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Monday, July 26, 2010

Random happenings

I have a carrot! Possibly two, or three. It's a Christmas miracle. Mind you, I planted like 50 of the things. And I accidentally pulled up two radishes while I was weeding. Those seem to be doing well. However, something horrible has happened to the cucumbers. The tops look great - flowers, ready to bloom and set fruit. But the vines coming from the ground are all shriveled and dried out. And they haven't gotten any taller than when I planted them. This is not a good sign and it's way too late to replant. We'll see what happens.

I am so sick of picking raspberries. What was I thinking? Well, I was thinking that I only got a few raspberries last year and they were easy to keep up with. I finally went next door and told my neighbor to bring a bowl and start picking. Heaven help me, I planted that second bed this year and they'll start producing next year.....

I finished the Lemoncello! And it turned out exactly like it was supposed to - it will take the paint right off your innards. Whew! But the flavor is perfect. I packaged some up for a brave friend, kept a small jar in the house freezer for sampling, and ended up with a quart in the big freezer for sharing and cooking. Even the Sicilian in the house said it tasted right. (after some gasping and wheezing, which oddly enough is the normal reaction) I think next time I'll make it with Vodka instead of Everclear. Knock down the potentcy a bit.

My next door neighbor finished building his fountain and left to me his unused rocks. Not one to turn away free stuff, I accepted. I have two wheelbarrows with no wheels(they are currently flower planters). I'm going to need a wheel. But I should have enough rocks to create the little walls and plant beds for my English garden next spring. For the cost of a wheel. And then I'll actually have a functioning wheelbarrow - what a concept.

Alas, that is all the more excitement I've had this week. Sometimes boring is a nice change of pace.

I need more weekends

I get so much accomplished on the weekends. If only every day was a Saturday...

Since the bedroom remodel I've been overcome by the need to redo my entire house. Mentally, I can do this. Financially....well, let's just say that frugal is as frugal does. I don't know what that means, but whatever I do, I need to use the materials I have on hand and some creativity.

To that end, I did manage to redo the laundry room as previously mentioned using wallpaper border on hand and the extremely creative idea of actually cleaning and removing unused items. Cost was nothing. Unless you count the new washing machine, cost of which we do not wish to discuss.

This weekend I finished the weird little room that houses the laundry area, the door to the garage, the door to the master bedroom and the dining room. You can't really call it a room, but since you can see it, I guess I had to do something with it. I started by wiping down the doors with a damp cloth (white paint, not gray. Go figure) and replacing the knobs on the laundry doors. I had already painted it red and hung a long white shabby chic-ed mirror some time ago. So this weekend I refinished a milking stool I had picked up at a yard sale for 2.00. I used the same red paint I had leftover from the walls and topped it with the cream paint I used in my bedroom. I placed the stool under the mirror and then topped it with an apple picking basket filled with an assortment of silk flowers I had in my craft room and Voila! Instant decor. Well, not instant. It took a couple hours. As I was admiring the new area I turned on the light and the lightbulb promptly blew out. Since I just cleaned the closet, I happen to know I don't have a spare bulb, so that will have to be remedied this week.

I was on a roll and the next attached room was the dining room. I hung a lovely old window frame I've been meaning to hang for a couple weeks, found a table under piles of random stuff that are now piled in my Craft room that I won't get to for weeks, put a cloth on the newly discovered table and made a centerpiece using a breakfast serving tray that I loaded with different sized pillar candles and poured potpourri in to fill the empty spots (very girly). Then I employed the same creative technique of cleaning and went through approx 5 months of random mail that gets stacked on the hutch when I don't know what to do with it. Turns out, most of it can be thrown away. Who knew? After wiping up the dust under the mail (how does dust get UNDER mail?) I suddenly had a lovely dining hutch in which my china is delightfully displayed. Took down the curtains and ran them through the wash. And now I have a lovely fresh dining room! (that no one ever eats in)

Too bad it's attached to the kitchen.........

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Does not follow directions well.

Got my new washing machine! Yay. Had it delivered - self reliance would have meant strapping it to my back and walking it 17 miles. I'm not that self reliant.

After it's installed, the man tells me not to open the lid once it's filling. Why? I ask. Apparently my machine automatically gauges the level of water needed for the clothes that are in it and if you open the lid, it thinks you've added more clothes and therefore need more water. Well, now I want to open the lid and see what's going on in there. Had he not said that, it wouldn't have occurred to me to open the lid.

Bluebeard, anyone? Pandora's box? Ring any bells?

