Saturday, January 9, 2016

Accomplishing

There's something so lovely about a Saturday of Accomplishing. Finally unpacking from holiday travel, cranking through several loads of laundry, throwing some frozen chicken and buffalo sauce in the slow cooker, and realizing you have the energy somehow to change the sheets (well, enough to take the sheets off and wash them. Putting new sheets on is another matter entirely).

This weekend, we take down the holiday decorations, including our very sad, dried out, droopy Christmas tree. It's time to move on, to pack it all up for another 11 months or so, and to reset the house to normal conditions. I always enjoy packing decorations away...I think there's something comforting about stacking up the familiar comforts of a holiday and tucking them away, safe and sound, until next time.


Anyway, there's a lot to do this weekend but the weather is perfect for nesting. It's grey and cold outside, with wind and the threat of rain. Not too nasty to prevent me from going outside to do laundry (our basement access door is outside), at least not yet. And nothing inspires me to nest more than a gloomy day when I have nowhere to be but inside taking care of the home. And there's a lot to take care of today! Onward we go. 


Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Watering a Christmas Tree is Easy

Step 1: be sick, and stay home from work because you don't want to cough all over everyone.

Step 2: get way down low on the floor, water bottle in hand. reach for the tree stand with your bottle'd hand.

Step 3: knock your tree over.



Step 4: cry and hyperventilate because this has never happened to you before. Maybe call your husband in hysterics because you got scared and also you're sad that you broke some of your favorite ornaments.

Step 5: get the tree back up, as much as you can manage. It will probably look like a mess. There might be water all over the floor. There will definitely be broken glass and tin and whatever else ornaments are made out of all over the floor still. Give up on any further cleaning for a while, instead retreating to the couch and your blanket and Gilmore Girls.



Step 6: take another picture, once you've cleaned up the broken ornaments and pine needles and pools of water, and vacuumed the floor with the Shark vacuum you received at BlogHer 2015. Hey, thanks, Shark! Great job!



Step 7: wait until your husband returns from work and can help you straighten the tree, because it is most definitely a two-person job. remember how you spent 30 minutes doing this the night you bought the tree - because oops, turns out the tree is actually crooked and the tree stand needs to be propped up by books on one side.

Step 8: get the tree to be upright, and redecorate. turn on the lights so it feels less sad. redo all the beads, some of the lights, and approximately 20 ornaments.



Step 9: decide not to worry about the rug, which is still a little disheveled, or the tree skirt, which is still hanging over a door to dry. decide to instead just be happy that your tree is standing again.

Step 10: remember how happy you are that you hired a cleaner this morning to sweep and mop the floors, so that you weren't crawling around in post-party stickiness and residue - just Christmas tree shrapnel.

Happy Holidays to you all. Here's a picture of our multi-denominal decorations back when it was still Chanukkah, featuring our friend Zack at the piano.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Sponsored: Victoria Fine Foods Pasta Sauce

When it comes to comfort food, linguine with (red) clam sauce is way up there on my list. I have fond memories of my dad making it for us - it was his specialty - alongside his classic "secret recipe" garlic bread. Learning to make these dishes was important to me as a youngster, and it's something I've made over and over again as an adult.

Now, these are not fancy recipes. This pasta is quick and easy and one of those low effort high reward type dishes. But man, is the payoff worth it.

When Victoria Fine Foods reached out about expanding their pasta sauce line to California, and asked if I'd be willing to try their sauce and write about it, I started thinking about linguine with clam sauce, and my mouth started watering. Done deal. I'm glad I got to try their sauces -- I don't often buy jarred tomato sauce, but I do like to have go-to brands I can keep in the pantry for those nights when I don't want to make sauce from scratch. It's a great staple, marinara sauce. Versatile and delicious and just hits the spot on a cold night.


I'll share my recipe with you, because it's worth sharing. Make it, share it. I'm sure my dad will approve (but that garlic bread's still a secret).

