Housewife Life

Never-ending House Stuff (and Sriracha Mac and Cheese)

When you buy your first house, people constantly tell you, “It never ends!” and “It’s a lot of work!” and, in a slightly sarcastic tone, “Good luck!” You brush it off at first, thinking, “Well, these people don’t know this house, or my capabilities, or how hard I can work. I’ll show them!”

You are an optimistic little bastard, aren’t you? Because owning a house, especially owning a house that wasn’t taken care of very well, is a definite challenge. There’s painting, and window repair, and “what’s that smell,” and squeaky hinges, and leaking showers, and rude neighbors who say things like, “I would have offered them a dollar for that house.”

Sigh. The only thing you can do is work on it little by little. Paint a wall one day, paint another the next. Then things happen, and you just want to scream. Mr. Something went out to mow yesterday, but soon realized that the shed, which he had locked, couldn’t be opened with any of our keys. One of them fits, but doesn’t turn the knob. So our mower is trapped for the time being. I suggested he watch a few YouTube videos on lockpicking, but apparently that didn’t work so well. Now we’re debating between hiring a locksmith and smashing the knob with a hammer, depending on cost.

BUT ENOUGH OF THAT FOR NOW.

For our neighborhood’s July 4th barbecue, we were to bring a dish to share. I brought my very favorite spicy sriracha mac and cheese, knowing that many people there wouldn’t be able to handle the heat. More for me! (And shush, there was plenty of food for everyone, and one of our neighbors brought a Tupperware home for herself.)

Sriracha Mac and Cheese

Adapted from Parsley, Sage & Sweet

  • 1/2 lb rotini or other squiggly pasta
  • 2T unsalted butter
  • 2T flour
  • 3/4 C milk
  • 1/2 C heavy cream
  • 2/3 C chicken broth
  • 1T honey mustard
  • 1/4 C sriracha (aka Rooster Sauce, aka my favorite thing)
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 3 cups sharp cheddar, shredded. (You could also use a blend of cheeses like monterey jack, cheddar, and pepper jack.)

Prepare pasta according to package directions like every other recipe that uses pasta. Don’t let it get too mushy. Melt the butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Whisk the flour into the butter, and cook, while whisking, until it’s golden brown and no longer smells like raw flour (about a minute or two).

Mix the milk, cream, and chicken broth, and slowly pour into the flour mixture while whisking. Stir until bubbles start to appear. It’ll start thickening. It took mine about 15 minutes to get to a nice thickness (sort of like thin glue; imagine a thin Alfredo). Yours might only take five or ten minutes; remember, I’m at almost 6,000 feet!

Add salt and pepper to taste, then stir in the honey mustard (I use 1.5t of honey and 1.5t of mustard) and sriracha. Do not breathe in the warm sriracha fumes; you will have a coughing attack. Remove from heat and stir in the shredded cheese. Stir, stir, stir. This part is very satisfying. When it looks like cheese sauce, taste it and add more salt, pepper, or sriracha, if needed.

Put the drained pasta back in the cooking pot, and pour the sauce over it. Stir, then sit the lid back on the pot for a minute or two to get it super melty. It’s ready to eat RIGHT NOW if you want, but sometimes I like to throw it in a buttered casserole dish, cover it with some buttered breadcrumbs, and bake for ten minutes or so, just to get a nice crust on top.

You can add cooked, shredded chicken to this, too, if you want to make it an entree instead of a side dish. This recipe is easily doubled!

Self-Definition

Recently, I have realized that not everyone is pleased with the word “housewife.” I feel like I have to say something.

To use the old cliche, Merriam-Webster defines “housewife” as “a married woman who stays at home, does cleaning, cooking, etc., and does not have another job outside the home.” While I volunteer for Planned Parenthood, I am not paid for this work, so this definition is true for me. I am married. I clean. I cook. I et cetera the shit out of every day. (There’s a lot of et cetera.) I do not have a paying job outside my home. My husband is the breadwinner.

