A Vegetarian Goes to Korea


Pork typography

Does she find something to eat? Well, kind of. The following is only my experience, which was limited by the tour bus and my lack of knowledge of Korean, but here’s some things I learned during my week in the Hermit Kingdom.

  1. Trying to eat vegetarian in a Korean restaurant is like going to a barbecue joint and thinking they will have tofu. Not all Asian cuisine is meat-free. Most of the restaurants we found were smaller places with limited menus and apparently not many are getting requests for vegetarian entrees. One place suggested if we didn’t eat pork, perhaps we’d prefer a beef entree.
  2. Vegetarian? It has vegetables in it, sure! The concept of leaving out a food group is not completely understood in Korea.
  3. The appetizers (banchan) served at Korean restaurants IS vegetarian. Mung beans, seaweed (I think), kimchi, daikon were all things we could happily eat while others enjoyed a bowl of soup (with a bone floating in it.)
  4. It helps if you eat seafood. Shrimp fried rice was an appetizer for most, and dinner for us.
  5. Korean pancake

    Korean pancake

    It helps if you like pancakes. While others enjoyed meat on a stick at the market, we found Korean pancakes, which were (in this case) dough and Chinese onions, which were good. Sure it’s carbs. It’s either that or meat, folks!

  6. It helps if you’re the big city. In Seoul, we found plenty to eat. I had pizza with pansies on it. I had a delicious tofu and eggplant dish. We even had a lovely buffet with plenty for everyone on it. Outside of that? Well, your choices are more limited. And, you might want to consider not eating Korean.
  7. Consider the chains. Korea is covered with American chain restaurants. If you’re really worried about it, you could eat at a chain restaurant. Outback, Starbucks, 7-11, Dunkin’ Donuts, McDonalds, Burger King … not necessarily healthy nor vegetarian, but you get the idea.

Here’s some places we tried:

Black soybean sauce

Black soybean sauce on noodles

A rest area between Seoul and Korea: the highways don’t have clusters of restaurants like we do in the states. They put their restaurants under one big roof, you order at one location and then you pick up your food at whatever food station you ordered. I went with the black soybean sauce on noodles. My first experience picking out pork from my dish. I quickly learned that pork is like seasoning here.

Green Cafe, Busan (sorry can’t find this online): This was a small little cafe, very typical of ones you find in Korea. They have tables close to the floor, so you remove your shoes and sit on the floor. They only serve Korean and they are small family restaurants. These feel authentic but the menus are very limited and tend to not have a lot of choices. Still, I recommend trying at least one. I had a delicious Korean pancake here, which she cut up with a pair of scissors.

Baby octopus stew

Baby octopus stew

Another person had the baby octopus stew and the octopus was cut up at the table.

A spot for night eating in Busan: We ended up here after searching and being told “pork is tasty!” This looked semi-English friendly and we still needed help translating. (Highly recommended that you learn just a few Korean phrases and I freely admit to being unprepared for this.) This time, there were pictures, so we went with the seafood noodle dish and … there was that pesky pork flavoring again. Again, it was picked out and this time, someone at the table happily scarfed it up.

SeoMun Market: a BIG market, around for more than 100 years. Lots of stand with vendors that sell textiles and all sorts of things, and lots of little stations selling food, prepared or dried or whatever. The prepared isn’t exactly health food. Lots of meat on a stick or the like. I found another pancake here that was OK. Lots of sweets to eat as well, although that’s not necessarily a good option. (It is, however, a tasty one.)

SeoMun Market

Fast food Korean style in SeoMun market

Another little Korean restaurant in Tongyeong: this one was a big challenge. Very little English spoken here. We found one place and asked for six bowls of soup with meat, two without. We ended up with just six bowls of soup. The vegetarians ended up eating the appetizers.

One more Korean restaurant in Daegu: we thought this was a noodle place. It was not. Again, very little English, again feeling very stupid for not learning more Korean. We found someone else on the tour who spoke both languages who said “oh you don’t eat pork? You probably want to leave.” She asked if we didn’t eat pork, perhaps we eat beef? We finally found the shrimp fried rice, which was certainly OK. There was an interesting tofu place, but it was totally out of the way and besides, the husband does not eat tofu.

