Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Pizza. Every. Week.

My husband shared a link to a free Pizza on the Grill Cookbook deal in June which amazing seems to still be available.  He’s obsessed with slickdeals which tends to work in my favor.  You pay $5 shipping and handling, but still it's a pretty good deal for the cookbook and two packs of the yeast.  Basically, Fleishmann's is pushing their new pizza crust yeast and the free cookbook is supposed to get you to want to purchase it.  Worked pretty well since I've bought two three packs of their yeast since.

I waited not so desperately for it to arrive since the form claimed it would take six to eight weeks to arrive.  It showed up in the mailbox several weeks sooner. I tried it out that night.

Of course, I read all the instructions or at least the whole introduction and basic instructions.  I’m a stickler for instructions.

Basically, you make the crust, stretch it out, and throw it on grill with the charcoal all shoved to the opposite side (i.e. the coals aren't right under your pizza.  It WILL burn if they are). You put the lid on and wait 3 minutes, then turn the crust 180 degrees (so the opposite side is towards the coals), put the lid back on and cook for another 3 minutes. Pull it off the grill and top with whatever you want. Then put it back on the grill, close the grill and wait 6-8 minutes or longer depending on how done you like your pizza and how hot your coals are. I like to position the vents in the top so I can see the pizza without opening the lid.

Stretching the crust out by hand and throwing it on the grill gives the pizza a nice rustic appearance that I love. 

If you want easy awesome thin crust you need to roll the crust out well beyond the thinness that seems reasonable.  Like, 1/8 of a inch or so. Trust me.  Little air pockets will puff up inside and it will be fabulous. It burns quick though, so keep an eye on it.

You can do the same thing in the oven. Crank it up as high as it will go and cook the crust right on the rack. I've been doing that more lately since it's been raining on the days I feel like pizza.

Note the conspicuous lack of color on one quarter of each pizza. Austin only likes meat and cheese on his, so his part isn't ever as pretty as the rest.

My new skill combined with a large supply of homemade pizza sauce have meant I've made pizza at least once a week ever since.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010


I ran a 5K race this weekend in my home town. I originally agreed because a couple of my friends who shall remain nameless convinced me it would be fun if we all ran it together. When I realized it was the same weekend I was supposed to run a 5K test for the novice half marathon training program I've been on I felt like I pretty much had to. I sent in my 15 dollars and committed.

Weeks later I find out the neither of them is planning on running. They both have legitimate excuses, but that is not the point. Neither one of them told me before I registered. Like they forgot or something. Ooops.

The only friend who actually ran it is WAY faster than me and therefore we both ran in the race, but I only saw him at the starting/finish line. Doesn't count as running with. In the end, I ran the 5K all by myself. Which is fine. Whatever.

My goal was to be able to jog the entire thing in under 28 minutes. I said 30 at the starting line, but that was a lie. I timed myself before I started training for the half and made 3 miles in 28 minutes. That's 9:20 a mile. I wanted to run at least that fast despite the vague illness I'd had all week.

I was tired and cold and didn't warm up. Not exactly optimal, but I finished in 24:58. That's an average of 8:20 a mile. According to the time keeper at the one mile line, my first was more like 8:32. The second was more like 8:15, and the third in 8:11. I know, you're thinking, "but Amber, a 5K is 3.1 miles." It is, but I mapped it. The course was actually 2.97. You'll note that I got faster with each mile. That's what happens when you don't warm up.

Turns out I won my age category (females 18-39). I only won because the community college's cross country team couldn't officially register, but I did finish before one of their members. It kind of made me wonder how fast I could run it if I got serious and warmed up and ran a race pace.

In response, I ran four miles fast enough to make myself throw up yesterday. Today I didn't run and I'm eating peach bourbon ice cream. You have to have priorities.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Inhumane working conditions.

I spent Sunday morning helping my in-laws replace some of the boards on their deck. If's kind of fun and I'm happy to help, but they were smoking at the same time on the same deck. It's a very large deck and the smoker was well away from where we were working, but the smell wafted over.

