Monday, December 31, 2012

Girl Land, by Caitlin Flanagan

Girl Land, by Caitlin Flanagan

I've given up trying to knit on the subway during rush hour, so I'm reading more instead. Caitlin Flanagan's essays in The Atlantic have always entertained me. I think she's provocative and funny, and while we sometimes disagree, we share  a sociocultural background that makes her writing intensely relateable. So when I saw this in the library's new arrivals section, I snapped it up. It's a quick read, and I finished it in a single day of commuting. The book had its moments of funniness, and I definitely copied down some quotes to reference later. But the whole piece seemed less a study of American female adolescence than a paean to Flanagan's own fading youth. The book shone most when Flanagan talked about her own adolescence and maturity, while the cultural commentary mostly fell flat. Her arguments might have had heft, but they are too poorly researched and too scattered amid personal reflections to hang together. The book doesn't have a point a reader can carry away from it, and the memoirish moments are too few and too short. I wanted more of Caitlin Flanagan, the middle aged mother recalling her youth and less of Caitlin Flanagan, the cultural commentator trying to make a Larger Point.

New Year's, Etc.

My parents are coming over tomorrow for a belated Christmas and New Year's brunch.

Current Menu:

Bacon and Cheddar Scones
Crepes Farcies (Fancier than it sounds. It's just crepes rolled up with ham and cheese, arranged in a baking dish, topped with sour cream, and heated. Heaven on a plate.)
Blueberry Coffee Cake
Oatmeal White Chocolate Cookies (Because we can't get enough of these.)

I'm flirting with the idea of a salad or fruit dish to lighten things, so I'll probably hit the market tomorrow morning and see what looks appetizing. Perhaps something with spinach and clementines? With nuts? Who knows. The meal wants for a festive beverage to round things out, but I wasn't together enough to pick one up.

Later on, we're meeting my aunt, her boyfriend and my cousin for supper in Flushing, which should be fun. CodeMonkey are bickering over where to take them; my mother requested that we please keep the heat level to something reasonable, as the rest of the family is not interested in eye watering, tongue searing spice.

Happy 2013, all!

Monday, December 24, 2012

Cookie Overkill

If you like white chocolate, run, don't walk, to your nearest Trader Joe's. As a seasonal item, they are selling 10 oz. bags of white chocolate chips for $2. This is real honest-to-god-made-with-cocoa-butter chocolate chips, and every other brand on the market has replaced the cocoa butter with hydrogenated oils. Even the high end brands (I'm looking at you, Ghiradelli). I bought five bags.

Once you have your chocolate chips (you can also substitute chopped white chocolate), you can make these white chocolate oatmeal cookies. Just please, take it from me, don't triple the recipe.

See, last week one of the departments threw an informal holiday shindig. Most of my coworkers gave money to the organizer, but I opted to bake instead, because I am a glutton for punishment. Since the recipe said it made two dozen cookies, I figured I could triple it, have enough for the party, enough for eating over the weekend, and enough to stash a few in the freezer for the next time we have surprise house guests. Only I'm a bit of an idiot, and didn't realize the folks at Smitten Kitchen and Cooks Illustrated make their cookies quite a bit larger than I do. Twice as big, in fact. So, a slight miscalculation there.

The second miscalculation was that my KitchenAid could handle that much cookie dough. It couldn't, and I ended up hand mixing seven and a half cups of oatmeal and eighteen ounces of chopped chocolate into the dough. Yeah, I don't know what I was thinking either.

So instead of making six dozen cookies on a weeknight, I made twelve dozen. Whoops. On the bright side, the cookies are fantastic. All the ones I brought to the party disappeared before I got any and people kept complimenting me on them. When you bite into them, they shatter into this mess of sweet-salty oatmeal crumbs. I stashed all the excess cookies in the freezer, but I think CodeMonkey and I have both been smuggling them out, one at a time.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

On Shopping Mall Santas

I have caught something nasty and I spent the weekend in bed feeling fluey and earachy and feverish and generally pathetic. On Sunday, in an effort to see something beyond the four walls of my bedroom, CodeMonkey and I went to the mall.

Now, as has been discussed, CodeMonkey didn't grow up here. Most of the time I forget this, as he speaks perfect American English and has been here so long he's largely acclimated to the local ways. But then he'll be baffled by something that seems so obvious and natural to me that I remember again.

Like most shopping malls, this one has a Santa. You know how this goes: you put your child on the Santa's lap and the child either wails or (hopefully) tells Santa what he wants for Christmas while Mom and Dad take notes. Meanwhile, a member of the mall's staff takes pictures, which they will sell you for some outrageous markup. Then, years from now, you can look back on these endearing photos. (Unless your parents were too cheap frugal to buy the overpriced pictures. Not that I know anything about this.)

Anyway, my husband watched these proceedings in fascination for a few minutes before I dragged him off to Marshall's. Then the questions started:

CodeMonkey: "Don't the children know that Santa is an actor?"
Me: *furious whisper* "Would you be quiet! There are children here. And no, they don't."
CodeMonkey: "But there's one at every mall! Can't they put two and two together?"
Me: "WOULD YOU KEEP IT DOWN. And most kids don't put two and two together. I only found out about Santa when I was 8 and a classmate told me."
CodeMonkey: "I would have thought you were smarter than that! But don't parents feel bad about lying to their kids? And isn't Santa supposed to come in through the chimney? We don't have chimneys here! What do parents in New York tell their kids?!?"
Me: "PIPE DOWN, YOU ARE GOING TO RUIN SANTA FOR EVERY KID WHO OVERHEARS YOU. And, obviously, Santa comes in through the fire escape. And if you live in a doorman building, the doorman knows to let Santa in and he lets Santa double park the sleigh. Duh."
CodeMonkey: "This is the Santa that also "sees you when you're sleeping, and knows when you're awake?" He sounds really creepy. We are going to have a serious talk before raising children, right?"
Me: "I give up. What do you think of this coat?"

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Crappy Cashmere

I love sweaters. I love buying them, I love making them, I love wearing them. Since they're a staple of my winter wardrobe, I spend a lot of time shopping for them and handling them, and I've noticed an annoying trend. Namely, as the price (and quality) of cashmere has plummeted, stores have stopped making nice wool or merino cardigans.

The motivation, I'm sure, if economic. A good wool sweater probably costs as much as crappy cashmere, and customers will probably prefer the cashmere for its softness and connotations of luxury and wealth. Unfortunately, cheap cashmere pills like mad, loses shape easily, and is so thin that it isn't particularly warm. Most retailers have opted to sell lousy, cheap cashmere and I've had a hard time this season finding merino or plain 100% wool cardigans for women.

I bought CodeMonkey some lovely lambswool v-necks from Boden. They have held up well over the last few months, and they have sufficient length in the body and sleeves that when he bends forward, his dress shirt doesn't billow out of his pants. His Lands' End cashmere v-necks are about 2 inches shorter (were they trying to save on materials costs?) and they constantly ride up. I anticipate the wool ones will last longer than the cheapo cashmere, which I wouldn't buy again.