Eggplant and Tofu

Eggplant and Tofu from Touch and Spice

Touch and Spice in Seoul (Gangnam area): finally! something for everyone. I had the eggplant and fried tofu in honey and ginger sauce which was delicious. Others had the wasabi chicken or the pork chop. The kid had a pasta dish with smoked salmon. The first night where everyone was very happy with their meal. We also got dessert, which was less successful. The apple pie dish was more like an apple quesadilla and the ice cream dish was cereal and marshmallow cream with ice cream on top. So, go for the entrees, skip the dessert.

Blacksmith, Seoul: this is got to be a chain but who cares! We settled on this because they looked to have something for vegetarians and something for my husband: bacon and garlic fried rice. He said his was delicious. We got the pizza primavera, which was pizza with sauce and a little cheese (they don’t have a lot of cheese in Korea and I salute them for that!), topped with arugula and … pansies! It was quite good.

Lotte Hotel restaurant: WOW. My friend MiSun took us all out for dinner and what a lavish spread. Indian food, a carving station, a salad bar, lots of Korean food and a sushi station. I think there was Italian food too. Something for everyone. So good! Everyone was happy.


Sweet Potato Kale Frittata

Sweet Potato and Egg Stack

Sweet Potato and Egg Stack

The family worked out hard today: I ran 10 miles for the first time since the marathon back in March and they went to Kuk Sool Won for tournament training, which was four hours long. So an easy meal that had a lot of protein seemed to be in order. Along with that, the farm share had given me kale and sweet potato, which reminded me of making that before. Earlier in the week, I’d made this dish from Vegetarian Times, which was so absolutely delicious. Sweet potatoes with cumin are unbelievable. With that in mind, I concluded that instead of dicing the potatoes and then boiling them, I’d just grate them and saute them in the oil with the other ingredients, before adding the egg. This was a true win. You get the sweet potato flavor throughout the meal, instead of in chunks.

I also made a second frittata at the same time, much smaller, for my husband, who hates sweet potatoes. Compromise is what makes a marriage work, right? He made himself some pork chops to go with it. My daughter and I passed on those.

photo 2Now before you start a frittata, you really need a cast iron pan. I love mine so much, it’s really the only kind of pan I have now. (Bonus: they are cheap compared to other pans.) You can use an oven-safe pan, sure, but it’s just not as good as the cast iron. Since I made two, I have a small and a large version of the frittata.

Here’s what I did:


  • 1 sweet potato, medium (large dish) OR 1 smallish potato (small dish), grated
  • 3-4 kale leaves, torn into small pieces
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • Half an onion (I always use sweet), diced
  • Oil
  • Thyme
  • Smoked paprika
  • Splash of vinegar. I used rice vinegar.
  • Salt
  • 6 eggs (large dish) OR 4 eggs (small dish) [You could go up two eggs for each dish too if you really like eggs.]
  • Couple tablespoons of milk
  • Parmesan cheese (I had the grated and the sliced and both worked well, so take your pick)


  1. Prep the ingredients as above to get ready. Preheat oven to 400. Heat the oil in your skillet. Crack your eggs in a glass container (I have about eight of those Pyrex cups and use one of those.) Add the milk and scramble your eggs.
  2. Add the onion and saute for a couple of minutes. Add the garlic and saute for another 30 seconds.
  3. Add the potatoes and saute until well coated. You may need to add more oil.
  4. Add the spices and mix into the potato mixture. Cook for about 3-4 minutes.
  5. Add the kale and your vinegar and continue to saute until the kale is properly wilted. This is about 2 minutes.
  6. Add the eggs, mixing with the ingredients until you have a fairly even distribution of ingredients. Cook for about 3-4 minutes or until the bottom has settled.
  7. Put the skillets in the oven and cook for another 10 minutes. Remove and add cheese on top.
  8. Cut into triangles and serve!

Feel free to change the seasoning. Heck, change the veggies! I have a friend who says when she’s at a loss as to what to do, it goes in a frittata. Very versatile, and quicker than a quiche. Plus, you don’t have the crust of a quiche, which let’s face it, isn’t usually all that great to begin with and is the least healthy part of the dish.

