Sunday, November 30, 2008

Last Day of NaNoWriMo ...

And I MADE IT!

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Fifty thousand words. (50,421 words in 90 single spaced pages, to be precise.)

It is not, by any means, in publishable form. And my characters are petty and childish sometimes, and the dialogue drags, and the story itself isn't even finished. (The main characters still have to make up at the firm's Christmas Party, and then everyone can live happily ever after. Yes, it is that cliche.)

But STILL! Fifty thousand words in one month! I didn't think it was possible.

Steven's already told me what my "next book" should be about. He even picked character names and everything. I told him he ought to write it. He shook his head.

"I'm the big-picture person. You get to write the details."

And that's how we do things, folks. :)

Next up? National Novel Editing-and-Rewriting Month...

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Turkey Pot Pie

After the classic Thanksgiving spread (and you'd better not forget the cranberry sauce shaped like a can... it is essential to Thanksgiving)...

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(Mr. and Mrs. Pilgrim are also essential.)

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And after the ubiquitous open-face hot turkey sandwich with various reheated side dishes, your humble correspondent began to wonder if there were any other possibilities for that enormous Tupperware dish full of roasted turkey. (Is it just me or does it seem to multiply in there overnight?)

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This morning, as I pondered a frugal way to use up the leftover turkey, I remembered a recipe for chicken pot pie that I'd printed out a while back but never managed to make. I'd been planning to buy a rotisserie chicken to skip the "roast the chicken" part, but hey, I have roasted turkey RIGHT HERE!

With a bit of tweaking... (okay, who am I kidding. I subbed roasted turkey for the roasted chicken in the recipe and halved the whole thing. Other than that, its identical. I do not have the skill set to tweak recipes) ... I am happy to report that Turkey Pot Pie was a total hit in our house.

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In fact, it smelled so good coming out of the oven, I couldn't even get a picture before we'd already dug in.

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Steven even asked for seconds. That is the hallmark of a good recipe.

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(I might have had seconds, too.)

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We've got enough for one more meal, which pleases the budget-checker in me, but its disappearing fast.

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Turkey Pot Pie (adapted from Smitten Kitchen)
For the dough:
1.5 cups of flour
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 stick of cold unsalted butter, diced
1/4 cup ice water
1 egg beaten with 1 tablespoon water, for egg wash

For the filling:
3 cups roasted turkey, cubed
1 chicken boullion cube
2.5 cups chicken stock (I actually used 2 cups (one can) plus 1/2 cup of water)
3/4 stick of unsalted butter
1 onion, chopped
1/2 cup flour
1/8 cup heavy cream
1 cup frozen carrots
1 cup frozen peas and pearl onions (you can omit the pearl onions if you want)
1 teaspoon dried parsley

To make the pasty, mix the flour, salt, and baking powder together in your blender. Add the diced butter and mix quickly with your fingers until each piece is coated with flour. Pulse until the butter globs are the size of peas. Add the ice water; process only enough to moisten the dough and have it just come together. Dump the dough out onto a floured board and knead quickly into a ball. Wrap the dough in plastic and allow it to rest in the refrigerator for 30 minutes. (This can also be made a day or more in advance -- I made the dough this morning before we went out for breakfast, and it sat in the fridge for about 8 hours. No problemo.)

To make the filling, preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Heat the chicken stock in a small saucepan and dissolve the bouillon cube in the stock. In a large stockpot, melt the butter and saute the onions over medium-low heat for 10 to 15 minutes, until translucent. Add the flour and cook over low heat, stirring constantly, for 2 minutes. Add the hot chicken stock to the sauce. Simmer over low heat for 1 more minute, stirring, until thick. Add 1 teaspoon kosher salt, 1/4 teaspoon pepper, and the heavy cream. Add the cubed turkey, frozen carrots, frozen peas and onions, and the dried parsley. Mix well and remove from heat.

Roll out your dough to roughly the size of the baking dish you plan to use. (Make sure your dish isn't too huge, or your dough will sink in the middle. You might try two smaller dishes instead of one larger dish.) Brush the outside edges of the baking dish with the egg wash, then place the dough on top. Trim the dough to 1/2-inch larger than the top of the baking dish. Crimp the dough to fold over the side, pressing it to make it stick. Brush the dough with egg wash and make 3 slits in the top. Sprinkle with kosher salt and black pepper. Place on a baking sheet and bake for 1 hour, or until the top is golden brown and the filling is bubbling hot.

And then grin as your household taste-tester (read: Steven) asks for seconds.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Thankful

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Our little 4-pounder, stuffed with citrus fruit and fresh out of the oven.

Happy Thanksgiving, everybody.

Arlington Turkey Trot 2008

Back in June, Steven decided that he wanted to start getting into shape. He mapped out a running course around our apartment complex and started running every other day. One day, we measured the course -- it was approximately 0.8 of a mile. Around August, he upped the mileage to twice around the course -- 1.6 miles.

