood. These will be my on-the-go project next week so I can make some real progress towards completion. The recipient lives here so obvious doesn’t need them for quite awhile but I hate having something hanging over me like this. (I’ll post a pic next week.)

Adventures and Discoveries

Yesterday, we went to DC for the first time in months to see a special exhibit at the National Gallery of Art. Lizzie was very impatient on the walk from Archives to the museum but happily walked through the exhibit with Matt on Dutch paintings of watercraft. (I stayed in the courtyard and knit on the socks in peace.) We were all very hungry at that point, so we went to b DC, a burger place. Lizzie didn’t eat almost any of her mac and cheese, but Matt and I really enjoyed our burgers and sides (tater tots for me, truffle fries for him). She really wanted to see the butterfly exhibit at the National History Museum but the line to get in was, no kidding, two blocks long. Guess everyone else was happy to finally be out of the house, too. Amd, you know, tourists. We promised her we’d get back to see them in the fall. I, of course, was too busy sweating and avoiding people to take any photos.

 

Oye. Ugh. Sigh.

Several things didn’t go so great this week.

My trip to Cleveland for a friend’s baby shower got cancelled due to a traffic control issue and no available flights that would get me there in time. I got a refund and immediately spent the money on a new watch and sock yarn from Miss Babs. Thankfully, I found out hours before I went to the airport and the United folks were great in trying to help me fix things.

It rained almost all week. Lots and lots and lots of rain. The immediate issues of cabin fever, getting soaked, and needing to carry an umbrella everywhere were easily dealt with. Harder was the water that came into our basement and wet our carpet when the outside drain was clogged with dirt. Thankfully, our cleaning lady discovered it after a few hours so we were able to unclog the drain, get the water up with a shop vac, and finish drying it out with a fan pretty quickly.

And I pulled a very Angela move at one point and left my badge inside my work area when I went out of it to use the restroom. Thankfully, someone was coming out very soon after who went and got my badge from my desk for me. I almost never take the thing off, too.

 

A Better Me

This was week two of my combination Weight Watchers restart and gluten, dairy, and soy elimination diet. Almost no headaches, at last! No real signs of improvement, health-wise but it’s only two weeks in. Lost 3.6 pounds since last Sunday. Had some issues actually eating enough points; turns out most of my points before were eating all the cheese and bread. This whole thing resulted in a few great culinary discoveries: almond-milk lattes, spicy eggplant dip, rediscovery of yumminess of Mojo chicken on the grill, Wegmans chicken tortilla soup.

 

On Tap

  • Kid’s birthday party at the community pool
  • DC Pen Show,
  • Likely shawl FO and Vestigial socks FO

 

Have a great week!

Market Morning

My parents are visiting and wanted to spend some time with Lizzie by themselves. We took the chance to enjoy a slower trip to our favorite farmer’s market. We wandered through, bought some meat and veggies and fruit (and I picked up a bag of decaf coffee). It was the perfect, relaxing start to what became a very busy day of shopping and a visit to a local Spring festival.

Does your town/city have a farmer’s market? Is it year-round or seasonal? What sort of things are sold there?

Restaurant Review: Momofuku CC|DC

Ever since Matt first read about David Chang, he wanted to eat his food. Chang grew up not far from him and is famous for combining Asian and Western flavors together. We’ve had his first cookbook, Momofuku, for a few years and have made a few of his recipes in the past. Then, last week, we were able to visit his DC restaurant: Momofuku Central City DC.

(Bear with me, as I’ve never done a restaurant review, other than a few short sentences on Yelp.)

What we ate

Daily special: Buffalo chicken biscuit – I’m not a fan of buffalo sauce so I didn’t try this but Matt said it was quite good. Biscuit was not quite good enough to eat by itself but served the sandwich well.

Sweet and spicy pork jerky: I really enjoyed this as it did balance the sweet and spicy rather well. It was not what you’d think of as jerky – bit more chewy and limp, but the same idea.

Rockfish with yuzu, bonji, Honeycrisp apples: Served crudo style. You can’t see from my blurry photo, but there’s a whole layer of thiny-slice rockfish (AKA striped bass) under the apple slices. This was absolutely the best thing I ate during the meal. I would happily order three of these next time.

Pork buns: We had to order these as Matt has made them multiple times from the recipe in Momofuku. They did not disappoint. Subtle dough with Hoisin – one of my favorite flavors – wrapping up pork belly.