Have you ever tried to do physical labor while smelling ribs and jerky smoke? It's practically impossible. It was like I was in some hostage situation. I could smell the meat, but I couldn't eat it. For hours. And I had to work while I was waiting.

Then my mother-in-law had the audacity to give me a piece of jerky. A piece. One. Single. Piece. A piece of jerky fresh out of the smoker is about the most delicious and wholly unsatisfying thing I have ever eaten. All it does is make you want more, but you can't have any more. It's not ready and everybody else only got one piece so you're this horrible person if you have more than you're fair share.

So I slaved away for like two and a half hours before being served a huge pile of amazing ribs. Woe is me.

Friday, September 24, 2010

To Do List.

I told my mom the other day that I have the attention span of a two year old with ADD.

She laughed.

That's not funny. It's only funny if it isn't really true. I checked some websites and they tell me that a two year old without ADD should be able to pay attention to something for 5 or 6 minutes.

Five or six minutes?!

Are you kidding me? I haven't been able to think about one thing for 5 or 6 minutes in months. I think about things over and over, but never for any significant period of time. I can't even write a blog post without getting distracted and doing something else, and then something else, and then seeing the blogger tab and thinking, "oh yeah....the blog. I should finish that," and then finishing it the next morning. This post took like seven to twelve tries. I don't know really. I didn't have the attention span to keep track.

I think this is all a sign of the fact that my brain has way too much to think about at any given time and I'm having a hard time prioritizing things so that I can decide what is most important RIGHT NOW and think about that. Everything seems to be important and everything needs to get done.

Lists are my salvation.

I've decided to start putting everything on my to do list so that I remember them even piddly shit. Yesterday's looked like this

print pay stubs
move belhaven
get Jordan pdfs
do the laundry
email Jessie back/schedule session
make a power point for your public defense
brush your fucking teeth. it's gross.

I literally had to put brush your teeth on my to do list. That's ridiculous. To be fair, my life lacks a certain sense of order and habit and leaving the house that I think most people rely on to brush their teeth. I try to do it after I've had my coffee and before lunch, but I just can't seem to remember it for long enough to actually get it done.

God help me.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

I love breakfast.

Inspired by Poor Girl Gourmet, I busted out a seriously homey breakfast this morning. She made eggs in a nest and put jam on the cut out, but to be real honest I'm not all about the cutting out and dealing with the center bit. I fried a piece of toast with butter on both sides and topped it with an over medium egg.

I know you're cringing, Mom. Over medium. The ever so slightly liquid-y yolk is freaking delicious and I'm willing to risk the salmonella. I really hate fully cooked egg yolks and I always will.

My husband even graciously allowed me the last of his orange juice. Sorry I didn't take a picture. It didn't last very long.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

A less than scientific experiment.

I'm a scientist. That's what I do. I think my upbringing had a lot to do with that. In fact, I should probably have a whole post about scientific experiments in my childhood.

Yesterday, there were these pork cutlets in the fridge. They were purchased at a reduced price since they were near the sell by date and really needed to be consumed. 

What does one do with pork cutlets? Good question. I had no idea. They reminded me of pork minutes steaks which is pretty much what they are, but I only know one way to cook minute steaks and I don't think Austin was a fan the last time I busted that one out.

Internet to the rescue, or more accurately Real Simple and EatingWell to the rescue. They are the mainstay of my recipe searches. My friend Jen first introduced my to Real Simple magazine and my mom got me a subscription for Christmas last year. I have big plans to cut and paste together a cookbook of their recipes. Austin has an even better idea, but that's top secret until it exists. EatingWell became a part of my life when I tried to be supportive and joined the National Body Challenge. Yet another story deserving an individual post. They have recipes that are as healthy as possible without losing the flavor. And they aren't afraid of  heavy cream. I respect them for that.

