What we've been smoking

Thursday, September 29, 2016

This post is slightly delayed by a few weeks.  A large majority of this summer has been comprised of making Really Good Food (“RGF”), and I ashamedly haven’t blogged about any of it.  I’ll attempt to divide up my blog posts about RGF into categories (cooking method, season).  Don’t forget to also tell me about your RGF.  I really want to know.

Smoked turkey

So begins the Thanksgiving-testing phase of the year.  Typically around August / September, I’ll begin my months-long quest to perfect pie baking.  Not so this year.  Since B has an electric smoker, we’ve been experimenting with different things that we can make in it, beyond the regular things that you'd grill.  A few weekends ago, we smoked a 24 lb turkey using this recipe.  This is an improvement on the spatchcocked turkey as this one also gets butterflied but then smokes for 4.5 hours.  Not only does it have a delightful, bacon-y flavour afterward but you completely free up your oven for all the other Thanksgiving delights (pies guys, pies).  B was convinced that the turkey leftovers would last us for weeks.  Realistically, they lasted 9 days.  With the leftovers, I made turkey tortilla soup, turkey enchiladas, turkey fried rice, and a few other random turkey concoctions.  Every time I make turkey, including Thanksgiving, I ask myself why I don’t do it more often.  Maybe we will.

Homemade, smoked pizza

We may have a slight love affair with B’s smoker.  Shortly after trying the turkey, we smoked a pizza (with homemade dough, I might add).  There are plenty of electric smoker pizza recipes out there; an electric smoker basically acts like an oven.  The thing to remember is going light on the smoke (we didn’t put any wood chips in the smoker) and checking on it regularly.  To truly crisp up the pizza crust, we ended up popping it in the oven at the very end.  And I'd definitely add MORE CHEESE because when is that ever a bad idea.  Was it delicious and would we do it again?  Absolutely on both counts.

Smoked potato salad

We were invited over for a friend’s birthday dinner and since his wife had sneakily bought him an electric smoker for his birthday, we decided to bring a smoked side to slyly hint at what his gift would be.  Although I think the potatoes could have used a smidge longer in the smoker, the flavour was, once again, awesome and the bacon was the ingredient that put everything over the border firmly into Flavour Town.  Meat notwithstanding, vegetables are so easy to do in the electric smoker.  There are plenty of things you can smoke, for my vegetarian friends out there.

Hunting for banana slugs in the Pacific Northwest

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

The past weekend, I made my annual trek out to the Pacific Northwest to visit my sister and her boyfriend.  It was my first time to Portland in the fall, and B and I caught it at just the right time.  All the leaves were changing colours and everywhere we went, we were greeted with beautiful patterns of red, orange, and yellow.  The weather was  drizzly and cool but brightened up brilliantly on the weekend, warm enough where we could leave the screen door open all day.

We were able to squeeze in a day trip to the coast during the weekend on one of the gorgeously sunny bluebird days.  The slumped over bow of an old shipwreck lies on a beach at Fort Stevens near Astoria, so we thought we’d visit the rusted out hull, maybe find some pirate's treasure.  The shell of the boat itself was surrounded by tourists when we got there (tetanus shots people!) so we took a walk along the beach, which was one of the nicest ones in the continental US that I’ve been to.  The sand is very fine, very clean, and very brown.  There were hoof prints up and down the sand, and you can also drive your vehicle on the beach.  If I had brought Ryon, we would have definitely gone for a gallop by the surf, but B and I chose to wander by the water for a few miles, unnerving all the sea gulls.

Like people do in Portland, we walked everywhere in the city - to pick up breakfast pastries, for brunch, dinner, and late night eats.  The new neighborhood my sister lives in is more quiet and serene than the hustle and bustle of the Northwest District.  One morning, we huffed and puffed our way up a five mile hike in Forest Park, which is a beautiful green space right next door.  B had heard about gigantic banana slugs that ooze their way around the area, and within the first five minutes, he found one on the side of a log.  By the end of the trail, we had to watch our every step, lest we squish them on the path.

Portland is definitely known for All the Good Eats, and of course we gorged ourselves silly.  However, my utmost favourite part of the weekend was cooking dinner at Iris’s new apartment, playing video games on their old N64, and binge-watching Stranger Things.  Anywhere I go, I find that hanging out with my favourite people, doing silly things, and eating good food is the tops!

Summer in London, apparently

Thursday, September 15, 2016


Aaaand I’m back in London again, where summer has arrived.  The day I landed was the hottest day in September in one hundred years - or some absurd number like that.  It was as if I boarded the plane in Texas and then it just sat on the tarmac for 9 hours.  All joking aside, it’s beautiful here.  Everyone is milling around the outside of pubs drinking (at way too early an hour in the afternoon) and sprawled out on any piece of green they can find.  Every single morning is filled with blue skies, and I’m simply ecstatic that it isn’t cold or rainy.  At some point this week, I’ll have to find the opportunity to grab a pint outside and join the Londoners.

I had a meeting with a French gentleman yesterday who had sweat through his entire dress shirt.  He had bravely kept his suit jacket on for 20 minutes into the meeting (inside in an air conditioned room, I might add) but couldn’t take it any more, after running through several napkins wiping the sweat from his brow.  I thought he was going to faint.  When he finally removed his jacket, at least 40% of his blue shirt was sweat-stained.  I politely tried not to notice and endeavored to keep a straight face.  He visibly perked up after shedding layers and at the end of the meeting, only the pit stains remained.

