Tuesday, March 29, 2011

I Challenge you to a Challenge!

I do love a challenge.

I've had several challenges this past week. Surprisingly, I have come out victorious in all of them! Where's my epic music? And the wind machine to blow my cape back? And a muscular black cowboy to ride up on a white horse and offer me a plate of chocolates? Not coming, you say? Disappointing.

So the first challenge, as I alluded to in my previous post, was to prepare myself for a swift departure from my current unemployment status as a practically useless hausfrau to a highly productive quasi-employed responsible member of society. The timing couldn't be more perfect, too, as I'm finding- much to my absolute and resounding surprise- that I'm just not suited for unemployment. Apparently, I'm not as lazy as I thought. Did you hear that mom? Not as lazy as I thought. The world, it's a changing.

Looking exceedingly nerdy in my ID badge picture that I got to take myself. This was something like Take 37. I had to settle.

While I'm grateful for the job, it's probably not going to tax my mental or physical capabilities in the way I've experienced in previous employment situations. I'll be doing data entry. Part time. On call. But not like "Paging Dr. Strudel" on call. No, rather a far more desirable Monday through Friday, 8:30-5:00, "Bertha at the front desk has the plague, can you please work for her while she suffers horribly" on call. I'll be one of two PTOC employees in this office, and the other one has worked every single day since he was hired in February. So I'm looking forward to once again enjoying the delights of coworkers. Seriously. I do love me an office environment.

So that takes care of Challenge the First. On to round two! The lovely Kelly over at The Peanut Gallery issued forth a call to Get Out of Your Comfort Zone last week, and I'll be darned if I didn't participate just to win the cookbook she was giving away. I chose to uncomfort myself with what I thought would be group exercise, an activity I am most voraciously opposed to, with good friends Jennifer and Lisa, and new friend Lizzy, who I do hope will accept my embarrassingly awkward and frequent pleas of friendship. Lizzy is pretty cool. And she's a nurse, so you can just imagine the types of fun conversation a group of girls can get into.

Leave your horse-drawn carriage at home, folks. This path was made for walking.

Jennifer suggested we all go for a hike (ugh) on a particularly beautiful Thursday last week, and the only bit that gave me pause before my imminent decline was that the final proposed destination of the hike was to be a beer garden. With yummy drinkey German beer. I'm not much of a drinker, but I do love a social brew. I was really milking my response time kind of close to the limit when I came across the Comfort Zone challenge, so I thought, what's the worst that could happen? I mean, I guess it's unlikely that halfway through the hike I would break into a rapid and profuse sweat and keel over in exhaustion, and then be left panting for breath and begging for water on the dusty trail clutching my chest while my fit and active friends march on without me and ants eat my face? What are the odds. So I went.
And it was so fun! The hike was more like a leisurely stroll, sans the trip back which was more like scaling the Eiffel Tower, but at that point we were having such a good time, and Lisa was merrily chatting away, that my labored breathing was barely noticeable. Perfect. Oh, and we had had several drinks with no food, so that probably helped things along as well. So success on Challenge the Second!

See that light at the end of the trail...that's where the beer is.
And before we pack it in, Challenge Three. Husband and a few of his coworkers have been (presumably) porking up a bit lately (that's not some kind of sexual slang that I'm not familiar with, right? This is a PG blog, folks!), so they instituted a 2 week weight loss challenge. What good is a weight loss challenge that only lasts two weeks, I don't know. But nonetheless, Husband was participating, and he's nothing if not a winner, and I'm nothing if not his wife, so I decided to support him in the only way I knew how. Self deprivation. I voluntarily gave up all fried foods and (gasp!) chocolate in an act of supportive solidarity and resolutely made nutritious and low calorie meals just about every night. The result, you ask? I dropped 5 lbs. and Husband swept the competition with an impressive 8 lb. annihilation. And today I ate half a bag of dark chocolate M&Ms. Half a one pound bag, that is.  Heh. I'll drink some water- that will flush it out.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Oh the shame!

Augh, the blogger's guilt is setting in.

So, I have 3 different things I want to blog about, but I just don't have time today, and the constant mental yo-yo between getting my paperwork done for my new job (oh yeah, did I mention I got a job- huzzah, thing the first I wanted to blog about) and the urge to spend a couple hours crafting a bit of bloggy nonsense is driving me crazy. So I thusly hereby do grant myself a reprive of blogging today and today only. I'll be back tomorrow.

Ok, guilt- begone!

Thursday, March 24, 2011

A tale of pre-wedding spaz

I just remembered something.

