Month: January 2015

Today’s Hetty Forecast: Disgruntled

HettyPorchSteps

Hetty’s schedule:

6:30 Bark because breakfast is over, and she wants to be lifted back on the bed, so she can get under the covers.

8:05 Bark because she’s been up for five minutes, and no one has put any clothes on her, and she’s FREEZING.

8:30 Bark because she can see the sun shining outside and needs to soak it up like a lizard.

8:33 Bark because the sun is lying. It’s not warm. She needs to come in because she’s FREEZING.

8:35 Bark because everyone is doing something and there is no lap available for her to sit in.

8:40 Snuggle in for serious lap time. Finally someone hears her.

9:30 Bark because she can see the sun shining outside…

So that’s been my day. What are you guys up to?

Grounded

grounded_cover

My friend Megan Morrison has a book coming out in April. She and her friend Ruth Virkus co-created Tyme, the world of the story, and soon that world will be available to all of us. I’m super excited about it. My friend Kristin, who did the cover for my first book, did the map for Grounded. I have a long history with this book, because I read one of the early drafts and enjoyed it so much, I gave it to my young niece to read and she loved it so much, she reread it once a year and pestered me constantly about when it would be published. What she thought I could do about that I don’t know, but she brought it up a lot.

Well, now it’s happening. You can see the page for it on Goodreads here. Meg is a colossal talent. Her writing is engaging and compelling. Seriously, she’s fabulous, a darling person all the way around. She’s got a wonderful husband and a beautiful son, and I wish they’d move back to the east coast, so we could all see them more.

If you like fantasy, pre-order this book, or put it on your to-read list on Goodreads, so you don’t forget about it. You can thank me later.

They Don’t Make ‘Em Like They Used To

Outside  putting in the pipeline to the house. How is she going to get out of that hole?
Outside putting in the pipeline to the house. How is she going to get out of that hole?
Inside assessing the thickness of the walls.
Inside assessing the thickness of the walls.

Our house was built in 1942 out of brick and block. The walls are 8 inches thick. The upside of this is that the house is very sturdy and you can’t break in by taking a Sawzall to the side of the house like you can in modern houses. The downside is that there is no insulation, and anytime something needs to be done that breaches the wall, it takes forever.

Today, the crews working for the gas company have to breach the wall. As is typical for this house, it’s taking forever. It’s very noisy and the dogs won’t stop whining. The good news is it’s not costing us anything. The bad news is we had a mercury meter inside our house and that sounds like a bad thing. I’m guessing it must be, because the gas company is spending a lot of time and money putting in new gas lines, replacing these meters and putting the new meters on the outside of all the houses in our neighborhood. If I begin exhibiting Mad Hatter type symptoms, I guess you’ll all know what to blame.

I’m supposed to be wrapping up the revisions on my book today, but it’s a little difficult to concentrate with all the noise and people coming in and out of my house. Did I mention the dogs are really freaked out and won’t stop crying? The very nice people who are replacing the meter tell me it will all be over very soon. I hope they’re right.

The Joy of Soup

Potato Soup
Ahh, dinner.

I love it when dinner presents itself with little or no thought on my part. Today I had the following in my kitchen: 2/3 of a bag of potatoes, a leek, an onion, leftover uncooked bacon, half a carton of leftover heavy cream. What does all that equal? That’s right, potato soup. I love potato soup because you can put just about anything in it. This is how you can make your own.

Ingredients

6-8 c. homemade turkey broth (Thanksgiving just keeps on giving)

3-4 lbs potatoes

1 leek

1/2 onion (or a whole onion if you don’t have the leek)

4 strips of bacon (or however much you have left, no one ever complains about too much bacon)

4 cloves minced garlic (or a spoon of the pre-chopped stuff that I use because I hate chopping garlic)

Salt and pepper to taste

A beer

A cup of heavy cream, or half and half, or whole milk

cheddar cheese (not critical but it’s nice on top)

The first thing to do is get out a big pot and put a little water in it and then add the frozen broth from the freezer, so it can melt while you’re peeling the potatoes. The broth makes for a richer, more velvety soup, but the truth is you can do this with just water if you don’t have broth.

