Thursday, March 18, 2010

Signing out from this house

Tomorrow we take possession of this magical house that we've been dreaming about since I started writing to you here. March 19 is 9 months to the day from when we closed in Arlington and moved here to this little rental house to begin this adventure. (How's that for hitting you over the head with symbolism? But really, this moment has been much longer a-borning, as most of you know.)

We are packing in earnest, and as we make progress, it's dawning on both of us that we're only moving 25 miles this time, not 500. All weekend, we'll be able to take things to the house ahead of the movers, who will come Monday. I remember the day we moved here, trying to put things away in the kitchen during the chaos of having furniture moved in, balancing intricate placement decisions in the kitchen and big ones about furniture at the same time. This move should be much, much easier. We can hang towels, put rugs on the floor, and, best of all, I can get the kitchen mostly put away over the weekend and concentrate on other things on the "official" moving day. (Of course, another "moving day" is also on the near horizon: the week after next we head for Delaware to bring all the things we thought we would be using there. That's a pretty substantial load, since as we consolidated the rooms in Arlington and moved furniture out to show the house, we took all of those things to Delaware. There are two large china cabinets, to begin with. And there are things we bought in Delaware that we want here, a rowboat, picnic table......Oh, we won't be finished moving in by a long shot when we clear out this house.)

So busy days are ahead. We'll arrange the inside, then get to work on the outside, mostly finishing the deck and landscaping. Still, I intend to make every effort to inject some discipline into my life once I'm under my own roof again. I can't wait to start my daily walks. And I do mean to write more regularly here. Connection speeds will probably be a bit better, making music less frustrating to upload. We all know what they say about good intentions, but I promise to do my best. I really do miss this wonderful part of my life.

There will probably be another long silence after this as we get through the nitty-gritty of moving in. But I hope I can start plumbing my brain once again for things other than the minutiae of changing residence. See you soon!

Friday, March 12, 2010



"Well," you must be saying (if you even still bother to subscribe), "look what the cat dragged in!" (And I don't mean the food!) I actually have the chance this rainy afternoon to get this recipe written down for you (and for myself, actually), and I'm glad. We are still commuting every day to the new place, if not to do anything specific, then to watch final preparations being made. Shelves are being hung, mirrors and towel bars put in place, and construction of the deck is beginning. And we are beginning our move in small pieces. The weather has warmed enough for the houseplants to stay outside, so we moved them all from here to the yard at the new place. I have heeled in all the iris and peonies that we brought with us from Arlington, letting them get used to conditions there. (They'll be moved once again once we decide on a landscaping design.) This weekend we travel to Raleigh to help a friend hang pictures in her new place, then we begin packing in earnest, preparing for the movers, who will be here early Monday, the 21st of March. Does all this sound familiar? It does to us, too!

I made up this recipe all by my lonesome after overhearing a woman in a hardware store the other day tell her friend that she was making "chicken and broccoli casserole" for dinner that night. It's one of those dishes we've all heard of and maybe even made--well, I'd heard of it, but never made it because I imagined most recipes probably called for a can of soup or two, and it didn't seem very inspiring. But this time I thought a good version, made more-or-less from scratch, should be delicious. I was in the mood for something new, so I whipped this up. The binder is a cheddar cheese sauce flavored with the broccoli stems that I cooked along with the florets and then puréed, and I took a shortcut and used a pre-cooked rotisserie chicken. While eating those overcooked supermarket birds by themselves can be a terrible experience, their meat really isn't bad if it's mixed into something else. This is a quick and easy weeknight meal that I'm going to make a permanent part of the repertoire. Hope you like it!

3 broccoli crowns (about a pound), florets cut from stems

1 medium onion, chopped fine
1 large clove garlic, minced
1/4 cup unsalted butter
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
2 1/2 cups scalded milk
1 12-oz.can mushroom pieces and stems, drained
2 cups grated sharp cheddar cheese
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
Salt and pepper

1 store-bought rotisserie chicken

Juice 1/2 medium lemon.

10 oz. short pasta, such as radiatore. (Elbow macaroni will do.)

1/4 cup shredded Parmesan cheese.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Cook pasta according to package directions.

Remove meat from chicken, discarding skin and carcass. Tear breast meat into bite-size pieces--you should have about 2 cups of meat. Reserve legs and wings for another use.

Steam broccoli florets and stems together. Remove florets to a bowl and set aside after about 10 minutes. Continue cooking stems for another 10 minutes or until soft. Put stem pieces into bowl of food processor and purée.

Melt butter in large saucepan over medium heat, taking care not to let butter brown. Add onion and cook until just soft but not brown, about 5 minutes. Add garlic and stir until fragrant. Sprinkle flour over melted butter and and onions, and combine well, cooking until bubbling subsides and no flour lumps remain. Slowly pour in scalded milk, whisking or stirring constantly. Turn heat to medium high, continue stirring or whisking until sauce bubbles and starts to thicken. Add drained mushrooms, 1 teaspoon salt, 1/2 teaspoon pepper and Worcestershire sauce, stir to combine. Add all the cheddar and stir until the cheese is completely melted and incorporated into the sauce. Stir in chicken breast meat, heat everything through. Off heat, stir in lemon juice. Check seasoning and adjust if necessary.

Pour sauce over cooked pasta and mix well. Grease a casserole with cooking spray and add chicken-pasta mixture, smoothing top so it is evenly distributed. Sprinkle Parmesan evenly over all. Bake, uncovered, until bubbly and browned on top, 30-35 minutes. Remove from oven to cooling rack and let rest 10 minutes. Serve.

Monday, March 1, 2010


We take possession of the new house Friday March 19. We'll install the window treatments over that weekend and move in Monday, March 21.

The 19th of March, 2010, is 1 year, 1 month and 5 days after our first drive down here, when we found the property that has been at the core of our life ever since.

More later.