Me, looking normal. 
 This is too good not to share. We all have those moments we aren't proud of, right? Secrets we wish to keep, correct? Things for which we would almost assuredly die of shame should they be brought to light, hmmm? Well, I do. Before the invention of the blog, these secrets would be safely tucked away in mental lockdown in the far reaches of the corners of your brain. You know, in the mental ghetto. The place to which you only traverse once or twice a year when you have no other option, and you do your business as fast as you can and you maybe even take a gun. Or, if you are opposed to guns, then maybe a slingshot. Or an African poison blowdart pipe. Whatever. The means of personal protection is actually unnecessary, since all this is hypothetical. 

Anyway, lest I be sidetracked...oh wait. So, blogging. Blogging has brought out in most of us a desire feral and primal need to happily divulge those things which we would have otherwise hog tied our grandmothers in order to keep private. One such memory just escaped mental incarceration and immediately broke into the pre-frontal cortex. Or something. I'm no doctor. As I physically stopped in my tracks at the assault of a memory I have been quite good at repressing the last 4 months, I simultaneously cringed in horror and made a mental note to blog about it. WTF.
Those who know me well, or maybe not even them (hi family!), may recall that roundabouts 4 months ago Husband and I were blissfully wed. A lovely event, a joyous event! However, the day before the whole "I Do" business, I had what can only be described as a total body bridezilla demonic possession. Luckily, and unbeknownst to either of us, Husband happens possess a natural ability to cast out such spirits, a skill which must have laid dormant for the last 31 years. 

Before we continue, hows about a gratuitous wedding photo, or two.

Mmmmm, cake!
So there I was, the day before the wedding, putting on my makeup to go about the activities of the day, and as I swiped my mascara on my normally luscious and lengthy (read: average) lashes, the wand seemed to be wrapping things up far sooner than expected. So I did another coat- and another. Whats all this?!? My lashes were not lengthening. They were stubby and uneven and had thickened to the point where it looked like I had mini lash sausages affixed to my eyelid. I knew it, my lashes had all broken off overnight and I was doomed to look like a troll for our wedding.

And enter the demonic bridezilla unnatural horror. I burst into tears. Heaving, choking tears. Big fat streams of tears. My nose immediately went all shiny and red. Snot bubbles popped and reformed at will, streaking great runs of mucus down my stubby lashed face. My skin got all blotchy and red. My eyes swelled. An agressive amount of saliva came rushing forth to produce the unsightly spit string from top teeth to bottom teeth each time I opened my wailing mouth. I think I may have been growling. Oh it was ugly. And loud. And ridiculous. Seriously, I don't know what came over me. And the whole time, I'm just dissolving into gasping rounds of, "My eyelashes are gone! They all broke off! I'm not getting married like this! I can't do it." And so on, and so forth.

Within the first ten seconds of my howls of agony, Husband rushed to my side, surely expecting to discover a severed arm or all my teeth missing or a second head or something of equal horror. He wasn't expecting a stubby lash. BUT, and pay attention because this is where Husband should get some kind of award, after he realized what I was saying (or rather, wailing) he didn't run or scoff or slap me across the face with a long leather glove- all of which would have been appropriate actions- but he actually took my slimy face in his manly hands and inspected my lashes as though I was not some kind of devil spawn invading the body of his dearly beloved, and the idea that my lashes had all broken off in equal measure overnight was a perfectly valid claim to investigate. To say this was a temper tantrum would be an understatement.

I should say, I was still sobbing uncontrollably while husband is trying to get a look at my lashes. Hot, crying breath in his face. I'm sure the spittle was flying. The whole works.

So, after assuring me that my lashes looked perfectly normal, which took, I can only assume, all the mental composure the man had to offer, I was no better off than before. At this point I had reverted to primal sign language as my voice was no longer suitable for words, only loud, garbaling wails. 

Husband was great. He pulled up pictures of me to compare the length of the lash, he assured me things were fine, he let me fall into his arms and wipe snot and tears and who knows what other manner of foul fluid all over the shoulder of his clean shirt. 

And then, it was over.

The demon had been cast out! Hallelujah!

It was the hug. 

 But, uuuuugh, how embarrassing. I consider myself a reasonable and well mannered lady of common sense, and this display of unbelievable idiocy tops the list of regrettable moments. Seriously. I was ready to postpone the wedding so my (completely unaltered) eyelashes would have time to grow. 

As it turns out, and I'm sure you saw this one coming, there was absolutely nothing wrong with my lashes. I was just panicking. Like, severely panicking. Like I'm surprised I didn't need a Valium and a paper bag, panicking. But the next day was wonderful, my lashes were luxurious, and we got all kinds of married. Perfect.

He still loved me and everything!
Now, you ALL should know, that my wedding photos were seriously amazing. Absolutely unbelievable. My dear and wonderful friend, Alev Sezer-Jacobs, who has more talent in her fingernail than I do in my whole being, past and present, graciously followed us around all day and put up with me being a silly bride to capture the most incredible shots. I would hands down, no questions asked, recommend her to anyone. Just for good measure, here it is again.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

The One Where I Fall Off My Bike

Germans like to bike.