If you think this is old-fashioned, that’s fine. But you don’t know me very well, I guess, if you think this is a bad arrangement. I love cooking. I like cleaning. I hate tidying, but Mr. Something likes it, so he does that most of the time. I love taking care of our pets. I’m proud of our home because I spend lots of time making it a nice place. In addition to being a housewife, I love reading about science, Australian detective novels, drinking beer, and watching hockey. This is my life, meaning it is not your place to judge or comment.

Having a career does not mean you are a fulfilled person. Not having a career does not mean you are a fulfilled person. However, being a housewife fulfills me, along with my volunteer activities and social life. I have a full, wonderful life. And I choose with every fiber of my being to be a housewife.

If you have a quibble about the word I choose to use, that is your problem and not mine. If I introduced myself to you as “Amanda,” and you turned to someone and said, “This is Mandy,” I would probably slap you, because I am definitively not a Mandy and I just introduced myself as “Amanda.” Respect my choice. The same goes for what I choose to call what I do day in and day out. If I say I am a housewife, do not then say, “Oh, you’re a homemaker.” I guess… but that’s not what I call it, and besides, Mr. Something makes our house a home just as much as I do.

I have had it with people thinking that I am not a feminist because of the word I choose for myself, and the work I choose for my family. Feminism is about choice, and it’s about women being equal to men. I work equally hard as my husband; he just happens to get paid for his contribution. Mr. Something asked me, “Do you want to get a job?” I said, “Not really,” and he replied, “Okay.” That sounds like a choice to me, and my husband supports me 100%.

Again, if you have a problem with any of this, or if you think I am less of a feminist for being a housewife or a future stay-at-home mom, please realize that you are trying to regulate my speech and my choices, and that is not a feminist act. It’s actually fairly misogynist.

Hello again! (and Weeding)

Hi! *waves frantically* I didn’t have wifi for almost two weeks, so I sort of disappeared. I am back now.

So with this new house comes a big backyard and a smaller front yard. (Why does “backyard” look normal and “frontyard” doesn’t? Hm.) With yards come weeds, because they are advantageous little buggers. I’ve discovered that one of my new favorite things is weeding. Seriously. I throw on a big straw hat and some ridiculous purple garden gloves, go out into the Rocky Mountain sun, and send some poor plants to their doom. It is incredibly cathartic. Furious at anti-vaxxers? Weed. Some of your new neighbors are kind of weird and rude? Weed. You read the comments? Weed. When I’m done and see that big pile of unfortunate leaves, twigs, and roots, I sigh and feel better about most things.

I also murdered some mushrooms the other day (chopping at things with a trowel is pretty fun), and they haven’t grown back yet, so hooray for me.

All of this house stuff is sort of overwhelming; the previous owners neglected a lot of stuff and tried to cover it up with some paint and (literally) a mirror. (Side note: they had a [in their words] “problem daughter,” and I’m pretty sure she tried to kick in her door at one point. I moved a hanging mirror from a guest room door last week and there was a HUGE smashed-in part. We also suspect she kicked something very heavy down the stairs, resulting in a slightly smushed wall. We don’t really *mind* these things, per se, since they’re fairly easily fixed, but come on, guys.) We need to take one step at a time or I think we’ll both go insane.

HOME OWNERSHIP!

Triangle ears + triangle hat = I can't stop laughing.

Happy birthday, Sweetest Dog! (and SECRET PROJECT NUMBER ONE REVEALED)

Our amazing dog turned one yesterday. I can’t stop laughing at that picture. It is my new “in a bad mood, need a pick-me-up” picture. She’s the sweetest dog in the world, she’s friendly with children and the elderly, she loves cats (a little too much for their liking), and she can’t get enough frozen broccoli. We love you, our little surfer girl!

And it’s time to reveal SECRET PROJECT NUMBER ONE: we bought a house!!!! Prepare yourselves for many house-related posts.

Slightly Less Wise (and Hot Sock Magic)

I got my wisdom teeth surgically removed yesterday. It wasn’t that bad! The anesthesia hit me like a ton of bricks; I think I was out within 30 seconds of the IV being placed. I remember sort of waking up during it because my nose was itchy, and a very nice nurse kindly moved my arm back down. I also kind of remember feeling someone poking around in my mouth. I woke up, Mr. Something drove me home, and my pain is fairly easily managed with a touch of hydrocodone (yesterday) and ibuprofen (today). I’ve been living on smoothies, mashed potatoes, and miso soup. Never in my life have I so badly wanted to chew.

