Dinner with the Boss

Last night, David and I had a conversation that went something like this:

K: So if your boss is coming to dinner tomorrow, we should probably talk about what we’ll be having. I have class immediately before, so how about I make something in the slow cooker?
D: That sounds great.
K: Which of these two recipes do you prefer? I’ve made them both in the past.
D: Definately that one.
K: Great.  I have a lot of reading that I need to get done tomorrow, and you’ll have the car all day.  If I give you a specific list, could you run to the store in the morning before you head to the conference?
D: Yeah, I can do that.
K: Thanks… By the way, I know that *Boss* is your friend, but I’m still feeling a lot of pressure about tomorrow night.  I have several generations of women behind me telling me that my role in dinner is really important.
D: Well of course it is; if you make a bad dinner, I won’t be able to marry you.
K: … Wait! What?!
D: Kidding!! I’m kidding.

Recipe BookTogether, we found this conversation funny, particularly in light of the discussion my class earlier in the day had had about the impact of feminism on the study of art history.  I also asked David if I could share the story with my Gender and Material Culture class the next day, should it be relevant, and he readily agreed.  Afterwards he posted an abbreviated version of the conversation on Facebook.

This is where it gets a little weird.  Some of our friends responded to his post as if David had been serious. David took the post down, because we have a lot of friends who are gender-sensitive, but it got me thinking.

From the outside, our relationship really seems to conform to traditional gender roles. David takes out the trash and provides for most of our financial needs, including the cost of our wedding. I do the laundry, take responsibility for most of the cooking and the state of the kitchen, and I’m planning our wedding.

Sometimes I help David with the trash. Very occasionally he’ll switch up a load of laundry for me. My student loans help with our expenses. David makes me dinner when I’ve had a particularly trying day. Often he’ll do the dishes.  Still, though, our roles are fairly set, and we often hold each other responsible for them.

Here’s the thing, though.  None of this arrangement is accidental.

While our division of labor looks like a male-female division, it’s actually a David-Kate division.  All of the assigned roles outlined above are the result of discussion and negotiation.  I love to cook.  David likes to cook.  Left to our own devices, my typical alone-in-the-house meal involves chopping, cooking, and arranging.  David’s typically involves pouring granola into a bowl.  I can’t afford our lifestyle.  Sure, my student loans help with our expenses, but the bulk of our financial responsibility falls on David’s income. I’ve committed to getting as much out of graduate school as I can because it’s the best thing for my future and our future.  David has a great job that allows me to be in school without having to juggle a full time job as well, so yes, I cook him dinner.  And I’m proud to do it. By cooking dinner for both of us, I ensure that we have delicious, healthy food, and I facilitate David’s long working-hours so he can take care of us, too.

What does this mean for dinner tonight?  It means I’m going to work damn hard to impress my husband-to-be’s boss, and I will continue to be a feminist even as I do it.

Enter the Blues, Atlanta

Well, I finally traveled for a dance event! It was awhile ago now, but things have been busy, so I haven’t been able to update. We flew down to Atlanta the weekend of February 17 for Enter the Blues.  It’s the first out-of-town blues event I’ve been able to attend since Austin Blues Party in July.

I took that Friday and Monday off work so that I could travel to and from the event without missing any of it, and as things worked out, I didn’t work Tuesday either, so we arrived in Atlanta Friday around noon and didn’t leave until Tuesday night. Because we had almost two full days in Atlanta after the event ended, we managed to see some of the city. Our friends Duane and Halley were also in Atlanta through Tuesday, so we climbed Stone Mountain and visited the aquarium with them.

In the past I’ve always registered for full event passes, which include dances and workshops.  Often, though, I don’t attend most, or sometimes all, of the workshops, so for EtB I just registered for the dances.  The result was a very good weekend.

The masquerade ball that we got all fancied up for:

Climbing Stone Mountain:

Resting on the climb up Stone Mountain:

Near the top of Stone Mountain (having lagged behind the entire climb, I was inordinately proud of myself for having reached the top. Moments later I discovered there was still a ways to climb to actually get to the top):

Actually at the top and celebrating:

And the aquarium:

Marveling at the giant tank that holds 4 whale sharks and 6.3 million gallons of water:

The Madness that was December

Well, I’m a little appalled that I haven’t posted since October.  I have, however, been busy.  I think a quick recap is in order.

