Category Archives: friends

S’mores, FTW!

ingredients for smores, marshmallows, graham crackers and chocolateSo neither the s’more room nor the snore room plans were executed as we initially hoped, but we’re still living the dream. At the moment the dream feels a bit nightmarish given that we’re down two bathrooms, my living room looks like a warehouse for a plumbing supply outlet, there is dust everywhere and our wood floors are a mess. This is why we’re going low-key with our weekend entertaining.

By low-key, I mean not more than a few hours of advance planning and crossing my fingers that we keep the party, S’more Fest, outside. And also crossing my legs that no one has to use the bathroom during our short fete.

We bought a $5 metal fire pit at a garage sale last summer. I scraped off the rust, sprayed on new paint, and we were good to go.

The old girl, er grill, is still doing the job and we’re using remains of the bushes we chopped down last year for the fire, so if you discount the boatload of carbon emissions we’ll be releasing, it’ll be kind of a green party.

Anyhoo, given that last night’s practice mini-s’mores fest involving just five neighborhood boys resulted in the use of nearly an entire bag of marshmallows, I’m not sure how many bags I need to pick up for tonight.

(Especially because I’m not exactly sure who’s coming–see paragraph 2.)

(If you happen to read this before 8:00 on Saturday and you’re local, stop over!)

On a related note, I’m thinking of re-upping at Weight Watchers after a few months away. Apparently my dietary self-control is limited unless I’m paying someone to hold me accountable. *sigh*

This is not a sponsored post or party (see note about running to the store), but FYI, Hershey’s is giving away cool prizes like fire pits that are much nicer than the one we’ll be using tonight. Check out the Hershey’s Facebook page for deets and promise to invite me over if you win. In exchange I’ll teach you my special golden double-roasted marshmallow technique.

Making Schmaltz: Getting Ready for Our First Seder

rendered chicken fatIt’s hard to believe I made it into my 40s without hosting a Passover Seder, but it’s true. Sometimes it’s good to live near so many family members. Also, our previous house couldn’t handle a crowd of more than about 10 without feeling cramped, so we were voted Most Uncomfortable Place to Host Family Gathering. That label was not without its perks, but honestly, we’re excited to cook clean and host this special dinner.

We are doing it and doing it big. We’re expecting  about 20 22 25 27 folks.

(No, the house is not that big.)

(Yes, we only own 12 chairs at the moment.)

I’ve been busy preparing a haggadah, the booklet that guides the seder, as well as doing a lot of cooking.

Thanks to a gentle nudge from Ciaran at Momfluential, I rendered my own chicken fat, or schmaltz in the vernacular. After reading her post on the topic, I was grossed out, but intrigued.

I told my husband I was considering making schmaltz.

“That sounds like a messy and ridiculous waste of time,” he replied.

And then I knew I had to do it.

I needed chicken thighs for a dinner recipe, so I bought ones with skin and ripped that off for rendering. I couldn’t find skinned, Kosher chicken thighs (the schmaltz factory beat me to it?), so I got the next best thing. Maybe. Halal chicken.

Does this mean I’ve made the world’s first Muslim matzah balls?

Regardless, here’s a quick tutorial.

Skin the chicken. I used 3 pounds of chicken thighs, give or take.

chicken skin to make schmaltz

Add some chopped onion and water to a pan.

making schmaltz, chicken fat

Add the chicken skin and heat it all over a medium/high flame.

rendering chicken fat

Continue heating for a good 20 minutes or so.

rendering chicken fat

If time allows (i.e. you do not look at the clock and realize you need to pick up your child from school in three minutes) continue cooking the skin until it crisps for a delicious, high-calorie snack laden with saturated fat.

If you’re in a rush, remove the skin and drain on a paper towels and then quickly strain the rendered fat into a jar. Refrigerate when cooled.

strain rendered chicken fat

I was was concerned the rendering chicken fat would stink up my kitchen a la Chanukah latkes, but it actually left a pleasant scent that felt like home, something along the lines of simmering chicken soup.

Speaking of which, after mixing up a couple of batches of matzah balls, pictured below cooling in the Chicago Fridge, I’d realized our crowd had grown too large for the tricky logistics of serving soup. So much for planning ahead.

matzah balls chilling in the chicago fridge

The Chicago Fridge

Food cooling on porch

Steaming hot chili cools off in the Chicago Fridge.

Like many of Chicago’s mid-century homes, we have an enclosed porch (AKA 3-season room, bonus room or Florida room) off of the kitchen at the rear of the house. Ours is in need of an overhaul, but when we asked our general contractor to jack up a corner of it, he cautioned us that what we thought might be a $400 job, could turn into an expensive rebuild.

We decided to live with the ramshackle look a bit longer. It’s vintage chic, right?

Even in its rundown condition, the room has its uses. Even, nay, especially, in the 4th season. The uninsulated room is like a second, giant refrigerator. But it wasn’t until Jen saw me place a setaming bowl of chili on the porch to cool that I heard the room referred to as the Chicago Fridge.

We often place hot items out there to cool rather than overwork our fridge. In the dead of winter, we can freeze things, too.