In the mean time, the only pace I've found to buy nice, simple wool cardigans is Brooks Brothers. I picked up one in red and one in black when they were 40% off last week. The fabric is significantly more substantial (and again, they are nicely longer in the body and sleeves) than cashmere cardigans I've tried on at other retails. The knit is dense, the fabric is reasonably heavy, and the spin on the yarn seems fairly tight. I'd rather have a good wool than crappy cashmere any day, and I'm sick of it being hard to find the kind of high quality garments I'd like to wear. Their color selection is lousy, though.

Incidentally, here are reviews of the cashmere retailers I've tried:

Lands' End: I have a darling cashmere purple argyle cardigan, but all their solid colored cardigans have been car too boxy on me, even when I went down to an XS. They are cropped length, which is fine if you're going for that look. Their cashmere long-sleeve t-shirts seem to be better cut and longer in the body and arms. Again, pilly. CodeMonkey owns two cashmere v-necks from them and they also run short and pilly. Don't buy unless it's last year's clearance plus a 40% off and free shipping coupon. I have never paid more than $80 for one of their sweaters and I usually pay under $50. Not sure I'd buy again.

Macy's: I bought one of their Charter Club cardigans this year. Color was nice, body length was nice. They used buttons that poorly matched the sweater color, so I returned it. It did seem a bit thin during the try-on.

Talbots: I have two of this season's cashmere cardigans from them. They run thin, though I'm find of the large color-coordinated buttons. They run a bit big, and I took a small in them. The fabric is thin, but pill-resistant. I did keep the sweaters, but I got them at $80/each, shipped during Black Friday and wouldn't buy them otherwise.

J. Crew: I stopped in here because on the website they had some really cute colors. The garments were pilling on the shelf (bad sign), but I grabbed something to try on anyway and was even more disappointed. The Medium was the size of a tent on me, and given that I measure 37-29-40, I don't think I should be in the market for an XS garment. The sweaters were very thin, and lighter colors appeared translucent, which was disappointing, given the cost. Left without buying anything.

Boden: I have this season's cashmere hoody. This is easily the nicest cashmere in my closet. It's thicker, plusher and much more pill resistant. It does feel a bit less soft in the hand, but I've worn the sweater probably 10 times and it hasn't pilled appreciably, so it's worth the tradeoff. It is also the most expensive sweater I own. I believe I paid about $130 after a 30% discount. I'd buy more of their pieces next year, though. I tried their long-sleeve cashmere crewnecks, and the cut about the shoulders was strangely unflattering, so they went back. The fabric on those was thinner than the hoody, but still seemed nice.

Everlane: I stopped by their pop-up shop last weekend and groped the cashmere. It has that same "plush but not super soft" feel that Boden's cashmere has, so it seemed promising. The fabric seemed nicely heavy, and nothing was too sheer. I have the cashmere stole on order, but it's so incredibly "I can't believe I spent that much" expensive is may go back if I am not head over heels in love with it in every respect. I didn't try any of the cashmere sweaters on, though it's concerning that they seem to favor the sort of loose, vaguely masculine, boxy cut that looks so terribly unflattering on me. I would consider a sweater order in the future.

I'm curious to try both Brora and Pure Collection, though they're costly. I've heard excellent things about their quality.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Spiderman and Mary Poppins on Broadway

CodeMonkey and I have been married three years. (Go us!) To celebrate, we bought rush tickets to Spiderman: Turn Off the Dark and Mary Poppins. Watching both shows back to back helped me see what makes musical theater really hang together.

Spiderman had fantastic sets and costumes, but I never got emotionally invested in the characters, and the music was so completely forgettable that I'm not sure I can hum a single tune from the show. Admittedly, I'm not that into the whole superhero/comics thing and largely went because CodeMonkey wanted to see it. I still felt that, had the show been well done, I would have enjoyed it. Visually, it was spectacular, but since it fails to either take the viewer on an emotional journey or at least provide some catchy song and dance numbers, it just falls completely flat. The music was completely un-moving and often downright painful to listen to.

Mary Poppins also lacks for character development or a really meaty plot (but then, I think the original Disney movie isn't abundant with either), but the music was charming and the sets were delightful. The viewing experience was more of a delightfully trippy romp through Edwardian London than a journey, but it was fun. Spiderman was less fun and more an aural assault.

That said, the folks at Disney did cut a scene I thought was rather important from Mary Poppins. From Wikipedia

Mr. Banks grows increasingly irate with his children's stories of their adventures, but Mary effortlessly inverts his attempted dismissal of her services into a plan to take his children with him to the Dawes Tomes Mousley Grubbs Fidelity Fiduciary Bank, where he is employed. On the way there, as they pass the bank, the children see "The Bird Woman" (Jane Darwell), of whom Mary sang to them the night before, and they want to feed the birds around her, but George will have none of it as he expresses his lack of interest in what Mary Poppins says and orders his children to "come along" and not mention her name for the rest of the day. Upon arriving at the bank, Mr. Dawes Jr (Arthur Malet) and Mr. Dawes Sr (Dick Van Dyke)—Mr. Banks' employers—aggressively try to persuade Michael to invest his tuppence in the bank to the point of actually snatching it out of his hand without waiting for his permission. When Michael protests, the other customers misunderstand and start a run on the bank that forces the bank to suspend business. 

This was eliminated in favor of Michael and Jane snubbing The Bird Woman, requiring Mary Poppins to teach everyone a Very Important Lesson (beautifully sung, naturally). The run on the bank was eliminated completely in favor of another storyline which left Mr. Banks jobless. I was disappointed, and I'm not sure why the developed did this. Did they think modern viewers would't understand the idea of a bank run? Who knows.

In any event, it was a lovely day, though seeing two Broadway shows in one day is a bit much.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Life, etc.

It's rather difficult to keep this blogging thing up. I can't really talk about my job or CodeMonkey's work (just the nature of the positions), and that seems to be where we spend most of our time and mental energy. That leaves the knitting, reading, cooking, and shopping.

So, in that vein:

-I'm rehashing the 80's culture wars by reading Alan Bloom's The Closing of the American Mind. It's thought provoking, even if I don't agree with everything in it. In odd moments, I'm working my way through The Principles of Knitting. Since I'm a self-taught knitter, it's been very helpful to have someone really explain the mechanics of different techniques, and I feel a lot more confident in my skills.

-CodeMonkey has very strange feet. He wears a size 8 5E, which is extremely difficult to find. His socks have started dying en masse, so I've decided to knit him a bunch of custom fitted pairs. I may go blind knitting black dress socks over the next year. We'll see. has free shipping through Friday, so I grabbed a bunch of their house brand black sock yarn for this madness project.

-After years of the crotches on my tights ripping out, I found a solution. Levante makes wool stockings, which are soft and warm and totally worth the aggravation of fasting a million (ok, eight), little garter buttons every morning. They're 25% off right now at

-I bought The Knitter's Handy Book of Top Down Sweater patterns. OMG, love. It teaches you how to knit sweaters in any size, and any gauge, in four different styles. This is possibly the best knitting book I've ever bought, because it has taught me how to modify designs for my unusual figure. I'm making a top-down sweater in thin dark red wool right now, and it's beautiful.

