Renovation Week 3: The Weakening


The biggest surprise this week: learning that my kitchen has been completely uninsulated since it was built. I wonder how much money  we’ve literally burned over the last 20 years heating this place, between that and the windows that never quite closed or sealed correctly.

I especially like the large hole where some duct used to exit.
I especially like the large hole where some duct used to exit.


Also, more unplanned destruction this week, as the contractor wandered the house attempting to map out the electrical circuits in the place. Continue reading “Renovation Week 3: The Weakening”

Renovation Week 2: A Man, A Plan


Not a ton of visible change this week. The skeleton of the wall that used to divide the kitchen and dining room is gone, so you can now get a feeling for this as a single room:


Some plumbing demo was done while I was in Pasadena for work, and we’ve put down deposits on the cabinetry and ordered the bathroom fixtures. I’ll be happy to start writing more checks for things that I want added, not to have people wreck stuff and leave my house a mess. I can do that myself.

Continue reading “Renovation Week 2: A Man, A Plan”

Renovation Week 1: The Destroyers


A noisy and messy week here — the demo crew came to gut the upstairs bathroom and most of the kitchen. Not a great couple of days to be working from home. Scarlet was especially apoplectic with all the people and the noise.

The fun thing at the moment is that since both the bathroom floor and kitchen ceiling are gone, we can see up into the second floor.

Looking up into the 2nd floor bathroom
Looking up into the 2nd floor bathroom


Another view, tub location.
Another view, tub location.

Continue reading “Renovation Week 1: The Destroyers”

Renovation Week 0


After a long long period of not believing that this project was ever going to actually happen, we’ve hired a contractor and find ourselves suddenly in the position of not being ready, scrambling to get things in order for demolition to begin this week. They’re actually going to gut the kids’ bathroom first, so we get a few more days of access to the kitchen, but we’re still getting as much moved out of there as we can.

A few before pictures:

The wall on the left here dividing the kitchen from the dining room will be gone soon.

(Boy, I hate this 70s-tastic kitchen) Continue reading “Renovation Week 0”

Xmas Break Ice Cream Report

Ice cream!
@ Van Leeuwen. Earl Grey under Pistachio.


Made a batch of Vanilla Chai right when the break started. I still don’t think that I like chai tea in its usual environs, but I do like it as ice cream a lot. (Steeped 4 Twinings Chai teabags in the hot milk/cream of my normal base for 15 minutes, then proceed with the rest.)

Keenan wanted to make/take a quart of something to a party, so we made a batch of the Eggnog from the Ample Hills book. I don’t usually make a custard-base ice cream, but it seemed called for in this case. Exceedingly eggy (10 yolks to a quart!). Needed more nutmeg.



For Xmas, Kath got me the book from Brooklyn’s Van Leeuwen Ice Cream, and it immediately became the #2 book on that part of my shelf (behind the original book from Jeni’s).


Kiley and I spent last Sunday wandering around Soho and the Village, and directly across 7th Ave from the Village Vanguard we saw a sign for Snowdays Shaved Cream. Basically, they use Hawaiian-style shave ice machines, but instead of working on cylinders of ice, they freeze cylinders of ice cream base solid and then shave ice cream snow off of those. Kiley had their Sweet milk flavor (with some toppings and salted caramel sauce), and I had Matcha green tea, which was great. Because they don’t need to count on the sugar content to control the texture of the final product, they were able to make this really subtle — not overly sweet at all, and the green tea was clean, and the dairy itself was especially prominent. I don’t know how a business like this handles rushes, though — it’s not a quick process.

Last night, Keenan and I went into Brooklyn to see They Might Be Giants do the last night of their year-long residency at the Music Hall of Williamsburg, and when I was checking directions on Google Maps, I saw that Van Leeuwen has a shop that’s a block away. We stopped after the show and I had their Earl Grey and Pistachio. Both were fantastic, and my assessment of the place from their book was spot on. Highly recommended.

Time to Take the Chill Off 

(my new furnace)
Shiny and new

Last week, we had a tech come out for pre-winter check and tuneup of the two furnaces in our house (when we put an addition on in 2003, we opted to put a second, small, HVAC system just for the new construction rather than getting a single large unit for the whole house, a decision I regret for a bunch of reasons now).

The tech started on the furnace for the addition, and called me down after looking at it for 20 minutes or so. One of the first things that he tested showed that the Carbon Monoxide level inside the heat exchanger was double its legal limit and was still climbing when he hit the emergency off switch. No immediate danger to us (and I have redundant CO detectors in the house after an incident shortly after we bought the place), but enough of a potential danger that he had to take the unit offline permanently.