In November, my family visited for Thanksgiving.  We made a turkey in my oven (!) and the full, traditional meal.  We also rode the metro (a first for Rick and Rose) into DC to visit the zoo Thanksgiving day.

Rick and Rose at the zoo in front of... something.

Dad, Rick, and David.

December started off with BamBLOOZled, which I was only able to attend some of, but the parts I attended were really fabulous.  We hosted a full house, with five guests for the weekend. One of the particularly nice moments of the weekend happened Monday morning when folks were heading out.  I made pancakes and bacon and chopped up some apples, and we had a really nice visit over breakfast. While I was cooking, I got a kitchen dance from Dan, since we hadn’t had time to dance during the event.

BamBLOOZled 2011. Photo credit to Josh Wisely

In December, Barnes and Noble was a madhouse, which was good, but I did have to work a lot of extra hours, and every shift was a busy shift.  On top of the extra hours, I accepted a sewing project for a math education program called NumbersAlive! which uses props and performances to help kids see the fun in math. I made nine 10″ number characters, which (I think) came out really well, and were a lot of fun to make.

Design Patent Application 29394059, Reg. No. 85333272

I did get an extra special gift for Christmas.  Right up until the Thursday before Christmas, I thought there was no way I’d be able to see my family over the holiday, but a scheduling glitch made it possible, and we visited David’s parents and my family over Christmas.  Both visits were wonderful, and made the holiday.  In addition to the usual visiting, presents, and holiday meals that one can expect when we visited David’s folks, we played a wicked game of scrabble, which I might add, I won.  We visited my family in Pittsburgh with my mom’s family, and I can’t express in words how nice it was to see my siblings and parents.  David got Rick a magic kit for Christmas, so we spent a lot of the visit being awed by performances of sleight-of-hand and misdirection.

After Christmas we drove directly down to Asheville, NC for Lindy Focus, the big New Year’s Eve Lindy event.  We took classes in Lindy, of course, for which I was pleasantly surprised to be placed in the Advanced group, and a side track that had fewer classes.  My sidetrack was Beginning/ Intermediate Balboa, and I really enjoyed it. I have had a few informal lessons, mostly from David, and mostly in our kitchen, and I can more or less follow a Bal lead, but it felt really good to hear the basics in a classroom setting with professional instructors.

Lindy Focus was different from many other events in that, instead of staying with locals (more than 500 people registered for the event), we all descended upon a hotel for a week, and the entire event was held there.  To save a bit on hotel costs, we shared a room with two other people: Brian, from Cleveland, and Tamar, from Boston.  I knew Brian already, but this was the first time I’d met Tamar, and it was really great getting to know her.  One of the downsides to such a large event is that it’s difficult to meet new people, and the people you do meet are from all over.  Aside from Tamar, I only met one other new person, a lead from Florida/ Puerto Rico, named James, who was so outgoing in class, I’d have had to be seriously unfriendly to not meet him.

Tamar, David, Kate. Photo credit to Jessica Keener Photography

During the week between Christmas and New Year’s, the rest of December caught up with me, and I came down with a slight bug that left me with a mildly irritated throat and a lot of exhaustion.  So I took Lindy Focus pretty easy, and one of the best parts of the weekend was the impromptu band that struck up in the hotel pub.  I skipped the main dance Friday night and decided to go down to the pub and read in front of the fire until the late night started (the evening dance was held in an annex, whereas the late night dances were held in ballrooms in the main building, very near the pub).  So I curled up with my Kindle and a hot drink and dove into Good Omens, by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett.  I got caught up in it, though, and looked up a couple hours later to realize that not only had the late night started some time ago, but there was a swing band playing right next to me and a lot of people gathered around to listen to them.