Veggie Gumbo

So the farm produces a lot of okra. We’ve roasted it and that’s pretty good, but my husband keeps saying “gumbo!”

Now the truth is that my husband loves me, but he’d love me a whole lot more if I ate a steak once in a while, or loved chicken every night. And the truth is that I used to eat chicken, but then my daughter and I went vegetarian. I’m not going to say it’s been easy, but we make it work. Still, he was aghast when he saw I made gumbo without any seafood.

I would have thought about that, but I knew the soup was going to be sitting around for more than a few days, and I was worried that the shrimp would turn before the veggies. Besides, I had enough chopping facing me as it was.

I turned to my trusty friend Vegetarian Times for a recipe and they did not disappoint. This recipe was my starting point.

  • ½ cup vegetable oil (yes, it is a lot of oil, but it really does make the soup worthwhile. Just use a good oil. I went with grapeseed.)
  • ⅓ cup flour
  • 1 onion, chopped (Vidalia, what else?)
  • 1 small green bell pepper, chopped
  • 3 stalks celery, chopped
  • 1 28-oz. can diced tomatoes
  • 2 cups fresh green beans
  • 3 carrots, sliced
  • 1 parsnip, diced
  • 1 cup fresh or sliced okra
  • 1 ear corn, kernels removed from cob
  • Box of veggie broth
  • 1 cup water
  • 1/2 cup barley
  • 1 Tbs. ground cumin
  • 1 Tbs. paprika
  • 1 Tbs. dried oregano
  • ¼ tsp. cayenne pepper

1. Stir together oil and flour in Dutch oven or heavy-bottomed pot until smooth. Cook over high heat 10 minutes, or until roux turns a dark caramel color, stirring constantly.

2. Add onion, bell pepper, and celery, and cook 5 minutes, or until vegetables are softened. Stir in all remaining ingredients. Season with salt and pepper. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and cook 40 minutes, or until carrots are tender.

Between the okra and the barley, this makes a fierce, thick stew. My husband bought some sausage and ate that along with it and that seemed to work. This made an enormous amount of stew, so if you make it, get ready to enjoy it a lot!

The Easiest Grain: Bulgur

Once I discovered bulgur, I had to wonder why I hadn’t found it earlier. It’s really the easiest thing in the world to make. Seriously. It’s on the level of instant ramen noodles. The only tricky part is getting the bulgur water ratio correct. And even then, if you add too much water, well, you drain off the excess. It’s a parboiled whole wheat grain, so it’s ready to go.

When I make bulgur, I do this:

  1. Pour a cup of water in a bowl and microwave the water until it boils. (So a minute and a half.)
  2. Dump half a cup of bulgur in and put a lid on the bowl.
  3. Come back in five minutes.
Bulgur salad

Peas and carrots and bulgur threesome

Then you get creative. Add whatever you like to the grain and you’ve got yourself a salad. Here’s the one I made last week:

  1. Make the bulgur as described above, except add English peas to the mix.
  2. Take some julienned carrots that you usually use in salad (or at least I do) and chop up a little finer. Throw that in when the bulgur is cooked and you’ve drained whatever water might be left.
  3. Add some dill and soy sauce, along with some feta and walnuts.
  4. Eat.

Seriously, bulgur and some veggies in the fridge can easily make a quickie meal. As for where you get it? Try the section with the beans or with the rice, or the bulk section at your grocery store. My current batch is from the Dekalb Farmer’s Market. It ran me $.99 a pound.

Try it in place of rice, why not. (And no this message is not brought to you by the board to promote bulgur.)

The UUFC Religious Education Covenant

For those of you that read my posts because I share recipes, you might not know that I’m also a religious liberal. That makes me an oddball in this part of the world, but after nearly 50 years of it, I’m quite comfortable with it all. Here’s the latest article I wrote for my church newsletter.

The Religious Education Covenant

Perhaps your child’s school year started like my daughter’s. Our first day ended with a conversation about why we attend UUFC. You see, two of her four classes began with teachers proclaiming their love of Christ to the classroom.  (No, I did not report this. For one thing, I felt doing so would only alienate her teachers. For another, I felt the Universalist in me should honor their personal beliefs. I knew when we settled in South Carolina that we’d have to learn to live in the buckle of the Bible belt.)

