Mise en Place

It’s Time

We are going to remodel the kitchen!  And by “remodel”, I mean just this side of lighting it on fire.  I have hated the kitchen since we bought this house, but there has been so much other stuff:  educating children, replacing all the windows, doors, copper gutters and downspouts, tuckpointing, rebuilding the chimney, replacing the deck, re-siding the garage.  But now, my ugly-ass kitchen has made it to the top of the list!

Chicago Tumblrs, any recommendations for kitchen designers, advice, etc?  

Where have I been?  It’s been a while since I posted, but we have packed a boatload of activity into the last several weeks.  

We had a wonderful Christmas Eve at the S house, and the gifts of coolers and double pie baskets were well-received (E claimed that hers will unlikely ever see a pie).  For the first time, the girl’s baskets were significantly different, filled with little things off their wish lists.  Dinner was a fabulous collaboration, although it turned into the Feast of the Six Fishes when we skipped the bucatini with clams because we had already had oysters, truffled custard with mahi-mahi, mussels steamed in Belgian beer, herb salad with crab, avocado and grapefruit,  and smoked fish chowder with scallops, AND we still had the whole salt-baked red snapper.

We joined E and M at M’s parent’s house for Christmas Day and ate from a wonderful spread prepared my M’s mother that included roast beef, roast pork, ham, dumplings, sauerkraut and a jello mold that E proclaimed was better than mine because it didn’t “contain pieces.”  

Dec 26, we attended a party with some of my cousins that I haven’t seen in years.  I brought along a clip of a movie from Christmas 1954 that I had converted to digital that was good for a few laughs.  We Skyped with my cousin George in Australia (the star of the movie), and I got to meet my cousin’s youngest son who is now working for Lagunitas brewery in Chicago (file under good people to know).

Dec 29, we left to drive down to Atlanta to visit some friends.  We made a stop at The Tamale Place in Indianapolis on the advice of my brother, and were not disappointed.  The spicy pork verde tamale and the elotes were worth the trip.  We made it to Elizabethtown, KY in time to watch the Bears lose from our hotel room, then completed the trip the next day.  We had all agreed that New Years Eve would be spent noshing on a series of appetizers and watching holiday movies (Side note:  I had never before watched Christmas Vacation and A Christmas Story start to finish).  Our friends B and C are transplanted Chicagoans, and we arrived bearing 6 jars of hot giardiniera (unavailable in Atlanta).  B loves Italian beef, so C and I found a recipe and we made Italian beef sandwiches that were pretty close to authentic that we had on New Years Day while watching football.

Jan 2, we drove straight through from Atlanta to Cleveland.  The drive through the Appalachians was rainy and gloomy, but once we got into Ohio, the snow started.  The last 40 miles were over snow-packed roads.  We were in the car for over 12 hours - not sure we would do that again.  However, once there, we were greeted with hot soup, crusty bread, and big glasses of wine.  After a good night’s sleep, it was off to the West Side Market for veal shanks for that night’s osso buco.  It was so much fun to cook with P, an amazing Italian cook.  We visited the Museum of Contemporary Art, and had a wonderful, laugh-filled dinner at L’Albatros  that involved a little bit of broken glass (thankfully not the lovely bottle of St Emilion).  

Jan 5, we headed for home, right into the storm that hit Chicago.  We had said that if it got too bad, we would get a hotel room and wait to finish the drive.  The Indiana toll road was horrible; the plows couldn’t keep up with the snow and the wind that blew the snow right back onto the road.  We were about 30 miles from home when the tollroad came to a complete stop.  There was a slight grade that semis were unable to climb, and it was an hour to get around them.  I’m glad we did stop, because the road was closed for 2 days after that.  We finally made it almost home, when I got stuck in the alley.  Thirty minutes later, I unclenched my hands from the steering wheel (I get to drive the bad parts because I curse less than L).  E and M had come down to the house during the day and cleared the snow (thanks, kids!).

Jan 8, we went to the Blackhawks game.  They lost, but it was a good game, and fun to be there.  

It was a wonderful (extended) holiday season, filled with family and friends, lots of wine, great food and good times.  Maybe next time, we’ll fly.

