Friday, March 26, 2010

Time and Energy

A couple of days off work, along with strong urges for particular foods, accompanied by the energy to be productive: Dinner.

Oh my goodness. It was all amazing, if I do say so myself. And I didn't even throw it up.

I did a lot of improvising, which I always seem to do when I cook or bake. I looked at about a dozen recipes for the Shrimp Bisque, and wound up piecing together what looked good to me.

Bread Bowls

2 packages (or 4 ½ tsp) active dry yeast
2 ½ cups warm water (110 degrees F)
2 tsp salt
2 tbsp olive oil
7 cups flour (I used half bread flour and half all-purpose)

1 egg white
1 tbsp water

In a large bowl, dissolve yeast in warm water. Let stand until creamy, about 10 minutes.

Add salt, oil and 4 cups flour to the yeast mixture; beat well. Stir in flour,
½ cup at a time, beating well with an electric mixer at medium speed after each addition; knead in remaining flour when dough is too thick for mixing. Knead until smooth and elastic, about 6 minutes. Lightly oil a large bowl, place the dough in the bowl and turn to coat with oil. Cover with a damp cloth and let rise in a warm place until doubled in volume, about 40 minutes.
Punch dough down, and divide into 6 equal portions. Shape each portion into a 4 or 5 inch round loaf. Place loaves on lightly greased baking sheets, cover and let rise in a warm place, free from drafts, until doubled in bulk, about 35 minutes.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
In a small bowl, beat together egg white and 1 tablespoon water. Lightly brush dough with half of the egg wash. Bake on middle rack for 15 minutes, remove, and brush with remaining egg white mixture. Return to oven, bake an additional 15 minutes or until golden. Cool on wire racks.
To make bowls: Cut a
½ inch thick slice from top of each loaf; scoop out centers, leaving ¾ inch thick shells. Fill bread bowls with hot soup and serve immediately.
Shrimp Bisque

(I could not find seafood stock anywhere in WinCo, so I resorted to chicken stock with a few teaspoons of fish sauce. And finally, we didn't have any brandy in our liquor cabinet, so I resorted to whiskey, but couldn't get it to light on fire after I stirred it in. Oh right.)

1 cup butter, divided
1 ⅓ cups all-purpose flour
3 quarts seafood stock
salt and pepper to taste
1 ½ to 2 pounds medium shrimp - peeled, deveined
1 large sweet onion, minced
1 large red bell pepper, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 bay leaves
¼ cup tomato paste
3 fluid ounces brandy
1 quart heavy cream (or half-and-half), heated
¼ tsp of cayenne
3 dashes Worcestershire sauce
½ - ¾ cup dry sherry
In a large stock pan over medium heat, combine ¾ cup butter and flour. Cook, stirring, until flour taste disappears, about 7 minutes. Stir in seafood stock and season with salt and pepper. Add bay leaves. Simmer 15 minutes, then remove from heat and set aside.
In a large saucepan over medium heat, cook red pepper and onion in
¼ cup butter until onion is translucent. Stir in garlic and tomato paste and cook until brown. Stir in brandy and light it on fire. Let it simmer until reduced and thickened. Stir it into reserved stock, reduce heat and simmer 45 minutes.
Remove bay leaves. Pour in cream.

Dice shrimp and cook until opaque in a medium skillet over medium heat. Stir into soup and simmer 5 minutes. Season with pepper sauce, Worcestershire. For a creamer soup, remove about half of the soup and blend in a food processor or emulsion blender, and return to stock pot. Stir in sherry just before serving.

