Shrubbery

Last month kind of took it out of me.  This month we just made a shrub. But we documented the shit out of it.

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We used the Serious Eats cold pressed shrub recipe. The beginnings of macerated raspberries. Left it in the fridge for a few days.

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Used our conical strainer to get rid of the seeds.

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Oh, and we used Mexican raspberries. Let's see how much longer we'll get to import these delicious things. America is already great, people. Don't let anyone tell you anything else. 

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We tried a few different vinegars; red wine, apple cider, champagne, white wine... Ended up with the TJ red wine vinegar. And we found the bottles at IKEA. Of course. Because IKEA has everything. 

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One of my co-workers who is an ex-chef, got excited when I was telling him about the March Challenge. He was going on about mint, and sassafras root, and ginger, so many cool ways to make shrubs, and I realized ours is basically Shrubbery 101, and his ideas were graduate level classes. It was a cool challenge, but our efforts were kind of C-. However, we finished. And this month, that felt like good enough.

 


Persevering

So, last month's marathon lemon-strawberry marmalade & beer making session killed our craptastic microwave-fan combo. Finally. So we invested in a REAL range hood. Still getting used to the without-a-microwave thing... But our new range hood is so pretty. So very pretty. Now on to replacing back splash, well, after we finish all the preserving this month... 

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 First project was kimchi. Used FIJ recipe from the Agricola cookbook. Did a bunch of research on Korean grocery stores in the Bay Area, but then got really lazy and just ordered gochugaru from Amazon. Easy peasy.

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Julienned some radishes.

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Added a bunch of stuff.  

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 Used a largish ball jar (universal measurement device as comparison, that's a grande latte cup). The kimchi is rather stinky. Like very stinky. 

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 Took a trip to the local beer store for an airlock and gasket. It was about $2.50 for both, so I got two sets, planning ahead for the sauerkraut! Got into a great conversation about jamming, preserving, chickens, and real food, with the beer guy. He mentioned that  Pollinate Farm & Gardens in Oakland have a ton of classes ranging from beer making to how to take care of backyard chickens! So cool, and so inspiring.

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 My husband got home and insisted on drilling the hole for the airlock. I think he's starting to enjoy these projects... 

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Tada! Water added, and no stink! Except you know, when it was done and I moved it to smaller jars, and into the refrigerator. Cleared the kitchen of people real quick-like.


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We have lemon season, perpetually. Our house came with this giant, leaning, mysterious, lemon tree. We just try to keep it alive. It weasels itself into a lot of preserving projects. 

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Made some lemon, and rosemary salt as well. Could probably have added more grated lemons. Got the recipe from Marisa's "Food in Jars".
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One of my favorite things to make is gravlax. It's so ridiculously easy, delicious, and fast, but since I have made it previously, I decided to not make it for the salt preserving month, but to just focus on new things. Well, it didn't really work out after joining the FIJ Facebook Community page. Everyones pictures looked so amazing, I ran out and bought some salmon, and made the recipe from "Morberg lagar husmanskost

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I think it's important to get the salmon with the skin, have tried it with Costco bought salmon, which doesn't come with skin, and it's not as good. Usually let it cure for the longer period, 2+ days, as well. 

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Then my husband got in on the action, and made a small batch of preserved lemons, recipe from "Ad Hoc at Home" by Thomas Keller. We have a lot of lemons. And we were on a roll. Didn't matter that we already had a jar of it in the fridge. 

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 Got the recipe for sauerkraut from "The Homemade Pantry" by Alana Chernila. One of my absolute favorite cookbooks. Use it constantly. Since we didn't have a big enough jar for the entire head of cabbage, I took some out and made Swedish pizza salad. It's cabbage with some salt, vinegar, and oil. And yes, in Sweden you get a tiny little container of pizza salad with your take-out pizza. It's delicious and totally cuts through the richness of pizza, it's a must. It is even better if you let it sit for awhile. Making it at home is the only way to get my fix these days.

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 Love the colors of all our awesome kitchen science projects! 