Turns out, when you DO open the lid, it resets itself. I did it three times. (Nothing interesting was going on in there). My machine kept going and going. I finally called and asked how long it takes the machine to stop running. Doesn't seem very "energy efficient" to me..... "Did you open the lid?", the man asks. Noooooo. "Are you SURE you didn't open the lid?" Well, maybe I opened it a little. A couple of times. "Don't open the lid. It will stop when it finishes the new cycle you started the last time you opened it." Fine. Sigh.

On the plus side, I have switched over to an Energy Efficient model which will use less water and less electricity (if I don't open the lid), thereby saving the world and all of humanity.

I have done my part for the day.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Happy little accidents

So I'm doing laundry with my leaky washer and when the cycle finishes I see that the floor bin is overflowing with water. That can't be good. So I told Anthony I thought the washer had given up the ghost. He assured me that there was already water in the bin and that it was probably fine. He would just drain it.

The next day I get a call at work. Don't use the washer - it's dead. Sigh. Time to break down and get a new washer.

I LOVE Lowes. I normally love them anyways, because the guys that work there are really nice to women who don't have a clue what they're doing. They will ALWAYS explain stuff, walk you over to the items and tell you how to use them. And they never make you feel stupid. At least, that's been my experience. When you can have a serious discussion about reloading weedeater line with a guy or building upright garden beds while he cuts your PVC and he treats you like an equal - well, let's just say I walk out feeling a little manlier and lot more confident in my ability to not maim myself working on a project.

Anyways, the Lowes appliance man - bless his heart - made me a fine deal on a machine with a "dent" in it. Seriously, we had to SEARCH for the dent. We think we found a slight indentation on the back of the machine. Knocked almost 200.00 off the price. So I got a fancy machine for the same price as the machine I was going to buy. And THEN, it turns out that not only will they haul away my old machine for free (which is too bad. I'm sure my neighbors would have loved me turning the washing machine into a planter in the front yard), but EnergyStar gives you a 75.00 rebate when you turn in your old machine. AND, my electric company gives you a 50.00 credit for buying an EnergyStar machine. AND, in theory, my new machine should use less water and less electricity which should lower my bill.

Since they're delivering it on Saturday I was forced to clean and organize the laundry room (I don't want the delivery guys to see what a disaster it was in there. My mother would be ashamed.) While I was cleaning I found the wallpaper border I got years ago to put up in the laundry room. Well, no time like the present. I put up the wallpaper border, wiped down the walls, and threw away anything that a)looked like it had been there for over 5 years b) went to something I no longer owned c) might go with something I own but I don't know what, or d) was empty. The trash can was embarrassing. I found a plastic comforter bag and filled it with the spare dog bedding - amazing how nice it is when the blankets aren't landsliding off the shelf. Everything else went into cute baskets - cleaning items, towels for rags, laundry products, dog grooming basket. Did you know I had spare vacuum cleaner bags? I didn't.

Only thing left to do is pull out the dryer, check the hose condition (now's as good a time as any) and replace it if need be. I'll vacuum out the dryer hole and sweep and mop under the machines. My laundry room just got a mini remodel on the fly!

And it all happened because of an appliance disaster. Happy little accidents.

Friday, July 16, 2010


I can't grow carrots. Last year, I planted them with my tomatoes, because the book says "Carrots Love Tomatoes". Lots of tomatoes. No carrots. So this year I planted 3 different kinds of carrots in two different beds, one of which again, contains tomatoes. No carrots. Isn't that like not being able to grow zucchini? Who can't grow carrots? What kind of impediment is this?!

The strawberries are done. Good thing, too. I had to keep weeding the bed because my neighbor complained that he kept getting poked whenever he'd come over to poach berries out of my garden...... I'm nothing if not a good hostess.

I left for a weekend and all 5 heads of broccoli went to seed. At the same time. In two days. Pathetic. This is what it looked like before I left.

Lettuce - gone to seed. Barely got touched. Then I bought a bag of salad mix and Anthony tells me that he Looooves purple leaf lettuce. Really? We've had a whole barrel of purple leaf lettuce in the backyard for the last two months and nobody ate it. Admittedly, I'm equally at fault, for not picking it, but HAD I KNOWN.....

Sigh. On the plus side, I'm picking a pint of raspberries a day, easy. The tomatoes are setting fruit, the peas have pods, and the watermelon have finally decided to start growing.

I'm starting to think that if we had to live on what I can grow and what actually gets picked and processed before it goes to seed, we would probably starve to death. In fact, I am pretty sure of that. Maybe I should start stocking up on dried goods and canned foods, just in case it ever comes to that......