So, Saturday was spent talking to burly dudes who sell heating systems.

We made a deal and were hoping for a Monday installation, maybe Tuesday. Turns out they didn’t actually have the unit I bought on a shelf and had to get one shipped. Thursday install. Oh, and the new ductwork may stretch into Friday morning.

Luckily this week has been relatively warm, but when I walked into my office Monday morning, it was 56 F, which is tool cold for my fingers to be able to type accurately. All week long during the day I’ve cranked the furnace in the old part of the house with heat and aimed a fan at the base of the stairs up toward my office door, so it’s been bearable.

They just delivered the unit, which is freakishly tiny (and I know that it’ll expand when they start building the plenum and whatever other HVAC words they’ll charge me big bucks for), and should start ripping the old one out shortly. The furnace is directly beneath my office, so likely to be a noisy day.

It’s supposed to go up near 70 degrees this weekend, so it’ll keep that new furnace smell a little while longer.


Update: They were done with the installation by 1:30 PM. All new ductwork, installed much more cleanly than the original install was, and also positioned so that it will be easier to service in the future.

Thanksgiving 2015 Reference

Parking this here for my reference in future years and to save me the googling.

Kenji's not mine. Mine looked pretty much like this, though.
Kenji’s not mine. Mine looked pretty much like this, though.

Most of these obviously come from Kenji Lòpez-Alt at Serious Eats, whose recipes always work better than they should. If you need to know how to make pretty much anything, Googling “Kenji {name of dish}” is the best place to start.

Main Meal

Spatchcocked Roast Turkey & Gravy

Sage and Sausage Stuffing

Horrible yam goo that Kiley likes. I needed the empty can for…

Cranberry sauce — one thing I don’t like about this one is the taste of the honey in there is too much for me. Next year I’ll goof around with this one.

Garlic mashed Yukon Golds

Honey/mustard glazed baby carrots (an old Deborah Madison recipe that I’m probably making wrong at this point, but it’s how I make it.)


Apple Pie (I put in more cinnamon that Kenji calls for), using this infallible crust technique that he developed a few years back.

Pumpkin Ice Cream

Pumpkin Ice Cream

I was going to make a batch of Jeni’s Pumpkin 5-Spice ice cream, but was out of five spice powder, and too lazy to run to the spice store just for that today.


This uses my version of Jeni’s base recipe that folds in proportions and techniques from a bunch of different books and online resources I’ve seen over the years. It works reliably for me in my machine. YMMV.

Also uses my vague memory of how I’ve spiced pumpkin pies in the past; probably more heavily spiced than you’re used to.


2 cups heavy cream
1 cup 1% milk
almost 2/3 cups sugar (minus 1 tablespoon or so)
1 tablespoon dark brown sugar
1 tablespoon corn syrup
1/4 cup nonfat dry milk powder

1 tablespoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg

base, continued

another 1/2 cup 1% milk
1 tablespoon corn starch

3/4 cup pumpkin (Jeni says to roast your own after hunting it with a bow and arrow in the veldt. I use Libby’s from the can like a proper American)
1/4 teaspoon sea salt


  1. Combine the ingredients from base and spices in a heavy saucepan and bring to a boil over medium high heat.
  2. While that’s heating up, combine the rest of the milk and corn starch into a slurry and keep it handy. You’ll need to re-stir just before using it.
  3. The pumpkin and salt into a mixing bowl, whisked up a bit to combine.
  4. When the base comes to a boil, set a timer for four minutes. Stir occasionally, and monitor the heat level — if this boils over onto your stove, you will not be happy with the cleanup effort.
  5. After 4 minutes, remove the pan from he heat, re-stir the milk/corn starch and stir that into the base.
  6. Return the pan to the heat and bring back to a boil, stirring to keep everything mixed and avoid lumps. Boil for 1 minute, then remove from the heat.
  7. Add the hot base to the pumpkin and mix until smooth.
  8. Pour the mixture into a gallon ziplock bag and push out as much air as you can as you seal it.
  9. Drop the bag into an ice bath and into the fridge to cool down, aiming for around 34 F. Overnight if you can.
  10. Do something else while it chills.
  11. When it’s completely chilled, spin in your machine according to the manufacturer’s directions, pack into a storage container and freeze until hard — again, overnight if you can.

Also good as a baked Alaska (pic from 2011):