Friday, March 30, 2012

Where there's Smoke, There's Steak

One of the reasons I wanted to remodel my house was so I could cook steaks on the stove. Okay, maybe it wasn't one of the "reasons" maybe it was just a hopeful byproduct.

We are not bar-b-que people. I am not a fan of eating meat off the bone, and unless you could bar-b-que a cheese sandwich, my kid wont eat bar-b-que. So for just the two of us, its hardly worth buying coals, lighting them, waiting, etc. just for a hot dog or a hamburger. When other people bar-b-que for me, its fine. I just don't have a strong enough desire for bar-b-que to do it myself or wait for Rob to do it, and its one of those things that he thinks he's really good at, but he's not. I took the long route here to say that we don't cook steaks on the bar-b-que, and please don't tell me to get a gas grill because it just wont happen. No interest.

Also, when I am not already an expert in something, especially something expensive like steak, I am loathe to do it. I just hate the idea of spending real money on a piece of meat and then ruining it.

The one and only time we made steak on the stove top in our old house, we followed the directions to the letter, and all the smoke detectors in the house went off. We had no ventilation above our stove, and the whole house was blue with steak smoke. I can't even remember what the steaks tasted like, but I remember the stress of the event, and we never attempted to make steaks again. Aside from ground beef, I shy away from beef. The alarm sounds are still ringing in my ears.

Fast forward to the planning stage of the remodel, and I'm all We will have actual ventilation over our stove so that we can make steaks! And now we do. It vents out the roof and everything. Like grown ups. So last week I bought some steaks, not really expensive ones, though, since these were our experimental steaks.

I turned the fan on high, and put them in the pan. Then... all the smoke detectors in the house went off... They are all hard wired together now, so when one goes off, they all go off. I thought the cat would come right out of his skin. So for the second time, we had to open all the windows and air out the house to silence the alarms, and with all that excitement I slightly overcooked the steaks. Only slightly, though. Rob still thought they were excellent, but this is a man who doesn't get beef very often, so he's easy to impress.

How do you make steaks in your kitchen without setting off all the alarms? I really want to know. This can't be that hard. The beef industry is hugely successful, and not everyone is bar-b-queing all the time so what's the deal?

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Mondo Dork

Do you know any 10 year-old girls? I do. Man, what complete dorks. Honestly. Leila had no fewer than three different friends over at our house this weekend, and all of them, including my own darling daughter: dorks.

I say this in the most loving way. The TV that they like, the music that they like, what they think is hilarious, so pure, so innocent, so pre-pubescent, so dorky. While we were in bed listening to the giggle fest happening in her room on Friday night, I turned to Rob and said, "This is just where I want her to be. Total, age-appropriate dorkiness."

In some ways it is an annoying age. The back talk, the mess, the petulance, the constant fights about TV and junk food and clothes (wearing them, wearing them correctly, putting them away, separating dirty from clean, really anything having to do with clothes.) But then there's this sweet spot; the dorky spot. They are almost done playing with toys and playing pretend, and kissing all their stuffed animals so no one feels bad. They are too young to be cool and insecure and have terrible body images. Too young to spend a sleepover playing with make up and talking about boys and calling those boys on the phone. Too young to stay awake until 11, even if they try hard. They're too young to try to sneak out of the house. Walking to the corner store to buy a candy bar is a completely novel thing.

It wont last much longer, this wonderful, dorky age. One of her friends will go first, and be cool. Too cool to make up dance routines in her pajamas and make up silly songs about dogs and make little movies of themselves making funny faces. Then some other friends will go, and then Leila will go, too. She'll hold on for dear life, but she'll succumb to the tween coolness. But I know her well, and she will pine for her Littlest Pet Shop animals.

For now, I just have to enjoy it. I have to remember to not roll my eyes, and to be patient with her, and loving. I can tell she sees the future, and she is none too keen on it. Neither am I. Being cool is totally overrated, and it is such a relief to be back at an age where being cool is the least important thing in my life. Like mother, like daughter: DORKS.

Thursday, March 22, 2012


You guys! The red food coloring came out of the dishtowels! Did you hear me?? I said, THE RED FOOD COLORING CAME OUT OF THE DISHTOWELS!!!

Oh, its the little things!

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

The Big Reveal!

Alright, you've waited long enough...

I'm not nutty for the quality of this video after the HOURS I put into it, but I am nutty for this house!