Then I mentioned running a 5K together. Steven was up for it, but he was convinced we'd have to walk at least some of it. I mean, three-point-one miles? It just seemed like forever.

We signed up to run the Arlington Turkey Trot on Thanksgiving morning at 8 AM. In the weeks and days leading up to the race, we got our mileage as high as 2.5 miles, but we never ran a full three miles.

This morning, at 6:30 AM, we left our house and drove to Arlington. We parked along the race course, walked through the blistering cold to the church hosting the event, and picked up our race packets (including a t-shirt, our numbers, and quite randomly, some peppermints). We sat in the car with the heat on until around 7:40 AM. I would guess it was about 35 degrees out at the start of the race. Maybe 40, tops.

We stood about halfway back from the start line. There were probably 1,500 people running the race, and when they started running, Steven looked at me and said, "Oh man, it looks like those zombie movies!" I looked ahead, and sure enough, the crowd of bobbing heads did look like a swarm of the undead. The undead and the very, very cold.

But! It warmed up as we ran, and I am here to officially inform you all that we totally rocked the Turkey Trot.

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Totally rocked it.

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My Inga Hat served its purposes and kept my head warm, although I wished for the first mile that I'd brought mittens, too. But by the time we got into a good solid running pace, my hands warmed up and I didn't even notice the cold anymore.

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And besides, this guy likes to run fast. I wasn't used to going anywhere near that pace on my own (we run at different times of day), so it was sometimes hard to keep up with him.

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(But I managed. Also, since my number is lower, I think that means I beat him, right?)

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There were people lining the course, cheering us on, and we could hear the footsteps of the people behind us, and it was really good motivation to keep running, lest ye be trampled. When we rounded the third mile and saw the finish line, Steven looked at me and said, "Look! The timer!" I looked, and the race clock was much lower than I thought it would be! Steven kicked it into high gear and so I followed suit, and we sprinted across the finish line.

It was incredibly awesome.

After the race, we had to stop and untie our timer chips from our shoes. It was actually pretty high tech -- they had a timing device that you stepped across to begin the race, and a second timing device for the finish. I'm looking forward to finding out what our "official race time" was. The clock said something like 34:18 when we crossed the finish, but we started a bit later than the actual race time because of the crowds.

And look! We got t-shirts!

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I might wear mine the rest of the day, I am so proud of us. We didn't walk, not one single moment of walking. Even by the water table, we grabbed a cup and I tried to take a sip without breaking my stride and nearly choked myself. I ended up just aiming in the general area of my face with the water and then hoping it wouldn't turn into an ice beard as I ran. (It didn't.)

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They had bananas, oranges, water and (most importantly) Starbucks for us at the finish line. We didn't stick around for the door prizes part, because we were starving. Steven requested "bacon and eggs. And toast. And eggs -- like 4 or 5 of them. And donuts."

We stopped by the grocery on our way home and then feasted on a well-deserved breakfast.

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So there you have it. Our first 5K together. I hadn't run one in years, maybe since I was like 18 or so... and Steven had never run a road race before.

But thanks to his dutiful training and some sweet UnderArmor running gear, he is now officially a runner.

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In fact, we both are. Go Mighty Steele Running Team.

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(Are we done with pictures now? Good, I'm freezing. Let's get inside -- I've got a turkey to cook, and I'm less than 10,000 words away from finishing Nanowrimo.)

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Our First House (Pending Various Contingencies, All Rights Reserved, And Other Such Legal Jargon)

Introducing...

(the house that will hopefully be) Our First Home.

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This house was listed as a foreclosure, which means it is currently bank-owned. Sometimes foreclosures can be scary -- the people who live in them pre-foreclosure will sometimes destroy them before they finally get kicked out.

So when we opened the door to check this place out, we weren't sure what we'd find.

And what we did find was breathtaking.

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Directly to the left when you walk in the front door, there is a beautiful sitting room with a big bay window (above).

And to the right is a formal dining room (I am standing in the dining room taking this picture).

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From the dining room, you can see into the kitchen (where I am going over the contract with our realtor).

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And here is a good shot of the front foyer.

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From the front foyer, you can also see down the hallway into the living room (with a fireplace!).

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Off to the side of the hallway is a half bath.

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And here's the living room. (So bright!)

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Standing in the living room, you can see into the kitchen (its very open).

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And standing in the kitchen, you can see into the living room!

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And look! Gas stove! (This was my non-negotiable. Yes. I am stubborn. This should not surprise anyone.)

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Off to the side of the kitchen is a mudroom with a washer and dryer. (And lots of shelves!) The door there leads to the garage.

