Peas Please

What do we talk about? We talk about the house.  ALL THE TIME. What's going on with your house? Are you finished with the bathroom yet? What's the next project you're working on?

I don't know guys. I don't know.

I want to be done with the bathroom but it is draaaaaaagging ooooooooon into summer. THere's all these *little* projects left to do, like paint the ceiling, shim the cabinet, put trim on the ceiling (maybe...?), frame out the mirror, hang pictures, and FINALLY pick out fabric for the shower curtain. It's getting there, I swear.

Cori recently gave me a Passion Planner and for the first few weeks I've had it, I've felt more productive and organized and (dare I say it?) happy. I won't go into all the stuff involved here, but in general it's speaks to the way my brain works and helps me see what I've accomplished. Isn't that a good thing?

Next up (after the bathroom) is the kitchen, and I've got BIG plans for the kitchen. Most of what we want to do is change all the colors, from gray and white cabinetry to white walls, new trim, concrete countertops, new lighting, and an additional pantry system (because we have SO many kitchen gadgets!). Not to mention new floors... but those won't come until we redo the entire first level. Let's be honest - that won't happen for a little while. We need to pace ourselves.

I'm still making beautiful things in the kitchen with Cori. Lately we've been really good at meal planning, thanks to the help of our friends Meg + Cam and their weekly Blue Apron boxes, as well as Sheena + Ezra for their shining example of menu planning/budgeting. We have been getting our milk and ice cream delivered via Oberweiss every Thursday, Green Bean every other Friday, and of course we are making trips to Costco and ordering via Amazon Pantry. It's working out and we are creating delicious things every day.

Recently we made a beautiful, scrumptious, SEXY pea soup. Yeah, I said it. That pea soup was sexy with it's vibrant color, smooth texture, and spiked with a citrus infused creme fraiche and olive oil for butteriness. So sexy.

Okay, I just grossed myself out. Let's pretend I didn't say that and instead focus on the food at hand: pea soup.

Most pea soup is thick, dotted with ham, and a sick grayish-green color. Not my cup of tea. Or soup. I'm sure I've had great pea soup in the past, but this was nothing like anything I'd ever had before. The trick to making this pea soup is focusing on consistency and brightness. Peas are boiled in a brine of sorts, which allows them to flavor up just enough to where extra salt added is unnecessary. Then, they are blended with water (not cream) and pushed through a sieve until completely smooth. The pop of color the blanched peas produce is unlike anything I've ever cooked. It SCREAMS spring! It's finished with a drizzle of delicious olive oil and a swirl (or three) of creme fraiche and lemon zest. Delicious on its own or eaten with crusty bread drizzled with olive oil. It's gorgeous and worth the time you put into it. I promise you.

 

English Spring Pea Soup with Lemon Creme Fraiche

inspired by Thomas Keller's French Laundry Cookbook

  • 7 cups frozen peas
  • 1 cup sugar
  • ½ cup salt
  • 1 cup water, plus more as needed
  • 4 oz. creme fraiche
  • Zest of one lemon, plus 1 TBSP juice
  • drizzle of good quality olive oil, optional
  • Thyme, Basil, or Pea shoots for garnish, optional

 

Bring water, sugar, and salt to a boil in a large pot. Add the peas, and boil for 4-5 minutes, or until tender.

Fill a large bowl with water and ice, and have it standing by when the peas are done cooking. Remove the peas from the pot with a skimmer or slotted spoon, and place them directly into the ice bath. This will stop the cooking, and help preserve their bright color. 

Drain the cooked peas from the ice water, and add them to a blender or food processor. Add 1 cup fresh water, and puree until completely smooth. If the mixture is too thick to blend, add more water as needed.

Pass the puree through a fine mesh sieve. (This step is optional, especially if you have a really powerful blender, but I prefer the consistency of the soup once it's been sieved). Use a wooden spoon or rubber spatula to press all the liquid through.

Taste, and adjust the seasoning if necessary. If the consistency is too thick, add more water to thin as needed. 

Soup can be warmed on the stove, or chilled in the fridge before serving. I like it warm but not hot, so try it hot and cold and see which you prefer.

When you're ready to serve, whisk together the creme fraiche, lemon zest, and lemon juice. Serve alongside the soup, or drizzle it over to garnish (you can thin the creme fraiche with a bit more lemon juice, or water, to create a drizzleable consistency). Serve as is, or garnish with fresh thyme, fresh basil, or fresh pea sprouts.

Breaking down walls

I haven't made time to do much, as of late.  Since moving in, Cori and I have been focusing on the general set up of our home.  Originally I'd wanted to attack the kitchen head-on, but I'm learning nothing ever goes as planned when you're a homeowner.  It's been a hard lesson and we are on a sharp learning curve.

