Monthly Archives: August 2009

What is Going On Here?

jank window

Is it:

a) A drunk window

b) The result of my rage-induced smashing rampage

c) A sign that you should always open all windows and blinds when doing a move-in walkthrough, even if it’s December and oh god why is it snowing this is fucking Portland

I’ll also note that his is as far as that window opens. On days of extreme melting heat I’ve had good results with propping it up with a big plastic spoon. Also the blind slats don’t open; if you want light you’ve gotta pull the whole dang thing up.

Anyway, my lapse in blogging can be (mostly) blamed on a series of house-related mishaps. First my sewing machine broke down spectacularly and couldn’t be resuscitated, despite half an hour of me fiddling with it while shouting passive aggressive remarks at my poor sister. Finally I wandered into the kitchen, knees bruised from kneeling in front of the bobbin case. “The sewing machine fucked me.” I announced. The next day we bought a new one, which you can see in the picture. It works amazingly, though I’m still getting used to the idea of not having to stop every five minutes to untangle the bobbin.

Also there was an incident regarding ink stains in the tub which is still too painful to talk about. And then there were the ants. So many ants. I think ants get poo-pooed when it comes to pest control horror stories. Sure they’re easy to kill and they don’t carry the plague, but it’s still pretty creepy to realize there are hundreds of tiny creatures wandering around my house. First they came one or two, under the front door or through my bedroom window. It’s fine, every apartment has a couple ants.

Then one night I came home from work and they were THERE. In the kitchen. “ANTS!” I yelled, pointing at the floor. They were making a little march up and down the front of the stove, aka “crumb central.” Yean started yanking them up with a wad of duct tape. It was bad. Every time we’d clear the floor, ten minutes later there’d be more.  Eventually we ran duct tape sticky side up around the stove and the entrance of the kitchen to try and keep them from escaping. Yean took a picture for posterity:

taped off stovetaped kitchen

Other things the ants tried to eat include my gross bakery shoes and my laundry pile. Also they were definitely coming from the front door, which Yean discovered one day when she went to vacuum up some spiderwebs behind the TV and found a little pile of ant carcasses. Those spiders were fat and happy.

Anyway, what all this has taught me is that I’m a disgusting human and I live in a shit hole, hardwood floors notwithstanding. We finally killed the ants using the one-two punch of ant traps and delicious poisonous spray. And cleaning. So much cleaning. But look! Look at the results of my ant paranoia!

cleankitchen0002

It smells nice too.

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This Will Be a Post Where We Use The F-Word

Today is my Saturday. I got all my Saturday plans done and it’s only 6 pm.

To be fair, these are my Saturday plans:

9 am: Wake up because I forgot to turn off my alarm, curse and drop phone on floor.
10 am: Get dressed
10:08 am: Finish getting dressed, pester Yean to do same
11 am: Go to brunch at dim sum place, eat an embarrassing amount.
2 pm: Go see “Julie and Julia” in the Beav. The dark theater conceals my food baby.
4 pm: Wander out of theater and directly into bookshop across the parking lot. Buy related Julie/Julia books.
5:30 pm: Still full, waddle home an write a blog post.

So huzzah! You see I have challenged myself a lot. The only thing I might add to my to-do list is to eat a light salad, then blackberries with whipped cream. Those berries have been sitting in the fridge for days, too tart to consume on their own. Gotta bust out my whippin’ arm.

streep as child

So Julie and Julia! Can I just say, I love movies for the ladies? As a professional cook (and I guess AS A LADY) there’s something incredibly powerful about sitting in front of this unabashedly girly food porny lovefest for two hours. At one point I nudged Yean and whispered “macarons!” and then when I decided she hadn’t heard, “opera cake!” I also was on the verge of tears the entire film, which is an accomplishment because I am typically dead inside.

A lot has been said about Meryl Streep’s portrayal of Julia Child, to the point where a lot of people expressed a desire to see a straight up biopic of Julia. I for one would love that, and probably Julie Powell would love it too(because IT WOULD BE AWESOME). But the fact is that this whole project was inspired by a book that was inspired by a blog that was inspired by a cookbook/tv show. The narratives don’t exactly go together, in movie form, and it’s a valid point that what made Powell’s blog, and later book, compelling doesn’t necessarily translate well to screen. My favorite scenes with Julie were ones where her narration of blog posts was laid over scenes of her cooking. While die-hard Julia fans may dismiss the Julie narrative as whiny and tiresome, it actually says a lot about how we relate to cultural icons.

There’s a scene toward the end of the film where Julie finds out that Julia Child, then in her 90s, didn’t care for her project. She’s crushed, of course. “Do you think it’s because I occasionally use the f-word?” she asks her husband. Sadly, it really happened, and Judith Jones, Child’s editor, had no kind words for Powell either. The unfortunate thing about this is that is really is just a generational difference. At that point Julia Child had become this untouchable goddess of cooking, and Powell thought she was honoring her by attempting her recipes. Child and Jones were suspicious that Powell was just trying to cash in on her years of work, but to Powell it was about documenting an emotional journey. “Julia’s perfect!” Powell’s character moans. “The one in your head is,” her husband corrects, “and that’s the one that matters.”