Having been raised by two college professors, I knew that education was the best tool with which I could arm my child. So, when she was old enough, we began attending UUFC. Most of those years, I’ve been back in a classroom along with her. My 10 years in RE have been sometimes rocky, but I’ve never regretted taking my child. After a decade of religious education, she is confident enough to have opinions that don’t always mesh with her classmates. She believes strongly in the rights of gays, as the first principle has taught her. At age 11, she became a vegetarian (OK she still eats some fish), as she believes in the seventh principle. We have found her signing online petitions, as she believes in social justice, the sixth principle.

Could we have done this at home? Could we have just taught her this by ourselves, and enjoyed Sunday morning in our PJs? After all, I was the one that was often teaching RE. Why didn’t I just do this on my own and save myself the time and trouble of teaching it to others?

Perhaps, but I honestly believe that not only sharing our beliefs with her, but surrounding her with a community of others that shared many of the same beliefs has made her a stronger person. Yes, it wasn’t always easy to drag ourselves out of bed to get to church, but in the end, it’s been worth it. I remember one Sunday teaching to our middle schoolers and finding that they had given a great deal of consideration to what it meant to be a UU in a heavily Christian atmosphere. I found all of them to be grateful for those beliefs, and proud to be a UU. I am proud to have introduced my child to other members of UUFC, including Kathy and Gordon Crain, Meg MacArthur, Tom and Karen Hiebel, our ministers Alex and Terre and countless others that have been a part of her life.

Bringing your child to religious education should be a covenant between you, your child and the RE program. We’ve done our part and built a great program this year. Many hours have been spent selecting TED talks, Spirit Play lessons. Saturdays have been sacrificed for training and preparation. UUFC has done all this because they believe that RE is the foundation on which congregations are built. We ask that you take RE as seriously as you might dance lessons or soccer practice. If you do that, you will find your child ready to face a world in which they might be different than their peers, and they might find themselves grateful that you’ve prepared them for that reality.

Kitchen Makeover

Packed up kitchen

Kitchen packed up

Our house was built in 1970 and the cabinets are original. It appears this has been a well-loved kitchen, so the cabinets, which are all pressboard, took a beating. Should we have noticed when we bought the house? Probably, but that’s another story all together. Once we moved in, we saw that the cabinets were, well, gross: water stained and warped, with some parts of the cabinets with rot. (The basic house, however, is great and the neighborhood is fabulous.)

Nasty cabinet doors

Doesn’t even shut

Fast forward three years and we are getting a new kitchen. Some of it was inertia on our part; the other was getting someone to call us back. After giving up on the first guy (who went to my high school), we went with the husband of someone I work with. They are both people who also went to my high school. Hey, it’s a small town.

We got a quote, gulped, said OK and we were off and running. Goodbye to the cabinets, the broken dishwasher, the old microwave, the floors and paint color. Keeping the fridge and the range. We’re also keeping the counters (engineered stone) and the sink. He says 2-3 days. I’m thinking 4-5. Husband is thinking a couple of weeks. I hope I’m right.

So, here’s a log of how it went.

Emptying the Kitchen

Day 1: Rough holiday weekend for me. I got a rash, with welts and itching, starting on July 4, right after I finished an antibiotic. Finally, after everyone encouraged me to see urgent care to get a cortisone shot, I broke down and went. Sat around for an hour and finally got in, only to have a two minute consultation with a doctor who declared it couldn’t possibly be that, because I took one more dose after the symptoms started, so if I had a reaction to the drug, I would have ended up in the hospital. Of course, by the time I get in, the Benadryl is really attacking this stuff and I have little rash to show. He patted me on the head and sent me on my way and I burst into tears in the car from frustration. Once I calmed down, I went to get the farm share from the folks that are splitting it with me this year and ended up talking to them for an hour. Great people.

What does this have to do with the kitchen? Well, my husband didn’t exactly know where I was and so he got going on what he thought needed to be done. We frequently attack problems from different angles, so when I got home, he was 1) irritated that he didn’t know where I was and 2) fixated on getting the kitchen packed up ASAP. He is going to miss all the fun, since he has to travel. I’m jealous as I’m stuck here having to work around all this, but he’d rather be here supervising. In the end, there were two goals going on here. My goal was to use up the farm share while I still had a kitchen and then pack and his goal was to pack up the kitchen so he could focus on getting out of town.

