Tag Archives: homemaking

It grows on you.

“It grows on you.” I have heard this statement, or some variation of it, from countless locals over the past three months. I guess it’s only logical that the number one metaphor used to by people in this agriculture-centric town would be one using an agrarian comparison. What they mean by this farming comparison is that the town endears itself to newcomers over time. I cannot truthfully state that I have as of yet arrived at a place of full-grown attachment to this place, but our lives here are certainly growing more and more full. (And yes, these ‘grow’ word play puns were intended.)

view on my morning run

Trevor is now playing hockey on a men’s rec league two nights per week. Though it is uncomfortably cold at the outdoor rink (I am taking lessons from natives on how to keep warm–one woman brings a portable propane heater and sets it up in the stands!), it is a fun connection to the community here and we are hoping it will also be a good venue for meeting friend-potentials.

men's league hockey game

Notice the score; Trevor is on the “old man” team, which has now been whipped three times in a row by the team composed mainly of men in their late teens and early twenties!

As my search for out-of-home employment slowly moves forward I am finding that my time is steadily filling up, even without a job. I am now a dedicated member of three separate book clubs, an on-call volunteer at the church to prepare snacks for the after school tutoring program, and an accomplished baker of rustic and crusty bread (recipe from Simply So Good). And the walls of our home are filling with my burgeoning “art” projects.

crusty asiago-cheddar bread

We have also determined that Wenatchee is the most happening place around, and have embraced that town as our home base for cultural and commercial needs. Just last weekend, amidst a trip designed to meet the uninspiring dual purposes of dropping off our faulty boat motor for rehabilitation and collecting our finally repaired (and thankfully functional) vacuum cleaner, we discovered the most wonderful indoor market. Wandering among the trendy restaurants, artisan bakeries, and fresh local produce stands it felt like we had been magically transported to Pike Place or Fisherman’s Wharf. Needless to say, I was an instant fan, have already planned a friend meet-up lunch date there, and complained vociferously when it appeared that Trevor had consumed more than half of the INCREDIBLE maple bar we purchased to “share”.

That’s right. I’m ending another post on the topic of maple bars.

Dumpling deluge

Before I begin here, let me first make it clear that I did not grow up eating dumplings of any kind. It wasn’t until my teenage years that I finally caved in to my parents’ insistence that I would actually enjoy the potstickers they always ordered at our regular strip-mall Chinese food restaurant. They were right. I did like them. Potstickers became my introduction into the dumpling world, and were for many years the only exception to my “no weird squishy foods” rule.

After “growing up” and “moving out” I began experimenting with cooking, enjoying gourmet restaurants, and expanding my, initially very narrow, culinary horizons. Friends who know me well might still say I’m one of the “pickiest” (Isn’t that a negative-feeling word? I prefer the term “discriminating”) eaters they know, but those who have known me the longest are often astonished by the variety of foods that I eat, order, and even make at home.

Since moving to our small rural town I have more time than ever before to try new things in the kitchen. It’s one of the hobbies that gives structure and a sense of productivity to my days. And I recently noticed one curious food that has made three appearances on my home menu in the past few months: dumplings. I’d like to share them with you here, both because they were all AMAZING and because I feel this is a notable milestone in my journey as a food eater.

1. Ricotta-based gnocchi. I followed an extremely simple recipe from delicious days and used the homemade ricotta that I wrote about in My first cheese baby. The only reason that these delicious gnocchi will not become a weekly occurrence at our home is the eye-popping calorie count. I served them tossed in fresh, homemade pesto from the my herb garden and a side salad (a passing acknowledgement to the underwhelming nutritional value of the dinner).

Ingredients for the ricotta gnocchi.

Ingredients for the ricotta gnocchi.

I’m very sorry to report that there were no photos taken of the finished product. They were devoured before anyone could capture proof of their dainty, fluffy, pillowy beauty.

2. Chicken and dumpling soup. I adapted from Annie’s Eats lighter chicken and dumplings, making it still lighter by exchanging pan seared chicken breast for the thighs and wings, but following the dumpling portion of her recipe to a t (or to a Tb, depending on what was called for).

Soup dumplings may not be the prettiest things in the world, but they were scrumptious.

Soup dumplings may not be the prettiest things in the world, but they were scrumptious.

Annie approximates that this recipe will yield 8 servings, and I’m proud/ashamed to admit that my husband and I reduced that to 4, scarfing half of the recipe yield for dinner and the other half for lunch the next day. We just couldn’t keep out of it.

