12.28.2010

"Ding, fries are done"

My culinary contribution to Christmas this year was an egg soufflé. I tried to remember my ex-fiancé's mother's recipe but settled for one I found on AR instead. Every couple of days, I kick myself for not swiping a few recipes from the collection she gave my ex, because although he never cooks, he took the collection (and our BH&G cookbook, even though I was the only one that ever used it) with him on his journey of stupidity.

Anyway. One easy breakfast casserole preparation later, I went to Indianapolis with my mom to visit my brother. I was gifted a food processor (dubbed "The Magic Bullet"... anyone heard of this? Comments? My mom was captivated by the "As Seen On TV!" logo and bought it for me whilst in a trance), some utensils, some seasonings, a nice bottle of olive oil that I left in my car later that weekend and the cold weather seems to have pwned it, glass storage containers, a gorgeous bamboo salad bowl (my sister-in-law apparently remembered that my T-Day cranberry&spinach salad was served in tupperware), and other assorted non-food-related items.

I also became BFFs with my 15-month-old niece, of Thanksgiving beer-loving fame. For once, she didn't squirm when I held her, and she even reached for me after I put her down. She received musical bells for Christmas, among other things, and they occupied me for most of the afternoon. I would be demonstrating my talents, playing an uneven bell-y version of "Ode to Joy," when she would pick up two bells (somehow always managing to choose two bells that make a third interval) and bang them together. It made her just insanely happy to do that. She also liked my soufflé.

My immediate family is full of bird-like eaters. We make enough food to fill an S10, end up with enough leftovers to fill a Cavalier, and then pick at the leftovers for another week before getting sick of them and throwing them out. Everyone raved about my soufflé, but when I left my brother's house on Christmas, there was barely a dent put into it.

So I took it to Nashville, Tennessee. ROCK!

I drove down Christmas afternoon to see D.'s mom's side of the family, which was a lot of fun. It was also an indirect way to rid myself of the soufflé and not spend Christmas night alone in my living room, drinking gin and eating microwave quesadilla rolls. Which is what I did Christmas Eve.

I stayed in Nashville till Monday afternoon. During that time, I gave my aunt (D.'s mama) the rub recipe from AR's Perfect Rib Roast, which she used for a beef tenderloin. It was well-received by everyone -- she cooked the tenderloin perfectly -- and the rub made the kitchen smell amazing. I received some gifts from her and my other cousins: tealight candles, Vera Bradley notepad/pens, a cookie cookbook!, and a cupcake decorator that looks like a caulking gun. You know, these are people who haven't spent much time around me since I was about two (especially one of D.'s sisters, who just met me for the first time in 20 years on Saturday), but the gifts were really thoughtful and just my taste. I wish I could've afforded to get gifts for them all, but all I got was a pair of earrings for my aunt and a DVD for D.'s nephew. I've been spending all my money at the grocery store.

Anyway, on Sunday, the ladies and I made a no-bake cake that they had two names for. I don't know which one applies most -- "Pineapple Upside-Down Cake" or "Banana Split Cake." I would just think to call it "Dante Cake." Because it has several layers. OF SIN. not really, but close.

I'll try to remember this as best as I can:

First layer -- crushed Nilla wafers. And/or almonds?
Second layer -- a mixture of two eggs, 2 C powdered sugar, and 2 sticks melted butter. Maybe something else, I can't remember, even though this was the layer I was responsible for. Then you whip that for fifteen minutes. At this part, the handwritten recipe card says, "(they're not kidding!)"
Third layer -- four bananas, sliced
Fourth layer -- can of cherries
Fifth layer -- can of shredded pineapple, drained within an inch of its life
Sixth layer -- whipped cream

Not sure how long it's supposed to be in the fridge (if at all), but we had some of it later that night. I'm not a huge fan of fruity desserts, but this wasn't half bad. It just needs to have a name that people will stick with.

In other news, my cousin raked in some pretty good loot this Christmas, and he did pretty well shopping for me, too. He got a ginormous television from his mom, which we almost couldn't fit in the car for the trip home, and a ginormous computer monitor from me. Then, almost every day last week, I'd come home from work to find a box on the doorstep. One day, it was a set of cards to a recipe box (which arrived later), the next day it was Belgian waffle trays that snap into a Cuisinart 5-in-1 Griddler (which also arrived later, but was broken, so I've called them and gotten that taken care of)... he also got me a tortilla thermal container, these circular things that you can make eggs and pancakes in so that they don't run all over the pan, measuring cups/spoons, and a 24-set of tupperware that actually MATCHES and you can snap the lids to the bottom for easy-peasy storage.

That last gift is particularly satisfying because when my ex-fiancé moved out, he left me with about a thousand tupperware containers, none of which had matching lids. It felt good to heave them all into a box for Goodwill. Actually, I should probably just recycle them. So anyway, I'm hoping that he also has a thousand tupperware containers with no matching lids, because I don't have to deal with them anymore.

I'm looking forward to organizing my recipes into the new box. I'm used to this old tin where I'd stuff recipe print-outs, things torn from magazines, scrap sheets of paper... no longer.

And when my new, un-defective Cuisinart griddler arrives, I'm going to be a griddler FIEND. You'll have to pry it out of my cold, dead hands.

12.20.2010

TIL: How not to do something

I bet they freeze frozen chicken breasts before throwing them all in a bag together. Or maybe it's the fact that chicken is poultry, and the pieces can freeze together in a bag without sticking to one another. Red meat is apparently different.

I purchased a package of pork chops because they were cheap and I wanted an excuse to buy sage. I cooked up a couple of pork chops (they turned out well), and went to freeze the rest. As I commonly do with leftovers, I put them in a gallon-sized Zip-Lock bag and threw them in the freezer.

The next time we had pork chops, they were prepared in the oven, as one big multi-pork-chop mass. I'd worked for about fifteen minutes to get even one chop loose from the pack, but the chops wouldn't budge from each other. After a lot of swearing and sweating, I slammed them down in a pan, put some spices on them, and threw them in the oven for an hour. They weren't bad.

12.02.2010

I survived Thanksgiving 2010

... with next to no crises.



(from left to right) Sister-in-law, older niece, brother, mom, uncle Jerry, aunt Carol, father.
 The only crisis that I can think of is my niece started to hit the bottle. My dad was at the store, leaving his beer cooler unattended, when my 14-month-old niece explored her way to Dad's Miller Light.  She thought that was the BEST TOY EVER.  She shook the can, danced with the can, squealed with glee when the other ladies and I started to laugh... and then she put the unopened can to her face as if she were drinking it.  "Alright, that's enough," announced her mother, who moved to take the can away from her. "I didn't think she'd imitate drinking beer."  My mom and I pointed out to her that she didn't know it was beer, but the can got taken away regardless, and my niece happily waddled off to play with my cousin's expired Tennessee driver's license.  We set aside the beer can so that my father wouldn't spray himself in the face later, thanks to my niece's zealous shaking of the can.