-I was sick of my fingers freezing every morning and evening during the 30-odd blocks I walk in my commute. I treated myself to a pair of cashmere-lined black leather gloves from Coach. These are possibly the nicest things I have ever owned. My coworkers tease me because I leave them on my desk, the better to pet them at work. The only problem is that when I was at the store, I fell in love with a purse. And a wallet. I never "got" the bag thing before (my "purse" is a Timbuk2 tote bag), but this could be dangerous.

-CodeMonkey worked on Thanksgiving, so I didn't cook a full dinner, but I did make pumpkin pies, and chicken noodle soup. The soup was fantastic, and there's enough stock left over for wonton soup for supper tonight. Yum.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Birthday, etc.

My parents have been buying us the sort of things we wouldn't buy for ourselves, which are the best kind of presents. Since we're in that sort of "setting up housekeeping", "newlywed new graduates stage," we've been spending spare cash on acquiring work-appropriate attire and basic furniture, rather than decorative objects. It's been lovely, as they really do add something to a room.

I mentioned in passing we'd seen a picture in IKEA that would match our living room perfectly. Lo, and behold, my parents gifted it to CodeMonkey for a surprise birthday present. We've decided that the living room needs a framed, vintage NYC subway map to go on the other wall.

My birthday was recently, and my mother made me a beautiful red and black pillow. The front is batik, and the back is red Chinese characters on a black field, a clever nod to CodeMonkey's dual Chinese and Malaysian heritage.

I spent Thanksgiving evening repairing my socks--making darns, removing pills, and sewing up holes. I own a little battery powered sweater shaver, but it can be a bit overenthusiastic, damaging the fabric while depilling. I find nothing works as nicely as a small pair of very sharp scissors, if you have the patience. I put the finishing touches on one sock and began another. At left, a year old pair, freshly depilled for another winter. At right, a new sock; it's twin is in progress.

Thursday, November 22, 2012


On our third date, I told CodeMonkey that I was chronically ill. So ill, in fact, that my doctor didn't think I'd ever be able to work a normal job.

I'm thankful for the modern medicine that means this never happened, that enabled me to resume a normal life.

I'm even more thankful that CodeMonkey was unfazed by this revelation and said he'd care for us both, if need be.

I'm thankful I had the good sense to realize then that he was a keeper.

I'm most thankful for him, his love, and his unfailing patience in the subsequent years. The years with him have been the happiest of my life. I'm thankful for my parents, and their sacrifices on my behalf. I'm thankful for my in-laws, and their love for me. I'm thankful I live in the most thrilling city in the world. I'm thankful I have everything I need and most of what I want. I consider myself the most blessed woman in the world.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Wtf, Lands End?

See those two sweaters? Both of them are Lands End long sleeve cashmere cardigans, in a size medium. Both are from last year's line, bought on clearance plus 30% off (champagne taste, beer budget). I have owned the top one for about a month and I've been wearing it regularly. It's been carefully laundered, and has not been shrunk. The one below it is the same sweater, in a size medium petite. It's about 5 inches bigger in the torso, and has deeper armsceyes, longer sleeves, and a longer body. I am absolutely swimming in it. This is absurd, and it's going back. I don't care if I'm a size small, medium or large, but I'd like to know that if I buy the same garment from the same year in the same size, THEY WILL FIT THE SAME WAY.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Back in the Swing of Things

-I think I've finally adapted to my new job. Success!

-We were lucky enough to miss the brunt of Hurricane Sandy, thankfully.

-Since everyone needs a post-hurricane-we're-all-back-at-the-office treat, I'm making a large batch of bacon and cheddar scones for CodeMonkey and I to take to work tomorrow. (I omit the chives, swap whole milk for the cream, and use Dubliner cheese instead of Cheddar. Heavenly every time.)

-The return of cold weather means the return of the never ending hand wash only laundry. Between my sweaters (one long sleeve crew neck and one cardigan worn daily), CodeMonkey's sweaters, wool socks, wool stockings and various other sleepy garments, I'm doing hand washing daily. Buy stock in Eucalan. (That's the cheapest wool wash I've found. Buy it when it's 50% off with free shipping. One tablespoon to 5 gallons of warm water. A gallon lasts forever.)

-I'm watching Call the Midwife. I think it's the best show I've seen in years. PBS has all the episodes available for streaming right now. Go watch them.

-Since things have called down a bit on the work front, it's time to start goal setting again. This week:

-Lose one pound.
-Read one hour daily.
-Knit one hour daily.
-Crack 12,000 steps/day on the pedometer at least 4 times.
-Eat no more than 18 out of 42 meals out this week.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Civilization is Hideously Fragile

My husband has taken to working all the hours in a given day. He hasn't been home before 10:00 p.m. in over a week. On Friday night, I mean Saturday morning, he got home at 4:00 a.m. I'm not entirely clear on what he is doing all those hours at work, and I try not to ask, because he develops this weird twitch over his left eyebrow when I do. It seems very stressful.

Unfortunately, my husband is the only motivation I have to behave like a responsible adult. Without him around I:

-cease to cook nutritional meals (the other night I had string cheese for dinner)

-fail to buy groceries that can be assembled into proper meals (the last grocery trip included KIND Bars, chevre, milk chocolate and single serve containers of hummus)

-forget to take his pants to the dry cleaners (he only owns 4 pairs of work appropriate pants, so this is a bit of a problem)

-fail to fold the laundry (instead I leave all the baskets in the living room and dress from them)

In fact, without my husband around in the evenings, I pretty much sit around, knit socks (I have plenty of socks; what I really need are sweaters), and watch old episodes of trashy TV series on Netflix. It's not that my husband demands a decent dinner, folded laundry, or other such home comforts. It's just that I'm ashamed to let my inner frat boy take over when there's someone around to witness it.

Saturday, October 6, 2012


I have Hashimoto's disease. In layman's terms, this means I don't have a thyroid. My last endocrinologist believes I developed this condition around age 13. I started medication at 18, but managing it fell by the wayside between other, more serious medical problems and multiple post-college moves.

I'm seeing a new endocrinologist who increased my dosage by 10% after reviewing my test results. I'm seemingly losing weight a bit more easily now, and I have more energy than I can ever remember. That's great. I'm no longer coming home from work and collapsing into bed. We do stuff out of the house on weekends! On the other hand, I'm struggling to fall asleep. I can't sleep more than 6 or 7 hours a night, and I am unable to fall asleep before midnight. I'm not sure if this is a good trade off.

New Socks

I finished these on Wednesday. Yarn is Felici Sport in Macaroon. I didn't start the heel soon enough, so they're a bit baggy. I have discovered I need to start the heel before the instructions say, or it's too long. I'm tempted to draw a line on my foot in Sharpie so I can remember the right spot.

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Weekly Goals

The new job promises tribe very interesting and challenging, but the training right now is taking most of my mental energy, unfortunately. Goals this week are limited.

-Lose 0.6 pounds.
-Walk at least 12,000 steps/day.
-Deep clean our bedroom.
-Read a book.
-Knit 1 skein on Nuvem.
-Eat out no more than 18 meals this week.

