Saturday, July 14, 2012

Movie time and gender roles

This was a very busy week at work for me:
Monday - normal workday, except with a fondue party with coworkers
Tuesday - all day training in Seattle
Wednesday - finish prep for conference
Thursday - host conference
Friday - host conference

I've been dlligently commuting by bike ever since we sold one of our cars.  I got a smartphone last week and the app "One Bus Away" is my new favorite app.  It figures out where you are and then gives you a map showing all the nearby bus stops with all their respective route arrivals.  Because so many buses service the area where I work, it's a cinch to figure out how to get home.  I even took my bike to Seattle this week.

Anyway, last night I got home after having put in a 10-hour day.  I was tired from having worked hard to make the conference execution look seamless to the attendees, and my feet hurt because I had,despite years of event planning experience, worn sandals with no support in them.  After a day of running around on concrete, your feet hurt.  It's the next day and they still hurt.

Gene wanted to watch a movie.  There are some key differences between how we watch movies at home.

When he puts in a movie I...
  • start a load of laundry
  • divide the week's accumulated laundry into 2 piles: diapers and clothes.  Give the clothing pile to Gene.
  • assemble diapers
  • fold and put away all the baby laundry
  • notice that the toilet needs scrubbing: do it
  • plunk a new bleach tablet into the toilet tank
  • wash and put away the dishes from dinner
  • refill the dog's water bowl
  • make myself up a plate of fruit skewers and chocolate sauce from the conference leftovers
  • take my kindle outside - we've been having glorious weather in Washington - and enjoy a few minutes of quiet time with "The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel" until the mosquitos and waning light drive me inside
  • remember at some point that I was supposed to be watching a movie
Gene, on the other hand, puts in a movie and...
  • watches the movie
  • folds the laundry I gave him
  • finishes watching the movie

How can I relax when there's so much to be done?  The house goes to shit during the week - "the baby didn't sleep, wouldn't let me put him down" - and yet I'm able to get it clean by noon of the first day of my weekend.  How come I, as the woman of the household, still have the majority of the housework, despite Gene being the stay-at-home parent? 

Apparently I drew the short straw.

There's a reason the book "Porn for Women" was so popular.  I've talked to lots of girlfriends, and many are in the same boat.  Introducing the fine art of "choreplay" has had no effect.

Is there a magical solution I'm missing?  What do you do in your households?

About a week ago Gene and I went to see "The Avengers". The local movie theatre has remodeled and replaced its traditional seats with massive leather recliners. It was two and a half hours of heaven. That was the first time I'd seen a movie in a theatre since we saw "The Muppets" on Thanksgiving weekend.    Those 2+ hours spent with my feet up, no laundry to fold, no dishes to clean, no baby to feed, were magnificent.

How The Avengers would look if drawn in typical poses for female comic characters

I'm debating going again and just taking a 2-hour nap.

Monday, July 9, 2012

What the hull

Every year we buy at least a flat of strawberries to freeze for later.  We hull them and lay them out on silpats, throw them into the deep freeze, then transfer them to gallon bags once they're hard.  It's great because you can pull out 1 berry or 50, depending upon your needs.

I don't have a strawberry huller, though.  Doing this with a paring knife has always been a pain, and inevitably winds up wasting a bit of the fruit (not that the chickens mind).  This year I rummaged through my utensil drawer and came up with a perfect solution.

A corn cob holder works perfectly!  Alton Brown would be proud: I turned a unitasker into a multi-tasker.  Poke the longer prong into the center of the berry and rotate the shorter one around.  Sometimes it doesn't quite make it but a quick pop of the potato peeler and it's all set.

By the way, while I love having tile counter tops, I hate having 4" tile counter tops with white grout.  What a rotten pain in the arse to keep clean.  It requires a toothbrush and a good hour to get these spotless.  Someday - you know, when we're rich - we'll replace it with... well, something different.

I've been riding my bike to work again.  It's actually more convenient than driving, not to mention faster.  Biking is 15 minutes door-to-door whereas it's more like 20 when I drive because I have to park a couple of blocks away.  Biking, strangely, allows me to bring more with me because I'm not hoofing it down 3 blocks of hill (and then back up in the evening) with armloads of cargo.

I discovered recently that several of my co-workers have never had fondue.  Quelle horreur!  I spent a year in the region of France called Savoie ("sahv-wah"), which is in the Alps' foothills.  Fondue is a regional specialty.  You can feed several people for around $30, which is relatively cheap when you compare that to the $100 or more it costs at The Melting Pot.

