Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Letting Someone Else Do My Dirty Work

Here is a link on how to make vanilla extract.



Monday, December 28, 2009

I do declare! Savannah is the BOMB!

So yesterday, the Augusta Tarwaters and a family-Army friend drove the 3ish hours down to Savannah, GA. I had visited Savannah once in my youth, when I was still in High School. My father was stationed there and I remember thinking it was cool. There was a beach and the downtown area was walkable. I seem to recall there being a Jazz Festival at the time and the architecture blew me away.

We drove down, leaving the house at around 0830 and making a beeline for a coffeeshop called The Sentient Bean. Lattes were ordered and snarkiness was encountered. For the FIRST TIME since moving to the South, we were presented with hipsters in all their too-cool-for-you glory.

We were home.

Augusta is nice, don't get me wrong and we found a decent coffeeshop with a hipster at the healm (sp?). But he is kind and says 'y'all.' At The Sentient Bean (located next door to some kind of small business-natural grocery store, hello!) there were skinny jean wearing people who needed sandwiches, bitching that the coffee was stale. There were (at least) two kinds of sugar at the bar. Tea was offered and they had pu-er. The guy who took our order seemed like he did not want to take it. It was like being back at Stumptown. The patrons ran the gamut from crazy old dude with puppet, gay couple out with dogs, family out for a weekend lunch, old punks huddled around pints of was nice. We went back twice for caffeination.

Parking across the street from The Sentient Bean was perfect. Across the street is the freaking awesomely awesome Forsyth Park. I have never had amorous feelings like this for trees. Holy smokes. Oaks and Spanish Moss(?) = win. The sidewalks were clean and borderd by these majestically aged trees, the occasional palm tree thrusting into the sky from time to time. The weather by the way? My husband and daughter didn't wear jackets for a good percentage of the day. The sun was out and there were camellias in bloom at one of the many squares set up in the city to commemorate some long deceased general. We ate lunch out in a chunk of park, over a blanket of oak leaves.

The architecture was astounding. Southern charm, verandas, churches and temples as old as the city itself. We got to stare at these awesome edifices while geocaching (0/2) and saw trolleys and horse drawn carriages get pulled through the streets that also had trucks, hybrids, sedans and the occasional Hummer (boo). We walked from Forsyth Park down towards the Old Fort Jackson and the Roundhouse Museum which had old steam engines as well as an old train yard (complete with historic 'Colored's Bathroom). Now, I don't usually go insane for trains but that place was COOL. They had old engines, cars, and the building was pretty much free to roam. I can't really explain the grounds but it was cool to walk around what used to be a functioning trainyard, all the nooks and outdoor areas, including what used to be a garden for the employees to unwind (with one, solitary koi in the pond). They had old printing presses and it was just freaking cool. We paid $4 each to get in and was well worth it. We plan on going back. Sopi loved it and got a harmonica out of the deal.

After the train yard we walked back towards the park to change the goober and then walked over to our destination for dinner, Vinne Van GoGo's Pizza. It was a nice walk that took us through a rather awesome downtown. A walkable downtown. With sidewalks, more awesome architecture and stores that we had actually heard of. People were out on the street and the restaurant was located just a few blocks away from the Riverwalk. We sat outside and ate some of the BEST pizza we've ever had (I know, blasphemy. Pepperoni and black olive, great crust). Sopi got to watch the punk rock Southerner's toss the dough into the air and got to tell one of them that the pizza was 'freaking awesome,' to which he replied 'Thanks, y'all!'

My blog post is really not doing it justice. Savannah is beautiful, historical and liveable. Their craigslist has prices for homes that made my mouth fall open and the feeling when you walk around is that of...well, that you are in a place of beauty. It is probably the least sketchy city I've been to in a really good long time.

Obligatory pics. More to come; also links for the places that we went to.

Visit if you can. It's worth the trip. And if you pass through Augusta, you'll have a place to stay.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Fettucine Alfredo for 2.5 people

Who doesn't love fettucine alfredo? Weirdos, that's who. I love it a hell of a lot more than red sauce because I have a soft spot in my heart (and a hard part in my arteries) for creamy things. However, storebought alfredo sauce is in my experience expensive, full of strange things and WAY too salty.

Interwebs to the rescue! I make fettucine for my family based on this recipe by Giada DeLaurentiis, who I always call Giada Boobylicious for one reason alone. I make a few changes though because my family is small and there is apparently a huge amount of lemon juice in this, as in, way too much.

Here goes!

You will need:

4 T of butter
1 C of heavy cream
the juice of one lemon
grated zest of one lemon
grated nutmeg (a pinch; please use fresh)
2/3 of a box of fettucini pasta (I like Barilla. It just has a better mouth feel to me)

Heavy Saucepan that will fit all this stuff
Pot to boil water
Something to grate the lemon zest and the cheese and the nutmeg (I use a really sharp veggie peeler for the lemon and mince the **** out of it with a good knife and use the small holes on my box grater for the nutmeg and cheese
a cutting board
a knife or two
a spoon and potentially a whisk if you're feeling fancy

Get water boiling in the huge pot, making sure you don't put in so much water it will boil over. Put a lid on it.
Pour heavy cream in pan; add butter and place over medium-low heat, until butter is melted, stirring or whisking occasionally.
Add the juice of one lemon. Stir to combine. Turn off or let hang out over low heat, but keep an eye on it if you keep the heat on.
When water is boiling in pot, add a handful of salt and add the pasta, stirring for the first 30 seconds to keep the pasta from sticking together. Cook according to directions/ till al dente. Slighty on the hard side is better. Drain.
Add cooked pasta, parmesan cheese, lemon zest and nutmeg to the heavy cream-butter-lemon pan. Use tongs to mix the pasta in the sauce, then cover and let hang out for a few minutes; turn the heat to low if you feel like you need it to be hotter.

