Tuesday, April 23, 2013


Short version:

We rented a camper, mid week, off season.  We drove for 50 minutes and my car BLEW UP.  We spent 6 hours trying to get the camper back to the dealer and they are trying to charge us for a full week.  I understand policy and we're hardly trying to take advantage.  We offered to pay for the day or even 2 but we had the camper for 50 minutes before we blew up.  The company is demanding we pay the full week.  What happened to compassion, my car blew up! We only had it 50 minutes, the rest of the day was trying to get hold of camper dude and trying to get back to Austin from San Antonio!  SERIOUSLY! What happened to Texan courtesy and love and caring for your fellow man?

Seriously, my car is GONE but Dependable Camper rentals:
 http://www.dependablecamperrentals.com/ 512-484-7955 is refusing to even work with us.  They are demanding a week's payment.  I don't think so.  Don't rent from them, if something happens to your car or truck, like, say the engine blows up (as ridiculous a possibility) they're not going to give a damn.  I am going to be in touch with all the authorities i can think of to help us, a friend suggestion the Attorney General Consumer Fraud department, I don't know if it can help us but I'm on it.  

I'm outraged and I fully intend on taking my friends in social media with me and we're going to make some noise. 

For your entertainment, in the mean time, here is the story of today: 

We loaded the car with a weeks worth of camping in luxury supplies. Husband and child went to get the camper we rented from dependable camper rentals (remember the name, you'll be writing letters for/with me later!) I cleaned the house and loaded the coolers. They returned and we loaded the popup. Checked all around, waved good bye to the house for our first vacation in 14 months, we stopped for gas and drove toward Garner State Park. Happiest day I've had in a year, or more, I was so so so so so excited. Us, on vacation, in a state park, at Garner, in a popup, with our own stuff.  We even went and bought a camp stove and a table to go outside.  I'd made a rug!  Seriously, this was an enormous, gigantic, deal for us.

At 10:48, we turned on 410 in San Antonio and the car blew up.  The engine went insane, smoke poured from under the hood.  BOOM!

Husband pulled over onto a triangle shoulder between the highway and an onramp. Child and I sat there and waited for murderers while Husband bravely walked the ridiculous distance to the nearest (ha) Target to buy oil and other man vs car things. He made the walk and back in an hour. He's a hero.

He valiantly tried to get the car going. With a little coaxing, he managed to limp us off the highway, whew, no murderers.
I called my friend, whose father's house was literally a throw from where we perished. We tried to backroad the car, go a little, rest a little, go a little, to the house to park the car and unload the trailer.
We died before we got there, at the stop sign of a 4 lane road, we would have had to cross it. The car made an awful noise which I think was a death threat to us and died.
I knocked on the door of the house and a creepy guy with a lovely wife came out. They called people from their "network" ?? to see about suggestions for a mechanic or anyone. No.

Husband's mother lives in south San Antonio. We haven't seen her in a long time. Not awkward at all. She, being a mom, rushed to our rescue. 

She drove us to a local Uhaul, then another, to get a truck, with a ball. Good thing we don't have to pay for the trailer, so we have uhaul money (remember...dependable camper rentals... we'll get back to them!)
We rented a Uhaul, 10 footer, 2 seats, 3 people. I parked my ass on a cooler in the middle, my butt will never be the same. We, as a family ceased to be able to speak, the disappointment was palpable. I couldn't even look at Child, he was crushed.
We drove the Uhaul to my dead car. We emptied the car and the camper and put it all in the Uhaul (truck).
Some guy, a friend of my mother in laws husband, came with an enormous tow truck and hauled Precious (my car) away to locations unknown. He was a lovely, smiley, man who nodded at me a lot. I took pictures and waved.
We hooked the camper up to the truck, said our good byes to mother in law and people in the house, our new friends, and climbed into the truck to head home.
I'm too old and my butt too old to be comfy parked on a cooler. I didn't say a word. None of us really spoke.
We stopped at the gigantic Bucee's truck stop for food. We hadn't eaten or drank all day. It was 3pm at this point.
It felt like a very very long day.
We wandered Bucee's and realized we needed real food. We bought souvenir crap, a hat for me and a shot glass. A pillow and a bracelet with beavers on them for Child.  Husband could barely contain his fury at the car and trip. He is a hunter gatherer and my hero. He arranged this trip to surprise us with the thing we all wanted to do so desperately. As badly as I wanted a vacation, needed a break, I think the success of it meant more to him. Did I mention he is the hero in all this? He kept us warm and safe and dry and arranged to get us saved and the car towed and the truck rented and the camper hauled.