Linguine with red clam sauce
feeds 4 people, plus leftovers, unless you're super hungry

1 box linguine (or fresh, if you have it)
1 jar marinara sauce (this time, I used Victoria Fine Foods' Fradiavolo
a few shakes red pepper flakes
a squeeze of lemon
some garlic, if your sauce doesn't have garlic in it 
1-2 cans chopped clams (up to you)
1-2 cans whole clams (up to you)
optional fresh clams, more for show than for the clam meat

How To:
  1. Boil your linguine according to the package directions
  2. Meanwhile, heat your marinara sauce (preferably in a wide pan with sides, like a sauté pan)
  3. When the sauce is simmering, add your shakes of red pepper and squeeze of lemon (to taste, depending on how spicy and/or lemony you like things). If you're adding garlic, stir it in now (as much as you want).
  4. Open your cans of clams, and drain them -- but before you drain them in the sink, drain a little bit of the clam juice (amount is up to your taste and how clammy you like things) into your marinara sauce. Gives it a little more clammy richness and depth.
  5. Add the clams in the last minute or two and stir things around. You don't want to overcook them - they'll get chewy. Really, they only need a minute or two to heat up.
  6. Toss the linguine in the pasta sauce. You want the noodles to be well-coated for deliciousness.
  7. Gobble it up as quickly as possible.


A little plug for Victoria Fine Foods, because I really enjoyed the sauce: "The company uses a slow, kettle-cooked approach to making their sauces, and they use fresh, real food/non-GMO ingredients that provide an authentic homemade sauce in convenient, ready-to-eat form. They do have vegan options as well, and just expanded into California."

Full disclaimer: VFF sent me the sauce to review free of charge, but did not otherwise compensate me for this post. My thoughts and opinions are my own.

Monday, October 19, 2015

Adulting

I adulted hard today, and it's late and I'm proud of myself so here goes:

I woke up (and got out of bed, that's the important part) early enough to make breakfast and still leave for work on time. 

I washed a sink full of dishes when I got home from work. 

I worked out. 

I washed the dishes and cleaned up after dinner. The kitchen is CLEAN.

I had fruit for dessert (I did have a mid-morning chocolate snack - it had espresso in it!).

I prepped tomorrow's dinner and put it on the fridge. 

I organized the freezer. It really does feel good to go to bed with a clean kitchen. Real Simple was right. 

I knocked two things off my to do list. 

I made a plan for tomorrow's breakfast.

I read a recipe that I'm planning to make tomorrow to make sure I had all the ingredients. 

I did my physical therapy (well, most of it).

I flossed. 

Even though I'm going to bed an hour and a half after I'd like to, I'm calling today a win. 

Skills and puzzles and work

Back in 2007, I applied for an Administrative Associate job at Google. All incoming Admin applicants had to take a test full of LSAT-style logic questions (in addition to a free-writing portion). At the time, I was confused, and assumed it was just something Google did because they were Google and liked testing people. They were big on metrics and applying math to people, and that was SO not my world and I thought it was ridiculous. But I wanted to work at Google. So I studied, and I prepped, and I took the test. I don't know what my exact results were, but I know I scored high enough to earn a coveted role as an "Eng Admin". That is, I was an Administrative Associate supporting a team of engineers (I had hoped for Google Books). Of course, at a company where Engineer is King, they told me that they "save their best Admins for the Engineers" (a nice ego boost, even though it's a ridiculous thing to say - and do).

Anyway, after only a few months working at Google, I learned the importance of that test. Scheduling meetings for the 7 busy executives I supported was like playing Tetris with calendars -- it was all about matchmaking and prioritization and contingencies. If I move this meeting to this spot, what will be affected? How can I maneuver things to get these 20 people in 4 time zones in one 30 minute meeting? If this guy can't make it, can I suggest changes to his own calendar to make room for my boss?

Similar challenges have come up at Disqus, most often when rearranging seating. As a small startup, we have to be nimble. When products or projects change, so change our teams. And teams work best when they can sit near each other, so sometimes we change the seating arrangement every quarter, if not more frequently! While we try to make things as minimally-disruptive as possible, sometimes what's best for productivity is a total overhaul. And when people work on more than one team, things can get a little complicated, and quickly! Not only do you have to consider how to place one specific team within the space in your office, you also have to consider the necessary proximity of each team to each other (for example, if specific people or entire teams work closely together - here's where the whole "people work on multiple teams" things can complicate your seating chart).

It's a lot of "if this, then that". It's like a puzzle, figuring out which pieces go where...but it's a puzzle where the pieces keep changing and there is no one right fit for each piece. It's a fun challenge, and a little bit of a crazy one, but I love it. There's something so satisfying about moving a bunch of pieces around, over and over, until you find the right combination. Especially satisfying if the people you're doing it for appreciate your time and talents :)


What are some skills you never thought you'd need? What did you realize you're good at, perhaps only after you realized how important it was?