(The song is "Home" by Engineers, off their album "Engineers")

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Next Year, Cake from a Box

Every year, I bake a cake for Rob's birthday. I like baking a cake for him on his birthday, once a year, even though he doesn't care all that much. I started this tradition with a triple layer carrot cake with maple cream cheese frosting. It was delicious. I bought three perfect cake pans just for that cake because I thought I would make the same thing every year, but then Rob got squirly. He asked for a German chocolate cake, which took all day, came out great, but I don't care for coconut, and we all know how I am when it comes to cake.

By and by, Leila took a cake decorating class and decided that she would make all the family cake decisions from then on, and, as kids are, she doesn't much care what kind of cake you want for your own birthday. (I have not given in to this. I want what I want, and no little kid is going to take my United Market cake from me.) What this normally means is that I bake the cake, color all the frosting and fill the pastry bags, clean everything, and do the crumb coat, and she comes along and does about five minutes worth of decorating, and moves on with her day. Then she tells everyone that she made the cake.

This year Rob wanted a red velvet cake. So far, we don't have a problem. So far, its all theoretical. I reviewed some online recipes and was not overly impressed, so I facebooked (which I'm sure is not a verb, but it will be soon) Tipsy Baker, who wrote that book I told you about, and in about one minute she facebooked me back a recipe - not a link, mind you, but a typed out recipe - for red velvet cake. First of all, how awesome is the internet? And how generous was it for Tipsy Baker to type in a whole recipe to a total stranger like me? I want to take that girl to lunch! Name the time and place, Tipsy Baker!

The recipe included two bottles (that's two ounces) of red food coloring. Remember how I told you not to pack your food coloring if you move? That was because one casualty of my move was a bottle of red food coloring that opened mid move, and made a complete mess of everything that was packed with it, and ended up leaving tiny stains on my brand new counter. Bastard.

Long story only slightly shorter, I was SO CAREFUL with the red food coloring. REALLY CAREFUL. And you know what happened? Red food coloring still splattered and now I have more little red stains on my brand new counters and some on my brand new matchstick blinds. In addition, I just bought some brand new dish towels at Williams Sonoma, and two of them now look like I tried to stop the bleeding of a gunshot victim. And this shit doesn't come out. I oxi cleaned them and everything. The first dish towel was my fault; why on earth didn't I hide it away and use an old rag? Such a dumb dumb. But the second ruined one is a mystery. I blame the kid.

We poured the batter in a shamrock-shaped cake pan, and baked the thing. I had buttered and floured the pan beforehand, I cooled the cake on a rack, and then the damn thing wouldn't come out of the pan. I submerged the bottom of the pan in warm water like the internet told me to; no movement. Eventually, the next day, half of it came out, and Leila coaxed out the other half.

We frosted it green. It was the ugliest damn cake you've ever seen in your whole life. I could not get over it looking like blood and guts, so I didn't even taste it, but Leila declared it to be delicious, and Rob ate it, and now the carcass is just sitting there, on my brand new counter, taunting me. You know how much I like cake, right? I mean, I like cake A LOT. But I just cannot touch that thing.

So, no more red velvet cake for me. No more red food coloring for me either. Now I'm going to go get some 220 sand paper and get those little red stains out of the counter. The dish towels will never recover, so I'm taking the money I would have spent on a cake at United Market, and spending it on another new set of dish towels. So there.

So nasty looking

p.s. I still send my thanks to Tipsy Baker, though, not her fault I can't handle food coloring like an adult.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

The Turnaround

So I just had to share.

I was feeling very grumbly this morning; Daylight savings is still kicking my ass, Leila lost her homework folder, and this is one of those days where there was nothing on the agenda to look forward to. I find these kinds of days really hard. You should always have even a little something to look forward to in a day. I had to go grocery shopping, one of my most hated things, and I'm going to clean Leila's room and organize her closet since I just shoved everything in there willy nilly when we moved in. Grumble.

I was in line at Safeway, probably looking as grumbly as I felt, and there was a little old lady in front of me - scratch that: my mom hates it when I say "old lady" because the lady in question was probably not much older than my mom who considers herself "middle aged." Lets call her an older woman, and she had on her little rain coat and hat, and was buying her little groceries, and she looked at me and said, with well honed sarcasm, "Isn't this fun?"

