Sunday, January 27, 2008

Yep, Still Fun. Kind Of.

Things are still pretty jolly around here. But ever since we found out this week that Shaun's last day of work will be April 25th (a bit earlier than we expected), all of the fun does have a bit of a "fiddling while Rome is burning" feel to it.

We had a Spanish dinner last week. We weren't aiming for fanciness; we just wanted to eat some things we never would have had otherwise. Of course my new cookbook provided inspiration and practical help.

For appetizers we had celery stuffed with butter and blue cheese, salmon croquetas (I cheated and bought these at the Basque market) and tinned octopus. You may wonder what possessed me to buy a tin of octopus that contained about eight bites of meat and cost $6. Well, it WAS a special occasion. The package had amazing graphics. And we've been watching a lot of Anthony Bourdain's travel/food show No Reservations lately, which has made us more open to trying unusual foods.

I followed the serving suggestion on the back of the box and sauteed the tiny pieces of octopus in olive oil and added red pepper, salt, and lemon juice. The boys were very gratified that they could see the little suckers on the tentacles, and I was very gratified that the boys were willing to try it. In fact, Nels had more than one bite. And it was worth every penny to hear two year-old Willem exclaim "Yummy octopus!"

Next we had a salad of lomo embuchado (dry cured pork loin) topped with endive and pomegranate seeds in a honey/moscatel vinegar (a new ingredient to me) vinaigrette. The main course was pork loin cooked in milk (the one thing I'd made before and always had good success with) and we had a potato/cucumber salad made with homemade mayo and garnished with roasted red peppers, tomatoes, olives, eggs, and anchovies. Amanda is the one who made it look this good:

The dessert was crema Catalan, a Spanish version of creme brulee. This one had no vanilla but was infused with cinnamon, orange and lemon. It was delicious.

In other food-related news, we finally tried a new Polish restaurant we've been meaning to get to. They happened to be serving Ukrainian borscht and we happened to find it one of the most delicious soups we've ever eaten. The owner/chef came out and asked about us (are you Polish?) and our boys (she was delighted to learn that they like soup) and it felt like we were in Europe. Eric and Josie, I hope that the borscht in Kyiv is as delicious as the borscht in Meridian, Idaho.

In case we don't sound indulgent enough yet, you should also know that we had an informal beer tasting this past Saturday night. Dark, chocolaty things. Andrew has hooked Shaun on a beer tasting podcast. Once you catch the fever, all you want to do is taste and discuss beer. We sipped and laughed and had a grand old time despite the fact that a few of the beers were not very good.

Saturday was an open house day, and beer tasting was a good way to end it. We tidied and scrubbed as usual. We're starting to get pretty good at this cleaning business. When we came back home at 3:00, we saw a couple talking in the front yard. We were hopeful, but our realtor told us they were the only people who had showed up from 12-3.

We asked what their story was.

"They're from New York. They're looking for a place with a garage and a shop, but they went downstairs and looked around for quite a while."

Hmm. We don't even have a garage. I'm surprised they bothered to spend all that time looking downstairs.

Oh. After our realtor left I went downstairs to use the bathroom and saw exactly why they'd been down there. The toilet seat was up. The toilet had been used. The toilet had not been flushed.

After I recovered from being exceedingly grossed out, I managed to feel relieved (no pun intended) that I had thoroughly cleaned the toilet, including under the seat.

Let's pray the house sells. Soon.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

January is FUN!

Uninteresting non-sequiter: this photo reminds me that when I was little and visiting my grandmother in Las Vegas, I got confused by Kentucky Fried Chicken's slogan "Finger lickin' good." I would ask for "the chicken in the box with the fingers in it." Yum!

If any of you out there think that you have/had the world's cutest baby, you are mistaken. This sassy little bundle holds the title.

banana break

Fortunately Willem thought it was funny when Nels decided to sit on his lap.

The king of the deep-fryer makes...

Spanish apple fritters!

Good times.

(Many thanks to Amanda for taking the great photos of the Good Times. It's always a shame when the most photogenic person in the room is also the best photographer.)

Do I Have A Problem?