Finally, we got to a point where I got cooking done and managed to serve a dinner and half the kitchen was packed up. The pantry stuff is in the extra room in the basement area, behind a closed door to keep the cats out. And, there’s other stuff in the rec room space.

Packing up the kitchen

Packing up the kitchen

Day 2: I go to church and when I get home, we finally get it all out in the open and come up with a plan of attack. A bunch of stuff lands in front of the fireplace in the living room. More stuff in the rec room.

The food in the fridge gets put in the beer fridge in the garage. (A gift from the sellers, who I guess got a new fridge and didn’t want to move the old one.) We push the dining room table against the wall (or as close to the wall as possible) and put the food we will use in the interim on one side of the table. The microwave cart gets put next to that and the toaster oven is on top of the microwave. “Don’t run them at the same time,” I’m told. At least we have a plan and it works. The house is still usable, except we will soon have no kitchen.

I finish up food preparation. I have cut up salad ingredients I will take to work along with some wraps and hummus. I also have prepackaged oatmeal, so I can also eat breakfast at work. I have a frittata and leftover broccoli pasta in the fridge downstairs. Still left from the farm share are potatoes and turnips, which will keep, and cabbage and a tomato. I might give those away. Once the frittata and pasta are gone, we’ll eat peanut butter sandwiches or go out. Or get sushi from Publix. And, we will pray this really doesn’t last more than 4 days.

The Contractor Takes Over



Confused Blaze cat

Confused Blaze cat

Day 3: Husband takes off for his business trip bright and early. I finally wake up and finish up a few things: I pack the dishes that were in the dishwasher and put those in the living room. I also go ahead and move everything breakable off the shelf near the front door. OK, we can do this. 

Patrick is great. He gets there a little early, ready to dig in. We’re ready for that too. More proof this is a small town: I take the kid to summer drama camp and a minivan pulls up with Patrick’s wife inside. She says “are you ready to eat out for two weeks?” Huh? Is it two-three days or two weeks? Help!

I head home for lunch and get my answer: we’ll be functional again after Thursday, but there will still be some work going on for a week after that. And, the kitchen is ripped out. The underfloor and walls are in GOOD SHAPE! OK, the valves are leaky, but Patrick is going to fix that. I take a bunch of pictures and forward them to my husband, who is relieved to get an overload of news.

The kid and I go to our workouts, head home and eat some frittata. There’s plenty left, so we have more for dinner tomorrow.

Barren kitchen


Day 4: a little instant coffee from Starbucks, which isn’t that bad! I then made my oatmeal at work, so I’d be able to wash out the bowl. So far, so good. Oh wait a sec, turns out the kid slept on the couch due to the dripping from the ceiling in her room. Crap. We’ve had some rain in SC. OK, we’ve had a LOT of rain. The lake has gone from extremely under full pool to overflowing within a year. However, my fabulous editor has a roof guy, which I call and within six hours, the dude has patched the roof, punctured by a high falling limb, and they’ve even swept off all the leaves, for $175. He says “sometimes you have to look for it, but this one was easy.” He shows me a picture of a big limb stuck in my roof. I write him a check before he charges me more.

Between running the kid to her various activities and dealing with the roof, I work late and we end up getting Publix sushi. We’ll dig more food out of the fridge tomorrow.

I never see Patrick, but I see evidence he’s been here. Stuff is gone and there’s a new subfloor. And, the walls are different. Tomorrow, I bet I see paint and maybe even cabinets, if we’re on track.

New cabinets

New cabinets

Day 5: Patrick does show up early and I get to talk to him. He scheduled the cabinets to come in today, so paint will have to wait a little longer. His goal is to get the kitchen semi-funtional ASAP. We run by the house at lunch and sure enough, there are cabinets in progress. Oh boy do they look good. When we get home, all they need are countertops. Still lots to do: the ceiling, the floor, the paint. All the appliances, too. We aren’t done yet.

We eat the rest of the food I made that is in the fridge. Tomorrow, I need to visit my dad. He’s been in the hospital and it’s time for a visit.

