Aunts and Brew

Right now the rain is pouring and I’m trying to find my favorite pair of wool socks, but over the weekend we had one of those wonderful reprieves of winter weather that we get from time to time here.  The temperatures were in the 60s, the sun was shinning, and the humidity was so low we actually had a fire warning.  Even though the February scenery of dormant plants and lawns was still around it felt like Spring.  It also enticed a few of our bulbs (tulips, daffodils, crocuses) to show themselves a little more.  We planted them two Falls ago, they came last year but we didn’t really believe they would do it again.  This whole season thing still messes with our minds when it comes to plants (and other things).  Where I’m from if a plant looks dead, it’s dead-none of this “good-bye see you in five months business”.

Along with the gorgeous weather we had a wonderful weekend.  On Friday we tried a new restaurant, Honey got an excellent bourbon and a plate of various specialties.  I got a lobster mac and cheese, because I was feeling decetant.  Honey’s meal ended up giving each of us enough leftovers for lunch the next day.   It was incredible and now from the bullying and shoving we saw for a piece of meat, we now know what the cat’s favorite restaurant is too.

On Saturday we spent most of the day at home, prepping the garden for Spring and enjoying some patio time. After the sun set we headed inside a worked on the latest phase of a Christmas gift.  A friend of ours gave Honey a gallon beer brewing kit this year.  After a few weeks of hanging out in the guest bathroom tub (I’ll explain) and our bedroom closet the beer was ready to be bottled.  We had bathtub beer because I have heard horror stories of chemical reactions and pressure changes resulting in exploding beer in places like closets or pantries.  So I thought if such things were to occur, it would be better to have them in a easily cleanable place, along with easy access to water.

Beer brewing

Of course halfway through the process I decided to have my cousin spend the night so the beer had to moved to our closet.  Thankfully the move did not rattle it and it kept to itself for its remaining week of processing.

Unlike brewing the beer, the bottling was a two person job. We ordered some Thai food and carefully practiced with the tubing and bottles until we had worked out the physics of the bottling process.  We had some equipment failures resulting in us pouring for the second part, but it was helpful because now we know what we’ll need for the next batch, if this batch isn’t revoltingly terrible.

Beer Bottles

On Sunday we met with our friends Poppy and Monte for brunch and we found out that Honey and I are going to be “Aunts” (in the way Joey Tribbiani thinks).  They are having a little girl and they wanted our input for a name. :-O  I don’t know about you but I have never been asked to help with a name for a baby.  Even when my sister came I was never asked.  Poppy and Monte have some names in mind of course but the really wanted our picks.  I started off by sending her a picture of a page in my writing journal with a bunch of female names that I brainstormed when I was writing a very female-heavy story.  I tried to write a new name for every letter of the alphabet several times.  There are over 90 names on the page, but of course in this exercise I had repeated a few names, one of which being one they had already chosen.  She took it as my leaning towards that name, which was not the case. I had looked up popular names for what was going to be the birth year of these characters and I had chosen some from there.

I’ll come up with some more and send them her way, I know that truly I don’t have any actual influence in this department-they will name their daughter the name they want her to have-as it should be. But I appreciate them asking, I just hope with no strange twist of storytelling and time that I get credited for naming her. Haha.

Chocolate Pot de Crème

A day late, but as I hope you will find, worth the wait.  Here is the recipe I used for the Chocolate Pot de Creme.

This is out of (surprisingly) one of my favorite and most used cookbooks, The Better Home & Garden Cookbook.  I have a few adjustments as per usual.  First of all I found using the double-boiler method when heating the chocolate and cream worked better for preserving as much chocolate mixture as possible and excess elbow grease from the cleaning and soaking I had to the first time I tried this recipe.  I also use stainless steel pots so they can be a little trickier when it comes to heating. I also recommend using the yummiest chocolate you have and maybe using a little bit more than 6 oz of it (maybe-7 to 8).

This recipe can also be divided in half quite easily if you are not entertaining for 8.

Chocolate Pot de Crème

Prep: 10 minutes Cook: 10 minutes  Chill: 4 hours to 24 hours

Makes: 8-ish servings

Ingredients:

2 Cups Whipping Cream

6-8 oz  Semisweet Chocolate, coarlsey chopped.

(I used Ghirardelli’s Semi-Sweet Chocolate Chips 60% Cacao and I didn’t chop them up)

1/3 Cup Sugar

4 Beaten Egg Yolks

1 tsp Vanilla

1. In a medium heavy saucepan combine whipping crew, chocolate, and sugar.  Cook and stir over medium heat about 10 minutes or until mixture comes to a full boil and thickens.

2. Gradually stir all of the hot mixture into the beaten yolks; stir in vanilla.  Divide chocolate into 8 sake cups, small cups, or small 3 oz ramekins*.

3. Cover and chill for 4 to 24 hours before serving. Place garnish before serving.

4. Listen to all the ooh and ahhs as you family or guest gobble them down.

* I used 10 oz ramekins to leave room for fruit or other garnishes like peeled chocolate.

Chocolate Pot de Creme

Tea Time

A few years ago when I wasn’t paying attention I became a tea person.  At first it was just a substitute for coffee, something that wouldn’t give me such a hard wake-up-jolt.  Then I started having a cup in the afternoon, something to sip on that would keep me out the naughty part of the pantry.  Then I started reading about the health benefits of Green Tea and I started drinking a cup of that like it was an everyday multivitamin.  When I considered starting to buy tea at Costco, I figured I couldn’t deny my love of tea anymore.

