Things I like to make in my Dutch Oven: Volume 4 – Summer approaches…

Oh, it’s been a beautiful weekend in Seattle.  The sky is that almost unreal shade of periwinkle blue, the sun is shining, and there’s enough of a soft breeze to keep you comfortable.  It’s precisely the kind of day that makes me not want to be cooped up in my office.  I’d much rather cross the street and hang out at the lake for a while, but I’m here for a few more minutes, so I might as well share one of my favorite late Spring-Summer recipes.

As soon as I start seeing sweet corn at the local grocery store I start dreaming about this chowder, which I first tried at The Kingfish Café in Seattle in the summer of 2007.

Crayfish and Corn Chowder (adapted from Ina Garten’s Cheddar Corn Chowder)

Ingredients

  • 8 ounces bacon, chopped
  • 1/4 cup good olive oil
  • 2 large onions, chopped (I used mild, Walla Walla Sweet onions)
  • 2 diced red bell peppers
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 8 cups lobster stock (I use Better Than Bouillon stock concentrate)
  • Two bags frozen diced sweet potatoes
  • 4 bags (10 oz) frozen sweet corn kernels, or equivalent fresh corn, if you can find it
  • 2 cups half-and-half
  • 1 lb frozen crayfish tails (thawed and rinsed).  Finding them frozen

Directions

In a large stockpot or dutch oven over medium-high heat, cook the bacon and olive oil until the bacon is crisp, about 5 minutes. Remove the bacon with a slotted spoon and reserve. Reduce the heat to medium, add the onions and peppers to the fat, and cook for 10 minutes, until the onions are translucent.

Stir in the salt, pepper, and turmeric and cook for 3 minutes. Add the lobster stock and sweet potatoes, bring to a boil, and simmer uncovered for 5-10 minutes, until the potatoes are tender.  Add the corn to the soup, then add the half-and-half. Cook for 5 more minutes, then stir in the reserved bacon and the crayfish tails. Season to taste, with salt and pepper. Serve hot with lahvosh crackers, if you can find them, otherwise your favorite soup crackers are fine.

I’ll be making it this weekend!

Unfortunately, I don’t have any photos (it disappears too quickly to shoot it!), so I found this one using a quick google image search.  It actually comes from a recipe from Martha Stewart for Chilled Corn and Crayfish Soup with Creme Fraiche and Chives.  I will have to try it when the weather is hotter!

We’re buying a house! Part 1

I haven’t posted in quite a while – life happened and we got busy and well, now I have something to post about.

Back in May, we’d met with a BECU mortgage officer to see what kind of financial shape we were in, and to figure out what we could do to get into a house soon.  Like, in 12-18 months.  We were anticipating some debt from the wedding and honeymoon, we still had a $450 per month car payment, plus several hundreds of dollars per month in student loan payments for the both of us.  We weren’t in horrible shape, by any means, but it seemed prudent to pay down some debt, and then maybe start thinking about looking in Summer 2012.

House #1: Lots of potential...

Late this past fall, Matt and I started looking at houses on Redfin.  I don’t exactly remember why we skipped the waiting plan, but we did.  The first house we looked at, on the weekend after Thanksgiving, was a HomePath house – meaning it was owned by Fannie Mae, and was eligible for special financing.  Only a few banks are able to use this special financing, so we found one we’d actually heard of – Umpqua Bank, based in Portland – and start the preapproval process with them.  We liked a lot of things about the house – its Lake Forest Park location (cheap enough for our budget, but not so far away from Seattle) the big yard, the renovation potential, etc.  For various reasons, one of which being that it went into “pending” status the morning we toured it, we decided not to make an offer on that first house.  We then decided to wait until after the new year to look at more houses.

Then I booked a tour to see four houses in South Seattle the following Saturday.  South Seattle had many houses in our price/size range – we were only looking at houses under $300,000 with at least 1,750 sq ft in the house, and a lot of at least 4,000 sq ft in total.  South Seattle was not really our ideal location, since most of our life happens in the northern neighborhoods (our current house, our favorite grocery store, our doctors, our hangouts, the majority of our friends, etc). The schools down there are iffy at best, and there aren’t any of the grocery stores we normally use.  Despite the downfalls, we do have a couple of sets of friends who live in South Seattle neighborhoods that we like, so we were looking forward to seeing what was available and be willing to make a leap.