Real Simple offered up a whopping 251 recipes in response to my search for "pork cutlet," although only nine actually had cutlet in the name and they all appear to be variations on the same basic recipe. Still, a good selection of options especially if they're tasty. EatingWell seemed to be less stoked about pork cutlets because they only came up with three results. A bunch more for turkey cutlets and chicken cutlets, but only three pork cutlets. They had a baked version of the same basic breaded pork cutlet recipe called Golden Baked Pork Cutlets.

Mental thought process - A healthier, baked version of comfort food is always welcome, but sometimes I get a little flack for that.    Maybe I should just go with the fried version?    Hmmm.    Why don't I make both? Then I can test them and see if one is really better than the other in direct comparison. None of that "this is how I remember it tasting" action to deal with.

I decided to test out the Pork Cutlets with Potato Salad from Real Simple. Austin had requested potato salad and I aim to please so it was the obvious choice and the baked Eatingwell version. Since I tend to forget to document my projects I enlisted Austin to photograph the whole shebang. You can thank him for the visuals.

I set up all the necessary ingredients for each recipe in my work area which involved a lot of bowls since both had three layers in the breading process and went to work.

The man can make a pile of flour on a plate look nice.
Artsy meat. Mmmm.
I ran out of the outer breading using the EatingWell measurements. To be fair, I did technically use a little more meat than the recipe called for, but I was trying to use the stuff up.

Cutlet with pathetic lack of breading

No such problems with the Real Simple recipe. Plenty of extra I had to toss in the compost pile, but those cutlets were coated.

Well coated cutlets

Action bake shot
Action fry shot 
We tried both. I had mine with a Shiner Oktoberfest and brussels sprouts.

You can taste a difference, but it's minor. I think it's mostly the flour interior breading on the fried version as opposed to corn starch on the baked. I vote flour dredging and using two egg whites then following the EatingWell recipe, but making double the breading and freezing the extra. Austin votes fry, but he doesn't cook.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

The Illustrated Discovery Journal

UPDATE: This post is so BP (Before Pinterest), but I think there is still a certain satisfaction that can only be obtained from sitting down with scissors and glue.

Yesterday I talked about my illustrated discovery journal. If you've read Simple Abundance by Sarah Ban Breathnach and I know some of you have at least once, if not more than that, you're familiar with the concept. I'm not sure I've ever made it through the entire year reading once a day, but I think I've read the entire book numerous times.  "The Illustrated Discovery Journal" makes an appearance on January 28th. I didn't start one the first or the second or third time I read the book. I didn't need it then.

I didn't really need the book then either. When I first read it I was like "authentic self"? Isn't that who you are? That's who I was and I couldn't figure out how anyone could need help getting in touch with her. Then I went to graduate school. They aren't really keen on authentic selves like mine there. Not at all. Or at least I didn't feel like they were and my authentic self got hidden back where she was safe and could exist without anyone in my new world noticing too much. My authentic self is really fun and ridiculous and she makes people who are trying to be serious about things that aren't that important to real life really uncomfortable. She'd rather bake cookies and laugh than worry about the politics of departmental interactions.

I needed an illustrated discovery journal a year or two ago when I actually needed to rediscover my authentic self. She'd been hidden away from most of my life for so long I could barely remember what she looked like. I know. It was only a couple of years, but it felt like forever. It was an emergency operation. My friend Lisa even generously donated piles of old magazines for the project.

I think Austin might have thought I was a little nuts. He's pretty good friends with my authentic self, but she tends not tell him about how little face time she gets with other people. I cut a ton of pictures and kept them in a pile and then one day I glued, and glued, and glued them in. The whole house smelled like adhesive. My fingers were sticky and my index finger had a semi-permanent indentation from the tip of the spray glue can, but I felt like I was getting somewhere. Looking through that book made me happy in a way I hadn't been for a while. It was a book all about and for me. No one else. It was exhilarating.

I made a digital version of my journal so that I could send it to my family as a sort of Christmas wish list after I realized that the things I really want aren't things you can generally find in a major retail store. I like found things, and re-made things, and experiences.

