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Ok, so it’s happened again. I am weeks behind and I blame technology, even though I settled the root problem weeks ago. Ahem. Basically I hadn’t uploaded photos since I left my job at the end of October. …Happy December! Right. I am remedying that.

Meanwhile, um… There was a lot of eating last week. Mom and Dad were here the whole week, and my uncle was here for a couple days, and Thanksgiving was awesome. I recommend it, Thanksgiving. In case any of you forgot last week. Here, I will post some hastily-uploaded photos, because I feel really guilty, and because Thanksgiving is already sort of boring, food-blogging-wise (because who really wants to do anything different from what they have always had, deep down?), so if I post these any later it will be a joke.

I am always so entertained by brussels sprouts. I love them. We made them with pancetta in a recipe that I won’t recommend because they were more bitter than usual, though still quite beloved at the table.

I believe in dressing, not stuffing. And I don’t believe it should contain anything like nuts or dried fruit. I make it with bread cubes, celery, onion, parsley, and chicken stock. It was awesome. (In this picture it is also uncooked.)

Figuring out what I have:

Ben set the table, including the maple candies that my family always has at our places:

Brussels:

Clockwise from top left: Brussels, mashed potatoes, dressing, beans with shallots, turkey. Not shown: Carrot salad, cranberry sauce. My family eats what can only be described as a damn good, sophisticated diet year round. For Thanksgiving we tend to go simpler and keep things really classic.

Dude. So good.

Also not shown: Ben’s annual pies–chocolate cream and pumpkin.

The very best part of Thanksgiving, though, is on Friday night, when we make hot turkey sandwiches. Heat the turkey in gravy. Serve over bread you’ve toasted until hard. Agh!@!!
(I feel stupid explaining it, but Ben had never had one until a couple years ago. Because he’s a heathen.)

Oh, and to get in the holiday spirit, here I am trying to arrange lights at the top of our lovely tree. What you can’t see is the string of muttered profanity uttering from my lips as I toss the lights and get them stuck, over, and over, and over… (Also that is my t-shirt, not my tummy. I’m not quite *that* pale.)

BTW, I’m psyched that WordPress is once again cropping all my photos on the right side. Technology again!

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CSA: Week 18, Carrot pants

Heeeeee hee hee hee hee.

See anything interesting? Let’s zoom in:

Carrot Pants! Hee!!!

Ahem.

The goods:
-1 rutabaga
-1 bunch beets, with lovely greens (purples!)
-2 red onions
-2 apples
-Salad greens
-Sweet potato fingerlings
-Carrots, including Carrot Pants.

I still had the kale from the week before, plus the lovely, lovely purple greens from the beets, so I decided to thaw some italian sausage and figure something out.

I cut up a couple cloves of garlic and a red onion:

Took two sausages out of the casings and cooked them most of the way, then cooked the garlic and onions (in olive oil), slowly, until the onions were soft and a little sweet. All photos from this phase were both blurry AND badly lit, so I’ll spare you.

I added the kale in first, since the beet greens were pretty tender. I let those wilt down a bit, added the beet greens, let *those* wilt, poured in a little chicken stock (at this point, I scraped all the lovely browned bits up, using the chicken stock to deglaze the pan even though it was still full of things), added salt and pepper, and covered the pan.

While that finished getting tender, I sliced up a tube of Trader Joe’s organic cooked polenta–a $1.99 miracle item that you should add to your pantry today–and started crisping it up in a nonstick pan w/ a little oil. It takes longer to get crispy that you’d think; allow 10 minutes. I had to hold the greens and sausage for a little while.

When the polenta was done I added the sausage back into the greens and let it heat back up, checked for seasoning, then spooned it over a couple polenta slices, making sure to get a bit of the very savory and delicious broth.

Very fast and very, very delicious. And pretty. And I would like more now.


In house news, that same week I received a cross-country delivery: My grandfather’s wing chair! It’s not in perfect shape but I love it in our living room.

And if anyone needs a piece or two of furniture shipped cross-country at a reasonable price by an exceptionally friendly, helpful and responsible mover, shoot me a line–I was super-happy with the guy I found!

