Wednesday, November 28, 2007

"Oh yeah," Eric said sleepily as we settled into bed last night, huddled together to drive off the cold of the bed and the room. (Our bedroom is right above the porch, and the floor is the coldest in the house.) "I forgot about this earlier, actually we both did, but I guess that's the way it goes, so..."

"What?" I said, tense with wondering what he was going to tell me. Had we forgotten a bill? An appointment? Did we lose a bunch of money in our stocks?

"...Happy six-month anniversary."

Saturday, November 24, 2007

(We just watched "Spaceballs," through all the credits as usual, and as a result I have the theme song stuck in my head. "What you've got is what we need/And all we do is dirty deeds...")

Happy Thanksgiving! I slept twelve hours last night. This is because I got four hours of sleep the night before. We watched our six-month-old niece so that her mother could go shopping at four in the morning, and she decided three AM would be a good time to get up and five a good time to go back to sleep, and six-fifteen a good time to get up again and stay up until her mother came back that afternoon. It didn't help that we also watched Michelle so the mothers could go shopping, and her injudicious attempts to get Addie back to sleep--mainly the loud singing--probably increased that two-hour window in the middle of the night. We put them in the same room--foolishly--and I was too sleep-addled to insist on moving Addie's Pack and Play, so I took Addie downstairs and got her to go to sleep on my chest. The next morning we had problems with Michelle insisting on doing everything for Addie and calling her mother to ask what to do with her, without talking to me or letting me talk to her mother. She also took the baby away from Eric while he was playing with her. Suffice it to say we will not be watching the two of them together again.

Thanksgiving itself was great. I made two kinds of bread, and while the buttermilk rolls were too heavy for my taste other people seemed to like them. All my dishes turned out well; all everyone else's dishes turned out well; with the aid of my sewing table we had enough surface area for everything; and we didn't end up with all the stuffing after everything was done, which was good since there were pounds and pounds of it. We ate a lot and played games and had a good time.

Today I helped my friend from work pack up and move. She and her husband were not as organized about it as I would have been, but then they haven't moved nearly as much as I have. Have I mentioned this will be the first time I spent two Christmases in a row living in the same house since 1999? And in the end it didn't take too long to get them on the road--they're moving to Akron, so I didn't go with them to help unpack. They're coming to our New Year's party if they can. On the way home I dropped off two bags at Goodwill for them and bought three new Christmas garlands there for a dollar each. It's not time for decorating yet, but with Thanksgiving over I can think about it. Tomorrow I work on mom's quilt and lament that I have to go back to work the next day. Why is it that a double weekend still doesn't feel long enough?

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

I should have known better than to have posted such a smug bit of self-congratulation. Eric may be losing his job at the end of the semester. We've calculated before that we can live on my salary...but. It would also mean he couldn't do student teaching, which would mean he couldn't work next year either, or not the whole time. (I mentioned this to my boss's boss at work--I had to ask her something and she asked how I was--and she perked up when I described his background and reminded me we have openings, some of them part-time.) Things may be getting interesting around here.

Monday, November 19, 2007

I did astonishingly well this weekend, productivity-wise. I cleaned, baked, did laundry, made ice cream (we've had no ice cream of our own in the house for weeks and weeks! Travesty!), worked in the garden, shopped, ordered Christmas presents, got an oil change, bought antifreeze and de-icer, finally decided the design for Mom's quilt, and got Eric to throw away the cough drop wrappers that seem to follow him everywhere. I feel like I have practically nothing to do this week, though that's exceptionally not true. I've got two knitting projects and one quilting project, more cleaning and cooking for Thanksgiving, and some writing to maybe someday kind of think about doing.

Eric and I were talking about money again this weekend, what we had and what to do with it and what we expect to have in the next few months. We like to do that. We like it, in fact, as I posited on Saturday, more than we would like having the things we would otherwise buy with that money. He agreed. It helps that neither of us is terribly interested in really nice cars or TVs or clothes or whatever, and it probably also helps that we have enough money to be comfortable but not enough to be extravagant. "We indulge a little," he said, and that sounds about right. As I told him, when I went shopping at Meijer I saw plenty of things that I thought would be cute or I'd like to have; I'm not immune to marketing or covetousness; but I almost always say no when I think about buying something. Which is why I came home without a pie server or butter dish or large tea strainer, even though I went out intending to buy them. (Well, in the case of the pie server, it's because I want a pretty one. I can't help it. Now that we have our cool pi pie plate, we're going to be making pies, and I don't want an ugly or plain server to serve them with. And I don't plan to go somewhere I can get a pretty one until after Thanksgiving.)

And then there's my fish bowl experience. When I was in college I often went with my friends X and M to the dollar store on the Ave. We got cheap Christmas candy and mechanical pencils and things like that. One day, I bought a plastic bowl shaped like a fish, for no reason other than I thought it was kind of neat and it was only a dollar. Several months later I sold it at a garage sale for twenty-five cents. I had never used it. That bothered me a lot, and it helped me stop buying useless frivolities (most of the time, anyway...I now own another bowl shaped like a fish, in fact, but it's stoneware and I use it for dipping sauces and I agonized over the $2 purchase until Eric just told me to buy it already). In retrospect, that was the best seventy-five cents I ever lost.