Some people here in beautiful Deustchland don't even have cars- even in the suburbs where public transportation is a bit slapdash- but choose instead to use a bicycle as their primary mode of transportation. You know how I know this? Observation, my friends, observation. The sheer number of bikers riding around in the snow during the winter leads me to believe the bike is just as much a transportation staple as the car. I can only assume that given the option of a comfortable heated car ride with ample lumbar support and very little threat of discomfort in the middle of winter where the windchill hovers around 5 degrees, you would always choose the car over a bike. Always. Ergo, anyone riding a bicycle in such conditions must have no other choice. And frostbite.

Husband and I bought a secondhand bike off a fellow headed back to the U.S. a few months ago, and now the beautiful weather and our need for secondary transportation have joined forces to create the perfect scenario in which to stretch our...wheels. So I took the 'ole girl out for a spin yesterday and was absolutely delighted by the wind whipping through my hair and the sun beating down on my face as I breezed down side streets and through bike lanes. Germany seems to be on board with the whole cyclist mentality and has invested in creating a well run and complex infrastructure to accommodate the casual biker, which falls neatly in line with their overarching concern for the environment. In many places there are just as many bike paths as streets, and most intersections have traffic lights not just for cars, but also little ones to the side for bikes. Cute.

One of the coolest things about the biking culture here is the pervasiveness of the act. As Husband and I sat outside our favorite sushi place enjoying the lunch special, no less than 10 senior citizens came peddling by, most of whom were clearly returning from the grocery store, as evidenced by their heaping cloth baskets affixed to the back overflowing with prunes and danish and all other manner of old-lady food. During rush hour it's not uncommon to find about half as many commuters using the bike lanes as the highway, and kids of all ages ride bikes to and from school (have I mentioned that German parents haven't yet succumbed to the "culture of fear" in raising their children, and it's awesome to see kids given free range to have fun and learn on their own).

So, if Granny From the Block can ride her 6 speed all over town, surely I, a capable, relatively fit 20-something of robust health can manage a trek on my own two-wheeler. After all, riding a bike is like...riding a bike. Once you learn, you never forget.


Well, kinda. I was doing great and having a blast with my new-found freedom of transportation until I rounded the corner approaching homestead Guten Strudel, and attempted to transition from the street to the sidewalk, via curb. This was a small curb, a rounded curb, one might say a gentle curb. A curb that seemed at first no more dangerous than a piece of cheese or a wool sock. No problem. The bike, however, saw things differently. To the bike, this curb represented all that was wrong in the world: insurmountable troubles, constant struggle, certain death. I think it was aiming for certain death. So down I went as the front tire refused to proceed forward of the curb line, but my own inertia required additional movement in that general direction. I toppled, sideways and awkwardly, to the ground, luckily in the direction of the sidewalk (and not into oncoming traffic).


I managed to break my fall with the cunning use of my bare hands and ample amount of natural padding, and escaped the incident with nothing more than a small bruise on my leg and permanent shame. Seriously, who falls off their bike? I didn't even crash into anything, I literally just fell.

How embarrassing.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Friday, you come at long last!

Can I get a huzzah?

Oh Friday, how I love you. Yes, even unemployed where one day just blends into the next in a vicious cycle of eternal monotony, I still look forward to Friday. You can just feel the relief in the air around 5:00, and it feels like sunshine and lovecicles. I could just eat that up. 

Speaking of eating, it's high time for another sporting round of Allie in an Apron! Who's with me?!?

Cilantro Shrimp Pasta
modified from

Make this immediately.

I saw the recipe for Shrimpo de Gallo on The Pioneer Woman, and immediately set off to make it, if for no other reason than to just pay homage to the name. Bonus points that it's filled with cilantro and I love, lawwwwve, cilantro and would eat it in Pop Tarts or on ice cream or with pancakes or alongside anything edible if I could. But then I'd be spending a fortune on cilantro, and I'd always smell herby, and I may turn green, so I refrain. For all these reasons.

The recipe sounded awesome and made my mouth water upon skimming the ingredients. Have I mentioned that simple recipes which are hard to mess up often make my mouth water? Very convenient. But I had grander plans still than just a salsa appetizer. I wanted to eat a whole plateful of this dish and not feel like I ruined my dinner. I wanted this to be dinner. So dinner it was.

I used the basic recipe from The Pioneer Woman, but omitted the avocado, as Husband and I don't like it, and the olives, as Husband won't eat them (ugh, bad Greek!), and threw in whatever spare vegetables I had in the fridge- this time cucumbers and yellow pepper. And red pepper. Oh, and I had some soy beans on hand so I cooked those and tossed 'em in too. Oh yeah, and some garlic and onion powder. I think that was all...I think.

