Archives for posts with tag: domestic

No, really, STUFF! We have SO MUCH STUFF! And this whole wedding thing, with it’s showers, and registries etc, means MORE STUFF! If I seem a little “ack!” about all of this, consider that our apartment is currently full. I’ve posted pictures of how full our pantry is, how full our bookshelves are, and the general level of clutter. We have roughly 900 sq feet in our apartment. We have roughly 2000 sq feet of stuff.

Jarak and I have been pretty good about trying to simplify, getting rid of duplicate kitchen implements was one of the things that we did when we first moved in and unpacked. I suppose this is what happens when there are two grownups who have lived in their own apartments combining households. But then there are the books, and the art supplies and the beer making materials and all the things that you can just get rid of, what if you need to use it someday?

Added to the challenge, is that both of my parents have moved out of the big house that we all grew up in, and into houses where they have much less room. So they keep offering me things. And I keep having to turn them down. As much as I’d love the dining room table, or a big overstuffed chair, we have no room for it in the apartment, or in storage. I’m also the keeper of some of my brothers’ bigger things that haven’t been shipped out to them on the west coast, like the djembe and the heavy bag.  We still have books that haven’t been unpacked and are sitting waiting for space.

Yet I keep adding books… I brought home a tomato box full of books from my mother’s house last weekend. There are a bunch of puzzle and game books for Jarak, herbal medicine, organic gardening and knitting/knot-work books that I cherry-picked from about 7 boxes that my mother is getting rid of. I decided I didn’t really need any art history or art theory books at this stage in my life.

Jarak and I spent part of today before he went to work rearranging the kitchen so that we could put away all of the wonderful things that we have received as wedding gifts so far.  We found a home for the new Kitchenaid Mixer (seriously huge thank you to Biscuit and Rick for that!) which involved moving a shelf on our wire rack to make it fit. One of our challenges was figuring out what to do with all of the new containers we now have, and whether to keep or get rid of the ones we had. We decided that 20 year old Tupperware can be recycled, and that the newer stuff we use all the time stays.

That’s when it hit me: a wedding is really a huge marker of adulthood. You get “nice” things because you’re somehow more of an adult when you get married than you were just out of college, or puttering along through your twenties with the mismatched set of dishes that you inherited from an aunt. Wedding gifts mean upgrading from the hand-me-d0wns and having new/better/ your own things for the first time. We have a relatively small registry because we have a lot of the basics, and we really don’t see a need for a matched set of towels, or more teaspoons or spatulas.

One of the things that we’ve struggled a bit with is how to ask for what we really want: help buying a house. Etiquette around that is a pain.  How do you phrase it so that it doesn’t come across as “gimme money!” We settled on “One of our biggest goals in the next few years is to buy a house” and then having a section in the registry where people can contribute to a down payment. That way, it’s directed towards something, not just nebulous money being thrown at us.

There are probably more thoughts out there about this whole process, but that’s all that I’ve got right now. My brain is seriously all-wedding-all-the-time now. We’re 3 weeks out. I suppose it’s not surprising.

There’s another post about being the center of attention, asking people to do things, and accepting that people really do want to help us make this thing happen, but it hasn’t come together yet.

Tomorrow will be my last Thanksgiving as a “single” woman. Next year at this time I will have been married for almost 6 months. It boggles my mind a bit. Our save-the-dates came in, correctly done this time. Hooray! And I picked up my cousin’s bridesmaid’s dress for her brother’s (my cousin’s) wedding. The dress is in NY, she’s living back in PA, but we’re going to Thanksgiving at my grandfathers/father’s place in CT. So it’ll all work out. Remember the “3 weddings in 6 months, one of them mine” thing from a few weeks back. One of the weddings is my cousin’s in March.
I’m making apple and pumpkin pie to bring for tomorrow, and oatmeal-raisin-chocolate-chip cookies for Friday’s fest.  I made pie crust on Monday night, and did my annual search through all of the recipe books to find the one that doesn’t use shortening/lard. ( The only time I’d ever use shortening is pie crusts, but once a year. It’s not worth if to keep in the house.) I always look through at least two before remembering it’s in Moosewood. My pumpkin pie recipe is from Horn of the Moon, and the photocopy that I have has “The Best” written on it. When I was younger, my mother and I would look through cookbooks trying to remember what recipe we liked the best. We finally remembered to just write it on the recipe. I unfortunately slightly scorched the top, but it’ll be yummy anyway.