(This is where I decided to give up on photos. The light outdoors had gone and, well, the food was too good to pause long enough for a photo.)

Momofuku ramen: Another must-order, based on Matt’s making of it from the recipe. This was the only disappointment of our meal. The broth was simply without flavor. The toppings – braised pork, pork belly, fish balls, nori, and soft-cooked egg – were as tasty as expected but isn’t ramen really about the broth?

Crack pie: I’m not even sure what this is made with, but it tasted mostly of cooked sugar. Tasty, tasty cooked sugar.

Cereal milk / fruity cereal milk ice cream: Both are quite sweet, in align with the pastry chef’s taste profile. We both preferred the fruity version to the other. They were fun but I much prefer a closer to savory dessert.

Atmosphere and Service

You sit at basic wooden tables and chairs in a well-lit area with simple art. It’s neither too loud nor too quiet; tables are a decent distance apart so you can still have a private conversation. Music is fun and eclectic but not distracting.

Service is casual but very attentive. You never had to wait for a dirty dish to disappear or a water glass to be filled. But, somehow, you also didn’t feel like you were being served, but helped by a friend.

Price to Quality Ratio

I won’t lie. It was not a cheap meal, but it was rather inexpensive for the high quality. You won’t leave here completely full without ordering quite a few dishes, but you won’t really care because it’s so tasty.

Would we return? Should you go?

I think Matt’s face says it all – and this was before we even ate anything. It was a wonderful experience, minus the ramen as I noted earlier. Fun, easy, tasty.

CSA Haul

At the start of the summer, Matt decided we would try out a CSA for the first time. Our life is so busy right now, especially our summers, that we do not have the time to get to the farmer’s market every Saturday. What sealed the deal was the fact that the CSA for this farm actually delivers right to our neighborhood. Instead of having to drive out to, you know, farmland and hour or more away, we just drove a few blocks over and pick up a big blue bin of fruits and veggies.

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In no particular order, here’s what we got this week:

  • Single yellow swash – pattypan maybe?
  • Three ears of sweet corn
  • Small thing of cherry tomatoes
  • Small thing of plumquots (which Squirms loves but I find wayyy too sour)
  • Two kinds of peaches, your usual yellow ones plus a pile of pale yellow doughnut peaches
  • Apples, red and yellow – quite surprising as it’s nowhere near the usual apple season
  • Beets which are conical for some reason
  • Bag of lettuce
  • (Not pictured) Big bag of green beans
  • (Not pictured) Small bag of potatoes

Filling the Hours

There’s only so many hours in the day and not quite enough to do all of those things I want to do. (We’ll ignore my to do list. That just sort of sits without anything done until a hard deadline – like taxes being due April 15th.)

Don’t get me wrong, I’m lucky enough to have a good two to three hours free most evenings after Squirms has gone to bed. Most nights, Matt and I hang out together (we watch TV, he plays on his phone, I write letter or knit or play on my phone) but sometimes, like tonight, he’s off in his office, playing video games so I’m left to my own devices. And, yet, what am I doing? Watching tons of episodes of Scrubs and attempting to write up a few blog posts to catch folks up on what’s been going on in my life.

What would i do if I had unlimited time? And, somehow, could focus enough to do them?

  • Write that memoir I have made zero progress on.
  • Learn to write calligraphy or in a cool hand-written font.
  • Make a cross stitch sampler of all of the Dr. Who’s.
  • Sew myself some awesome skirts. (Requires actually learning how to sew, for real.)
  • Watch through all of the seasons of Friends, X-Files, Sex in the City
  • Catch up on Squirm’s scrapbook (do have photos from Jan – March printed but have yet to make the pages)
  • Write here, you know, more than once every two months
  • Make a sweater for myself I actually like
  • Take some programming classes online
  • Write letters to the rest of the people on my list (which is down to 8 from the 90+ I had in January)
  • Make some sort of a collage
  • Write to Squirms daily about what she’s done that day and things I want her to know about me
  • Make a few books by hand, especially journals
  • Make a bunch of dishcloths

Time Spent Away

I’ve thought about blogging every now and then the last few weeks, but never manged to myself to actually blog. Well, I started a week or so ago on a post then got distracted by something (Squirms woke up from a nap?) and never got back to it. Things are busy and we’ve been sick and I’ve been writing so many letters I have no words left afterward. But, still, no one ever said a blog post has to be long or super thought-out. Just some words posted that are true and maybe a bit funny. A photo or two if it makes sense. One of those benefits of not doing it professionally – I can suck at it and do it rarely. I may lose all of you by taking these long breaks but, eh, whatever. This is for me, not you all.

