Tag Archives: around the house

Emerging

Yeah, it was cold. Snow blew and drifted and crackled underfoot. The wind bit. The house creaked. No exciting frost quakes, just loss of cable internet for most of Monday. Given what other folks went through–stranded on roadways, in train stations, etc–not going to complain. Well, not much. I did get cranky as the day wore on and the lack of instant news/stock market/publishing gossip got under my skin. I fear I am an addict.

I struggled to assuage the longing by baking brownies. Pondered a wip. Started reading Over Sea Under Stone by Susan Cooper, an older YA series that folks online had been raving about as a classic winter reread. I’m halfway through and have put the rest of the books in the series–5 in all–on hold at the library because yeah, the story is pretty good.

But hey, the warm-up has begun! -3F currently, but the wind has died. Saw a squirrel for the first time since Sunday, gnawing on the fresh suet block. A few hardy birds had gathered throughout the onslaught–the usual crew of jays, cardinals and juncos and even a pigeon or two–but more today, because HEAT WAVE!

I was worried about the car, since the garage is detached/uninsulated/unheated. But air temp in there is routinely 10 degrees warmer than the outdoors no matter what. That meant it was close to 10F in there this morning, which in turn translated to yes, the car started and I was able to get out of the house for the first time in 4 days. That lightened the general mood considerably.

Hope everyone affected by the polar vortex–that is so the name of my next band–is staying warm. I’m looking forward to spring, but there is still so much winter left to live through.

Been a while

Over three weeks since my last post.

Busy, been, yes. Fall yard clean-up. Some major electrical work in the house. Meeting with an attorney to work on estate planning. A storm last weekend knocked out power for 15 hours, which allowed me the joy of an overflow sump pump cistern, fallen branches, and worry about the contents of the fridge. I dried things off, raked things up, and kept things cold. All good.

Took care of what I pray will be the last session with a rake for 2013. What I thought would be no more than an hour spent picking up branches turned into 3 hours and 15 lawn bags of branches, honey locust leaves, and pine needles. The honey locust leaves and needles are a bitch to rake–the leaves are small enough to sink in between the leaves of grass, while the needles weave through and get tangled. I could rake the same spot over and over, and still bring up needles and leaves.

I cut bushy bits off the fallen pine branches and tucked them into the planter–they’ll make a nice surround for the little Christmas tree I’ll be sticking in there later this week. Yup, ’twill be time to put up the lights and decorations. I don’t do many–a couple of trees made of coils of lights. Some wreaths. Simple, in anticipation of the fact that they will be taken down sometime in early January.

Cold, cold morning, cold enough to dig out the base layer for the morning walk. Gaby carries her base layer with her, and was quite content.

The Dr Who Weekend is playing in the background. The top 11 Matt Smith eps. I’d enjoy them more if they didn’t break in for commercials every four minutes. And if they hadn’t trimmed the eps in order to fit in said commercials. I’ve seen some of these episodes waaay too many times. I know which lines have been cut; some of them were from favorite scenes. Irritating, like favorite songs with phonograph record skips.

Time for coffee.

In closing, a couple of recent pics. Herself, post-grooming session, with bows, neckerchief, and a forlorn expression:

You did this to me.

You did this to me.

Yet another fall photo. Golden maple leaves:

Autumn gold

Apples

Lots of apples.

Last week, one of my neighbors gave me a shopping bag full of apples from their tree. 17 pounds worth.

Yesterday, I dealt with them. A couple quarts of applesauce. Apple crisp. Today, apple nut bread.

I recommend the crisp recipe. I did substitute white whole wheat flour for the all-purpose when making the crumbs, and added a couple tablespoons of wheat germ as well. The crumbs may have turned out a little dry as a result, but they do have a nice, nutty flavor.

Lots of cooking over the last week. Autumn food, Jacques Pepin’s tuna w/ pasta (best tuna casserole ever, imo, and yes, I add the raisins), butternut squash soup and maple-brined pork loin roast (result: a very juicy roast that tasted a bit like ham).

House stuff took up a lot of my time. The basement guys came and fixed the window wells and filled All The Cracks. I cleared lava rock from a patch next to the deck, and planted some shrubs. Raked leaves. Set up appointments for more estimates.

Downloaded Gimp, which is freeware photo manipulation software. I’ve heard that it’s difficult to learn, but I would like to use it and try my hand at ebook covers for some short stories. I can understand paying to have a novel cover made, but it’s a little more difficult to justify the expense for a short story. I’ll see how well I do. If it proves a disaster, I’ll look into alternative coverage.