The Lantern Festival ended tonight, and there was a really awesome fireworks display here. Then we ate Shanghainese food. I finished a pair of socks and started another. A good day.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Goals In Review

Today was a rough week. There was stress at work and I'm still trying to kick this blasted cold. Being up with a hacking cough for several hours a night is not helping anything, and means I'm exhausted. Not productive.

1. Reach 15,000 steps/day on the pedometer. Pretty sure I managed this four days this week, but I can't be positive, as I forgot my pedometer several days.
2. Take the stairs up to the apartment unless towing the grocery cart. Managed this about half the time.  I tended to forget.

1. Eat no more than 18 of 42 meals out this week. Total fail. Didn't even keep score. 
2. Make and freeze 8 quarts of chicken stock. I did make this much stock. We just ate it all. I never going to get ahead of our soup consumption around here, it seems.
3. Lose a pound. Lost 0.6 pounds. 

1. Finish 2 Chinese lessons. I didn't never start one. Fail. 
2. Read a book. I did! Girls of Riyadh.
3. Attend a social event. I did! And I attempted to go to a second.

1. Finish Macaroon striped socks. I got halfway up the gusset on the second sock.
2. Finish 1 skein of Nuvem. Nope. I need to get cracking if I'm to finish a dozen shawls this year. 

1. Sort out insurance billing issue.
2. Return purchases.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

I Made Indian Food!

I got out of work at 3:30 today, so I decided to go a bit nuts in the kitchen and take a crack at Indian cooking.

Chicken with Masala Simmer Sauce: I picked up a bottle of this on impulse from Trader Joe's and I simmered chicken breasts in it. I felt this was nowhere near as the good as the rest of the meal, but I might experiment with it again.

Whole Wheat Parathas: I felt these were too dry. Next time I'll get (maybe make?) naan from delicious, carby white flour.

Garam Masala Cauliflower: This was really easy and really tasty. I chopped a head of cauliflower and tossed it with olive oil, salt, and some garam masala. Roasted it in a 420 degree over for 25(ish) minutes, until browned and kind of crunchy. Delicious.

Palak Paneer: Who knew green vegetables could be this yummy! I chopped three onions for deeply browned onions. Near the end of the cooking process, I added a tablespoon of chopped ginger and 4 cloves of chopped garlic. At the same time, I chopped 7 oz. of paneer (I used Nanak brand, as recommended by Tigers and Strawberries) and fried it in a cast iron skillet until crunchy. I added a packet of Rasoi Magic Palak Paneer spices diluted in a cup of milk, per the instructions to the onion mixture and then stirred in a pound of frozen spinach, the fried paneer and a half cup of water. I covered the pan and reduced the heat to low for 15 minutes to let the flavors meld. So, so good. I can't wait to have this for lunch tomorrow. Maybe breakfast.

This was really exciting, and I'm hoping to make more Indian recipes in the future. I'd held off on investing in a collection of spices for a cuisine I don't make often, but I may reconsider.

Baffling Advertisement

I keep seeing this ad on the 7 train. Is it a political statement? An advertisement? What does gun control have to do with self storage units?  (I submit that if one needs an entire storage unit dedicated to one's guns, perhaps some personal gun control, at the very least, would be wise.)

Any ideas?

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Biang Biang Mian

CodeMonkey and I decided to make biang biang mian for dinner tonight. At his suggestion, we put them in old* chicken soup.

The soup is a long time hit around here, but we need more practice on the noodles. Despite my best efforts, I couldn't get them thin enough to rival Xian Famous Foods'. More practice is clearly necessary. Next time, I'm going to let the dough rest in between repeated stretchings; that's always how I get my pizza crusts thin.

I ran a long and aggravating errand on Tuesday, but I managed to meet my weekly goal of reading a book this week. The Girls of Riyadh by Rajaa Alsaneah was a great book for an aggravating 3 hours of the subway. It follows 4 upper class Saudi young women in their lives after high school as they navigate love, arranged marriages, education, and foreign cultures. It's formatted as a series of e-mails sent by an anonymous woman. They become the scandalous talk of the whole country for their frank discussions of love and sex amount Saudi women (the actual book was also controversial for the same reasons). Some reviews have compared it to a Saudi Sex and the City, but I thought that was very off base. It really reminded me of Mary McCarthy's classic The Group, which follows a group of Vassar graduates from 1933 as they embark of adult life and romantic misadventures in th cintextof a (much less) controlling and male dominated cultu. I enjoyed the book, but not enough to keep it for rereading. I'll donate it to the library next time they're collecting books. 3/5

*Old chickens are worn out laying hens, sold in Chinese grocery stores. The meat is tough, but very flavorful, and they make the best soup. The soup was freshly made and the bird was fresh meat.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Sock Postmortem

I finished these socks on the flight to Malaysia. I wasn't paying attention when I started the heel on the first one and I began it too late (and then I had to make the second sock match the first), so they're a bit too long in the foot for me.

The yarn is Knitpicks' Felici Sport. Colorway is Depths. Needles are a size 0 47" Knitpicks Nickel circular. Cast on 8 stitches using Judy's Magic Cast On. Increase in a star toe pattern to 64 stitches. Fleegle Heel (It is very, very important that you start the setup for this heel as soon as your foot start sloping up to your ankle. Otherwise, it will be too long). 15 rounds of 2x2 ribbing before Jenny's Surprisingly Stretchy Bindoff.

See that bunching at the back of the heel? That's extra length. These are probably better suited to someone with size 10 feet. But they'll do for slipper socks, or I might dry them to shrink them up.

Taking pictures of one's own feet is surprisingly difficult.

Sunday, September 16, 2012


CodeMonkey and I went to IKEA yesterday. Pro: I think we came to an agreement on where we want to go with the apartment, furniture-wise. Cons: I do not have enough money to buy all it. We'll have it prioritize. We ate at Johnny Rocket's. I was underwhelmed, but the view from the Seaport was gorgeous. Werther's Original was doing some kind of promotional event, handing out free candy. They had a photo booth and we took an awful picture.

I'm trying to get back into the swing of goal setting. So, for this week:

1. Reach 15,000 steps/day on the pedometer.
2. Take the stairs up to the apartment unless towing the grocery cart.

1. Eat no more than 18 of 42 meals out this week.
2. Make and freeze 8 quarts of chicken stock.
3. Lose a pound.

1. Finish 2 Chinese lessons.
2. Read a book.
3. Attend a social event.

1. Finish Macaroon striped socks.
2. Finish 1 skein of Nuvem.

1. Sort out insurance billing issue.
2. Return purchases.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Back Home

We're back from Malaysia! We have been for several days, actually. Somewhere in Malaysia, my cold transformed from a mild sniffle into full-on "I AM DYING OF CONSUMPTION" style coughing. Apologies to anyone on the plane with me from Dubai to New York the other day. I spent the ride clinging to CodeMonkey while hacking away, probably making every other passenger on the plane hate me.