Guinness and Baily's Brownies

1 cup Guinness
1 stick Butter
¾ cups Cocoa Powder
2 whole Eggs
2 tsp Vanilla Extract
1 ⅓ cup all-purpose Flour
1 ½ cup Sugar
¼ teaspoons Salt
1 tsp Baking Powder
½ tsp Baking Soda

4 ounces Cream Cheese (soften to room temp)
2 Tbsp Milk
¼ cup Bailey's Irish Creme
¾ cup Powdered Sugar
1 Tbsp Flour
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Simmer beer and butter in large saucepan. Once butter has melted, add cocoa and mix until smooth. Remove from heat. Set aside.
In large bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, baking soda, baking powder and salt. Set aside.
Once beer mixture has cooled a bit, beat eggs and add them and the vanilla to the beer mixture. Then add the flour mixture and mix well. Pour into an 8×12 inch pan.
For the swirl:
In a medium bowl, beat cream cheese, milk, Bailey’s, flour and powdered sugar until smooth. Spoon mixture in horizontal lines over brownie batter. Use a knife and swirl mixture into batter.
Bake in preheated oven for 30 minutes. Let brownies completely cool before cutting into them.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010


When B and I first saw The House listed online months ago, it was described as having an adjacent back lot as an option to include in the purchase of the house. Then the sellers took it off the market for a couple of weeks (we heard something about a baby?), and then re-listed it for a higher price that automatically included the lot, but mentioned that one of the features of the property was the "ability to split off the back portion of the 13000+ sq. ft. lot, which is suitable for a single-family residence."

We considered our predicted finances, and decided that it might be wise to give up a portion of the huge back yard to save several tens of thousands of dollars. When we first looked at the house, our realtor admitted he wasn't sure where the property line would be, but there were some clear landmarks that seemed like a logical division. For some reason, B and I didn't really considering looking into it more. After all, my parents had clearly said that they wanted to swoop in and buy the lot. And what did we care where the property line really was if we were sharing it with my parents?

So two weeks ago, a day after the property had been re-listed, we made an offer on the house, detailing the exclusion of the back lot. As far as we understood it, my parents couldn't really take any action to make an offer on the lot until some of the legalities were worked out on our end. Our realtor said he would mention my parent's interest to the sellers, and we assumed they would be thrilled to have immediate interest in the lot, so why would they consider another buyer?

Hmph. Little did we realize there was some other buyer apparently waiting for such a thing to happen. How they got wind of it, I don't know. And what prices were agreed upon, I also don't know. But when we sat down with our realtor yesterday to discuss last week's house inspection, it sort of came up that oh yeah, my parents really wouldn't be able to buy the lot after all because there was already a deal set to close when we closed on the house.

No back yard for our kids to play in? I had a hard time keeping it together.

After further investigation, we discovered that the property line extended a whopping 20 feet beyond our bedroom and back door... just to the top of the gently slopping ugly terracing that I'd already made plans to re-landscape. Visions of small children locked inside all summer while strangers played in our backyard kept flashing through my head. I somehow avoided a complete breakdown right there in our realtor's office.

We met with our wonderful mortgage broker this afternoon, and discussed our approval for a slightly larger loan. No problemo, he said. And the only good news of this short week was: B's secret agent investigation and negotiation of his unpaid phone bill had actually paid off. His credit score had gone up 90 points, which dropped our mortgage rate a bit. That was at least slightly encouraging.

So after much consideration, tomorrow we will propose a new offer to buy the whole house-and-lot package. And if the sellers won't go for it, then I guess God is clearly shutting the door.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Just a Complex Migraine

Shortly after B went to work this morning, I reached up to open the curtains and thought "whose hand is that?" And then it occurred to me that my vision was not normal. At all.

I immediately wondered if it was complex migraine-related despite the fact that my head did not hurt, and quickly made and consumed a double-shot espresso and went to lie down. But the vision just kept getting worse. There weren't any migraine-classic flashing or blinking lights, just lots of blind spots, making things like reading (or using my cell phone) almost impossible. I've had these sorts of migraines before, but at this point I wasn't having any of the other neurological symptoms, and was starting to get a little nervous since blurry or disturbed vision can be a scary thing during pregnancy. B wasn't answering his cell, so I got a message to him by texting one of his coworkers. I wasn't sure if the text said what I intended, but B quickly came home.