Or is this normal? It's not that I think that someone who seldom ventures farther than Albertson's or the doughnut shop needs this many shades of lip color. It's just that I haven't found THE ONE yet. You know. The one that makes my eyes a piercing blue, gives my cheeks a rosy glow, and makes me look like I am the world's most well-rested woman.

(And, yes, this is what remains AFTER I threw a bunch out. The only one being kept for sentimental reasons rather than wearability is a MAC red called Ruby Woo that I wore for a play set in the 40s.)

Monday, January 7, 2008

Not "Just like the ones we used to know"

We had a different Christmas this year. Every year we alternate which family we will spend Christmas with--mine or Shaun's. This year was to be with my family, but that has presented a problem as of late. We are increasingly scattered (primarily geographically but arguably in other ways as well) and there is no longer a standard family Christmas celebration to attend.

We decided to head to Southern California for the first time in a year and a half. The Christmas players would include: my sister, who dwells in a small and charming apartment in Koreatown in LA, my grandfather, whose 50's era tract home in Garden Grove provides ample grounds for having him committed, my mom, who flew in from Bend, Shaun's aunt Nancy, who lives in her parents' house in La Habra Heights which has not yet been de-pack-ratted, and Shaun's Grandma Martin, who lives in a small apartment in a swanky place for the elderly in Fullerton.

If you've followed all that, you will perhaps have noticed that we were left without a suitable place to have a Christmas gathering (mainly Christmas dinner!) with all of those folks. Shaun's sister, who was celebrating with her husband's family, came nobly to our rescue and not only let us use her home (where we stayed for the week) but even prepared a Christmas morning meal for all of us ahead of time. Very, very kind.

My family spent Christmas Eve at Hillary's house, where we enjoyed a very memorable meal. Nels ate prosciutto and asked for a second serving of pate. I had duck confit for the first time. In case you're wondering, it was like the bird version of bacon. The homemade butterscotch pudding was really really really good. And pudding is not something I normally get excited about.

On Christmas Day the boys got way too many presents and we enjoyed time with Kim and Cory and Henry before they left to be with Cory's side of their family.

We ate too much, with a full breakfast followed by a dinner of prime rib roast, potatoes au gratin, and all sorts of other wonderful things. We were so full that we didn't even bother with the butternut squash soup. Hillary once again had done all the shopping and cooking. Quite a production.

The rest of our week was relaxing. We had a nice day at the Huntington with "Antsy Ancy" and Grandma Martin, and one friend visit with Steve and Danica. We are now trying to snap out of the "let's move back to California" mood that gripped us as we enjoyed the balmy climate and the great company.

The boys were introduced to and fell in love with the Grinch this Christmas. Willem is making his best Grinch face here.

Ah, sunny, sunny day at the Huntington Gardens.

How could this display not be a hit? It featured a seed pod that spun like a propeller and a fan operated by a TRIGGER!

Nels, Nels and Willem waiting for our flight home. Yes, this family traveling from Ontario (they live in SoCal) to Boise on our flight also had a four year-old son named Nels after his grandfather.

The art of appeasement: give the two year-old ALL the toys you brought. And all the snacks. All at once.

And now, here we are back in cold and snowy Boise, housebound thanks to the severe cold/flu-type thing the boys have been thoughtfully passing back and forth. Willem is developing a new dinosaur scream. Nels figured out that I find it annoying when he repeats my own words back to me. I have let the boys watch too many videos while they've been sick, and we've spent most of the day dealing with some very unpleasant withdrawal symptoms. I have finally relented for the sake of my stress level, and they are watching a Bible Songs video as I write this. I am hoping that the biblical content will calm them. Or maybe it will calm ME. Right now a choir of children is exhorting me that "Jesus wants me for a sunbeam." My attitude today has not been sunbeam-esque. But then again, a sunbeam is of no use in preventing one child from strangling another with a measuring tape. So we'll have to see about this sunbeam thing.

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

The Odd Couple

One is tall and slim, verbose, given to dramatics, and--how shall I say?--fastidious.
The other is short and barrel-shaped, communicates primarily via expressive noises, and is, above all else, scrappy.

I refer, of course, to my two sons. Anyone who's met them will have no trouble discerning which one is which.