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Oh right. And the cured egg yolks. Just because. From the Bon Appetit recipe. Haven't tried them yet, but planning on making the fettucini with preserved lemon and garlic, from "The Homemade Kitchen", and grate some of this goodness over it. 

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Phew. We made it. It's time to step. Away. From. The. Kitchen.

It's almost March, and time for jellies!


I'm a Joiner

It's time to commit. The beginning of the new year, a fresh start, yadda, yadda. But this is going to be awesome. Food in Jars Mastery Challenge 2017! The month of January is "Marmalade". After having just finished making the lemon marmalade from her first book, which is a royal pain in the ass to make, but it also tastes like SUNSHINE, I decided to forget the pain and do another one. Strawberry Lemon Marmalade from Marisa's "Preserving by the Pint". It took a lot of online researching of some amazing looking recipes, to finally pick a recipe, but one of the ingredients HAD TO be lemons since we have a giant tree in the backyard (Thank you, California). No idea what kind of lemons they are, the tree is huge, it's kind of tilting, it's old, the lemons aren't super tart, the peel is both thick and thin. But anyway.

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Tip: Go to Farmer's Market in the summer and buy a ton of strawberries. Cut them up, measure them, label & freeze them in zip lock bags. If for some reason you want to make summer fruit jam in January, you are all set! 

 

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Macerating the strawberries makes a huge difference. Since these were frozen, I just smashed the frozen block a few times, added sugar, then let it sit on the counter for about 3 hours. It was good and thawed, and sugary, by then. 

 

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This is the excruciating part. Picking out all the seeds, the white pith center, and then thinly slicing the half moons. Since this batch is pretty small (the book is called "Preserving by the Pint" after all), I decided to  make a double batch. This is NOT recommended for "regular" batches of 6-8 half pints of finished product. Marmalade, at least for me, is a finicky beast when it comes to set, and you don't want a giant vat of runny stuff. (That you will throw away a year later because you don't like to stare failure in the face, and at the time you were too lazy to just open all the jars and re-cook the stuff. Hypothetically speaking.)

 

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 I get "fancy" cheese cloth from Amazon. Use that stuff a LOT. 

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Also try to squeeze that little pouch as it's cooking, to get all the fancy pectin out.

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Then I had to wait for a bit, since I was sharing the stove with my husband. Who is making some other lovely goodness. 

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Time to cook. Gorgeous colors, and it smelled amazing!

 

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And here is the difficult part for me. This batch never got up to temperature, but it seemed to be done, and it set well. Marmalade seems to be a lot runnier when it's hot, than any other jam. Or maybe that's just for me. With some failures behind me, both with too runny, and with too firm marmalades, I try to really pay attention to this step, and let the jam-tester really cool before I decide if it's done or not. This looks very strawberry:ey, but has an amazing tart kick too!

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It always gets a little messy, and very sticky; but here's some home made bread, home made beer, home made goat cheese, and some lovely home made strawberry lemon marmalade. We live pretty glamorous lives. 


Nothing Got Done

We had a list. And I mean a giant list. It was full of stuff like, "hang pictures", "make yogurt", "clean stuff", "make chicken stock", "clean up backyard". Like a really long list.

So we went to IKEA.

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It's not like it was on a whim.

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Mid-century ugly meets IKEA. I'm sorry all you bar peeps. The old chairs are gone. We also bribe well with beer.

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Trying to fix the old kitchen chairs, but they are really beyond repair.

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 Stay tuned for Chairs Part 2.

 


Your Personal Brand

Yesterday I read this article by a female lawyer, written for other women in the company she works for, on how to behave as a woman. 

http://abovethelaw.com/2013/10/biglaw-memo-from-top-firm-advises-that-women-dont-giggle-dont-show-cleavage/

Read it yourself and form your own opinion. I can have opinions on what she says, the tone she uses, and why she is saying what she felt was necessary to convey, in writing, but those are just my opinions. There are a few things I know.

1. There is no man in this world who would send out an e-mail with advise to his fellow male co-workers on how to behave at work. 

2. Having awereness around how you are perceived in the work place is one of the most important ways of controlling your career path, and ultimately success.