So that made a pretty hardy dish itself, but to finish it all off, I cooked up a batch of orzo (love those slimy little suckers!) in chicken stock and used it as a bed to soak up all the deliciousness. The whole thing worked like a dream and Husband and I ate it all weekend. And I'm making it again this weekend. But this time, a double batch. And I may use black beans instead of soybeans.

Can I just say, this was so good and flavorful that it didn't even need cheese. Virtually unheard of 'round these parts.


I can't even look at you.

Ok, so this meal was actually sinful and delicious and Husband and I inhaled it with embarassing efficiency. It was a bit indecent, gastronomically speaking.
The reason it's BAD and not OHMYGOSHPLEASE is because that....that's a WHOLE loaf of Tastefully Simple (yes, what a lame name) Beer Bread. And that other thing....that's an ENTIRE DISH of the "healthy" chicken dip that still contains a whole brick of cream cheese. And you better believe we ate it all. 


Come to think of it, I believe there was some celery left over. Naturally.

Ugh, my stomach turns just thinking about that ill fated night. But we were both feeling blah with colds, and we wanted something comforting on which to imbibe while we watched episode after episode of Big Bang Theory. And we found it. Boy did we find it. And the next day I was a whole 3 pounds heavier. And none the wiser.

Allie's Non-Fried Chicken
Sauteed Zucchini, Onion and Mushroom

This was food. Decent food. I basically made a slapdash mix of "breading" out of crushed Crispex, Italian breadcrumbs and garlic powder, paprika, crushed red pepper, salt and pepper. Then coated my chicken and baked away at 350 for about 30 minutes or so. Nothing special. It tasted good, but not awesome. I'll probably make it again when I don't have any more pans clean and/or don't want to mess with the stovetop.
The veggies were just sliced and cooked on the stove with a bit of olive oil and an obscene amount of McCormick's Season Salt. Love that stuff.

So that's all the action my kitchen saw this week. Oh, except last night I tried out a Balsamic Glazed Pork Chop, and the glaze was awesome (though Husband and I could both drink Balsamic Vinegar for breakfast), but I must not have cooked the chop properly as it was a little tough and dry. Maybe I'll try it again and post. Maybe.

Happy eating everyone!

Thursday, March 17, 2011

All Sicky and Yuck

Ok, so it's not that bad.

I never get sick. Well, hardly ever. Ok...not very often at least. I have the immune system of a really hardy house plant and typically enjoy the benefits of robust health. But then, every once in a blue moon (mmm...Blue Moon), disaster strikes and I am suddenly rendered absolutely useless.

With the exception of the ability to complain, of course.

I'm a bit sicky today, or as my mom would say, "Feeling punky." I never really understood how punky equated to illness. Should I dye my hair purple and wear black lipstick to truly express my physiological state? I'm not above that. Sickness destroys me, it annihilates me. I disolve into infancy and can do nothing but mope around and breathe heavily, sometimes changing position on the couch to prevent bedsores. Sometimes not. I drink indeterminate volumes of Diet Coke to soothe my aching throat and read a more readily determinate, but far larger, number of pages of Harry Potter. 

Ok, I'd be doing that anyway.

But it feels more indulgent to say I'm wasting my day reading a childrens book while depleting our stock of Diet Coke due to general malaise. 

Oh, and I don't like taking medicine. At all. It's like admitting defeat. I will protest the consumption of medicinal goods until I'm so weak with fatigue that my in-home health care provider (i.e. anyone I live with who is developing facial ticks and rapid sweats each time I blow my nose loudly with intermittent heavy sighing. Hi Husband!) needs only to slip a pill into my gaping and unmoving mouth, pour in a measure of water and hold my nose and mouth shut until I'm forced to swallow. So, if I have taken medicine on my own volition (and sometimes you actually have to keep tabs of the number of pills to make sure I'm not lying...also not above that), like today, then it's the real deal. Something's up. In fact, I'll likely take some MORE medicine when I'm done writing this. A very bad sign, indeed. Sore throat, headache, congestion- begone!

Good thing this only happens a few times a year- if that. I fear any more frequent and I would be friendless and alone. I can hardly stand me when I'm sick.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Thank you, thank you. (Blush) (Bow)

Well, who would have thought!

As I lazily rolled out of bed this morning...uh...yeah, we'll still call that hour "morning"...I thought to myself, "Self, it's high time you stopped playing so much Warcraft and started paying more attention to your blog. That husband of yours is a bad influence."

Since my parents live on a different continent, sometimes I have to lecture myself.

Anyway, after the requisite morning ritual- stumble, bathroom, contacts, check weight (holy crap! Up 2 pounds in one day. TWO!), convince myself the scale is broken, Diet Coke- I log into my poor little lonely blog, and what do I find but a comment from one of my very bestest childhood friends, Halee, who gave me a little bloggy award! I've never had a blog award. I want that.