After the broth is melted and the potatoes are peeled, chop them into bite sized pieces. I know some people like to puree potato soup, but having made it both ways, I prefer the texture of the potato pieces.

While the potatoes are coming to a boil in the broth, fry the bacon. While the bacon is frying, chop up the onion and the leek if you have one. (if you’ve never cooked with a leek watch this video.) After the bacon is fried, remove it from the pan and set it aside to crumble when it cools. Then sauté the leeks and onions in the bacon fat, when the onions are almost translucent and the leeks are wilted, add the garlic and let it cook for a minute or two. I can’t stand the taste of burned garlic, so I always put it in at the end. After a couple of minutes, add the contents of the frying pan to the soup. Then put the frying pan back on the heat and add enough beer to cover the bottom of the pan about a quarter of an inch. Let it come to a boil and it will pull off all that lovely flavor from the bottom of the pan, deglazing it, and coincidentally making it easier to clean. When all the goodness from the bottom of the pan is incorporated into the beer, add the beer to the soup pot. This is a good time to taste the soup and add salt and pepper. Depending on how you made your broth, and from what, will determine how much salt you need. How much you like pepper will determine that. Let the whole thing come back to a boil, turn the heat down to a simmer, mostly cover it with a lid just to the side so it doesn’t boil over and let it cook thirty minutes. During this time, you can finish the beer while you clean up the kitchen, or better yet, you can finish the beer while someone else cleans up the kitchen.

After 30 minutes, taste it again for salt and pepper. Adjust. About this time, I add a generous portion of Tabasco, but that’s just me. If it tastes good, turn off the heat and pour in the cream, half and half, whole milk, or some combination there of. How much depends on how creamy you want the soup to be. I like the soup to be sort of a golden white, but not thick with cream. Grate some cheddar cheese to go on top or don’t. Serve with bread or a salad or both or neither.

Variations:
Use ham instead of bacon.

If you have a leftover carrot, grate it and sauté it with the onion and/or the leek.

Add the grated cheese directly to the soup. You can add a ton of it for very cheesy soup.

Use another cheese instead of cheddar.

Sauté kale or spinach or cabbage with the onion and/or leek.

Or just about any other thing you want to add to this wonderful versatile soup. Enjoy!

The Inbox

Too much email

In keeping with my goal of decluttering in January, I’ve been going through my email. I feel that email, like virtually everything else, is subject to entropy. I have inbox clutter from companies that are constantly sending me ads and reminders for things I don’t care about and will never act on. For ages I’ve just routinely gone through my email deleting all the irrelevant stuff, without even opening it, to get to the good stuff like email from friends and family, twitter alerts, and blog notifications from people I follow. This week however, I’ve taken the time to actually unsubscribe from some of that junk mail.

For example O&H Danish Bakery, I love your Kringles, really, really love them. They’re delicious, but I’m not going to buy one every week. I’m not even going to buy one every month. I don’t need you dangling their deliciousness in front of me all the time. I’m trying not to be diabetic over here, but I promise you, I will not forget they exist.

And Paragon, I think I ordered a pair of slippers from you something like a thousand years ago and nothing since. I don’t know why I’ve been deleting your emails routinely all these years, but it’s got to stop. We’re no good for each other.

While I’m at it, Amazon, I’m already at your site practically everyday. I’m either checking my own sales or buying something from you. I don’t need reminders from you that you sell everything under the sun. I got that. Okay. Let it go.

These are but a few of the relationships I’ve severed this week. Breaking up, as it turns out, is surprisingly easy to do. Well, except for Whole Dog Journal. I don’t know how I’m going to get that monkey off my back. It’s really hard to unsubscribe from them. If any of you have managed that one, please let me know how you did it in the comments.

*Image made by Feelart courtesy of Free Digital Photos.

Pummelo (or Pomelo)

pummelo

I confess to having a strong urge to try new foods, or at least foods new to me. The other day at the grocery store, I saw a pummelo. At first I thought it was a green grapefruit, but upon further inspection it was something I’d never had before, so I bought it and brought it home. It’s such a big, heavy fruit it was a bit like bringing home a small bowling ball.