Day 6: I’m beginning to think if anyone has to deal without a kitchen, it’s me and Bella. Tonight, we pass on the Chinese food and she eats PBB (peanut butter and banana) and I eat oatmeal. (Wait, why am I spending so much on a new kitchen if I can live off oatmeal and peanut butter? Remind me.)

Disposal button

Disposal button

I again get to see Patrick and he’s bought a nice little button device to go into the countertop, which means I can now run the disposal without having to open the bottom cabinet and flip a scary looking switch. I mean, I suppose that was good for my hamstrings, but I can’t think of much else that worked about that arrangement. This button will make things easier AND I didn’t even know such a thing existed. The ceiling has been scraped and the walls are prepped. He still needs to paint, which I think he’s doing after the cabinets just because that schedule worked for the cabinet and countertop guy? Whatever. He seems to know what he’s doing so I’m trusting him. All I know is I’ll have a sink back tomorrow. How exciting! Next week, we’ll work on the other pieces: the floor, the appliances. The whole thing is done and finished in less than two weeks.

Weekend Work

Counters and cabinets

Counters and cabinets

Day 7,8 and 9: so busy with the kitchen, I forgot to blog. Friday, I came home to find a sink hooked up! Hooray! Still, we are lazy and I eat a salad with hummus and she has oatmeal. A long week at work, with Dad in the hospital (he’s doing OK now) and the kid had a short week and I had a job that required a lot of attention (which is all I will say about that.) I spend part of Friday searching pantry ideas on Pinterest. We’re on our own for the pantry and there’s no way we can just use what we’ve had. I’ve been irritated by the pantry for a while, so I have some ideas what I’d like to do.



Saturday, I wake up and I’m ready to tackle some kitchen. Unfortunately, it’s raining, again. It’s been raining a lot in the Clemson area for the past two weeks and the night before, we got a whopping 8″. My friends are posting pictures of Nettles Park underwater, Mac’s Drive in parking lot flooded. I hear the Botanical Garden is devastated. Three large trees are down on Pendleton Road, all missing houses, but at least one car is crushed.

We are far more fortunate 3-4 miles up the road, but it does mean there will be no painting today. I go ahead and buy the boards I have in mind for the pantry and instead, I’ll lay down some contact paper. This turns out to be an enormous task. It’s at least 60′ of shelving, and getting it square and flat and bubble-free in drawers is nearly impossible. Fortunately, many of the shelves are removable, but it still takes me all day to get much of it done, and the rest of it, I finish before church the next day.

Sunday, I came home to find the family had unpacked the plates and glasses and there is much happiness from me. My husband tells me that we seem to have less and more storage space. Having done the plastic the day before, I know what he’s talking about. With the pull out drawers and the cabinets each being a unit (so they don’t span the width of two doors, it does limit the capacity. But, it also makes it easier to organize. We’ll just have to adjust. The cabinets over the washer dryer are going to be great, but we’ll need to get used to a stepladder. It’s a reach to get over the units, but we have tons of space up there. Again, an adjustment.

The husband is leery of the button for the disposal and he’s found a door that he thinks is slightly warped. He notices everything.

Now what is left are the things that would go on the counter, some free-standing stuff (the breakfast table, a rollable cart) and, of course, the pantry.

The weather forecast swears it’s going to dry out. I sand my six shelves and set them aside. My husband is extremely dubious of my plans for the pantry. Trust me, I tell him. Fingers crossed I have a good idea here.

Week Two

Paint color

New paint!

Day 10: Kitchen is now painted a lovely coffee latte brown. Seems to be an appropriate color and it goes with the cabinets and the countertop. Getting close! Patrick did say painting wasn’t his favorite and I can see that it’s not his best skill. Still, it’s at least as good as I would have done. Bonus: he painted the pantry. Whoops, he painted those nasty ass shelves I was going to toss. They’re total pressboard with no veneer and some of them are kind of moldy. Gross! They are gone. I leave him a note about that. I also tell him to not bother rehanging the laundry doors. They’re a pain in the ass and they’re old and ugly. The only thing I really use them for is to 1) hide the mess on the dryer which I’ll now be diligent about and 2) hang clothes, which it doesn’t do well. I’ll need to find a solution to that, but it will still be better than what I’m doing now.

