Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Schönbrunn Palace - Wednesday

Today we went to Schoenbrunn Palace.

We entered at the back gate, and saw the Palm House--I bought a ticket and went in to the green house. There were three environments inside, and it was like a garden, not like a utilitarian place with plants in rows. There was even a stream and little bridges. The high arches above, the decorative details up so high, all not utilitarian. And I was happy to be there.

The were three environments. The one to the right was quite humid. There were a bunch of young people in there taking pictures, enough to make me wonder if a photography class was there. Also, there were giant snails in what looked to me like a rabbit hutch, with a pile of cut-up rabbit-food vegetables to feed them. M. said there were snails as big as that out in the woods, that's just what they're like out here.

The environment to the left of center had lots of arranged flowers--azalea bushes trimmed as small "trees", lots of mums in pots. In the center and to the left many pumpkins are gourds were on display too.

In the gardens, I love all the long vistas with trees arranged evenly spaced on either side of the path. There was a tall (40 foot?) wall of tree trimmed thin like an espalier without supports, and an arched doorway opening into that section of the garden.

In the palace, I loved the parquet floors and how grand everything was. When I got to the Imperial section, the parquet floors used contrasting species of wood in more complicated patterns with curves and circles. I saw the very Imperial style sleigh bed Napoleon's son died in, and the lark which he had stuffed. Also, the state bed that Maria Teresa inherited from her parents. Lots of Chinoise--one room white with blue pictures and wallpaper I would call the willow room. There was one room with black paneling and gold detailing that was like a chinese screen interpretation of wall treatments.

We stopped at a restaurant on the way home, where they make gluten-free food, so we could all eat there together. I had venison.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

holiday homelife, Tuesday

I slept well but wasn't very motivated to go out sightseeing after the big day I'd had before. M. had mentioned she was going to clean house a little and go to the grocery store. I wanted to go to the grocery store too--my favorite place to visit when I travel. I asked M. if we could go a place she mentioned near her house, where she sometimes went for breakfast. We took the boys along. The little cottage restaurant was so pretty, and all dark wood inside. It was too cold to sit outside, but we were on a sort of enclosed porch, looking across a valley to the beautiful hills beyond where M. said the vineyards were. M. had brought one of those wheeled carts for shopping, and she just parked it to the right of the door.

I was quite hungry, so I ordered a sandwich instead of breakfast. It was some kind of pork or ham with lettuce and cranberries. There was some kind of sauce on the plate, may have simply been sourcream. I had fresh orange juice again, and spoiled myself with a second glass. It was fun to be out with the children. M. had yogurt with fruit.

Then we walked through the park and down to the supermarket. M. apologized that this was an expensive, larger, American-style grocery store (Merkur), but it was her nearest one. It was set up for shoppers who came in cars. We chose out some food for a breakfast, lunch, and dinner. I decided to go back in to buy berries, then got in line and paid with some help from M. who was waiting.

Back up through the park, this time uphill. We stopped to watch the boys play on the playstructure. Some older boys, maybe 10 years old, came by with army recruitment folders, wearing official-looking badges and many things on their belts. M. politely declined their literature. We couldn't figure out if they were doing some official canvassing, or just playing with materials the army had been passing out the day before during national holiday.

After we were home awhile, M. suggested a drive into the Weinerwald, where the vineyards are. We drove thru picturesque Grinzing, and up to a park. Fog blocked some of the view of the city, but it was beautiful. Though eerily like Michigan or California. We watched the boys play on the wood structure while we sat on a blanket and ate apples. A friend of M. happened by and we visited with her; she teaches at the same school that has recessed for a week of autumn break. Then M. played with her sons while I walked on the seesaws until one of them liked me enough to ask for a push on the swings.

M. was hosting a bookclub that night, I read Guensey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society beforehand in preparation. M. made a beautiful composed salad with the ingredients we had bought earlier that day, with baked potatoes, green beans, kidney beans, gabanzo beans tomato, basil, and what else. M's bookclub had delightful women and I really enjoyed the discussion, so nice of them to include me!