One of the houses was essentially a crack den.  There was a little vial of some drug substance on the front porch waiting for us.  Another house looked fantastic from the outside, but when we went in, it was clear that in the 4 years since the house was built, no one ever vacuumed or cleaned any surface.  There were holes in the walls and dirt every where.  It was shockingly bad.  Another house was in good shape, but cramped and labyrinthine in layout and just felt like munchkin grandparents had been living there for decades.  The last house was fantastic – a stunning Craftsman in good condition for only $239,900 – and it was another HomePath house.  We looked past the cramped second floor and low ceilings of the basement and saw a main floor built for our style of entertaining.  It had a sun room and a huge yard and a garage and seemed to be in a neighborhood where we wouldn’t find meth on the front porch!  We were preapproved and made an offer two days later, on Tuesday.  Only to find out that evening that there had been an offer accepted on the house that morning while we were submitting ours.

House #2: The one that got away....

I was crestfallen.  Matt was pretty disappointed.  We again decided to wait until January to look again, to give us time to mourn.

And then I booked a tour for the next Saturday to see another house in South Seattle that just made me laugh.  I felt like we didn’t have to feel so in love with our first house as we’d been by the Craftsman – that it was just going to break our hearts, so we might as well find something we liked and thought was fun.

House #3: The Juniper House - a party in the middle of nowhere.

The Juniper House (so-called because it was on Juniper Street) was definitely fun.  It was HUGE – about 3,000 sq ft, and had a ton of amazing spaces.  There would be projects galore,  space for guests, and tons of entertaining.  The only problem was that it is in a neighborhood we didn’t know existed – WAY down near Renton, but not really part of Renton.  It would have been an extreme lifestyle change to start living down there, plus the neighborhood wasn’t very nice-looking.  I’m sure that because we looked at it in mid-December, the neighborhood wasn’t showing off its best side (it looked bare and unkempt and unfriendly), but it was still something to consider.

So we decided not to make an offer on it.  It was getting down to the week before Christmas, and we again thought we would wait until the new year to look again, but we knew better than to take that decision seriously.  Matt didn’t want to look in South Seattle anymore.  As much as we love our friends down there (and we REALLY do!), it just didn’t feel right for our lifestyle.  So we booked a tour to see 5 houses (all contenders!) in Shoreline and Lake Forest Park.

House #4: Home Sweet Home

I won’t go into the houses that we saw and didn’t like – they just aren’t worth mentioning.  We saw this guy (name TBD) and were blown away by how much better he looked in person than in the photos.  The spaces in the house were great, there was room to move and breathe and have guests and do projects!  He’s in Lake Forest Park, only 15 minutes from our second favorite grocery store in the area (hooray for Town & Country/Central Markets!) and in the best school district in the area.  We toured him on December 23, submitted our full-price offer before noon on December 24, and then were told on December 27 that there were multiple offers on the home.  We were asked to submit our “highest and best” offer by 8 am the next morning.  Our real estate agent (all of this was through Redfin) advised us to set our high offer and then use a strategic “escalation clause” to try to win the house.  It would make it so we would essentially offer $2,000 more than any other offer, up to our top price.   We did this and waited to hear back the next morning.

Unfortunately, because our agent hadn’t been given the right paperwork, we didn’t know that the seller (in this case, Freddie Mac owned the home and it was a part of the HomeSteps program) was not accepting escalation clauses.  So we put in our top price, adjusted our terms for our downpayment (raising it from 3.5% down for an FHA loan to 5% for a conventional loan) and closing date, and waited.  On December 30, Matt checked the listing and it showed that the house was “pending.”  At that point, we hadn’t heard whether our offer was accepted or not, since our agent had been dealing with the whole thing while on vacation in Vancouver BC!  We were nervous and anxious for several hours until we got word at about 4:30 pm that the pending status was due to the acceptance of OUR offer.

The past two weeks have been a bit of a blur.  We had a meeting with the bank to finalize the loan (due to Matt’s great credit, we got locked in at 3.75% for a 30 year mortgage and because of the HomeSteps program bonuses and deals along with Redfin’s commission rebate, ALL of our closing costs are covered and we won’t pay a dime aside from our downpayment at closing!), deposited our earnest money with escrow (5% of the purchase cost of the house, which will roll into the downpayment), and had our inspection last weekend.  Everything has gone well – no major concerns about the house, just small repairs – and we would recommend both Redfin and Umpqua Bank to anyone who is thinking of buying a house.

Phew!  I know if haven’t actually talked much about the house yet, but I’ll post again soon with some of our initial ideas for remodeling.