We left Bucees and drove to Cracker Barrel. That's where you go on vacation. I ordered breakfast. I was delivered of my food without toast. Ok, so there's a little stress going on here so the fact I didn't have my toast seemed the absolute end of the world. I started to take it out on the waitress, explaining that I knew it wasn't her fault my day had gone to hell but that because SHE was in front of me when I wasn't happy, then SHE was going to get it full in the face and I was sorry but I was going to explode. Child said I was scary and Husband just stared and muttered something about leaving the poor girl alone. It was a tense moment. We were all feeling a little stress, from different directions. 

We left after we'd eaten anyway. My eggs were almost raw though, you know the jiggly, slimy white bit that just sort of oozes and half slimes around your plate and toast, yeah, turned me off. I ate bacon.
We drove to the camper rental. HERE WE GO! Dependable Camper Rentals (Husband had been calling the guy ALL DAY LONG to no answer) He finally called and told the guy we'd had to return the camper, that my car had blown up and he was happy to pay the day's rate? and we would get hold of them as soon as we could make another vacation plan and the guy said NO! HE IS GOING TO CHARGE US THE FULL WEEK. I don't THINK so buddy! 

I am so furious and am going to start a campaign that makes the Cuisinart deal look like a church function. How dare that dude pull that on THIS GUY who just wanted to take his family on vacation and had a damned car blow up. OH NO NO NO NO NO. 

I'm going to YELP (and you are too because you heard the story and you can Yelp as how your friend had a hell experience with them) I mean c'mon, it's not the middle of summer or a high season, it's Tuesday to Sunday in middle April for pete's sake. Oh no, this ain't over. I think the contract isn't any good because I THINK it says 2007 but I digress. I'm just going to do a social media campaign and you'll all help me, I know it, because I cannot cope with this day and the loss of our vacation time, just us 3 to reconnect. I am not a happy camper and may weep again. 

SO, we dropped the camper off and came home. 

We emptied the truck of all our vacation loot, which was a lot. Child stayed home to unload food (he deserves a pony, poor little guy so sad and disappointed, he just wanted to camp and fish with his dad) I jumped into the Mini and followed Husband in the truck to return the Uhaul truck. 

Location 1, sorry, closed, can't return it. Husband calls Uhaul. They give him another location to return the truck.
Location 2, sorry, business relocated. it's not even a Uhaul location. Husband.loses.his.mind.

He calls me and we decide to just come home. Child has moved all our clothes to our rooms, he put all the food and groceries away. He wants to play XBox, hell yeah baby, eat oreos while you do it! ANYTHING you want! 

We contacted our chicken sitter, they're off the hook. We called the Pug sitters, we'll go tomorrow to retrieve Walter and Hurricane Baby Alice. I'm borrowing a friends truck to go get my Lola tomorrow because of her enormous crate. 

Who knows what the hell the car will cost. I'm very angry at it and might kick it when it gets back here. I hate it, it stole our vacation. I may hit it with a stick, angrily.  I don't love it any more.

Some guy called Husband's mother, who called us to say there was a problem with the 8th piston... some feat considering my car is a 6 banger.  Whatever, I don't even care today.  I hate that car and it wrecked our vacation.

At the end of the day, we are healthy, together, safe and even though we're out of pocket, our disappointment will fade and this will be a Griswald vacation story we'll tell at parties and everyone will laugh, including us. (I did take photos of the day and will put them together as our million dollar for nothing day vacation) Today though, we're so very disappointed and I still need a damned day off.

I'm car-less in way N/E Austin so I will need to be picked up and drank with and delivered back home, if anyone is looking to babysit me ;) I won't be needy for a day or two, I fully intend on hiding out, pouting and generally feel sorry for us for a bit.
I just thought you'd like to know who am I disappointed in, it's Dependable Camper Rentals.  I am writing letters at the moment and will continue to do so.  ANY suggestions on places to share my story about them will be appreciated.  Heck, copy this and share it for me, I'd love that. 