Friday, October 16, 2015

Family Pizza Night!

Back in August, Rustic Crust contacted me about hosting a "family pizza night". I've always loved this idea - pizza is such a fun and easy way for the whole family to work together to make dinner. It's fun for kids, fun for adults, fun for our bellies. All around wins. My husband has a pizza dough recipe that he made as a kid, and I've had "family pizza night" with my parents and with kids I've babysat, but since we don't have children of our own yet, we don't have regular occasion to do "special" dinners. Like, with a theme. Like, FAMILY PIZZA NIGHT!

Anyway, October is apparently National Pizza Month (?), so why not celebrate by sharing the photos from our family pizza night. Our family right now is our close friends Sonja and Jack. We make dinners together often, but it was really fun to have an extra excuse to try something :)

The ingredients. Wine is especially important!
Sonja prepping our crusts with a brush of oil.
Sonja and Jack pose with their creations.
We made flatbread with fresh tomatoes and
parmesan, garlic herb crust with meatless
 meatballs and padron peppers, and plain flatbread
with figs, balsamic, and parmesan. Gourmet!
I mean, they're frickin' beautiful, no?
And like any great family dinner, it ends with empty glasses,
empty plates, full bellies, and passing out in front of the TV.
Thanks to Rustic Crust for sponsoring this post by providing the dough and the sauce! While I do prefer a from-scratch homemade crust, we don't always have time to make one. These ready to go flatbreads and crusts tasted way better than your standard Boboli, and it's nice to know that they come free from chemicals or artificial ingredients. Super delicious.


Full disclosure: Rustic Crust provided me with free samples for review, but did not influence my review or provide additional compensation. All thoughts and opinions are my own.




Friday, September 4, 2015

Just Your Average Wednesday Night

While driving home from the mountains last weekend, we stopped at a fruit stand for some fresh strawberries. We bought an entire flat, because it was only $10, and I had a small desire to bake a pie (thinking about Waitress, lately, I guess). I had a bag of frozen rhubarb left over from last summer, when a neighbor mentioned she'd picked far more than she could eat, and had sliced and bagged it already. And it was exactly the right amount for Smitten Kitchen's Strawberry Rhubarb Pie recipe (that I'd made once before). And my dear friend Sonja is into baking pie. And Will is into eating pie. So pie time it was!

Sonja rolls out the top crust
It's missing something...

Ah yes, egg wash and a healthy dose of
cinnamon and sugar!

Perfection.

But because I'd picked so many beautiful tomatoes, I also wanted to make tomato sauce.

This is only a small sampling -- I had about 10 San Marzanos
all in all, I think? We added one very ripe Brandywine as well.
Our lovely upstairs neighbor offered to bring over dinner, so we didn't *need* it, but the tomatoes just looked so peak-sauce-readiness that I couldn't resist. Now it's in the freezer.



So I made tomato sauce and pie. And all was well in the world. Homesteading-ish is fun.


Are you growing anything at home? Have you been cooking lately? Do you ever surprise yourself with sudden industriousness and food-based inspiration? Is it just me, or is the End of Summer Ennui giving way to the Beginging of Fall Nesting Happiness?

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Backyard Gardening 2015

Our garden has been sort of out of control awesome this year. I don't even know if it's more awesome than previous years, but I feel like every time I go out there, there's a bounty. And I photograph the bounty, because that's what I do, but then I don't take the time to upload and write about it. And the longer I wait, the more overwhelming the process of documenting and sharing our garden's progress seems.

But Summer is almost gone. While tomato season seems to just be hitting its stride (California's in a drought, you know, so we haven't been watering as much as in the past - plus we had a strange cool weather streak in early Summer), the beans are starting to waver, and the sugar snap peas are completely dead and gone. The lettuce is fading, but the squash is still hanging in there, and the chard is (maybe?) coming back for another round. The peppers are doing their pepper thing and we can hardly eat them fast enough. Carrots are popping out in groups of 4-6, which is just the right amount for a large salad, and we're about ready for a second harvest of small beets. The fennel is...well, I'm not sure if it'll ever be ready. Patience!

In lieu of a weekly garden update, I've been compiling all of our photos in to this lovely little photo album. It will continue to update as I add photos, but for now, enjoy this epic slideshow of garden goodness.