Stracciatella gelato, whimsy, words

I think I might have found my standard contribution to family gatherings. You see, my sister brings this spinach dip to every family gathering, and everyone always acts surprised and delighted and showers her with compliments about how <insert superlative here> that spinach dip is! I never knew, until recently, that I wanted a standard contribution too. I make a lot of things that no one else in the family does. I make delicious Thai curries and curry pastes. I make delicious ramen broth. I also make a damn fine cacio e pepe. None of those dishes really go with everything though. You can’t just show up to someone’s house for a dinner gathering with a big pot of curry and a rice cooker. I guess you could, but no one would act surprised and delighted when you do.

Anyhow, we were getting together for mother’s day yesterday, and earlier in the week my sister mentioned that mom wanted me to bring some lemon gelato (because mom was over at the house the first time I made it and was surprised and delighted!). It was like a light bulb going off. OMG I can take gelato to nearly any family event! GELATO IS MY SPINACH DIP! People will be genuinely surprised by my genius flavor combinations! So I made a stracciatella gelato. I used a vanilla bean instead of extract. I made my own chocolate syrup to drip into the churning vat of delicious. I managed to drip the chocolate in so gingerly as to create chocolate chips, not chocolate ice cream. I carefully packed it, made a cute label, and showed up quite proud and excited, and everyone was surprised and delighted! Why? BECAUSE MY SISTER BROUGHT A LEMON ICE CREAM PIE.

I genuinely found this hilarious. I do intend to dominate the ice cream and gelato arena at family gatherings from here forward. No, I don’t really see it as a competition. I do somewhat feel like I’m at the point in my life where I should carve out a niche for such events that involves more than taking a seat in front of the chips and dips and watching everyone while avoiding conversation. Gelato is a start.

Happy wife, happy life. 😍😍😍😍😍

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On an unrelated note, since I’m ranting away today. Mrs. Primate just started a new work schedule for the summer. You see, I work 11:30 – 8, and previously she worked 10-7. She has to get up earlier, which means I have to get up earlier if I want to fulfill my morning duties of delivering a breakfast and beverage to her vanity as she gets ready for work. This is a slight modification of waking up slowly together in the kitchen while I sip coffee and deliver her breakfast to the table while we watch YouTube videos. Then she leaves at 7:30 and I have another 3 and a half hours before I have to be at work.

I’m not good at change. I feel a little lost this morning without my breakfast buddy. I don’t know whether to try and get in an hour or two of Grand Theft Auto, or to go grocery shopping. I could also stand to go for a run, but that doesn’t sound like much fun either. Basically, I’ve been sitting here for 30 minutes trying to figure out what to do with my life…for the next three hours ;). Times where I don’t have an established pattern drive me nuts. I rely on structure to help me figure out my timing. I’m probably the only person on the planet that could wake up an hour earlier and show up to work late because I just couldn’t figure out when I needed to leave! Whine whine whine, piss piss piss, moan moan moan.

I think I’ll go grocery shopping, that’s always fun in the morning.

A homemade taste of France: Croque Monsieur

A week ago I decided it would be a good idea to try and make a representative dish from each of the stops we made on our honeymoon a year ago on my day off. Last week I made a meal of tapas to kick off the start of this culinary trip down memory lane. This week a year ago we were in Marseille, France.

There was one thing Mrs. Primate wanted to eat while we were in France, and it was surprisingly difficult to get our hands on due to the French method of dining. It was always on the menu, but never seemed to be available when we wanted to eat. It’s not anything too fancy, but it’s what we wanted. This led to a bit of frustration as we searched and searched for a place that had an open kitchen, and additionally, wouldn’t refuse to make one. The croque monsieur, was our metaphorical pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.

Vieux Port, #marseille #france #picstitch

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On our last evening in Marseille, we visited a small bakery where we had purchased some macarons a few days earlier and the very nice, very friendly baker had two Croque Monsieur sandwiches in her case. She graciously heated them up for us and wrapped them in wax paper, and we took them to the old port, sat down, and had a little picnic next to the boats gently bobbing in the water, in the shadow of the citadel and Nôtre Dame de la Garde basilica on the hill across the harbor. It was sublime. It was the perfect moment from Marseille to recreate with a meal.

