Finally! Approved!

Around 5 pm today, when I was coaching Odyssey of the Mind, Good Man called.

“Where are you?”

“Work, OM, you?”

“Home. When are you coming home?”

I checked the clock. “About 40 minutes, why?”

“I got the approval letter. I will get the green card in 60 days. Let’s go out to dinner to celebrate tonight.”

Finally! If today weren’t a leap day, it would be nine months exactly since we sent the file off. He’s finally approved!

Five Minute Bread

Terry asked me about the five-minute no-knead bread in the comments, and I promised to post the recipe.

Before trying this one, I’d seen a bunch of recipes floating around, but I finally decided to try it when reading about the basic recipe and variations at Mother Earth News.

The creators of this recipe have their own website where they offer variations, answer questions, etc. It’s worth checking out, along with their books.

All of that said, the first several times I made this bread, it didn’t really turn out as well. I kept at it and am fairly happy with how it works out for me now. Hopefully these pictures will give you an idea of what you’re looking for.

The basic recipe is:
3 C warm water
1 1/2 T granulated yeast
1 1/2 T kosher or sea salt (not table salt!)
6 1/2 C unbleached all-purpose white flour

You’ll also need a large lidded container.

Put three cups of warm water in the lidded container. Use water a little warmer than body temperature. Add your yeast and salt. I used active dry yeast and like the results.

If you only have table salt, you will need to use quite a bit less. I’d start with 3/4 tablespoon or 1 tablespoon and see how that tastes.

You’ll notice my container had bits of old dough on it. That’s because when you’re done with all the dough from one batch, you can just scrap down the sides and immediately make a new batch of dough. The old bits help get the sourdough taste, and hey, it’s one last dish to clean.

Add 6 1/2 cups of unsifted, unbleached, all-purpose white flour. Measure by scooping and leveling. Yes, this goes against everything my seventh grade home ec teacher taught me. But it works and is what you need to do for this recipe.

Mix together. I use a Danish dough whisk, which I thought was a cluttery kitchen gadget, but it really does work very well and it cleans up easily.

The dough should be “shaggy.” You might need to add more flour or more water to get the right texture. With King Arthur flour, I find I need to add about a quarter cup more water. According to the authors’ website, if you only have access to bleached all-purpose flour, you’ll need a little less water than it calls for. Adjust as needed.

Mix it quickly, just incorporate everything, and leave it. My dough always looks like this.

Put the lid on, but don’t make it airtight! Leave it at room temp for 2-5 hours until it inflates and starts to collapse.

It should look like this.

Now, stick the dough in the fridge! The dough will be much easier to handle if it’s in the fridge for a few hours first. I still leave the lid snapped on only two sides.

The dough will keep in the fridge for about two weeks, but the longer it keeps, the less rise it will have and the better it is for flatbreads and pizzas.

When you want dough, you cut off one pound, which is supposed to be about 1/4 of the whole batch. I personally prefer to cut the dough into thirds.

The dough in this photo is pretty old. I’d baked a batch of a dozen rolls and the stromboli from the other two-thirds of the dough.

Flour your hands and the dough and quickly form it into a ball. I still don’t quite have this step down, but I get better each time. You’re supposed to “cloak” the bread and form a ball by stretching the dough around to meet at the bottom. I find it easier to pull it up into a ball, when the ends on top.

I probably used a smidge too much flour to cover this loaf.

Put chunk of dough on a cornmeal covered pizza peel and let rest for 40 minutes. I have found that longer rise time works, too.

Preheat oven to 450 F. At this point, you’re supposed to have an oven proof dish in the oven along with a pizza stone. If you don’t have a pizza stone, you can bake the bread on a cookie sheet, although the crust won’t be as nice.

When you’re ready to bake the bread, dust a little more flour on it (to prevent the knife from sticking), and slash the top of the bread. Open the oven, slide the bread onto the stone, and immediately add a cup or so of hot water to the baking dish. You quickly close the oven and it makes the crust rustic. However, I didn’t bother with it for this loaf, and it was fine.

Bake at 450 for about 30 minutes, until crust is brown and firm. Let cool completely before slicing. Enjoy!