Other than that, it was fine. Busy, but fine. I didn't end up making the bacon-wrapped asparagus. For one, it needed an oven at 450°, and the roast was at 350°. For another, my brother made green beans. For another, WE HAD WAY TOO MUCH FOOD.

Right now, I'm making sage pork chops with mashed potatoes... the same mashed potatoes I served at Thanksgiving. We've eaten these mashed potatoes almost every night since, and I still have about a half-gallon left. Good thing they were tasty.

So everything came out well, despite my mom making fun of the fact that my brother and I were making everything from scratch. "What is this, Gourmet Thursday?" she'd mock, and we'd reply, "Well... it is Thanksgiving," and then she proceded to tell us that she made all our childhood Thanksgiving meals out of a box. After we recovered from our shock and anger at this discovery, I served the best meal ever. The salad, stuffing, roast, potatoes, green beans, deviled eggs, spinach dip, cider... everything was good. So that shut my mom up.

I'm thinking that I only had a certain amount of cooking talent, and I used it up on Thanksgiving, because I didn't cook for three days and then I managed to mess up Zatarain's Jambalaya on Monday. After trying to choke down his fourth forkful of mushy, tasteless rice and dry turkey sausage, my cousin looked at me in confusion. Our relationship hasn't been the same since. I am hoping these pork chops tonight will be my saving grace.

Anyway, so Thanksgiving was fun. I think I'll do it again next year, if my brother can further tolerate my extremely un-baby-proofed house.

11.24.2010

T(hanksgiving)-minus one day

I haven't posted in a while; I've been busy and, for most of the last couple of days, on the wagon. I've also gotten a crash-course in Harry Potter for the last week or so, as D. wanted me to come with him to the newest movie. There isn't much food in the house, other than what I'm going to make tomorrow when I'm hosting Thanksgiving for the first time, so lately I've been throwing together whatever I have... it usually ends up being something with meat and pasta in it.

Friday, D. and I went to Longhorn in Indianapolis (there isn't one in our town) and then to see the new Harry Potter movie. Does anyone have a good recipe for Longhorn's Firecracker Chicken wrap-thingies from their appetizer menu? If it's easy or fast enough, I'd love to serve those during a football game or something.

I made a pasta that was loosely-based on an AR recipe that I think I saved to my recipe box, but I can't remember, and I can't remember the name of it. Penne, turkey sausage, a can of diced tomatoes, 1/4 chopped onion, fresh green beans... and I might've served it with something, but I don't know. Then on Sunday, I threw together the remainder of our box of spaghetti, the last of the turkey sausage, a chicken breast that I found in the freezer, and the asparagus from my Longhorn take-home carton. I tossed that in olive oil and served. Was my cousin's first time having asparagus, and his infamously vegetable-loathing self noted, "I don't hate it." His tune may have changed after I told him how asparagus makes urine smell funny, but then again, he's a guy and might think that's cool.

So on Sunday, I went shopping with my mom for the Thanksgiving menu (well... not the whole menu... damn blue laws), and I discovered why people buy turkey -- it was $0.55 a pound. The rib roast that I had my heart set on was $7.99/lb., and that's on sale. It came to about $81. And the prosciutto-wrapped asaparagus I had in mind? Ha! What, is prosciutto made of gold? Did Paris Hilton wear an outfit made of it? If you pulverize it into a liquid and inject it, do you develop the ability to fly or become invisible?

I'm just going to salt some bacon and tell them it's prosciutto.

And then there's the bread. I forgot that my town has maybe two Jewish people in it, tops. I was silly to think that I'd find a row of challah next to the enriched French loaves and packages of Wonder Bread.

So today after work (I wish I could take a half day, but this afternoon is our first big meeting after an audit), I'm going to run to the grocery store and grab some beer that my brother likes, fresh flowers for the house, firewood, maybe some candles, liquor for the cider, etc. Then I've gotta clean the house and put up the decorations my mom gave me. I'll probably make the deviled eggs, spinach dip, salad dressing and stuffing tonight if I can. It'll make things more relaxed tomorrow and hopefully ensure that I'll have enough room in my oven and atop the stove, because sometimes I run out of room even when making a normal dinner. I imagine I can just put in the pumpkin pie after I take out the roast tomorrow... I made two pumpkin pies Monday night for D.'s office Thanksgiving, and it took twice as long with two of them (plus roasted potatoes for dinner that night). So this time, I'll let the stubborn pie have the whole oven to itself.

D. might leave for Nashville tonight, but if he stays till tomorrow morning, he says he'll help me clean. It sucks that he's going to miss my first Thanksgiving, but he's been super nice to me this week to make up for it. I think he senses that I'm stressed (my cat does the same thing). He even watched a couple episodes of "The Office" with me -- something I've been trying to get him to do for over a year. He was half-asleep, but he asked questions about it and made a couple comments, etc... just enough to let me know he was paying attention. Sometimes, it's the little things that your friends do for you that are awesome.

I knew he was being a good sport, so for dinner Monday night, I made burgers for the first time in a regular skillet. My ex-fiancé and I used to have a tiny George Foreman grill, and we made burgers on it all the time. It dripped grease everywhere and was hard to clean, but we used it a lot and liked having burgers at home. I don't know what happened to it; I haven't seen it since the house we rented like three years ago. Anyway, because of Monday night, I've decided I need a grill before making burgers again. Cooking them in the skillet just makes gray slabs of meat. I need the charred grill lines and the texture of something that hasn't just been flipped like a chopsteak.

So I found my new favorite Christmas present (HAI CUZN):
http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B002YD99Y4/ref=s9_wishx_gw_ir01?ie=UTF8&coliid=I2PQ8PBTG2GRQ9&colid=32XF49UVXLEX3&pf_rd_m=ATVPDKIKX0DER&pf_rd_s=center-7&pf_rd_r=1PEDYGEFK85N04Z4ZBSB&pf_rd_t=101&pf_rd_p=470938451&pf_rd_i=507846<

(btw, I will be getting him a totally rockin' computer monitor to support his World of Warcrack habit.)
Anyone have one of these griddlers? Wanna tell me how awesome it is?

11.11.2010

To my favorite person

Happy Veteran's Day to my cousin D.!  You're a badass!

11.09.2010

Those sophisticated Eagles fans, and feeding all of Chicago

So on Sunday, we stayed home to watch football (we have cable now, and it's cheaper to drink at home) and I managed to completely mess up Debdoozie's simple chili recipe. I knew what I was doing. I was deviating, and it didn't work.

"Grandmother's Buttermilk Cornbread," however, was perfect. I followed the recipe exactly, and my Southerner cousin said it was a keeper. I was proud of myself there, because I'm not much of a baker, and I've never made cornbread from scratch before.

