Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Monthly Miscellanea

Good things in May:

1.  I have a job!  I interviewed at C University, and I am going to be brought on as an adjunct in the fall.  I am so, so excited that Jordan and I will be teaching at the same university.  After five years of heading in different directions every morning, how cool will it be to be at the same school!

2.  My birthday was great--so many sweet calls and notes from friends and family and a special dinner out with my husband.  We went to local restaurant and ordered homemade pita chips and hummus as an appetizer--the most amazing pita chips ever.  I am now keen to try to make some on my own.

3.  School's out!  I love summer-time.  I love having time to cook and crochet and swim and run.  I am trying to stay on a schedule and get work done as well--since I am going to be starting from scratch with my courses in the fall, I will definitely have plenty to do, not to mention all the packing that will commence later this summer.

Looking forward to June:

1.  Disney World!!  We will be headed to Mickey Mouse's House in a few weeks.  I have been put in charge (kind of self-appointed) of the itinerary, and I have had entirely too much fun poring over the guide-book and optimizing our experience by crafting the most awesome, carefully-calculated plan, ever.  I still have a few tweaks to make, but I think I will probably be sharing the itinerary later on, just because I am so proud of it.  I may also share some thoughts on packing for the trip.

2.  House-hunting.This is kind of nerve-wracking and exciting at the same time.  And, of course, calls for more intensive, type-A research and planning.

3.  Summer-fun stuff.  Already planning some photography trips (maybe some star photography!), movie-nights, cook-outs, and pool-time.  I have already gotten sun-burnt, which is not a good thing, but hopefully won't happen again.  Sunscreen is my friend.

So, what are you looking forward to this summer?

Monday, May 28, 2012

We Like to Eat Around Here

 Seriously, we love to eat.  I like to cook, so it all works out.  Here are some of the things we have been eating.  Above is the Lemon-Orange Chiffon Cake that I made for a church dinner (it won a Facebook poll for what I should make, over a banana-pudding).  I think it turned out great--the recipe was from Southern Living.  The icing was particularly spectacular, but nobody wanted to eat the candied orange slices.
 In the plate above is Herbed Chicken, Panko-Crusted Squash, and Creamy Russet Potatoes.  The chicken was a new experiment that turned out well.  I seasoned thin chicken breasts with a Mediterranean herb blend and pan-fried them a bit in olive oil until the outside browned, then transferred to a baking dish to roast in the oven with chopped garlic.  I poured some lemon juice into the frying pan and scraped up the bits that were left and then poured it over the chicken to keep it moist.
 Strawberry and Asparagus Salad: a mix of green leaf and spinach, roasted asparagus, strawberries, feta, walnuts, bacon, and a Vidalia onion dressing.
Roasted Veggie Quiche:  roasted asparagus, onion, carrots, and squash; eggs mixed with heavy cream, feta, mozzarella and Parmesan in a store-bought refrigerated crust.

I didn't take a picture of the blackberry cobbler I took to some friends' cookout last night, but it was tasty, though a bit of an adventure (way, way too much liquid in the berries, which Jordan helped me pour off).

I am so excited that summer is here and that vegetables are everywhere: we have been eating so much squash and asparagus and corn and tomatoes.  Love it!

What are your favorite summer recipes?

Friday, May 25, 2012

Housekeeping Routines

I considered starting here with a little philosophical musing about housekeeping--I do, after all, specialize in domestic fiction and wrote my master's thesis on a novel called Recollections of a Housekeeper.  But, if you indicate that you are interested in housekeeping, people often suppose that you are very strange (I may be) and have a freakishly clean house (I don't).  So, I will dispense with (most of) the musing and get to the basics.  Most people do some housekeeping.  I am generally interested in how people do it. I think those manuals and descriptions from the 19th century on housekeeping practices (or domestic economy, as it was sometimes called) are fascinating.

My favorite modern-day housekeeping tome is Cheryl Mendelson's Home Comforts: The Art and Science of Keeping House (Scriber, 1999).  The book is a wonderful reference guide, nearly 900 pages long with answers for nearly every conceivable quandary on laundering, polishing, laying out, and making up that you could imagine.  My favorite chapter is the first, in which Mendelson writes of her "secret life."  She writes, "An off-and-on lawyer and professor in public, in private I launder and clean, cook from the hip, and devote serious time and energy to a domestic routine not so different from the one that defined my grandmothers as 'housewives'" (3).  She goes on to describe those grandmothers, one of Italian ancestry and the other of British Isles descent who are equal in their passion for domestic arts, though they often conflicted on ideas of airing beds or ironing shirts.  Ultimately, housekeeping seems to be part of identity--how we do things tells us something about who we are and where we come from; but the purpose is unifying--we all seem to clean house because we enjoy having a comfortable, welcoming space in which to live.

So domestic routines both create comfort, and to some (myself included) are comforting in themselves.  When I was younger, I learned the nineteenth-century housekeeping litany from Laura Ingalls Wilder's Little House books: Wash on Monday, Iron on Tuesday, Mend on Wednesday, Churn on Thursday, Clean on Friday, Bake on Saturday, Rest on Sunday.  While some of these activities are obsolete (or have become hobbies, rather than chores), the idea of having a list of daily tasks makes sense.  I have tried the other method--clean when it gets dirty--but have found it to be far more exhausting than a pre-emptive routine.  After much experimentation, this is now my weekly routine:

Monday: Clean the Kitchen, Buy Groceries
Tuesday: Laundry (Clothes)
Wednesday: Dust and Vacuum
Thursday: Laundry (Sheets and Towels)
Friday: Clean Bathrooms, Buy Groceries

These activities are, of course, supplements to the daily "neatening" tasks of putting away items and making beds and so on. This list is specific to my needs, as it's just my husband and myself in a small apartment.  I put the lighter tasks (laundry) on Tuesdays and Thursdays because those are usually teaching days for me.  My very least favorite task is planning meals--for some reason, my brain freezes up and I look with dread at the refrigerator and drag my feet on the way to the grocery store.  It has become somewhat easier since I go to the store twice a week now.  Instead of having to plan seven meals, I plan meals for Monday through Thursday, and then Friday through Sunday.

I don't always get through the week perfectly, but it is easy enough to catch up and Saturday morning is a good time to pick up any tasks that were missed during the week, but your whole day isn't spent in drudgery.

So, what are your domestic routines?  Any tips on making meal planning less painful?  Any thoughts on housekeeping as identity?