American Life

“If you had no shame, you could write about the crappy television you watch,” Good Man declared, laughing.

***

I haven’t been blogging as much lately, and I’ve been thinking about why for a few days. Fortunately, I do have shame, so Good Man’s suggestion is out.

When I was in Korea, I often said that life in Korea was hard, so it was interesting, whereas life in America was easy so it was boring. Of course, when we first moved here and I was going through reverse culture shock, it wasn’t easy, and I ached to go back to Korea.

For years this blog has unintentionally been about change. Moving to Korea, changing jobs within Korea, learning Korean, earning black belts, meeting Good Man, moving back, dealing with reverse culture shock (me) and culture shock (Good Man), planning a wedding, dealing with immigration, Good Man’s graduation, becoming a two-income household, getting a new endorsement…

But things have settled.

Although there are things I would change, I really like my job. Since I am now in my fourth year with the district, I am finally on a continuing contract (no, that’s not tenure, since I live in a right-to-work state). I am so glad I rediscovered my passion for gifted education soon after returning to the US. It gave me something to focus my energies on, and it gave me room to grow in my job.

Good Man works all the damn time (can’t take the Korean out of Korea?) but he is respected and liked at his job, and I know he feels a real sense of pride in what he does. And we suspect his job has a lot of room for growth.

We’ve lived in this apartment for over 3 1/2 years now. I realized that a few weeks ago and it surprised me. I think I lived in one apartment in Atlanta for about this long, but that was about eight years ago.

Our three-year wedding anniversary is this year (March or July, take your pick). And about our relationship? I want to blog every little joke, every detail. But those moments are private, between us, and about us. And besides, what would be the point?

There are some major changes we want to make sooner rather than later (three weeks ago would have been nice!). And I’m researching/reading/pre-worrying about these changes. But they’re not topics I feel comfortable blogging about right now.

I expected that settling in America would be just that—settling for what was available, giving something up. Instead I’ve found that we’re not settled here because there’s nothing better; we’re settled here because this is the right place for us as a family right now.

Chicken Week!

Whole roasting chickens were on sale again this weekend (99 cents/lb), so Chicken Week returns to our house. Last night was roast chicken, tonight was chicken alfredo. I’m simmering some stock and tomorrow it’ll probably be chicken with gravy and rice.

In any case, the chicken looked good again, and Good Man was excited to eat it.

A Untrussed Chicken

Good Man Dances

***

I learned how to make the no-knead five-minute bread, and I am digging it, because it’s very versatile. A few nights ago (Valentine’s Day, actually), I made stromboli with it. I filled it with pizza sauce, pepperoni, and some mozzerella cheese. We had it with steamed broccoli and Good Man really liked it. It was very easy, although it sort of exploded in the oven.

Half the recipes I found said not to slash the bread, while half advised slashing. I fear what the oven would have looked like had I not slashed!

The rolled up “pizza” was really good, and not too salty. I need to keep some basic pizza topping ingredients on hand to avoid ordering out, because this ended up taking less time than ordering in, since the dough was already made and ready to go.

Stromboli

All Rolled Up

Good Man Tells It Like It Is

“Look, there’s an arrow on that tree. You can climb it,” I said to Good Man when we were parking outside of a restaurant.

“No, that is for blind squirrels.”

***

“What is the title of this song? ‘You Don’t Have Grandma?’ … … Oh! ‘Sweet Home Alabama!'”

***

“Amanda, you look like a sad cucumber.”

***

“Oh, you smell so good. Like a soap-covered mushroom.”

***

“Oh my 음치 [tone deaf] wife, when you sing New Kids, it sounds like Bob Dylan.”

Analog Wife Life

“Can you whisk this?” I asked Good Man, showing him how.

“Don’t we have a gadget for this?”

“Yeah, the whisk.”

Good Man scoffed. “This is not gadget! This is like ancient people killing an animal with a rock. This is no 2012 gadget. This is analog! My wife is analog!”

***

“OK, come on, time to review our savings goals,” I said to Good Man.

“Let me make coffee,” he said.

