Sunday, July 26, 2009

Just Mad About Saffron

After having it on my mind for awhile, I decided to make the classic Spanish dish, paella, for dinner tonight. Historically, it's a rice dish with random meat and veggies thrown in. Culturally, it's got some serious baggage. In any case, this now-Texan gringa girl decided to give it a try.

I consulted my collection of Spanish cookbooks, one of them from my dear friend Dr. M-B, and the recipe that we got at the Barcelona cooking class on our honeymoon. I also read at least five cookbooks and a few online recipes to create my own paella process (if anyone wants it, I'll post it here but on a Sunday night I'm not expending the effort at the moment).

Anyway, I had my plan in place and the kitchen was warmly lit by the setting sun as I went to work. Here are some pictures of the steps.

Starting out with good saffron (original WI pottery right behind it)

Paella pan, for which the dish is named, was a wedding gift from LeeAnne. The tomatoes came from our garden and the rice is just starting to simmer.



Consulting the oracles. Book on left was our wedding gift from Dr. M-B, papers on right came from our honeymoon course.

Nearly done! Looks a little sparse without mussels and big prawns but we used a lot of what we had on hand. It tasted great!

Weekend Projects

After our big HP feast, we had a low key weekend and got a few things checked off of our project list. We have several arches in our house and we painted the insides white (same as ceiling) to make them stand out a little more. The result is great and took minimal effort.

We also replaced the faucet in our guest bathroom, a task that took far more effort than we anticipated. Oh, and that said, "we" really means Austin in this case since all I was capable of doing was handing him tools and parts (getting better at tool names and locations but parts were all "silver thingy with a white blob on it."). The bathroom is very small so that was the main problem, both physically getting under the sink and dealing with a compacted sink set up. Anyway, Austin persevered and here are the results.

Old Faucet
Apparently crystal knobs were in in the 90's? Or just the cheapest option?

New Faucet
New faucet in brushed nickel.

Switch Plate
Light switch plate cover made by one of Austin's aunts.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Harry! Potter! Feast!

Harry Potter Feast

Last night was hands down one of our best Aus-town outtings and date nights ever at the Alamo Drafthouse. We purchased our movie feast tickets early so we were both quite excited for the event and headed out early, knowing we could enjoy a beverage and appetizer if we wanted. I thought about bringing a camera, decided against it, then decided to bring our little one only to forget it at the last minute. It's too bad because we arrived to find all the servers in costume, ours being Bellatrix. This was an adults only event so there weren't any little Harry Potters in the audience though there were some cool t-shirts.

While we settled in, we had a drink and shared some chips and salsa (we were both starving since we tried not to overeat at lunch). They were screening old 1950's-1980's campy ads, clips about magic, and sci fi tidbits. We enjoyed taking that, in nibbling, and trying to identify all the characters among the staff. Harry, Hermione, Snape, and Draco Malfoy were definitely present among others.

Before the movie started, the chef was introduced and shared the inspiration for his British feast. He also made reference to his previous work on the Kevin Bacon Bacon Feast which caused Austin to perk right up in curiosity. Anyway, he introduced the menu and we gave him a round of applause.

The lights went down and instantly, the staff were quickly and quietly moving to get the first course going, capes flying. We were served Speckled Hen ale with the first course, a chilled leek soup topped with crab. Austin and I both deemed this to be the best course; the soup was chilled but salty and the crab was perfectly sweet. It was so refreshing yet tasting and filling. I had some of the ale and passed the rest on to Austin.

Second, we were served one seared sea scallop on pureed peas with bacon and honey cider vinaigrette. I thoroughly enjoyed the combination but the scallop alone wasn't that enjoyable. Scallops are usually very hit or miss with me. This was paired with Black Thorn Cider which was delicious so Austin didn't get any of mine that round.

Our third course, the main dish, was beer braised roast beef with Twice Baked Potatoes stuffed with Stilton and bacon. I tried a bit of beef and reaffirmed that I just don't care for red meat. The potato, however, was awesome! The pungent Stilton and salty bacon were perfect; Austin couldn't say enough about it on the way home. This was paired with Hob Goblin ale, not bad in my opinion but I couldn't finish it so once again, the rest went to Austin. I was the designated driver for a reason.

Our last course was dessert, named for the butter beer featured in the books. We had a float of butterscotch ice cream, studded with butterscotch candy pieces, and ginger ale. It came in the pint glasses featured above that we got to keep along with a glass of Wexford Cream Ale.

Overall, the meal was fantastic. They did a nice job infusing each plate with intense flavor rather than trying to make up for it in quantity (good for those consuming all the accompanying beverages!). We left completely sated, discussing each course and what we liked best or would have changed.

The courses came out every half hour with great efficiency and minimal distraction to movie watching. The servers reminded me of theater crews that wear all black and silently make adjustments to the set between acts. Still, it was fun to see who served us each course (sometimes Snape!) and see the capes billowing around. The service was definitely on par with the food.

Oh, and the movie, of course! We both enjoyed The Half Blood-Prince though it did get a little long. I was particularly struck with how the Hogwarts faculty, perhaps intended to be caricatures, really resembled some U.S. professors. Ever the student, I thought maybe I was seeing what I wanted to see but Austin agreed with my take on it. The cinematography was well done in a darkly whimsical way and the main characters delivered. It's not on my favorite movies list but it was enjoyable and the entire experience was incredible; we're definitely looking forward to going to the next feast.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Cat Scratch Fever

I'm a light sleeper and I woke up around 1a.m. this morning to hear the throaty howls of a cat in trouble, namely our furry roommate Stinky. I got Austin up and we ran to the back patio door but slowly peeked out, given the history of a neighborhood skunk. We couldn't see much but Austin managed to get Stinky to him and nab the cat. Once we got him inside, we discovered a bloody gash under his left eye, a random claw near his ear, and some very minor scratches on his belly. His eyes were huge and he was scared but instantly was all purrs while we examined him.