Then I went to bed.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Walk around downtown, Monday

Took the bus to ____ station and walked to _________, where we saw the Roman foundations and medieval walls that had been excavated. Walked by the four statues of Hercules, past the winter riding school, to the grand open grounds. The army was out with its equipment and new recruits waiting to be sworn in, and the plaza was full of people, to celebrate Austria Day____.

We moved away from the thick of the crowd and split a bratwurst from a booth. M. said it was even more delicious than usual. It was served with a roll and mustard. We also got an order of fried bread, which came five pieces with strawberry sauce. I resolved not to eat them all but I did.

We walked to see the rose garden, but then turned around because there was no opening through the wall to the street. Back to the plaza, we got some roasted chestnuts. Some young Turkish men had a booth and were hawking them. I have been wanting to try them, but I forgot I've had them before and they are quite starchy, I always forget chestnuts are like that.

We crossed the ringstrasse to see the statue of Maria Theresa, then returned to get on the Ubahn

We got off the Ubahn at ____ park, to try a walk I found in my guide book. We wandered around ____ park, then down ____ street towards Carlskirche. Partway there I saw the fountains down _______ strasse and we turned down to investigate. Behind the memorial to the pipes bringing spring water to the city, was a monument to the Russian liberation of vienna. I don't know if they were the only liberators. Later Vienna was partitioned.

We retraced out steps, past the French embassy, and turned and found KarlesKirche. There was a man playing accordian outside by the pond near the Henry Moore statue. We went on in to the church. We were impressed by the great quantity of light. We sat in the pews (very ornate) while I reviewed my guidebook and oriented myself. Then we looked above at the art installation (looked like a giant book with nails thru it) that was just below the scaffolding floor between us and the dome frescoes.

We took a tour around looking at all the chapels, then took the elevator up to view the frescoes close at hand. Once I was up there, I had a much better appreciation for how very high that dome is. There were further flights of stairs to climb, we were noticing the ____ figures, like an angel pooring out money on the poor, and some cherubs carrying keys. At the front of the dome were God the Father and Jesus the Son. Angels held the cross behind Jesus. Nearby was a woman, probably Mary, and a priest. Hard to say who was closer to Jesus in this picture, Mary or the Priest.

The stairs got narrower and shaky. Only ten people were supposed to go up at a time, but there was no way to know how many had already gone ahead of you or might come behind. I was going to give up two flights from the top, but I went on whem M. did. At the very top were windows thru which we could see the city all around. The ceiling fresco at the very top showed a dove, to represent the Holy Ghost, I would think. I dropped my guide book which made a loud noise and scared M.

We climbed down, I was shaky, and took the long elevator ride down with 3 or 4 german-speaking visitors. We continued on, past the Sessesion building (with the gold ball on top) to the food markets, which were all closed for the holiday, leaving us no plan for lunch. We used the public restroom, which was stinky.

I was getting tired and suggested we quit the rest of the walk, since there was nothing I was much motivated to see further on. We returned to ______ station and rode to ___________ station.

From here we headed to the shopping street. just before? Stephansdom, we saw a plain older-looking church to the left. Upon investigation, we had found the church with the king's crypts that I and M. had wanted to see. They were pretty amazing, and M. told me about the history of Rudolf and Franz Joseph and Maria Theresa and Carl and Ziti while we went through. I also had bought the most inexpensive guide, which mapped who was buried where, and had a genealogy chart.

Stephansdom had a quieter feel, and darker for light. It felt much more reverent than shopping-mall bright Karlskirche. I didn't buy a ticket to go down the middle of the church and see the main alter and the tomb there more closely, maybe I should have. We did see the pilgrim portrait the architect had worked in of himself.