After scouring pinterest for a recipe, I decided on a basic Croque Monsieur recipe I found that looked easy enough to accomplish and a “ratatouille” made in the style of Disney’s movie about the culinary rat. Hey, we needed vegetables and this looked pretty, even if it isn’t so authentic. Four ham and cheese sandwiches, one pot of bechamel, and a few chopped vegetables later, dinner was served, and you know what? It took me right back to the old port of Marseille for a few minutes.

Taming the wanderlust

My oh my, has the wanderlust been hitting me hard lately or what? (It has, that was a rhetorical question.) I think it’s the weather getting warmer, the smell of the flowers and herbs in the garden blossoming, and the fact that a year ago Mrs. Primate and I were on the biggest trip that we’ll (probably) ever make. When you add the reality of I’m-not-going-to-have-an-opportunity-to-leave-the-country-for-at-least-a-year to the general feeling of oh man I feel so stuck in San Antonio right now it makes for a palpable feeling of meh. Here’s some things I’ve been doing to combat it.

  1. Focusing on the good ol’ career. This is the thing that’s going to make bigger, better adventures possible (and allow us to stay at the W instead of some ratty old hostel next time we’re in Barcelona if it advances the way I plan.
  2. Cooking things that remind me of places I’ve been. The senses of taste and smell give me the strongest connection to places I’ve been, I can totally capitalize on that. Candles are helpful too, as is the “Hawaiian Aloha” vent clip I just put in my car to combat the smell of mildew.
  3. Watch travel shows on TV. Okay, I’m not really sure if this makes it better or worse, but it kinda feels like learning more about places I’d like to go helps me focus on something other than wishing I could be somewhere I’ve already been.
  4. Work on the house. We need to finish it out the way we want it to be finished in pretty short order, and housework always makes you feel better. For real. It’s something about seeing your results in real time. We need new dressers, a new couch, and to replace some light fixtures.
  5. Find things to be excited about. For example, after submitting my tax return for 2013 in February, it was finally approved today and we’ll be able to make a big payment on our TV and computer! (For real, what took 90 days?)
  6. Get interested in something. My interest in fitness has waned a bit, my interest in finding a pillow that will allow me to wake up not feeling like I’ve been hit by a freaking MAC truck has increased. Maybe one of those memory foam mattress toppers would help too. This went a bit off topic, didn’t it?
  7. Plan for the future. This is a frustrating exercise in knowing what you want to achieve and dickering with yourself about how to make it possible. Is there a book that tells you how to end up with a small bed and breakfast that doesn’t need the income stream of guests to remain afloat somewhere with a good view of the Mediterranean?

Yeah, so these are some things that I’ve been doing to focus on how to really get to the lifestyle that we want to have. It might mean a bit of studying and learning and a lot of work, especially the “career” one. As one of my coworkers told me though, You gotta step out of the boat if you want to walk on water. She’s wise. Put in the work now, reap the benefits later. Sounds good to me. Not all those who wander are lost, but I’m pretty sure that if you wander too long you can get lost.

Reliving our honeymoon one plate at a time

Boy oh boy, have things changed in the past year. I had a great day off yesterday, and I had invited my mother and her husband over for a tapas dinner because hey, any chance for a visit right? When I woke up yesterday I realized that a year ago I woke up on a plane descending into Madrid with Mrs. Primate on the first day of our honeymoon. I figured it was a sign that I should probably make something for dinner on days that I cook that would remind us of where we were on our honeymoon at this time a year ago. Well, dinner number one was already in the bag.

Last night I finally cracked open the Spanish cookbook that Mrs. Primate gave me for my birthday and made a couple typically Iberian delights, a tortilla with potatoes and onions, and albóndigas with a tomato salsa. In addition I added in a memory of our trip to Hong Kong (where I had my first tapas dining experience) with asparagus roasted under a blanket of manchego cheese. It turned out beautifully, and we had just enough little plates to even serve it in an authentic fashion. Things weren’t 100% Spanish though.

This #homemade lemon #gelato has me pretty excited for #dessert tonight. #food #foodporn #foodstagram

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For dessert I made gelato. Why? Well, memories of how good the gelato in Rome was as we walked through the streets on a hot spring day have been going through my head like freight trains as the weather has started to heat up. I logged onto trusty old Pinterest, searched for a lemon gelato recipe, and came up with this. It took me about an hour, and this was only my second experience with the ice cream maker my sister unloaded on gifted to us a few months ago. Well, let’s just say the second attempt went MUCH better than the first. So much better that I’m planning to make a little straciatella when we run out of this wonderful lemon batch.