3. My generation, women in our 40s, (are we almost-GenX?), cannot understand why acting appropriately is something that has to be taught. 

Today, female CEOs have to let their women employees know that wearing thongs and "ill-fitting" jeans (that is low cut for all you cool people, but I love the word ill-fitting so much more), are not appropriate attire for work. And that maybe posting drunk and making-out pictures when you are Facebook friends with your manager, is limiting your professional credibility. 

Are we just old? Has feminism changed? Is there an aura of entitlement? Are we all living as public figures in a way we never used to? What do we teach our kids?

I don't have any answers, and I have a ton of answers. I strongly believe that we need to always support any woman who stands up and tries to make other women better.

Let's show our daughters, girl friends, that  cultivating their nurturing is not a weakness, it's a strength, because it will make us exponentially better when we share our experiences. Whatever they may be. 

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First Fall Chili

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Daylight savings sort of did its thing today. Combined a couple of chili recipes, mostly on the spice front, to make the first one of the season. (That would be the Football season.)

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And the downstairs closet is finally painted. Closet #5. I'm kind of tired of painting closets. We removed the pathetic closet rod, and decided to probably add more shelves. But that's for later. At least it smells like clean paint now.

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I love semi-gloss paint. Now we have to figure out what doors to use. Paint the sliders we have? Or get these?

Kitchen dining light also has a dimmer now (just imagine it), patio no longer looks like the white trash backyard (I didn't even want to take a picture of the mess), and the new smoke detector is up.

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We combined the Penzey's & CI's Cincy Chilies. And are sitting on our asses.

 


Yesterday

Three years ago, uh, yeah, a really long time ago, I did NaBloPoMo last. The blogging every day in November thing. Last time I actually blogged AT ALL was October 2011. That's TWO years ago.

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But anyway. We're doing this, because it gave me a kick in the ass to finish projects back then. This time, some of them may be knitting related, but most likely more housey related. Because in the last year we bought a house. Everyone already knows that, but it makes for a good filler. This is going to be a long month.

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That's our House Project List. It's four pages. It has color codes for "this has to be done before XMas", it's in bold font and red. It's crazy, for sure. But it actually helps us prioritizing and not running around like two crazy people at Home Depot, buying whatever we see. Which we do enough of already.

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That's how we figured out where to hang the kitchen light over the table. Just eye ball the middle of the table, and jab a large screw driver through the ceiling. There used to be a ceiling fan, but centered in the actual room.

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And viola, there it is. My only input in this process was to help pick the light. We love Rejuvenation.

 

 


Know Who You Are

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Looking for a job is not easy. Especially when you don't already have one. We all know, you want to hire someone who has a job. Because there's someone elses validation that this person is actually ok. As if you couldn't trust your own judgement, or intuiton. Which maybe makes it even worse. When you keep going on interviews, and you know  you aren't going to get the job.

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Few things feel worse than rejection. It's demoralizing & can be debilitating. But it doesn't have to be. I am not right for everyone, and most of all, not everyone is right for me. Thank God. Let's at least keep that in perspective.

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I don't hype a bunch of self-help books, because frankly, I am way too good for those books. Only losers read them. Seriously. Except, some of them actually help (which you don't actually know until you read one). Bouy's ex-boss-CIO-dude told him to buy the book  Great Answers to Tough Interview Questions, by Martin Yate, (how selfhelpish does that sound!?) because, "it changed my life". (Yadda, yadda, yadda, snore.) And in my desperate not-finding-a-job-search I finally decided "fine, I'll read the damn book, I have time, it's not like I have a stupid job". For all you job-searchers out there, with-or-without a job, it's great. Just humor my suggestion, & PLEASE, read it cover-to-cover. And then again. Write down the telephone-interview questions, and find answers for them. Write down the in-person interview questions, and your answers for them, and the answer to where you want to be in 5 years. Believe me, you will be asked.

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Because, in all my years of interviewing, I have always asked the wrong questions. (Probably why I didn't get that job at Google back in the day. Right.)

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And then something else happens. You figure out who you are. What you know, & most importantly, what you want to know.

