Friday, January 30, 2009

Food porn—Jan 31 BBQ

Monkeyrotica's back at the grill again! He just told me that the three slabs (pictured below) will be NC pulled pork, Memphis ribs, and TX brisket. Will be taking more pics as we go along. Stay tuned. Pics are here!

Backstory: A friend of ours has been teaching in Korea this past year. He came into town last week and mentioned that, even though Korean barbecue is fabulous, he's been craving the American variety. Monkeyrotica decided to step in and give the man a cross section of southern BBQ. All the recipes were pulled/modified from Raichlen's BBQ USA book, which is heartily recommended by the Strings. Our friend seemed to have brought his Korean weather to DC as the temps barely rose above 28°F and there was still a sheet of ice on the deck.

On the menu: Carolina pulled pork with Lexington vinegar pepper slaw, Memphis wet ribs, and Texas brisket. Sides were Mexican charros beans cooked with jalapenos and bacon, mac and cheese, and collard and turnip greens cooked in chardonnay.

Monkeyrotica's preparation narrative: The 8lb pork shoulder was seasoned only with salt and pepper. This went on the WSM at 6pm Friday over applewood and some generic Homelife briquettes from the local Target. Not much ash production, but it burns a little faster than Royal Oak briquettes but not as fast as Kingsford. This hit 190 internal around noon Saturday. Left to cool for an hour, pulled half, chopped the other half.

Twelve pounds of brisket went on at midnight, seasoned just with salt, fresh pepper, and cayenne. Since the applewood chunks had burned down, I threw some soaked hickory on, so the brisket would get full hickory, but the pork shoulder would get half hickory, half applewood. Wrapped at 9am, pulled at 1pm. Cooled and sliced.

The two full, untrimmed racks of ribs were seasoned with brown sugar, kosher salt, black and chipotle pepper, garlic powder, and half a cup of Old Bay. They hit WSM #2 around 9am over applewood chunks: 3 hours smoke, two hours wrapped. After five hours, I pulled the water pan, stoked some more coals, and sauced them for about an hour at 325 dome temp. Everything (barely) fit in a warming oven until guests arrived around 3ish. There were no survivors, by which I mean leftovers.

I've cooked in snow many times before, but it was a little unusual to have to crack open my soaking wood chunks with an icepick (it was cold!). Still, it was worth watching the inevitable meat coma feeding slowdown an hour after everyone started eating. We sent everyone waddling home with their own Ziploc bag packed with meat.

Photo gallery from the party:

Still life by Rosie

Rosie is in an after-school art class, sponsored by the PTA. Here's a
lovely floral arrangement she painted in yesterday's class, possibly
with Tempera paints? Those were always my elementary-school art
teacher's favorite...

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Breakfast with Weegee

It just warms my heart the way the kids have taken to Weegee. On
Sunday night after baths (Weegee took his in the sink), the kids
insisted that Weegee come to their room & listen to books with them.
Rosie even became brave enough to let Weegee perch on her finger and
give him head scratches without me putting him in a headlock. By
today, she's been feeding him from her plate and kissing him directly
on his head. Dash is following her lead. See how Weegee is sitting in
between them? That's because they would both start to weep if he sat
too far from either of them. We got it all worked out and our flock
had a lovely breakfast together. BTW, you might be wondering why on a
Wednesday that we are eating breakfast together? The schools are
closed, so I have both kids (and a parrot) at home today.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Flashback: Baby Alive!

A recent post about childhood discoveries on Dee's blog got me reminiscing. When I was 7 or 8 years old, one of Auntie M's and my playmates was the daughter of a scientist couple who both worked at the same laboratory as our dad. Debbie also had two much older brothers that teased her (and my sister and I ) mercilessly. They also challenged her intellectually, introducing her to advanced concepts and special, ahem, academic tomes that were in her parents' voluminous library.

We loved hanging out at Debbie's house! I remember all sorts of food experiments that went on there (who chooses to drink "mineral water" or "rice cakes?"), I learned how to solder stained glass at her house and set the fire extinguisher off, too! Loved playing in the basement full of pinball machines, air hockey, and foosball tables. Great fun.

That is, except when Debbie's elderly, fundamentalist Christian babysitter was watching her.

I have never been kicked out of anybody's house so many times before or since. The first several times I was kicked out were for swearing. My mom's favorite swear words were "$hit!" and "juh-EEE-sus!!" and not really knowing any better, I used them like she did, you know, as "sentence enhancers." I learned from this babysitter that swear words were not universally acceptable. I got kicked to the curb. Pee, poop, boobies, butt, crap, all were kick-out words. If you had to relieve yourself, you asked to go to the "bathroom, please" not announce, "I gotta go pee!" Otherwise, don't let the door hit you in the um, "derriere." On subsequent visits I begged to stay and she gave me several second chances. The condition was that I had to keep my potty mouth clean. It was tough.

On one final occasion, Debbie was showing me her most treasured recent discovery. Her brothers had just introduced her to Grey's Anatomy. We tucked into it and found a carefully dog-eared, detailed diagram of the female reproductive system. I stored to memory the key vocabulary, especially since Debbie had recently been gifted a new semi-anatomically correct baby doll that would drink AND wet herself (the 1970's version of Baby Alive). This was cool!! I had, had, had! to tell the babysitter about it! I wanted to prove that I could be genteel. But, how? And without using those nasty, vulgar words, like pee-pee or poop? I vowed to clean up my act and impress this prudish sitter. I practiced what I would say and checked Grey's Anatomy one more time. I was ready.

"Mrs. Sitter?" I said, "Look at this! This baby doll drinks water, she really does! And then the water goes all the way through and comes out of her v@gin@! See?"