Simmering up a syrup for limonata.

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I also made a syrup with lemon and basil to make homemade limonata, you know, the Italian version of lemonade? Something about the tartness of the lemon with the aroma of the basil really works together, and the basil was grown in our own garden. Talk about a fresh flavor! I found that one part Limonata mix and two parts carbonated water make for a really refreshing lemonade. If only it had a shot of limoncello…

These naked #lemons are making my first batch of #homemade #limoncello. #booze #drinks #picstitch

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Well, it will have a shot of limoncello, in about 30 days when this vodka I recently poured over the zest of 8 lemons is finished infusing, and simple syrup is added. But I digress.

The Spanish bit of the meal was absolutely fabulous, and it did in fact remind me of sitting at a table in Plaza Mayor in Madrid, watching street performers, hawkers, and families mill about as we enjoyed our tapas and wine. That was the point. I’d better save some Italian stuff for a week or two until I need to remind myself of Italy. 😉

Zeitgeist of my life position

So I was reading this great post by Britany Robinson over at her Stars on the Ceiling blog and found it really timely because I was planning on doing sort of a zeitgeist thing for where I’m at to close out the A-to-Z challenge this year. I feel like her idea of a “big trip to find a place to settle” is sort of how my past year went. We ended up in a somewhat unexpected, but entirely plausible place at the end of our first year of marriage, and our focus on life shifted from adventure, travel, and gaining worldly experience to planning for the future, creating a solid financial foundation, and creating a strong enough career that later on in life we can shift focus again and maintain the lifestyle that we want.

I think it’s always kind of a sentimental time when you shift gears. I mean, do I wish I could backpack through Thailand, Japan, China, and Europe again? Uh, yeah. Would I trade where I’m living now for our drafty old moldy apartment in Korea? Not on your life, buddy. Is my current line of work much more difficult and tedious than what I’ve done over the past six or seven years? Yes. Is the payoff better? Yes. Is it worth it? Absolutely.

If I hadn’t taken a few years away from the rat race to get out, see the world, and learn that no matter what you do it’s going to turn into a j-o-b, then I don’t think I’d appreciate where I’m at now nearly as much. I’d really regret it if I stayed at my old job and never hit the road, struggled through layoffs trying to make a “passion” job work for me, and moved overseas for a few years. I think I needed that kind of formative experience.

So basically, whereas a year ago focus was on travel, adventure, and seeing new places; life has shifted to a bit more concentration on stability and working towards the future, but that’s good because the future seems less ambiguous now.

Your mileage may vary.

Mine sure does, but it seems to really want to stay around zero. I decided yesterday after a few weeks of not managing to get out for a run that I needed it back in my life. I DID. I felt better all day because of my morning run, or perhaps it was the adrenaline pumping through my veins from slaying a serpent in the front yard afterwards. At any rate, I planned to do it again today, but life seems to get in the way. I need to go to the grocery store. My shins hurt. So on and so forth. I think I’m still going to try to get a run in today, even if it’s short. I’m pretty sure I legitimately won’t have time tomorrow, so I’d better get it in while I can. I guess that means I should get my early morning loving rear end over to the grocery store right now and get that part out of the way so I can hit the pavement.

Got any tips for how to help life stay out of the way a little bit so that exercising can be a part of your daily routine?

X is for extreme morning madness

This morning I thought I’d get back on the fitness wagon and go for a run. I haven’t run in weeks. It went kinda meh, as expected. Then something scary happened. I got home from my run and saw this on my front porch.

OMG A SNAKE ON MY PORCH!

OMG A SNAKE ON MY PORCH!

After much debate about whether it was dead or alive, my mother suggested the following solution. Squirt it with water. If it moves, it’s alive, if it doesn’t, it’s dead. So I did. It didn’t move, except for where the water moved it. I cut its head off with a shovel, bagged it up, and threw it in the garbage. I’m not sure what kind of snake it was, but holy hell it didn’t need to be on my porch. I’m pretty sure it picked a fight with a bird it couldn’t win, too, as there was a bird carcass sticking out of its stomach.  So that’s  my extreme morning. Hopefully tomorrow “X” can just be for exercise, as planned.