Thanks Halee! I love your blog and read it religiously (see the little linky to the right), even when you don't post anything new. No shame. You will always be a girl after my own heart- I still remember the time we made up from a fight over which neighborhood dog was better with a peace offering of marshmallows. I would have required a candy bar- you are a far better woman than I will ever be.

So, for the love of blogging, go check out Halee's blog, I Don't Make the News, I Just Report It. A sporting title, if I've ever seen one. You can almost hear the Halee southern twang in her writing (we grew up in Kentucky, y'all), and she just got engaged, so it will be great to hear about all the wedding planning stress fatigue frustration bankruptcy FUN!

So here we go with the fine print!
1. Link back and thank the person who gave you the award.
2. Share 7 things about yourself.
3. Award 5 recently discovered blogs.
4. Contact them and tell them about their award.

Grab a drink and a snack folks, Allie's got something to say. And we're off...

1. I have a tongue that never quits. Now hold up, reign it in. Pull your mind back into the daylight. I mean it's long. Nothing wrong with that. I can touch it to my nose. And I can make it do the wave (forward AND backward) and can flip it all the way over and can bend it in half hotdog style and hamburger style. Did your teachers ever instruct paper folding that way? You know, "Fold it in half, hotdog style." No? Ok.
From my best friend Cathy's wedding. There were drinks.

2. My life has been blessed. I was born and raised in Ashland, KY, which is the BEST place to raise a kid. We rode our bikes all around town without fear, and walked into our friends houses without knocking and had sleepovers every weekend with the kids in the neighborhood. I see children growing up now, and I'm sad they don't get to experience the same kind of freedom just to be a kid.
Then I moved to Greenwood, IN, which is the BEST place to be a teenager and baby-adult. There was plenty to do, I got a great job at a mom-and-pop grocery store, made awesome friends and had a blast.
Then I went to college at Taylor University, which is a fantastic Christian liberal arts school, and had a wholesome good time in the middle of a cornfield. Seriously, didn't drink a drop of alcohol and it was still the most fun I've ever had. Oh yeah, and I got a degree. Details, details.
Then, four days after graduating college, I moved to Washington, DC with a friend and a few dollars- no job, no apartment- and by the grace of God, made a real life there for the next 5 years. And met husband. Bonus points to DC.
And then, well, you know the rest, husband and I got hitched and 5 days later moved to Germany. And it has all been perfect. Fin.

3. I love Diet Coke. Like, love love. Like it's a good thing Husband came around before I found the Diet Coke factory or else I'd be a voluntary spinster kind of love. It's not just me- my whole family is in love. We are Diet Coke centric folk. My dad's job is to take out the trash and make sure we never run out. Ever.
At my twin sister's wedding. The most important shot of the day.

4. Speaking of love, I can't get enough Harry Potter. I know, Warcraft and Harry Potter. I can just hear the "unfollow" clicks now. I'm not ashamed! I'm currently reading through the books for the 7th time, and am loving it. I still hang on every word. When I was working from home as a Background Investigator in DC (which was a fascinating job), I would play the movies on a loop while I typed up reports. Every day. It was the only thing I would watch because I knew them so well it wasn't distracting. I was an investigator for 2 years guys- that's a lot of Hogwarts. I even went to the pre-opening of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter with Best Friend Cathy and her husband and, well, my husband, and It. Was. Awesome. As a disclaimer, I may love the series, but I've never dressed in HP garb. I do have my limits. And some shred of dignity. Ok, well, at least limits. 
Drinking Butterbeer in Hogsmeade. If you don't understand this, then we likely have differing literary preferences.

5. I used to bite my nails, but I stopped doing it years ago because my dad thought it was a dirty habit. So now I bite the skin around my nails. Meh. Whatcha gonna do?

6. I'm not suited for unemployment. I thought it would be great to be all freebird in Germany, cleaning the house, making dinners every night, learning German and whatnot. But in reality, it takes about 2 1/2 hours to get all that stuff done each day. The rest of the time I just play the Jeopardy music in my head while staring out the window. I can feel my brain atrophying.

7. I'm not star crazy, but would love to meet Dolly Parton, Alan Rickman and Jenny McCarthy. Dolly Parton because she is so down to earth and talented, and every interview I read of hers ends with a discussion of boobs and beauty and the interviewer being fed. Alan Rickman just to hear him speak my name, and Jenny McCarthy because she is hilarious and we should be bff. Read her Belly/Baby/Life Laughs books, you won't be disappointed. 
Oh how I would swoon.

Well, if you've made it this far then, (a) thank you- your patience is astounding, and (b) you are in for a real treat because here are the 5 blogs you will not want to live without.