Messing up the chili ruined my Sunday almost as much as the Philly fans did in the Colts v. Eagles game. You stay classy, Philadelphia. And then, the Chiefs lost, against the Raiders no less, in OT. D. was not a happy camper, even though he was resting comfortably in his Man Chair with a bowl of hot chili, some gin, and a full pack of smokes. The Chiefs obviously mean a lot to him.

Anyway, so a few friends of mine are coming down from Chicago this weekend and will be staying at my house. I think I'm expected to cook. The way I've been screwing up recipes lately, I'm a little nervous, so I think I'll make something I'm really familiar with. This isn't the time to try something new.

So...
(a) Baked salmon, with a baked potato and some kind of green bean casserole
(b) Meatloaf (made with ground turkey... we use turkey instead of beef anyway, but one of my friends visiting me doesn't eat red meat), with mashed potatoes and steamed carrots
(c) Braised balsamic chicken, with corn on the cob and broccoli marinara

Those are my go-to meals that look and taste like they take a lot more time to make than they actually do. Which should I do? I don't care which sides go with which protein, it's just an example of what sides I'm semi-familiar with. I also do some pretty good roasted potatoes and Italian peas (but my cousin hates peas).

For breakfast, I imagine I'll try to find a recipe similar to the egg and sausage casserole that my former-future-mother-in-law used to make for houseguests. I've made that before and got a lot of compliments. On the food, I mean. It'll be good timing, though, because I just bought some farm fresh, cage-less chicken eggs from one of my co-workers, and I'm anxious to try them out. Some people can't taste the difference if the eggs they're eating come from chickens that are treated nicely, but I can. Ah, shoot. My friend won't eat the casserole it if there's sausage in it. Will use turkey instead -- do they have sausage that's turkey-only?

I will now start my daily ritual of slipping into unconsciousness in front of my work computer.

...oh man, it's only 1:24 p.m. I still have 36 minutes before I can start my ritual.

11.07.2010

A week of not wanting to eat

I'm now starting my second re-heated chicken enchilada. Here was my recipe:

2 chicken breasts, boneless
1 (I don't know how many ounces) Campbell's condensed cream of chicken soup
A half a jar (I don't know how many ounces) Chi Chi's... I don't know the temperature... salsa. It was probably as mild as I could buy it, because of my cousin's stomach.
About 1/8 jar Ortega Medium sauce
1/2 onion, chopped
Take the Betty Crocker Cookbook's recipe for fajita seasoning. Then halve it.
Tortillas. I don't care which size. This time, I used soft taco size. I made six.

Compose the ingredients in whichever way makes sense to you.

I made them last night. They were too spicy for my cousin, so he only ate one. I ate two, and put the rest in the fridge. I'm up at 1:15 in the morning, watching an idiotic movie with Jennifer Lopez in it, and, as I said, just reheated my second enchilada.

It's the first time I've been actually hungry in almost a week.

I've been debating... with myself, and with my cousin -- who follows my blog -- about whether to share the following information. He thought I shouldn't. I think I should, because it explains the only reason why I've never been hungry (thus, wanting to cook) in my entire life: grief.

The first time I lost my appetite, I was 11 years old. I had just experienced losing someone to death. A classmate of mine had been thrown off the top floor of a parking garage by his mother. She threw off his brother too. Then she jumped. A week later, my maternal grandmother passed. My parents thought I was having a growth spurt... in actuality, I'd lost almost 15 pounds.

In recent memory, it was when my ex started ignoring me over a year ago. I thought that, by losing weight, I'd impress him. He didn't notice, even after I lost 25 pounds. I had developed a bit of a neurotic eating habit: not eating until I made dinner... and I'd give him heaping portions, plus whatever I "couldn't finish."

Of course, I couldn't eat after he left, either. Fortunately, the presence of my cousin has helped inspire me to at least cook. The smell of what I was cooking and the positive reinforcement of my cousin's compliments helped me eat, even in the midst of my grief.

This week, something else happened.

I won't go into too much detail about the event itself, but in regard to my meals, I've messed up at least two side dishes and two main dishes in the meantime. I completely forgot to season a steak, I overseasoned the chicken enchiladas, I overseasoned garlic mashed potatoes, and my roasted potatoes tonight were really soft. I tried to wing potato skins tonight, because D. loves them and dinner was running late (not compared to dinner last night, which was executed at about 11:30 p.m.), but I didn't bake the potatoes beforehand. I ended up with burnt potatoes with cheese and bacon on them.

D. praised everything. I figured that, because he had a slab of red meat and two starches (roasted potatoes [that were soft... maybe he didn't notice] and the lifetime-supply-because-I'm-from-Indiana corn on the cob), his saying of "I can't critique perfect" was easily founded.

In my opinion, grief makes me a bad eater and a bad cook. It makes me care less about food.

11.01.2010

As a unit, we will not be gross.

Tonight marked the first time in my kitchen-related journey where my cousin didn't have any comments about a new recipe. This is big. The guy talks a lot.

We're sitting in a bar, and the Colts are about to play. Being a Hoosier, I'm surprised there aren't more people here. I'm a pretty good sport (pun intended, because I'm clever like that) about watching football with D., SO I MADE HIM EAT BROCCOLI TONIGHT, BWAHAHAHA.

Anyway, before we got here, I cooked something from AR called "Quick and Easy Chicken." It wasn't quick or particularly easy, but the sauce that the recipe delineated introduced a new concept to me: ingredients that, separately, seem like they would be disgusting together... but they aren't. Ketchup, soy sauce, lemon juice, sugar, black pepper. To me, that mix sounds like something you'd dare someone to eat at a teenage slumber party. Instead, it came out pretty decently.

So I made the sauce and poured it onto chicken breasts that had browned in chopped onion. I served that atop fettucini that I'd prepared in chicken broth (god, I love bouillon cubes... using them takes anything you make that could be "eh" and instead makes you look like a better cook than you actually are) and had some broccoli marinara (can of diced tomatoes, couple shakes of balsamic vinegar, some basil, bag of frozen broccoli... simmer it all in a skillet for 10-15 minutes). The sauce was... sweet? A little tangy? Mostly sweet, I think. My cousin's only comment was that I should quadruple the sauce recipe so that I can use more of it on the pasta. The original AR recipe's comments indicated that the amounts to make the sauce weren't large enough, so I nearly doubled it as it was, and it barely covered the chicken. So, next time, I'll know what to do.

But really. They shouldn't call it "Quick And Easy Chicken" when I have to chop half an onion (insert dislike button here), concoct a sauce, cook chicken (which makes me nerrrrrrvous), and then simmer it for 25 minutes. I should have just made Zatarain's jambalaya. Twenty-five minutes, three dirty dishes. Boom.