Patrick’s list includes: the floor joist in the garage, finish painting, vinyl, lighting, dishwasher.

I go ahead and spray my five new shelves. They will match the cabinets. I do an adequate job spraying them. I’m covering the top with contact paper anyway, so I’m not terribly worried.

Left to buy to finish all this up: some wire shelves to mount in the pantry, a cleaning organizer, a few hooks, something to hang clothes. And, a new can to store recyclables. Not bad.


Patrick is done

Day 11, 12 and 13: Things have been wacky all round, and yet the progress is less obvious. The painting is slow going. It’s a big space with lots of nooks and it’s not Patrick’s favorite. The floor has gone down (which looks fabulous) and the paint looks good, but it’s slower this week.

The pantry continues to be a puzzle. Patrick offered to cut new shelves, so I took him up on that. My boards were just a little too narrow. My husband was probably right. I told him to cut them about 10-11″ so I could put a broom holder in there. I’ll probably put some hooks on the other side. The two shelf brackets I bought aren’t going to span the boards nailed to the walls for the shelves. CRAP. And the door mounted pantry thing is HUGE. 77″ long? I won’t be able to get stuff off the top shelf and I’m not sure I want stuff on a shelf that close to the kitchen floor. And Lowe’s, ugh. They are very nice down there but their site and their store don’t exactly mesh. I search and search for a broom and mop holder, even trying just broom holder, broom organization, mop holder, cleaning organization and nothing. But when I go to the store, I find the very item I want and it’s called “BROOM AND MOP HOLDER.” WTF, Lowe’s? I had talked myself into buying the 77″ behemoth only to NOT find it in the store, so I came back to order it online and then decided it was a sign not to buy it.

Curtains, too, takes forever. There are none at Lowe’s that suit my tastes. We face a fairly wooded area and so it’s highly unlikely people will be able to look in, but we probably need something. OK, the husband insists. It takes me all night to search online and narrow it to four choices. I send them to him and show our intern in the morning. I end up buying my first choice after all.


New curtains

Yesterday, he sent me an update which included that the washer dryer were hooked back up. Yeah! Laundry! We were running low. So I fill ‘er up and get back to work on this nightmare job that has me working nights on it, only to have the kid tell me 30 minutes later that there’s water on the floor. That turns out to be accurate. There’s water everywhere on the floor. We mop as quickly as we can and when we have stopped the bleeding, I take her to her martial arts class. At that point, we find that one reason it’s not more water in the kitchen is it’s all over the garage under the kitchen as well. CRAP. My sister visiting offers to pick her up in an hour and I return home to clean up the mess. I manage to move the fridge and the bottom drawer of the range and clean all that up. I can move the dryer but the washer! I have to take all the clothes out (and catch some of the water that pours out with a bucket.) Those land in a plastic hamper lined with a garbage bag, thrown on the back porch. The kitchen done, I sweep the water out of the garage into the driveway. This is not good for resting my psoas muscle that I injured by poor running form.

I then go visit my sister and my brother-in-law, get something to eat and hang out with them for a few hours. They share this odd version of Baby Got Back and a funny “translation” of an Indian pop tune retitled Benny Lava and I come home and find that it’s drying out and all is good. I send an update to Patrick and to my husband, who happens to be in California this week and no one freaks out. Whew. To bed.

The next day, the husband is a little concerned about what caused it but glad to hear it’s cleaned up. Patrick tells me an appliance guy will figure it out. It might be the seal. I think it might be the hookup. Either way, it will be resolved and that’s all I care about. And God bless good neighbors: mine offers her washer/dryer and I can at least make sure my clothes don’t mold. It’s important to have good people in your life.

As for cooking? I’ve just about given up. I’ll get back to proper eating when it’s done. I’m trying but it’s just too hard with your food one floor down and the door kind of blocked by your car in the garage. Especially when you’ve got emergency jobs, a sick dad, a leaky roof, packing, unpacking, contact paper and mopping mopping mopping.

SO: today’s progress seems to be: paint is about done. Light connection has been properly positioned. Warped cabinet door is replaced. I hope hope hope by tomorrow I at least have a fridge back. And maybe the dishwasher. The rest of it can happen when it happens.