Anyway, THAT is how we spent 11 hours and 30 minutes today. A friend went on vacation last weekend and regaled me with stories of her horror vacation when she and her husband were poisoned...ha, amateur, we totally win :D

THAT, was our day, our vacation and the shock and awe that it is being in our family.  

Sunday, April 21, 2013


Hey, my lovies.

I'm taking a little break from the blog for a week. Don't fret. I'll be up and running again quickly!! AND, I will have a new section for us when I come back: Tracy Cooks at a Camp Site! YIKES!


Sunday, April 14, 2013

Croissant method slideshow...


IF you divide the dough and roll each half into 6, this is how big they are:

 IF you divide the dough and roll each half into 8, this is how big puny they are:


I had a few questions about the technique of rolling the croissants I have come up with. 

This is the slideshow of the new croissant method I developed, it goes with this post: 


I made the dough, dumped it all in the kitchenaid and let it mix, on high, with the dough hook, until it was a soft, smooth dough.  That took 5 minutes. 

I took it out and put it on the counter and this is where we pick up the action :) I didn't do a movie, it's a slide show, free to stop it to check the consistency of your dough. 

The first rise took 13 minutes ;)  Then after I punched it down it went in the fridge for 2 hours.  The butter was grated, while frozen, and tossed back into the freezer until I needed it.  I just plunk it in a dish. 

I really just wanted to show you the method I figured out.  I hope you go and make croissants ;) 

message me in the comments if you have any questions. :)  


Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Italian boule/ ciabatta alchemy

I'm sort of over new bread recipes, I'm into playing now, playing with the recipes I have and working them different ways.  Same ingredients, different method.  This was quite the shocker! 

There aren't instruction pictures here, it's a conversation about method and then the final product shots. 

I wanted a hard crust, a soft yet chewy and very airy interior and I wanted to make one giant loaf instead of messing with smaller ones.  I wanted to grab the whole loaf, cut it down the middle into slices or rip off hunks  and eat it with cheese and meat and butter.  

I make ciabatta every other day.  I make it for friends, family and for functions.  It's my constant party piece. This is what my kitchen generally looks like.  A friend had taken me out to lunch and  I made her a few "thank you" loaves because she, and her boys, love this stuff.

I have to add, this stuff freezes beautifully!  Do an assembly line of batches and you can be the bread delivery fairy like I am.  It's fun.  I only transport this bread in paper because it steams and gets funky in plastic.  Wrap it in foil if you're leaving it on your counter as you use it.  IF you put bread in the fridge, don't tell me because I'll never make this for you if you do.  Fridges dry out bread, even in plastic, just don't do it.  

I can bang out ciabatta without even thinking anymore.  It's a gooey slimy mess but I can work it easily these days.  I wondered what would happen if I made the same dough and changed the method of it...  this is what happened.  

The alchemy loaf is one gigantic boule.  It's got a hard, crisp crust that's salty (I sprinkled salt on it) and a thick but light interior that's stretchy and chewy and flavorful and FULL of beautiful holes. 


 This is what I did. 

I made the ciabatta dough as usual but did NOT grease the proofing box/bowl/vessel. I let it triple. For comparison, it takes about 50 minutes for mine to go from the 1 litre mark on my box to the 4 litre mark and start to blow the top off the box...  it will take longer in your house.  *I do realize that I have to redo a proper blog post about the ciabatta.  There's no action shots, I'll do a play by play and new post the next time I make it, I promise*

Here's where I ventured off the beaten path. I put WATER on the island and with VERY wet hands (which I continually ran under the tap to keep them wet) I pulled the dough from the proofing box and put it on the wet island. 

I folded it over itself, spun and turned it, like you're making puff pastry, 3 times, flipped it upside down and put a VERY large metal bowl over it and left it 40 minutes.  

After 40 minutes, I did the same thing, with VERY WET HANDS.  I did have to put a little water on the board again.  Fold, tap tap tap with fingertips to flatten it ever so slightly, spin, fold, tap tap tap with fingertips, spin, fold, spin and again covered it and left if 30 minutes. 