So obviously when I set out to make my office a place I could easily spend hours and hours in, I knew in some way it had to include tea.  My office is in the opposite corner of the house from the kitchen, so when I go to make another cup I can usually find one or eight other distractions along the way.  I can usually find a cute kitty that meows at me or rolls on its side so I can pet its stomach, there might be a laundry cycle finishing up that needs to be put away, and of course there is always the dishes staring at me as I wait for my kettle to boil.  It wasn’t helping with my attempts at a quick break, so I I tried to think of a non-fire hazard alternative that could work. I found one on Pinterest-because you know everything is on freaking Pinterest now.  It was under Ikea Hacks and it was a called a Råskog. It seems like it is one of the most versatile items in all of IKEA.  People use them in kitchens, bathrooms, kids rooms, on patios as cleaning stations, plant holders, bars, and even pet beds.  I figured I could use mine as a tea cart.

Tea Tray

And knitting project holder (which I could have really used this holiday season).

It works well because I can just fill up the pot before I begin to write and flip a switch whenever my cup needs a refill.  It has led to lower productivity in dish washing, but it has made it easier to write for longer periods of time, which I have enjoyed.

So what would you use a cart like that for?

In the Details

It appears that I have been very bad in mastering the art of detailed memories.  This poor thing has virtual tumbleweeds running across the screen and I haven’t really been able to pinpoint why or find a good excuse.  Was it because I moved away from my familiar surroundings and questioned whether I should use it as a chance to reinvent myself?  Was it that I did so much purging of my life before the move I didn’t really know where I put my words?  Was it because the internet seemed to be a much scarier place last year than the years before? Or was it that I really didn’t feel like talking?

Who knows.

All I can say is that regardless of the reason (or reasons) why it made it so difficult to get to my Create New Post page-it’s a damn shame.  In this land I am in of new people and new experiences I have not recorded the moments like I should.  And now there will certain things that I won’t be able to remember that I forgot, as odd as that may seem.  And while I am proponent of not documenting every moment or meal or my proof I was somewhere, sometimes you have to share a little bit.  I think that lack of sharing made me lose a few people, and I don’t mean followers here.

We just hit our two year mark of living here; when we arrived it was such a blur of moving, packing, finding a house, exploring, and getting to a new stage of normal.  Everything felt so much more intense, the decisions were all big or were things that would be ingrained into our daily life.  Things like where we would live, what furniture did we need, where could I find the right ingredients, or good produce (Trader Joe’s produce sucks beyond belief here). Going to a new part of town was nerve-wracking because I didn’t get how the city was structured or how my Garmin could fail me when I needed it the most.  And of course there was always the feeling of having to hold it all back, if I dared said anything bad or about the frustrations I had.  I would get a healthy wallop of “I told you so” or “what did you expect moving there?” from the people in my hometown (and I am not just talking about friends).  But on the different side of the coin some people I spoke to were going through some rough things and I didn’t feel comfortable sharing all the good things I experienced, so I kept my mouth shut on a few things that maybe I should’t have. I’m working on it.

Okay so enough on that, on to some fun detailed memory making.

I don’t remember if ever mentioned but the bulk of my cousins live near us.  I have 9 total, and 4 live within a half hour’s drive and two more frequently visit from a little further down the road.  They didn’t grow up getting to hang out with their cousins like the California bunch did, so I thought I would make up for some lost time and host a movie night.  Something I had offered to do last July and never got around to planning.  But Christmas with everyone went really well and I figured i would add to my New Year’s resolutions.

So last Friday four of my cousins (including one who just happened to be in from out of town), one cousin’s spouse, and one cousin’s fiancé (sans my cousin) came to the house.  I filled everyone with a vast amount of junk food and we watched The Royal Tenenbaums.  Originally I had planned to do Moonrise Kingdom, but I wasn’t sure what their Wes Anderson experience was-Tenebaums is a good gateway movie.  They all loved the film and really enjoyed the evening, I even heard Super Woman’s husband even say that it was like a mini-vacation.  Which as a hostess, is such an awesome compliment to hear.   I like our home to be relaxing and welcoming to our guests.

Since there were eight people in house that all needed to see the screen and our usual configuration does not allow for it, I got to do my un-official favorite hobby of furniture rearranging.  We have a sectional that latches in the middle, so I did this:

Movie Night seating

A more accommodating movie theatre seating arrangement.  We were in talks of throwing out the couch and getting a smaller one, but the Movie Night bought it some more time if it gets to be a regular thing.

Everyone was relaxed with their sodas, beers, or whiskey laughing and enjoying themselves.  But just when they thought they couldn’t take any more sugar I gave them each a Chocolate de Pot Creme.  Yeah, I am making those things again.  It got rave reviews.

Chocolate Pot de Creme

After the movie ended and the ramekins of chilled chocolate were licked clean, a few people parted to relieve the babysitter but a few stayed and we watched Stranger than Fiction. This led to into an interesting eleven-pm-coffee-fueled discussion.

I liked entertaining my cousins.  I had picked up one, we’ll call him Shade earlier and for the first time since we were twelve we got to hang out together before everyone came over.  With a family that size usually most of the conversations are group discussions with very limited one on one time.  We exchanged views on writing, creativity, food, societal theories, and of course modern media.  We have many differences, but we respected each other’s opinion and shared ideas.  Perhaps it was that conversation that gave me a little more courage to come back here to share and push the publish button.