But ultimately, the Julia in Powell’s and all of our heads is fictional. The real Julia was imperfect, as we all are. And I think a lot of the kerfuffle over the Julie side of the movie could have been eased if the narrative had confirmed this. Instead we get a dreamlike account of Julia’s life in France, with amusing anecdotes and an alarmingly attractive Stanley Tucci. Compared to that, even Amy Adams has to work to make her storyline sympathetic.

There’s also some interesting stuff about blogging and the internet in here. I wish the film didn’t have to explain and justify blogging as a hobby or as a profession. There’s a lot of “what the fuck is the internet?” sort of discussion going around, which is another mark of the generational difference. It’s true that the more delicate Julia fans out there would be put off by the dirty words in the blog. But you know, this is the world we live in now. People write blogs. They connect with each other on online communities. It can be as superficial or as serious as you want it to be, but it’s there and it’s valid. It’s not a sign of the apocalypse. And can we please dump this idea of blogging as a profession for the lazy and impatient? Look at what Powell did; 524 recipes, 365 days. All while working full time and somehow finding the energy to write about it. That’s nothing to sneeze at. Most people wouldn’t even attempt it. Girl had spunk, and drive, and more than a little cooking skill. She made good on the merit of her writing, which was funny and emotional, not on concept alone. And I can personally assure you that blogging is not and never will be a get rich quick scheme.

So go see it! Now that I have said all these mean things, I will say that it is an incredibly gorgeous food movie, and everyone in it is wonderful in it. The movie succeeds because it hits us in that nostalgia place that makes us love everything. Watching Julie and her husband crack up over the Dan Akroyd SNL sketch, seeing Julia’s sister (played by Jane lynch) have a squawking tall girl reunion, it’s all brilliant and beautiful. And it really, really makes you want to cook. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to go look up this beef bourgignon recipe.

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Oh no, don’t go: Or, I did not mean this blog title literally.

So, the socially acceptable part of me says

“Emmy, why would you make the third ever post on your blog about peeing in the shower? Why would you do that?” And probably, I’m just that sort of person. So here! Here is a Brazilian ad urging citizens to conserve water and “Xixi no banho.” Or “Pee in the bath,” as I’m given to understand.

Hey now! That last one is just King Kong peeing off the side of the Empire State Building! In a rainstorm! God help the New Yorker that forgot their umbrella on that day. Also, a giant monkey might destroy their city.

You know what? I’m a pretty gross person. I’ll wear the same jeans four days in a row. My work shoes recently had to be thrown out because they attracted ants. And I only really shower every other day, tops. So when I get around to the chore that is showering, I’m not gonna ruin it by peeing all over myself.

Fun Fact: At my old apartment in Oakland, CA, the only thing my roommate and I could do to contribute to the county’s imposed 10% water reduction goal was to religiously follow the “If it’s yellow, leave it mellow” directive that California residents will remember from the 90’s. Single baker girls that we were, we barely showered, only ran the dishwasher once a week, and took our laundry home every weekend because we never had quarters. It worked great except that we quickly realized there was an upper limit to how many pees you could get per flush, especially with our already clog-prone toilet. I’m sure the neighbors were appalled at the daily plunging sounds coming from such polite young ladies.

Probably that’s why we didn’t get invited back to the labor day dinner party. Or because the previous year my roommate, who’d been up since 4:30, poured diet coke into her champagne glass for the toast. But that’s another story.

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Astoria’s Flavel House – Why is this not my house?

I’m sure there are a lot of complex psychological reasons behind my need to torture myself with things I’ll never afford, but now is not the time for that! Now is the time for pretty, pretty pictures of pretty, pretty houses. That some guy lived in a long time ago. I think his name was Flavel?

Ah yes! The Flavel House Museum, in Astoria, Oregon, which is a good place to learn about history and architecture and also a nice place to go if you’re bored and it’s too hot in Portland. I day-tripped out there a couple weeks ago with my sister lovely Yean for some fresh sea air and fresh sea…food, which they also have a lot of. I’ve got a general Astoria post in the works but first I’ll talk about the highlight of our trip, the Flavel House (which I think is pronounced flah-VELL, even though I’ve been rhyming it with “waffle.”)

This hallway was totally haunted

This hallway was totally haunted

Yean’s a sucker for old-timey home decor, and I’m a sucker for old-timey kitchens and also possibly haunted places, so we ended up having a blast despite our shared fear of breaking something expensive. Plus we’d both just read Victorian-era romance novels and now we want a historical romance set on the West Coast. He would be a rich frontier businessman and she would be the heiress to a cannery. Someone could even get shanghaied. Think of the fish-related shananigans!

Where the magic evidently happened

Literary cliches aside, the Flavel House has been lovingly restored, with original fireplaces and woodwork shining like new and period-appropriate furniture adorning the massive rooms. Compared to wealthier towns it’s rather modest, but for 19th century Astoria, this place was the shit.

