Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Quiche, Julia, and Me

A few years ago Nick gave me "Mastering the Art of French Cooking" for my birthday.  Many pleasant afternoons have been spent pouring through it over a cup of tea, but not a single recipe had come to fruition, until yesterday. I've been a little intimidated by the over 1,000 pages of recipes, terms and technique.

I had my heart set on a summer quiche, so I consulted Ms. Child and decided I was thoroughly capable of this dish, something that is considered a light "luncheon"meal took me the better part of a day, but that's another story.  The instructions for the crust alone are over 8 pages, so I will give you a brief overview here.  However, I suggest you read through her directions to get  a thorough understanding of making pie crust!

First I made the pastry dough or "páte briseě" as we call it in France.

2 cups flour (I sifted)
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp sugar
1 1/2 sticks butter
4 TB chilled shortening

Scant half cup of iced water

Mix the dry ingredients in a food processor, add butter and pulse until it resembles pea-sized crumbs.

Add the iced water and blend with hands. Julia is a bit particular about exactly how to finish up the dough.  Consult her book for exact directions.

I rolled it out and pushed half the dough into an 8-inch cake pan.  Again, this is not quite right according to Julia (she's very demanding of her ingredients and tools) but I did my best with what I had.  She suggests sending away for pans and such by mail order, FYI.

Once you have it rolled out, put some dry beans or a weight in and cook at 400˚ for about 10 minutes or until very lightly browned.

I have made a few quiches before, but mostly I've just sort of thrown eggs and milk into a pre-made pie crust and hoped for the best.  Yesterday I scrupulously followed the recipe.

6-8 slices bacon, simmered and chopped
3 eggs
1 1/2 cups half and half
1/2 tsp salt
pinch of pepper
pinch of nutmeg

I also added some leeks.

Pour into prepared par-baked pie shell and bake for an additional 25-30 minutes or until top puffs up.

Puff up little quiche! Puff!!

When Nick got home from work yesterday I had a chilled glass of white wine ready, a quiche in the oven and the table set.  I would have felt like the quintessential 50's housewife if only I had showered in the last couple of days and Callah was wearing more than a diaper and marker stains.

Ah well. I think my next quilting project is going to be an over the top frilly apron so I can look the part!

Thursday, July 25, 2013

The Woe's of a Working Mom

I'm about to make an observation that is not news.  Here goes: it's hard to be a working mom.

I'm certainly not the first person to mention this, nor is this even the first time I've written about this topic on my blog.  And I'll probably write about it again.  It's always on my mind.

Today I dropped a clingy, weepy Callah off at her baby sitter's and went off to an appointment for my job.  It was pretty routine; signing my contract, listening to my health care options and having my photo taken for my ID badge.  Since yesterday was Callah's first official day at her new baby sitter's house and it went swimmingly, I didn't worry too much about today.  Even though what I was doing was not that thrilling, I got excited again about my job for the fall.  The new students and school are pretty great and I am looking forward to my new position.  Plus it was fun to blow dry my hair and put on a skirt. 

I assumed the tears would be shelved after the first few minutes, so when I returned to pick up Callah at around 11 this morning I was devastated to see a puffy eyed little girl having spent a miserable morning crying for her momma.

You'd think after nearly two years the gut-wrenching polarity would be a bit easier.  I would be able to reconcile my work and home life and appreciate the time I am able to be with her and realize that as full-time working mom's jobs go, mine is pretty great.  But it's just so damn difficult to feel torn in two directions.  And I don't like to speak for all men here, but I hazard to say, it's different for women.  My husband loves Callah and misses her when he's at work, but I'm not sure he completely comprehends the agonizing pull I feel in two disparate directions.  Work is not only a necessity for us (my job provides health insurance) but it's good for me and I like it.  

But home-oh home! It's where I can ensure that Callah feels loved and cared for and cherished in a way that only a mommy can. I can rock her before her nap and sing (off-key) the lullabies I've been singing to her since birth.  I can stack blocks and drip water on her toes. I can make a mess in the kitchen and put flour on her nose.  We can go to the library and listen to stories and the zoo to see the monkeys.  And I can watch every minute as she changes before my eyes, listen to each new vocabulary word and ride out each little (or big) tantrum.

I wish I had a solution, I wish I could protect her from ever feeling sad or (gasp) abandoned by her mommy.  I wish I could do these two things with the level of perfection I want to do everything.  I wish I could shield her from the unhappy and the ugly in the world.  In lieu of all that I wish for the peace to accept things as they are and the knowledge to know that I am blessed in all ways every day.

Here's some pictures of us doing the things at home I love to do!

Friday, July 19, 2013

The Kitchen Christening

It takes awhile in a new house to fall into a rhythm with your kitchen.  It also takes a few trips to the grocery store before you fully restock your shelves.  In Milwaukee it made perfect sense to pitch the last bit of vanilla but now I could really use the last drop.  

My kitchen in this apartment is about the same size as my last kitchen with one noticeable and tragic oversight.  There is no pantry.  When my Grandma Scott designed their house after retirement she omitted a bathroom and put in an enormous pantry instead. As a 12-year old I questioned the logic but now I get it!  I was aghast as box after enormous box screaming "KITCHEN"in my own hand piled up.  