I don't think it can be stressed enough, but we have limited time here on this planet, so do what you want to do. Do what you love. We'll get 70 odd years to make a difference for ourselves, if we are very lucky. Some people get much less. None of that is more true than today. Quoting Steve Jobs is easy, following his advise is more difficult. So, one of my favorite Steve Jobs quotes is "No one wants to die. Even people who want to go to heaven don't want to die to get there." If anything, that should make us focus on what is important for us.

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It's got to be one of the hardest things to convey to our children. To, in all our own insecurities, instill in them that they can do anything. And be gracious, driven & humble.

 

Don't be afraid

of the love deep inside you

Bring it out for everyone

When you smile, we can see the sun

 

Because you've so much to give

And there's so much to know

But if you wait for your moment

Well it may never show

~ Supertramp, on the album "...famous last words..."


The sun is the same in a relative way but you're older.

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Time. Something none of us have anymore. How are you supposed to work & make money & hopefully have a decent career & do the right thing by your kids, preferably, before 8 pm on a weekday? And also, hopefully, organically *. Or at least, with less preservatives.

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I never grew up with TV dinners, or Hamburger Helper. Maybe it's a Swedish thing. But then again, we had blood pudding (mmmmm), and Swedish pancakes (yes, it's for dinner). What I am trying to say is that when it comes to food, I want my kid to know and love REAL food. And to be able to tell when something is full of preservatives & other junk, and know that it is not really REAL food.

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There needs to be a way to make that happen, without killing yourself as a parent. That the time it takes to come home & sit down to eat, shouldn't be more than 30 minutes.  And I don't mean Rachel-Ray-crazy-running-around-in-the-kitchen-30-minutes; but pop something in the oven, and 30 minutes later when you've run around doing all that stuff you do when you get everyone home after work, the dinner is done.

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Sounds easy right? Also, with ingredients you know, & can pronounce.

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"Oh, I made that from scratch" is one of those things that people automatically go "oooooooh, you are a whiz in the kitchen" to, when in fact, making brownies from "scratch" take marginally longer than whipping together a mix from a box. But people just don't do it. All it requires is a little bit of planning.

 

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Around here we do waffles every weekend. These are CIA waffles, no, they're not secret in any way, they're from this cookbook. We half the recipe, then when we make them, (FROM SCRATCH. GASP.) I mix the dry ingredients for two more batches, and put them in little ziplock bags, write what it is on them, and what's left to add (some butter & lots of eggs). So next time, it's as if you take out the Bisquick and whip them up. Except they taste SO much better.

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We also happen to maybe make too many each time (there's really only three of us), so we butter them a little, let it melt, then throw them in a ziplock bag and in the freezer, and when you feel like waffles you pop one in the toaster oven and Eggo! There it is. But better.

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So we started to plan things a little more. Just a little. By making a batch of something on the weekend. One day we spent making calzones, lasagna & meatloaves, doubling all the recipes we had.

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Maybe it helps that we like Italian, it's one of those things that's easy to make a shitload of, and then freeze. Like lasagna.

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We used TJs pizza dough & pizza sauce, loaded up the calzones with our favorite toppings, popped them in the oven, let them cool. Then in the freezer. Four calzones from 1 lb of dough. They're like hotpockets. But much better. It took us a day, but we had food for almost two weeks.

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I'm pretty sure we're not on to something new or revolutionary, but I'd like to think that we know what we eat, and it's home made.

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And you can really take that as far as you want. Like canning your own tomatoes. Maybe a crazy endevour when you don't have tomatoes in your garden (they are pretty expensive.) Or you can buy the fancy San Marzano tomatoes in a can, and see what a difference they make in your pasta sauce. Or make pizza sauce with them. Or really use any canned tomatoes.

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And when this cute girl rejects the Mott's apple sauce with a frown on her face, it's ok to feel a little smug. Because she knows what apples are supposed to taste like.

 

* With such a loaded word, I am not trying to be political in any sense, I just mean without-preservatives, maybe even from your own garden, if you are lucky enough to have one.

Football season is almost upon us. Finally. And it's really ok to order Pizza sometimes. I don't beat myself up over it.