The A-Z of me – November 2011

A. Age: 30
B. Bed size: Queen
C. Chore that you hate: I hate putting dishes away.
D. Dogs?: I love them, but they’re too high maintenance to leave for a weekend.  Hence, we have a cat.
E. Essential start to your day: Aloe juice, a quick peek at our bird feeder outside, then coffee at Equal Exchange.
F. Favorite color: Right now, it’s a toss up between navy blue, mustard yellow, rusty orange, and metallic silver.
G. Gold or Silver: Both!  My wedding band is a rope of both of them.
H. Height: 5’3″
I. Instruments you play: I used to play the clarinet and guitar.  Now, I wouldn’t call myself proficient at anything.  I’d love to learn to play the piano, though.
J. Job title: Business Administrator and Studio Overlord.
K. Kids: 2, hopefully, and hopefully starting sometime next year!
L. Live: Seattle, WA
M. Mother’s name: Debra
N. Nicknames: Ginj, Gin, Ginny, Butterscotch, The Mighty Ging Gor
O. Overnight hospital stays: None, really.  I didn’t sleep there, but one was technically overnight – a car accident when I was 20.
P. Pet peeves: Too many to list.  The current front runners: bad grammar, fat-shaming, and drivers who don’t signal when turning.
Q. Quote from a movie: “Oh, it’s a cake!” from My Big Fat Greek Wedding
R. Right or left handed: Right
S. Siblings: Katie and Audrey
U. Underwear: yes, I do wear it.
V. Vegetable(s) you hate: Cooked spinach and broccoli, but I love them raw.
W. What makes you run late: Taking the scenic route.
X. X-Rays you’ve had: Ankle, wrist, chest/ribs, sinuses, shoulder, knee/shin.  Also brain MRIs annually, a bone density scan, and a spleen CAT scan.
Y. Yummy food that you make: Pork/Apple/Cheddar pockets, white chicken chili, pork ribs, etc.
Z. Zoo animal: I like the birds of prey – the falcons, eagles, owls, and hawks.

Direction – Focus – Action

Early Monday morning, on Halloween, my grandmother passed away.  It’s hard to wrap my head around now, just a couple of days later.  I spent the last 48 hours trying to think of good memories of her to hold onto, to tell my future children, to define as her legacy to my mom and aunt, me, my sisters, and my one cousin on that side of the family.  It was difficult.

My memories of her are mostly of a slightly cranky lady in a housecoat, who cursed in Finnish and made banana bread.  The banana bread was always amazing, always wrapped in aluminum foil to bring to us, before it was spread with butter.  Her house smelled like mashed rutabagas – the aroma from years and years of her and her mother cooking them had permeated the walls.  We used to call her Grandma Sami – a name that we gave her because it was the name of her cat.   I remember the tiny sauna attached to the garage at her old house, across the tiny yard where peonies and daphne and rhubarb would explode in flower and leaf every spring.  I remember the meltaway mints in a cut glass candy dish in the living room, and the intricate pleats on satin pinwheel cushions on an oddly scratchy davenport (not a sofa, because it wasn’t comfortable!), and doilies pinned to the head and arm rests on every piece of upholstered furniture.  I remember the way the 1950s starburst pattern dining room floor was buckled from moisture, so it crackled and moved as you walked on it.  I remember how she used to take photos with the camera upside-down, because she couldn’t press the button with her right finger after she’d had a stroke at age 50.  I remember that she always sent birthday cards and Easter cards and Christmas cards, and always sent a little money in them – somehow managing to find those long cards with the money pockets years after they stopped selling them in most stores.

Aside from those images, I don’t remember many conversations with her.  She’d lived a life full of anxiety, fear, frustration, neglect, and disappointment.  I believe that her joys came from her daughters and granddaughters, but she was of the old Finnish school of never showing emotion, never talking about anything personal, and rarely showing affection.  I don’t remember talking with her about those things in her life.  By the time I was old enough to think to ask, she’d started to decline in health.  She lived over 2 hours away from Seattle, so I didn’t make it out to see her very often, and she didn’t really like to talk on the telephone.  I have a handful of regrets that live in the place she has in my mind, and I will miss her.

The legacy she left, at least for me, is one of motivation.  All her life she was afraid to take chances, to seize opportunities, to go after what she wanted.  She spent so much energy and time on being frustrated, and ended up filling her days with monotonous chores, endless routines, and little creativity.  Her life has reminded me to stop wasting time on being frustrated and angry.  It has been a wake-up call, showing me that what is really important is to enjoy your life, to look for what you want and not be afraid to go out and get it.