We went further down the street, enjoying the displays of luxury goods. The stores were closed for the holiday. I did look in the Augauten window, which was the austrian-made pottery I wanted to see. M. guided us to Demel, where we had a lovely meal. I ordered pancakes which I thought were the ones mentioned in my guidebook, but they were something else entirely, though lovely and delicious. M. ordered actual food. I had a fresh-squeeze orange juice which tasted very fresh squeezed. Afterwards we looked around the cakes and candy shop, where a team of three pickpockets tried to get M., but she caught them in time.

We walked out, may have take the Ubahn again, to a bus stop that took us back close to home. I was so exhausted I lay down on the couch. M. suggested after awhile perhaps I'd want to stay up a couple hours, as it was only 6. Apparently I groaned at that suggestion, I don't even remember. I went upstairs and to bed, woke up at 10, read for a couple hours, and back to sleep until morning.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

I land in Vienna

Because of our late leaving of London, we landed about 30 minutes late in Vienna. I got in the slowest customs line, but there seemed nothing to do about that but wait. I felt confused at several points about where to go before and after that. There were only three pieces of luggage on the belt by the time I got there. I waited for mine, braced my stomach muscles as I'd been taught, and pulled it off the track onto the floor.

Once out of baggage claim, such a sea of faces. I didn't see my friend and wondered if she'd given up and gone home. My phone was running out of charge, and I'd stupidly forgotten to write down the address she'd given. I'd need to download old email in order to get that info and get a taxi. But as I left the baggage area and turned past the people leaning on the rail, there was M. and her children. Waving, laughing, giving me a hug. And her husband had just gone in, with his diplomatic pass, to help me with my heavy bag. He came out after not too long, and took my bag. I was feeling fine but it was nice to be helped and not worry. We went out to their car and M. drove us home.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

But Mom I Like the Blue

I've been trying to think outside on the box on my kitchen, which I mostly love. It's been hard to readjust to the news that we will remodel next year, when I thought that was off the table.

Since I mostly love my kitchen, and that's a hard standard to beat, I started thinking about refacing the doors. If I replace the formica on the door fronts, the kitchen could be any color I choose. Wouldn't some interesting shade of pale yellow or green be cool? I could have someone knock off the very good but traditional tile from the backsplash, put up one of these new glass tiles.

"I'm thinking about changing the color of the kitchen," I say to my son.

"What??! But I love the Blue!"

"I'm thinking, what would the kitchen be like if the cupboards were some shade of pale yellow?" I say later to my daughter.

"What, yuck Mom! I like the Blue!"

"Well, how about a green then?"

"Ugh, no, even worse! The Blue is really good!"

Okay, I guess we'll stick with blue for now.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Minimal Cooking

Half my kids are sick and stayed home from school. The upside of that, one was old enough and well enough to hold down the fort while I ran out to get a couple things from the pharmacy.

So, my hands are too full to start another week of Real Simple menus. We had one of those frozen skillet dinners, pasta, chicken, and tomato sauce, that cook in the pan in 10 minutes.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Kitchen Size

Once again, I'm wondering how much kitchen is appropriate for me.

I got caught up in the idea of double ovens, AFTER I saw them as part of a six-burner range.

Tonight I ended up doing dishes again (should be a kid job) and I've got pots and bowls that wouldn't fit in the dishwasher, half a load's worth, rinsed and waiting on the counter for their turn. Makes the idea of two dishwashers, or a dishwasher and a drawer, appealing. Especially if I give up my mess-hiding galley, I don't want to look at pots waiting to get in the dishwasher.

Husband wants a bigger-than current refrigerator. It does seem to be more than full all the time. I've got too many bottles of sauces in there in general. Right now, many containers of leftovers.

My mom suggests a second sink, a prep sink. Just sounds like another sink to wash to me.