This little gem was in one of the guest rooms, next to a diorama of stuffed dead birds and dried flowers under glass. I’m not entirely sure what was up with the hair wreath. Maybe people were just thriftier with their hairballs back in the day. Modern crafters have felt and faux fur and baby alpaca yarn to work with…these people had hair. Go fig.

I was probably more enchanted with the kitchen than I should have been. But hey, I’d just read Sherry Thomas’ Delicious and I was imagining it as the Kitchen Of Magical Sexing.

I think I might start a rolling pin collection. They're handy in the kitchen and useful in case of a zombie attack.

I wish I’d gotten more pictures, but it was quite dark inside to protect the furniture and flash photography wasn’t allowed. We got a dollar off the ticket price for having a AAA card, so for four bucks each it’s not a bad way to spend the afternoon. I’d say it’s worth it just to pace in front of the massive fireplaces pretending to be a brooding man of the house, which I totally did. Also the Historical Society must have figured that after all these roped off rooms and no-touchy rules, people, especially kids, would need a place to go nuts, so they dedicated the nursery to being the interactive learning room. I thought it was a nice way to sidestep the creepier aspects of antique toys, but clearly there was some sort of supernatural force at work anyway. Look what it did to Yean:

I don’t think that chair is period appropriate. In fact, I’m pretty sure I saw it at Fred Meyer last week.

Flavel House Museum
corner of 8th and Duane st.
Astoria, OR 97103
503-325-2203

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It’s true what they say about blond(ies)

Yeah, I had two. What?

Summertime, and the livin’s easy. Well, except for the fact that is was hot as balls last week.

Fun fact: not a single apartment in Portland has air conditioning. I spent most of my days wandering around the house in short shorts and a tank top moaning about the heat, sitting directly in front of the fan gulping ice water, or spending unnecessary money in big box stores and movie theaters, which are kept at a blessedly frigid sixty degrees.

It finally cooled down couple days ago, at least enough that I could turn on the oven without wanting to stick my head in it and die. I celebrated by baking. Lots of baking. Also by turning on the camera without gumming up the ports with sweat.

Butter and sugar. I could probably just eat this.

This recipe is from the [INSERT POPULAR PBS SHOW HERE] cookbook, which my Grandma gave me for Christmas a couple years ago. It’s quickly become my baking go-to, second only to my beloved Fannie Farmer Baking Book, which technically belongs to my mother and lives with her in California. The only problem with [BOOK BASED ON VERY THOROUGH MAGAZINE] is that they’re quite, ahh, protective of their recipes. Also, their Asian recipes are not especially reliable. But that’s another post! Let’s just say that [RECIPE FROM THAT BOOK YOU KNOW THAT ONE] is pretty good, even if the company that owns it is a bit poopy. And I can’t not use it, because buying reasonably priced items at Costco and gifting them to family members is like the highest form of praise in my family.

Eggs and vanilla in.

Eggs and vanilla in.

I like blondies because they’re easy. They’re so easy, in fact, I’m starting to get icky thoughts about how maybe they got their name because of some antiquated notions about the sexual habits of blondes. Hopefully that is not the case? Anyway, they use what my pastry teacher used to call the ol’ “melt & mix” technique, which is exactly as exciting as it sounds. I like making blondies more than making brownies because you don’t have to melt the stupid chocolate in the stupid microwave and nobody will catch you licking the chocolate/butter spoon. Not that that ever happens to me.

You could probably swirl this in ice cream and it would be the bomb.

You could probably swirl this in ice cream and it would be the bomb

I baked these in an 8×8 pan rather than a 9×13 because I love fudgy bar cookies and also because I don’t own a 9×13 pan. I know, right? Sad. Likewise, I dropped the oven temp to 325 degrees and baked them an additional ten minutes or so to avoid death by my oven, aka “the burninator.” The last time I made these I actually overbaked them, so I was more conservative this time and they came out super fudgy, even when I did the “knife pokey/comes out clean” test. On a third try I’d try to hit it somewhere in between, as these were pretty dang rich. But oh, the brown sugar goodness. Excuse me, I have to go drool for a bit.

Delicious Blondies

3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, melted
1 1/2 cups light brown sugar
2 large eggs
4 tsp. vanilla
1 1/2 cups A.P. flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
1 cup chopped toasted walnuts

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Butter or spray an 8×8 inch square pan and set aside. In a large mixing bowl, combine the melted butter and brown sugar and whisk out all the lumps. Whisk in the 2 eggs and vanilla until smooth, then add the flour, salt and baking powder and mix until just incorporated. Stir in the chocolate chips and nuts and pour batter into the prepared pan, smoothing it into the corners. Bake until the top is shiny and crinkly and a knife or skewer inserted into the middle comes out clean, about 30 minutes. You can wait until it’s cool and cut it into cute little squares, or you can pull a stoner move and eat it with a big spoon. Actually, please do not do that. Please?

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