We kept him in overnight and the cut under his eye was almost invisible this morning. He's still in spooky mode and was doing a lot of sniffing at the end of the patio where we found him. There are two other neighbor cats that live outside so we're pretty sure that's who the impostor was. Of course it's entirely possible that Stinky hits up their yards for a fight from time to time, who knows, but last night the rumble was on our turf. It's one of the perils of having an outside cat and based on the ear notches and scars, Stinky's past life was pretty rough, but it was sad to see it happen. At least I woke up and we got him in just in case it was going to get uglier.

So here's yet another cat picture, I know that's why you read this blog, to see my cat in various poses and levels of cuteness.

Sleepy Cat

ETA: Found several clumps of black fur and another claw at the end of the patio.

New Roof

Here's a picture Austin took of the roofing process. I counted ten guys up on the roof working like crazy. They finished in less than eight hours and the new roof looks amazing.


Thursday, July 16, 2009

Reverse Winter

I was talking to my friend the other day saying I didn't want to leave the house, I just wanted to be lazy and nap and enjoy the central air. She laughingly replied that it's reverse winter here, a phrase that perfectly described what I was feeling but hadn't been able to articulate. These are the least pleasant months of the year in TX, the days when you just want to stay inside and enjoy the climate controlled comforts of home.

But we'll take it. After living in the Midwest so long, we're ok with the trade off (who could soon forget what 20 below feels like?) and we love the beautiful weather from late October to late May. I get to wear my sweaters and scarves in December and January and we even turn the heat on at home and bask in front of the fireplace. Two months, no snow, but all the coziness that comes with a chill in the air. Then it's a long spring and, not unlike up north, it's instantly summer with no transition or warning.

I can't believe we're mere weeks from our one year Texiversary but as of August, we'll have had a whole year under our belts and going strong. Who knows where we'll end up when I finish my degree* but until then, we're more than content.

*Austin's vote is for me to get a job in Austin!

I just found this in drafts, it didn't get published when I wrote it last week.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Starry Night

Austin's been working like a mad scientist lately, tackling an art project that he has had on his mind. We now have a super cool wall hanging that also works as soft lighting when we're watching tv. And Austin being Austin, you better believe that the three different bulb sizes each have a dimmer so you can adjust the lighting effects. As always, the photos don't do it justice so you'll just have to come visit us to see it in person.

Art Light

Art Project

Austin's Art

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Harry Potter!

I'm so excited- Austin and I just booked tickets for the "Harry Potter Feast" at a nearby theater that serves food and drinks during movies. Here is the menu that we'll be enjoying while watching the Half Blood Prince.

The Menu will include:

-Chilled crab and leek soup
*Paired with Speckled Hen

-Seared Sea Scallops and bacon on English pea puree with honey cider vinaigrette
*Paired with Black Thorn Cider

-Beer Braised Roast beef with stilton and bacon stuffed twice baked potatoes
*Paired with Hob Goblin

-Butter Beer- Ginger Ale and Butterscotch Ice cream float
*Paired with St Peters Cream Ale

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Ikea Shelf

We've been looking for a shelf that would fit an awkward wall in our living room- it has a light switch nearly in the middle due to a closet space behind it. We finally found the winner at Ikea (Expedit) and put it together last night. The color is black/brown and it looks nice against the soft green walls and with the red floors, a combo sometimes difficult to match. We plan to put a mirror above it but that's a whole other search process...

Expedit Shelf

Expedit Shelf

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Weekend Recap

Austin had Friday off though he had logged forty hours by then so the day "off" followed a full week's hours anyway. Have I mentioned yet that he's busy at work? But nonetheless, it was a day off and so we foolishly headed to Ikea where everyone else with the day off appeared to be, mostly standing in the middle of the aisles so movement through the store was a bit of a human obstacle course. We left with a kitchen storage jar (for lentisl), a plastic bag holder (for under the sink), and a 5 foot long stuffed alligator. Yes, every visit to Ikea has left us eying this guy- not only is he a cute little 'gator but he's also wearing pajamas AND carries a baby in his mouth AND has a rattle in his tail. We decided it was time to bring one home. We didn't do too much else since Ikea can be really energy draining and headed home to do the faucet swap (mentioned in the previous post). Then just had a low key evening after.

Saturday we did some more projects at home and then met another couple for an awesome night of bowling. We grabbed Mexican for dinner and then headed home to watch a movie.

Today we did the usual errands and the house/home work. We picked up another faucet for the guest bathroom and will try to install that this week. Austin reparied a hole in our fence after we had a skunk visitor last night (luckily we nabbed Stinky and pulled him in before he could live up to his name). We're planning on a low key evening with some grilling as we gear up for another work week.

Friday, July 3, 2009

New Faucet

We have a number of dated fixtures that we'd like to replace but the kitchen sink took priority. We had two faux crystal knobs for hot or cold that resulted in serious tainting while prepping food. Further, the little C or H label tops kept popping off. We wanted a faucet with one handle so we could tip it with our wrist for better washing up and no silly fake crystal knobs. I decided I wanted to install it by myself to see if I could pull it off. For the most part, arguably, I did but I needed Austin to muscle off the old connections and tighten up the new ones. Here are some photos, probably boring to others but we're really happy. I might do a bathroom fixture tomorrow!