Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Birthday Dinner—In Pictures

Well, mostly in pictures. I'll give some commentary, too.

Clearly my baguette shaping skills need improving. I made the dough ahead using the 
Master Recipe from Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day, that way 
all I had to do was shape and bake the day of.

As you might know, Dwight's birthday was last Thursday. Due to schedules and the fact that it was a "school night," I decided to make Dwight a special dinner on Friday instead. Since he loves seafood, I decided to try my hand at crawfish etouffee. I used this recipe and made minor modifications — used crawfish instead of shrimp, added bay leaves and some cayenne pepper. It was delicious.

The "holy trinity" of creole and cajun cooking — onion, bell pepper and celery.

The roux, just starting out. It turned the color of peanut butter by the time I called it done. I could have gone another 5 minutes, I think, but I was happy with it.

And then there was dessert.

I knew I wanted to make something with chocolate, so I went to one of my go-to recipe sites, Smitten Kitchen. Deb, SK's award winning blogger, also has a chocolate-loving husband. It just so happens that the recipe I chose was one she made for her husband's birthday a few years ago. It combines three of Dwight's faves — chocolate, cheesecake and brownies.

Click any photo to enlarge

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Mosquitoes? Really? Yep.

So it's been warmish for, what? Four, five days now? And I've seen half a dozen mosquitoes. That's just all kinds of wrong. What's worse is that one of those little bastards feasted on my left foot two nights ago. Now I have three very itchy bites, one of which is at the base of my big toe. Not a good spot while wearing shoes.

I didn't notice that bite until the middle of the night last night when I woke up, practically clawing off my toe, scratching it like crazy. Nothing like having to interrupt sleep to stumble around trying to find the anti-itch lotion.

Little bastard.

Monday, March 16, 2009

First Signs

I think it might actually happen. I think we might get spring after all! I had my first robin sighting Sunday morning and the spring bulbs are popping up like crazy. It's still early, so no complaints, especially about the weather this weekend—it was lovely. I didn't get to enjoy much of it, but was able to spend a few hours outdoors yesterday evening.

Because we're on the far edge of the Eastern Time Zone, our evenings are decidedly longer, thanks to Daylight Saving Time. As such, Dwight and I took advantage and worked into the evening. It was 7:45 pm and we still had daylight. It was waning considerably by then, but still light enough.

See that big pile of leaves behind and off to the right? That's what Dwight was doing all afternoon. Whew!

Dwight worked for hours in the yard yesterday afternoon and evening and you could tell. The entire front yard was cleaned up, including all up around the house in the various landscape and flower beds, as well as a decent portion of the sides and back. Needless to say, he's feeling that work today. Raking wreaks havoc on the back, let me tell you. We took a nice soak in the hot tub after putting away the rakes and tarp.

I'm very much looking forward to all of the flowers these little sprouts will bear.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

My Drive

I put my point and shoot camera in my purse so I could have it any time "just in case". I took advantage of it tonight on my way home from tap class. I didn't think about it until I was out of town and into the mostly rural remainder of the drive. It was the sunset that made me think to grab my camera. I was mostly OK but I did catch myself looking a little too long at the camera a couple of times. Before you call the cops on me, let me reassure you that I made sure no one was coming at me when I took the pics.

This is the corner of a corn field, completely underwater. We've had so much rain lately, we're under flood warnings for the next few days.

Some silos—and a bit of water along the edge. It was like that all along these farms.

The way this photographed, it looks quite a bit different in real life. It's not so...expansive. The landscape looks huge and flattened out, and the horizon line appears a LOT farther away that it really is. 

As you can see, I was traveling east. Check out that sunset from the rear view mirror. (That's the municipal airport off to the right, behind the fence.)

And check this out. I'm so close to turning 80,000 miles on my 1996 Civic. Yes—those are actual miles. I don't get out much.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Hobo Soup

A sign was posted at work on Friday asking for various ingredients for Hobo Soup, mainly vegetables, but also accompaniments—bread, butter, crackers. Items were brought in yesterday and assembled by our accounts receivable gal and fabulous cook. Teddy brought in her giant Nesco-style slow cooker and set it up by the coffee counter. The front office smelled wonderful all afternoon.

So today the entire shop gets to enjoy this huge batch of soup, made possible by various people bringing in just one or two items. I just finished mine and it tastes as good as it smells. It's chock full of ground beef, corn, carrots, lima beans, broccoli (which pretty much disintegrated), potatoes, tomatoes and celery. (From what I've read, Hobo Soup tends to be vegetarian, so you can forgo meat for an even thriftier—and lower fat—option.)

I think it's a great idea and a fun way to bring an office together. Each person pitches in just a little, yet it makes enough for everyone. I encourage you to try this at your office.

p.s. There is also the Grimm fable of Stone Soup, which is similar yet has its own set of traditions. You can read about it here.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Weekend Fun

K, my sister's oldest, stayed the night on Friday. We had a great time. We gave K the choice of eating out for dinner that night or going to breakfast in the morning. She chose breakfast — a girl after my own heart.

I found a fantastic pizza dough recipe on allrecipes.com which Dwight and I have been using for the last three Friday nights. I'm pretty sure this will be a normal Friday night dinner! I made a double batch and used about half for bread sticks. So good.

We stayed in and watched Madagascar 2 and painted our nails—hands and feet. I rarely paint my nails, so it was fun for me, too. Now I'm sporting hot pink nails. K opted for a neutral color for her hands and BRIGHT red for her toes — excellent choice.

After a delicious breakfast at Cracker Barrel, we came home and K and I started working on her school project. She'd already done all of the work, it was just a matter of putting it together on her easel. I provided the scrapbooking materials and she provided the creativity and art direction. We did end up surfing for some new images to fill out the board, so I printed those out while she continued assembling the parts.

Check out that awesome nail polish

After going through a stick and a half of glue, various markers, and 5 different glitter gels, she was DONE! And very happy with her work, as she should be. It turned out great!

After cleaning up, the three of us headed out to Target to pick up random things and to just hang out and look around. We started at Starbucks—natch—then wandered through store, gathering things along the way.

We headed home, loaded up with a few new goodies, then took K home. It was a lot of fun, and I look forward to having her over a lot more often. How sad is it that she's 11 and this is the first time she's stayed over. We'll have to make up for lost time!

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Tool Time

Anyone else feel like a complete tool when ordering at Starbucks? ...Or is it just me.

"I'll have a grande, non-fat, no whip, peppermint mocha, extra hot." Just typing that out, I feel like a pompous dork.

It always makes me think of You've Got Mail during one of the email voice-overs (courtesy of IMDB):

"The whole purpose of places like Starbucks is for people with no decision-making ability whatsoever to make six decisions just to buy one cup of coffee. Short, tall, light, dark, caf, decaf, low-fat, non-fat, etc. So people who don't know what the hell they're doing or who on earth they are can, for only $2.95, get not just a cup of coffee but an absolutely defining sense of self: Tall. Decaf. Cappuccino."

Doesn't mean I'll stop ordering them anytime soon, but there will be a part of me that will cringe every time.
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