We've cobbled together a system that will work for the year we plan on living here. Nick bought and assembled a serviceable wire shelving system from Home Depot. It was cheap and fits the narrow space perfectly.  That and simply not unpacking 8 boxes of beer glasses, china and silverware has helped to bring the space up to working order.

I've pumped out quite a few acceptable meals in here over the last 2 weeks and we've grilled out a number of times, but my fingers were itching to mix up a baking project, so yesterday I flipped through Grandma's cookbook for inspiration.

These beauties have been staring me down for a few days willing me to not let them go past their peak.
My Grandma's recipe for peach cobbler has aways been a summer favorite of mine AND the concept of cobbling something together in a hurry seemed reminiscent of my recent kitchen set up--so Peach Cobbler it is! Here's Grandma's ingredient list:

Since I had nowhere near 6 cups of peaches, I threw in a cup of blueberries and halved the recipe.  I also didn't have any cornstarch but in the spirit of "cobble up" I used flour to thicken and it turned out quite nice.  

I mixed the fruit together on the stove and added the topping.  It went together really quickly and was a great way to use up the fruit on my counter.

Here's the rest of the recipe:

I should have heeded her warning about the the sugar, mine was a little overly sweet.  But still delicious.

I had to run out in the blazing heat to pick up ice cream from Target because it was the right thing to do.  We enjoyed a nice homemade dessert that was yummy and more importantly reminded me of summer surrounded by family and the beach.    

Thursday, July 18, 2013

A Little bit Alone, but not lonely!

When your best (and only) friend is your nearly 2-year old daughter, you find yourself doing some interesting things for fun.  This morning after our walk in which I ruined her fun once again (she would have preferred to walk in the newly laid tar rather than ride in her stroller) we spent the next 45 minutes in the blazing sun watching the surprisingly fascinating process of laying tar.

I have never recieved so man winks and smiles from construction workers in my life.  Although since it was nearing 100 degrees before 8 AM and I looked like a hot, sweaty mess; I have to believe some of the attention was meant for Callah.  Still, it boosted my self esteem and cheered me up. 

I've been feeling just a little adrift in the world lately. In filling out Callah's information for her babysitter, I had the horrifying thought, "who the hell is going to be my emergency contact?" Other than Laurie at Starbucks I don't even know anyone's name in the 15 mile radius around our home.

Even though Callah is a great friend (if a little needy and self-serving) we are getting off our lazy croissant eating butts this Sunday morning and going to church. I have hopes that we will find some like-minded friends with little ones of their own in a church in the area.

I look back on my life now and have a new found admiration for my parents who manage to make life-long friends wherever they go and leave a lasting impression behind them.  They used to joke that each state they lived in left them with one great souvenir- a new baby! Andy was born in Connecticut, I in Arizona, Tom in Illinois and Kent in Pennsylvania.  In Idaho we got a dog.  I always felt surrounded by love and support from my immediate family and from neighbors and friends that my parents made through church, school and work.

I feel a little alone in the world, but thanks to Callah, Nick and a few good books from the library I'm not lonely!  Nor am I bored. I acquiesce most things to the will of my best friend, and she usually turns out to be right. It's best to sit in every chair in every store, try on every shoe and run your fingers through the fountain.

To a little girl who is almost 2 every day is an exploration and an opportunity to learn and see something new. How thrilling for me to have that sense of adventure and exploration in my life too!

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Go, Pack, Go!

For ten years Wisconsin has been my home.  I always thought of myself as "not from Wisconsin." When I lived in Idaho I always thought of myself as from Pennsylvania, and when I lived in Pennsylvania I was a kid and it seemed home.  The move from Erie, PA was the most difficult, it came at an awkward age (13) and felt the most jarring in my life.  My other moves I was too young to realize what was going on or too ready to move on to mind.

In 1983 we moved to Pennsylvania, In 1993 we moved to Boise, Idaho.  In 2003 I left Boise after I finished college and moved to Wisconsin in what I thought was a temporary move.  So when 2013 rolled around, I recognized the signs (and the threes) and knew that if ever there was a time to go this was it.

Nick and I have been kicking around the idea of leaving Milwaukee for quite some time.  His job had sort of stagnated and I have been feeling the much talked about "burn out" in my job for over a year.  So we started creating opportunities for ourselves to move.  I applied for a teaching license in Minnesota and Nick continued his job search in the Twin Cities--a place we deemed big enough to suit modern architecture, good school districts (for me and for Callah) and progressive and diverse enough to please all of us.

We have been here in Minnesota for a week.  Since Nick hasn't started his job yet and the apartment we are renting has a pool, it feels a bit like we are on vacation.  We've been exploring our surroundings, eating out and stopping for coffee at a new cafe each morning.  I've mastered my corner of the world (apartment to Target, apartment to Trader Joe's, apartment into the city and back again).

I imagine when it all sets in the reality of the situation--leaving our friends, our home and our jobs will settle in and start to bring anxiety, but for now Nick and I cautiously ask each other every day, "did we do that right thing? Are we happy? Is this good?"  And the answer as I sip my ice coffee and kick my toes in the pool is, yes. It's right because we did it, because we're here and we're together.
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