Kitchen is currently 9x17 feet. One possible redesign layout is 11x20. Even on the big end, I don't think that's room to double all the appliances. Glenn definitely wants to start the remodel in 2010, but at this point it's all so theoretical, it's hard to get some practical planning done.

The kitchen would be open to a dining room/area. I don't want to have two eating areas, and I love a big table with nice space around it when we're eating, with room for friends.

How big is your kitchen?

Chicken Posole

Still working on the leftovers, tonight I baked chicken thighs (not as many as I thought i had) in the 40-garlic-style in the early afternoon. Then I threw together the VERY quick posole from the Real Simple Menu. Saute an onion, add broth, cooked chicken, canned posole, canned tomato. Serve with limes. I put the chili powder on the table too, rather than cooking it in, for the little folks' sake.

Of course, I had a second pot, with VEGETARIAN both. When the onions were sauteed in the first pot, I scooped some into the Vegetarian pot. Vegetarian got some of the posole and tomatoes when I opened the cans. No chicken, of course.

Once again, I thought dinner was delicious. I squeezed lime liberally. Fresh tomatoes would have been an improvement.

Princess said she didn't want to eat any.
Boy said he hated tomatoes.
Girl tasted it, but otherwise ate bread and salad.
Vegetarian drank all her broth and went to bed.

I want to try this again sometime, with fresh tomatoes.

I think tomorrow I'm going to type up a menu of all the leftovers, and make them order dinner of that. Husband's got a dinner meeting, so whether or not he likes leftovers won't be an issue.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Leftovers Interregnum

I have lots of containers in the fridge:
Plain Pad Thai Noodles (noodles, sauce, and eggs), probably could feed four for breakfast.
Most of a huge taqueria burrito (I went out to lunch with Glenn, but I could only eat less than 25% of my burrito)
Cauliflower Soup (made it a week ago. Getting question marks there.)
Vegetarian Chili (enough to put on a hot dog or two)
Sliced overcooked Steak (I imagined would go on a sandwich)
grapes, red and green. No one wants to take them in lunch.
almost half a cooked butternut squash. I bought $6.00 pumpkin pie tonight instead of making it out of this.
fresh pineapple chunks
gypsy soup, one serving.
2/3 of a $6.00 Costco pumpkin pie.
2 cups leftover cream I whipped to go with that pie.
blue lake green beans want to be cooked. One more dinner's worth.
pesto, who bought that?

In the fruit bowl being ignored: apples and peaches. Peaches are not as good as expected. Need to make a couple cobblers here.

haven't started Week 2 because I have too much food in the house. Lots of cooked Pork Loin, all the Bok Choy I never used, and also partly-frozen chicken thighs from before Week 1 started. I'm going to cook the chicken tomorrow (40-clove chicken recipe) and sub that for the deli chicken in the Posole later in Week 2.

Pork with Pan-fried Noodles

Tonight I made a pork stir fry over noodles. It's not exactly on the Real Simple menu. I made it with leftovers.

This would have been quick, sensible, resourceful, and delicious.
It wasn't quick.

I wanted to eat: pork, eggs, mushrooms, bok choy, green beans, pineapple, and scallions over Pad Thai noodles.

Husband: no noodles.
Vegetarian: no pork
Princess: no food. Well, she'll eat the mushrooms.
Boy: doesn't want vegetables, so please serve on side. And no onions.
Girl: same as boy.

Prep: Soak Noodles (>20 minutes), cut up cooked pork, bok choy, green beans, scallions. Mushrooms were pre-sliced.

Directions: while interrupted with math homework questions by hungry young children--how frustrating is that--

Fry noodles in wok (with Fish Sauce, White Vinegar, and Sugar)
Fry cooked pork (with garlic, soy sauce, and red wine vinegar) in frying pan
Add Eggs to wok
Put pork in low oven in metal bowl.
Wash frying pan.
Cook mushrooms in frying pan, now clean for vegetarians.
Put Noodles in wok in oven to stay warm.
Take out ANOTHER pan. Cook Bok Choy and Green Beans.
Put mushrooms in oven-safe bowl, and add to oven.
Saute onions in first frying pan.