My face is pretty swollen. I sort of look like Quagmire, which is really unfortunate.

photo (31)

 

We used to have a rice-filled hot pad that we would heat up and stick under the covers in the winter when it was really cold out. I couldn’t find it today, so I made my own little hot sock to ease my swollen cheeks.

Hot Sock Magic

  • clean sock (I used one whose mate is long lost)
  • uncooked rice

Fill the sock with rice so it’s just up to the heel. Tie a knot in it, leaving some room so the rice can move around. When you need a fairly long-lasting hot compress, stick it in the microwave for around 45 seconds. It’ll be really hot, so watch out!

My Poor Right Arm (and Mr. Something’s Favorite Meatloaf)

The past week has been hard on my right arm. When I came home from the grocery store the other day, Big Puppy greeted me with happy paws (and dewclaws that need to be trimmed). Then I grazed my forearm with a very hot baking sheet (that’ll be a fun scar). THEN I acquired a mysterious bruise on the knuckle of my middle finger. It’s a big enough bruise that I should remember how I got it… but I have no idea.

Sigh. At least none of these things hurt anymore.

I know it’s May and getting warmer, but it actually snowed here in the high plains the other day. Like… Christmas amounts of snow. So I made meatloaf yesterday.

Meatloaf gets a bad rap. First of all, meat. loaf. It’s such a gross name. “Who wants some loafed meat, kids?” No one. No one wants meat in the shape of a loaf. But it’s SO GOOD. It’s one of those foods that scares some people, because it’s so midcentury (“Make sure you eat lots of red meat so we build strong Americans!”). Just make it. It makes wonderful sandwiches the next day, and if you have a ton left over, you can chunk it up, freeze it, and use it in a batch of crock pot pasta sauce.

Mr. Something’s Favorite Meatloaf

  • 1.5lbs ground beef (I used extra lean)
  • 1/2C ketchup
  • 2T Worcestershire sauce
  • black pepper, to taste
  • crushed red pepper, to taste
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 1C+ 1T bread crumbs (I put a few slices of stale sourdough in the food processor)
  • 1/4C onion, finely chopped (again, I whirred this around in the food processor; smaller pieces are better)
  • 2t brown mustard

Topping

  • 1C ketchup
  • 2t brown mustard
  • 1T brown sugar
  • 2T molasses

Preheat the oven to 400F. Mix the beef, ketchup, Worcestershire sauce, spices, eggs, bread crumbs, onion, and mustard. Squish into a foil-lined pan. (We have a special non-stick meatloaf pan that has an insert with holes that drain the grease. I highly recommend getting one of these; we got ours at Williams-Sonoma. It makes meatloaf so much less greasy and icky. If you use one of these, don’t line it with foil.) Mix together the topping ingredients and spread on top. Bake 45 minutes (or until internal temperature reaches 165F; get out that probe thermometer!). Rest 5-10 minutes.

SECRET PROJECT NUMBER ONE (and Crock Pot “Roast” Chicken)

So Mr. Something and I have been working on SECRET PROJECT NUMBER ONE for the past few weeks, and while I can’t reveal anything right now, know that it is very exciting. (Spoiler: it does not involve my uterus.) I can’t wait to tell everyone at the end of this month!

Yesterday I wanted to make something easy, but delicious, so I made a chicken in the crock pot. Now, many recipes for this sort of chicken will call it “roast chicken,” but I think it lacks the crispiness I associate with roasting, so maybe “the best chicken ever that sort of steams in its own juices” is more appropriate.

I adapted this from Iowa Girl Eats, one of my favorite cooking sites. She recommends taking the chicken skin off–unless you are on a super low-fat diet, do not do this. Just… don’t. Chicken fat is one of the joys in life. EAT SOME JOY.