In no particular order, the top 5 things that have occupied me these last few weeks:

1. Knitting – Made two shawls/scarves and one baby sweater. I have a few photos of each so maybe FO posts will come later, after I get them to their recipients. I also started on a lace, fingering-weight sweater for myself but it just doesn’t hold my interest. Knitting, in general, is sort of out for me.

2. Work – Things are starting to shape up there. I feel like I finally found my place on the team and have the resources to accomplish what needs to be done. And the move of my physical workplace has moved to late April so I’ll get to keep my short commute for awhile longer.

3. Letter writing – I wrote 40 letters plus four replies in January. So far in February, I’ve written 15 plus three replies. So you can see why I feel like I have no words left.

4. Being sick – I first started feeling unwell right after Matt got home from a business trip to Seattle on January 16th. I was almost back to normal when I caught the flu from Squirms. She was sick for a week two different times (one stomach thing then the flu) and Matt hasn’t felt great for a week or so. Four and a half sick days for me in the last two weeks. I’m far better than I was but my ear is still full of fluid and I had to skip karate today for the third time because I don’t have enough energy.

5. Watching TV – Even more than usual, as I’ve been sick. Started watching The Good Wife when Matt was in Seattle and have made it all the way to season 4. Yeah, it’s pathetic.

As I start to feel better, I may be back to writing here more regularly. We’ll see. For now, I’m going back to the couch to enjoy the rest of our weekend without Squirms (she’s at her grandparents’ house).

The 1,000th Recipe

We’ve made it – our 1,000th recipe since we started Eat Your Books just under three years ago. I’ll give you a few hints about what it was. Features meat.  Took less than 10 minutes to make after getting the mise en place together. Complex spice profile. Eaten with your hands. Neither carbs nor dairy. A main dish but more easily an appetizer.

The recipe came from one of our favorite cookbooks: Hot, Sour, Salty, Sweet by Jeffrey Alfred and Naomi Duguid. The book features recipes from Southeast Asia, where cuisine – particularly in Thailand – aims for the perfect balance between those four flavors. Matt was lucky enough to get a copy online that a library was getting rid of for less than half the cover price.

Okay, I’ve delayed enough. Our 1,000th recipe is…Aromatic minced pork, Shan style. You may have had Thai laab or PF Chang’s chicken version. This is similar to both but the meat is pork and is fried rather than steamed. It’s got intense flavors – lots of scallion and Thai chilis and galangal. We followed the recommendation in the cookbook to serve it with some simple steamed veggies – we used a sweet winter squash and carrots – but also added lettuce cups as a serving mechanism and some rice because, well, we like rice. Matt and I thought it could use just a bit more heat but Squirms was rather overwhelmed by it.

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Sound good to you? Here’s the recipe. Assuming you can get your hands on the few specialty ingredients, it’s quick and easy to make for a weeknight meal or for guests.

Aromatic Minced Pork, Shan Style

Adapted from Hot Sour Salty Sweet: A Culinary Journey Through Southeast Asia, Jeffre Alford and Naomi Duguid

6 to 8 garlic cloves, unpeeled
3 tbl minced lemongrass
2 tbl chopped galangal (can substitute ginger)
6 dried Thai chilis (use 4 if you don’t want serious heat)
1 tsp salt
2 tbl vegetable oil (or other neutral high-temp oil)
1/2 cu chopped shallots
3/4 lb ground pork
1/3 cu chopped scallion greens
1/2 cu coarsely chopped coriander (cilantro)
1/4 cup minced fresh mint

Brown the unpeeled garlic gloves in a cast iron or other heavy pan. Wait for them to cool then peel.

Combine the lemongrass, galangal, chilis, and salt using a food processor.

Using a wok over high heat, cook the shallots in vegetable oil until translucent (takes 3-4 minutes).

Add the mixture from the food processor.

Add the pork and cook until slightly browned, then simmer for 2 minutes. Stir in the scallions and herbs.

Serve in lettuce cups, using the leaves to scoop up portions.