If you feel like this needs protein in addition to all the fat and carbs, roasted chicken goes great with this. Grilled/scampied shrimp would probably make it killer, gastronomically and literally. Add chicken to the sauce while the pasta is cooking so that it gets a change to heat through. Shrimp, I would cook alongsidethe dish, seasoning them with lemon juice, garlic powder and olive oil since reheated shrimp are nasty. Add them at the very end.
Asparagus is a nice addition, as are sun dried tomatoes. Roasted garlic would be delicious and be healthier.
Feel free to make a salad to accompany this! It would round the meal out nicely. I am just generally too lazy to ever make a salad. I know.
Use different kinds of pasta to make it more colorful. Spinach pasta is my favorite.

This recipe is great. While it takes a bit of forethought in terms of ingredients (I usually don't have heavy cream in my house), it's as easy as making a box of macaroni, quick and delicious. The lemon gives a great flavor and cuts through the richness of the cream and gives it a real freshness. Because the ingredients list is so short, get the best ingredients you can. And next time you consider reaching for the jar of carageenan laden white glop that most markets carry, please, make this.

You'll be glad you did. And if you do any variations, tell me!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

I Feel Smelly

So my newest obsession/hobby is: perfume. Not the kind that we used to always smell at Rite-Aid before church, the alchohol based florals, walking through the mists of their testers in order to avoid having to buy a bottle. No. Those are generally yucky.

A friend of mine (someone who has become more dear to me since leaving Hippietown...that's the way these things go) got me into 'smellies.' Perfumes and bath products, to be more specific, the offerings of online companies such as Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab, Villainess, Violette Market...there are a few more, but I may post them at a later date. Mixtures of oils with names you might not want your mom to see, scrubs that make your mouth water and save you the step of having to reach for your all lays before me, just a few clicks away.

I've been keeping a photo journal (?) of my collection and I hope to update it as it grows, to show how these things happen. I've seen pictures of people's 'stashes,' and I almost feel like an idiot admiting to how few I have. But these collections all started somewhere, and I wanted to show how mine grows, though I sincerely hope my collection never reaches the numbers of some of the ones I've seen. I mean, I'd like to help Sopi get through college.

Why am I, a generally frumpy, somewhat grumpy housefrau drawn to this? Well, first and foremost, it means I get to collect tiny things. I've always had a slight obsession with collecting small containers and this basically satisfies it and justifies it since each tiny container has something inside that is worth something. My collection mostly consists of samples (referred to as 'imps,' 'decants,' 'petals'...depending on what site you're on) which are lovingly labeled 1ml amounts of various perfumes. I get to keep them in a grey ammo box at the moment and there is a slight feeling of opening a treasure box when I pop open the lid and gaze down at them, inhaling the aroma of flowers, resins, herbs and other olfactory substances. The bottles that I have are also small (a few inches, tops) and have labels that range from mundane to awesome. They are also glass and boy howdy, do I love a small, glass bottle.

Then there is the 'fake chemist' aspect. Sometimes the descriptions of the perfumes (BPAL and Possets in particular) drive me insane (what the **** does a 'star lit sky' smell like?!). But there are the moments when your brain and nose 'pop' and you say, 'aaaaah...cypress. Perfect.' Applying the oil methodically to one's wrist (that's how I'm doing it, as I'm still testing a lot of imps right now), sniffing the bottle, sniffing your wrist to see how it reacts with your skin/body chemistry, waiting a few minutes and seeing how it has transformed...this is fun and interesting. I wonder why some people can wear 'Strangler Fig' and they get fruit but I put it on and it's just freaking plastic. Or how something can smell like old ladies at first and then awesome, wolfy greatness the next? There is a bit of a thrill when you read through the notes of a new perfume and you wonder, 'oh man, will that be as awesome on me as I HOPE?!'

Then there is the community of people. I hear pokemon can get like this but at least for BPAL and a few others, there are great communties online of people who are swapping and selling, trying to spread the gospel of occasionally wanting to make sweet love to your wrist (Countess Willie, hello!). Everyone I've dealt with has been VERY nice and a lot of these businesses are small affairs with just a few people, hand mixing and designing smells for the pleasure of themselves and other people and *that* is a good thing. A lot of these retailers are personable, have families and gift their buyers as an act of goodwill. When was the last time you bought something from amazon and they included a free chapter of a book? Uh, never. And the people who trade (as hobbies, not to make money mind you) are also generaous with their giving as well., lovingly and carefully wrapping their offerings in bubble wrap, sending their babies off with only Delivery Confirmation to guide them to their new homes.

I will confess: this shit ain't free. I've dropped some dough on this. It costs money and some places have killer shipping fees. But for me, well...I bust my butt raising Sopi and wifing my husband and writing my stories and sometimes, I think we all deserve a little something-something, as they say. I deserve a little fun, a little community apart from my labels as mom and wife, to feel a bit more feminine and get excited over the mail showing up. I'm really excited for a sample pack I ordered from Violette Market with some decants I am giving my mom for the holiday season. It feels a bit like I am getting compensated for some of the energy I've given over the last few years.

For what that's worth. Ah well, time to sit back, enjoy a Youngs Double Chocolate Stout with the husband and indulge in our shows. I have a very good life. I am thankful for it. And I am thankful for pretty, smelly things that make me feel a bit more like a person.