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So once it’s been actual weeks between posts, it starts getting harder and harder to write. Especially because a lot has happened in real life lately, and I haven’t really been focused on food. But ONWARD. I will post some short little recap things to get back in the swing of things.

Here’s what I got many, many weeks ago in the 16th week of the CSA. Like, early October.

There are:
-Sweet potato fingerlings
-More purple peppers
-A Napa cabbage
-Onions
-Apples
-Decorative squash
-Salad greens
-Kohlrabi
-Rosemary

It was finally getting chilly, so I hauled out the slow cooker and did a pork loin roast.

In the past for similar meals I’ve used hard cider, but this time I used regular–I prefer it with the bite of hard cider, which even a few splashes of cider vinegar weren’t able to match. This was too sweet for me. But anyway.

Chop up a couple onions, a few potatoes (I used smallish brown ones of an undetermined variety!), a few cloves of garlic. Sear the pork shoulder (season first w/ salt and pepper). Soften the onions and garlic in olive oil, then throw every else–potatoes, 2 cups cider, a sprig or two of rosemary, the pork–in the slow cooker.

Cook on low for 8 hours.

I was lazy and didn’t trim any fat off the pork, so the liquid was pretty fatty. I poured the liquid into my gravy separator to get some of the fat off before I reduced it.

It’s not a pretty dish. Next time I’ll serve it with some chard or other greens, and find other ways to liven up the presentation:

Still, nothing beats walking into the house to the smell of dinner all ready to go!


Other housekeeping notes:

-Here’s one of those chairs with a couple coats of stain on it:

And as a reminder, the before:

We just need to finish staining the other three and then get fabric and do the seats. Before Thanksgiving.

-We visited my favorite baby again a couple weeks ago, too. Gah, the cuteness!

That more than makes up for the frumpy dinner, right?

-I am back to freelancing full-time. Need some writing done? Shoot me an e-mail!

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So the other big house thing in the last couple weeks was something we’d talked about for a long time and finally decided to bite the bullet and do. We bought a piano.

The background: Ben is quite the musician; he attended LaGuardia High School of Music & Art and Performing Arts (what a mouthful) in NYC–better known as the Fame school–where he played piano and trumpet, and in college he minored in trumpet performance. He decided against a career in music because he likes stability (hee), but he still plays trumpet in a community band and whenever he has access to a piano he plays for hours at a time. We had talked and talked about getting one but were daunted by the expense and hassle or getting one into the apartment, but last month we decided it was time. He picked out a Boston upright 49.5″ piano (it only came in a really shiny black, not the matte I liked, but oh well) and we arranged for the piano delivery company guy to come visit and see how they could get it into our 4th floor apartment.

I called to leave him a message. The voicemail recording was: “Thank you for calling Allston Piano Movers! The Fine way to move a Steinway!” I laughed for about 5 minutes. In fact, I’m giggling now. Is that not an awesome slogan?

Anyway, Bobby came out to look at our stairs and windows and after one glance at the stairs he said he’d never move a piano up them. A crane it was! We spent part of the weekend taking the big front window apart, with the help of our very patient and kind neighbor who has redone all of his. It’s 44″ wide by 54″ tall, with curved glass, and I was SO nervous about the whole thing. While the window was out Ben took the opportunity to replace the broken sash cord on one side and the worn one on the other, so now that window opens and closes really well. The weights inside the frame weigh about 20 pounds each.

I had made Ben promise he’d be the one to supervise the delivery, since the mere thought of a crane+piano+our apartment made me feel queasy, but he ended up with a meeting he couldn’t change, so I was on duty.

The crane man, piano truck and police detail all showed up right on time.

The impressively bearded window man climbed around to remove the storm frame.

And then all of a sudden while I was taking the photos of the window, the piano was off the truck, on the crane, and in the air! It took about 3 minutes. I sprinted downstairs to shoot a photo:

And then ran back up to see the inside part:

There were a couple interesting minutes while the enormous men hauled the piano in the window.