Over the weekend, once again, I didn't exactly cook. I made my own recipe of steak quesadillas (cook up really cheap steak; layer cheddar, lettuce, onion, hot sauce, green pepper, whatever you want... it's kind of like an omelette in this capacity... on half of a large tortilla; bake at 350 for 7 minutes) on Friday night. On Saturday, for lunch I cooked up some chicken breasts in chicken broth and made sandwiches (or, in our household, "sammiches") out of them. That night, I went to a hayride/bonfire thing in Noblesville that my brother and his family hosted, so I had a hearty meal of hot dogs and s'mores over flames. Sunday was a Titans game, so I had a quesadilla at The End Zone. I then later ordered some bosco sticks (breadsticks filled with cheese... quintessential bar food) and promptly threw them up. Twice.

Fortunately, the chicken with the misleading I-thought-I'd-be-in-the-bathroom-moments-later sauce seems to be sitting well. My cousin's stomach, which is far more volatile, is also calm. That calls for a good night in my household, as far as the water bill goes.

10.27.2010

Man food

Last night, all I did was heat up my garlic mashed potatoes (threw almost a half stick of butter on top of it), and then made a frozen skillet meal of yankee pot roast. So there were roasted potatoes on top of mashed potatoes. At least there was some beef and vegetables in it, too.

Anyway, my cousin loved it due to its "man food" quality. It was filling, warm, and plentiful. From all his years in the Army, he says that as long as it's "brown, warm, and lots of it," he'll like it. His critiques of my food aren't as primitive, though, so I'll keep him around for when I try the gourmet stuff.

In other news, the wind and my hair do not mix.

10.26.2010

I'm going to need more tupperware.

Right now, it's storming pretty heavily, and we're under a tornado watch. I like to think Mother Nature is trying to pull the proverbial fire alarm on my company, as the FDA is here this week doing an audit. So far, no dice. Those FDA folks don't mess around. "Yeah, so I've got a branch sticking through my chest. WHO CARES. WHERE'S YOUR CALIBRATION LOG. RAWWWWR."

So I've started to do trial runs of some of my Thanksgiving menu items. Last night, it was the garlic mashed potatoes. I seem to remember making mashed potatoes with my ex-fiancé's family once, and I remember it taking FOREVER. But this took about five minutes, once the potatoes had boiled long enough. They were pretty good; my cousin loved them. The only thing is, I put in about an ounce and a half more butter than was called for, and the potatoes were still a little dry. Other than that, they were great, and I'm going to try to serve potato leftovers tonight. "Try" is the operative word.

See, D. and I aren't so great with leftovers. I'm running out of room in my fridge. I have a tupperware full of smokey chipotle meatloaf and broccoli marinara, a six quart stockpot full of spaghetti, a tupperware full of spaghetti, the stockpot of potatoes, and random small tupperwares housing my chipotle peppers in adobo sauce, a fourth of an onion, etc. By the time I think to eat any of these things, I'll wonder, "Hmmm. It's been three days. Is that okay?" and then I'll make something new instead out of fear of communicable disease.

Also last night, I made my green beans and a couple of bacon-wrapped filets. I'm not a fan of bacon-wrapped anything, so I took the bacon off, cut it up, and threw it into the green beans. D. isn't a fan of bacon in green beans... this is the second time I've done this, and now neither am I. I don't know why. It just doesn't do anything for me. Anyway, I'd bought the filets from Walmart -- does anyone know if cuts of meat vary between different grocery stores? The last time I bought filets, it was from Payless, and those were soooo juicy and tender... the ones last night, from Walmart, were a little tough. Both were cooked the same, both were about medium to medium rare. Both were the only bacon-wrapped filets in the store, but I forget if they were the same brand. I just didn't know if Walmart skimps on quality meat purchases.

Might try the reader-suggested meatloaf tonight. Should go well with the leftover potatoes (see, if I VISUALIZE the meal and PLAN it with leftovers, maybe it'll have a better chance of happening...).

10.25.2010

Thanksgiving menu

Feedback, please! This isn't a typical menu, pretty much because I don't like turkey.

thanksgiving 2010

appetizers
deviled eggs
spinach dip in sourdough bread
turkey nachos

the meat
beef rib roast with zesty rub

sides
garlic mashed potatoes with beef gravy
country green beans tossed with ham, onion and garlic
prosciutto-wrapped asparagus
sausage, apple and cranberry stuffing
cranberry spinach salad

dessert
sweet potato casserole
pumpkin pie

featured beverages
spiked and spikeless fall cider


Okay. I got pretty much all those recipes from allrecipes.com. I wanted to do Thanksgiving this year because it'll keep me busy; I don't want to sit around and think about how this was supposed to be my first round of holidays as a married woman. My guests: both my parents, my brother and his family, and my aunt and uncle. David doesn't know if he can make it, and one of my nieces is only a year old, so I'll be serving 8-9 people. Any changes you'd make with the menu?

10.24.2010

Steak sauce and memories of servitude

There's a ref, one of the chain gang, down at the Saints game. I always get nervous when they go to commercial. I'm about to order my second Long Island Iced Tea.

I saved the recipe for meatloaf that was suggested by a reader. This came to mind because I'm making bacon-wrapped filets tonight, and since I don't believe in anything else on filets, I take the bacon off and cook it into my green beans -- two tablespoons of steak sauce are recommended, but I'm thinking about subbing barbeque sauce. I don't typically keep steak sauce in the house, and here's why:

I worked at Outback Steakhouse for about two years, and during that time I developed an aversion to steak sauce and the people who use it. Okay -- before I receive hate mail -- there isn't anything wrong with steak sauce or the people who use it. I just don't like them.

Outback seasons their steaks with 17 different spices and is such an opponent of steak sauce in general that they are the only steakhouse in my town that does not keep sauces on the tables. Every Friday (or payday), people would come in because they can afford a meal (not facturing tip into their budget), and they'd order a filet, well-done and butterflied. They would then further bastardize our most tender, flavorful steak with (a) ketchup, and/or (b) steak sauce. After a while, I no longer hid my disgust when someone would begin to drawl, "I wants uh filet, well-done..." I think I actually once said "ew" to a customer when she was ordering that. She didn't hear me, because I was just a waitress.

I'm not saying that Outback is the best steakhouse in the world, but I do believe in their product. That says a lot, considering I have spent many hours working in their kitchen, and I've seen what goes on back there. I've worked in a number of restaurants, and as most people who've worked in the restaurant industry, I judge based on what I've seen. Much like my NFL rundown, here's my restaurant "can I eat there?" ranking... surprisingly, Outback is not #1. Readers, feel free to chime in with your own list or to disagree with mine. I'd be interested to hear about your experiences.