My Illustrated Discovery Journal

I'm all about spa style bathroom relaxation. And I figured that out my looking at my journal. I really didn't know how important fluffy towels and pedicures were to me until I looked at it and realized what those pictures meant. I love distressed wood furniture and pretty food and I'm a little goofy sometimes. I actually had a really hard time with the alligator in the toilet image for a while. I felt weird about putting it in since the rest is so generally pretty and home and garden magazine-esque. I'm still trying to come to terms with just how my inner four year old fits in with everything else.

In case you're curious. I still haven't found the base for the desk on page two, but I will someday when the time is right.

I haven't worked on it in a while. I love it even more looking back at it now. Sarah says the key to loving how you live is in knowing what it is you truly love and I'm working on it. Looks like I need to find my scissors.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Ana White Rocks My Face Off.

UPDATE: Ana wrote a book, The Handbuilt Home. If by some miracle you found my blog without linking from her site you should know that it exists.

I've been obsessing about this woman's blog for a while, If we're tight you might have even gotten an email linking to her blog. I found it when I was searching for plans for the Farmhouse Salvaged Wood Rectangular Extension Dining Table I love from Restoration Hardware.

Source: Restoration Hardware
I know. It's gorgeous, but no freaking way am I ever going to spend almost three grand on a table.

Not happening.

So I searched for plans (I mean it does look like something someone could reasonably build) and I found this post. Go ahead. Click it. I won't even be offended if you get totally distracted by her blog and don't come back for a while. God knows I did.

Right, so I have at least five or six projects I fully intend to build just as soon as we have a house and I won't be creating more stuff I have to move. It does seem a little silly to build furniture when the vast majority of everything you own is in storage.

I've been planning on posting about her blog when I built my first project, but today, she busted out plans for the Markham Console Bar by Pottery Barn that I actually cut out for my Illustrated Discovery Journal.

Source: Pottery Barn

(Side note - If you don't have an illustrated discovery journal you NEED one. It's a book full of things that make your heart smile. I have a real physical book with pictures cut and pasted in AND a digital one that I collect images in on my computer. I think sharing it might be a bit of a copyright issue though so you'll have to be content with a smaller intro to my authentic self).

You might have noticed that the workbench bar isn't in any of the images in the Picasa album. That's because I haven't glued it in yet. It's still in the pile of cut images awaiting placement.

The point being that this woman knows my soul and her blog is amazing. Did I mention she posted plans, real actual plans, ones could use to build the workbench bar? Like so that I could make one myself instead of buying one? If you don't get how amazing that is you clearly don't love furniture the way I do. If you do, go ahead and subscribe to her blog so she can rock your face off too.

I'll let you know just as soon as I build something. Until then, know that I am planning amazingness.

Thursday, September 16, 2010


When my husband isn't around I listen to seriously poppy dance music.  You know you do too.  I made a pandora station. You're welcome.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Clarification of Math for Today (9/14/2010)

This equation seemed  to make sense to pretty much everybody.  Maybe because addition is super easy.

meat + salt + pepper + heat = yum!

My husband found this equation

difficulty in explaining your new name the drivers license office = (number of words in your last name)^2

difficult to understand. Clearly, some variables to replace the words will clarify.  The difficulty of explaining your new name to the clerk at the drivers license office, d, is equal to the number of words in your last name, w, squared or
d = w^2

Still not obvious? I think an few examples might help those less math brained.  It is normal to see an equation and try out some numbers in your head to see how it works, right?

So.  Say you have one word in your new last name. Most people do, so it's a good example.  We're trying to find the difficulty, d, of 1.  We'll go ahead and call that d(1). All we have to do is plug in w, the number of words in your last name.

d(1) = 1^2 = 1

So far, so good.  Great. Now what if you had two names, like because you'd already published things under your maiden name and you wanted to keep your name since you'd had it for 27 years, but you wanted your new husbands name too because you like the idea of sharing a last name with your kids and you like your last name because it's your daddy's and you wouldn't have to deprive them of that. Say, for instance your last name was Campbell Hibbs.

d(2) = 2^2 = 4

Does it make sense now? It might just be a math person joke. I think in terms of numbers.

