Monday, April 22, 2013

You Can't Cut This Cheese

Last week, one of my Facebook friends posted a link to a fairly simple-looking Ricotta recipe. I love cheese, and I love baking and cooking, so this was right up my alley. James, who has brewed beer in the past and who is always game for this kind of thing, had also been thinking that he wanted to get serious about making some cheese. Since this recipe didn't require rennet or any other special ingredients, we decided to go with it.
James, stirring the milk and cream, before I wimped out and made him get his beer-stirring paddle.

Once the mixture started boiling, we turned off the heat and added the proscribed amount of white wine vinegar, then waited for the magic to happen.

Uhhh... No magic.

At this point, I accessed our good friend The Internet and found this message board thread on non-curdled cheese. Perhaps it was because our milk was homogenized (though I've seen curdles when I've used vinegar or lemon juice to make a fake buttermilk). Or maybe we didn't let it boil quite enough?

Regardless, we decided to turn the heat back on, then add more vinegar once it got to boiling. We did, and added a few "splashes," as the rather informal post indicated, and it was thickening, but not curdling. In fact, the boiling bubbles were "splorping" the way a thick witch's potion might, and I didn't want either of us to end up with burns!

So we took it out and poured it onto the cheesecloth.

To my surprise, it didn't all leak out the bottom!
The recipe we had said to let this sit for half an hour (ish) and after that time, we tested the product using crackers. At that point, it tasted like a hearty sour cream. At the end of the night, we decided to put it out on the screened-in porch and let it rest until morning.

What we ended up with today is a lot more like what I'd expect Ricotta cheese to look like, consistency-wise.

It's tangy and yummy!
Also, it was a treat that we ended up with pretty much even parts whey and cheese.

Not too shabby. Now, what to do with the whey?

One out of three cats agree: Whey is delicious!
Tonight, I'm making pizza for dinner and intend to stir some of the cheese into the tomato sauce to make an extra-creamy, extra-cheesy base! Can't wait to try it!

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Where the Boys Are...(and Girls, Too)

One thing about living as close to a college campus as I now do: There are numerous reminders, in vivid, effervescent detail, that I am a forty-year-old woman.

There are leggings worn with cropped tops. I don't know that my 20-year-old behind would have fared well under such circumstances, much less the derriere of today. Nevertheless, there is that young lady with the long, blonde hair, walking nonchalantly down the sidewalk, perfectly-plump posterior paraded for anyone who cares to look. (Come to think of it, how creepy is it that that person is moi?)

There are the uber-short P.E. shorts worn under long T-shirts, so that one cannot actually tell whether the wearer has on an undergarment, much less proper shorts. Oh, but the toned and tanned gams that effortlessly issue forth from the T's hem. *sigh* I've never been anything but uber-white, and have I mentioned that my lower legs are now prone to evening swelling since my sciatica has forced me to stand so much? Who has sciatica? OLD PEOPLE.

There are the ridiculously informal neon tank tops that I'd feel self-conscious wearing to Wal-Mart, and these beautiful children pull them off as though they're on their way to a magazine photo shoot.

Oh, goodness, and the joggers. There are so. many. runners. I watch them go by, nothing on their body shaking in the least as their feet pad the ground. It's tempting to rue the whole lost youth thing, but... dang it, I'm way too comfortable and content to waste any time feeling anything other than pity for people who are out doing cardio while I'm making pancakes. (And, yeah, I get it: some of you like to run. Some people also like to get tied up and whipped. It takes all kinds.)

There are low-rise jeans with one-inch zippers; beautiful hair the lengths to which I can no longer get my hair to grow; Daisy Dukes; skinny jeans; iPhones and Starbucks to-go cups, and other treasures I couldn't afford when I was in college and choose not to afford now; the bright pink hair (jealous... the processing of my own locks to achieve such color is one huge reason it won't grow anymore); and a general air of youthful exuberance, alongside which I feel... well, pale and flat and, yep, old.