Raining now. Cool, dreary autumn. Trees that were still mostly green seem to have changed over the last two days–maples are either vermilion or a gorgeous deep gold, like butterscotch. Oaks aren’t as flashy, all tarnished brass.

Some folks have already put up their Christmas decorations. That just staggers me. Not ready for that at all.

Mid-October. Leaves changing.

Ash trees going gold. Some reddening of the maples. Still a lot of green to be seen, but that may change over the next week given that nighttime lows will hit the 30s (F).

Raining. After a dry late summer, when my tomatoes and basil could have used it. Now, it means soggy leaves and a last-ditch growth spurt for the lawn. I’ll be mowing in November, I swear, especially if any type of warm spell follows all this rain.

House stuff continues. Completion of deck work has been delayed because of the weather. If worse comes to worse, we can wait until spring to finish, but I would love to get it done this year if possible. Come on, warm spell!

Did schedule basement guys for next week. This will be a major deal–issues not as serious as I thought, repairs straightforward (knock wood), and a warranty that transfers to whomever buys the place.

Next steps? I need to clear some junk out of the basement so the guys have an easier time getting to the walls. Right now, I’m at the point where if I think too much about all that needs doing, I feel overwhelmed, so. Baby steps. Clear the easy throwaways out of the basement. Clear out the closets–many are the pairs of old running shoes that could go to the recycle. There’s a healthy chunk of officewear that could go to a resale shop. A friend suggested an estate sale, which could eliminate a whole lotta stuff in one go.

Please, no one suggest ebay or yard sales. No time for the first and not enough patience for either.

I’ve discovered Pinterest, where I’m pinning ideas for the kitchen and bath. So far, I’ve avoided sinking too much time into it, though I can see how it can become a consumer of said time.

I’m also working my way through the Welcome to Night Vale podcast backlog. I think I’m only a year behind at this point. But I do know not to stare at the hooded figures in the Dog Park.

Do not enter the Dog Park.

On a clear day…

Couldn’t manage this sort of photo, but I did have a couple of 4.5-Mountain-Days (Jefferson was a little hazy, but Rainier, Adams, St Helens, and Hood were all new penny bright).

There and back again

Spent a week in the Portland Oregon area. Visited good friends. Did some research. Experienced the joy of driving twisty, winding roads. Really twisty. And winding. After a drive, my right leg ached from tension and brake-hitting.

This time, I actually visited scenic vistas.

Cannon Beach and Ecola State Park:

A view of Haystack Rock from Ecola State Park

A view of Haystack Rock from Ecola State Park

NB: Haystack Rock is that vaguely conical rock way in the back, on the far right of the photo. The other haystack-looking rocks are mere impostors.

The Columbia River Gorge (view from Crown Point Vista House):

View of the Columbia from the Crown Point Vista House

View of the Columbia from the Crown Point Vista House

Multnomah Falls:

A gorgeous day at the Falls

A gorgeous day at the Falls

Had lunch at Elephants Deli.

It was good to get away.

Came home yesterday–saw the Great Plains snowfall from the plane, and found 2.5 inches of wet stuff in the backyard rain gauge. Also found a very clean deck–the deck guy had powerwashed it on Monday. Tomorrow, he repairs what needs repairing. He thinks he’ll be able to coat/seal on Friday.

Also tomorrow, plumber installs new water heater. Meanwhile, I am planning the decluttering. It’s going to be All House All The Time for the foreseeable future.

Before I left, I picked the last of the tomatoes. Most were pretty green, so I bagged them and stuck them in the closet to ripen. Checked the bags yesterday and found about half were ready to go, so today I roasted them with garlic and balsamic vinegar. Had some for lunch with rigatoni, goat cheese and arugula. So. Good.

Busy days ahead.

Mid-September

Don’t ask me where in hell the year has gone, because I don’t know.

Gaby is at playcare today, running with the pack (cue Bad Company). I was going to clean, but wound up doing laundry and baking instead. Neighbor-with-fruit-trees gave me a basket of white and yellow peaches, and while they tasted fine fresh, there were so many that I didn’t want to risk them going off, so I made a cobbler.

Sidebar to say that my absolute favorite Donna Noble line comes during her wedding, when her friend Nerys (sp?), who does give off a Bitch Vibe, complains that Donna made her wear peach. “But you are a peach,” Donna replies. “Fair of skin. Stone inside. Going off.”