3. POTSTICKERS!!! I have long aspired to try my hand at creating a homemade version of the dumpling that opened my eyes to the great and wonderful world of dumplings, but they seemed very intimidating with all of the requisite rolling, filling, folding, and pleating. I came across this recipe online months ago and relegated it to waiting in my Pinterest food board. I finally found the inspiration and courage to give it a whirl last night. I admit, this was not a simple recipe. My first attempts at forming the pleated little delicacies were lumpy, bulging balls of dough. My first foray into cooking them resulted in smoking, black-bottomed hunks of carcinogens. But I persevered, and my perseverance was rewarded with authentic tasting and reasonably attractive looking potstickers. When Trevor first bit into one he exclaimed, in obvious surprise, “they taste just like potstickers!”.

In fact, I was so happy with the results of those potstickers that weren’t grotesquely misshapen or burnt that today I made another batch of dough and used the remaining filling to create a whole new fleet of these for the freezer. I’m very much looking forward to enjoying them straight from the freezer and into the frying pan without first having to endure an hour of folding and pleating!

WEEDS

Now, just so we’re clear, this post will NOT be regarding the popular television drama, nor will it address a more-popular recreational substance. No, this is about a different type of weeds. The kind that insidiously spread through a backyard, slowly but insistently converting acreage of fescue into fields of dandelions and clover. I expressly name dandelion and clover here because they have become two of my worst enemies, combining with their compatriot crab grass to form an arch-nemesis trifecta that haunts my mornings.

dandelions

They may look innocent enough, to some, perhaps, they look like the tender makings of a foraged dinner salad. But to me, a renter who lease specifically states that lawn care will be “at the sole expense of the tenant”, these dandelions are a waving banner of war.

Let me give a little background, set the stage to help you all understand how a nature-loving, live-and-let-live person like myself has been transformed into an Ortho-Max yielding maniac. When we moved in to our new place we noted the presence of some weeds and, thinking it only typical in any lawn as large as the one we had just assumed responsibility for, didn’t think of it again. (For those of who who haven’t heard my pitiful moanings of complaint or seen the atrocity with your own eyes–this yard is a literal acre…of nothing but grass.) As the days passed a transformation began taking place before our eyes: the weeds were growing, spreading, threatening our sanity and our reputation with the neighbors. Trevor suggested that we purchase 50 million bags of “feed and weed” and spread it the poison over the entire lawn. I gasped at the expense and instead took it upon myself to visit revenge upon these weeds with a sprayer, insisting that I had the time and the determination to kill each one.

Ahem. After 6 hours of porting around a 2 gallon sprayer (which needed frequent refilling from the deadly-smelling concentrate in the garage) in the baking Central Washington summer sun the weeds seemed as heart and endless as ever and I was beat. I admitted defeat to my husband, begging for the quick and universal application of the “feed and weed” and consumed with bitterness over the futility of my attempts.

So, now you know why I hate weeds. On a lighter note, I harvested several cups of unbelievably sweet and juicy grapes from our neighbor’s vine this morning. She assured us that we were welcome to collect anything growing  on our side of the fence and I took her word for it.

photo (1)It seems that this fertile land and sun-soaked climate are good for growing ANYTHING–both succulent grapes and maddening weeds. Perhaps I should have called this post “Pros and Cons”.

My first cheese-baby

As a serious cheese lover I have long aspired to try my own hand at home cheese-making. Cheese, being everything wonderful that it is, seemed like a worthy, yet considerably intimidating goal, which is why up until last week I had shied away from any home-dairy experiments.

But now everything has changed. I found the courage to try this recipe for homemade whole-milk ricotta cheese from Annie’s Eats (one of my favorite recipe resources–www.annies-eats.com) and friends, let me tell you, it was easy to make and all-too-easy to enjoy.

My first ever cheese-baby served us in a variety of delicious ways over the weekend:

First, as a topping on a homemade whole wheat pizza dough. Topping pizza with fresh ricotta is one component of my eternal quest to find a satisfactory copycat recipe for my all-time favorite pizza which is no longer available at what used to be one of my favorite restaurants in Portland. (They obviously are not any longer, ever since they struck my favorite pizza from their menu.)

Next, it starred in two quick and easy pasta dishes for a Saturday night after-a-movie dinner. His was a baked pasta with whole wheat penne, pre-made tomato sauce from a jar (he swears that he actually likes it), homemade ricotta, and shredded mozzarella. Hers was an AMAZING recipe adapted from Smitten Kitchen (my other favorite recipe resource–www.smittenkitchen.com) that showcased the ricotta in a whole wheat pasta dish with snow peas, freshly squeezed lemon, mint plucked from my patio, and grated parmesan.