For the last few weeks, since returning from our honeymoon, I’ve felt a little listless, a bit directionless, unmotivated.  I feel like I’ve been treading water, without land in sight, and letting my life become part of a monotonous routine.  Aside from reconnecting with friends and family (after countless months neglecting them to work on the wedding planning), it has felt like I haven’t been really engaged in my life.  Well, no more.  I’ve been inspired to focus my energy and take back control.  I’ve got goals and projects I actually want to work on, and things that I’ve been putting off that need to be picked up again.  Now is a time for action.  It’s not very effective to just pledge this today and then forget about it – just like having a good attitude, just like being happy in marriage, this is a conscious decision that I have to make EVERY DAY.

So today, I choose to begin.

 

 

Back in the saddle

It’s been a while since I’ve last posted.  Matt and I had our wedding, which was lovely and amazing, but I’m not ready to even think about it or post photos of it because it’s just too overwhelming.  Plus, I would like to move forward, because thinking about how it’s over and how I won’t ever be able to do anything over again is just sad and exhausting.  We went on our honeymoon, which was really fun, but about a week too long.  We both got pretty tired about 2 weeks in, and would have gladly bolted down to Massachusetts to relax with Matt’s family, but we had a few days more of PEI and Maine to get through, which were honestly beautiful and have us wanting to go back so we can spend more time there, only without the 10 hour driving days.

We got back to Seattle at the end of September and have essentially been home and settled for 3 weeks, though it doesn’t feel like it.  It feels as though, at least for me, without the wedding or a big goal on the horizon, I’ve lost my bearings.  I don’t know which way to move or what to work on or what I even want to be doing.  While we were on our trip, we daydreamed about doing a big Fall-cleaning purge and reorganization of our house – after which, we would have a more usable project space/office/pantry and a reclaimed room to act as a guest/video game/sewing/future baby’s room.  It’s been 3 weeks, and we haven’t even started to pull the wedding boxes out of the current office space to see what we have to work with.  It’s time for some new goals, a new bearing, and some accountability for these goals.  I hope to start posting more, to motivate me to get things done and to share them.  There are exciting things happening, or at least beginning to happen, that I’d love to share and have a record of, and well, this is my blog, so I will damn well post about it!

Inspired by a stream-of-consciousness post from the Pioneer Woman today, here’s what’s going on in a completely unelaborated way:

1.  I am actually dressing up for Halloween this year, in a costume that will actually take more than 5 minutes to make.  I will be Evil Jen from the “Aunt Irma” episode of the British series The IT Crowd. Example:

2.  I started archery classes last week.  We’ve had two class sessions so far, and already I’m pretty decent (according to the coaches).  We haven’t yet learned how to aim at a target though….we’ll see after next week.

3.  When we’re finished with the main re-org project, we’re getting a new sofa, since the one we have now was free, the reupholstery job we did is still good but now it’s dirty and can’t be cleaned easily, and the springs are starting to sproing out the bottom.  We’re looking very seriously at the Karlstad sectional from IKEA in Islunda Gray, but it’s too low, so we need to find some different legs.  I’m leaning toward tapered mid-century wooden legs from McLendon Hardware.  Simple enough to be cheap (there are 10 legs on the below option) and we can paint them!  Plus, they come in a million heights.

3.  After months of thinking about refinishing the table/chairs set that I inherited from my grandma, I’ve finally decided what I’m going to do.  I will refinish all the woodwork on the table legs and chairs with silver leaf, and instead of finding a new laminate to replace the old cracked stuff, I will cover it myself with wood veneer.  It will be done in an Art Deco marquetry style, possibly with inlaid malachite details!  I haven’t figured out what fabric I’ll use to replace the amazing-but-worn-out c. 1953 alligator green Naugahyde, but I’m on the lookout.  Here’s the inspiration image for the inlay pattern (the window, not the floor).  I’ll post more when I’ve done the drawing!

4.  I’ve been quickly acquiring new clothes – far too many to post about in detail.  I’m mostly working on starting to dress a bit more polished, more professional, more mature.  I’ve never really dressed “my age” but now that I’m 30 (oh yeah, I turned 30 during the honeymoon!), I kind of want to start wearing more classic pieces that I will want to wear for years to come.  I’ve finally found blazers and jackets that fit, which I could never do – since apparently I have a very high pivot point on my shoulder and NOT broad shoulders like I thought.  I always thought I couldn’t move my arms in jackets because my shoulders were too wide.  Nope, they’re actually pretty narrow, and my arms can’t move because the jacket shoulder hits halfway down my upper arm!  Solution: petites.  And Talbot’s extended sizes in petites.  They’re cut differently, so if a 16 regular wasn’t working right, a 14P might be perfect.  Crazy!  And brilliant!

