Sunday, June 21, 2020

Garden and Garage

I was supposed to go on a bike ride this morning, but woke up yesterday congested. Felt well most of the day, so was hoping it was just allergies, but woke up this morning feeling worse and decided it was best all around if I stayed home today. Disappointing, but hopefully I'll be better by next weekend and can get out then.

Our plants are sprouting more, though only the cilantro seems to have come up in the railing planter. And the left side of the raised bed is looking much less productive than the right side. No idea why. But what is coming up seems to be coming along nicely.

Ryan and I have embarked on a garage cleanout/reorganization project. We're trying to tackle a bit at a time, otherwise it'll be overwhelming. Yesterday we spent an hour or so and got our food shelf better organized. Ryan cleared up some cobwebs and did a bunch of shrub trimming outside so we could get in and out of the garage easier. Today we got a tool chest. Home Depot was disappointingly crowded, but once we found what we needed, we were able to get out quickly. We got it put together and put all the tools that have been sprawling over the garage floor for the past few years put away in it.

We still have a lot of work to do and a lot to get rid of. Planning to try and figure out some wall storage, a better way to store the bikes, and likely some more shelf storage. Hopefully in a few weeks we'll have made some good progress; it's been a project we've known needed to happen for a while, so it feels good to finally get around to it.

No baking this weekend, but we plan to be back at it next weekend - if my work and biking plans allow.

Friday, June 19, 2020

School End

Well, school has ended for the year. Very anticlimactic this year and it's not clear what things will look like in the fall. The childcare at the elementary school has been allowed to re-open, but Mal won't be going this summer since we're all working from home still. Lots of people are going to be losing childcare FSA money this year I'm guessing. Half of ours was supplied by my employer, so it won't be quite as painful if we don't use it all. The schools will only open full time in the fall if we're in phase 4, which everyone is assuming unlikely. We just got approved for phase 2 and it sounds like we're barely meeting requirements there, so I wouldn't be surprised if we have to move backwards in a few weeks.

Since it was a lame last day of school, it worked out nicely that I had the day off (I'm working an upcoming weekend day). I decided we should do some fun things since the kids didn't really have school. Mal wanted the three of us to play Overcooked, which we planned to do, but Ryan was using one of the controllers, so we'll get that in tomorrow instead.

Gareth and I went for our first bike ride in ages. Just 9 miles over to our old neighborhood and back. It includes some hills but is very doable. I'm going to be in some pain tomorrow since it's been a couple months since I last rode and because I'd also gone for a run this morning. It felt good to get out though and was a nice way to spend an hour. We stopped by a friend's house and had a brief outside conversation before making our way back.

After injuring his back on his birthday when he tried to lift his heavy pillow as though it was a regular pillow, Ryan's realized he needs to be moving more than an occasional walk and dips/pushups. A friend told him biking has helped with his back, so Ryan might actually get into biking again. He has a bike that this friend gave him a few years ago, but apparently it needs a little work - we just can't remember what it needs. One of my big barriers to getting out on rides alone is that I don't actually know a lot of maintenance stuff or how to fix things if something goes awry while I'm out. We're hoping to start learning together.

Sunday, June 14, 2020

Potato Cheese Sticks, Fence, and Butter Herb Loaf

We didn't do nearly as much baking last weekend, partly due to the fact that we still had cheesecake left from Ryan's birthday. But we did try out another Julia Child recipe: Potato Cheese Sticks. Basically just riced potato mixed with egg, flour, cheese, butter, and seasonings.

The mixture got easier to pipe as it cooled a bit, simply because it held its shape better. The first tray kinda flattened out a bit, while the second tray (above) held their shape better. I was shocked that Mal actually liked them, considering he hates potatoes and cheese. The texture is a bit like a french fry - still soft in the center, but a little crunch on the outside. I was worried they'd taste terrible as they cooled, but they're actually fine.

Now that things are opening up a bit, we were finally able to get our broken fence replaced. We'd realized that each section was going to fall apart one by one, so we may as well replace the whole thing since the people we bought the house from clearly didn't get it built correctly. The team came early in the week to remove the old fence and to pour concrete for new posts, then came a few days later to put the new fence up.

New gates that actually function!

It feels good to have got one repair/improvement project done. This weekend's baking is a butterflake herb loaf.

Kids did most of the work mixing up the dough

Mal wandered off, so Gareth and I put together the butter-herb filling
All of us worked to cut out the circles, spread with filling, fold in half, and place in the loaf pan. Our pan was a little bigger than called for, so instead of two loaves we made one.

Before baking

We used the scraps to make all sorts of rolls

This one was just 4 pieces of scrap placed together with filling between.
 All done! Some crackage along the side, which I'm sure means we did something wrong. But tastes great! We'll definitely be making this one again.

Next up: Florentines.

Tuesday, June 2, 2020


Ryan turned thirty-nine this week. In between following the protests and trying to have some conversations with our kids (more in-depth with Gareth, obviously) about what's going on and why, we baked and celebrated. We started off the weekend by using up our leftover egg whites to try out macarons. I warned everyone that they sounded tricky and that they were unlikely to turn out perfectly on our first try.

We got better at piping as we went along. But it's a good thing I set expectations low, because we clearly didn't deflate the batter quite enough/it was undermixed. Some of them ended up overbaked slightly, others slightly underbaked (they were all in the oven on the convection setting together, so it's a bit odd), and apparently we didn't knock out any air bubbles sufficiently since some of them had cracks. They still tasted good at any rate.

The next day I made up the chocolate cheesecake for Ryan's birthday. I was nervous about it since I was increasing the recipe to adapt it from a 9" to a 10" pan. It seemed to go well initially, but I think I must've over-mixed it a bit and maybe overcooked it a tad as well, since it ended up with huge crack. Again, it tasted delicous - rich and fudgy and likely impossible for just the four of us to make it through.

Ryan's birthday gift has been sitting in the living room for a few days, and was labelled on the box with what it was, so no surprises here. But he was still thrilled and declared that I think of the best gifts (made me laugh since I have a really hard time coming up with gift ideas for him). We've had a hard time finding pillows that are actually firm and don't flatten immediately, which really sucks when you're a side sleeper. So I got him (and me, because it saved some money to buy 2) a buckwheat pillow to try out, after looking into them and finding lots of rave reviews. We let Gareth try it out a bit and now he's jealous and wants one as well.

In non-birthday news, the cilantro seeds I planted in the railing planter are coming up! It's a self-watering planter with no real drainage, and we've had quite a lot of rain recently (including a thunderstorm, yay!), so I was starting to worry that they'd gotten too much water and not enough sun/warmth and were just being drowned. We'll see if I get to harvest any before winter comes.