Call everyone to the table. Take all the dishes and pots out of oven and off stove, serve make-your-own style.

Result--Delicious, but the cook was so frustrated and short-tempered she warned everyone darkly that they'd better eat their food.

The table was so crowded that Teen One dumped Teen Two's milk while setting down mushrooms.

Also, All the eggs were in the noodles, therefore husband didn't get any eggs, which he would have enjoyed. And husband is the audience I care about.

AND YET, *My* food was delicious. I'm the only one who ate everything together.

AND, though we were all arguing and short with each other at the table, it somehow fell into a playful rhythm, and we felt like a family, eye-rolling and teasing and irritation and all. And everyone else seemed to enjoy their food. In all, I would say it was as delicious as a Real Simple meal.

It just should have taken 12 minutes if I could have cooked it all in one pan.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

notes on Vienna

I'm going to Vienna! It's already cold there compared to here. My daughter says I can borrow some of the cute warm things we bought for her school trip last year, like that cowl-neck sweater.

I might buy a new pair of walking shoes for the trip. I don't want to wear tennis shoes, and the walking shoes I took to Germany have already been walked out.

Cafe Hawelka, Stephansplatz

A few family days in Vienna


NYTimes on Vienna

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Spicy Orange-Glazed Drumsticks

with Broccoli rather than Green Beans.

I don't know where people buy corn muffins. I made mine with Marie Calendar's mix. But that put me behind schedule for dinner.

I cooked the broccoli in well-salted boiling water, ten minutes I think. It was good. My daughter commented that broccoli usually has an aftertaste she doesn't like, but this broccoli didn't have that. Probably I usually don't cook the broccoli all the way.

The spicy orange glaze was good and easy. But the drumsticks were a little undercooked at 35 minutes (140), though I upped the oven temperature to 425. So it was mostly a corn muffin and broccoli meal. I also served vegetarian chili as a meatless option.

My son hasn't seen broccoli in a while and was completely freaked out by the smell and taste of it. I tried to get him to finish the last two bites quickly so we could get to cub scouts, which just meant they didn't stay down.

I threw the drumsticks back in a 325 oven while we rushed out to cub scouts. They got nicely cooked and a little blackened while we were gone over an hour. I'll use the meat in something else this weekend.

Believe it or not, I would try it again. Cook the drumsticks first, keep them warm somehow while the muffins bake.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

not Beef and Bok Choy Stir Fry.

The vegetables this week on the Real Simple Dinner for a Month are:
Tuesday: Bok Choy with Flank Steak, stir fried
Wednesday: Green Beans with Drumsticks
Thursday: Brussel Sprouts with Pork

The grocery store didn't have Brussel sprouts, so I bought Broccoli.
The green beans weren't so exciting, but the Asparagus was on sale.
Flank Steak wasn't available, so I went upmarket with New York Strip.

So my plan goes:
Tonight: Asparagus and New York Strip, grilled
Tomorrow: Broccoli with Drumsticks
Weekend: Bok Choy with Pork

I bought the grill Labor Day weekend, and I'm pretty inexperienced. I wasn't able to get the temperature up to 500 degrees F, so I gave up and started at 450. Four minutes on each side, and the internal temperature was only 106 degrees. It took me forever to get the steak cooked. I thought it came out fine, but my husband said it was overcooked to medium, and tasted more like roast than steak. So that was disappointing.

I grilled the asparagus during the meat's five minute rest. That was fantastic.

We had butternut squash soup with it. And the rice leftover from Sunday. I have some leftover slices slices of steak for sandwiches.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Magazine Meal Planning starting with Tilapia

So great to be cooking again after my month+ of recuperation.