The cough is problematic for a number of reasons:

1. I no longer sleep. I'm waking up coughing multiple times a night.
2. CodeMonkey is no longer sleeping. (See above.)
3. My entire torso hurts, so I've stopped eating. I sense this is counter productive in the long run.
4. I think I'm distracting all my coworkers and worrying upper management.

The one consolation is that it's way nicer to miserable and ill on my own lovely, squishy mattress than on the rock-hard sorry excuse for a mattress they had at the hotel. My FIL says hard mattresses are good for the spine, but I'm skeptical.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Hakka Food

Last night, we met my in-laws for dinner at Hakka in Kuala Lumpur. My in-laws had their wedding banquet here back in the day and they wanted to show it to us. The characters for Hakka mean "guest families," because the Hakka migrated from central China down to Fujian and Guandong provinces long ago. This means their food and language are very different than many southern Chinese. Per usually, we deferred to my FIL's expertise and had him order. Here's what I remember:

-Lemon Chicken I've had this before at American Chinese restaurants. This one had more dark meat and was breaded in something more dense than the American version. I think the breeding was flour based; I know a lot of American Chinese restaurants use cornstarch based breading. The sauce was tangy and lemony and not too sweet  and I could have eaten it with a spoon.

-Hakka Noodles My FIL says they made these noodles by hand in the restaurant kitchen. They were very chewy and sort of like thick spaghetti. The texture had a nice bounciness, which is a signature of the dish. They were served with fried ground pork, scallions and some kind of soy sauce. Very nice.

-Yam Leaves I was introduced to these Chinese vegetables when some friends hosted us for dinner, and they quickly became a staple in our house. They're my favorite green, and this was one of the best renditions I've ever had. The stems were fresh and crunchy and the dish was intensely garlicky. One of the hallmarks of good Chinese cooking is wok hei, literally "breath of the wok." It's a sort of indescribable smoky, oily, rich taste that you get by cooking food in a very hot, well seasoned wok. It is very difficult to attain in a home setting because residential gas burners don't get hot enough. The wok hei on these vegetables was fantastic, and it really added and extra something to the dish.

-Shark Fin Lettuce Wraps I wish I remember what this dish was called. Shark fin is a Chinese delicacy, so I was excited to try it. The shark fin was shredded with crab meat, tiny shrimp and fried egg. Normally the dish includes mushrooms and black fungus, but my FIL was kind enough to leave them out since CodeMonkey and I dislike them. You scoop the mixture into lettuce leaves and roll them up before eating. It was a very nice and rich dish, though I'm not sure I understand what all the fuss was about.

-Almond Pudding with Longan The restaurant's owner made this specially for my ILs as it wasn't on the menu. The pudding was tofu-based, I think, and intensely, almost overpoweringly almondy. I let CodeMonkey have most of my portion because I wasn't a huge fan. It was served with longans on top. I have wanted to try these for ages, but they are normally sold 3 pounds for $10 in my neighborhood, and I didn't want to spend that kind of money on a fruit I might not like. They were delicious, a more tender, delicately flavored lychee. I'll definitely be buying more of these back in the States.

-Glutinous Rice Balls in Ginger Syrup These are a common Chinese desert. The balls are a dumpling made of glutinous rice flour, and they're stuffed with black sesame paste. This was one of the better renditions I've had; the dumplings had a nice resistance before biting, and I wish there were more of them. In the past, I've had these served in plain warm sugar syrup, and the ginger was a fantastic addition. It was so spicy it made my mouth tingle. I couldn't finish it, and CodeMonkey helped me out.

Monday, September 3, 2012

We Eat A Lot

CodeMonkey has started working now, so we moved into the hotel room his company got for us. T's way nicer than anything I've stayed in before, and I'm tickled.

CodeMonkey is working in the Petronas Twin Towers. They're absolutely gorgeous, but every time someone calls them "The Twin Towers" my Inner American twitches. We visited the shopping mall on the lower levels last night. Sine foreign tourists often go to Malaysia to shop, salesmen kept trying to catch my attention while ignoring CodeMonkey. It was funny.

Before we checked into the hotel yesterday, we went to another outdoor food court for mee hoon kueh. These are strips of noodle dough dropped into a pot of boiling anchovy stock. Once the noodles cook, vegetables are added and more dried anchovies sprinkled on top. I loved the noodles and tolerated the anchovies. My FIL says it's a traditional Fujianese dish. Most Chinese Malaysians' ancestors were Fujianese and today Chinese Malaysians speak Fujianese/Hokkein, which is very different from the more well known Mandarin and Cantonese.

We ate lunch in the hotel's cafe yesterday. I was craving familiar food and had a burger, which was distinctly lackluster. I'd be disappointed, but I guess it's my fault for being in Kuala Lumpur and ordering a cheeseburger.

For a snack we ordered toast with kaya. CodeMonkey says this is a very Malaysian thing. You spread kaya, which is this jam made of coconut milk and eggs on slices of toasted white bread. The kaya is delicious; the texture reminds me of dulce de leche. My MIL says it keeps badly so we can't bring any home, but I'm hoping to try my hand at making it some time.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Dim Sum

I woke up when the call to prayer for fajr began, so I might as well blog. Yesterday we picked up CodeMonkey's grandmother and went out for dim sum. His grandmother is a very sweet lady, though she only speaks their dialect of Fuzhou, so we couldn't communicate without someone acting as translator.

We went to a dim sum house in Kuala Lumpur. There was an awkward moment where a waitress went to talk to my MIL after we we're seated. I could see them both looking st me; apparently the waitress was concerned that I wouldn't be able to eat with chopsticks. After that was sorted, we ordered and the food arrived. I didn't get to sample all the dishes, but here's what I remember.

-Har gow Mastery of these little shrimp dumplings is the test of any good dim sum chef, and these were excellent. The skin wasn't waterlogged, but had a nice spring to it and stuck nicely to the filling. The shrimp were fully deveined and very briny tasting. All the seafood is so much better than what I usually get in the U.S.

-Siu Mai Lovely pork and shrimp dumplings. I've had siu mai where the filling was rubbery from being steamed incompetently, but these were very tender and juicy. They had a nice fish roe on top.

-Xiao Long Bao My FIL advised us against ordering these, since the skins were thick st this place, but my BIL, husband and I shared an order. They were tasty enough, but badly constructed. None of us were able to get them from the steamer to a spoon without the skin breaking, releasing the soupy goodness everywhere.

-Congee with fish This was rice porridge with scallion, fried fish, and sliced whitefish. The soup broth was much more flavorful than most congee I've had in the States. I adore all things porridge, so it was hard for this to go wrong, but it was fantastic. They brought it to the table right away, so the fried fish was still very crunchy, and finding the pieces was like getting a prize at the bottom of a cereal box. The sliced white fish was very tender; my FIL says dim sum chefs spend years learning to properly cut fish.

-Radish Cake I like radishes, who knew? These was grated radish, pressed into a cake and fried in XO sauce. It was served with sprouts, eggs, scallions and bonito. This was fantastic, though I added the bonito.

-Char Siu/Char Siu Bao This was the one disappointment. The char siu was much too fatty and sugary for me to manage, and the filling in the bao was so sugary it made my teeth hurt.

