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.