I accidentally bought too many apples. I’m used to needing at least 10, but the apples I got are GINORMOUS. I have no idea what the farm adds to its soil, but both their apples and their sweet potatoes are huge. I’m guessing it’s just floodplain.

I’ve been hanging out in my house alone this evening. No siblings, no fiance, and hardest of all: no Mom. After my parents split up, making pies with my mother for Thanksgiving stopped. (We did thanksgiving with my dad’s side of the family, and then immediate family only for Christmas. It’s a big family thing on my dad’s side, and it’s important to see them, so Jarak and I go to that, and then do Christmas with his family.) One of my favorite memories from growing up was having the Wednesday before Thanksgiving off from school and spending the day in the kitchen with my mother making pie. My share of responsibility has grown from simply peeling apples and mixing pumpkin pie filling to completing whole pies on my own, with minimal assistance from her, to now making them entirely on my own, including making my own pie crust. And it’s a social thing, hanging out in the kitchen working.  When my brothers were both on this coast, they’d come to my house on Wednesday and we’d make pies together.  So it just feels strange and wrong to be doing it all by myself today.

I appear to have taken the collective baked yumminess of my parents, and what they have traditionally brought to big family/community functions and adopted it. I bring pie on Thanksgiving now that my mother no longer comes to Thanksgiving, and I bring bread to Easter, now that my father no longer comes to Easter. It’s my mother’s pie, and my father’s bread, and in some ways doing it this way means that I maintain my family connections even when they’re not there.
Tomorrow we pack up the car and drive the 2.5 hours to just outside Hartford with pies, cookies, homebrew, local beer and local whiskey (Yay Coalyard!) This year the cousins seem to have scattered to the four corners of the earth. My two brothers in Colorado and LA, with girlfriend’s family and son, and girlfriend’s family respectively,  a cousin in Maryland with his fiance, and a cousin in Geneva Switzerland with her boyfriend. We will have one child from each family with the parents this year. Yup… we’re grownups.

We’ve been buying cream from Battenkill Creamery for a while. They’re local, and we can get them at the Greenmarket. We’re there regularly enough that they know us and have our pint of half and half waiting when we walk up. I love being a regular. It’s also some of the best milk I’ve ever had.
I grew up hating milk and not liking to drink it plain. And then I had local milk and that changed. There’s a dairy about 3 miles from my dad’s house, and having fresh, local, glass bottled milk changed how I think about milk. I still won’t drink a glass of it, but it’s much nicer. Battenkill has some of the best milk around.
Anyway, I got annoyed with how expensive yogurt is, and realized that I talk myself out of buying it far too often. So I’ve started making it myself. We got a yogurt we liked from the coop, and then used a couple tablespoons to start the next batch of homemade yogurt.
The first shot came out more like Kefir, I had let the milk get too cool after scalding it. ( I used a meat thermometer by accident. Now I use Jarak’s brewing thermometer.) The second batch set up nicely and I used the last of it to start the batch that’s setting in the kitchen. I snagged my family’s yogurt maker one of the times I was home recently becuase my dad isn’t using it anymore, and I love yogurt.
Steps:
Scald a quart of milk
let it cool to about 100-110 F
Pour it into a clean glass jar
Stir in 2 Tablespoons of your favorite plain yogurt
Put into a yogurt maker, igloo cooler filled with hot water, or warm oven and let set for 6 hours. The longer it sits, the tangier it gets. Mine started around 6. so I’ll ask Jarak to put it in the fridge right before he goes to bed so it’s not still fermenting in the morning.

There was a request for my bread recipe, and here it is. This is an adaptation of the bread that I grew up eating, which is my father’s adaptation of my grandfather’s recipe. It’s seriously noms. I form it into sandwich loaves, but you can also bake it on a sheet as a boule. You can also add whatever else you want. We’ve added eggs and flax, which slightly changed the consistency, but was still good. You need to set aside about 4 hours for this, but only about 30 minutes are actually doing work. The rest is waiting for the bread to rise/bake. I usually watch Dr. Who or get all my ironing done while I’m waiting for it to rise.