Crock Pot “Roast” Chicken

adapted from Iowa Girl Eats

  • 4lb chicken (if yours comes with giblets, take ’em out)
  • 2T melted butter
  • 2T olive oil
  • 1T Hungarian paprika (do not use smoked)
  • 1T granulated garlic
  • 2t kosher salt
  • 1t onion powder
  • 1t Italian seasoning (I used Penzeys Pasta Sprinkle)
  • a few generous grinds of black pepper
  • 6 foil balls (it’s very fun to crumple them up)

Put the foil balls in the bottom of the crock pot. Mix the spices with the butter and oil and rub them over the chicken (if you use disposable gloves, your life will be easier and your hands won’t be disgusting). Put the chicken, breast side up, on the foil balls. Cook on low for 6 to 7 hours. It will be so tender that you might have to take it out of the crock pot in chunks.

This chicken was amazing straight out of the crock pot, but it’d also be perfect for chicken salad (both mayonnaisey and lettucey), enchiladas, etc.

Sunnier Days (and Lemon Bars)

It’s been pretty nice here in the West–sunny, warm days and cooler nights. I’m not used to such consistently nice weather. It feels like a trick. Weather is supposed to be awful most of the time, right? It builds strong character (and strong livers).

To celebrate the gorgeous weather, I made lemon bars. They’re one of my favorite simple desserts: custardy, shortbready, sweet, tart. Totally unpretentious and easy. You can also make them into lime bars by substituting four limes for the two lemons.

Lemon Bars

  • 1C butter, softened
  • 1/2C sugar
  • 2C flour

Mix (I used the paddle attachment on my stand mixer). Press into an ungreased 9×13 pan and bake at 350F for 15-20 minutes, or until it’s slightly golden around the edges.

  • 4 eggs
  • 1.5C sugar
  • 1/4C flour
  • zest of 3 lemons
  • juice of 2 lemons (you can save the third, zested lemon for something else)

Whisk these together (I used the whisk attachement on my stand mixer), and pour over the baked crust. Bake for 30 minutes. It’ll firm up as it cools.

You could add a meringue to the top to make lemon meringue bars if you were feeling saucy.

Starting Fresh (and Orange Vinegar Spray)

We’re so so so so close to finding our house. We’ve seen a few that were great, and I think THE ONE is just a few houses away. (Eeeeeeeee.) I’m really excited about having a place that’s ours (so long, upstairs cougher and next-door hammer fiends!). To prepare for taking care of a whole house, something I’ve never done before, I’m making my cleaning routine more intensive. I saw this spray on Pinterest and it’s pretty great for windows, tubs, etc. Plus, if you let the orange peel sit for a day or so, it makes the vinegar smell much more pleasant.

Orange Vinegar Spray

  • empty spray bottle (I used an old Febreze bottle)
  • orange peel (I used four clementines that were on their way out, but you could substitute the peel of a whole orange)
  • white vinegar

Toss the peel in the bottle and fill with white vinegar. Shake shake shake. You can use it right away or leave it for a day to make it smell even better.

Doctors (and Carpet Powder)

I hated my last doctor. She wasn’t an MD (which I didn’t realize until I went to see her), and she didn’t really listen to anything I had to say about my own body or health. My new doctor is awesome. She listened, she made small talk that made me feel at ease, and she actually seems to care about my involvement in my own health.

I have a full physical scheduled for tomorrow. I’m kind of nervous, because who likes getting poked and prodded, but I think it’ll put me at ease and put me on the right track.

This time of year, when it starts getting a little warmer, all of the smells come out. Seriously, spring is a smelly, smelly time. If your house needs a refreshing touch, try this carpet powder. It couldn’t be easier to make or use, and it really works.

Freshening Carpet Powder

  • baking soda
  • essential oil (I used lavender–you could use whatever you wanted. Cinnamon would be nice, too.)
  • a little jar (I used a jar that formerly held chili flakes.)

Fill the jar 3/4 full with baking soda. Add about 10-15 drops of oil. Put on the lid and shake shake shake. Sprinkle on carpet, let sit about 15 minutes, and vacuum.