5.  I’m getting on track with my health, which has been a project for many years.  I feel like I’m really on the edge of finding a good solution for my issues, which have compounded and intensified over the years.  I may write a post explaining everything that’s happening, but for now, I’ll just say that I’m feeling good about the direction things are going, and I’m ready to change the story to one that’s positive and good instead of endlessly frustrating.

6.  Going along with #5 and our giant re-org comes our big goal: baby making!  I’m getting my health figured out, we’re making space, and hopefully this time next year we’ll have a due date on the calendar, if not a whole new person, in the picture!

Sooooo….that’s it for now.  It’s been cathartic to lay it all out.  I feel a little less bearing-less now, and feel like moving forward.  Perhaps tonight we’ll start pulling out the wedding bins?

7.  My new motto:

Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you have imagined.  

-Henry David Thoreau

Tomboy Style questionnaire

This morning I was introduced to a blog called Tomboy Style.  This is the fashion blog I’ve been waiting for!  It’s precisely my style, attitude, and I love the questionnaires they post to stylish tomboys.  To help me get back into blogging post-wedding, I’m going to answer my own:

Ginger lives in Seattle, runs the business for a glass artist, and knows her way around a wood shop as well as she does Photoshop.

If not in Seattle, I would live in…a big old house in Denmark, with a terrace overlooking fields and the North Sea in the distance.  I’d have a huge garden and a workshop to make furniture in, and the largest room in the house would be the kitchen, where we would sit around a giant rough-hewn table with 20 of our friends over dinner every week.

My dream holiday would be to…fly to Boston, drive up to Vermont for a wedding with hot air balloon rides, drive to Montreal and stay in a chic modern apartment for a week, drive to Prince Edward Island and stay in a beach cabin for a week while exploring the island, bridwatching, and buying wool blankets, then meander down the Bay of Fundy on our way back to Boston for dinner at Giacomo’s on my 30th birthday and a big BBQ in my husband’s parents’ back yard.  And I get to do all of this in about 2 weeks!

My current obsessions are…craft distilling, bespoke clothing, birdwatching, quinces, manual therapy, the Gucci Fall 2011 line, nail enamel, foresty green things.

I channel my childhood self when I…sing Cat Stevens songs and lay in the grass at night in the summer.

The fictional character I most relate to is…Claire Randall Fraser from the Outlander series.  I feel like over the last 4 years, since meeting my new husband, I was taken out of a fairly mundane existence and dropped into something totally different, and that going with it with patience and trust has been the best thing for me.

If I had to be outdoors all day I would…forage in the woods for chanterelles and huckleberries, build a campfire to sit around with friends, and sleep under the stars.

My favorite quality in a man is…patience.

My favorite quality in a woman is…honesty.

I’m terrified of…flesh-eating bacteria and similar (MRSA, brown recluse bites, etc).

My dream car is a…vintage Volvo 1800 (eggshell exterior, red interior), a shiny black  El Camino, or a Ford Transit Connect (lots of cargo space to move furniture!).

My cocktail of choice is…Maker’s Mark and ginger ale.  Simple, but it never disappoints.

My celebrity girl crush is…Drew Barrymore.  Oddly enough.  I’m really impressed by the way she has matured.

My friends and I like to…make things – whether it’s music, art, food, drink, etc.  I’m so ridiculously proud to have such creative friends.

If I could go back in time for one decade it would be…1890s Paris, when electricity gave the city a true night life, when artists and absinthe abounded.  I would have been a street photographer and worn House of Worth gowns at parties, and quite possible have dies of something romantic, like consumption.

As a teenager I was totally into…absorbing all the pop culture I could get my hands on, mostly through reading Vogue or Vanity Fair.  I was afraid of growing up sheltered by a small town life, and longed to have a mind able to join in any conversation, whether it was on the subway in New York or at a lavish party on Lake Como.

I tend to splurge on…magazines, good quality shoes, chocolate, and fabric.

Being feminine while also being fully capable of using power tools…is what makes me have Tomboy Style. 

Great grandpa, for submission to My Daguerreotype Boyfriend.

Do you like my boyfriend’s hat?  He thought you might. Ole Bellerud, age 18.  Nekoma, ND, c.1890.