You may have noticed that both the pizzas and the pasta dishes were customized; his and hers. If you continue to follow this blog you will notice that this is not a rare occurrence. Whenever it’s possible to do a construct-your-own dinner, I do it. It’s absolutely worth the peace and contentment that comes with both of us getting to personalize our meal.

You may have also noticed that my food photography leaves much to be desired. I know it and I regret it. That’s pretty much the extent of my phone camera’s capacity, though I will endeavor to make the arrangements more appealing as I learn.

My whole experience with cheese-making did leave me with one pressing question: can cheese cloth be reused? If yes, then making ricotta at home is not only tasty, but also budget-friendly. If no, then having to purchase a fresh $5.60 cheese cloth for each batch may relegate this recipe to special occasions only. I would greatly appreciate information from anyone who knows about this, especially the particulars on how to properly cleanse the cloth for future use.

And now, a small town living anecdote, repeated here to satisfy my mother: Trevor and I went to the movies on Saturday night to escape thinking about a fresh crop of car troubles that are plaguing our ever-untrusty volvo. Let me put it simply; the $14 admission for two was wonderful, but our theater event was just not the cinetopia experience we had grown accustomed to in the city. For those of you who don’t know, cinetopia is like the first class of movie theaters–wide, reclining leather seats with personal ottomans, state of the art technology, and beer and wine delivered directly to your seat. Our Saturday night at the movies was more of a ride in coach, in an old plane that smelled of crushed-velvet must and stale popcorn butter. I’m trying to chalk it all up to small town “charm”.

As promised

Image

When I first began spreading the word that the next four years of our lives would find us living in a small, agriculture-centric town in rural Central Washington our friends and family responded with great enthusiasm: “what an adventure!”, they said. Several people insisted that I should begin a blog to chronicle these “adventures” with the dual purposes of providing a means of stay in touch and giving my suddenly endless quantities of free time some meaningful structure (more on that later).

Now, I will confess (as I do intend for this blog to be built on honesty) that my level of excitement about the prospect of our our move was considerably less than that of friends, family, and my husband. I dreaded moving to what felt like the ‘middle of nowhere’, a place far from any comrades or kin, a place without a Target! But, we’re here now and I’m working diligently on becoming acclimated to the cultural climate. Since I do regard myself as a person of my word, here, as promised, is my first attempt at blogging.

Here’s what can be anticipated:

  • Commentary, comparisons, and confessions about life in a small town
  • Anecdotes about our “adventures” here and abroad
  • Reports on our progress with a new level adulthood, such as successful recipes, worthwhile projects, etc
  • Etc.

Now for a bit of an update, which is what the majority of you are here for anyway. We moved here at the start of August and have been (very) busily settling in to our (very) large house and yard. Transitioning from a 900 square foot townhouse in the city to a full-sized grown-up house with an acre of grass to nurture has been quite an adjustment. We are working hard to make this big house homey and to not have the ugliest lawn in the neighborhood.

Trevor began work in the third week of August and since that time I have been trying out a new occupation: housewifery. Some of you might object to this enterprise, pointing out that it seems wasteful to acquire a Masters degree and then let it sit gathering dust. I would have to agree, but I assure you my foray into “homemaking” is not fully by choice and I desperately hope it to be a temporary position. You see, opportunities are a bit limited here in my field, but have no fear, I am steadily developing ideas and prospects for gainful employment. In the meantime, I am enjoying, yes enjoying, the freedom to read, experiment in the kitchen, and become accustomed to our new environment.

I hope you’ll have as much fun following along with this new adventure as I hope to in having it,

Kylie

*A note on the name for this blog: Naming a blog is harder than naming a baby. Okay, it’s true that I have never named a baby, but I did find the forced commitment to an enduring name for this project very difficult. I meant to begin this project concurrently with out move (more than a month ago) and post ideas have been obnoxiously racing around in my mind for weeks, but my momentum was forestalled by the necessary first step of choosing a name. Many ideas were brainstormed on road trips with my husband, cute titles having to do with country roads and rows of corn, but I was troubled by the thought that the name would become obsolete with the termination of our four year term here; and what if I had enjoyed this undertaking enough to want to continue? Then it came to me in a flash of inspiration, though we will almost certainly move from this place in four years, we will almost as certainly continue to live somewhere in the great and beautiful Northwest. (If life makes a liar out of me, I hope I have the grace not to be too bitter). Thus the name, ourNWlife.