My BIL tells me visiting malls is the Malaysian national pastime and we went to two today. We visited an IT mall, which was a five story mall that sold nothing but electronics. I have the attention span of a gnat at the best of times, and with so many screens, I didn't even know where to look.

We visited a very fancy shopping mall in KL, the Pavillion. It was very high end; I spotted Gucci and Prada stores along with H+M and a bunch of local stores. My FIL took us to a Taiwanese shaved ice place, where I had a milk tea. All their shaved ice options had grass jelly, of which I'm not a fan. The tea was nice, though. We visited a 5 ringgit shop, which is like an American dollar store. This one was Japanese owned, and I was tempted to buy some of the beautiful Japanese dessert pamphlets, but I decided that recipes in a foreign language are useless to me.

We came home and I fell asleep, missing dinner. I must have not completely adjusted to the time difference.

Saturday, September 1, 2012


Meeting my in-laws was as lovely and uneventful as one could hope. They are wonderful, but then they raised my wonderful husband, so that only made sense.

Today my FIL took us on a day trip down to Melaka. Melaka/Malacca was a center of Portuguese, Dutch and British trade and colonialization at various times, and it has some of the oldest buildings in the country. In theory, we were there to show me pieces of Malaysia's history, but when my in-laws take trips, it's all about the food, so we ate at one restaurant after another all day. This is definitely not a complaint.

-I ate durian cendol, which is a local specialty. I was not a fan of durian. Even once I got over the smell to taste it, I didn't find the flavor to my liking. We had gula melaka (palm sugar) cendol later in the day, and that was very nice.

-We went to a food court for breakfast. These are outdoor yards with tables, ringed by vendors. Each vendor pays rent to the court owner, and you order your food at each stall. I had char kway teow, which is a fried noodle dish. I'd had it before in America, but this was a hundred time better. I could eat this all day. And it had cockles! As in, "with silver bells and cockle shells, and wee little maids in a row." My MIL says they are called lalas in Bahasha Melayu. Watermelon juice, which is expensive back in the US, is cheap here, and that made me happy.

-We ate Nyonya food for dinner. Nyonya are the descendants of Chinese migrants who came to Malaysia 500 years ago, intermarried with the locals, and created their own culture. They are famous for being excellent cooks. My FIL ordered so many dishes I can't remember them all. We had chicken rendang, which is a spicy stew with, I think, a coconut base. There was squid coated in turmeric and fried. I've never enjoyed squid before, but this was so fresh and tender and didn't squeak on the teeth. We had okra too. I'd only had okra boiled until slimy before this, so it was a revelation. It was very tender and crunchy and reminded me of green beans. There was also yam leaves, fried chicken, tofu, and probably other dishes I am forgetting.

-We passed by a machine making Amoy waffles. I wish I had taken a picture of the machine. They're small waffles shaped like a fish, filled with pandan flavored coconut jelly. Very tasty. my BIL said they were overpriced and you were paying for the packaging, but the packaging is adorable.

-My FIL bought mochi, which is rolled in ground, sweetened peanuts.  I thought this was a Japanese treat, but my FIL says it's Chinese in origin. 

-Unfortunately, I am an idiot and forgot to use sunblock. Since I'm glow in the dark pale, I got a bit of a burn from walking around outside. My FIL says the sun is stronger here because we're near the equator. My MIL fussed over me and gave me a UV blocking parasol to use and we picked up sunblock on the way home. 

Thursday, August 30, 2012

In Dubai

-Knit an entire sock on the first leg of the flight. Ok, it was sport weight, but still. The flight attendants thought this was the coolest thing ever and kept stopping by to check my progress.

-Emirates has amazing in flight entertainment. I watched Brave and the entire second season of Downton Abbey.

-CodeMonkey and I spent 40aed on Starbucks. I don't know how much that is in USD, and I was so exhausted I didn't care. God bless Starbucks and their predictably burnt coffee available worldwide.

-The coffee was kind of ineffective. It is 2 a.m. in New York now. I am so tired I'm now snapping at CodeMonkey every time he talks to me. WIFE FAIL.

-One more flight and then I will be in Malaysia, meeting my in-laws for the first time. Eeeeek.

-I should sleep on the plane, but I won't. Please let me make a good first impression. I'll have gone 36 hours without sleep. I am such a nervous wreck. CodeMonkey keeps telling me we'll be fine. I don't believe him. 

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Oh Yeah, I Knit

I'm a knitter. That's where the "Woolens" part of the blog name comes from. And, like any obsessive knitter, it's taken me longer to pack the yarn for my trip than to pack my clothes and other belongings.

My goals for this year were to knit 12 shawls and 12 socks. I'm doing well on the shawls. 7 are completely finished. The remaining pieces are mostly started. In progress:

1. Quill This needs the border finished (only 1000 or so stitches in a round, so, you know, nothing major) and a lace edging applied. This is probably a month of work. For some insane reason, I opted for the 50" size.
2. Growing Flowers I have 350 grams of wool for this piece; I've used 150. The rounds are getting longer, and I'm losing motivation. Also, it's Estonian lace and has that really obnoxious "purl 3 into 7" stitch and those hurt my hands.
3. Margarethe Lace Shawl This is actually mostly done! It's just huge, and I'm doing it in all alpaca. The thing weighs a ton, so I'm ignoring it until it's cooler. I've already made one of these, and it lives at my desk at work. Best shawl ever.
4. Nuvem Thisistheshawlthateverends... Amazing, mindless knitting. I should pull this out for TV knitting in the evenings. It's too heavy for the subway now. And I'm making it out of madelinetosh, so it's yummy. I'm doing it in gray, so it should be versatile.

Writing it down now, that's better than I expected. I'll need one more shawl; I think a small lacy piece for my mother would be ideal.

When I took on the sock challenge, I said 12 socks OR 12 pairs would work. I've got 4 pairs, so 8 socks, done. I have 2 more pairs over halfway done. Next year's challenge is to knit 12 sweaters, but I badly need sweaters BEFORE January, and I have 3 on the needles now. I should probably leave it at a dozen socks for the year and finish off the sweaters in progress.

For this trip, I'm taking the two in progress pairs of socks, and the Nuvem. Plus some extra sock yarn for emergencies. (Yes, I need emergency sock yarn. Shaddup.) The Nuvem, one pair of socks, and some emergency yarn will go in our checked bag. The other socks and some spare yarn will go into my carry on.

I'm one of those people who does not cope well with flying, so I'm hoping our TSA overlords let me keep my needles for the 20 hour flight, since I'll be too panicked to sleep. 20 hours is enough time to make 3 sport weight socks at 7.75 stitches to the inch. (Per the TSA, knitting needles are allowed on planes, but it's all up to the discretion of security agents on-site. And I have no idea about the rules in other countries.)