But, my brain's not up to speed with it. Making dinner every night has a rhythm--once I've got the groove down it goes fine. But after a vacation, or any break from cooking, it all feels slow and awkward again. I can't string together two meals in a row.

So, I snatched up the October issue of Real Simple when the cover saidA Month of Easy Dinners

I bought groceries for the first week of dinners last night. Tonight we had Tilapia with Peppers and Olives. You know what was great about this? Eating real food. Under the push of the little kids' moans, I end up dumbing my menus down to varieties of pasta, cheeseburgers, and egg dishes. It was good to get out from under that.

I broiled the Tilapia instead of pan frying it. I was afraid I'd bought too much when I laid the filets out on the pan, but there were no leftovers, and we could have eaten one more. I only used half an onion, since I knew the younger kids wouldn't want the onion/pepper mix. The flat-leaf parsley came from my garden.

And the reviews were good too.

--Younger elementary school ate her fish, without the vegetable topping, and loved it and had seconds. I didn't expect that.
--Older elementary school had a little fish, but his braces were hurting too much for him to have an appetite.
--Middle school snacked in the afternoon again, and then declared she was not hungry, and could think of things more fun than sitting with us. Too bad. She ate her required two bites, and then half a jar of spanish green olives.
--High School loved it. Later she asked, what, you're going to blog about it? I kidded her back, "wouldn't that make a great movie?"
--Husband really loved it. For him I had put the olives on the side; he doesn't like them.
--And I loved it. It was so great to be eating real food.

Definitely I'd cook it again.

Tomorrow: Beef and Bok Choy Stir Fry. Just in time to use up the leftover rice from Sunday.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Hurray, remodel postponed again, indefinitely?

My husband has wanted to add on to our new house, doubling the size of the living room. I really don't want to. I'd like to enjoy the house just the way it is. We haven't been in the house half a year yet. There's been enough remodel upheaval converting part of the garage into an office, and redoing the driveway. I love the new windows we put in the children's rooms. But now I want to be done.

And now, to my delight, my husband agrees.

So, no more frantic research on how to redo the kitchen before a wall is torn down. And, I can relax in the WHOLE yard, not feeling it is about to be snatched from me. It's much easier for me to buy a smaller turkey than take on the kitchen project. I've got too many kids that I would rather pay attention to.

Edited to add: Boo. The remodel is back on. (October 20, 2009)

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Johnny Grey

Kelly of Kitchen Sync likes Johnna Grey. They're pretty amazing. But too curvilinear for me, and more materials than I want to juggle. I'm counting ten different cabinet woods in the Palo Alto portfolio example.

Not to mention the fact, these are luxury kitchens. I want something more mass produced, less expensive.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009


Another fabulous cabinet maker in ...Seattle. So close but so far.

I love how this is fun and honest and has a feeling of lightness. It does have some of that feeling of the original Eichler kitchen. However I do fear it is too lightweight for a "million dollar house."

The house is a like a pet monster that way. I run into not doing things I want to do, because the spoiled brat house has to have more expensive fittings. It's a tract house! It was built as affordable housing!

The irony is, these custom cabinets are probably sufficiently expensive. The problem is, should we ever want to put the house on on the market, plywood cabinets and recycled glass countertops are not terms to draw a crowd.

Basically, this is another cabinet class like my beloved henrybuilt

Even if it is a good as I think it is, I have to expect that other people will not understand.

Of course, plenty of people don't understand my Eichler anyhow.

Edited to add: Here's another one. Danish.

This makes me want to add a half bathroom

That's right. It's a floating concrete sink that's a topo map.

It makes me want to add a 1/2 bath to the house (yeah, where?) so the guests could wash their hands before all its topological glory.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Actually Jim Mather can catch arrows

Love this xkcd

But it reminds me, I do know someone who can catch arrows. I was taking karate at his studio a couple years ago, when my schedule still permitted. I don't know if he's also a ninja though.

unrelated xkcd favs:
human-sized hamster ball