We couldn't afford this bathroom, that's the plain truth of it all.  We had dreamed about what could be, what would eventually be, and I'd reconciled myself to day dreaming about tile and vanities.  Dreaming until one day a nightmare of a water spot appeared on our kitchen ceiling.  The delicate balance of what we needed to do that was vital vs. important swung sharply in a new direction, leaving us to scrape dollars together and commit to our bathroom fantasy.

Working with our contractor, I've learned a host of new skills (i.e. tiling, grouting, drywall teardown), and have been forced into committing, which is something I generally shy away from. There are so many options out in the world, and what if I get bored with my decision in 6 months? A year? Next week, even?  How much time do we have to react to the shifting sand that is the decision making part of my brain? 

Apparently I had nothing to worry about, only trusting in our wonderful contractor and plumber, who ensured the work would be done well and on time.  

Today we began laying the tile, and it seemed real. Finally it was beginning to look like a bathroom again, and the bathroom of my dreams. As pieces and parts start to come together, I get more and more excited about the future of our house. It's giving me hope we can get things accomplished and in a reasonable amount of time (with the assistance of a professional or two).

With the upcoming holiday, the bathroom project underway, and my new position at Anthro, I don't know how much I will be able to commit to posting anything.  It's been too long, but in order to close one thing out well, I feel I shouldn't spread myself too thin in the commitment area. I've committed enough for one holiday already.

On the menu for Friendsgiving:  Sweet Potato Pie with Toasted Marshmallow Meringue 


Things Plumbers Say

This week we are starting at the top of our "Must Do Immediately Or We Can't Live Like Normal Folk" List.

This list includes:

  • Finding a new washing machine (the one we were given by our lovely friends decided it was time to really kick the bucket once we got our hands on it).  Scratch and dent, here we come.
  • Address the various plumbing issues in both the basement and main bathrooms, including but not limited to:
    • Installing a garbage disposal (there hasn't been one until now)
    • Fixing the sloooooooow drain in the master bathroom sink
    • Removing the "iron lung" pipe that takes water out of the house to the septic system, and replacing it with PVC, thus allowing the downstairs tub to drain properly.

Mike the Plumber, otherwise known as The Notorious MTP, has made several trips to address the above plumbing issues.  MTP is a gold ol' boy with a voice like a country gravel road and the demeanor of your favorite dive bartender.  He's got stories, profanity, and a whistle that would make the Andy Griffith Show whistler jealous.  Earlier in the week he installed our garbage disposal (and in spite of myself, I find it beautiful every time I open the cabinet underneath the sink), and delivered me the sad news about the plumbing in my bathroom (they made a LOOP out of pipes, thus causing backup until we rip out the pipes altogether). He's quickly becoming one of my favorite people.

At the moment, MTP is in the basement tearing out the iron lung.  It's loud, the floor shakes every once in awhile (I've been crossing my fingers the bathroom doesn't fall into the basement below), and he keeps coming upstairs and giving me little pearls of wisdom and wit.  A sample:

"Well kiss my grits!"

"Where are the sonofabitches who installed these pipes?"

"Whoever installed the plumbing in this house oughta' be shot."

"Well Goddammit..."

"You didn't like your toilet anyway, right?"

"I could be here all week."

 

While we leave MTP here to work through his issues, Cori and I are heading out to get a washing machine.  Hopefully we'll still have a floor and some semblance of proper plumbing when we get home.  In any event, we'll still have our beer fridge we can raid if we don't.

Overwhelmed

Disorder. Chaos. Messiness. Stress.  I'm not handling it well, guys.

Cori and I have purchased a house, and with it all our hopes and dreams for the future.  A yard for the dog.  A large kitchen for me to work and photograph in.  Space for both an animal room and an office AND a guest room.  Trees.

Yet there is not one space I feel I can walk into without seeing something was built either A. incorrectly, or B. addressed unprofessionally by those who flipped the house.  

My list includes both electrical issues, plumbing issues, flooring slants in weird places, washing machine fiascos, and a dog who seems Hell bent on destroying the laundry room.  This is the kind of stress I can't breathe when facing, especially all at once.  In order to give my life order and feel both an emotional and physical sense of calm, I need serene spaces, functionality, and clarity.  Right now I have little of it in our new home.  While we have made great strides in getting the unpacking checked off, the ever-growing list of immediate and semi-immediate to-do's overwhelms me.  

In an effort to put it it in once space, I feel I need to make a master (run-on) list, and then categorize everything by A, B, and C list priorities.  Beginning at the beginning, as it were.

