Four! More! Years! (We try to keep our goals reasonable)

Hey, did you know that if you hover over rice and give it a bunch of broth and stir it for like 45 minutes it will turn into risotto, which is great?

True story.
Anyway, if standing at the stove for the better part of an hour doesn't sound too awful, I recommend it. Personally, I'll stand at the stove for the better part of a day if there aren't a bunch of pots to clean at the end of it. My risotto had shallots and sweet potatoes and it was lovely. I've noticed that a lot of recipes that involve mushrooms, and by all means, give that a shot if you're into that sort of thing.

Hey, I've been married for four years today! Good job, me! Keep it up! Hmm, just started a little argument about television while in the middle of that thought. Marriage is hard.

We've been having sort of a shoe....thing around our house lately.

They just appear. In places.
Anna doesn't actually like wearing shoes very much, but she really likes trying to put them on. Or rather, trying to verbally coax them into putting themselves on her feet.

"Hey listen, why don't you go ahead and get on for me?"
"Just a little to your right. Scooch...a tad..."

"Just...right...you're almost there."

"Mom, it's not working. Mom. This shoe is being a jerk."
It doesn't even matter if she's already wearing other shoes.


It's no longer 95 degrees outside, paaaaaaaarty

It's fall now. It is totally fall. Anna celebrated the end of summer in an exotic manner.

And monkey brains, although popular in Cantonese cuisine, are not often to be found in Washington, D.C.
For my part, I celebrated by pulling something out of the freezer rather than cooking. Hello, brisket. You are still lovely.

Fall means long sleeves! Look how pumped she is.

Seasons are delightful!

Okay, well, I'm over it now. Who has some monkey brains stashed away?
Last night was white bean and pasta soup, from the Bon Appetit archives. Warm and garlicky, as the season demands.

No brains in here, which I assume is why Anna wasn't into it.


San Antonio Part Two: The Eats

Obviously, my favorite part of vacations is the eating, much as my favorite part of any given day is eating, so I tend to put a LOT of thought into planning where we will have meals, even for a 24-hour vacation 100 miles from home. A lot. Browse through countless online menus a lot. Consult various "best of" lists a lot. Go to bed ruminating on Mexican versus Tex Mex versus Latin a lot. I was thinking there was a chance we would have Saturday lunch and dinner, then Sunday breakfast and lunch, so I was determined not to waste any of our four meals.

We ended up getting into town a little too late in the afternoon for lunch, but there was still optimistic talk  of an early dinner/late dinner move. Unfortunately, by the time we hit the ground running there was rain, so we ducked into the first Riverwalk spot that looked good, which was an Irish pub.

And here's the other unfortunately. The reason the pub "looked good" was that it was playing the UT game, regarding which Dan had recently informed me, "I didn't think I cared about this game, but then I remembered that I do." It's possible there was more elaboration on the subject, but that was the gist. In case you don't know, the goings on weren't pretty, but all I cared about was that my when-in-Rome policy was being put to the test: Guinness because I'm in an Irish pub or something more Texy Mexy because I'm in San Antonio? Difficult times. I went with my more immediate surroundings, and the Guinness. Temporary detour from my beautiful, beautiful culinary plans.

Next we moved on to....another sports bar.

Early dinner.
Saving grace? Back to the Future themed I.D. sign.

Losing grace: people born in 1989 can drink beer and I am old.
Eventually, mercifully, the game was over and I was stuffed with popcorn and beer. I was going to take a picture of the post-early-dinner-pre-late-dinner espresso that we had at a little local coffee shop but by then I was just too down to find it funny.

No worries, we rallied. Late dinner came through like a champ. We decided on Biga on the Banks, which ended up being very good for our 9:00 date. Sorry about the picture quality, but I'm not quiiiiiite obnoxious enough to attempt good pictures in a nice dark restaurant. Yet.

I think it was called a Cuzco salad. And it had giant corn-looking things that, having just this second Googled, turn out to be...Giant Corn.

Salmon. Boring choice probably, but nice crispy skin and saffron mashers underneath.
Sticky toffee pudding, sticky toffee pudding, sticky toffee pudding.
Breakfast at the Guenther House was no slouch, either. I went for the, uh, platter thing. That was a good idea.

Here is one decision in my life that I will never regret. It looks like biscuits.

Dan went for waffles, and if I hadn't tasted the biscuits, I wouldn't judge him for this at all.

JalapeƱo jelly! I always suspected I would like you, and I do. Call me.
For lunch I figured we'd go simple, and hit up The Cove. Texas Monthly AND Guy Fieri both told me it was a good idea. It's a restaurant, car wash, and laundromat.

DUN DUN D--no, just our beers, it wasn't scary.
I got the Texas Burger and Dan got the Lamburger. Natural light makes it less awkward to take pictures of food.

It was good, but I'm a little bit sad if it's really the #5 burger in the entire state. The corn chips were stale, maybe? Totally lost in the mix. And I didn't even realize there was avocado on it until I saw a bit peeking out of the back. Waste of avocado is a punishable offense for sure.