As is often the case with fruit I’ve never eaten, YouTube showed me what to do with it. Pummelo, as you can see in the picture above, has a very thick rind. The white casing isn’t edible like it is in an orange so you have to discard it, but the fruit inside is firm and delicious. It’s sweeter than grapefruit but otherwise has a somewhat similar flavor.

According to Wikipedia, it’s one of the original four citrus fruits. As a result it has more and larger seeds than I’m used to seeing. Unbeknownst to me, we regularly eat hybrid citrus fruit. Although apparently the grapefruit is a naturally occuring hybrid between pummelos and mandarins, which turns out to be a delicious love story.

If you haven’t tried a pummelo, do so, you won’t be disappointed.

Getting Organized Thanks to the Gas Company

The gas company wants to move our meter from the basement of our house to the outside of the house. Why it was ever put in the basement in the first place is a mystery to me, but so are many of the workings of utility companies. Anyway, they are retrofitting the entire neighborhood with new lines and new meters, which affords me an opportunity to install a new set of shelves in my basement. I’m using this opportunity to clean out the basement and also the attic.

It occurred to me recently that, come April, we will have lived in this house for fifteen years, which is almost twice as long as I’ve ever lived anywhere and it’s starting to show in terms of clutter. I’ve decided to clean out the house as if we’re moving, but then not move. I like the feeling of getting things organized and cleaned out. I don’t like doing the work, but I do like it when it’s done. January is one of the two times of year I do this kind of thing. The other time is in the middle of summer. I don’t like being cold or hot, so twice a year I hold up in the house and go through things.

This is probably my husband’s least favorite time of year.

Oh well. We live in a small 1940s, brick, saltbox style house, so if I don’t stay on top of the clutter, entropy sets in, and the next thing you know, we’re on the next episode of hoarders. Okay, that would never happen. My friend Jen once told me I’m probably the least likely person to ever appear on that show, but complacency is what starts you down that path, and then forever will it dominate your destiny. Or something like that.

Coffee of the Month Club

TragerBrosColombian

ColombianBeans

For Christmas, my friend Jen gave us a coffee-of-the-month-club for the first six months of 2015. I’m super excited about this. I’ve decided to review all the coffee we get. The first pound of 100% Organic Colombian beans arrived yesterday from Trager Brothers Coffee.

Opening the bag results in a rush of rich roasted coffee aroma. It smelled delicious. Now, admittedly, I’m a light roast person, and this is more of a medium/dark roast, but still the smell is amazing. I ground the beans in my burr grinder for a pour over brew.

The first thing I noticed when I applied the hot water to the grounds was a wonderful bloom as I let the grounds oxidize. This coffee must have been roasted very shortly before shipment. Fresh roasted coffee cannot be beat and this did not disappoint. This was good black, with a rich sweetness, but as I said, I’m more of a light roast person (I love my caffeine) so I did add a little cream. Sugar was completely unnecessary. If this is a typical example of what Trager Brothers produces, then this will be a very happy six months.

A New Year

IMG_2030

As I sit here on this blustery day in January, drinking coffee, and waiting for the dryer to finish a load of laundry, I realize I haven’t written anything in this blog since Karen died.

Her death was a hard blow, but it’s a new year and time to get back to writing.

The holidays were great this year. I was surrounded by friends and family the whole time. We had our annual holiday beer tasting, this time with elite Belgian beers, and fun was had by all. See the picture above. We also got some nice cheeses from Red White & Blue a local shop that sells fine cheeses, wine, and beer here in Falls Church.

Christmas was spread out over a week. I made two lamb roasts within days of each other so my Irish-heritage husband was very happy. I was happy that I found a rub that takes the gaminess out of lamb. You can find it here. We also got to play Munchkin with two of my nieces and my nephew. Much hilarity ensued. Good times.

We rang in the New Year in Lexington, Virginia with my sister and some friends. We ate at the Red Hen, a local farm-to-table restaurant. The food was delicious and the company grand, which is exactly the way you want to start a new year. Since we were in Lexington, I was able to buy coffee from Lexington Coffee Roasters. I’m drinking a cup of Kochere right now and it makes me very happy.

I hope everyone’s holidays were as good as mine. May this year be better than the last.