We were trying to decide if I should call my midwife, and then my left hand started tingling. I was strangely relieved. The numbness intensified, and the left side of my face (and nose and tongue) followed suit. And then the recognizable pain in the right side of my brain. I called my Dad (who just happens to be a doctor, and is quite familiar with my medical history) just to make sure I shouldn't freak out for the baby's sake. He said not to worry, "the migraine won't effect your uterus." I just needed to hear someone else say it.

Then I couldn't connect my brain with my mouth. Expressive aphasia. I wasn't using the weird word substitutions that I have in the past (B's favorite from a couple of years ago was when I said "macaroni" instead of "elbow"), but I couldn't really recognize my own voice, and it almost seemed like someone else was talking for me. That's when I just avoid talking. It's too weird to have such an out-of-body and out-of-mind experience. B tried offering some words of encouragement, and then I realized I wasn't really understanding what he was saying, either. Receptive aphasia. That's a complex-migraine first for me.

B made me some more coffee, bringing my caffeine intake up to four shots of espresso, and I noticed a marked increase in fetal movement. I told B it was okay to go back to work, and somehow fell asleep. I woke up a couple of hours later with some lingering blind spots and an ache in my head, but semi-functional, and relieved that what had just happened was no big deal for our baby. She just had a little taste of a caffeine buzz. Pregnancy crisis averted.

(My sister once blogged about a past experience I had with a complex migraine. She's such a great writer.)

Monday, March 15, 2010

Offer Accepted!

This is old news by now, but after much prayer and deliberation, B and I signed the papers on the house on Saturday accepting the seller's counter-offer. We are just a little excited.

We still have lots to do... signing away our lives for a mortgage, inspection and appraisal, and figuring out how soon the current owners will be able to move. And Lord willing, everything will progress smoothly, and there won't be anything weird or scary to make us re-consider. Y'know, like a cracked foundation or plumbing that needs to be entirely re-done, or any of those frightening scenarios that keep running through my head.

I can't quite get over the fact that I seriously fell in love (or crush or whatever you want to call it) with this house, oh, I dunno, 8 months ago. And I never would have imagined that it would still be on the market when we were ready to consider buying a house. Or that we agreed on a price that is significantly less than what they were asking a year ago.

God is so good. I can't wait to move in.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Offer Made

Today B and I sat down with our Realtor and made an offer on The House.

I feel like a kid in the toy isle that just decided on which toy to spend the hard-earned cash.
I think it'll be tons of fun, but what if there is another toy that might have been the better choice? And golly gee I had to do so many chores just to get enough money to buy this toy.

We've been praying long and hard, and certainly God knows the desires of our hearts and loves to bless His children. But He also knows what we need. I just pray that what we want and what we need are in fact one and the same.

And now we wait.

I wonder what my blood pressure is.

Friday, March 5, 2010

My House Crush

Today we finally looked at the house that I've been day dreaming about for quite some time now.

It all began last Fall when we started browsing the real estate adds online. Besides the unmistakable charm and character of the place, the thing that caught my eye was the "5 bedroom plus 2 un-code bedrooms" (which the current listing doesn't even mention). Um, 7 bedrooms. Yeah, we could do that. Sure, why not?

I just need to keep my wits about me and seriously consider the big picture. We have a lot of praying and thinking to do. But boy howdy would I love to buy this house and call it mine forever.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

House Hunting

We looked at houses again this afternoon. Between this week and last, we've seen 13. And what a spread of styles, layouts, problems and potential. It's a little overwhelming. I would love something with a large living area and at least 3 bedrooms, but then we have to think about how much work we are willing to do. There are a couple of houses with some great potential... we would just have to, y'know, re-do the kitchen, add a bathroom, build closets, and re-do carpets and trim and stuff. Sounds like a lot of work. And we're sort of on a time crunch.

So these made the top of the list. We have more to see on Friday.