Despite the record-setting heat, it’s really the perfect time to be in London right now, even better than the summertime.  Everyone is back in school so there are less tourists milling about, and it’s still light out relatively late.  Eventually I’m going to turn one of these trips into a long weekend vacation or extended European jaunt.  Another one of those "someday" plans...

Dino hunt

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Dinosaur Valley State Park
This weekend, we went hunting for dinosaurs.  We waded through a creek bed to find the footprints and find them we did, after a few hours sweating buckets under the blazing sun.  I feel like the entire month of August was like that; hunting for dinosaurs - looking for something huge and nonexistent today - but instead coming up short.

Not much happened during the month of August.  It was hot and still and quiet.  I’m still attempting to put words to that feeling of what is missing from the day-to-day.  Not a person or a thing, it’s more something(s) momentous and exciting (maybe even a little scary) instead of the quiet calmness.  It has been difficult for me to handle the quiet calmness, of things falling more or less in order and as planned.  My brain leaps in circles and loops, trying to spin itself into different things to do.  My hands will pick up things at random, and cohesive ideas seem to come in spurts.  I’ve been trying not to fight myself about it and sometimes winning and other times losing.  Embarrassingly enough, it brings me to tears of frustration more often than I’d like to admit.  I’m more and more convinced that these are the struggles of adulthood, starting to feel comfortable in your own skin but also trying to grow into a better one as well.  I suppose it fits the old adage - if it’s not hard, it’s not worth doing.  Is that what aging is?

Horror movie farmhouse

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

One of the things that I've noticed in my daily perusal of real estate listings is that the quality of the photos really make a difference in how attractive a house looks (duh).  The lighting and picture angles all contribute to the over all "click-feel" of the listing.  If you've spent any time looking at all, you'll also recognize the pictures that obviously applied photo filters (bonus points if you can actually name the ones they used).

This restored Victorian farmhouse built in 1903 is the perfect example of lighting / angles done right.  With a completely different photo filter or dimmer lighting, it'd be the perfect haunted house (just add a sprinkling of cobwebs in the corner).  I can imagine the random wood paneling on the walls and ceilings creaking during the night, just when you think you're alone in the house.  Or wandering through the three bathrooms, each spookier than the last, hastily pulling back the shower curtains to make sure that you're alone.  This home would stage perfectly for Halloween; that's a completely reasonable reason to purchase a house right?

Aunt in TX

Monday, August 29, 2016

My aunt and her family are coming to Texas for Labor Day weekend to go house hunting.  Her husband, my Uncle Frank, is finally retired (for the second time) and she wants to see what it would be like to live out their Golden Years near her brothers.  It’s been years, decades really, since she’s been to visit us in Texas.  The last time I remember them coming here was when my grandmother was still alive and you could still make my cousin Eric behave by threatening to turn off the lights and/or tickle him.  He’s now 6’1, a senior in high school, and doesn’t scare so easily.

The draw of family isn’t necessarily the most intuitive for me.  As a strong introvert, a lot of my more serene and peaceful time is spent solo.  However, for others, I understand that having close family members around is a warm fuzzy security blanket.  Our extended family used to gather around the dining table, which we couldn’t fully fit around, and tell old stories about our grandfather when he was younger and about my dad when he misbehaved.  My grandmother was the queen of off colour jokes and my dad has inherited that title.

Despite the run up in housing prices in Dallas, the homes here are still a lot more affordable than California and without the raging wildfires.  Both of the houses my aunt is looking at are within walking distance to my parents’ house.  My college roommate’s parents live another block over.  There’s the opportunity to create their own walking community and maybe also encourage my dad to pull away from the computer every now and then.

I’m curious if that desire to live near family is enough to make someone trade the sunshine and temperate climate of southern California for the baked vastness of Texas.  She may not have realized that she’s going to have to drive everywhere or that all the bugs will try to bite her and tunnel their way inside her home.  That there’s no such thing as cooler nights and that tornadoes are a serious threat.  On the plus side, there’s shopping.  Tons of shopping.  Decades ago, we used to shop my Aunt Lisa’s closet, which occupied her entire spare bedroom, and most of her clothes still had the tags on them.

Coming to Texas in late August, when the sun is blazing and the ants are biting, should paint a stark picture of what it’s like to be a Texan and why we wear that badge with honor.  Or maybe escaping the snarl of Southern California traffic is allure enough?

In the am...

Monday, August 22, 2016

It’s getting later in the year so the sun wakes up around the same time as I do now.  I perform my morning ablutions in the dark and both of us slowly stretch our limbs during that 6 am time frame.  By the time I’m up and running in the office, there’s a soft glow that echoes my mental wake up shining through the office window.  Everything is bathed in a gentle morning light right now.  The empty lot across the street is a plush green carpet and even the parking lot seems to be painted in lavender velvet.  I’m not fooling myself, really.  It’s still August, and it’s still hotter than balls outside, despite the deluge we received last week.  But in the morning and in the air conditioned bubble, I can pretend that the sun is a little gentler and as a result, the day will be as well.

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