Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Turkey with a side of disaster

This is not my home, thank goodness. I should have sensed a disaster day in the making when I read Heather's post - an earthquake?! Yesterday, someone launched their car into the air and through a living room wall the next town over - can you imagine a car in your living room? And the disoriented driver wandering around your home?

Anyway, the Better Half and I were home, adding up the day. He was kicking himself for a traffic ticket he'd garnered, and I was pulling turkey day ingredients out of our cabinets and muttering things like "Corn syrup, check. Pecans - need 'em". We went out to dinner to decompress a bit, and to do the last of the holiday grocery shopping (you can never have enough cranberries). I needed just one (more) skein of wool for a gift I'm making, so we stopped at a local craft store that carries decent yarn right next door to the grocery store. I found my yarn (and a few other things besides), and we hopped back into the car. On the way over to the grocery store, we heard the wheel rubbing. Somebody had backed into our bumper, cracked the headlight and dented our front fender in enough to make the wheel scrape when we hit bumps.

We were going to go to the Cape to see family on Friday... eat pulled pork and sweet potatoes, sew a slip cover for the futon, walk on the beach, have a fire in the fireplace... and because some rotten individual 1) didn't pay attention and 2) didn't stop and leave their name and contact information, we may not be doing that. Deductibles being what they are, we will probably be paying for this all by our little selves. The Better Half has the car at work today, and a sympathetic coworker may just be able to help us out enough to get us safely on the road for the weekend.

I'm an odd mix of cynicism and naivete. I'm rarely surprised but often terribly disappointed with how bad people can be sometimes. Thank god for car-guy coworkers, they help balance out my feelings about the people around me.

May you have your favorite holiday eats on the table this week, good company, helpful and kind people to offset the nasty types, and a better half who would never blame a fender dent on the fact that you needed yarn.

Merry Turkey!

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Holy Weather and Weirdness, Batman!

Not only has it been snowing here ALL DAY LONG, but we had an earthquake. A real, honest to god earthquake. Our building is pretty solid, but the place shook and there was a booming noise that sounded like someone had crashed in to the building. If this is what we have to look forward to around here, I don't like it, not one little bit! This is the sixth quake that we have had in the immediate vicinity of where I work since last spring. A few of them have been so minor that I didn't really notice them. the last one we had over the summer was a 1.9 on the Richter scale. So far I've heard that today's quake was anywhere from a 2.4 to a 3.2, depending on who you ask. I hate to be a baby, but it really had us scared here for a while. We really had no idea what it was and it sounded like a bomb had gone off.

That's it - nothing else to report!

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Bad Blogger

My god what happened around here? One post in the month of November? And that was from Kate! It appears that my last post was close to a month ago...I'm sorry, I didn't even realize I was being so bad. So, what have I been doing for the past month? Not much, really. Well, not much that I would consider blog-worthy. But I'll tell you anyway. You knew I would.

Work About the same unending dreariness that it has been for a few months now. There is a light at the end of the tunnel, though. I am so pleased that I have finally found someone to come and take on the position as my assistant manager. Sometimes I think a little unemployment is a good thing. It has seemed for a while now that all the people who we would want working here already have jobs, so the parade of applicants has been a little sparse. I don't think many people realize just how policy and procedure driven banking is. Or how very very involved the government is in banking. To look at some of our more unpopular regulations you would have to assume that we are the last or possibly only chance to stop terrorism funding on the planet. "Hi, you'd like to open a small savings account for your toddler? Great, have a seat and fill out this huge, invasive questionnaire and we should be able to wrap this up before your child has a screaming fit from having to sit in my office for an hour." Okay, it isn't that bad, but it's close. Don't ever utter the words Patriot Act near me unless you want to see someone have a fit of epic proportions. Hate that thing. Bad, BAD thing! Evil! Anyway, my point here was going to be that being a manger in many other fields does not necessarily translate in to a career in banking management. I'm sure many of these people would make great managers, but this isn't something you can pick up in a couple of weeks. I wanted someone with at least some banking experience. As a former teller myself, it can be really hard to have a boss who can not answer the simplest questions about Reg CC or BSA policies. Anyway. I think I may have found just the right person. She's sweet, funny, and smart and seems to be willing to do whatever needs to be done. I like that in a person. Just make a decision and run with it. And she has many years of banking experience which pleases me no end. She starts training on Monday and should be in our office sometime at the beginning of December. Halle-freakin-lujah!

No knitting. I have completely fallen off the "knit gifts for Christmas" train. I have a little over a month left, and I have nothing. I'm still swearing up and down to my darling boy that I will finish his sweater. It was supposed to be done for last Christmas. I don't think it will be done for this one either. Really, all I need to do is seam it up and finish one sleeve. That isn't much, considering how many tiny grey and black stockinette stitches have already been put in to it. Hardly anything at all. I don't know why I have such an aversion towards finishing this sweater (see Things you Might Not Know About Me, #55. Thank you). It's really beautiful and deserves to be finished. It's the first thing I've ever made for Mark that he actually wants, which makes this all the more frustrating for both of us. I put it down a year ago because I was angry with the sleeve, and now it sits around mocking me. I didn't like the sleeve pattern or how it was turning out. I've actually given some thought to frogging the completed sleeve and throwing out the pattern. Having considered it for almost a year now, I don't see why I couldn't seam up the sweater sides, pick up stitches at the sleeve opening and knit the sleeve down in the round with decreases where I want them instead of knitting the thing separately with multiple badly placed increases, which then need to be seamed and grafted to the sweater. I really need to do that. I don't suppose anyone can tell me what size needles I was using? No? I didn't think so. I can't remember either.