I wonder if I'd feel differently if James and I had gotten together in our youth and he'd been able to experience and enjoy that with me. Truthfully, I didn't enjoy my youth a whole lot, and I'm a lot more at peace and happy now than I have ever been in my life. There's just something about all of the eye candy around here that is a constant reminder, and maybe a good one, that the clock's ticking. I have to make the most of this thing, because it's getting away from me.

That's certainly the plan!

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Adventures in Dragonfruit!

Daphne has wanted to try dragonfruit for a long time. Tonight, we finally found one at Fiesta Market. It was $6, but we decided that was worth it for an exotic experiment in fruit.

It looks a little intimidating, no? I think it resembles something evil from VeggieTales.

Really pretty, though... And then we cut into it...

The "meat" is soft, a little more "scoopable" than cantaloupe, but nearly the same consistency. The seeds are crunchy like strawberry seeds.

The flavor is mellow and sweet to sweet/tart, depending on where you eat. The sugar seems to be concentrated in the middle of the fruit, and toward the flesh, the flavor is milder.

We enjoyed the fruit very much! I don't know that we'll make it a regular dessert, but next time we have a special occasion, I think it'd be fun to buy a couple of these and scoop the flesh out, cube it, and serve it in its skin.

A Walk in the 'Hood

A great thing about the Nuthaus is that we're within walking distance of practically everything we could ever need ever. Not only that, it's all pretty scenic. Even cooler, the scenery is distinctly different depending on whether you exit the house and walk north, south, east, or west.

This evening, Daphne and I took a very brief walk, and I'll share with you what we saw in our ten- to fifteen-minute stroll around the 'hood.
On the side of some apartments in the area.
The ivy-covered side of those apartments. See what I see?

Beautiful kitty in the sunset!

Here's the front of one of the houses. It's right on the street, but still "quiet."

The side entrance to the house. Lots of homes in the area have historical markers.

See the awesome balcony? I think the main house is old, but the balcony area is probably an add-on.

Daphne requested that I take a picture of this house "up." Good call! Love the angle. LOVE the colors.

Some of the houses are nicely hidden. It makes me curious!

This is the back half of a house I LOVE. It's build long-wise, with the "side" to the street, and is half buried into the ground. On this side of the house, the roof is probably 5 feet off of the ground.

Again: LOVE the colors!

And the hidden nature of this house makes me want to walk down the drive and see it! I know from Google Maps that there is a big pool in the back yard!

I'm in love with this garden.

I'm glad I don't have to clean the house, though! :)

Smart to use ground cover; that's an awkward angle to try to mow!

The other night, I saw in the window that the interior walls are the same white blocks. SO retro.

Student housing co-op.

Courtyard at a nearby bed and breakfast.

This is "our" firehouse.

The awesome weathervane on the firehouse.

But you know what my very FAVORITE house in the neighborhood is? Yeah, it's this one...

<3 Home sweet home, and my man waiting for me on the porch.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Cats About Town

Just as Aish was getting used to living in Austin, her life was upset by the addition of two cats and two ladies.

Actually Carol and Rudy moved in before Daphne and I did. Rudy got here a couple of weeks ago, and Carol moved in the during the interim.

There have been lots of fights and hissing and litter boxes and clean-ups, but it seems like everyone is settling in.

Carol and Rudy, for instance, like to spread out and enjoy the kind of space they didn't have in the trailer.
Carol and Rudy approve of James' grandma's couch.

Carol also enjoys the master bedroom bed.

Rudy is just as happy on my computer bag.

Whereas Carol knows it's naughty to be on the kitchen table and settles into the chair.

Speaking of computer bags, Rudy also approves of Daphne's.

In the end, Carol opts back to the bedroom.
You might wonder, "What about Aish?" Well, she has her own place of comfort and hiding. I'd be lying if I didn't say that it freaks me out a little bit, as it has a horrifically "Phantom of the Opera" quality about it.