In case they don't, I took advantage of Audible's sale to treat myself to a few new audiobooks. I got Isabella, She Wolf of France, Queen of England, by Alison Weir; The Honest Truth About Dishonesty, by Dan Ariely and The Devil in the White City, by Erik Larson. The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, read by Anne Hathaway was free, so I picked that up too. I'm actually almost looking forward to hours of uninterrupted listening.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Cooking Is Labor

I normally find Slate kind of tiresome to read, but this article about home cooking is bang-on accurate. Tracie McMillan points out something most advocates of home-cooking ignore--quotidian cooking is labor, just as much as laundry or cleaning.

CodeMonkey works much longer hours than I do, so the housework largely falls to me. I enjoy cooking, but churning out dinner after a full day of work, bookended by subway commutes, is a chore. Part of why I struggle with the temptation to eat out is because it's so much easier in the short term. Cooking or food prep probably takes 10 hours or more out of my week and I use convenience foods and don't bake. My mother probably spent twice that much time every week when she had young children, between the cooking and scratch baking. I fully understand why people choose to eat out often instead. And I'd probably hate cooking a whole lot more if I didn't have the money to get takeout on the days where I'm wrung out and the prospect of making dinner makes me want to cry.

As McMillian points out, cooking doesn't just require time and energy, it requires a specific skill set. I grew up cooking and baking and still had a lot to learn when I moved out. But I had a foundational set of skills I could use to start cooking better meals. CodeMonkey never cooked before we met, and my in-laws don't cook either. He didn't know how to dice an onion; he didn't now to level off a scoop of flour to get an accurate measurement; he hadn't the least notion of how to retrieve a pan from the oven without burning himself. No one of those problems are insurmountable (and he can now do all of them) but there are dozens of these techniques and they provide the vocabulary of cooking and learning them adds another layer of difficulty to becoming a competent home cook.

I don't know where this is going. It was a good article. Go read it.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Letter of the Day

I served Pesto Pizza with Pecan Pie for dinner. Because I am Pathetic, we Purchased the crusts from Pillsbury. Seriously, I'd like to make my own bread products, but that's just not happening yet.

CodeMonkey requested the pie, but we both felt it was too sugary. I have to bug my grandmother; I remember her serving a really amazing Chocolate Pecan Pie about a decade ago. Maybe she still has the recipe. 

We didn't eat any meals out today, so that caps a good week. No goals for the next week, as we're traveling to CodeMonkey's home country. I'm a nervous wreck, as I've never met them in person. We Skype often, but it's not the same. Eeeeeek. Scratch that. Here's the goal: try not to mess this up.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Time for a New Rice Cooker

CodeMonkey and I sometimes leave notes for each other around the house. You know, "Finished the milk. Please get more" and things like that. He cleaned the kitchen again. I came home tonight and found this note on the rice cooker.

I stopped and looked at the bowl and he was right. That probably wasn't safe. Given that the rice cooker is 6 years old and has taken to burning the rice half the time, I think it's time for a new one. Sure, I could make rice on the stove top, but we eat a lot of rice and it's handy.

At the grocery store, I impulse bought a bag of rice noodles. This is not any old bag of noodles. This bag of noodles is so big, it comes with a handle on top so you can carry it home. It's about 8 meal's worth, so we will use them up, but this was a very stupid impulse by. I keep bumping into the Monster Bag of Noodles. This photo doesn't convey the scale. The bag is like 16"x16"x8"

Today was subpar on the home-cooking front. 14/42 meals eaten out this week, and the week ends tomorrow.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Is it Time to Go to Bed Yet?

This was going to be a good morning! I could breathe through my nose again! I got us out of the house on time! Granted, I hadn't packed our lunches or made breakfast, but things were going well, considering.

I made it out of the subway and more good news! The newspaper boxes were stocked with the latest edition of The Onion. Awesome! I grabbed one, and headed to Starbucks.

Not 5 minutes into my morning read and drink, I managed to spill nearly an entire Venti Chai Latte on the floor. FAIL. I apologized profusely, helped clean up, bought another drink, and scurried to the office. Let's hope I don't botch anything up at work today.

My kitchen FAIL this morning means we're both buying breakfast and lunch today. So make that 10/42 meals eaten out this week.

Note: I only count meals eaten out that we pay for. If CodeMonkey's employer feeds him, I don't count it as eating out, as this is about trying to save us money.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

I Fail At Life

Yesterday, I was so sick, my boss sent me home before lunch. I must have been a mess, as I wound up on the wring train, and it was a few stops before I realized it. Then I got lost trying to find the other subway platform. Eventually, I made it home and collapsed.

Woke up this morning even sicker. Progress! Called in sick to work, and went to our insurance company's website to find a local doctor. I selected filters for our area, and found a GP that was accepting new patients. And they had an opening today at three! I went to the appointment, filled in all the new patient paperwork.

It seemed to ask an awful lot about my history of injuries, but, whatever. I handed it back to the secretary, along with the insurance paperwork. She then asked me which injury we'd be working in that day. I stared blankly and told her I was there for a bad cold and possibly a sinus infection.

She told me they didn't do that and they were a rehabilitation clinic. Crap. I resisted the urge to shout angry things at the secretary (it wasn't her fault I was sick and confused) and went home. Double checked the insurance company's website, and sure enough, the doctor is listed as a GP. Tomorrow, when I'm not mildly annoyed at everyone for being obnoxiously healthy, I should probably call the insurance company to inform them of error.

CodeMonkey had to buy breakfast today,must his company bought him lunch and dinner. This is probably why it's 9:00 p.m. and he's still not home. But that means 6/42 meals this week have been eaten out.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012


I am sicker today than I was this weekend, which seems both unfair and not the way a cold is supposed to work. Nothing about my immune system works the way it's supposed to, though. Since it's bad form to call in sick on your seventh day in the office, I'm sitting at my desk, quaffing tea and resenting the nameless person who gave me this cold.

On the bright side, CodeMonkey couldn't sleep last night, so while I was zonked out on cold medicine, he cleaned the entire kitchen. I love that man.

We're on track to not eat out at all today, so that's 5 meals eaten out and 13 eaten in this week. Go me!

ETA: My boss asked me if I wanted to "go home and sleep." I declined, but damn, that's tempting.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Boringly Domestic

Yesterday was less than ideal, in terms of avoiding eating out. We met a former colleague of CodeMonkey's for lunch, and met my parents, who were in town for dinner. So that's 4 of 42 meals this week eaten out. I didn't pack CodeMonkey lunch today. Make that 5/42.

Menus for the week:

M: Chicken soup, chicken chow mein, stir fried string beans
T: Miso soup, salmon teriyaki, rice, broccoli
W: Lhaksa over rice noodles with chicken and hard boiled eggs
T: Chicken soup, chicken stir fried with string beans, broccoli, rice
F: Cheese tortellini with pesto, chicken and broccoli
S: Paneer or chicken tikka masala, naan

To buy:
Coconut milk for Lhaksa
Lhaksa spice packet
Spices for tikka masala

The Indian food is a new cooking project for me; I've never cooked Indian before. We had fantastic cinnamon ice cream this weekend at Serendipity 3 and we were thinking of making some this weekend, so we might have that with Saturday dinner.

Sunday, August 19, 2012


I have managed to contract something streppy and snotty. This happens every time I start a new job, which just seems unfair.