Laundry area

The new laundry area

The kitchen is done with the exception of putting the tabletop back on the base of the breakfast nook table, which has been moved enough that the holes need some larger screws. Turns out the washer wasn’t hooked up correctly, but it was also missing a foot. This is why the washer shook like a mother. They also added some sort of base that would absorb the shaking. I finish it with a tension rod for hanging clothes on hangers. Hangers get put on two drapery tieback hooks that I mount on the wall, to keep them hidden when I’m not doing the wash.

We resolved the recycling issue by getting a separate can. Seems obvious in retrospect. The new can is rectangular. My husband likes to say “rectangular as in recycle.” I like to think “rectangular so it easily fits the Cheerio box.”

Big ass box



Not so massive baskets

Small baskets

The last step was the pantry. After searching high and low, I finally found my wire baskets. I had to special order them from Walmart. A week and a half later, then a half hour in the store and they arrived: in a humongous box. I left all the cardboard behind, with baskets that took up less than a quarter of that big box. Mounted them on the wall and the pantry is DONE. Everything has a place.


The finished pantry

The final test was cooking in the kitchen. So far, it’s been fabulous! What a difference! Moving the microwave gave me more counter space. You can never have enough counter space! It was totally worth it. And, I would have hired the same guy again. Locals, get in touch if you need a guy.

Julia’s Vegetable Soup

This week, I’m without a kitchen and didn’t do anything exciting with the farm share food. However, I found some old drafts that I never published, so I hung on to them for this very occasion. Plus, it’s a reminder to me how good this soup really is.

Being into food, the family all agreed to see Julie and Julia when it came out. A strange family movie, but then we’re kind of strange. The Julie character was not particularly likable (no offense to Amy Adams, who I actually like) but the Julia character was so much fun! I’ve since read My Life in France, which is just as inspiring as what we saw in the movies. So, of course, we also bought the books. I made my husband the Beef Bourguignon once. ONCE. On paper, it didn’t look like it would be so hard, but once you got into it, you realized there were parts where it might say “add the pearl onions” and that meant you had to prepare the pearl onions, which that recipe was on a completely different page. I’ve never made it again, in part because my daughter and I are now vegetarians. The beef bourguignon, the coq au vin and the meatloaf are the dishes my husband misses the most.

So, this week I challenged everyone to pick a meal. Husband went with a tomato sauce from the Delicious Memories cookbook (he added his own bacon.) I went with a paella. And the kid picked out the vegetable soup from the Julia Child book. I admit some trepidation after the beef bourguignon, but this was not so bad to make! Turns out I was only had to buy carrots and potatoes and I had the rest on hand. I did make a few tweaks, which I’ll note.

Put in a pot and boil gently for 40 minutes:

  • 3 quarts water
  • 2 cups carrots (aka one batch organic carrots)
  • 2 cups potatoes (aka two baking potatoes)
  • 2 cups leeks (aka one batch leeks)
  • 1 cup barley (she called for broken spaghetti noodles in step 2, but I assumed this was to not scare the 1950s suburban housewife and went with barley instead.)
  • 1 T salt

20 minutes before serving, add:

  • 1 16 oz bag frozen cut green beans (can use fresh but it’s January, so we went with frozen)
  • 1 can Great Northern white beans (or, do what I did: soak the beans in the morning, cook for 3 minutes in my beloved pressure cooker)
  • 1/3 cup panko (called of a crumbled piece of stale bread)
  • Pepper
  • Tumeric and smoked paprika, about a teaspoon each (she suggests a pinch of saffron. Have you seen the cost of saffron??)

Make a pistou (no I don’t know what that is, but make it anyway) by pureeing in blender/food processor:

  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 6 T tomato paste
  • 1/2 c parmesan cheese
  • 1.5 cups fresh basil or a T dried (or a handful of frozen from the summer harvest)
  • 1/4 c olive oil

Add a cup of broth then pour all that in the soup and serve. Surprisingly creamy considering the small amount of dairy in this. (My husband did go “you don’t put cheese in vegetable soup!” but he didn’t complain when he ate it. I merely said “we’re following Julia here.”) I guess the potatoes and the breadcrumbs help out in the creamy department.

A definite keeper and I think we were done in about an hour.