I love the idea of living in a house we can grow in, and I want to make it into everything we need. I didn't want, however, to feel this crazy and disappointed in every room I enter right from the start.  It comes with homeownership, and we got what we paid for (and then some).

In the weeks, months, and years to come, we'll make it work.  I know we will.  Right now?  Right now I just want to sit in this room filled with budgies, rats, and a hedgehog and not think about any of it.

Strapped In

I'm in the dressing room of Marshall's and I'm literally trapped in a garment.  The shape wear I decided I needed to try on is so tight I can't move out of the contorted position I am in.  Completely caught in a web of flesh toned spandex, I contemplate the potentially-panicked conversation I'll need to have with the associate in charge of the fitting room area.  

"Um, hello?  Um... Miss?! Yeah... can you please come down to my room for a second?  See my foot sticking out from under the door?  Yes!  That's me!!  Yeah, so I have this sausage casing thing on and I can't move my shoulder blade any farther in order to get out of the- yes, I'm stuck in Spanx.  I'm sure this has happened on several occasions to other women trying them on...  Oh it hasn't?  Huh, well maybe other people have been too scared to ask for help.  Could you, um, help me get the-wait wait WAIT!  My arm doesn't bend that way!  Who do you think I am? Gumby? *breathing hard* I think the strap that's caught around my trachea is making me light headed... what did you say?  Oh... yeah, no.  I didn't know it was supposed to be this tight and no, I didn't know I was supposed to 'step into it'.  Thanks for that bit of info.  Okay, let's just take it up and over, because I'm beginning to feel a little claustrophobic now."

Fortunately for me, I didn't have to worry about that conversation. I realized if I would just disconnect the straps and roll the whole thing down, I'd be able to get out safely with minimal help.  But it took me about ten minutes to get to that point.

It's tough to focus on anything else in the world when you're feeling, well, bulbous. You can pick out clothes you normally feel svelte in and for some reason you now feel like a stuffed sausage.  Blouses don't graze your curves - they get bunched under your arms and around your chest, making you feel dowdy and thick.  Even draping fabrics contribute to a more pregnant silhouette.  And I can only say this next part from experience - my height coupled with my horrible body image makes me feel even worse.  Like I'm a huge lumpy mess on two pencils, towering over everyone else like a 5'8" ice cream cone.  

So why the reason to stuff myself into shape wear today?  What could have possibly made me think it was a good idea to force NASA-grade spandex on my ass?  Because I wanted to know what my backside would look like without the bulges.  What I would feel like running my hands over my hips and not getting caught on my waistline on the way down.  It was like night and day, kids.  I felt smooth and yet still curvy in all the right places.  Meghan Trainor may be all about that bass, but I prefer my bass to be like smooth jazz.

I bought the sausage casing, left the store, and went home and made brownies while wearing said casing.  I felt like I was both in control and comforted at the same time.  The Spanx were giving my butt the hug it needed and deserved, while the brownies reminded me I'm an hourglass because it suits me.  And chocolate and peanut butter will always help me out of tough situations.

 

Fudgy Peanut Butter + Chocolate Brownies


1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature

2 1/4 cups sugar

1 1/4 cups Dutch process cocoa

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract

4 large eggs

1 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour

1 cup dark chocolate chips

1 cup peanut butter chips (optional)


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Butter a 9"x13" pan and set aside.

In a medium sauce pan over medium-low heat, melt the butter completely down. Temporarily remove the pan from the heat and whisk in the sugar.  Bring back to the heat and whisk until hot and the sugar begins to break down.  Don't let it boil - it just needs to get hot and start to break down a little.  It should become shiny as your stir. Heating it the second time ensure you'll get a beautiful shiny, crackly surface on your brownies!

Remove from the heat and stir in the cocoa.  Pour into a large bowl.

Add the salt, baking powder, and vanilla, whisking until just combined. Add the eggs one at a time, whisking after each addition.  Switch from a whisk to a wooden spoon or a spatula and stir in the flour until it just disappears.  Over mixing will make for tough brownies.  Fold in the chocolate chips.

Use an offset spatula to spread half the brownie batter in the pan.  It may look like you don't have enough brownie batter to spread around - just keep spreading to each corner.  If you are using the peanut butter chips, sprinkle them evenly over the brownie batter.  Dollop the rest of the brownie batter over the peanut butter chips and spread again, carefully going edge to edge, covering the chips.  

Bake in the oven for 28-30 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.  You can also test the doneness by tapping the edges and the middle.  If the edge is firm and the middle is just set, it's done. Remove the pan from the oven and set onto a wire rack until completely cool before cutting and serving.