But before I knew it they were wheeling it down the hall to the dining room!

*Poof!* It was just under an hour from minute the crane showed up (before the piano/police) to the time the window guy finished putting the storm window back in. Amazing. I highly recommend Allston Piano Movers–it wasn’t cheap but they worked fast and carefully and made all the annoying permit arrangements, etc.

So now while I cook, Ben plays piano! It’s the loveliest thing. He mostly plays American Standards (think Ella Fitzgerald–all the great old Porter, Gershwin, etc. stuff), but he’s working on some more classical things, too. Also, the Pride & Prejudice piano score. I shot a shaky little video while I was in the middle of making dinner last night and Ben was playing that (he would be appalled to see this if he knew, and would insist on mentioning that the piano tuner hasn’t come yet!):

The kitchen was only that messy until I finished cooking, I swear!

ETA: Ben actually read the post and watched the video. His comment: “The piano is SO out of tune. I’m calling them right now.”

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Chair rehab

I am ashamed to think about, let alone admit, how little I’ve been cooking lately. I didn’t expect to experience the usual rush of activity come September, but we definitely have nevertheless. I hope in the next couple weeks that we can get back into a normal schedule and work our way through, say, the 900 bell peppers in the produce drawer. (A major upside to the CSA: Since I’m getting such very, very fresh produce, it lasts forever in the fridge! I know we should be eating it as quickly as possible but at least not much has gone to waste.)

There have been a few interesting additions to the apartment lately, so in lieu of any food today I thought I’d share some of the excitement. Part one: The chairs.

We went to Brimfield at the beginning of the month, wandering out around noon for the last day of the fair. I was a little overwhelmed but had chosen to make it a scouting trip so that next time I didn’t have newbie jitters. For the most part I picked up a couple random bits and bobs: a gorgeous antique L-Square with a rosewood handle, a lovely folding ruler, some Czech glass buttons, clothespins, an alphabet block with K (for me), B (for Ben) and T (for Tom) on it…

I would like to make some sort of tufted bulletin board (in rough natural linen) with these someday:

At the very end I found a set of four chairs that I loved and Ben hated. They were super-sturdy and had padded seats so I can cross one leg under me during long dinners without that bony bit on the side of my ankle hurting (this is key for comfort, if not good manners). They were a pale color that I don’t love for our dining room, but I got the guy to sell them for cheap. Then I forced Ben to get on board. My plan is to stain them ebony and recover the seats. Of course, once I got home I started poking around and posted a Good Question at Apartment Therapy and Anna at Door16 and someone else both said they’re probably Heywood Wakefield. I spent a few days agonizing over whether to re-sell them or go ahead and strip them and re-stain them, thus removing pretty much any value they might have had. I couldn’t find any photos of HW chairs with this style of back, and finally I decided I would just go for it.

Here is one of the chairs (I got four):

I took the seats off and put some plastic sheeting on the deck, then started brushing on paint stripper (it’s the slightly-less-toxic orange goo; the guy at the hardware store wouldn’t even sell me the really toxic stuff, not that I wanted it). Once the varnish was bubbled I scraped it with a plastic scraper (later I used a small metal one for narrow spots).

Pre-stripper:

Post-stripper:

That took a while, but on the flat surfaces, at least, it was super-satisfying. The next day I did some final touch-ups with the stripper, then rubbed the whole thing down with (I think) denatured alcohol. Or Thinner, or something. I will check all the labels at home. That ate away the not-exactly-solvent-resistant gloves I was wearing, so I need to get a pair of good solvent resistant ones before I move on to chairs two through four. After it dried out, I sanded the whole thing.

Post-sanding:

You can’t really tell from the photos, but after the stripping process the grain of the wood was raised and rough. The sanding made it nice and smooth, though I think there might be some spots where I didn’t really get all the varnish all the way off, especially around the joints.

I am terrified to start staining. I’ve never used stain and everyone says it’s a blotchy nightmare, especially on hard woods like maple (which I think these are), plus once I stain this there’s no going back and maybe I will have ruined a valuable mid-century antique. Agh! But imagine that in a nice dark stain with a fabulous print on the seat! I should go forward, right?