The basic recipe for 2 loaves:

2C spent grain buzzed in a blender or food processor to chop the husks finely

2C whole wheat flour

2C very warm water

1T dry bread yeast.

2T oil (I use safflower, or cooled melted butter)

3T sweetener (honey, maple syrup, or sugar)

1T salt

Enough White flour to form a solid dough, about 2.5 cups

Spent grain sitting in the bowl

Mix the first 4 ingredients together. It should look like soupy oatmeal. Add more water or flour until you get to the right consistency.

Beginning of the sponge. Soupy oatmeal consistency.

Cover and let it sit in a warm place for an hour. If your house is above  70*F on the counter is fine. In the winter, I turn on my oven light and put the bread in the oven, or turn the oven on low when I’m mixing and then turn it off and let it rise in a pre-warmed oven. The sponge should about double in size.

First rise is done. Sponge is about 2 times bigger than it started.

Now add the sweetener, oil and salt. I add a handful of flour to the top before I pour the salt on, because I don’t want the salt hitting the yeast first and killing it.

Sponge with a little white flour, salt, honey and oil added.

Then mix in the white flour. Stir until you can’t stir it easily anymore with the spoon, and then knead it in the bowl to get it to start to form a ball. Turn the dough out onto a clean counter and knead it, adding flour a little at a time until it’s not sticky. Keep kneading it until its springy.

Mixing the white flour into the sponge.

Kneaded dough.

Return the dough to the bowl, cover and let rise again for an hour.  During this time you want to prepare your baking pans or sheet. Make sure they are very well greased or the loaves will stick.

Second rise, ready to be punched down.

After it’s risen, again about doubled in size, punch it down. Literally, stick your fist into the middle of the bowl and make it deflate. Then scoop the dough out onto the counter, divide in two and shape into loaves. I roll mine out into oblong sheets and then roll it up jelly-roll style into loaves. Place your shaped loaves into greased baking pans and let rise for 30 minutes. Preheat your oven to 350* while the bread is rising one last time.

Formed loaves waiting to rise.

Bake at 350* for 40-45min. If you used an extra-flour-y spent grain, like rye or oats, your bread will hold more water and will need to bake for longer. Your house will start to smell lovely after about 30 minutes.

Fresh loaves!

Let it cool on a wire rack with a clean dish-towel draped over it so it doesn’t dry out too much. You’ll want to cut into it right away, but wait at least 15 minutes for it to cool a bit and for the center to finish cooking. Also, it’ll be cool enough to eat by then.

Empty bread pans. Note the bit of stuck crust on the right. Grease your pans well!

I often keep one loaf out and put one in the freezer. There are no preservatives in this bread, and it’ll mold faster than commercial bread. In the summer I keep it in the fridge to avoid spoilage. Enjoy!

Sometimes that just hits me. Part of me is surprised when I’m not mistaken for a teenager in the school, and then I realize that some of the teachers are younger than me,  like I graduated college when they were 10th graders, younger than me. Yeep? I get called “Miss” by my kids occasionally, which is generic “respectful term for female older than you.”  So strange.

Nevermind the fact that I’m looking at 30, have been living on my own for almost 8 years, have a master’s degree, a cat and a really good (financed and used) car. I still forget that I’m a grownup. Maybe it’s the fact that many of my friends are married and/or having kids and I’m not there yet, although we talk about it all the time. Maybe it’s the fact that in our culture there is an extended adolescence that seems to stall everyone at 18 in some ways.

And then there are the times when I am reminded resoundingly that I am a grownup. Like when I went to Boston last weekend to hang out with my Best Friend Ever who came up from Nashville. A mutual friend of ours was going with some other friends of hers to see an Irish punk band at a bar near North Station. Red Flag! For those of you who don’t know Boston,  North Station is where the TD Garden is. Bruins and Celtics play there. Also, within easy walking distance of the strip of stupid that is the bars in Fanieul Hall. In short, a whole lot of young, drunk and stupid. And this was St. Patrick’s day. We got there 40 min before the mutual friend, and stood across the street watching the epic levels of stupid. Yelling, screaming, chanting “we’re going to part-ay” etc. Stuff that I didn’t like in college, and have less tolerance for now. We finally got inside, and it was insanely crowded. People were slamming into me left and right, I had to literally shove people to get to the bar. I was greatly displeased. Lesson learned: avoid bars in Boston on St. Patrick’s Day, and especially avoid college bars.  I’ve had quite enough of that thank you.