Anyway. I had been planning to make the usual Bisquick cobbles, but I tripped over this recipe online and decided to give it a go. Blanched and peeled the peaches using the tomato method–which I guess is the peach method, too–by cutting an X on the bottom of each peach, then sticking them in boiling water for a minute or so, then shoveling them into a bowl of ice water. Let them cool for a few, then peel. Skin came off nice as you please:

skinned peaches

Peeled and sectioned the peaches:

Prepped peaches

Poured the melted butter and lightly mixed batter into a 13×9-inch baking dish. Added a few drops of Fiori di Sicilia to the batter because it really freshens the taste:

Butter batter

Brought the peaches to a boil with vanilla, cinnamon, sugar, and a few teaspoons of Grand Marnier, just to see if it would make a diff:

cooked peaches

Baked for about 45 minutes at 375F:

We have achieved cobbler!

House smelled great while it baked. Haven’t tried it yet–fruit and spices taste better after sitting a few hours, for all the recipes tell you to eat fresh/warm from the oven. I’ll have some tonight, with coffee.

The -ber months

I will be offline for most of the next week. Nothing wrong. Just busy.

First hint of autumn in the air today. A cool front moved through yesterday, dropping nighttime temps to the lo 60s. I had left the bedroom windows open all day and into the night, and actually needed the comforter. Nice sleeping weather. The morning proved so cool that I wore long pants for Gaby’s walk, which was a good move because on the way down the street to the bike trail, I stepped on a hickory nut Just Right, and wiped out. Just some road burn on left elbow and right hand. Also a scraped left knee, which would have been much uglier if I hadn’t been wearing the rip-stop cargo pants.

I can’t believe it’s September already. The lawn is still green, but the growth has slowed to practically nothing. Tomatoes are still ripening. Acorns etc have been falling like crazy, and the squirrels are gathering them and digging holes everywhere. I have a slew of canned pumpkin in the pantry, and I’m tempted to make some pumpkin soup. I know you should ideally use fresh roasted pumpkin, but I have to do something with the stuff and I love butternut squash soup so I figure I should like pumpkin soup, too.

Autumn used to be my favorite season. Now it’s late spring/early summer, but I do still have a weakness for crisp mornings and such. Hate the shorter days, though. The wet windy chill, and knowledge that soon there will be snow. Not ready for summer to end.

A day in the life

…of a squirrel, that barely missed becoming breakfast for a hawk.

Morning walk with Gaby. We had just entered the park when I saw the swoop-and-flurry. Squirrel dashing across open space and walkway toward safety of tree while hawk pursued and squirrel’s buddy brought up the rear, chattering and in general trying to disrupt the proceedings. It worked–hawk had to veer off to avoid hitting the tree, and the squirrel buddies dashed up into the safety of the dense leaves. They were still chittering when Gaby and I passed.

Made a circuit of the park and neighborhood. Spotted the hawk on the way back. It landed in a large oak and tried to settle in, but a couple of smaller birds drove it off and forced it to a different branch. Looked as though it hadn’t found breakfast yet. Rough morning.

It’s hotter than I thought it would be, and muggy. Showered after we got home. Straightened the kitchen. Time to work now.

Talked to neighbor on the way back. He had promised me fresh peaches a couple of months ago–today he said they’re getting close.

A fresh peach. Yanno, I don’t think I’ve ever had one. If he gives me enough, I may look up a tart recipe. Maybe chutney. Then of course, there are the ripe ones that you eat whilst standing over the sink because they’re so damn juicy.

In other news, Gaby got skunked the other night. That makes three times this summer. The groomer said that it’s been the Summer of the Skunk–she’s had 7-8 deskunkings in the last two weeks.

This skunk was eating the bird seed that had fallen out of the feeder. It didn’t return last night, so I am hoping that all the ruckus of being barked at and chased off will make it think twice about coming back. Depends how hungry it gets, I suppose.

Sunday, dusk

Finally cool enough to sit outside. The next few days are expected to be blistering, so no playcare for Gaby. I don’t want her running around in 85F+, and she doesn’t like heat anyway so it’s all good.

Passed the small pond during the morning’s walk in the park–the regular park, not the preserve–and saw that the singleton snow goose was still part of the flock of Canadas that inhabits the place. Glad to see it was still around, even though it makes me a little sad that it’s not with other snow geese. How did it wind up here? Did it lose its way? Get injured? Was it abandoned as a gosling and adopted? Oh well, it seems fine–it was swimming in the midst of the Canadas and feeding, just like one of the gang, so it looks like it’s well-integrated.

Going to stay outside until I see Venus, and keep an eye out for bats. They’ve been scarce lately, I think because of the lack of rain and subsequent mosquito shortage. I’m sure there are other bugs for them to eat, but they must not be around here. Lately if I see one or two over the course of 15 minutes, I’m doing well.