  1. Olive Garden. One of the worst jobs I've ever had, and morale was terrible among servers. Their servers are incredibly spoiled, as they don't have to do much sidework (e.g., rolling silverware, etc.), and they're only assigned three tables per section. Their turnover is ridiculous, and the all-you-can-eat soup/salad/breadsticks really messes with a server's flow. However, their kitchens are spotless. They were very strict in there... very much an "eins, zwo, drei" management style... like a well-oiled factory.
  2. Outback Steakhouse. Server morale is high. Three-table sections, nothing all-you-can-eat except for the pumpernickel bread, which leaves servers with more time to develop rapport with customers and run other servers' food. Yay for efficiency. Their kitchens follow all the requirements, like hair nets and hand-washing, but the only time you really see 110% in safety is when a health inspector is there. Oh god. An Outback commercial just came on in the bar I'm in. They're watching.
  3. Chi Chi's. My favorite job. The underdog of Mexican cuisine. High server morale, mostly because of the margaritas and that the managers ignored the fraternization rule. Despite regulations, their kitchens were based on the principle of "please try to wash your hands," but since most of their food was frozen and/or pre-cooked, it never seemed to apply as much. I still have a scar from a fajita skillet on my left hand, and I gaze at it fondly sometimes. Really, my only proof that they have a decent kitchen is the fact that I ate there three times a day for three years and never once got sick. Wish they hadn't gone out of business.
  4. Steak 'n Shake. Again, high turnover of servers, but for the opposite reason. Servers are there for twelve hour shifts sometimes, and they never keep it staffed enough, so those twelve hours are usually spent serving half the restaurant. Their grill is clean but pretty much nothing else, because the grill is located in view of the customers. In Sight, It Must Be Right? Sure, but only if you have a steak burger. Everything else goes in the microwave.
  5. Christos. I believe this is a mostly local, family-owned business. I wasn't popular there because the owner and his brothers favored the servers who partied all the time. As a family-owned establishment, they were under a lot more pressure when it came to regulations, as they didn't have a corporation enforcing the rules for them. Once, I saw a cook drop a pair of tongs, pick them up, and handle raw meat. After I quit (thank God), I read in the paper that they were cited during a health inspection because a cook sneezed directly into his hands and continued working. Don't eat there, ever.

Something to smile about, parts 1 and 2

My original post was eaten. Round two.


I'm sitting at a sports bar on the south end of town called The End Zone. My cousin is watching the Titans, and I'm taking advantage of free Wi-Fi. There's an expensive car parked diagonally across two spaces in the parking lot, and if I were still in my beat-up Saturn, I'd try to sneak into one of those spaces.


Anyway, so yesterday I was supposed to get married. I celebrated by being depressed and taking everyone's money in poker.


We then went home and became ridonkulously lazy. I didn't cook. I committed a cardinal sin and something to smile about, part 1: I ordered Domino's. Marinara sauce dripped off my chin and I made orgasmic noises as I ate. D. stayed about ten feet away at all times, because pizza makes him sick.


It's a point of contention between us that I would pretty much sell my first born for a lifetime supply of pizza, but it'll make him sick for days. I woke up this morning with some indigestion -- some of it from pizza, most of it from gin -- but in general I'll survive. After a pizza night, though, I'll wake up at three in the morning and hear him in the bathroom, moaning like a dying animal.


That brings me to something to smile about, part 2: I have never been so happy to know about someone's bowels as I am now. With D.'s stomach issues, I get daily reports of his bowel movements, and they change based on my cooking. (I figure it takes a non-romantic relationship with someone to really achieve intimacy.) He updates me constantly on the quality of his bowel movements... and he has euphemisms:


"Just gave birth to twin girls."
"That was an elephant."
"Why can't I digest corn?"
"I've got a jumper at the door, demanding a green light, and begging for a water landing." (He's former military. Only says that while running.)
"It's a boy."
"Better make something mild tonight."
"That jambalaya was painless... well done, kid."

Needless to say, those plungers are handy. But my point is, the more I cook, the healthier his digestive tract gets. I go to regular seminars on endoscopy (I work for a medical device manufacturer), and from that I learned about hiatal hernias... I strongly believe that he has one, due to the severity and omnipresence of his symptoms. My grandmother (not on D.'s side) developed one and then died from cardiac arrest a few days later. I'd like for him to get his stomach checked out, but he's lazy (and probably nervous), and if my cooking can do something for him in the meantime, then that's okay.

At the end of the day, my cooking has improved the bowel movements of someone I care about, and that makes me happy.

On an unrelated note, I would like to invent a bar shot and call it "The Miss Jackson If You're Nasty." What should go in it? I once named a shot at Ace's Pub; they were calling it "Sake and Monster" for the longest time before I suggested "Godzilla."

10.22.2010

Starting out with a smash

I want to explain why I have become obsessed with cooking. I began small, having once had a fear of kitchens (growing up, I knew the kitchen was where fire and food-borne illnesses came from), but within a few months' time, I knew how to make spaghetti. I was so proud of myself for thinking to brown ground beef and add it to the sauce. I then started to make my own garlic bread. I made up recipes for sauteéd green beans and roasted potatoes. I added bananas and cinnamon to buttermilk pancake batter.

I began to cook because, in that little hundred-year-old kitchen on Historic Ninth Street Hill, the man living with me said he would do the dishes. I was engaged to him. We'd set a date -- October 23, 2010.

He never did the dishes, and he left me in August. We had the great forethought to buy a house first, though, so that was wonderfully complicated. He made it simple by saddling me with the property because he just had to recapture happiness by quitting his job, selling his truck, and living with his equally-unemployed cousins out East. Seeing the impressive improvements he's made with his life as of late, I started to re-evaluate my hobbies and life path... wondering if "who I am" is really "who I want to be." Trying to see beyond what I thought my desires were. Expanding my horizons to access my complete, whole self.

No, that's not true. I haven't re-evaluated squat. He's an idiot in a quarter-life crisis, and I am growing up.

After he left, I drank for a month. I was smashed, all my picture frames were smashed, my wedding portfolio was smashed (and burned). Dreams, relationships (his friends and family), finances, my quality of life... all of it, destroyed.

I had tried to learn to cook for him. He was of Lebanese descent, so I had made hushweh, baklava, sveeha... is there a spell-checker on this? Basically, I bought a truckload of lamb. Oddly enough, he never really seemed to appreciate my cooking, and I wasn't inspired to seek out new recipes. His mother was lauded as this amaaaaaazing cook, when really she had no passion for it and her food came out too tangy; anytime he wanted me to make something, he would give me one of her recipes. That was one of the problems in the relationship -- I couldn't compete with his family. But that's for my therapist to hear about.

Inspiration hit shortly after he left. I realized that I couldn't handle the household expenses on my own, and I asked my cousin D. if he would like to be housemates with me. He accepted, and I've been cooking for him regularly for the last couple of months. We've renamed my house the Park Ave. Pub.