Emily at Letters Moving. for some laughs.
The Urban Cowgirl for some fun.
Sara at Uninvented Colors to experience the beautiful way she sees the world.
Kelly at The Peanut Gallery for a challenge.
Kelly and David at Blomgren's Blog to support them in their journey toward adoption.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Bad Hausfrau

This week I've learned it's very easy to keep the kitchen clean if you don't cook.

I've been a bad, bad hausfrau this week and have not cooked a single meal. That is, unless I slip into culinary delusion and in my fevered state begin to consider emptying the contents of Tuna Helper into a skillet and stirring occasionally as "cooking." I did have to measure water and milk- does that count? We've had a bit of an off week, gastronomically speaking, after our weekend of Fattening Fasching, and conserving our calories for an enormous Greek Meat Extravangaza (read: Going Away Party for one of Husbands coworkers at a Greek restaurant) last night. Lamb (!) and Chicken (!) and Beef (!), oh my! Seriously, the meal was 85% grilled meat, which, while delicious, was consumed in such quantaties that it prevented Husband and I from falling asleep until the wee small hours of the morning. I may not need anymore protein in my diet until Thanksgiving.
Digestion's a bitch.

So, Allie in an Apron is just not meant to be this week unless anyone is interested in a detailed rundown of the finer points of Campbell's soup and frozen pizza. No? Really? Hard to believe. Maybe I'll make up for it next week. Maybe. I did buy a metric ton of fresh vegetables at the store yesterday in hopes that their mere presence in our house will somehow contribute to our nutritional deficiencies. Is a zucchni still healthy if you cook it with cheese and breadcrumbs? I'm going for "yes" on this one.

Now, where can I find an intravenous Tums drip?

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Laundry Love

I'm in louerve.

So, remember my troublesome American washing machine that inexplicably flooded the communal laundry room?

Well, I take back all those nasty words I said about it. I was being selfish and inconsiderate and I'll never speak to it that way again. It's not you, it's me.

Yes, that was necessary.

Good news! Husband and I used our collective brilliance to discover the source of the washing machine leak- a backed up drainage pipe. Bad news! There is nothing we can do about it except wait around in the creepy laundry room throughout the entire wash cycle to periodically lift the lid on the machine, thus stopping the outpouring of water during the spin and rinse phases so the sputtering drain can gulp up all the soapy water. I can totally do this now while reading a book. Goes something like this: *click* The washing machine switches over to spin...get ready! 1, 2, 3, 4, 5. Lift the lid. Gurgle, gurgle, gurgle, silence. Close the lid. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7. Watch as the water just barely crests the top of the drain in the floor. Lift the lid just in time to prevent major spillover. Gurgle, gurgle, gurgle, silence. Close the lid. Repeat 3 more times for spin and 4 times for rinse. Read 3 chapters in my book and then check please! Clothes are clean.

Waiting expectantly for the click.

Act fast!

The twenty minutes I spend pacing the laundry room are totally worth it because (get this) I can do 2 weeks worth of laundry in two loads. TWO LOADS. That's how big this washing machine is. I'm surprised the other washing machines in the room haven't started lifting weights and dating younger dryers yet, because they should be jealous and ashamed of their own shortcomings.

So the situation isn't perfect, but it sure beats 5 times as many cycles with a German washing machine. And I get to periodically scare the lederhosen off our fanatically recycling apartment caretaker when he ventures in to use the sink and I'm hunched in the corner counting to myself while reading a book...in the laundry room. Like you do. I'm sure he thinks I'm nuts.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Party On, Excellent.

Well, that was fun!

Cologne was a BLAST for Karneval! We got to dress up and drink beer and act like fools and dance poorly to the multitude of drumming groups littered throughout the city. Which was totally cool because Germans typically don't dance, so we were the life of the party. Good thing we were in disguise. 

I was a cop.
This guy was a gnome. 

On Day Two I was a cowgirl with large faux freckles.
The fun never stops. Never. 

That's all I've got for now. We are still recouping, but more to come later! I'm sure you can barely stand the wait.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Get in the Kitchen

This woman totally got in the kitchen.

I may turn out to be a good hausfrau yet! Maybe I'll get a raise next year, though I guess I should have inquired about the opportunities for advancement and the performance evaluation criteria before I accepted the position. I would hate to think this is a dead end gig. How would I move up the professional hausfrau ladder? Bigger haus? Frau enhancement? An additional husband? For the love, no one suggest babies.

Knock on wood! Knock on wood!

Well, at least my job is safe for now. This week produced not one, but TWO delicious meals that are bound straight for the permanent recipe book, and ZERO bad dishes. So, since "Allie in an Apron" is a work in progress, and it's my blog anyway, there will be no bad meals. Only bad bloggers.

Without further adieu...

Shepherd's Pie
Ok, so I know, I know, when it has beef instead of lamb it's actually called Cottage Pie, but I'd much rather eat a shepherd than a cottage.