So I'm very glad Eric and I have similar attitudes towards money. Yesterday the mothers came over to look at the ductwork in our house, as they're thinking of putting in central heating and it would require similar ductwork, and we talked about the servant stairs that used to be where the coat closet is now. Apparently they're now being put into new houses again, but for kids rather than servants. One of the mothers said, "If you still have this house when you're making $300,000 a year (??) and having catered parties (???), you should consider putting them back in." The other mother said, "What makes you think they'd keep this house?" Eric said, "Why not? It's a nice house, big and well-made," and I said, "We could pay it off and keep the extra monthly income," and she said, "Do you know how many people your age wouldn't even consider that? They're all about the bigger house, the best everything," and we felt very pleased with ourselves.

Then I went to bed thinking about all the things we'd do to this house if we had the money and were staying. Eric's mom recommended we replace the patio in the back, as it's cracked as badly as our driveway was and slopes toward the house. I had actually thought about getting a quote from McMillan for it, but figured we'd see how the driveway turned out. We discussed putting in pavers ourselves, since Eric should have actual free time next year. We'd only get another year to enjoy it, but it would be good practice and would help with house appeal for when we sell it. And then, if we were really making $300,000 a year, we could put in another half-bath and put better carpet down and improve the master bedroom closet and put in more light switches and clean up the basement...but it's still a good house as it is, and I’m fairly happy with it, and I think the new garden and new driveway and patio are probably good enough.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

I made this bread today. It started yesterday--well, Thursday really, with taking my sourdough starter out of the fridge and feeding it. I'm really liking this starter thing. I flubbed parts of the recipe, but the bread turned out very nice anyway--crackly brown crust, chewy inside with pretty good crumb. It makes an excellent toasting bread with cheese. Still not sour; I think I just need to wait for my starter to be older for that, but even if I never get actual sourness, the starter seems to make pretty darn good bread. This recipe made four small loaves, just enough for me to eat before it gets stale (with maybe a little help from Eric). I may freeze the others for Thanksgiving--or I may keep them for subsequent weeks. I plan to make this Buttermilk Cluster roll for Thanksgiving, so we won't be completely lacking bread.

I made a Meijer run today, while Eric was getting fitted for his first pair of glasses ever (he only needs them for driving so far, the lucky stiff), for Thanksgiving supplies. We're having Thanksgiving here--I forget if I've written this before--but not actually having it, so to speak; the mothers are still providing most of the food. But their house is undergoing a Five-Year Plan for renovations, and our dining room is bigger, so we're eating here. But I'm still making rolls and casserole and mashed potatoes (because Brenda doesn't like cheese) and squash and pie, and serving snacks and cider. So there is preliminary cleaning happening this weekend, with the bulk of it happening Wednesday (which Eric might have off), and there will be preliminary cooking and chopping Wednesday. I love the holidays. Hearing the Christmas music in the stores already is only half spoiling it. (I was in Meijer today in the shoe section and heard "And so this is Christmas," coming out of the loudspeakers, and said aloud, "No, it's not, it's not even Thanksgiving yet, people." I truly don't understand this.)

Friday, November 16, 2007

It's taken all week, but my work to-do list is finally empty. This has been an incredibly busy week. I guess that happens when half the department--the more experienced half--is on vacation. I learned quite a bit this week.

I also had a very good annual review. The only thing bothering me is that we didn't discuss money. I was told last year that I'm getting a hefty raise this year because my pay grade boundaries got raised, but I haven't heard anything this year. I'm not too concerned, but it would be nice to know what our budget for next year will look like.

And after I read that paper about EEP, I had yet another talk with Eric about how ambivalent I feel about my work and my prospects. I talked about how I'm only in the job I'm in because I know we're leaving in a year and a half, and he asked, "What do you want to do once we move?" And I didn't know. It has never occurred to me to plan something. So I'm trying to figure out a plan. This is hard, because part of my aimlessness is that I can do a lot but almost everything would take a little prep, and I haven't felt firm enough about any particular career path to do that prep and thereby forsake other choices--but that's how I've ended up doing nothing and being nothing. So I need to pick something and work at it. I don't think I've done that in a long time (except for the hobbies, I suppose). I wish this whole career thing were easier, but at least I'm thinking about it instead of just lamenting it.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Oddly, not spam.

"Your fingertips have never felt so empowered."

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

I think I participated in the survey for this paper, which Eric is using for a research paper he's writing. And I'm depressed. There's one quote in it that pretty perfectly sums up how I feel these days, and I'm jealous of everyone who's done better than me.

