Sunday, December 30, 2012

Kill the Gingerbread House

Years ago, Miriam gave me a meat tenderizing tool. Half spikey mallet, half flat hammer, it's been very useful for pounding meat (we call that dish "Anger Management Chicken").

Iain used it to break down the gingerbread house. He especially liked the way the candy flew off with each blow. He had to eat some, just to ensure as little mess as possible.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Chocolate Pie

From Wikipedia. Where history is always 100% awesome.

First, let me tell you that Iain is a budding historian. For reals.

Tonight he informed me that Johnny Appleseed liked to wear a pot on his head. [Not completely inaccurate.] He did this, Iain asserts, because in "the olden days" they didn't make very good sunhats.

That is all.

In other news:

Charles's mother makes a delicious chocolate chiffon pie. It's to die for, really. And she freezes it (the recipe makes 3 pies!) so it straddles the boundary between ice cream and pie.

The only problem is that it (and all other recipes like it) call for mixing raw eggs into the ganache and for whipping egg whites for folding into the mixture.

I just can't do that anymore.

Years ago I watched a film about food safety. In it, a mother described her son's dying moments. He begged her for water but she couldn't give him any. He was 3 or 4 years old when he died. The cause? A hamburger eaten on a family picnic.

So...I can't quite bring myself to use raw eggs. I trust my source. I buy local, free-range eggs. But still.*

But we can't do without chocolate pie. I altered the recipe, working from my vague memories of the Chocolate Mousse served twenty years ago at Primerose House in Charleston (SC). That mousse, made by a kitchen savant named Dexter, relied primarily on whipped cream and a simple ganache. In this case, I still used eggs because I wanted the silkiness that egg can provide. But I cooked them in a custard first. While I was playing The Fraction Game, I made the recipe a little smaller. Surely two pies is enough, right?

2 chocolate pie crusts (Oreo crusts, basically - make it or buy it. I bought mine.)
3 cups of heavy cream, divided
A few tablespoons of white sugar
2 whole eggs and 2 egg yolks
10 ounces of chocolate (I use Ghirardelli dark chips)
1 Tablespoon of strong coffee
1 Tablespoon of whisky (bourbon! The original called for light rum but we don't have any)
1 teaspoon of vanilla extract

[Freeze the bowl and beater of your mixer]

First, put the chocolate chips in a big bowl. Big.

Second, heat 1.5 cups of cream in a saucepan over medium low heat. Put the eggs (2 whole plus 2 yolks) into a large bowl and whisk like mad. When the cream develops little bubbles around the edges, use a ladle to stream a little into the eggs. Keep whisking! You're bringing the eggs up to temp so they won't just scramble. Once you've got a couple of ladles into the eggs (now it's a cream mixture you're whisking, looks like a bowl of hot milk), pour all that back into the saucepan. Whisk, whisk, whisk for a few minutes while the eggs cook and the cream thickens a little. Add the coffee, whisky, and vanilla at some point. Add sugar to taste - you're just sweetening it a little. I added 3 tablespoons of sugar toward the end.

Now pour the hot cream over the chocolate chips. Let it sit a bit. Then whisk or spatulize (ie: stir) so the chocolate melts. It takes a little time. When you have a nice ganache, keep stirring so it cools a bit. Set aside.

Get out your (frozen) bowl and whisk attachment (I have a KitchenAid mixer and you should, too. If not, whip the cream as you usually do). Whip the remaining 1.5 cups of cream until it's quite firm.

[Note: recipes often say: but not until it turns to butter. Pfft. I did that, once, on purpose. It takes a lot of whipping and you'll see beads of water start to develop before it happens. So the better instruction might be: don't walk away. Your cream will whip in moments and you just need to stand there and when it starts to look quite solid turn off the machine.]

Once you have your whipped cream, get out a big spoon and eat it.


Plop that stuff into the ganache and fold, fold, fold. About halfway through, think to yourself, "Why am I folding? This is really just going to end up mixed. And it won't mix unless I mix, which isn't folding!" Just keep folding.

When it's a nice, uniform light brown, pour it into the pie crusts. Cover (the ones you buy at the store come with a plastic cover) and freeze.

If you prefer the pie softer, let it thaw an hour before serving. If not, eat it frozen. It's yum either way. Also, you can top it with more whipped cream or with chocolate shavings but I think that's coals to Newcastle.

*In The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook (a Christmas gift!) she offers a recipe very much like our family's. She says: buy good eggs and trust them. Intellectually, I know this is a reasonable approach. But emotionally I just can't quite manage it.

Monday, December 24, 2012

How He Sleeps

For many years, Charles collected teddy bears. He received them for his birthday, for Christmas, and for random (meaningful) events (our wedding, for example).

We kept them away from Iain at first. But this year Charles opened the last of the enormo-tubs and let the kid play with whatever he wanted. I dedicated a toy box exclusively to bears so we could clean them up every so often.

My point is: normally the bed has one or two bears. The rest live in a box.

But the other night, after Iain fell asleep, we peeked in to check on him. This is what we found. Every single bear. On the bed. Iain in the middle. Snoring.

Can you see him in there? Look at the blue pillow.

[NOTE: Is he asleep now? At 10:12 on Christmas Eve? Ha! No. Not even close.]