Original Recipe!*

*Connotes a recipe where Allie just used whatever she had on hand and didn't measure anything and thus can not possibly provide exact measurements.
Mashed pa-tater component:
A bunch of red skin potatoes, skin on, CUBED (I used "the rest of the 5 lb bag." Gee, hope that helps.)
2-3 Tablespoons of butter or margerine
1 cup (ish?) of sour cream
Loads and Loads of garlic salt
Maybe some extra garlic powder, just for good measure
Sprinkle of Paprika

Beef filling component:
1 1/2 lbs LEAN ground beef (there is no draining in Shepherds Pie. Get it lean or get some Tums.)
A good bit of frozen peas and carrots (Perhaps a cup? A little less? Maybe it was two? Who knows.)
1/2 Large Yellow Onion, chopped
A lot of Worcestershire Sauce
1-2 Tablespoon flour or cornstarch (less if you use cornstarch, I would think)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees at some point. I didn't use convection.

The Procedure:
Cube up 'dem taters! Boil 'em real good like, ya hear? Get 'em real soft! (There is something about a potato that brings out the hick in me.)

While the taters are a-boilin', brown the meat with the chopped onion. Add the peas and carrots to the meat and onion after things start browning a little, as to not cook them into a funky mush.

Season with whatever you like- I used black pepper, a liberal amount of ground cayenne (we like things spicy), and some garlic powder that was later completely overshadowed by the Worcestershire sauce, so it was undeniably superfluous to the final product. I'm a spice waster.

Once the meat is finished cooking, start splashing in liberal amounts of Worcestershire sauce. Taste often! This is the MAIN FLAVOR of the whole dish, so you really want it to pop, but don't worry, with the mash pa-taters on top, the flavor becomes more mild. I didn't measure (surprise surprise), but probably used over a half cup. Just FYI- this is why I didn't season with salt. Get it all very Worcestershirey. 

Sprinkle in the flour or other thickening agent and mix everything up just for a bit of thickness. I don't know if this is completely necessary, but it sure didn't hurt.

Can't go too long without a picture! This has nothing to do with Shepherd's Pie.

***SIDENOTE*** At this point, I will say that I suspect, but can not confirm, that if you do not have Worcestershire sauce, or don't like it, but want some warm, hearty man-food, you can substitute some BBQ sauce and vinegar instead. I'm no expert though, and if anyone knows that the combination BBQ and vinegar would actually make your house explode or set your stomach a-blaze, let me know and I will put in a correction. I only thought of the substitution as we were eating the dish and it kind of had a flavor reminiscent of the tangyness of BBQ, without as much sweetness.  ***FIN***

Now the filling is done (huzzah!), so let that just hang out while we move on to the taters. They should be soft as a baby's butt. And, unlike a baby's butt, we are going to mash the crap out of them and then eat them. So....yeah, the texture should be the only likeness in this situation.

Now here's the thing- if you have your own special mashed potato recipe that you know by heart and can do in your sleep (you know, with the help of a few Ambien), then just use that. No need to reinvent the wheel. Just make sure the potatoes have a lot of flavor (hence the LOADS of garlic salt), because this is kind of a BIG FLAVOR meal. Maybe you want to add some cheese- fine with me! Perhaps a Ranch mashed potato is more your style- sounds delicious! I had never made "real" mashed potatoes before, so this is just what I had to work with.

Drain the potatoes and rinse with cold water so the steam doesn't burn your eyeballs out when you start to mash. Throw in your butter and sour cream and a liberal helping of garlic salt and pepper, and whatever else you want. I almost used real garlic, but it's so hard to mince small enough, and I didn't want to have to stop halfway through and mince more if it wasn't garlicy enough. Now go to town! I don't have an electric mixer that works with the weird-o German outlets, nor do I have a potato masher, so me and Madame Necessity hooked up in real weird "girl-on-abstract concept" action, and didn't use protection, and had a beautiful baby Invention. 

He has brown eyes, just like his mama.

Then my baby Invention grew up, and didn't want to help his mama anymore, so to finish things up and get the right consistency of the mashed potatoes, I literally used my hands. Don't judge. I had a husband to feed. It was all squishy.

Alright, almost done!

Spray a casserole dish with non-stick stuff. Slop in your meat mixture. Spread the potatoes on top and ruffle up the peaks a bit so they will get nice and toasted in the oven. Sprinkle with paprika. Bake for approximately 30 minutes, or until the peaks start to brown- however long you like.

Inhale exuberantly while hunched over your food, growling at anyone who comes to close. Then have seconds.

It's the taste that counts. She's no beauty.


Mine didn't turn out as pretty, so here is the picture from For the Love of Cooking.

This was the second time I made this dish, and it was just as awesome as the first. I think it may even be Husband's new favorite. The lemon flavor is very strong but just goes so well with the crispy proscuitto and sage. I haven't figured out a good side dish for this yet, though. Any suggestions? Husband suggested I just make a double batch of the chicken and forget the side. A well balanced meal...for a caveman.