There are a few great things that have happened because of this:
- D. has started to look like he's lost a little weight. He doesn't have much to lose, but I think he's happy with how things have redistributed. He hates vegetables, but I've gotten him to eat them, as long as they're positioned next to a dead animal of some sort. I'll occasionally sneak them in. In last night's chicken enchiladas, I bet there was a full serving of vegetables among the chicken, sauce, and cheese.
- D.'s stomach hasn't been bothering him as much. He has acid reflux, or something like that, and I haven't seen him reach for Rolaids very often lately.
- I have something to focus on. I enjoy cooking and looking for new recipes. I volunteered to host Thanksgiving this year, and I'm really excited about that. Little by little, it's helping me forget what's-his-face.
- For the very first time, I'm getting feedback on my cooking. My cousin is a pretty picky eater, and I love that he occasionally disses my food. My ex-fiancé would eat the meal, thank me for cooking, and would mutter "yeah, it was good" when I would ask him if he liked it. It doesn't sound like a big deal, but six years of "sure, I liked it" gets really annoying.
- Because of the point above, I am now finally inspired to cook. And after trying to join in on someone else's hobbies when I didn't want him to ignore me anymore... I finally have a hobby of my own.

I'm not cooking tonight. D. and I are going down to Indy to hang out with my brother and my little niece; we'll be going on a Halloween Egg Hunt, then out for a drink (sans the little niece). Tomorrow is a special day -- October 23, 2010 -- so I'm going to play poker at the VFW for a while and then attempt meatloaf again. I got a thumbs-down from the cousin on Smokey Chipotle Meatloaf for too much spice (same thing happened last night with the enchiladas, but I have no idea where the spice came from, as I left out chili powder and green pepper).

Sunday, if I survived my former wedding day, we'll be installing a new front door. My five-foot-nothing, 62-year-old mother managed to pull the ancient, original doorknob off in her hand, and I was unable to affix a new doorknob (with locking mechanism, as that lock has been giving me trouble since I've lived there) to the oddly-cut, hollowed-out original door. The new door is eligible for the tax credit and has a neat, Craftsman-y window. It'll be cold in the house as we're installing the door, and it's football Sunday. This means I am going to have to make some chili.

The household rundown on football teams: I like the Colts (and don't like the Bears) because I'm a Hoosier, I like the Giants because Eli Manning is hot, I like the Saints because Drew Brees went to Purdue, and I don't like the Pats because I think Tom Brady's a jerk. D., who grew up in K.C. and lived in his family's (not my side) current city of Nashville for a few years, likes the Chiefs and the Titans. And we both like LaDainian Tomlinson because he's classy.

9.23.2010

The art of grieving

http://www.tasteofcuba.com/empanadas.html

I'm pretty sure cooking and food are closely related to grief. There's a reason why people in turmoil sit on the couch and eat crap for dinner like Wheat Thins, spaghetti-o's and pizza. It could be that they don't have the energy to make anything else for dinner.

One night, when I found that I had enough energy, I invited a friend and her husband over for dinner. I made baked salmon, one of my favorite things to make. Rather, I was trying to make it... C. and her husband M. were being difficult.

"Do you have any seasoning salt?" she asked, more than once. "I don't like black pepper, can you put something else on it?" She then rifled through my spice cabinet (which put her in my way when I was trying to get to the stove), taking out spices that she wanted for her salmon. I told her that I made the marinade all at once, and I roasted the potatoes as a whole batch, so it would be pretty hard to make hers different.

Then her husband kept telling me to marinade it longer. "Yes, the recipe says to marinade for an hour," I explained. "But I'm only going to do it for 20 minutes because you guys are on day reporting and have to be home by 10 p.m. I'm not sending you both back to jail just so you can have thoroughly marinated salmon."

Just before dinner was ready, I noticed that they were both stoned out of their minds on Xanax. M. was also drunk, having brought and finished a six pack, only to help himself to the rest of my own beer.

Finally, I got them to sit down at the table to eat. They were complimentary of the food. C. drenched her salmon in ranch dressing. M. asked me how much my house cost and how much I make in a year. They left at 9:45 -- just enough time to run by a liquor store and get home before their curfew.

It was frustrating. It was disrespectful. It was disappointing, as C. had made so many strides to have us all take her sobriety seriously, then there she was nodding off on my couch. It was annoying.

After that, I didn't cook for a few weeks. Slowly, I've been able to get back into it. If only my cousin would do the dishes when I cook for him.

One of the only things I have left in my freezer right now is chicken. So earlier this week, it was braised balsamic chicken. Tonight, spicy garlic lime chicken. Tomorrow, I'm thinking about not even making an entree, because I just obtained a recipe for Cheddar Bay biscuits. I think I'll make about three dozen and just eat those for the rest of the weekend.

Oh, and I think P. leaves in about a week, but I'm not sure. As if he'd bother to contact me with any updates. He hasn't spoken to me in... hmmm... two weeks? Except for a stupid text about his mail. All his communication has been bullshit. Dry, business-like bullshit.

Whatever. I had it coming. I knew I was engaged to someone with the emotional range of a teaspoon, so I don't know what I expected. Poetry? Baring of the soul? No, I got emails with our utility account numbers... the contact information for our mortgage lender... a list of the furniture he was going to take.

How in the crap did I end up with someone like that? Twice? If the above paragraph (and the fact that he and his two cousins are moving to NYC and none of them have jobs, STILL) proves that P. is an idiot, then the first sentence of this one proves that I am.

As for this weekend:
Friday -- Drink.
Saturday -- One-year-old's birthday party. My present will pale in comparison to the competitive grandparents in attendance. Cuban-themed dinner party with my brother and sister-in-law. Night in Indy.
Sunday -- Another kid's birthday party. My present will pale in comparison, simply because the family lives in Carmel. My cousin returns from Nashville and drinking ensues.
Late Sunday -- Drunkenly attempt empanadas from scratch.

9.15.2010

the show must go on

I'm feeling a little better since my last post, thanks to the Effexor and some fresh air.

P.S. I'm pretty broke from fixing up the house. Donations are welcome.

8.23.2010

August 23: Two months to the wedding, and...

P. left me.

Actually, he called off the wedding July 21. He decided to not pursue counseling or reconciliating on August 2 -- he had this conversation with me, after jerking me around for two weeks with the "can we/can't we" crap, during a phone call in the middle of the workday, no less. I'm saddled with the house (and cancelling the wedding stuff, AND sending back all the wedding shower gifts that for some stupid fucking reason he insisted on opening and using), and he's following my dream of moving to New York City. Of course. The city he asked me to give up for him six years ago. He fucking hated that city. And now he gets to trot about it happily with his friends while I sit here and stew.

So I've been Home Depoting the shit out of the house, trying to work through my anger. I should be glad that we didn't end up getting married, but I'm not. I can't put my finger on when exactly things started going wrong, but I'm assuming that everyone he has talked to would say that it was indubitably something I did.