Now that it’s warming up and we can use the room as more than an extension of our refrigerator (and garage and mudroom), I’m dusting, scrubbing and organizing it. I’ll be back soon with pictures.

Do you have one of these fab little bonus rooms?

 

A Quick Update

tween room painted gray with Benjamin Moore

Me: You sure you want to paint your room blue? Tween: Yes. Me: Sure? Tween: Yes. Me: Okay, I'm going to get the paint. Tween: No, make it gray.

Sorry, I don’t have time for deeply reflective end-of-year navel gazing at the moment. I’m working my way through a client project and my boys are on school break. I decided to use this first week of break to practice with my Science Olympiad team. I’m coaching food science and scheduled my group for three, three-hour sessions. We’re capping off our marathon sessions with a Cookie Cafe tonight at the new house.

Only it’s still a construction zone.

That was not the plan.

You know that scene in Poltergeist where the mom is running down a hallway to get her daughter only the hallway starts stretching out before her getting longer and longer?

I feel like that mom.

The end is in sight, and each day there’s a little more progress, yet the end goal seems to be moving further and further away.

At any rate, our appliances arrived last week. I was certain that we were to be called within 30 minutes of delivery, so rather than wait around the house, I ran errands close to home, waiting for The Call. It never came and it turns out my painter signed for the washing machine, dryer, disposer, microwave, dishwasher, range and refrigerator.

Yeah, he’s helpful like that. I wasn’t so thrilled with our appliance provider, though.

Our counter tops were installed earlier this week. It was touch and go for a while there. We hit a major road block a few hours into the day, but managed to get things resolved without any f-bombs, threats or extra money spent, unless, you count the “beer money” we gave the installers when they finished up.

We decided to hire a painting crew–yes the same one from the thing on the living room ceiling (which they were very agreeable about resolving). As power painters, I thought they’d be in and out in a few days. They are not.

Which is good.

The paint crew of 2-3 guys is doing an astonishing amount of patching, especially on our old walls. I would have only spackled over a few of the larger nail holes. So far, the pros seems well worth the money. I’ll chime in when the work is done.

Only the painters’ work is not done because all of the trim isn’t in yet.

All of the trim isn’t in yet because we were waiting on some of the new doors.

Oh, and install on our luxury shower? Delayed due to a tile issue. The issue was noticed and resolved in the same day, but not in enough time for the plumber to finish his job. Which means he’s coming back…when? Good question.

And how could I forget? The fancypants new bed sleep system arrived. It showed up the afternoon of the nearly-botched counter top install. I was nervous about getting the heavy mechanical base up our flight of stairs and maneuvered into the room, so it’s just as well I wasn’t there to fret about it. Apparently workmen do not appreciate it when you anxiously stand over their shoulders watching their every move (nevermind recording it for. your. blog). While the delivery men were making their way up the stairs (with the help of our painters!), I was stranded in a parking lot, waiting for a knight in shining armor to show up from AAA and jump my car.

Speaking of the sleep system, remeber this?

Actually, I feel like I’ve cleared my head a little now that I’ve written this post. And watching that video I shot the day we closed on the house, I realize how far we’ve really come.

Spam commenters and internet stalkers aside, I’d love to have you over in the new year! Just gimme a few more days weeks months to get ready.

Kim and Kris are Together Again! Let’s Celebrate

craftswomen bathroom signKim and Kris are together again. The truth is, they never really broke up. Kim Moldofsky and Kris Cain are hosting a Chicago Blogger Holiday Bash with Craftsman this Saturday night.

It all started when we met Ty Pennington at the Craftsman Experience last summer. I had been thinking that I’d like to host a holiday event for my blog friends, but I suspected that our house wouldn’t be ready for me to host one. Kris and I got to talking and pitched our idea to Craftsman, and by next Monday, the rest will be history.

Craftsman is providing the party place, along with food, drink, and yes, a DIY craft as well as handy holiday swag. Kris and I have contacted some of our favorite brands and clients to arrange fabulous door prizes that night.

ConAgra Foods has a lovely gift basket, Serta is going to provide a couple of super comfy memory foam pillows, we’ve got 3 Striiv units to give away, Sky High Sports in Niles is providing a handful of passes and there’s more. And, of course, Craftsman is stepping up with a grand prize to give away at the end of the night.

Good times y’all!

Register by 11/16. See you there? If not, follow along on Twitter at #CraftsmanBlogBash

Cross-posted at Hormone-colored Days.

 

Eat, Play, Love in the Kitchen

I love to read about my friends and their renovations. This past week Denise from Eat, Play, Love showed off some budget-friendly kitchen updates. She and I have the same cabinets–for now. Mine should be going soon and hers will be going eventually, too. You see, she just made a few changes to make her kitchen a bit more user-friendly. For instance, she got rid of the good fair/evil elf that used to watch over her while she did the dishes. She’s holding out another year or two for a gut remodel. Given how much time a family spends in the kitchen, that could seem like a very long wait.

It’s always interesting to see how a few changes and a fresh coat of paint can really update a room.

If you’re a friend of mine, be sure to let me know about your renovation efforts. Want to be featured here or guest post? Drop me a note.