I cracked up, and told her she had made my day. I'm feeling much better now, thanks to that little comment. Now I'm off to put the groceries away, eat some breakfast, put on the radio and get Leila's room into some kind of shape. We moved in not even three weeks ago, and its already a nightmare.

My weekend starts tomorrow, so Have a Good One!

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Poor, Helpless Child

Leila grew out of all her pants this morning. I swear, last week her pants fit, and now they don't. Just like that. I had two pair of a larger size stashed in her closet, and I had to cinch the hell out of the waist band, but she's wearing a size 14 today. She's 10.

Her response to this sudden growth spurt? "I guess you have to go shopping!" I'm not sure I've ever heard of a 10 year old girl who didn't want to pick out her own clothes. She hates shopping for clothes, and she hates picking out what she's going to where in the morning. She's 10, people!

I think I have to up my parenting game. This is a child who seems to not want to do anything at all for herself. I'm not talking about doing her own laundry, or making her own meals, but she can get out some underwear and socks, right? Now that we're in our house, I'm making her do all kinds of extreme things like put her plate in the dishwasher, and put her toothbrush away, and feed the animals. She (so far) hasn't objected to any of this, but God forbid she remember to do it on her own. Also, her brand new room, the one she moved into two weeks ago, looks like a tornado went through it already. I can't even walk in there.

Yup, gotta up my game.

In other news, it is raining and my cat does not like it. He keeps meowing, and getting on the table and rubbing and nibbling on papers, and staying next to me. Its annoying. He's usually trying to tell me something when he acts like this, like he's out of food or water, but I checked, and he is filled up on both, and he has a clean litter box. I guess he's just trying to tell me, "THERE'S WATER FALLING FROM THE SKY!"

Monday, March 12, 2012

And then there was CAKE

You'll be relieved to know that I did not buy the dining table. I settled on a far more expensive dining table that I will be putting on layaway, thankyouverymuch. I love layaway. I've never actually used layaway, but I'm so happy that it exists.

I think I'm almost ready to take some pictures of this house and show it to you. We made a big push over the weekend, and its looking like people live here in a healthy way, not like on Hoarders. I still have to put a few pictures up, and get a few pieces of furniture, but we're getting there.

I made, not one, but two dinners in the kitchen last night. I only mention this because I normally make no dinners at all, and I freakin' love my kitchen. Today I have to bake a cake, and I can't wait!

But first, breakfast, and maybe some phone calls, and then CAKE!

ADDENDUM: Cake is in the oven. It is rising its ass off. Guess the mystery about whether my baking powder is still good after being packed in a box for five months is solved. I put all my mixing bowls and other apparatus in my dishwasher. Is it somehow perverted that I love my dishwasher this much?

ADDENDUM #2: cake is out of the oven, but wont come out of the pan. I will scoop it out of there with my bare hands if I have to, but I'll have to serve something else at the luncheon tomorrow...

Friday, March 9, 2012

Super Shopper Extraordinaire

Dudes, I just bought a rug.

I had decided to stop spending money, stop buying things for the house, just take a little break, until all the finances shake out and we know what's what. Then today a friend pointed out a rug that was perfect and on sale and I couldn't help myself.

Stop me before I shop again! Except don't, because I'm going to look at a dining table tonight and if I like it I'm going to buy it. Ugh.

I just figured out what it is, though. Its my period. The week I get my period there is no stopping me. I get indulgent in every way. Eating too much, and of the wrong things, spending too much money, napping too much, running the dishwasher too much, etc. etc. Why else did I buy extra juice glasses, a rug, eat a hot dog, and get a manicure in the same week?

Normally, one of the cost saving things I would do when feeling a little broke is eat only from the pantry. Whatever leftover dried pasta and limes and film I have in the fridge, that's what we're having! But my pantry got cleaned out when we moved, so I don't even have Worcestershire sauce, or oil, or leftover taco shells. So every time I want to cook something I have to go to the store and get all the ingredients, not just the ones I usually have to buy, like meat. So right now its just cheaper to split a burrito or eat from the frozen section of Trader Joes. Tonight, its TJs beef pot pie.

So its agreed: just the dining table, and THAT IS IT!