But this is how I would break it down. Six years ago, I met a clever, fun, passionate person. Six months ago, that person had turned into someone who was dull, serious and judgemental. Six years ago, my boyfriend thought I was the coolest woman he'd ever met, and he loved how independent I was. Six months ago, my fiancé was frustrated at my inability to live according to the character of June Cleaver, the cookbooks of Betty Crocker, and the faultless women with bubbly personalities found in the pages of Cosmopolitan Magazine. And instead of independence, he began to prefer me in chains.

Even if we had nothing planned, I wasn't supposed to leave the apartment. After work, I had to be there right away (despite being salaried... it is not unusual for me to need to stay at work until six or so, but I'd start getting phone calls from him at 5:20) unless I wanted 20 questions about where I'd been and unless I wanted the whole night screwed up due to a late meal. Then I had to make dinner. Then I had to stay. He'd watch videos, play computer games, talk to friends, etc... and I sat there, watching bad television or dicking around online. I tried to find hobbies. I immersed myself in house hunting and wedding planning/etiquette. I started this blog, which I found I didn't have much time for. I tried to plan outings with P. and other members of my family. I played video games with P., in an effort to maintain interests together. I learned new recipes.

It didn't work. I started hiding things from him, just for the desperate need to have something of my own for once. To have something private. I didn't hide big things at first. But then I started eating a lot less -- in a neurotic way -- and before I knew it, I'd lost 25 pounds in less than two months. P. remained unaware; he never once mentioned my figure. He was still pretty much as affectionate as usual, but that had never been very much... because I was his first kiss, first girlfriend, first anything, I was encumbered with the rather ambitious task of trying to teach him how to act around a woman. I had been the one to approach him at first (oh, and how I wish I hadn't...), and he'd been clueless. But after a few years (yes, years) of coaching, I was really happy with what he was able to give. He'd hold my hand. Occasionally put his arm around me at a restaurant or on the couch. He surprised me a couple of times by showing affection to me in front of others. Given all those great things he learned for me, to keep me happy, one would still think that a girl's fiancé would notice if she lost 25 pounds out of nowhere. He later said that he didn't notice because he saw me every day... but it was 25 pounds. It isn't like I went from being morbidly obese to slightly-less morbidly obese; I went from curvy to Kate Moss in six weeks. How can someone be that disconnected?

Then, I binge-shopped. I compulsively bought clothes, sometimes every day, during my lunch hour. I'd hide receipts and clothes.

I started drinking too much.

And after several years together, he had become tuned in to slight changes in my mood, though at the time of our break-up, I was trying to teach him what to do with those changes -- e.g., once I wasn't feeling well during a visit with his extended relatives, and I wanted him to take care of the social implications in a way that I wouldn't be embarrassed... to be more specific, we were at his relative's place two hours away, and his parents wanted to take a short trip to see P.'s cousin's new house; they asked us to come along, but I had just started feeling really ill. Instead of leaving me to fend for myself and mumble something to P.'s mother (who is the type to repeat really loudly, "OH, YOU'RE SICK? AUNT PAT, Q DIDN'T LIKE YOUR GRAPE LEAVES!"), would it have been so hard for P. to throw himself under the bus and say, "Actually, we're both still pretty full from dinner -- I think we might just relax here for a while and watch the game. But take pictures!"

But he couldn't do those things for me. Yes, maybe I was expecting him to read my mind, but Jesus, he could've done something. He couldn't take the lead -- I had to do everything. I was the one who cooked, who got guilted into cleaning, who managed our social calendar, who made phone calls and wrote emails to pizza guys/landlords/salespeople/customer service centers because he hated talking to people, who found things on sale, who initiated sex, who kept up with beauty and fashion so he would find me appealing (meanwhile... he'd gained at least 40 pounds, was losing his hair, and didn't seem to give a shit), etc., etc. It was exhausting. And mortifying. I did all that shit for nothing.

Then he had the nerve to say that he couldn't count on me for the day-to-day things. Like cleaning, I guess. But, for example, we'd made a deal -- I cook and he does the dishes. There was not one evening since we made that deal where the dishes were done after we ate. And, actually, I can't remember any time when the dishes were done the day after a particular meal, either. One example of me trying to manage the majority of the relationship on my own.

I was smothered. I felt like he was trying to change me. I felt unappreciated. I felt unattractive.

After months of going through all of that fucking shit without anyone to talk to about it, I shut down. I didn't do it to be vengeful. P. felt couldn't count on me to sweep the bathroom. I couldn't count on him to appreciate me... or hell, even love me -- since I'm the first girl who ever showed interest, I think he just went along with it because I was there and I liked him. Who's to say he ever loved me? But despite everything he did or didn't do, despite how long I tried to put up with it and work through it, despite how hard it was on me, because of my actions, I'm the automatic asshole.

He immediately went and blabbed to his entire circle of family and friends that I was emotionally distant or whatever, and I bet anything he got buckets of support and love and "you're doing the right thing." I wonder if anyone even considered my side of the story. They definitely didn't ask.

I doubt if it crossed their minds. They might have felt like family to me, but I guess they never really were. A line is drawn between two people you love when one person is your flesh and blood, and the other person is the whore who broke his precious heart.

Yet, after all this and how much I fucking hate him for letting me take all the blame for everything in the relationship while everyone else soothes him and tells him how perfect and angelic he is... I miss him, I miss what we had, I miss pursuing our plans for the future, and I would do just about anything to get it back.

Trouble is, he wants nothing to do with me, he can't wait to get the house stuff settled up, and he can't wait to get as far away as possible from me so that I can be completely cut out of his life. He's already moved on, and I'm left with all this shit to deal with. I'd be infuriated, but I'm so fucking pathetically heartbroken over losing him that I don't have the energy for much else.

6.25.2010

Good news: We bought a house. Bad news: We have to take care of it now.

No, I haven't been updating. Not because people don't read it, but because I procrastinate.

P. and I closed on the house and then spent three weeks removing wallpaper with a water/fabric softener mixture. For the rest of my life, if I get a whiff of generic Mountain Fresh fabric softener, I will think of the three weeks I spent exhaustively working on the house, all the while working 40+ hours a week, taking care of the apartment, eating, kind of sleeping, etc.

Then we washed the walls. Then we sanded.

Sanding the laundry room

Sanding sucked.

But we had a house. It was still pretty cool outside, being March in Indiana, so we got to try out the furnace. Other than that, those three weeks are a blur to me now.

We're all moved in now and are enjoying the summer. My cousin D. got a job here and stayed with us for about a month before finding an apartment, and that was fun. P.'s best friend B. also just moved back to town, after working in Madison for two years after college, and he's living in our garage. It's funny what I miss now that my cousin isn't living with us. Oddly enough, I miss cooking for him all the time. When B. moves out, it'll be weird having the whole house to ourselves. I don't know what we'll do with our time... though, D. and B. will still live in town.

... delicately trying to put fires out at work...