To further my ongoing efforts to avoid knitting gifts for Christmas, I thought it might be time for a new project. Not knitting. Still thread, but not knitting. Now if you looked at my project area (which is just fancy talk for a pile of crap on either side of the couch and covering the coffee table) today, mixed in with all the started and frogged knitting projects you would see embroidery floss, needles, hoops and bits and pieces of fabric. Yep, I've decided that the flavor of the month is embroidery. I went from making my kitchen curtains to "hey, I'll finish this quilt I started seven years ago," to "oh...I remember why I didn't finish this, I hate it!" to "well, I'll start another quilt, a better quilt! I'd like to try that thing they call crazy quilting, with all the embroidery." That progressed to "hmmm...I don't really know much about embroidery, I think I'd better go buy me some books and stuff." I'm nothing if not thorough when I throw myself headlong in to a new craft. I like to be prepared. I ordered a kit with a book from a great place called Sublime Stitching that arrived yesterday. I am so pleased! If you haven't been to see their stuff, you really should. Sorry to be an enabler, but who could possibly resist embroidery transfers with dancing Day of the Dead skeletons? I certainly couldn't. All my latest purchases prompted Mark to say "you sure do like string." Master of the understatement, that boy. I do like string. String is good.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Soup Weather

The air has an extra chill in it now. I walk home from work in blue dusk, and the glow in our windows isn't the late afternoon sunshine I'm used to, but the lamp I left on at lunch so I don't walk into a dark house at the end of the day. Once I've shut the door behind me, I'm compelled to do anything I can to dispel the impression of damp and chill in my bones. "Anything I can" generally means food... hot food. I light a few candles, turn on some music, start the dishwasher (because it gives off heat!), and start prepping for soup.

Soup season is also clean-out-the-freezer season. I don't just make an evening's worth of soup, I make enough to feed ourselves and company plus a future meal (or two). I make everything this way, a throw back to watching my mother cook for our family of five. I think I'm actually incapable of cooking for two. I don't recall ever having done it. Unless you count popovers (ah, buttery eggy goodness), but I'm not so sure that one should eat a half dozen popovers in one sitting. The freezer fills up slowly but surely, and when we've had a full day of work, run errands and have collapsed on the couch to ask each other "what's for dinner?", we have a solution. I'm going to be clever this winter, and put a contents list on the freezer door. I'm sure if you asked the Better Half what was in there, he couldn't tell you if his life depended on it. There are really only two things he could ever identify in our freezer - his paint palette, and ice cream. We don't generally keep ice cream about since dessert inhalation is another family trait of mine.

On the burners this week:
Roasted Potato Soup
Thai Chicken Soup

The potato soup is a favorite I stumbled on in a magazine somewhere. I've been making it for so long, I've since forgotten where I first saw it. I cut up yukon gold potatoes (these seem to have the creamiest flavor), sweet onions and apples (a mix of tart and sweet usually). The potatoes and the onions go into an oiled casserole dish for roasting. I dry-roast fennel seeds in a small cast iron skillet until they start to smell fragrant, and then I grind them. To the ground fennel I add cumin, and salt and pepper to taste. I toss the potatoes and onions with these spices and some olive oil, lay the apple quarters on top and pop it into the oven to roast. I find a higher temperature works better - the onions caramelize a bit, and you end up with nice roasty chunks in the soup - so 400 or 425. Roast until the potatoes are cooked through, stirring occasionally. The apples cook more quickly, so I put them in after the first stir, keep checking them, and when they're mushy I gently scoop them out with a spoon. Once they've cooled, the skins should come off fairly easily. When everything is cooked through, the apple flesh, potatoes and onions go into a blender with chicken broth (I've tried veggie broth, and it works just fine, but doesn't have as creamy a flavor). I deglaze the casserole dish with chicken broth, scraping the roasty bits into the blender as well. A squeeze of fresh lemon (to taste) helps to keep the soup from being too bland, and I highly recommend it. The soup can be as chunky or as smooth as you'd like it to be depending on the amount of broth and how much you puree the ingredients. This is often a Sunday afternoon activity for me, as it heats the house up nicely, makes everything smell lovely, and we end up with a very hearty meal. I like it best with a side of apple slices and gruyere or sharp cheddar.

The chicken soup is a recent experiment from a new cookbook called "400 Soups". It's full of typical Thai ingredients - coconut milk, chicken stock, lime leaves, lemongrass, fish sauce, ginger. There is a local Thai restaurant that serves the creamiest tom yam or tom kah. From first tastes, this is not quite that (the chicken stock I used seemed a little on the heavily flavored side), but still pretty good. The true test is how well it reheats and/or freezes.

Leftovers will be bundled up for the freezer (which already contains beef and onion broth and some chicken gravy). I usually fill a few small containers too, since I work close enough to walk home for lunch. The fun part is identifying mysterious soup at the end of the winter. Freezer labels never stick to plastic containers well or they never come off, no matter how much you scrub - a batch of my mother's applesauce used to say "spag. sauce 8/1/89". Plastic bags can be a bit awkward to store if there's too many. My memory isn't what it once was, and mystery soup or sauce has become a regular problem in our house. Twine and paper tags? Color coded dots? Or we could just content ourselves with a little mystery in our lives, and find out what we're having for dinner when it thaws.