September 29, 2009

Kitchen Remodel: Day 2

Filed under: House, Kitchen — maryparadox @ 11:55 pm

These guys are making incredible progress! The kitchen is now totally gutted and they’ve removed the framing around the pantry.

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The wall between the living room and kitchen where the brick pillar used to be.




The south wall where we were hoping to add new windows.


Looking into the sink room. Should we try to make the doorway larger?


Apparently Hunter is completely freaked out by the plastic and has been hiding in the bottom of the kitty tree we made.


OMG We’re Remodeling Our Kitchen!

Filed under: House, Kitchen — maryparadox @ 11:46 pm

We’ve been talking about remodeling our kitchen forever, but we suddenly made a big jump in progress.

It started with finding a good recommendation on Yelp for a cabinet store. Once there the kitchen designer recommended some contractors. We interviewed three and found one we liked, a guy named Jim Lassus. He came by the house a couple of times and got the basics down, gave us a rough quote and started on Monday.

So here we go again. We never even got the bathroom project completely finished!

The first step is to gut the kitchen so that you can do the electrical. I am in Hsinchu this week but Peter has been taking pictures so that I can watch the progress. Here are the ones from Monday:


They put zippered plastic over the doors to the living room and sink room to keep them clean.

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mmmm shopvac.


You can see the wall between the kitchen and living room is drywall instaed of lathe and plaster.

September 20, 2009

Lamb Roast

Filed under: Cooking — maryparadox @ 9:18 am

Lamb roast with fresh vegetables.

Now-a-days I end up working until about 8pm at night, because I work with engineers in Hsinchu, Taiwan. This means that I don’t have time to make dinner at night (I still go to bed at 10pm and get up at 6am) and I have been really missing home cooked means. So I’ve started a new plan of cooking large meals on Sunday nights and eating that for 3-4 nights. For my first big meal I wanted to cook a pot roast, mostly because I remember my dad making it so well when we were camping in Australia. So I emailed my dad in Australia for advice. Here is are the ingredients and details of what I did, and his original email below. You should try it, it was really easy and fed us for a week!

My ingredients:
1.5lbs lamb roast
3 small pumpkins from our yard
Random assortments of mini carrots, fingering potatoes, sweet potatoes, beets, onions, garlic

For the gravy I didn’t pour off any fat because I didn’t see any,and I didn’t add any salt or pepper, just garlic and onion. I didn’t strain it and it was salty, savory, chunky and fantastic. I wouldn’t normally make gravy but it totally made all the different. You didn’t have to put much on your food to make it taste 100% better.


Midget pumpkins from our yard.

“Hi Honey

Actually cooking a good roast lamb dinner is pretty taxing. It seems the more you try the worse it gets, but if you just throw it together it works great. A good gravy covers a multitude of sins. The 2 major problems for me is undercooked veggies and overcooked meat so be prepared to take the meat out early and cook the veggies hotter and longer. With the veggies cooking them hotter will make them crisper anyway.


Vegetables from the farmer's market.

Here are some tips.
1) Pumpkin cooks quickly, potatoes slowly and carrots very slowly. So cut pumpkin into big pieces, pots smaller (About the size of an egg) and carrots cut into 1/4 length ways. This for a piece of meat about 1 – 2 pounds.
2) You do need to put some oil in there to transmit the heat from the air to the food without drying everything out. I use Canola and EVOO mixed.
3) Buy your meat from the Muslim butcher about 3 blocks from you. Make sure there is some fat on the cut, don’t be afraid to ask the butcher for advice, I had long discussions with him about food. Lamb is not marbled like beef so the fat which contains most of the flavor is on the outside. You turn right outside your house go down about 5 blocks and turn right again.
4) If you cut into the meat and it is not done enough nuke it for 1 minute, that will cook the insides for you, but make the meat bloody tough.


The browned lamb roast before putting it in the oven.


Preheat the oven to 400ºF while you prepare everything else.
The Veggies:- Get a plastic bag and put in there a glug of oil, a teaspoon of salt and a teaspoon of white pepper. As you prepare the Veggies put them in the bag.
The Meat:- Generously cover with salt and white pepper and fry it in a hot baking pan on the top of the stove with a little oil until it is burnt brown on all sides.
The cooking:- Put the meat in, smoosh the veggies in the oil etc in the bag and pour them around the meat, add an onion cut in half and 5 – 10 cloves of garlic. (for big roasts I just cut the top off a head of garlic and put the lot in.) Sprinkle a bit more salt in as it will make everything brown up.
Heat:- If it not sizzling it’s not cooking, use your ears not the Temperature gauge of the stove.
How do you know it is done: The meat will usually cook before the veggies as we do not cook huge cuts these days, poke it with your finger. Medium rare will be rubbery, well done with be dead to the touch. Alternatively poke something into the deepest part of the meat, and watch the drop of fluid that comes out. Clear is probably overcooked, pink is just right and if it says BAA!! it is probably not ready. Check the veggies by poking them with something thin and sharp. If soft then that is good.
The end:- Take the meat out when done wrap in foil and put on a plate on top of the stove. If the veggies are done put them in there too.
The gravy.
1) Regular gravy:- Pour off the excess oil but try and keep the water soluble brown stuff that is under it. This is your flavor. A little oil left is OK and the following steps will emulsify it and hide it. Heat the baking pan on top of the stove until it is pretty hot. Put 1- 2 cups of water into the pan to deglaze and stir with a wooden spoon and scrape the brown stuff until it dissolves, it is caramelized sugar and is water soluble. Smoosh the onion and garlic into the mix. In a cup put say 2 teaspoons of flour and mix it in and pour into the pan. Keep stirring until it boils and thickens. Too thick add water. Too thin add flour and boil again. To tart it up you can add any or all of the following. Worcestershire sauce, grey poo poo mustard, German beer mustard a couple of drops of Tabasco, smooshed up rosemary leaves, an OXO beef cube.”


The whole pot before putting it in the oven.

September 14, 2009

Sad Cats

Filed under: Kitties — maryparadox @ 8:59 pm

We washed the cats. We didn’t want to, we tried everything else first, but in the end it was necessary. They have fleas. We tried the goo you put between their shoulder blades, flea collars (it doesn’t seem that these are sold anywhere in the city), washing all the sheets and towels, but still the cats were scratching like crazy. Peter and I seem largely unaffected, but every once in a while we’d see a *giant* flea go walking across Hunter’s face. Ewwwwww!

So here are obligatory funny wet cat photos!


Hunter before bathing; she clearly knows something bad is about to happen.

Both cats knew something was going on when we locked them both in the bathroom. They kept escaping whenever we’d open the door, and then they tried hiding under the bathtub.


Hunter after bathing; very very not happy.

We washed Hunter first, knowing she was going to give us the most trouble. Peter couldn’t even hold her so I had to be the one to hog-tie her and hold her under the tap. While we were washing her Penny kept trying to get under Peter’s arms to see what was going on and try to protect Hunter.


Penny after bathing; going the pathetic route.

Then, when it was Penny’s turn she just sort of looked resigned. She struggled much less and actually let us dry her. Hunter we only managed to get partially dry, then Penny had to do the rest.

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