After the second folding rise, this stuff felt like soap bubbles and every time I handled it, I could feel the bubbles inside it pop so I was VERY careful.  I gently transferred it to a heavily olive oiled parchment paper lined baking sheet.  I carefully flipped it over so that both sides were lightly oiled.  I lightly salted the top (in hindsight, I would salt it less!). 

I preheated my oven to 450 degree (F) and the dough sat on the counter while I waited. 

I baked for 20 minutes, spun the loaf and baked for another 20. 

It was dark and sizzling (from the oil) and the top crust was shatteringly crisp. 

I waited the excruciating 45 minutes to slice into it and you've seen what greeted me. 

Try it with water instead of flour.  It's remarkable the difference in the texture of the crust, the crumb and the flavor is different too.  

It's worth trying!  

IF you want to try a smaller loaf, use this half recipe: 

TRACYS CIABATTA (single loaf) 

In the bowl of a kitchenaid mixer put: 

250 grams a/p flour
1 tsp salt
1 tsp sugar
1 tsp yeast
1 cup (240 ml) water

Beat on HIGH with the paddle attachment until the dough climbs the blade.  Do NOT add more flour, it should look like cake batter, don't fret, it'll work, I promise.

With a WET hand, remove dough from paddle and put the dough hook on the machine.  

Turn it to HIGH and let it go until the dough completely clears the side of the bowl and isn't sticking (much) at the bottom,  It will be smooth and shiny! 

Transfer the soggy, slimy, wet, blob of dough to some vessel for rising (oiled if you're making ciabatta, not if you're making my new boule above)  Cover and let rise it TRIPLE in volume. 

Transfer to a floured or wet surface by pouring it out.  With wet or floured hands, fold the dough and cut into 2 for ciabatta or leave whole and follow instructions for boule above.

Preheat oven to 450

for ciabatta; bake for 17 minutes, spinning half way through in a steamed oven (put ice cubes in oven with bread) 

I want to see pictures of what you make, 

Instagram them and tag me #tracyinaustin
or on Twitter:  @AustinTracyW 


Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Greenling Vegetable Delivery Day (4th time)

I've been stressed out about vacations, secret missions, BabyAlice (pug) and now Lola (boxer cross) who is having 'experimental' surgery on Friday to try to help her stripped ACL.  Needless to say, it's been an emotional week. 


I opened my door this morning and found my fabulously refilled with local farm produce in a neon green plastic box on my porch.  YAY!  

Here's what came and what I'm going to do with it: 

Ahhh, the big reveal!
first a treatie! I LOVE a treatie!  Unfortunately, I hate kettle corn but Connor loves it so he snarfed the bag and ran upstairs to do science experiments, while eating kettle corn.  Nice!

So, let's look to see what we have and what I'm going to do with them: 

Strawberries:  We're just going to eat those, maybe some will appear on the next pavlova!  I am going to Cauliflower: I'm going to cook the cauliflower in the pressure cooker and fry it up as a side as needed this weekend. 
Greens: Another bag of delicious mixed greens.  They make a fabulous salad and that's what these are destined for.  I will make an orange vinaigrette with the oranges I got and maybe some of the strawberries on top.  Yeah.
Arugula:  I love arugula and it's peppery edge.  I will mix some in with the greens with my salad and some I will use in my egg salad sandwiches, on the homemade farmhouse loaf I just pulled out of the oven.
Oranges:  2 will be eaten and 1 will be zested and juiced for the salad I'm having tomorrow.
Mushrooms.  I'm going to fry them in butter and use then as a sauce on my chicken breast on Saturday night.
Kohlrabi:  I love this, I like it shredded and added to a slaw, I will salt and drain it a bit before I add it to some shredded cabbage and apples as a lunch on the weekend, nothing like a fresh, crisp coleslaw on a springtime Texas day.
Cilantro:  it'll go in, on and around everything.
Swiss Chard:  Love it sauteed in some bacon fat with garlic slivers until it's just tender then piled high as a side for whatever I make this sunday night.
Butter lettuce:  I love butter lettuce under grilled chicken with a chicken fat/olive oil vinaigrette ;)

Well, this is a beautiful box and I can't wait to get cooking with it! I <3 box="" farm="" font="" local="" my="" nbsp="">