Thursday, March 8, 2012

More About Rob and his Awesome Parenting Skills

So we are sitting around our dinner table tonight, and I ignite some conversation about what was the best and worst part of everyone's day, and the conversation moves on to crushes, and Leila's face is turning beet red, and I ask Rob the same question she asked me a week or so ago, "How many crushes did you have in the fourth grade?" Most of Rob's childhood has been completely wiped clean from his memory, replaced by useless facts about sports no doubt, so he rubs his temples, searching for an answer, and comes up empty. Seems girls were a ways off when he was in fourth grade. I think he's almost ready for puberty though, so moody!

Anyway, conversation goes on and I start making fun of him for something that I will tell you about in a future blog post because its so goddam funny, and he starts telling Leila how when I was in fourth grade I made out with a tree. Now, this is completely untrue, and how you all know its untrue is that if I had made out with a tree in the fourth or any grade, I would totally tell you about it and I would be hilarious in the process. I vehemently denied making out with a tree, mostly because it impugned my candor, but I did tell Leila about how I made out with the back of my hand.

Did you ever do that? I would either make out with my own hand, alone, for practice, or, when my friends and I were playing Grease or Love Boat or something, and I would inevitably have to play the part of the man because my mom made me have the infernal short Dorthy Hamill haircut, we would put our palms together and kiss the back of our own hands instead of actually kissing each other, which would have been grody.

I also told Leila that my barbies kissed all the time. I didn't tell her that they got knocked up, just that they kissed, and Leila's all, "Well, what else would you do with Barbies?!" At this point my mind goes back to the Barbie Sex youtube videos, and I have to silently remind myself that Leila has no Barbies in her toy chest right now. Phew.

Being the amazing parent that I am, I see this as an opportunity. One of Oprah's teaching moments. So I say, "You can do a lot more with a Barbie than pretend she's making out with Justin Bieber, you know. You can pretend that she's a veterinarian, or that she's curing cancer, or that she's an artist, or is writing books..." at which time Rob says, "Or that she's working at Rite Aid."

Me: "You know, I try to use these little opportunities, and you just manage to flush them down the shitter." No disrespect to the fine employees of Rite Aid intended. "At least you could have said Barbie could be a pharmacist."

Leila thought this was the funniest thing she'd ever heard in her whole life, and threw herself on the floor laughing.

For another example of this type of Rob's parenting prowess, click here.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Privacy Please

You gotta love my husband. I've had him home for two precious days of the weekend, and I put him to work, lifting things that I cannot lift, reaching things that I cannot reach, and doing manly things that I probably could do myself if I tried real hard, but I'm married so I shouldn't have to. Its one of the perks.

Of our many unpacking priorities this weekend, one was to re-install the wood-slat blinds on the front windows. It is a priority because I have no privacy without them, and if I don't close my bedroom door when I'm getting undressed, I may start getting love letters from the mail man, or the dog walker who seems high all the time, or one of the teenage boys who lives on my street (or wiener man, perish the thought.) I know closing your door when you get dressed doesn't seem like a big deal, but I hardly ever close the door when I take a dump, much less get dressed, so you can understand my eagerness to get the blinds put back up.

My dear husband, king of veering off the critical path, spent almost the entire afternoon putting 4 blinds back up. He successfully completed three of them, the three that are least essential to my dressing privacy. The big one that goes on the big window, the source of my neighbor's delight, remains in the garage, waiting its turn, while Rob watches basketball and drinks a beer.

In other news, I had two friends over tonight who helped me place my artwork on the walls. Let this be a lesson to you! Always ask for help when putting art on the walls, or undertaking any creative endeavor. They put things together in a way I never would have, and I'm so excited about it! And all it cost me was some margaritas!

In yet other news, I would like to thank my friend, Lisa, who read one of my previous blog posts, and presented me not only with an amazing mock up of the beautiful back splash she is making for me, but also a new bottle opener! Its exactly the bottle opener I would have gotten myself. I can't wait to show y'all a picture of this back splash when its done, people, its gonna be a sensation!!!

Monday, March 5, 2012

World Wind tour of the Beautiful Central Valley

In the midst of unpacking hell, I had to drive my mom to Roseville, two hours away, so she could fight a speeding ticket. Here's what happened.

My mom was coming back from Tahoe with some friends, and she took the wheel of her friend's Passat to pitch in with driving. No more than three minutes in to her drive, she got pulled over for going 90. Two things occurred: 1) She normally drives a 50 year-old car that can't go over 65 mph on its best day, and rattles like an earthquake at any speed, so when she pressed down on the gas on this modern vehicle and there was no rattle, no straining lawn mower noise, she had no idea how fast she was going. 2) She wanted to pass a truck.