Greater than or equal to would probably be more accurate.  I spent the first five or ten minutes trying to convince them that I really did legally have a two word last name. Imagine this conversation

Me: I need to change my name on my license to my married name.
Woman: Do you have a certified copy of your marriage license?
Me: Why yes, I do and my new social security card.


silent thought bubble over my head (wow! this is much easier than expected.)

Woman: Can you review the information and make sure it's correct?


silent scream.

Me: My legal last name is Campbell Hibbs, C-A-M-P-B-E-L-L space H-I-B-B-S.
Woman: We're only allowed to put in one last name.
Me: I don't really care what it says, but it wouldn't be my legal name on my license which seems a little problematic.
Woman: No, when you get married Hibbs becomes your last name and your maiden name becomes a middle name.
Me: No. When I filled out the paperwork with the social security administration I made a point of keeping my maiden name as part of my last name.

To be fair, your social security card does not specify if a word is a middle or last name.

Woman: We aren't supposed to hyphenate them in the system.
Me: There isn't a hyphen.  It's a space.
Woman to other woman: We're not allowed to use hyphens in the last name, are we?

Waiting while call is made into some higher authority...

Other woman to woman: They say just put it in with a hyphen.
Me: There is no hyphen.
Other woman: Or a space.
Woman (hesitantly): If they say so. They've been telling us not to hyphenate.

typing, typing, typing...


Yet another woman: Now you know, that will mean that the registration on your vehicle and your husbands will be due at different times.
Me: Is that a problem?

That went on for several minutes and I had my no makeup on, wearing a torn t-shirt picture taken even though I'd just had it taken last December. By the time I left, there was a line and the people in it seemed a little miffed at my chipper attitude. 

What can I say?  I'm fun, even when I'm super frustrated.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

I'm a Homeless Homemaker.

Yep.  I sure am.  I love homemaking, but I don’t have one.  Don’t worry, I have a place to sleep.  I just don’t have a home.  Most of my possessions are in storage, my parents basement, or scattered somewhere within my in-laws' home.  I didn't mean to move in with them, but it's pretty much what happened.  Hence, I don't have a home.

My husband and I are trying to rectify the matter.  In fact, we're waiting on a response to an offer on a house we made last week last month.  I'm growing impatient.  Could be the reason I'm focusing on my homelessness.

I miss being an independent adult person.  I miss getting to ignore the existence of everyone except me and my husband.  I miss getting up in the middle of the night to pee and going to the bathroom without getting dressed. 

I miss my stuff.

I try not to be a stuff oriented person, but quite frankly I miss my stuff (our stuff would be the correct term technically since it belongs to me and my husband, but really the stuff I miss most is the stuff I use in the kitchen which pretty much means it's mine). I want my pots and pans (inherited Copper Bottom Revere Ware).  I want my freaking espresso maker. I want my box of spices, and seven or eight kinds of vinegar, and my stand mixer. I want our coffee mugs (those are ours, he told me I had to buy them after he saw the way I looked at them; he wanted them because they're big).

Having things around that belong to you is somehow very important.  Canning in my mother-in-law's kitchen is satisfying, but canning in my own kitchen would be so much more so. 

I decided the time line is far too long and ridiculous for just one post so I'm giving it a whole page.  I've got big plans for that little guy.  Should be entertaining.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Don't Drink and Jog.

My hungover ass ran 3.5 almost continuous miles this morning. Yep. It was about as pleasurable as you imagine.

I know what you're thinking.  Hungover?  On a Thursday?  You must be in college or an alcoholic.  Well technically, my grad student status means I'm still in college.  As for alcoholism, I had a sum total of 2 entire beers. Make whatever conclusion from that you want.

There are three people to blame for this whole incident. 

Myself - Obviously I made the decisions that led to this. I could have chosen not to drink.  I could have chosen not to jog. I did both.