I still bought a T-shirt.


San Antonio Part One: The Digs

Dan and I decided it was finally time to break our impressive 14.5 month streak of zero nights together without the baby by heading to San Antonio for our anniversary. We packed up Anna and Anna's seventeen bags of stuff and dropped the whole load off in Boerne with Dan's parents.

Anna makes herself comfortable on the way to Grandma and Grandpa's.
I booked a room at the Havana Hotel, which is a newly remodeled building that originally opened in 1914. I'm not sure whether you know this about me, but I happen to have an extremely American belief that any structure built before 1950 is necessarily haunted. How could it not be? Exactly.

Walking in to the building, I note the abundance of red candles, red velvet, and the smell of incense. A little bit Catholic church, a little bit bordello. I had attempted to reserve the "Romance package" (don't laugh! 14.5 months!) but when we checked in it appeared that there was a mix-up online, and no romance for us. Poorly designed website or sneaky hotel computer ghost? No telling. Anyway, grabbed the room key and went to drop our stuff.

Oh, more red velvet! Nice.
We had been in our room for about three minutes when the door handle started moving, then swung open. Hey, that doesn't seem good!

Ah, no worries, just a hotel employee and two maintenance men. Wait, that actually still doesn't seem good. There has been a mysterious dripping from the ceiling. Onto the bed. The maintenance men are unable to conjure this ghostly drip, and they leave. I make a mental note to use the Do Not Disturb sign at all times.

As we're getting ready to go out that evening, I notice that a lot of the Disney Haunted Mansion vibe is coming from the fact that all of the mirrors are antique and somewhat cracked. Against the pink bathroom wall, though, the effect is more "Grandmother's house" than "crazy-red-velvet-sexy-church."

These are the thoughts lurking behind my enigmatic water-drinking face.
After dinner that night we returned to the hotel bar to close out the evening. The decor down there in the basement takes the rest of the hotel's style and raises it a "vampire bar."

Also, there was someone doing a bridal photo shoot in a side room and that NEVER makes things less weird.
At one point I was looking at the mirror over the bar and the reflection of two guys behind me was so misty and dark looking that I felt compelled to surreptitiously turn around and make sure they were really there. It's cool, they were there, just a strange effect. I mentioned to Dan that a lot of the eerie feeling of the place came from the crazy mirrors, and he was like, "Yeah, like that one with half a face in it," and I laughed because, wow, that's an uncharacteristically off-the-wall joke from Dan, good one dude. OH WHAAAAAT THE HELL IS THAT???

And why is it trying to sneak into our world???
I had my back to that thing and kept having to turn around for the rest of the night to make sure it was still there. And not getting any closer. When I wasn't doing that I was staring at this sweet art deco lamp above the bar.

Probably the only actual haunted thing in the room.
We headed to bed around midnight. There was a loud party in the room above us, which I have to assume was actually unoccupied, but I was pretty tired and tuned it out. Nice try, ghost revelers. But at 2:30 I woke up to a noise. TAP. TAP. TAP. So we meet at last, Mr. Mystery Drip.

Here's the thing about an every-six-second drip of water from the ceiling. Putting a towel down might make the bedspread less damp, but it does not stifle the TAP. Nothing does. Even my sleepy engineer of a husband could not construct a device to lessen the TAP. If I could have just gotten up and given the TAP a bottle and changed its diaper, that's what I would have done, but my arsenal of please-be-quiet-I'm-sleepy tricks ends there. I am awake. Victory goes to the TAP.

A lesser lady may have turned to the mini-bar for comfort at this point, but for some reason my often-overspending self is absolutely immovable on the subject of mini-bars. If I were bitten by a poisonous snake and the mini-bar had the antidote I would insist that someone run to a pharmacy instead because it's going to cost like a fourth as much, come on.

Tell me I'm wrong, $9 airplane bottle of Tito's.
I will give them this, though--the mini-bar basket of stuff was actually a lot more appealing, as it included maracas, a Pancho Villa candle, and a $22 "lucky monkey."

I think if I actually believed that lighting one of those candles would have made the TAP stop, I would have had a serious crisis of decision-making right there at 3 am. As it stood, eventually either the dripping gave out or my brain did, it gets a little fuzzy there at the end.

Dan is still upset that I wouldn't let him buy the monkey.


I think she was attempting literal baby-whispering

Hosted a playdate yesterday afternoon. In case you were curious, my record now stands at Playdates Hosted: 3, Incidents Requiring a Call to 911: 0. Best hostess ever. I also made baba ganouj!

Hummus's vegetable-y-er cousin.
And some peach shortbread bars, but they don't look as pretty as the Smitten Kitchen version.

You are a disappointment to me, picture of shortbread. Be more fruit-looking next time.
Last night's dinner was intended to be leftover enchiladas, but since my supposed-to-be-out-of-town husband stayed in town, possibly for the express purpose of not missing out on the enchiladas, there were no leftovers to have. Fortunately, my dirt-covered child and I were recently at Central Market, so I picked up cherry pecan chicken sausages and made do.

