Sunday, September 21, 2008

Our Summer with the Folks: Installment 1

In the grand tradition of this blog, I have at least 300 posts to get through all at once, so I can slack off again for another three months. Last year, Heather's parents visited us and we traveled all over Scotland and Norway with them. This year was my parents' turn! This time around, we stayed in Scotland, but split the time between Orkney and the Rest of Scotland. This provides me with a perfect excuse to do two posts. Orkney needs its own post.

This I'll defend!
Who you calling a demi-savage?
Though we had an eventful two weeks, I must say they were much less packed than last summer, and we were able to spend a fair amount of time chillin' in the greater Glasgow area, cooking (as you've no doubt noticed) and seeing the local sights: City Centre, the Botanic Gardens, Loch Lomond, etc. The folks got to meet Basil and our other friends, see our church, and generally be reassured we were still alive.

One priority was to find the MacFarlane homelands: though I'm becoming increasingly aware of the decided American-ness of the quest for 'heritage' and 'ancestry', I've decided to continue to embrace my roots... just more quietly. Also, my dad was totally into finding Loch Sloy, which is basically MacFarlane cow-stealing HQ. We found it - or at least the hydroelectric plant that drains its water, and the mountain that we would have had to climb to see the actual lake. Close enough. Photo op.

The rest of these pictures are from the long road trip (by UK standards) up to Orkney. Highlights were Dunrobin Castle (nice castle, Robin!) huge windfarms, Cromarty Firth, and good ol' Highland scenery. Unfortunately, we were in a hurry to catch the ferry to Orkney, so we did miss some of the cool scenery Tighe and I saw last winter, but we did get to see a lot of the more northerly parts I hadn't seen yet.

As usual, there are lots more pictures here (Update: just fixed the link).

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Rye Bread

Wasn't the Cold Ham Water post a lovely distraction from the usual focus of edible food? Courtesy of Joel the Cook. Now, back to the status quo... with Rye Bread. We bought some rye flour at our favourite shop in Partick, which sells everything in plastic bags for low prices. The guy who runs the place buys it all in bulk and passes on the savings to his customers. He sells everything from bulk spices, flours, oats (even pinhead oats, mind you), and pet food too! We used to buy all of Basil's food there. He even has aquariams full of snakes and other reptiles and fish in the back. What an awesome shop. I think it's called something like Partick pet food and grain supply store.
We used this recipe for rye bread. We substituted treacle for molasses, as you do. I think we can call this a success. We definitely used the caraway seeds, and let me tell you that is VITAL to rye bread. We'll be enjoying this...

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Cold Ham Water With Dill Garnish

If you have been paying attention to this blog in the last several months, you may have come under the impression that Heather is the only gourmet in our household. This impression is mistaken; I'm actually the more talented chef, and today I'd like to share one of my favorite recipes with you. Cold Ham Water is a variation on a popular recipe, which I first heard about on my favorite cooking show. This is a much simpler version, however, which doesn't require special 'water boiling' equipment.

Cold Ham Water
Ingredients:

  • Water (cold)*
  • Ham (thinly sliced)**
Dill Garnish:
  • Dill (garnish)
Directions:
  1. Place ham in water-tight tray or bowl.
  2. Add cold water (to taste)
  3. Garnish with dill
*If cold tap water is not available, refrigerate warm or lukewarm water overnight until cold.
**I used 'cooked ham' sandwich meat, but 'smoked' or 'honey glazed' will also work.

I should mention that I discovered this recipe inadvertently due to a steady drip in the ceiling of our refrigerator.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Mayonnaise

I made homemade mayonnaise yesterday. If you don't know me well enough, this is basically equivalent to a vegetarian making a steak dinner. I don't eat mayonnaise. I don't even like it having a presence in our (very small) fridge. HOWEVER I do put Joel's happiness above my own discomfort, and Joel loves his mayonnaise. Thus our fridge is a mayonnaise-friendly fridge.

Since coming to terms with the fact that we will most likely always be a mayonnaise-keeping family, I have come to the conclusion that if we must have mayonnaise, then at least we can have non-preservative laden mayonnaise, with minimal cost and in controllable amounts. By making a small batch, I am restricting it's fridge presence while contributing to Joel's happiness. Wow this post is getting way too long for something talking about mayonnaise...

Anyway I made mayonnaise. It took me like 5 minutes, looks pretty much like crap, so I guess it's about right, and cost nothing. We had all the ingredients in the kitchen. Now, as I've told Joel, it's only a matter of creativity before I can vary it up by making garlic mayonnaise or something.

Here's the recipe I used. Dead simple. Don't support the mayonnaise industry! Make your own instead!

Mayonnaise (based on a few recipes, among them this one)

Mix one egg, 1 tablespoon lemon juice (or vinegar), 1/2 teaspoon salt, pepper, and about 1/2-1 teaspoon dry mustard.

When this is mixed, gradually add in 1 Cup of oil (I used 1/2 olive oil, 1/2 sunflower). As you keep mixing it magically turns into the congealed mass of white known as mayonnaise.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Celebration!

Happy one-loan-down-one-more-to-go Day!!!

As of this month, I've paid off my smallest student loan! This is incredibly encouraging to me, and having just one more loan (I'm not even counting Joel's at this point) gives me hope that there will be an end to loan payments!

Following brilliant and sensible advice from Get Rich Slowly, and another article that I cannot seem to track down anywhere, I am keeping my persistent determination strong. Instead of seeing this loan pay off as a break for the bank account, I've raised my other loan payment by the difference. I was paying about $50 for the newly paid off loan, and $100 toward my other one, but now since the small loan has been paid off, I just increased my other loan payment to $150. I've been paying that much toward loans the last 2 years, and despite low wages and many financial hardships, we've been making it, so now is not the time to decrease payments! This way I'll be able to pay off my final loan sooner rather than later. I asked the woman on the phone how long it would take me to pay this off at the new payment rate, and she said until 2015. Seems like an awful long time, but hey it will be here quick! About 6 years (If that seems like a long time, just think, 9/11 was actually 7 years ago tomorrow). And if things go as planned, I will be able to increase my payments at some point and pay it off even sooner.

Also, we aren't paying towards any of Joel's loans at the moment b/c he's still studying. This helps me to be able to focus on paying off my loans.

Celebration! Everyone pick up a penny off the sidewalk in thanks for my first loan paid off!
You can do it too!

Monday, September 08, 2008

Victory Gardens

The greatest thing of today.

And for all of you super-Americans, the name should make you happy.

Things like this make me love life, people, and even America.