I was thereafter banned. Permanently banned. I'm just glad she didn't clean my mouth with soap. (She certainly threatened to do just that.) Heh.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

My 500th Post!! Uncle John.

What better way to celebrate my 500th blog post than a lovely, warm photo of my family! Including surprise visitor, Uncle John!!

We were thrilled on Monday when we received an unexpected phone call from Monkeyrotica's brother, John. He was nearby and on his way over! Why so thrilled? Well, it's a long story, but essentially, we haven't seen John in four years. This was the first time that Dash met his Uncle John; having an uncle was only a theory, prior to four days ago.

Our visit was happy, the kids love him, and we all got caught up on what John's doing with himself. John's career has always been in dangerous security details, first traveling all over the U.S. to do private protection, then his work took him overseas to train security professionals in Afghanistan and other locations in the Middle East. We used to see him a few times a year, as work allowed, but he was injured four years ago. Ironically, he was not injured on his high-risk job, but slipped on some ice on a sidewalk outside his apartment building and out went his back. While he was recuperating from that injury, he was t-boned in a car accident, which exacerbated his bad back. Needless to say, sadly, long car trips to visit the family were out of the question for much too long. Now, he's back up, looks great, and is interviewing to get back into the thick of it!!

The Strings are looking forward to having Uncle John back in our circle. At least, as regularly as before. Growing up, I only saw my uncles, aunts, and cousins twice a year at most, and those visits meant a great deal to me. Family connections are important to children, sometimes even mysterious (that person is related to me?). I'm so glad that we are close to immediate family and have opportunities to visit our relatives in just a short car trip. Maybe soon, we can take the kids to visit their second-cousins and great aunts & uncles on a longer car ride? They would love it!!

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Dash strung his own necklace!

Looking for ways to keep the kids busy while school is out today, I opened a grab bag of plastic beads for Dash so he could string them. I added the clasp and helped place the large raspberry bead in the center, and he did the rest! Look how proud he is of himself.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Painted my pet

Hey friends! The Os, the Ns, & the Js all came by for pet-portrait painting fun. Three of us painted our dogs, a cat, and a bird respectively. It was crazy fun to be painting with friends and as usual, Monkeyrotica cooked some excellent fare: steak-tartare-stuffed mushrooms, home-baked bread, fresh cheese pizza, roasted bone marrow, and duck cassoulet with champagne cocktails. Mmmmm. Here is my painting (background details in the style of Klimt) of Weegee the Senegal parrot—it probably needs more work, but that'll have to wait for another time. Kelly O painted her dogs a la Van Gogh with a little Wyeth and Wood thrown in for references. Don and I went for more of a cheesy exaggerated style, all of it with the rules of cuteness in mind via Cute Overload. (cheers to Kelly, I just cribbed most of that from her entry. heh.) D@mn, that was fun!

Shoggoth is my favorite friend!

I don't believe we'll be reading Dash any Lovecraft anytime soon. In the meantime, Shoggoth, with his many eyes, teeth, and tentacles, will be guarding Dash from the bad dreams and nightmares instead of creating them.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Portrait of Ernie

During arts & crafts time at Auntie M's with the kids, I took advantage of art supplies the kids weren't using and drew Ernie the parakeet with colored pencils and pastels. Rosie and Dash were occupied with painting Dash's wooden train tracks with various watercolor hues.

We intended to meet at a park and let the kids run around, but the weather didn't cooperate. About 10 minutes after we left, it started pouring rain! So, off to the crafts bin we went. Drawing Ernie was a bit of a warmup for the "painting-pet-portraits party" that we have planned for next weekend, except that it's the wrong style. We'll be using more of a waif-on-black-velvet look. Oh it'll be awesome! I can hardly wait!

Posted by ShoZu

My new nephews!

Auntie M has taken two parakeets into her home! They are named Ernie (yellow above his beak) and Finnegan (white above beak), after authors in her library. Adorable little things, aren't they?

Posted by ShoZu

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Strings family portrait

Rosie painted our portrait in her favorite medium, watercolor. I am so proud of her! She included all of us, even Weegee, in pretty accurate scale. I like Monkeyrotica's green hair and Homer Simpson pants. I'm also finding it interesting that, like Kelly O's Thea, Rosie has me towering over the rest of the family; Moms Rule!

Friday, January 09, 2009

The ubiquitous "I have a new iPhone" photo

Not the post I wanted to write, but it'll pass for today

I've got all sorts of photos and ideas for posts in my head, I just can't seem to find the time to put them together up on the blog. It's close to a writer's cramp, but with responsibilities, work, and chores getting in the way. I'm even on borrowed time as I type!

Just a few thoughts: Rosie had a relapse at school this week and is back to her old tricks (or lack of them, the teacher's main complaint is that she's not participating, staring into space and the like.) We hope that she'll have an easier time of it, getting back into the rhythm, since this time she's got a few months of good reports before break! Rosie is such a sweetheart, and so smart, I know she'll figure it out again.

Just yesterday we had an incident that was a brilliant combination of scary, flaky, and negligent. We signed her up for an afterschool art class with the PTA. Because of the demand, they had to open up a second class for an alternate day, thursday. Because it was a late decision, the PTA didnt get a roster of students for the Thursday class. We reminded her of her class in the morning, sent her in with a painting smock and scheduled a pickup at 4:45 pm. At 4:08, I get a call from a neighborhood mom that nobody was at the busstop to pick her up. Aargh! She wasn't supposed to take the bus! And she was really looking forward to the class! Not to mention the steep lab fees that I probably won't get back. Thanks to the nice moms at the busstop who took Rosie under their wing, the situation could have been a lot worse. I had a long chat with Rosie about remembering schedules, and her teachers are now alerted, so I hope all goes more smoothly next week.
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