This year was so much better than last year!  Happy holidays, everyone!

This year was so much better than last year! Happy holidays, everyone!

He Made Ice Cream!

I decided the Buche de Noel was overkill for Christmas Eve dessert, so I’m bring a selection of Christmas cookies, and Lou made 2 kinds of ice cream: Chocolate chip peppermint and egg nog. He makes the best ice cream ( can’t cook a lick otherwise). Smiling.

We gave Mom a membership to the Arboretum for her birthday, and it has been one of her favorite places to go on our weekly outings.  Even as her sight is failing, she is able to take in the grand vistas of color, and really enjoyed the drives during the fall.  We had often talked of driving through in the winter, to see how it looked in the snow.

So, last night, despite the inclement weather, Lou and I took Mom to see Illuminations at the Morton Arboretum.  Only this isn’t a drive-through, it’s a walking tour, all on paved paths.  We took the transport chair she uses for longer trips, Lou brought a rain poncho to keep her dry (it was raining a bit harder than I thought), and we walked the whole path.  There were some interactive displays (hug a tree to change the color of the lights, sing into a microphone to set off a corresponding light show, dance in front of a camera to be projected in lights on the trees), a section where chandeliers were hanging among the trees, periodic fire pits for warming up.  It was magical.

I left Lou and Mom in the gift shop while I went to get the car, and when I returned, Mom was wearing gloves with lighted fingertips that Lou bought her.  She was positively gleeful, and played with them all the way to the restaurant, where we dried off and warmed up with tea for her and wine for us.  

She smiled all the way home.  

Getting very excited for this year’s Christmas Eve dinner at the S house!  While I have always said Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday, the truth is that Christmas Eve is the evening I look forward to the most.  We have fallen into a pattern of themed dinners (everything from pizzas to making tamales to fondue).  This year, it is the Feast of the Seven Fishes, a traditional Italian Christmas Eve.
As E is hosting, I will let her publish the menu, but we are in charge of the wine, so here’s what we will be drinking:

Zenato Lugana San Benedetto 2011
Cesari Mara Valpolicella Ripasso Superiore 2011
Produttori del Barbaresco Barbaresco 2008
Avignonesi Vino Nobile di Montepulciano 2010

We bought a case.  For 6 people.  Merry Christmas to us and to all a good night.

This Week in Retirement News

  • I have finally started literacy tutoring in a Chicago Public School.  I have first graders, who I thought would be adorable.  Turns out, some of them are mini teenagers with full-grown attitudes.  I finally met the one who had been suspended when I started.  And I totally understand why a first-grader got suspended.  But the adorable ones will keep me coming back.
  • Another project has materialized, so as my first consulting gig winds down, I have another.  Still not full-time, but this is what we in project management call scope creep.
  • Met with our investment team at the bank to review our retirement income.  We will not have to eat cat food in the foreseeable future.
  • We had lunch today at Ditka’s as guests of our bank.  The featured speakers were Jeff Joniak and Kyle Long. Lou asked Kyle if he had thawed out yet from last night’s game.  Kyle’s response: “I can finally feel my feet.”  He is a pretty articulate and interesting guy.
  • After lunch, we stopped at Eataly.  It was nice, but the wines are very overpriced.  Palazzo della Torre for $20.80  (Binny’s $13.99).  Loved the salumi and cheeses and the huge selection of olive oils.  Would have been great to be able to taste some.    
  • Snow is coming, think I’ll climb into bed and stay there.  Drive safely!

Happy Thanksgiving

We have so much for which we are grateful this year.  I am looking forward to the family gathering here, everyone dressed in their best eating pants.  

Turkey Crack

Somewhere in November’s Bon Appetit, they suggest duck fat as a secret weapon for Thanksgiving. Guess what I have in the fridge? I am putting duck fat in EVERYTHING. Well, maybe not the cranberries…

Planned Obsolesence

For the second time, in a week, a Canon peripheral has bitten the dust.  The printer simply needs a new print head.  I called their parts desk, and quelle surprise! that model is no longer supported.  IT’S NOT THAT OLD!!!

So, I now have two perfectly good Canon doorstops.