I'm sitting to the left of where the photographer is standing, so you can't see me. Photo credit to Bobby Bonsey

After Lindy Focus, I dropped David off at the Raleigh airport and drove home by myself.  This was a bit of a triumph for me, since David’s car is a stick shift, and aside from two brief lessons during the fall, I learned to drive it during the trip down to Asheville. David flew out to the west coast for another dance event and some work interviews, and I went back to work.  Two weeks later, David is home, and life is more or less returned to normal.

Scone Adventures

I’ve been adding new foods to our household.  Grape + Bean has bread delivered daily, baked fresh each morning by the baker at Restaurant Eve.  So when I feel inspired, I bring a loaf home.  This is the end of the first half of a loaf of multigrain bread that is dense, full of flax seeds and sunflower seeds and cornmeal, and goodness knows what else, but it’s divine.

A French bakery chain, Le Pain Quotidien, has a store near Grape + Bean that I often stop at on my way into work for a cup of tea and a scone or croissant, since the bus I take gets me there about a half hour early.  Their mint tea is made with fresh mint leaves, pounded in a mortar and pestle just before brewing.  It has given me a craving for fresh mint tea at home as well as crushed mint leaves in cool water, which is extremely refreshing.  Therefore, I found a mint plant to adopt:

Finally, reading the Russell and Holmes novels has given me desperate craving for scones, so I looked up a simple recipe for them and finally made a batch.  I used this recipe from AllRecipes.com, but instead of raisins, I chopped up apricots into tiny pieces.  I also added crushed walnuts and flax seeds to the dry mix and vanilla and lemon extract to the sour cream and egg mix.  If I may say so, they turned out beautifully.  The scones come out fluffy, but I like scones that way.  The crushed walnuts added a nuttiness that gave the base more substance that it would have otherwise had.  I would recommend either adding crushed nuts or using whole wheat flour.

EDIT: I also wanted to note that this recipe was super-easy to make, and it took 30 minutes, from start to fluffy-scone finish, including clean-up.  No mixer is needed, just a fork and a whisk and clean hands.

Ginger, for those who follow her adventures, has been working hard as well.  She’s been kept very busy making sure my fabric scraps don’t escape their basket.

Guest Post: The Summer I Moved Away

This entry is a guest post by Kristen, over at Kristen’s Blog of Shenanigans. Kristen and I participated in a blog swap, hosted by 20 Something Bloggers, and the subject of the swap is summer.  So take a moment to read Kristen’s post here, and then share a comment about your favorite summer memory!  And don’t forget to head on over to Kristen’s blog to read the post I wrote.

As summer comes to a haltering end, I can’t help but be completely ecstatic. You see, I’ve always been an autumn kind of girl.  And I can’t stop thinking about last summer. Why, you ask?

I mean, this one wasn’t so eventful. In fact, it was kind of crap. It was sort of a “back to reality” kind of summer, due to the fog I have been living in for the past year. It was last summer that was memorable. That was the summer that changed my life.

Last summer I moved four hours away from my home in Albany, New York to be with my longtime boyfriend Brian Patrick Delaney in Rochester, New York. Not only did I make a semi-big move away from my family for the first time, but I decided to pursue a college education for the first time in six years as well. I was excited and scared all at the same time, and for anyone that knows what those two emotions are like to intake at the same time: it’s pretty much a heart attack.

Everyone made me feel really good about the move. In fact, my parents threw me a surprise going away party a day before I moved, with all of my relatives there. I never thought that I’d cry like a big baby in front of an audience, but it happened. It was one of the nicest things anyone has ever done for me.

My parents drove with me to Rochester N.Y., which would be my new location. Brian and I followed them as I got a nice view of my dresser and bed for four long straight hours. When we got there, our parents and us all had dinner.

Things have only gotten better since I’ve been here for a whole year. We finally got our own apartment (for six months), and I’ve been doing great in school with a 4.0 average. My boyfriend isn’t doing too shabby either. We certainly do make a great team and moving to Rochester is definitely one of the best decisions that I ever made. It makes me more grateful when I go back home, and sleep in my old empty room. But I have a new room now.  🙂

Chili of Wonderfulness

I’ve been perfecting a chili recipe for awhile now, and I feel like it’s in a particularly good place, so I’d like to share it with you.