And so I thought you might get a chuckle from this picture.  Here are the contents of my bike panniers today.  It made me laugh on my way to work, knowing that people would be surprised to find out what made up my cargo.
I had - take a deep breath - a complete fondue set, dish towels (because I hate using paper towels at work to dry dishes), wine, homemade iced mocha mix, dill and sweet pickles for a coworker, brown rice pudding for breakfast, cherries, a nail kit, sandals, wine opener, nutmeg grater, garlic, sunglasses, cheese, and my purse.

And I rode to work in a skirt.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

What to do with pilfered rhubarb

UPDATED 7/25/12 - OK, people.  I shouldn't have to write this but because we live in a society where we apparently have to be told not to use hairdryers in the bathtub or pour hot coffee on our crotches, and that peanut butter contains nuts, let me be clear: do not steal from your neighbors or anyone else.  We're friends with our neighbors and have an open invitation to take rhubarb, apples, berries, peas, lettuce, or anything else from their yard whenever we want.  I rarely take anything.  But the once or twice per year I do, they don't mind, and I usually send them something in thanks for having shared their bounty.
The Smitten Kitchen is one of my favorite blogs.  Her recipes are approachable, the results reliably delicious, the photos simple but appealing.  She makes foods that are seasonable in a tiny kitchen in NYC.  I love that about her!  I am excited to see her book this fall for these reasons and more.

One of her most recent recipes was for a triple berry bundt cake.  It makes you want to dive into the computer screen for a slice.
photo: smitten kitchen
I've been... um.. borrowing rhubarb from my neighbors' yard lately.  My own is really skimpy as it's in its first year.  Don't worry, I've been taking treats to the unsuspecting neighbors in repayment for my early morning raids of their garden.

Last weekend I made the big crumb coffee cake from Smitten Kitchen's blog.  And yes, it's every bit as good as it looks in the pictures.  It's moist.  It's crumb-y.  It's tart from the rhubarb and sweet from the sugar.  It also requires that you dirty about 4 bowls, so be prepared should you make it.

If you're looking for rhubarb recipes (as I know you are, Sigrid), here are some recipes from some of my favorite bloggers:
Big crumb coffee cake (this is one of my husband's favorites)

Roasted rhubarb jam (this rice pudding looks so good I am making it for breakfast while writing this post)

Rhubarb scones (gotta try these!)

Lavender panna cotta with poached rhubarb

On Fathers Day my dad was on a plane to Massachusetts to be with his family after my grandfather's passing.  June was a chaotic month around here.  As a belated Father's Day gift to my dad, I made brunch for my favorite men yesterday.  The menu included a spinach & ham quiche, whole wheat bagels, fresh fruit, and minature bundt cakes with rhubarb, vanilla, and raspberries.

I changed Smitten Kitchen's recipe slightly to make these mini-bundt cakes.  First, I halved the recipe.  That was perfect for the mini-cake mold and made exactly 6 cakes.  I used the smallest eggs my girls produce.  Their smallest are still considered large, however.  If you have jumbo eggs, I'd only use 1.  My substitutions:
  • blueberries & blackberries became rhubarb
  • lemon zest became the guts of one whole vanilla bean
  • buttermilk became sour cream
  • lemon juice became lime juice

Adapted from Smitten Kitchen

1 1/4 cups plus 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt or table salt
1/2 cup (4 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature
2/3 cups granulated sugar
1 whole vanilla bean
2 eggs, at room temperature
3 ounces buttermilk
1 cup finely diced rhubarb
1 cup raspberries

1 cups powdered or confections’ sugar
Juice of 1/2 lime
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, very, very soft

Preheat your oven to 350°F. Generously greasethe mini-Bundt pan, either with butter or a nonstick spray. Set aside. (see original recipe for notes on sticking)

In a medium bowl, whisk or sift 1 1/4 cups flour (leaving 1 tablespoons back), baking powder and salt together and set aside. In the bowl of a stand mixer or large mixing bowl, cream together the butter, sugar and lemon zest until light and impossibly fluffy, about 3 to 5 minutes. Then, with the mixer on a low speed, add your eggs one at a time, scraping down the bowl between each addition. Add 1/3 flour mixture to batter, beating until just combined, followed by half the sour cream, another 1/3 of the flour mixture, the remaining sour cream and remaining flour mixture. Scrape down from time to time and don’t mix any more than you need to. In the bowl where you’d mixed your dry ingredients, toss the berries with the remaining tablespoon of flour. With a silicon spatula, gently fold the rhubarb and berries into the cake batter.
My mad cap countertop

Spoon cake batter — you might find it easier to pipe, because it’s so thick — into the prepared baking pan and spread the top smooth. Bake for 30-35 minutes

Set cake pan on a wire rack to cool for 30 minutes, before inverting the cake onto a serving platter to cool the rest of the way. Cool completely.

Once the cake is cool, whisk together the powdered sugar, lime juice and butter until smooth and very, very thick. Spread carefully over top of cake.