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Boot Legging

Well, now that prohibition is over and homebrewing and winemaking are so overrated (and, I'm sorry, a little snobby), I've decided to embark on a little experiment that will have little economical impact if it's a complete flop. And I probably can't poison anyone in the process.

I am making homemade Lemoncello. Or Limoncello. Whatever. In any case, for the unfamiliar, it is a lovely Italian "digestive" served after dinner. Like a port or brandy, it should be taken in small doses and savored. Not used like body shots or tequila shooters. The point here is enjoyment, not obliteration.

I got to experience Lemoncello at my boyfriends insistance at a local Italian restaraunt. I'm not much of a drinker and he told me it was very mild, like souped up lemonade. He's a big liar. The main ingredient in this drink is Everclear. Grain alcohol. It packs a kick, so be warned.

If anyone wants to try it with me, here's how it's done. If you live in a state where you can't get Everclear, you can use 100 proof Vodka.

15 Lemons (organic, if possible, without the wax)
1 Litre Everclear
1 Litre Water
2lb 3oz Sugar

1 litres = 4.22675284 cups. Call it 4 1/4 cup. (See, Dad, I DID learn something in math!)

Scrub lemons well, especially if you couldn't get organic. (I hear tell that Meyer Lemons are the best for this, but I got the lemons I could get.) Remove zest from lemons with vegetable peeler, avoiding the pith. Divide alcohol between 2 quart jars. Divide zest between the jars. Put lids on jars and store in cool dark place for 2 weeks. Now try to figure out what you're going to do with 15 peeled lemons.

Two weeks later, try to remember that you need to finish making your Lemoncello. Find the jars. Strain lemon zest from jars and reserve alcohol. Put zest in a pan with the water and sugar. Heat to boiling. Remove from heat, allow to cool. Remove zest and combine sugar syrup with alcohol in jars. Store in freezer.

I plan to package it up in mason jars like moonshine with some cute little tag for Christmas.

Home Owner Dreams

I remember dreaming about owning a home. I would have a pretty little house, with a pretty little yard, and when I moved in the neighbors would bring me pie. We would have neighborhood block parties, and a neighborhood watch, and everyone would be friends. I must have watched too much Sesame Street and Mr. Rogers as a child.

I did get the pretty little house. I love my house. Admittedly, my daydreams didn’t show me cleaning, cooking, cleaning, and oh, cleaning all the time, but hey, fantasies are sometimes shortsighted. I got the pretty little yard, too. It was prettier before I decided I wanted to play gardener, carpenter and landscaper all at the same time and it is currently in the middle of a half dozen projects, but it will be pretty when I’m done. Eventually.

I can’t fix what’s wrong with the neighbors.

I live in dandelion alley. I do not have dandelions. I pull and mow and spray and my grass is green; not green and yellow polka dotted. I think my neighbors must work for a dandelion seed farm or something because there is no other reason for a person to grow that many dandelions in their yard. And I could handle the yellow carpet if they mowed it before it all went to seed, but alas, they apparently do not own a lawnmower. You know you have a problem when spring rolls around and the cashiers at the garden center start gleefully rubbing their hands together when you walk in the door. I could even handle it if it was only one house, but unfortunately, they seem to have formed a support group and the other neighbors have taken the “if you can’t beat em, join em” approach.

We have our own version of the red breasted robin to signal that spring has arrived. He’s the block screamer. His song is not as melodious, nor is he anywhere near as attractive, but he comes out in the spring and stays for the summer, migrating back to his living room when winter comes. From him I have learned whole new ways to string curses together. I have never met his child, but I know her name is Amanda, because every yelling marathon begins with “AMANDA…….”. I have never met him either, but this is what I’ve learned from him. If you come near his truck when he’s working on it, it will be probably fall on you and crush you. If you go anywhere near a stray dog it will chase you down and rip your throat out or scar you for life. If you are wearing clothes that don’t match everyone will make fun of you and think you’re an orphan. Everyone in the neighborhood will take turns running you over with their cars if you step into the street. There is a wealth of knowledge to be learned from this man, I'm sure. I would complain about him, but somehow he is on the HomeOwners Association committee for my neighborhood. He doesn’t own a lawnmower either.