Improvisation, on toast.
This morning we went to story time at the library. I thought maybe if Anna tried the 0-18 month one instead of the 12-24 month, she wouldn't get so riled up by other toddlers and would pay attention to the books. I will say...she seemed to have fun.

Also, the storytelling lady was talking super, super quietly and I wasn't paying attention to her either. Well played, A.


The post where Dan leaves town, but not really

Dan claimed he was going out of town this week, so I tried to fill my schedule as much as possible. He didn't actually go out of town, so I ended up stuck with a full schedule AND a husband, sigh. No, I'm glad he's around because our fire alarm keeps going off in the middle of the night (Even after battery replacement! The hell?) and it freaks me out and I'm happy to not be alone when that happens. I am thisclose to blaming all of our appliance trouble on a poltergeist. Anyway, all of my cooking plans were based on Anna and me kicking it single ladies style.

Tuesday night was Slow Cooker Black Bean Enchiladas.

Single ladies love nothing more than enchiladas. Look it up.

I realize that crock pots are for busy people who actually leave their houses during the day, but for some reason I love mine anyway. I like that something is sitting on my counter MAKING FOOD all afternoon. (I would like it better if it were an elf, but the pot is cool.) I know it would only take 20 minutes in the oven. I should probably just buy a dehydrator and cook all of my meals in it, for 32 hours or whatever. Or leave food out in the sun on the back porch. And hire an elf to supervise it.

Kay joined us for dinner and Guitar Hero. It's been about two years, and now I know that I am no longer good at Guitar Hero. I am still good at drinking bourbon.

Single ladies also love dance parties.

For Wednesday I wanted to come up with a recipe that would comfort me in my loneliness, back when I thought that I would be enshrouded in loneliness, and Smitten Kitchen's 44 Clove Garlic Soup seemed like a reasonable way to go.

She describes it as "subtle," and I should have interpreted that as "not garlicky enough by a long shot," but I was hesitant to apply my normal rule of doubling or tripling the garlic in any given recipe, since that would quickly result in a really comical number of garlic cloves. I won't make that mistake next time. My palate demands garlic in obscene amounts. I feel like it mostly just tasted like the chicken stock base, which in my opinion was too salty and sort of blah. Maybe with a better broth the garlic would have come through more strongly. I'll let you know how my 132 garlic clove version turns out.

Anna seeks the spice that only Muppet-face can provide.


At least she has a hobby

Last night I was still feeling the after-effects from Sunday's breakfast, so I just threw a bunch of vegetables on top of some baked sweet potatoes. I should note that poor Dan ordered a normal breakfast that involved plant matter yet is still subjected to my regret-cooking.

I hope he's eating a lot of meatballs and candy bars when I'm not around.

Hey, how about those black beans? They look pretty normal and black bean-ish, right? I have to tell you, I got so pumped up seeing this on the can:

That I totally didn't notice this part:

And since you know that I'm basically a food expert, it won't surprise you that my immediate thought was "Beans are already vegan, why would they make a soy version?" Yes. A plus, Science Girl. Anyway, they tasted fine and now I know that soy beans come in black. Learning is all around us, kids.

This morning we went to the playground at Central Market. I was excited to see what Anna would do now that she's walking pretty well and doesn't have to just sit and play in the dirt.

Now I know.


Maybe follow it up with a cheesecake

Our major weekend project was putting together new shelves for Anna's room. I was going to let her do it herself, but the box was pretty clear about "Adult Assembly."

Next time, kid.

In the end, Dan and I managed without her help, but just barely. I like how at 14 months old, we finally decided to give Anna a real bedroom instead of a kinda provisional "you can sleep in here until you find your own place" setup.

I guess she wore us down.

Sunday morning we decided to try out Cafe Java for a little change of pace. (If any Tacodeli employees are reading this, DON'T BE CONCERNED ABOUT OUR ABSENCE. We are fine. See you next week.) I didn't take a picture of my breakfast because I was sort of embarrassed of it, but it consisted of a bagel, egg, breakfast sausage, American cheese, and hash browns. With ketchup. It was straight Waffle House style and I loved it. Sometimes the Mansfield, Texan in me will not be denied.

The good thing about starting the day with a meal like that is that I then went to the grocery store feeling repentant and came home with four bags of fruits and vegetables. I've always interpreted the "don't shop hungry" maxim to mean "don't shop unless you've recently made a huge grease-mess of yourself." I'm no nutritionist, I'm just telling you what works for me.

Many of those vegetables found their way into Creamy Avocado & White Bean Wraps later that night. It's from the Eating Well website, which is why it consists of many healthy things and also has a nice nutritional breakdown at the end of the recipe. Oh, and this useful little tip: "Serve with tortilla chips, salsa and Tecate beer." Listen Eating Well, I really don't need your help undermining healthy meals with unhealthy add-ons, okay?

Don't tell me how to do my job.