Taking the House by Storm

The trials and tribulations of the average gal trying to navigate through life, love and the pursuit of domestic bliss.

Friday, November 30, 2007

I Almost Forgot!

So I'm going through what is now about 1018 emails, and I got one from America's Test Kitchen. It's either a weekly, bi-weekly (I never know if that's the right term or not) or monthly email from the wonderful folks who bring me Cooks Illustrated.

As I'm scanning the topics, the one titled 'How to Grate Ginger' reminds me I never told you guys about my very successful Indian feast I prepared back in October. And how I wanted to tell you that you'll need a lot more ginger than you think - so don't get a small one – and that trying to grate it is like grating a marshmallow, I'd imagine.

So on many levels, this article is timely. It includes the Chicken Masala recipe I was going to have to reenter from the magazine, and there's a handy video that tells you all about a nifty gadget I must now make my own called a...you guessed it, ginger grater. Go figure. They really do make everything, don't they?

Now the video says you can just as successfully use a microplane or the little holes on your mutli-sided grater box, but I tried both and I'm here to tell you – not so easy. But perhaps it can be blamed on the tiny piece of ginger I thought would be big enough. So I'm willing to give them another try.

Meanwhile, if you like Masala, give this recipe a try. It was a big hit, and I didn't have the recommended dutch oven to cook it in. I also made Aloo Phujia, Indian Chickpeas and Basmati rice to go with it. Enjoy!

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Open Up A Can Of Elbow Grease

I spent a large part of my Sunday afternoon and into the evening cleaning our upstairs bathroom. If you've seen our bathroom, you're probably wondering how it's possible. It's not very big. Standard tub, toilet and single vanity. If you're Wilt Chamberlain, you could probably stretch out your arms and touch the walls on either side.

The reason it took me so long is because I really cleaned it. Emptied and wiped down drawers, went through make up containers and threw out stuff I don't use any more or have had since college, dusted the tops of doors and cabinets, washed down the walls – all of them (I've been wanting - and needing - to do this for over a year, at least. Where does all that gradeu come from anyway?), scrubbed the floor on my hands and knees, washed the rugs, cleaned all the built up dust out of the vent. In addition to all the usual stuff, of course, like cleaning the toilet, sink and tub.

Overall, I did a pretty darned thorough job. And not that you would, but you could probably eat in there if you wanted to, it's that clean.

Side Note: Hopefully, you are smarter than me, but in case you're not, here's a friendly piece of advice. When using Tilex or some other harsh chemical in your bathtub, spray the shower head last, not first. I think I got third degree burns on my head when it dripped on me as I was spraying other parts of the shower. Duh.

The True Meaning of Thanksgiving

One of my birth mom pals is from Mexico and asked us in an email what Thanksgiving was all about. She said that, so far, no one could really explain it to her. I hope I cleared it up:

I think we celebrate the great relationship we created with the Indians when we first got to America, when they taught us about corn and we taught them about green bean casserole, before we stole all their land and stuff.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Shameless Plug

So this has nothing to do with cooking, cleaning or crafting, but I'm mentioning it anyway. I entered a picture (seen here) in the ivillage 'Show Us Your Belly' competition. So vote for me, please, if you're so inclined. I could use a post-pregnancy wardrobe. Bad. Thanks! And Happy Turkey Day.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Give Thanks For A Sense Of Humor

Want to impress your guests this Thanksgiving? Then turn your turkey into a sexy little bird with this nifty trick.

Cut out aluminum foil in desired shapes (guess this will depend on how skimpy you want your bikini to be). Arrange the unlucky fowl in your roasting pan. Position the foil carefully; you wouldn't want to mess up this culinary coup de gras.

Then roast according to your own recipe and serve before carving. Then watch the faces of your most beloved friends and family.

It may seem unnecessarily humiliating to the turkey, but it's gone to the great prairie in the sky and won't know the difference. Have fun and Happy Thanksgiving!

Saturday, November 17, 2007

A New Thanksgiving Tradition

My gal pal group, the Glojags, just had our annual Thanksgiving meeting last Tuesday. My friend, Sarah, hosts this event every year and made her usual delicious crock pot turkey breast. (I must ask for this recipe again - every time I have it I swear I'm going to make it on a regular basis it is so darned good, but alas, it has yet to happen.)