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And we'll take a (quick) jaunt into the basement. (Barnum & Bailey lived down here, apparently.) (Yes. We will be painting. Feel free to volunteer your help. :)

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And now let's go upstairs!

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Here is the smallest bedroom (#1).

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And here is bedroom #2.

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Bedroom #3 is brought to you by Minnie Mouse.

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Here's the upstairs full bath. Its yellow with white tile. Its kind of cute, and I might not even paint it.

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The master bedroom, however, will be the first thing we paint. Because, yes, it is fuchsia. (Part of me wants to ask the bank if they foreclosed on Barbie & Ken, but I'd better not...) (Also, gold curtains? Seriously? Wow...)

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The master bath is a bit better, but I truly do not understand the wallpaper border. (I like the fixtures though. Those can stay.) I didn't manage to get a picture of the tub, but just trust me that it says "jacuzzi" on it. Oh, happiness.

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And now to the backyard! (I don't think the chairs convey...)

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Master Steele decided to survey the grounds of his (well, potentially his) property.

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Pringles and Carlie specifically requested a special place to pee. I do hope we've delivered on that request.

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So there you have it! The inspection will be sometime in the next week, so please keep your fingers crossed for us that nothing is too horribly wrong with it. I'd be sad to lose this one -- its quite a find. Our little slice of the American Dream, right? :)

Friday, November 21, 2008

Drumroll, Please...

To all of you waiting with bated breath ....

We got the house! The bank accepted our offer today and we will be closing in mid-December! Unfortunately, because they took the listing down, I have no pictures to offer you. (Furthermore, the house needs a good scrub before it will truly be picture-worthy.)

We are going to the house again tomorrow, just because, and I am taking my camera. Provided the pictures look halfway-decent, we'll show you the house tomorrow afternoon!

Wish us luck -- we've got inspections and contingencies to go, and we're charging full-speed-ahead.

Eee! So exciting!

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Waiting . . .

Alright, I'll spill the beans. We put in an offer on a house yesterday. And I am here to inform you that the waiting and waiting and waiting to hear back is unbearable. I remember having to wait like this for bar results, and this is almost worse. With the bar results, I had at least convinced myself that if I failed the bar, I could just go take it again, no problem, it just would delay my life by 6 months or so.

But with the offer, I'm not sure what to tell myself:

"It's ok, they'll probably just counter." But I want them to just take it! I know its unlikely, but I would be so happy if we didn't have to haggle like a merchant in Chinatown. This is not a fake Rolex we're buying here...

"It's ok, they said they would get back to you within 48 hours." Forty-eight hours is an eternity. That's by noonish tomorrow. Tomorrow? I am in my worst Veruca Salt moment, and I want it now! Good thing we didn't offer on a short sale. I would be a total wreck if we had to wait indefinitely.

So I'm here, biting my fingernails. Wish us luck. (Lord knows I'll be even more of a wreck if they accept our offer, since that starts the whole inspections/document review part of the process. Aack. My "what-if" sensors are on hyperdrive.)

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Hemlock Ring Blanket

As a first note of utmost importance, IT SNOWED TODAY! It was a high of 38 degrees all day today, and right around noon, I looked out the window and there were flurries! Nothing stuck, of course. In fact, a flake would hit the window and instantly melt right there before your eyes.

But who cares! Its SNOW!

And we all know, when it starts snowing, you get to break out the big knits.

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This winter, Erica and I have officially decided to take the Hemlock Ring Blanket challenge. What is the challenge, you ask? Oh. Well, actually its just to finish the thing. We're making it from EcoWool, which has 478 yards per skein. We bought two of them. (Each.)

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I wasn't sure if I was going to like working with this yarn, since it has a sort of rustic quality to it, and sometimes rustic = scratchy.

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But this stuff is not scratchy. Its thick and cushy and delicious. And the same day that we bought the yarn, I wound the first skein into a ball. A ball that was approximately the size of my entire head.

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Dog included below for scale.

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Against my better judgment, I took it with me on vacation as my plane project. I was totally convinced that it would take me months to make this blanket, and I wasn't sure it would be a good idea to lug that huge ball of yarn on the plane (there AND back).

Here's the blanket in its early stages.

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And here it is on the plane. As you can see, it had already grown lots bigger, and that was nearly three weeks ago. My obsessive knitting resulted in finishing the entire first skein in Florida, which further resulting in my having to wait to get back home to start the second one. (No worries. I totally packed like 6 different knitting projects. Come on, what did you expect? Back up projects are a must.)

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Since it was snowing outside today (!), I haven't gotten any good outdoor pictures of the blanket at its current sprawling size. Folded over on the needles, its about the size of a pillowcase, which means it will be double that size off the needles. And I'm only a tiny bit into the second skein.

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Its gonna be huuuuuge. And awesomely warm. Let it snow. I will bury myself in 800 some odd yards of wool.