2.19.2010

A week to go

We close on the house next Friday, provided that we get approved for this loan. No one's really telling us anything.

In other news, this weekend, P. and I are going out to dinner tonight... taco night tomorrow night... in between the two biggest priorities (food), we'll be cleaning stuff up. He wants to take pictures of the apartment before we leave.

Every day for a while, I've been going alphabetically by artist on my Zune. Yesterday I listened to Genesis. Today, Gorillaz. Monday, Incubus. Then Jayhawks, then Jethro Tull. So, next Friday, I would be listening to Led Zeppelin, but I'll hopefully be closing on a house with P. instead. :)

2.16.2010

Closing on the House and Not Being Seven Years Old

Okay. We close in less than ten days. We're pretty much done dealing with insurance people, loan people, realtor people. I think we just need to do the walk-through and go to closing, which is on Feb. 26. We got the insurance guy to come down on his price by a couple hundred bucks, and we had to switch to an FHA loan because P. doesn't have a lot of credit history and most of the history I have is bad.

After closing, we paint. Rather, we remove shitty wallpaper, then paint. I'm especially excited for this.

Whatever, I'm excited for all of it -- having my own office again, having a larger kitchen, having a (working) fireplace, better bathrooms...

But after all the moving in and tearing down and whatnot, we have a wedding to plan. Won't be nearly as fun as buying a house.


I was just thinking about how, when I was a kid, I couldn't wait to be all grown up. I'd get to drive, have a credit card, have a job. When I was in elementary school, my friends and I would cut fake drivers licenses and credit cards out of cardboard and glue pictures of my cousin Kristy to them. We'd get our mothers' old billfolds and purses out and, with the drivers licenses and credit cards tucked inside, we'd pretend to drive my mom's Honda over to College. I loved it.

I couldn't wait to be old enough to have a job and take on Responsibility. Be Busy, Be Productive. Now I'm just sitting here, not wanting to finish my edits. What was so bad about being seven years old that I would fantasize about this life? I always wanted it... I drive now, I have credit cards, I have a job, I'm about to buy a house, I'm getting married. Everything I do is an inherent part of being an adult. I drink, I smoke, I swear, I... well, I do a lot of things I didn't do when I was in elementary school. And I wanted that back then, but of course, now it's a hassle.

I should take my Ritalin.

1.26.2010

Appraisal

We just got our appraisal back and it's $3K more than the selling price. YAY!

And then our insurance guy called and said our annual premium would be $900-something. He's covering us for way too much. We'll have to let him know that we don't need that much coverage and we want our house and belongings covered at actual cash value. Plus, I know that my parents' premiums are much lower with that same guy. ughghghgh, buying a house is a huge pain in the ass...

1.21.2010

So, we started out our house-hunting journey in January 2009, technically. We started looking at houses online and realized that property is dirt cheap here. We calculated a budget, made a timeline, put together a list of things we'd want in a house, researched mortgage loans and just about every other aspect about purchasing a home... judging by all the foreclosures in the last couple of years, I'm guessing we were a bit more prepared than others.

For most of the next year, we continued looking at houses online and in magazines, taking note of houses that were particularly suitable. Then, in December, we found the bungalow just outside of town. Went to see it with a realtor, took pictures, etc. Saw it a second time, this time with our parents.

P. loved it. The garage was very large -- the homeowners could fit two cars in there, as well as a boat. A fucking boat. Also in the garage was a workshop, where P. surely saw himself crafting many beautiful and expensive-looking items for his future wife. The backyard was huge. The house had charm.

I saw the matronly pink carpet and ridiculous wallpaper. I saw the tiny, outdated kitchen. I saw the fugly, carpeted half bath next to the master bedroom, knowing that I'd have to shower downstairs and then run my freezing, naked ass upstairs to get dressed.

Don't get me wrong; at first, I saw us there, putting up Christmas lights on the wide front porch and cleaning up the kitchen on humid July evenings after having a barbeque. So we made an offer for what we would pay for the house. That ends up being either a blessing or a curse, and I'm not sure which yet.

The difference between the asking price and what we were comfortable paying for the house was a difference of $22,400. I firmly believe that we only made this offer because we were listening to our parents, none of whom would have paid a dime over a certain amount for that house and did not hesitate to tell us this at any given time. What we should have done to get a contract on that house was bid a difference of about $5,000, while keeping faith about the fact that they'd get nailed on the inspection. With the inspection, we would've had to renegotiate because of the knob and tube wiring, which was fucking everywhere, and I'm sure there are just some things in a house built in 1920 that aren't up to code. And then the appraisal... well... they hadn't gotten an appraisal done, but the comps that their realtor gave us were absolute crap.

So, the house was $149,900. In a town of barely 1000 people, in the middle of crackerjack Indiana, $149.9K should get you:
- at the very least, two bathrooms
- four oversized bedrooms
- a big, updated kitchen
- probably about 2500 square feet and at least an acre of land
- the absence of god-awful décor (we would have had to redecorate every. single. room. We also would've had to redo both bathrooms. And update the kitchen. ugh.)

All in all, the house was blatantly overpriced. The sellers hadn't gotten an appraisal done, for one thing... for another, they'd lived in the house for forty years, raising their kids and making memories. Of course they think the house is worth a billion dollars, but they need to consider where they are. And what their house would actually look like to a couple of 25 year olds.

Needless to say, our offer was rejected. We decided to not re-submit it at a higher price. But, had we bid a lot higher, then we would've at least been able to get a contract with them and being the price down later.

Instead, we found a better house. P. hasn't been as enthusiastic about this one, probably because of the smaller garage and yard. It was also listed above the bungalow. But the kitchen and bathrooms had been updated, the bedrooms were much bigger, and the full bath was actually near the bedrooms. It had a deck, a big kitchen, a fireplace, original woodwork... eeeeeeeeee :)

We made an offer and accepted their counter. The inspection turned up some things, so we suggested that the sellers fix them. And they sent us back a list of things they'd fix, which was the most retarded thing I'd ever read. I mean, seriously: The chimney's in bad shape. So their suggestion was that they'd pay for half of the installation of a gas log fireplace. What the fuck does that do to help the chimney? Can anyone explain that to me? Anyway, the rest of the list went on like that. So we were like, "Fuck it, don't bother, just sell us the house for less." And they accepted. Yay.

So now, we're done with negotiating, unless the appraisal turns anything up. We close on February 26. I hope P. likes it.

1.15.2010

Renegotiation

Tonight, P. wrote a nice, professional, gracious letter to the sellers (who we've been totally cyber-stalking) that explains why the repairs they are willing to undertake are not effective or lasting, so we cannot accept their offer. He sent me the draft. It ends with, "... We want to repair these issues while still enhancing the home. For this reason, we would prefer to handle the repairs ourselves. Give us money. STFU.

Praise Jesus."

More later.