Archive for July, 2013

July dinner: red and yellow

July 31, 2013

With this month’s colors being red and yellow, I decided to try something a little different and give our monthly dinner a Spanish theme. It worked out terrifically well. I think this was one of our most successful special dinners to date.

E.'s red and yellow table setting, borrowing some of her business fabric

E.’s red and yellow table setting

For an appetizer we had gazpacho, made with tomatoes and garlic from our local farm.

A little cool gazpacho to start with on a warm day

A little cool gazpacho to start with on a warm day

The main coruse was a paella. I decided to give it an extra twist and cook it on a charcoal fire out back. I used sausage, shrimp, summer squash, and red and yellow peppers and cooked the whole thing in the old cast iron spider.

Cooking paella on the grill

Cooking paella on the grill

I haven’t made paella in a very long time, so I was a little nervous about how it would come out, but it turned out beautifully. The rice cooked perfectly and the flavors came together in a delicious mix.

The finished dish

The finished dish

Served up for dinner

Served up for dinner

For dessert I made flan. If I was nervous about the paella, I was almost terrified when it came to the flan. I have never made anything like it before. I at least grasp the basic principles involved in cooking rice, meat, and vegetables together in a pot, but caramel and egg custard are entirely foreign concepts to me. Still, by assiduously following the recipe in Joy of Cooking I turned out a pretty respectable flan.

Flan, ready to serve

Flan, ready to serve

A portion for dessert

A portion for dessert

I really could not have been happier with how everything turned out.

Cooler weather

July 29, 2013

We’ve been enjoying some cooler weather. Its still warm, but not so hot as to be uncomfortable.  It’s very pleasant to be able to move around the house without getting sweaty.

We’ve started referring to the turkey hen with five chicks as “Henrietta.” Henrietta’s chicks are getting big. They’re eating some of our raspberries, but we enjoy watching them and they also eat the Japanese beetles, so we’ve decided to let them have a few berries.

My pumpkin plants are thriving and we have a handful of tiny green pumpkins starting to grow.

We’re coming to the end of the first 8-week season of the fish share and have signed up for the next 8 weeks. The organization seems to be growing and adding more customers, which is very encouraging. Everything we’ve gotten from them has been wonderful.

I’m working on my tenure package, my syllabi for the fall, and a new article. It’s a lot to juggle, but at least when I get bored or burned out with one thing I can switch to something else. E. is hard at work on her business and there should be good news to share soon.

Going down

July 20, 2013

We’re out of options and today is another 100F day.  We’re moving down into the basement for the day.  It’s the coolest we can get.

Escaping the heat

July 19, 2013

The unbearable heat continues here.  Highs today are expected to rise to 97, with heat index somewhere north of 110.  We’re out of movies to go and see, so instead we’re going shopping today.  We’re making a trip down to Ikea and some other stores which will occupy us for most of the day.

Heat wave

July 8, 2013

We’ve had a run of unbearably hot weather lately. Daytime highs have been in the low to mid nineties and the nights have not been much better. The humidity has also been awful, making things that much worse.

We’ve done what we can to cope with the weather. We open windows in the evening to let in the cooler air, then keep them shut during the day. We’ve set up the futon and an air mattress in the living room to sleep on since its a few dergees cooler downstairs than up. On some of the worst days we’ve escaped the house to go to the movies or go shopping, wherever we can find air conditioning. We’ve seen Joss Whedon’s Much Ado about Nothing, the new Pixar movie Monsters University, and the Superman reboot Man of Steel. (I heartily recommend Much Ado. It’s a great example of what you can do with limited technical resources– shot in 12 days all in Whedon’s home– but a group of fantastic actors. Nathan Fillion as Dogberry is a special treat.)

When I last went up to New Hampshire to pick up our weekly fish I spotted an L. L. Bean outlet store on my route. On one hot day we made a trip up there to do some shopping. I picked up some shorts and some pants and both of us had some things that needed returning.

On July 4th a couple of ladies in the neighborhood hosted a community cookout. It was one of the very hot days, but we turned up. It was a small gathering in the end, but it included some of the people in the neighborhood that we like so it was nice to see them and share some good food.

There is a turkey hen with a brood of five chicks who have all been visiting our yard on a regular basis, despite the heat. Yesterday we saw both them and two more hens, one of whom had her own brood of chicks. They will come right up to the house and give us a good view. It has been such fun to watch them.

Further adventures in brewing

July 2, 2013

In June I tried my hand at brewing some mead.  I followed a fairly simple recipe, but I added a bit of sweet fern from the back yard (after doing some thorough checking to make sure that sweet fern is indeed safe to brew with).  I brewed the mead to the specified gravity in the carboy (big glass container), then bottled it and left it to condition in the bottles for a while.

One evening, E. and I were sitting watching tv when we heard a loud pop and the sound of shattering glass.  We got up to check and found that two of the mead bottles had exploded, sending a shower of glass shards all over the dining room and kitchen.  Fortunately, we were in another room.  I hate to think of what might have happened if we had been sitting at the dining table.

It took us an hour and a half to clean up the broken bottles.  I opened all the rest of the bottles and emptied their contents back into the carboy to ferment for a few more days before bottling them again.  So far so good.  No more burst bottles and we’ve been enjoying sweet fern mead.