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Blackboard results

Oh, for shame, Kate! I swore to myself that I would do some posting while I was home in Oregon (for a very, very lovely wedding, in which I was participating and at which I gave a toast–eep–and ate wonderful food and danced a lot and my feet hurt), but I was too too busy and didn’t. Very briefly, here is the final result of the magnetic blackboard saga. I painted 5 or 6 coats of the magnetic primer, one coat of white primer and one coat (plus touch-ups) of homemade blackboard paint, from Martha Stewart Living per Germi‘s tip. The chalkboard works, but not that well–the wall is just too textured to get a smooth line from the chalk. I love the idea, though, and will definitely use the recipe for future projects–it is super easy and I bet it works great if you have a smooth surface and, um, use matte paint instead of eggshell heavily doctored with regular acrylics. Ahem.

Anyway!

This before picture doesn’t show the blank wall very well–the blank wall where the board went, anyway. But it does show the messy office and how badly I needed to hang art.

Now (The wall color is the same and is more accurate in the before photo!):

Closer look at the board–I had no idea I was on a citrus and orange-colored-things kick until I put up a pile of things I’d been saving in one place. The power of the inspiration board!

In addition to not writing very well on the bumpy surface, the chalk is not well served by my horrible handwriting–I need penmanship classes. There is a girl in my office with the most astonishing handwriting, and I always think back to my friend Margaret’s gorgeous perfect cursive with longing… I am too impatient!

Funny synergy thing: I just caught up on my bloglines from the last 5 days and saw that Mrs. Limestone just did a magnetic blackboard, too. And then I saw blackboard walls all over at The Kitchn today. Odd.

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There are three things left to do in the kitchen:

-Install a hood
-Replace the lighting over the sink and in the middle of the room
-Hang art

I find the first two things totally overwhelming, but the third I can handle. Looking at the kitchen photos with the new shelf really made me aware of how bare the wall above the sink is, so I want to make that a priority. I have a whole pile of amazing prints and posters I’ve been buying from people like Keep Calm (the tea print), Amy Ross, Renee Garner of Wolfieandthesneak and Kate Bingaman-Burt. It’s an embarrassment of riches and I can’t seem to fit any of it in normal-sized frame (except the Amy Ross Manshroom, which is just languishing in my office waiting to be hung up).

I got the Kate Bingman-Burt and Renee Garner stuff just this week and both ladies sent along lovely little surprises with my purchases. I thought I’d post some photos since I was charmed.

From Kate I bought four of her “Obsessive Consumptiondrawings, of things we like to eat. (The bananas are for Ben only. Yuck.) She is moving to Portland, OR as we speak and was having a moving sale in her Etsy shop. She included two issues of her Zine, which chronicles a purchase every day, each month. The zines are tiny and so fun and charming, I really enjoyed them.

For now I’ve propped the wrapped drawings on the kitchen shelf–once I frame them they may still live in the same place! Or I might try to hang them low under the shelf; not quite sure.

Renee really surpassed herself with darling packaging. I was a doofus and ordered the posters seperately, just far enough apart that she had to send them in two tubes (I’m sorry!). The first poster was the Fungi one I’ve been wanting since before Christmas. She sent it with a magnifying glass!! Plus a “No Plastic is Fantastic” fact card.

The second poster, the “pods” print, came today, and tucked inside was a little sketchbook with some of Renee’s drawings on the front, and an awesome lime green pencil. (Plus a nice note inside the sketchbook.)

(It was hard to photograph the funny pencil, but here’s my best attempt. It says “Wolfie and the Sneak Love You” but WordPress has started cropping my photos for me, so part of it is cut off.)

I can’t express how much I love Etsy; once I get around to framing everything (sigh) my house will be packed with art by people I’ve gotten to interact with, instead of random impersonal stuff. I was on the phone with my brother when I opened the new poster, and he said, “Etsy is sort of the CSA of art, isn’t it?” I think he hit the nail on the head!

More food soon, I promise…

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