Boston was fantastic otherwise. Best Friend Ever and I laid on the beach in Revere in 80* weather. We each got sunburns, in March, on the beach. It was amazing. Exactly what I needed. And so much shopping! Scored a corset and a pair of super-cute heels at Buffalo Exchange, which, other than Mr. Crepe is our must-stop whenever we’re in the area.

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Adventures in unpacking continue. Things keep getting consolidated and moved around. I brought back most of my art stuff from my dad’s house on the way back from Boston. So now all of my paints and papers and beading supplies are here instead of in NH, so I can actually use them. However, it’s been fun trying to shoehorn them in. We took a box of books to Goodwill, all the duplicates, old, uninteresting comic books and things that we’ll never read again. We still have 3 boxes of books waiting for good homes.

In trying to shoehorn 3 space-hogging hobbies into a 2 bedroom flat, I find myself wishing for a house. A real house, with a yard, and space for a garden, and a basement and attic that I could put stuff in. My last apartment was the top half of a 2 family house, and I got the attic and basement storage. It was awesome. I don’t have that here, and I miss it. I’m also wishing I could do some landscaping. I see the forsythia and the magnolias blooming and go “I want that.”  So it’s probably time to go talk to a financial advisor and figure out how we’re going to pay for all the things we want to pay for in the next few years. When I first moved here I was balking at the idea of buying a house, but now that I’m a little more settled, I’m much more open to the idea.

We’re both artists, you’d think that we would have no issues finding artwork to put on our walls. We have tons of old art from high school, college, and for me, grad school.   The problem is, we don’t really like most of it. We’ve either seen it too much, or outgrown it.  Our walls are generally bare. I went through a bunch of stuff  this afternoon trying to find things to hang on our very bare, very white walls. I managed to find some nature photos that Jarak had mounted to foam board for a show, and an ink and conte drawing of a lamp that I did for a drawing class in college. Most of my work is very emotional, and from a different emotional space than I’m in now. It’s memories from my past that I really don’t want on my walls in my new life. I need to do an art swap with friends so that I get more artwork that doesn’t have huge emotional stories attached to them.

I have posters that need frames before they can be put up. I’ll get on that next weekend.

 

In the three weeks that we’ve been living together on our own, I’ve learned a number of things about Jarak, about myself, and about our relationship.

  • Being able to cook is super-important to both of us. We had a working kitchen the night we moved in. It was the first thing we set up, other than the bed. We had at least one frying pan, and our coffeemaker set up and ready to go for the next morning. We made our galley kitchen feel way more spacious simply by pushing the fridge to the short wall facing the galley, and putting my bread table/shelves where it used to be. Much more spacious now.
  • He won’t do my breakfast dishes after  I rush to work in the mornings, but he will do his dishes after he makes lunch for himself. I mistakenly assumed he would clean up after me. No way.
  • I generate about twice as much laundry as he does. He gets to wear the same thing every day. Uniforms are useful. I have to wear something different every day because A) I work with teens and they notice, and B) I work in an office and it just Won’t Do to wear the same thing.  Suffice to say I’m a bit jealous.
  • When one of us gets sick, the other gets sick, within a span of about 8 hours. I had a sore throat on Thursday night, and by Friday it had developed into a full-blown cold. He came down with a cold at the same time. When we were seeing each other 6 days a month, we rarely ran into this. Now that we see each other every day, there are a lot more germs flying around. But when the options are kissing each other and risking a cold or not kissing and potentially avoiding a cold? We’ll take kissing every time.
  • I don’t like to make house decisions without his input. There are some things, like putting plastic on the windows that I’ve done because it needs to get done and I know he won’t object. (Holy drafty old windows batman! I couldn’t open the thermal curtains without the wind driving cold air in last weekend.) And then there are things like deciding which floor lamp to buy, or which floor pillows. At first I felt like I was being silly deferring to him, but then I realized: it’s our house, not just mine or his, and it’s important to me that he is happy with what I pick out. Grocery shopping is one thing, house shopping is another.
  • The quality of your relationship before you move in together dictates the quality of living together. He makes me happy just by being around. Even when I’m exasperated, I now that I still love him, and that we’ll figure it out. (I’ve only ever lived with one other partner, and that relationship was in trouble from the word go. Moving in together did not fix it, it made it worse. This is so much better and so different and it’s amazing.)
  • I stink at letting anyone else cook. I always want to do it my way. And I need to back the hell off because otherwise it creates hurt feelings and tension. Even if it’s way spicier than I usually like, I need to at least try it, because it makes him happy, and it’s polite, and it’s probably good for me.
  • He is a brilliant spatial analyst. He made our tiny office feel cozy without feeling cramped, made excellent use of the space we have, and still found room for a set of shelves for all of his technical stuff. (We have more Cat-5 cable than any household really should. We also have shells for 3 computers kicking around, one will be the media machine, and one will eventually become my desktop and replace my aging MacBookPro.)
  • We have So Many Books! My two folding 2 bookshelves from my old place are full, and we have 4 banker’s boxes of books waiting for a home, and there are still more sitting in storage. Duplicates may get edited, and some of the stuff that never gets read may get given away, but still. So many books!
  • Waking up next to him never gets old. Getting to hug him every day never gets old. In fact, it’s awesome. And it makes me so happy. It still feels surreal, even 3 weeks later. I imagine that eventually it’ll be “normal” but after 2.5 years of long-distance, every snuggle feels special. I’m going to revel in this for a long, long time.