Saturday, November 10, 2007


I baked my first bread made from my sourdough starter today. Aside from not actually being sour, it turned out wonderfully. I'm all excited about having grown my own yeast. The bread is soft with a crispy crust and a pretty open crumb, tastes pretty much like French bread from the store (it could use slightly more salt, too), and made a great grilled-cheese sandwich. Also good with apple butter, but then, any bread is good with apple butter.

I also received Amish friendship bread starter from Eric's sister and brother-in-law (I'm not sure which of them actually did it). It came with a recipe. The recipe requires a box of instant pudding mix. What kind of Amish recipe is that? I'm going to make the bread, as it so happens we have a box of instant pudding mix that we're unlikely ever to use up any other way, but I was tempted to track down the originator of this recipe and take issue with him or her. I'm fairly sure that boxes of instant pudding mix are not a common Amish crop.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007


The vanilla bean ice cream turned out marvelously. We made a good vanilla last year, and I used the same recipe but with a slightly higher cream:milk ratio and with the vanilla seeds simmered in the milk and cream rather than simply adding extract. The butter pecan was surprisingly good, but a little light on the flavor--if we do this again we'll amend Ben & Jerry's recipe. The lemon bar was a flop--too much lemon extract gave it a candy flavor, and the cookies didn't add all that much. And then I made cherry-vanilla using frozen cherries we had spurned for an earlier batch of ice cream, and I think it's pretty good. If it passes the taste committee (the birthday party tonight) I might try cherry-chocolate.

I also drove on our new driveway for the first time last night. So this is what a real driveway feels like! No bumps, no dips, no gentle steering around obstacles. I almost crashed into the back of the garage because I was waiting for the usual dip that tells me I've gone far enough. Marvelous. Maybe not $6803 marvelous, but marvelous nonetheless. I might even take it over ice cream--some ice cream, for some period of time, at least.

Monday, November 05, 2007

Important bulletin

It turns out freezing cream is a bad, bad idea. We had extra from the wedding, see, so I stuck it in the freezer. I pulled it out last night for ice-cream making. When I opened the carton this evening it wouldn't come out because it had clotted into a tangled mess. It smelled fine, it was just clotted and protein-y and...yuck. I made my fastest run to Kroger ever. (Where they had boxes of satsumas! At least, they said that's what they were. The boxes were $8 each and I didn't quite believe, so I didn't get any. But I will later when they get cheaper, if they're still here. If I can get satsumas out here--?)
I dreamed last night I was Christmas shopping with M and Z. Z went to try on a white butterfly shirt that I said would look good on her, only it was attached to some sort of decoration with meat hooks on it so I was worried. M and I wandered around the rest of the store, where I watched people pushing each other in the aisles and wished I had stayed away from the stores as I had intended to. Then Z came out and had us all try on suits made of carpets.

I made my first by-the-seat-of-my-pants bread Saturday. It was pretty good, but not a complete success. I put a little too much oil and salt in, and not enough yeast. The amount of rosemary was good, though, and it was nice to have some bread to snack on. And my sourdough starter is nearing readiness (I think) so I'm going to give that a shot soon. I also have to figure out what kind of bread to make for Thanksgiving. Sourdough's out, as half Eric's family doesn't like it. A rustic loaf? Rolls? Both?

I also made two batches of apple butter, sour cherry jelly (which is indeed very good, and it even jelled the first time--after I added half a second packet of pectin), and an apple pie. Plus feeding the sourdough starter and cooking meals. We own two sets of measuring spoons and three sets of measuring cups, and when I was finished I had a two-thirds cup, a one-third cup, a one-quarter teaspoon, and a one-half teaspoon left in the drawer. I even used the one-half tablespoon and one-eighth teaspoon spoons. (I did not, however, use the auxiliary set of measuring spoons--dash, pinch, and smidgen. They're not in the drawer; they're hung up on the wall.)

The next cooking step is a bunch of birthday ice cream for Wednesday. Brenda and Michelle have birthdays around now and are sharing a "family party" dinner. Originally we planned to make peach ice cream, which they both love, but the peaches I bought and lovingly ripened inside my green tomato box (rapidly turning mostly red) turned out black inside and mushy and bland. Michelle's second choice was vanilla and Brenda's was butter pecan, so those are the ones I'm proceeding with tonight. Plus I noticed Brenda's "birthday cake" was lemon bars, and I decided to try to make lemon bar ice cream. I may or may not release that to the family, depending on how the test run turns out.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

I am applying for a credit card for some arbitrage as I type. OMGB. (The B stands for Becky, of course.) This makes me exceedingly nervous. The idea appeals to me in theory; actually staking my monthly bills and credit rating and peace of mind is something else.

I am also making vegetable stock as I type. It makes the house smell good (and the kitchen windows fog up). Eric agrees, which surprises me a little--though I don't know why; he does eat his vegetables. I'll have to make him some soup with my stock. Maybe some rye bread to go with it. I'm thinking about the breads I want to make, especially now that I have my KitchenAid stand mixer. Ours, I mean. Our stand mixer. Anyway, I have no-knead bread with rosemary and olive oil in the fridge and a new sourdough starter on the fridge. I do believe it's fall.