She also made one of the yummiest dips I've ever had in my life called Pumpkin Fluff Dip, and I don't generally like pumpkin stuff (except for pumpkin curry soup, pumpkin bread my friend Kristen makes, and the crustless pumpkin pie from Weight Watchers...hmm, maybe I do like pumpkin.). Anyway, this stuff was so fantastic, I couldn't stop eating it. And I ate so much of it, I couldn't even have dessert, which is saying something.

I guess you could say anything with "fluff" in the title is going to be good. And even though it's not made with actual marshmallow fluff, it does have a container of whipped topping in it, which is right up there with cream cheese as a wonder ingredient.

I'm going to bring it to my in-laws on Thursday. I suggest you do the same.

Virtual Clutter

Just to prove that every aspect of my life is spiraling out of control, I currently have close to 1,000 emails in my inbox. Yes, that's right. One thousand. In the inbox.

Just a couple of weeks ago, I had about 700 emails and that's generally where it would stand. I'd get 100 or so a day that I could work my way through to maintain the 700 mark, but lately, I've been freelancing, so I haven't even been able to do that.

You might ask why 700 would seem like a reasonable number to me, or why I'd have that many at all times anyway. Basically, I could only keep up with new ones or read emails without having a chance to respond. Or, I wouldn't have time to capture information that I'd want to keep from my birth class pals.

What's sad is it took me about two months to congratulate a friend on his wife's pregnancy. And I just remembered that one of my cousins sent me a nice note about a month ago I have yet to respond to.

Back when I only had 700 to go through, my goal was to have my inbox cleaned out by the end of the year. Now I'm not sure it's possible, what with all the other chaos in my life that needs addressing (a spare room full of clothes to be ironed, a dresser full of papers to be sorted, thank you notes to send, a holiday party to plan and decorate for, presents to buy, wrap and mail, Christmas cards to conceive, print and mail, and more freelance work to be done). But I'm going to give it the old college try. Wish me luck.

Note: Holy crap, I just did a google search of 'piles of clutter' for a photo I could use for this blog entry and the number one option was a news story about a woman in Washington state who suffocated under piles of clutter. This shit really can kill you.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Useless Stuff I Own

This could possibly fall under 'tips' in the category of 'short cuts, tips and tricks', and if I think of some more, maybe I would put them there next time. But for now, this title seemed fitting.

My husband, Rick, often complains that I have every kitchen gadget under the sun. (While that's my dream, it just ain't true.) So I often have to remind him that I use pretty much everything I have, with some degree of frequency. However, lately I've noticed that I do own some things that, if I had the chance to do it over again, I'd have left them on the shelves or off my wish list.

First item: Wilton's 3-in-1 Cake Caddy. I had my eye on this one for a while and, thankfully, I used a 40% off coupon from Michael's to get it, so at least I didn't pay the full $19.99 MSRP. But what a waste of dough this one was.

It seemed like a good idea – it carries cupcakes, both standard and mini, as well as a full size 9 x 13 cake in a big, protective, easy-to-carry plastic dome so you don't mess up your beautiful decorating job. But as I found when I went to transport my adorable mummy cupcakes (hopefully, details on this project before Christmas), it only carries 12 standard cupcakes when a box cake mix makes 24. I've never made mini cupcakes before, but I can only presume you'd make 48 but could only safely transport 24.

In my opinion, you don't need it.

Second item: 6-Sided Box Grater. This was on our wedding gift registry at Williams Sonoma and my friend, Angie, was kind enough to get it for us. Really, 6 is just too many sides. None of them are big enough or easy to handle, I wind up scrapping my knuckles across a side I'm not using while using another side, and most of those shapes you have on other things, like a microplane.

If I had it to do all over again, I'd have ask for one of those one-sided graters that you just hold up. I had one in college that I got at a dollar store and it worked great up until about a year ago when I broke it doing something stupid. (Can't remember the specific action, but I do recall thinking it was stupid at the time.)

Third item: Little Dipper Mini Crock Pot. This one took some searching to find over the course of a couple of years. Mostly, they come along as a freebie when you buy a regular-sized crock pot. So after spending a few bucks on gas driving around this fair city to get my hands on one, I finally got one at either Linens N Things or Bed Bath and Beyond. I'm hoping I used a coupon here, too, because I used it once at our Ornament Exchange Party last year.

I put my beloved Rotel cheese dip in there only to have it burn. There is no temperature setting on there, so you plug it in and get what you get. It's like using sterno - it seems like a given it will burn your stuff, so what's the point of that?

Let me know if you own anything you regret as it pertains to the household.