That's right. Aish has turned into a skulking lurker. She's hanging out... the fireplace.
Plotting our demise, no doubt. She rests, but she never sleeps... neverrrr sleeeeeeepssss.

Wherein All of Your Questions are Answered (the ones you have a right to ask, anyway)

1) Yes. Yes, we really did get married on April 1. There are pictures here, at Alec Hilliard Photography. I highly recommend him, by the way, for all of your pictorial needs.

The April 1 idea was James', and it was brilliant. I was impressed by his restraint in lack of squirt flower abuse, given the ample opportunities presented throughout the day. I gave him the beer case hat for Valentine's, as a schmaltzy "welcome to Texas" gift. He does not actually drink Lone Star beer. (It's important to me that you respect him.)

Vince at the Cathedral of Junk is an amazing human being. You should go see his art, and donate money to him because he won't charge you, or even give you an idea of what's "fair" to help support him.

If you're still having trouble wrapping your mind around this, here's the video:

Somehow, I managed to snag the most incredible man ever, right?

2) Yes! I am Mrs. James Ashley. I am also, however, Ms. Laura Hattaway. For now. (If that doesn't make sense to you, you can research the historical meaning of "Mrs." and then feel like a dunderhead for calling women "Mrs." in conjunction with their first names, which is totally inappropriate.)

James and I are going on a trip to Haiti in June, to meet the people, to build a couple of houses, to get to know the culture better, and to partner with Help One Now as we learn about their extensive work there. Since we need passports for this trip, there will be no name changes until late June.

When we do change our names (and, yes, I said "we"), we are going to combine the last names with which we were born and both change our surnames to Gatannah.

3) AM. That's when I got out of bed. Now it's 4:26 AM, and my body is begging me to try to get a couple more hours' of sleep. To be continued...

Monday, April 1, 2013

Welcome to the New Normal!

We moved!

That might be understating it.

I got married! We're officially a new family! AND we moved!

Going from the 300 square feet of RV to which I'd grown accustomed to over the past two years to 1100 square feet, and from two separate residences worth of "stuff" (in all truth, James had enough stuff for about 4 people) to one, and the weeks and weeks (adding up to a month) of unpacking, and planning a super small, uber-quiet (which is totally against my grain!) wedding has been an adventure!

And, honestly, I'm glad those parts of the adventure are over. I'm ready to start our new adventures together. (As I write this, it's still pre-wedding, so I *am* looking forward to that. It's going to be a fun day!)

We're no longer living in a van down by the river, but we are living in a small house near the very heart of Austin. I won't tell you where, specifically, because I don't want you showing up unannounced like the myriad of homeless people we have the privilege of meeting (and I mean that in all sincerity; it's another part of the adventure that is going to be awesome), but we're somewhere along the border of the UT campus and downtown.

There are a million restaurants (perhaps this is overstatement, but only a tad), a giant greenbelt park, grocery stores (local and chains), and businesses within easy walking distance, and SoCo and Zilker Park within easy biking or "I felt like taking a hike today, anyway" distance.

The house we're renting was built in the 1920s and, characteristic of that age, does not have much closet space. When I say "not much," I mean there is a tiny coat closet in the master bedroom and an even tinier linen closet in the bathroom.

Wait. How about this. Want a tour? Here are some pictures I took on our overcast move-in day.

Aish manning the front window, with our super awesome porch in the background.

The living and dining area.

The awesome mantle/built-ins in the living room.

One fun little bathroom for three people. And cats.

This allows our guests to peruse the "medicine cabinet" with impunity.

The generous shelving provided in the kitchen means that we have not one, not two, but three baker's racks! The first is for pots, pans, and small appliances.

The open pantry. I really love it!

The master bedroom, with awesome windows!

This is my "closet." James has one for his clothes, too. He went into this with more clothes than I have, but now I think we're about even.

Daphne's room. She has the same kind of closet system that we do. Not the greatest view, but lots of light, and her room is so much fun.

So, that's the tour! Thanks for changing your bookmarks and subscribing over here. There is cool stuff to come, so stay tuned!