Category Archives: Kim

The Blind Guy

The blind guy was here and, though I’m not proud to admit it, I did place stumbling blocks before him. Of course if he had called to let me know he was on his way, I could have done a little cleaning first.

Nearly four months of living here and we’re ready to get rid of those temporary blinds. You know those cheap paper things? We’ve got them everywhere. Well, not everywhere, in our bedroom, we draped a dropcloth one of our workmen left behind.

Yes, I washed it before hanging it. (And it was brand new, FWIW.)

I realize we’ve taken shabby chic to a new low, but that’s how I roll.

We’re ordering most of our window treatments from a Big Box store. For less than $120 they will provide the measuring and installation for all of the window treatments. Given that we’re covering nearly 20 windows, it’s a worthwhile expense.

Now that the measurements are done, we’ll be able to place our order next week. Or the week after. We’re not great at making decorating choices, so I tend to drag my feet on them. Eventually DH gets fed up with my procrastination and I wind up making some random choice just be be done with the process. Wow, seeing that on the screen makes me realize just how dysfunctional the process is.

Is there a home decorating version of Garanimals? I need that.

I Got Carried Away in the Shower

Our Passover Seder was wonderful and now it’s time to get back to business–the business of renovation that is. We’ve got two bathrooms, the classic pink 1950s one and the kids’ one, that need more than facelifts. We’ve got to rip out walls, enhance wiring, add insulation, replace pipes and maybe relocate a few. Oh, and there’s a bit of HVAC work to be done, too.

On the bright side, the windows and tubs will stay.

We’ll be hiring out for the work, but Hubs thought we should take on some of the demo. It could save us a few bucks. More importantly, he feels that potential contractors will provide more accurate estimates if they can see what’s going on behind the walls.

Makes sense.

I started peeling off the plastic pink tiles on Sunday. They came off easily enough, but the adhesive behind them did not and apparently the stuff has a half-life on more than 50 years because it was off-gassing some nasty fumes. I’m sure whatever volatile chemicals were used in the old glue were banned in the 1980s because they cause brain cancer or something.

So on Monday I decided I had to move beyond tile peeling to full-out knocking down walls.

I gave myself about 90 minutes to do some work, but once I started taking down chunks of wall, I couldn’t stop.

By the time I stopped, I was so filthy that I didn’t dare rinse down in my precious shower. Instead, I cleaned up in the boys’ bathroom. It’s the first shower I’ve taken in there and now I understand why they are eager for a renovation. The shower spray is pitiful and deeply unsatisfying.

As far as what’s going on behind the walls, thankfully, there was nothing (not even a secret stash of cash) behind the soffit in the shower. However, there are two ducts running up the shower wall and another three (!) running up the wall next to it. Glad I didn’t bang full force into any of them.

Yesterday I chaperoned a school band and field trip and now I’m grabbing my safety glasses, work gloves, hat and dust mask and jumping back in.

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

Our Most Revealing Bathroom Post Yet: The Shower Video

I showed you bits of the master bathroom and took you on a photo tour of our fabulous shower, but you demanded more. And today, I’m bringing it.

 

Disclosure: Kohler provided their products at a discount. Our plumber did not.

Not How the Pioneer Woman Cooks

cast iron pan on a grillYeah, that’s me hunched over a small charcoal-fueled kettle grill cooking up some meat in my Lodge cast iron pan directly above a flame produced by leftover wood from our rehab because I couldn’t get the coals to burn the way (I think) they are supposed to.

This is what happens when my kids ask how I will grill without a “real” grill.

I taught them good lessons about improvising, the versatility of cast iron pans and dangerous ways a person can, but probably shouldn’t, use lighter fluid.

Dinner consisted of Krazy Kebabs (i.e. the veggies and meat were mixed up rather than cooked and presented served on a boring old skewer) (side note: where are my metal skewers?), braised mustard greens, roasted asparagus and greek-style pita. I served our little feast picnic style, on a blanket laid on the driveway.

 

dinner on a picnic blanket

This is called keeping it real, people. Go ahead and pin this. I dare you.

Just because this early spring that feels like summer is so uncharacteristic of Chicago weather patterns and therefore is a bit disturbing doesn’t mean we can’t enjoy it. Indeed, we had a lovely dinner.

I cleaned up most of our dinner, but I left my mess of a cast iron pan outside. DH later brought it in and scrubbed the whole thing, including its very charred bottom in my lovely Silgranit sink. Upon seeing the black mess he left behind, I went ballistic feared that perhaps he’d managed to destroy the indestructible sink. But a squirt of dish soap, a sprinkle of baking soda and some of my special brand of elbow grease got it looking like new again.

This weekend I’d like to buy a grill. Nothing too fancy. We need a propane grill for now, but hopefully, we’ll get a natural gas grill once we decide what we’re doing in the backyard in terms of a patio/porch/deck. We should have that figured out by, oh, 2015 or so. Any recommendations?

The Tax Nightmare is Over (I Hope)

tax timeWe moved in with my parents for a few months–back in 2008. And then we got stuck, until very recently. We’re now in a truly wonderful house, but staying with my parents for so long created a few problems, one of which was organization. Because I’m a hopeless optimist I have a very strong sense of denial, each month we lived with my p’s, I’d tell myself that in just another month or two we’d be back on our own. It was okay that I left this or that unfiled because soon enough I’d have a real office again.

I never got organized. I never put the right systems in place.

So when it was time to do my 2011 taxes, I was really scrambling. Most of my papers were here, but some were still at my parents. I was months behind in my bookkeeping.

But then I caught up.

Aaaaand then my computer crashed.

Needless to say, it was overdue for a backup.

So I had to enter months of financial data all over again.

Now everything is balanced, reconciled, and ready for the accountant.

I hope.

Business taxes are due March 15. You ready?