Ham and Potato Soup...Excetera

I wish I was better at the whole homemade soup thing. I lourve soup. Could eat it everyday. But unless it starts with Campbells, I just can't get the right consistency for a creamier soup. Maybe because I don't use cream. Something to ponder.
Anyway, this soup was good for a couple meals, but didn't leave me writhing on the floor or taking my spoon with me to bed at night or mumbling "creamy potato" in my sleep or anything.

The Ingredients
2 Cans Cream of Mushroom
Aprox. 10 red skin potatoes, cubed
2-3 cups of chicken stock or broth- enough to keep the liquid-to-food ratio in check
Package of large chunks of cubed ham (not the itty bitty guys for omelets)
2 small cans of mushrooms, drained
2-3 cloves of garlic, minced
1 large onion, sliced, or however you like it
Seasoning to taste:
Celery seed (loved this)
Salt, pepper
Chile powder
Ground red pepper
To Top:
Healthy dollop of sour cream
Generous handful of sharp cheddar
Sprinkle of parsley

Ok, surely you know what to do. Combine all the ingredients (except the toppings) in a big pot. Put on hot stove. Simmer until potatoes are done, 1 hour (ish). Taste often and adjust seasoning/liquid level. Put in bowl. Top. Eat.

Whew, that was fun. Now whose making dinner tonight? Oh wait...

As a sidenote, Husband and I are going to Cologne, Germany this weekend and Monday to experience our first Fasching (aka Carnival)! If you don't hear from me by Tuesday night (we won't have internet at the hotel), light a candle in my memory. My head will have exploded from all the fun.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Eating Ghetto Fresh

I needed a hearty breakfast this morning.

So, I had some wine last night. You know, just a little. With dinner. I'm not much of a drinker really- it was just a splash. Or two. Or...uh...a dash more than that. A taste was all. Somehow, by the end of the night several bottles were gone. Huh. Well lookie there. Who did that?

Let the record show that I wasn't the only one...you know...tasting the wine. The yummy drinkey wine.

I drink cheap wine exclusively.

Oh, and I should also say that after wine we had coffee. Right, coffee. Brilliant, Allie. Not just any coffee though- Greek coffee. Yummy drinkey Greek coffee.

So then I tried to go to bed- which was shockingly easy...until 4:00 am rolled around, and then it became much harder. Wide awake. Blink, blink, ba-blinkblink. Does wine give caffeine a 6 hour lag time? Something was annoyingly amiss, because I spent the next 3 hours trying to lie still in between neurotically uncovering and covering up based on my spazzy nocturnal temperature regulation- which happens no matter how much wine I am wont to imbibe. 

This morning my delicately churning stomach quickly alerted me that I was in need of a more substantial breakfast than my usual 4 slices of turkey bacon and a piece of toast with butter. The alert was something like, "WHAT THE EFF WAS THAT, WOMAN!?!" What I really wanted was a delicious 6-inch ham, egg and cheese sandwich on white bread, toasted, with tomato, lettuce and Southwest Sauce from (where else) Subway. What I didn't have was a car or a Subway. So that was out. But what I did have was one lonely egg begging to be relieved of it's meager existence, 2 pieces of turkey bacon, shredded Colby Jack cheese, Wonderbread (don't judge), a toaster, Thousand Island dressing and some ground cayenne pepper.  

Breakfast is born.
Sandwich annihilation commenced twenty seconds after this picture was taken, and once every crumb was obscenely inhaled I felt much more stable. Good thing, because it's pretty outside and I need to walk to the store to get more eggs- I have a feeling I'll need one in the morning.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

What Can't It Do?

I warned you I love talking about hair.

The other day I managed to work up the motivation to actually wash my dirty hair (thanks dry, curly locks for repelling naturals oils with alarming efficiency!) and as I approached the narrow window of blow dry time in which my hair is not so wet as to begin to frizz, yet not so dry as to produce the classic white trash crunchy curl, I realized the diffuser had come off the hairdryer. This was a problem as it somehow takes alarming feats of strength to attach the diffuser to the unit itself- a task I typically reserve for Husband, whose bulging (yes, I know...eww) muscles far surpass my own feeble sinews.

I must diffuse! But husband was not home. A problem emerges. I had already cut my finger and broken into an embarrassingly rapid sweat trying to jam the diffuser onto the end of the hairdryer, and the best I got was one side firmly attached while the other side swung lamely away from the nozzle. What's a girl to do?

Problem solved.


Husband was reading over my shoulder while I was typing this post, and just went into the bathroom, removed the duct tape from my hairdryer and in one fluid motion firmly attached the diffuser to the nozzle. I...uh...loosened it up for him.