Friday, December 21, 2012


From the bathroom: "Daddy, I love you." Also, "If I had a brother I'd share with him." Sure you would, kid. Sure.

UPDATE: Kid gets out of bathtub and says to me, "Mommy, when are you going to die?" Next Tuesday. Thanks for asking.

Image from here

In other news, I got a text from Miriam. It said, "Waaaddddy Petoooonya!" Miriam cannot spell Waddy Peytona. But I think this means she's nearly home. So hello to Louisville! Corn pudding. Mmmmm.....

UPDATE! Check out this list of Louisville houses of entertainment (bordellos).

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Best Thing Evar

Love this series so much.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

A Reward

Last year, Iain asked for Christmas lights. We said no. We said, "eat chicken." "Eat french fries." He said no.

This year, he eats chicken. He even ate some french fries. Once.

So we gave him lights. It's pretty and romantic, but awfully bright at 3am. Also, that thing in the window is a "ghost leftover from Halloween. In case you wondered. We like to layer our holiday swag.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Ok, Stop Crying. Here It Is

I didn't photograph the details. Sue me. But you can see the major changes here. New shower with plain white subway tiles (shiny, not matte). New glass door. New floor (pebbles), new shower heads (each side has a head, a temperature control, and an on/off control). Newly-glazed tub, new teak wall with concealed storage, new mirror, new sink, faucet, and cabinet.

New slate floor, new golden, buttery wall color. New light fixture, new ceiling height in the shower (higher), new towel warmer cum radiator. New towels and bath mats. New can lights in the ceiling. New fan (just as loud - as requested by me - but more effective).

So far, no new trashcan. We have to figure that out. Also, our magnetic, touch-triggered latches are a mixed bag. They work ok on the teak wall, but when you lean in to brush your teeth the doors to the vanity pop open. Didn't think of that. Oh, well.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Almost There

Let's talk about shower doors. Turns out, you need up to ten days to fabricate a glass shower door.

"So what?" you say. "You can order it and wait while they do the demo."

No, actually. You can't order it until the tile goes in. You need extremely specific measurements. So the whole bathroom comes out. The walls go back up. The tile sticks to the putty and finally, FINALLY you can measure and then order the door.

Cue ten days. Unless, of course, you've bumped up against Thanksgiving. In that case...hard to say.

So here you see it, nearly done. Floor: in. Tile: in. Sink: in. Tub: deliciously shiny. Teak wall: concealing a nice cabinet worth of storage. I can pile in my half-used tubes of hand cream and 3-packs of toothbrushes (must have fresh toothbrush regularly) alongside the hairbrushes and cans of child-friendly sunscreen. And no one needs to see. Yay!

Also filed under "Yay": the little shelf for shaving (see it in there? Just big enough for your foot), the toilet seat that doesn't slump when you sit on it, the handheld shower head on my side (stationary on Charles's side) so I can wash the dog occasionally...ahh details.

Next stop: completion.

Sunday, December 09, 2012

Walls. Not Much Else.

Eventually, the contractor removed the toilet and bathtub. The toilet relocated to the garage (nothing like getting in and out of the car next to your toilet for a month). The tub suffered from orange spots in the bottom - places where the glaze had become too thin. So we sent it away for re-glazing.

In the shower, plumbing, then valves, then floor tile (not really tile but small, grey pebbles in an epoxy grout), then dry wall appeared.

And there it all sat for a week or so. Finally, a gentle nudge ("Hey, so...this was a 2-week job and we're entering week 4. Any thoughts?" I did not make this call. I was grouchy.) brought a flurry of activity.

More on that next time.

Friday, December 07, 2012


It's amazing how long folks can take to tear out walls, tile, toilets and sinks. A week. Srsly.

Wednesday, December 05, 2012

Bathroom Renovation, Step 1

Observe, a not-too-bad bathroom.

Notice the elegant mini-potty.

So the old bathroom wasn't so bad. But what you can't easily see is the way that every little thing seemed to be just a little wrong/broken/old/peeling/dirty/ugly.

For example, the beadboard. It was painted white, but because of temperature variations it could gap between panels in winter. The gaps reached a quarter-inch width. So the paint tore away and even in summer when the wood expanded and the beadboard closed up the paint looked sort of feathery where it was peeling away.

Also, the tile always looked like cream tile covered in mud. Also, the toilet had a lid made of plastic. When you sat on it there was a five-second lag, then the lid slumped in the center. Ploof! Down you go,    slipping into the depression. It felt like falling into the toilet and every time we sat down with Iain to supervise bath time we waited for that slumpy feeling.

Every piece of hardware and lighting came straight from the cheapest aisle at the Home Depot. Not the nicer things they carry - the $4 light fixture and the $10 faucet. The white circle it on the tub shower head kept falling off. The "hot" and "cold" indicators on the handles fell off. Etc. etc. ad infinitum.

I also hated the decorative tile strip in the shower. That's merely aesthetic. But the disintegrating shower door was a serious issue. It leaked, it wobbled disturbingly, it was crusted with something.

So we tore it all out. Down to the studs. And started over. Same layout (partly to save money, partly because there wasn't anything wrong with the layout), new materials better installed.

More photos to come.