My husband - He's the one who made me like beer in the first place and went with me to the Oktoberfest kick-off party at which I consumed those two entire beers. I would never have gone by myself so it's partially his fault.

My mother - she jogged 4 miles on Tuesday. I only jogged 3.5.  Clearly, I cannot allow her to workout more than I do.  So I think I'll go ahead and hold her just a little bit responsible as well.

The message here: don't drink too much and jog the next day. You'll wish you hadn't.

Thursday, September 9, 2010


I'm working on a lot of projects right now.

That's pretty much standard for me. I think it keeps me from getting bored. I don't want you to get bored so I'll stick to the big ones.

1. Writing a blog.  Is that too obvious? 

2. Helping my husband with his beer blog.  In theory it's "our" beer blog, but lets be honest.  He likes beer a whole lot more than I do and I'm better as a sidekick than an equal partner in that whole deal.  Oh, and Sierra Nevada tweeted one of his posts the other day.  It's very exciting and you should read it too so he can become a professional beer blogger and spend his life hanging out with me and drinking beer.

3. Finishing my Ph.D. This is a big one. I'm in the 22nd grade at this point. Yep. I sure am. I've submitted my dissertation and I defend in October.  This one is about done, but I'm also applying for positions based on said degree so I'll be busy with this project for a while.

4. Buying a house.  Post yet to come. I'll save the gory details until then.

5. Training for a half marathon.  It's on November seventh.  My extended family decided it was a great idea at my wedding.  I've combined Hal Higdon's intermediate 5K and novice half marathon since I'm also training for the Run for Tomorrow 5K in my home town on Sept. 25th.

6. Learning to speak German.  I've been working on this project since my parents got me Rocket German for my birthday last year.  I tend to go in spurts, but I'm working on making the current spurt of learning last.

7. Training to be a Extension Master Gardener. I go to class every Friday for the next two months to learn more about gardening.  I'm very excited about it and I think they think I'm strange.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010


You might have noticed that I haven't posted anything in a month or so.  I told myself that's because I'm really good at starting things and once I know what they will be I'm not as interested in finishing them.

That's a lie.

The real problem is that I feel like I'm in this creative energy suck brought on by my lack of knowing or being able to express openly what I really want to do without fear of negative consequences.  I have this fear that if I say it and someone finds out bad things will happen.  Like if someone reads this and thinks I want to do all this other stuff they'll think I don't want THE JOB and not hire me.  But that my friends, and I think I can go ahead and say friends since no one besides the people I already know and love reads this anyway, is a mentality based on fear.  I will not be controlled by fear.

I'm over it. I'm so over it I made a list of all the things I WANT to do.  Most of them don't look like things I'm supposed to want to do, hence the fear.  Included on that list is to make this blog something I actually want to write.  The only way I can see to do that is to make it about doing the things I want to do. 

So here goes.

I want to be creative and do creative things. I want to can things. I already posted about that so I'm ahead of the game. I want to cook delicious food and have my husband love it. Not like, or put up with, LOVE it. That ones a bit tougher since our tastes differ tremendously. I want to make cheese again and use that yogotherm my husband lovingly got me for Christmas last year. I want to start a reading group with books about food and agriculture and relationships and life (let me know if you're interested.  I've already started a list and I would love to have people to talk to about them).  I want to talk to real, actual people in German so I can practice.  I want to buy a freaking house (this one really needs it's own post along with a time line). I want to build things to put in that house like headboards and bookcases and crates.  I want to help people grow things, help create a community garden, teach school garden classes, and start a community cannery.  I want to help people acquire domestic skills. I want to be successful a la the version generally attributed to Emerson and likely authored by Bessie Stanley who happens to be from Lincoln, Kansas of all places.

Which reminds me.  I want to write about Kansas as a place and a sense of place. I get to live in one of the most amazing places in the whole world and I really wish other people could see it the way I do. I've tried to explain it for years, but I haven't quite mastered it yet. I'll keep trying.


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