I settled down on our couch with printouts from our credit union and ING, a calendar, and a notebook and pen. When he sat down, I started in, “We’ve saved this much so far,” I said, pointing. “And you get paid three times in March, which means we should be able to save…”

I went through, making a list and predicting how much we could save in the next six months, accounting for the taxes we owe this year, the vacation we’re set to take in June, and increasing our 401k/457b withholdings.

Good Man stared at me. “Why are you using paper and pen? Why not make spreadsheet? Oh my God, you are so analog!”

Red Tape, Good and Bad

Red Tape, Good

You do not have to be licensed in gifted education to teach gifted education in Virginia. However, there is a state endorsement available, and since Good Man and I will probably not live here forever, I figured getting the state endorsement was a good idea. If we move to a state that has reciprocity, it may count or reduce required coursework. If we move to a state that doesn’t require a GT endorsement, it will still help me get a job working with GT students.

Last month I dropped off my state endorsement paperwork at the central office. They told me it would take eight to ten weeks to get my endorsement from the state, but I got home Tuesday night to find my new license. Now I am qualified to teach Gifted and Talented in the state!

Red Tape, Bad

So, a long time ago we mailed off Good Man’s ten-year green card application.

As quick refresher, you do not immediately get citizenship when you marry a US citizen. (More than half of the people I’ve talked to about immigration matters seem to think that is the case.) If you are married less than two years when you get a green card, you get a temporary green card. Two years minus ninety days later, you apply for a ten-year green card. Three years minus ninety days after getting any sort of green card, you’re eligible to apply for citizenship through marriage. (Employment-based citizenship is a five-year wait, I think.)

So we mailed off our application in June, Good Man went for his biometrics in July and…nothing.

It’s supposed to take six months or so to get approval. It’s been over eight and we’ve heard…nothing.

According to USCIS, the Vermont Service Center is working on May 2nd cases. California, meanwhile, is routinely approving people in approximately 90 days.

And we wait.

Resolutions: January Update

Here’s how I’m doing on my resolutions so far.

1) To walk/hike 1,000 miles.
I am behind where I need to be on this one due to a flare up of PF. However, while I’m only walking 8-10 miles a week, I’m getting in Callanetics or bowling on my non-walking days. So all is not lost.

2) To sew up more fabric than I buy.
In January I bought 22 5/8 yards of fabric. I sewed down zero yards. Long story short, I had a First World Problem made up of $200 in expiring Living Social deals. Moving on…

3) To menu plan every single week.
I am rocking this one. Before I made this resolution, Good Man and I were eating out too much, depending on too much on convenience foods, and spending too much money.

In January we both ate out twice at work (excluding the time Good Man was out of town—he gets reimbursed by work, so I don’t count those times). Once, my meal from the freezer wasn’t defrosted and I fell back on an Amy’s frozen meal. One night, we ate out together after a very nice date night that started off with massages at our favorite place.

I calculated our average grocery and dining bills for the last three months of 2012. In January our grocery bill went up 14%. Our dining bill fell 71%. Yes, 71%. That’s almost embarrassing to type. Our total food bill decreased by 25%.

During the last week, I actually didn’t plan much, and we ate up most of the food I’d stockpiled in the freezer during the month. (For example, when I made shepherd’s pie with my roasted chicken, I made a second pan and froze it.) That was a good way to make sure the freezer was turning over and to take a mini-break from planning.

Bowling in the Ball and Chain League

Good Man and I are back to our Ball and Chain league on Friday nights. We’ve bowled three weeks so far. The first week I did terrible (88, 83, 114), but we still won two out of three games and the series. The second week I did much better, and we won all three games and the series (obviously). Last week we won two out of three and the series.

About half of the people are returnees from last year. But the most obnoxious team from last year hasn’t returned. They were horrible to bowl against. They cursed all the time, berated themselves no matter how much they were winning, and held up the games by getting up to smoke, chatting with uninvolved friends, getting beer, etc. I had already decided that any week we played against them, we’d just pre- or post-bowl, so I was happy to see they haven’t returned.

It’s also nice to have our standing Friday night date back. It’s one time during the week that Good Man can’t log on to do work!