There are probably things that I’ve missed. We’re still working on communicating effectively about things, and making requests in ways that the other person can understand. It’s a process. We usually get it by the third try, and  before someone gets grumpy.

Have any of you gone through this process? What did you learn when you moved in with your partner?

Jarak and I keep saying that our eventual kids are going to learn science not from school, but from us at home. We bake, we brew, he got diet cola and mentos for Christmas 2 years ago, I garden. You know… science! However, I’m horrid at physics, because I never had to take it. Unlike Mass and NY, NH doesn’t require physics to graduate high school.  A year each of bio, and chem and one other science,  and 3 years of math, but no physics. Go figure.

Grolsch style bottle. We have the second from right style.

We have been using Grolsch bottles for our saison and recycled 360 Vodka bottles  for our mead. Note, both have swing tops. Who’s the kid who tries to open each bottle by pulling up on the bottom wire? Me. Jarak turned one around and pushed the hinges with his thumbs. I go: ” why did I never think of that?” And he says “I took physics.” and smirked as only he can. It was quite amusing.

360 Vodka bottle

So we made a sylvan stout this weekend that will be super-tasty. It’s modeled after the super-delicious Pretty Things beer  Babayaga. See? They’re nice enough to give us a basic recipe.  I want to call it “Chicken Legs” and see if anyone gets the joke.  And we made a hyssop-yarrow beer from the second runnings of the grain. Both are bubbling away nicely now that we kick-started the yeast by keeping upstairs for a while  where it was warm.

We saved the spent grain from this batch of beer to make bread with. There are a million spent-grain bread recipes out there, but I couldn’t find any that I really liked. Most of them are based off of Mark Bittman’s No Knead Bread recipe.  But I have neither the space or the dutch oven for it.  I considered using this one, but then thought “wait, I can make bread, why not just add spent grain to my existing half whole-wheat half white recipe.” So I did. I have the sponge rising right now.

No, I have no idea what the measurements are, because the only two things I measure in the first part of baking is the 2 1/4 cups of water and the 1 tablespoon of yeast. I add flour to make it look like soupy oatmeal and  then let it sit in a warm place for an hour.  The rest of it is fairly straightforward. After the first rise add 2T sweetener, 3T oil and 1T salt. dd flour until it’s not sticky, knead it until it fights back when hit, let rise again for an hour, pound down  and shape into loaves. Let it rise until doubled in size and then bake for 35min at 350*F. This is the same bread that I’ve been eating since I was eating solid food. In my house we call it “Daddy Bread” because my dad is an expert at it. I’m getting pretty good at it too at this point.

This is why we need a big kitchen. I bake, he brews (I help), I will eventually get into canning and other preserving methods. We need a kitchen we can acutually do stuff in.