This little episode has reminded me that we really ought to finish setting up CodeMonkey's office. Right now, he uses our bed as an office, which is fine until I am sick and he's preparing for a performance of La Traviata I dislike opera at the best of times, but it's particularly heinous when ill.

Since we are going to live here a few years, and might actually have some money for these sort of things, I've started making a list of things I'd like to acquire for the house, which is mostly furnished in IKEA and handmedowns.

A chair for CodeMonkey's desk
Height expanders for our Billy bookcases, so I can eliminate the awful handmedown bookcase that matches nothing
A COUCH Right now I can offer our guests the chair or the bed.
Bar stools, so we can actually eat in our kitchen like civilized people, instead of sitting, one of us in the chair, one in the ottoman, in the living room.
A spice rack. I've seen nifty magnetic ones. Right now I have to rummage through a cabinet for the right bottle. Which is annoying.
A decent blender. My last one died from too much smoothie action. Apparently only the really high end blenders can handle frequent frozen fruit smoothies.
A little console table for inside the door. Our keys/wallets end up piled on the kitchen counter which makes me twitch OMG. I think IKEA sells some shelves I could bolt table legs to. The space I have is tiny; most tables on the market seem too big.
Some kind of display for my china figurines. Right now they're in a box.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Illness is fun!

I've been working full time for a few years, and the same issues keep cropping up.

I'm chronically ill, and have been since my teens. The specific illness isn't that important. It's not "stop work and go on disability" severe. I can work, but if I work, I can't do anything else.  At least once or twice a week, I come home and go straight to bed. Doing anything in the evenings is almost impossible. I'm always tired, and when I wake up, it's like I spent the night being beaten by mallets.

I managed well enough when I worked and lived with my parents. I paid them rent, and my mother did the housework, including cooking and laundry. Living on my own, and having a husband has made things so much harder.

CodeMonkey's job requires very, very long hours and he freelances besides, so the brunt of the housework falls to me. I'm constantly struggling to find a balance and keep the house running. There are days when I am such a mess I end up eating all three meals out, which is expensive. Then I'm eating crap, which makes me feel worse, which makes me less functional, etc. And there are times when I try to be THE ULTIMATE DOMESTIC GODDESS. That lasts about 3 days. Life is really nice for tho three days, and the food is fantastic, but then I'm in worse shape than before, completely exhausted and demoralized.

So I'm shooting for balance this coming week. We eat 42 meals a week. Two people, three meals a day, seven days in a week. I want to make 21 of those meals. That's a goal I might actually be able to manage.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Stick to Houseplants

When I was younger, my mother spent a lot of time trying to teach me to think before I spoke. As I was reminded today, these lessons mostly failed.

I texted our landlord about three things:

1. We had booked tickets to return to CodeMonkey's home country, we would be gone for two weeks, and would pay the rent and lock up before we left.

2. I was in the market for a cleaning lady, and did he know anyone who was interested?

3. We were considering getting a pet, and would he allow us to have one or two cats?

Let me preface this by saying my landlord is well within his rights to refuse any and all pet requests. He's a very nice landlord and it's ultimately his apartment. 

He refused the cat, suggesting that a cat would be dirty, inconvenient, and too time consuming. In hindsight, I should not have asked these questions at the same time, as they gave the impression that we we slovenly jet setters who wished to introduce some house cats into an already precarious situation.

In reality, we rarely travel. (No joke, this will be the first time I see my in-laws in person.) I am a neat person, I just hate cleaning and would rather not vacuum than buy anything else. And I grew up with cats and realize that they need quie a bit of care.

I should have listened to my mother more. Think before you speak.

Monday, August 13, 2012

I think I'm cursed

At my last job, I had three computers break on me in about 6 months. Granted, the computers were from 2004 which is 90 or something in computer years, but that didn't help me much. I became known as "the girl who breaks computers." I'm not sure my former coworkers were thrilled when the company bought me a bread new desktop after the third computer failure. But the failures stopped after that.

So I started a new job today. It was going well! My supervisor complimented me on something I did! My coworkers were friendly! The work was right up my alley! Basically, life was going swimmingly, and I went to write and e-mail and got the blue screen of death.

On the bright side, I met my colleagues in the IT department! I suspect we're going to be great friends.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Incredible Coconut Ice Cream

Today is CodeMonkey's birthday, and I promised to make him anything he wanted for a birthday dinner. He opted for Wonton Soup, Chow Mein and Coconut Ice Cream. Everything was tasty, but the ice cream was fantastic. Creamy, coconutty, rich... I ended up making up a recipe since I couldn't find certain ingredients.

1 19 oz can of unsweetened coconut cream (I used Amoy brand)
1 cup heavy cream
1 cup whole milk
2/3 cup brown sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla
2 eggs

Shredded coconut
Sliced fruit

1. Set up a double boiler on high heat. Combine all ingredients into the boiler and whisk them together.
2. Stir constantly until the mixture coats the back of a spoon. Pour into a bowl and place in the freezer for two hours.
3. Prepare the ice cream maker per the manufacturer's instructions. Remove the ice cream base from the freezer. It will be clumpy. Wisk until smooth.
4. Pour the ice cream base into the ice cream maker and freeze according to the manufacturer's instructions.
5. If you aren't serving the ice cream immediately, store it in the freezer, where it will continue to harden. Serve with fruit or shredded coconut on top.

ETA: This ice cream, while delicious does not keep. Eat it all the day it is made, as it freezes into a sort of sad ice-cream brick otherwise.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Xian Famous Fail

Marriage to CodeMonkey has taught me many things. Some I expected, like patience. Some were unexpected. This is about one of the unexpected ones.

We decided to go out to lunch today and opted for Xian Famous Foods. The restaurant was made famous by Anthony Bourdain and it has since opened up locations across New York, but the original is still in the basement of Golden Shopping Mall, amid a warren of food stalls and rickety tables. Ever since they opened up locations in Manhattan, the hipsters have stopped trekking out to our neighborhood for food, so this location is very by-Chinese-for-Chinese.

Now you must understand that CodeMonkey and I tend to attract some stares in our neighborhood. He has all the grace of an elephant in clogs and tends to bang into people a lot. I'm white and he's Chinese and we're in a homogenously Chinese area. I regularly get mistaken for a high schooler, while CodeMonkey is in his late twenties and looks it. As I said, people tend to stare; we're a strange looking couple.

So we make our way to the stall. I bump into a man, but we make it there without serious incident. I successfully order our food. The smiling teenager hands my husband his plate of cumin lamb noodles, dripping with red hot oil. The plate collapses, CodeMonkey loses his grip, or the teenager hadn't quite mastered the hand-off. It doesn't matter, but the noodles slid off the plate and chili oil went down the front of CodeMonkey's shirt. We ate the noodles we could salvage, along with the lamb burger, before I marched CodeMonkey home for a wardrobe change.

See, marriage to CodeMonkey has been something of an advanced seminar in stain removal, as he's prone to getting food down his front. The shirt may be a lost cause, but I've attacked it with all my various laundry potions. My husband thinks I am the goddess of laundry, but this may be beyond my powers.