It can be made in a crock pot (which I prefer) or on the stove (if you don’t have a crock pot, or if you forgot to remove the bubble wrap packing from the move before you turned it on*.)

Ingredients:
Approximately 2 lbs of lean ground beef
1 large can of diced tomatoes
1 small can of tomato paste
2 regular sized cans of beans (I like one of dark kidney beans, and one of small white beans.)
1-2 fresh peppers (I’ve used a green and a yellow pepper with much success, but most recently I used just one gypsy pepper, which came out very delicious)
3 large carrots
Approximately 3/4 of a medium sized yellow onion
1 small zucchini
Optional, depending on the size of your pot: 1 small yellow squash
4-5 cloves of garlic.
Either 1/2 packet of chili seasoning or a generous amount of chili powder, salt, black pepper, and whatever else catches your fancy, such as basil, oregano, cocoa powder.)

Start by browning the ground beef in a large pan.  While it’s cooking, drain as much juice as possible from the large can of tomatoes (because of all the veggies, the chili will be watery if the juice is not sufficiently drained.) Pour the tomatoes into the pot and add the tomato paste.  Drain the both cans of beans (I like to dump them into a colander and thoroughly rinse them) and add the beans to the pot.  Stir beans and tomatoes together. When beef is cooked, remove excess grease and add beef to pot. Squish the cloves of garlic with flat of knife blade and mince. Add garlic and half of the seasoning to pot. Stir to get an even distribution of ingredients.  Dice vegetables to about 1/2 or 1/4 inch pieces, add remainder of spices and stir until an even distribution of ingredients is obtained.

In crock pot: Cook on high for 2 hours, leaving lid on, then stir and reduce heat to low, cook for a remaining 3-4 hours, until the deliciousness overwhelms you. If you need to cook for a longer time, only cook on high for 1 hour.

On stove top: Cook covered on medium-low heat, stirring every 20 minutes or so, for about 2 hours or until the deliciousness calls out to you.

*Note: If you do manage to heat plastic in between your ceramic and metal crock pot elements, you will notice because there will be the smell of plastic burning.  Quickly turn off and unplug the pot, and move the ingredients to a stew pot on your stove top to continue cooking.  Quickly remove any unmelted plastic, taking care not to burn yourself. To remove the melted plastic, use a plastic scraper while the pot is warm (but not hot).  Alternate cycles of warming and scraping as it cools until it is almost entirely gone.  Turn on the kitchen fan, and heat the metal element on high until there are no more fumes (and avoid the kitchen during that time). Wipe off as much of the discoloration as possible.

I would love to hear your variations on chili or your favorite crock pot dish.

Moved! We’re Now Residents of Virginia

So we moved to DC last weekend, after several weeks of insanity.
First, there was packing.
At this point our dining room was full of boxes and the furniture moved to the living room:
Then, off we went to Austin, Texas for a week (because that’s what normal people do when they’re about to move). We went for Austin Blues Party (ABP).
We danced, hung out with friends, ate fabulous food, and generally had a wonderful time.
We came back from Austin with 36 hours until the movers arrived.
So we left Cleveland at 3:30 am on Friday and arrived in Alexandria at our new apartment at 10:00am.  Thanks to our wonderful movers, the transition happened fairly smoothly:
Now all that was left was a MASSIVE amount of unpacking.  Beginning with the 15 kitchen boxes (not pictured, because their contents are in those cupboards):
The Post-Its, naturally, are to identify where what goes during and after unpacking.
We are about 95% unpacked now, but we have a big week.  This weekend is our first DC exchange as locals.  Red Hot Blues and BBQ starts tonight and we are hosting six guests for the weekend.  We intended to host no more than three, but we signed up with the hosting program to house two and then agreed to host a couple of friends.  And then there was a misunderstanding with housing and we ended up being assigned four guests.  So we have a full house.  Ordinarily we like hosting as many as we can – it’s our way of paying back the hospitality we’ve received in other cities.  With the move, though, we figured we’d still be living among boxes.  As it turns out, we have room for everyone we’re currently committed to, and we’re looking forward to a fabulous weekend.