My dad thought she should just pay it and move on with her life. Like that was ever going to happen! Has he met her? She once fought a ticket for running a stop sign on the basis that "I slowed down!" So since I owe her one (more like one million) I agreed that when the time came I would go with her to fight the ticket. She thought we should take Leila out of school and bring her with us and go to some gold rush tourist spots after court. So we made a little road trip out of it, and spent the night up there in the central valley, where Leila was completely awed by the Marriott Courtyard conveniently located right off the freeway ("its better than Hawaii!") and couldn't have been more excited to eat at Red Robin ($4 martinis, man!)

In the morning we had our free breakfast at the breakfast bar (apparently the most delicious breakfast Leila has ever had) and jetted off to the court house. I asked Leila what was so important in her purse that she had to bring it along, and she told me she needed her wallet "in case I need to bribe somebody." I'd like to know which Disney show it was that taught her about bribing court officials.

Long story only slightly shorter, the officer did not show up so the ticket was dismissed and we exited the courthouse triumphant by 8:30 in the morning. We almost went back to the hotel to eat more breakfast, but instead we drove along highway 49 to the gold discovery museum. In California, all fourth graders must learn about the gold rush. It is imperative to their development as future bond traders, casting agents, and waiters. Leila's topic is Panning for Gold. We paid $7 for a gold panning lesson, and then she panned for 45 minutes. Luckily for her, she was the first and only panner of the day, and the trough had just been freshly stocked with gold flakes and garnet pieces. I felt the water and could not believe that this child had her hands in this frigid water for all that time. Unbelievable. She found some gold, and declared that we should do this once a month.

So a $430 ticket was erased by a night in a hotel, two meals in two restaurants, $60 worth of gas, and $7 worth of hard won gold flakes. We were gone less than 24 hours. Totally worth it.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

10 Facinating Facts

Here is a quick recap, for your enjoyment as well as my record keeping to update you on what I've been doing while not whiling away the hours on the internet:

1) MOVED IN TO OUR HOUSE! More accurately, we are now sleeping in our house, but "moved in" is a little hyperbolic. There are cardboard boxes everywhere, inside and outside the house, and now that I have my dishes and clothes put away, I wish vandals would come and steal the rest. I thought I got rid of a lot of stuff before the move, but apparently I only got rid of the wrong things, like the bed skirt and the wine opener. It was meant to force me to replace the things I hated when this all started, but finding out that you have no wine opener at the end of a long day with a cold bottle of chardonnay in your hand is a really punitive way to remember that you need a wine opener.

2) First meal cooked in the brand new kitchen: peanut butter and honey sandwich for Leila's lunch. First thing cooked on the brand new stove: water for tea. First thing heated in the brand new oven: some french bread for... First meal eaten as a family that wasn't take out: cheese fondue. (I had just unpacked the fondue pot, so I thought, what the hell.)

3) I will use any excuse to run the brand new dishwasher. It actually gets dishes clean, and there are no spots on my glasses or anything else! Its a revelation! Today, I took all my pots and pans out of their new homes and put them in the dishwasher just to use the pro scrub feature. I have never put pots and pans in the dishwasher before, but, man, I'm going to now!

4) My cats are skating on very thin ice with me and sometimes I find myself regretting that I didn't put that black one to sleep when I had the chance. Awful I know. But I would have been totally over it by now.

5) I need things on the walls soon. After a while, I feel like I'm in a gymnasium.

6) I've broken all the nails on my hands, some of them more than once, so now I'm moving on to the ones on my toes.

7) My bedroom got bigger, so now my TV seems too small. I just realized I'm having a hard time reading the program guide from my bed. What's more expensive: new, bigger TV, or trip to eye doctor? Factor in the blow to my self esteem when he tells me I need bifocals.

8) I can't hear rain on my roof anymore. Too much damn insulation. Rain on the roof is one of the great joys in life, especially in California, and I just traded it for a dishwasher that scrubs my pans.

9) Don't pack food coloring, just throw it out and buy new when you get where you're going. Trust me.

10) Before and after pics soon, I promise, I just have to make this place not look like a new, shiny shithole first.