After four years, I still don’t know my neighbors names. I do chat with my next door neighbor occasionally, usually about the dandelions, but we’ve never introduced ourselves. No one ever brought me pie, but one of my neighbors did bring me a plate of oreos – right before asking me if I cared to smoke a joint with him. I think the oreos were supposed to be for afterward. We don’t have a neighborhood watch, but the 2 German Shepards next door bark all night long, so that should keep strangers away.

But one night a year, all of my suburban dreams come true. On the fourth of July, you will find every one of my neighbors, myself included, sitting out at the end of our driveways watching the fireworks display going on at the park. We all get a bag of our own fireworks and take turns setting them off so we can all enjoy them longer. The kids run around with sparklers (except Amanda, who will undoubtedly put her eye out before setting herself on fire) and the adults enjoy a refreshing beverage or two. I will go to sleep with the sounds of illegal fireworks being set off throughout the town, and all will be well.

Until the next morning, when I will be up at 6am sweeping up the charred remains of sparklers and spraying dandelions.

Big Red

Men love power tools. I mean loooooove power tools. I’m fond of my rechargeable, cordless, electric drill, but believe me, I’m not THAT into it. A man who loves tools is a mans man, and my stepdad is one of the manliest men out there.

To give you an idea, this man has no fewer than 3 of anything. Need a drill? He has 4. Screwdriver? Flathead or Philips? Six of one, half dozen of the other. Ha ha. Need a super-sonic, laser-guided, missile launched, gas powered, atom-smashing, space modulator? He probably has one of those. His garage is like the Wardrobe from the Witch and Wardrobe. You walk in, the door closes behind you, and you find yourself in another world.

In this world you will see cans of nails, jars of screwdrivers, horns hanging on the walls, rolled up carpets, jerry cans full of who knows what, tool boxes overflowing like a pirates chest of jewels, rolls of string, spools of twine and wire, claw hammers and sledgehammers and all kinds of saws. It’s dark and it smells of dust and oil and you can’t walk in a strait line – you have to step over things and around things, like a maze. I love his garage. You can pilfer to your hearts content and he will never know anything is missing, because guess what? He has 3 more!

So on this occasion, his new baby is a wood chipper. Because every mans man needs to have something that can turn a tree into a toothpick. Damn trees. Now I admit, he is better than a lot of men, because he will actually read directions before undertaking a new project. So he reads his directions and puts his new shiny red wood chipper together. But he seems to be missing something. He thinks the oil dipstick is missing. Is it missing? Not sure. Hem and ha, look it over. Mull the problem.

Mom tires of watching him put together his toy and, figuring it will be awhile, she goes into the house. Apparently, he decides to go ahead and start it up, even though he can’t find the oil dipstick. From the house mom hears the chipper start up, and then a god awful noise and she goes running outside.

In this situation, two thoughts come up. One, where's the Chihuahua? Two, did the dipstick fall into the chipper? Once we establish that the Chihuahua is not in fact in the chipper, we can proceed. The good news is, the chipper works great!!! The bad news is, my poor stepdad had set his most beloved set of nicely broken in leather gloves on top of the chipper feeder, and when he turned it on, Schloop! Sucked right in! He was mad as a hornet, and gets madder every time mom tells the story to every member of the family, laughing hysterically as she does.

Big Red has now established who is boss, and dad will have to get some new gloves. Maybe two pairs, in case he’s a slow learner. Or maybe mom can make him one of those strings that run up your jacket sleeve and across your back to keep you from losing your mittens, like when we were kids. We told him since they were leather gloves he can mulch them into his garden, but he’s not laughing yet.

I wish one of us knew how to play Taps.

The joys of the roadside fruit stand

Bless the farmers and local growers, for they provide the luckiest among us with a chance to actually know what food is supposed to taste like.

We might starve this winter. We've gone through 16.00 worth of fruit this week in a two person household and it's all because I discovered a local market. Once there's no more fresh fruit, we may perish because I cannot see us actually going back to eating supermarket produce.

I've been using the Farmers market to buy my plants and sometimes baked goods or jellies early this season. But there was a store front I've been driving past everyday for years and I've never stopped. More shame on me.

I was driven to desperation by peaches. I'm not a glutton for peaches, but once in a while a really nice peach is a treat. Twice I've purchased them at the grocery store and both times they've been hard as rocks and I have set them out to ripen, where they promptly got moldy. And still hard. I had every intention of driving out to the orchard in a couple of weeks (it's only 25 minutes or so - well worth it) but I thought I'd give this place a chance.

So you pull off the side of the road into a little gravel lot, walk down a couple of little concrete steps into a low lying little single level building. Inside it's no wider than my master bedroom. And on the table directly in front of me are (choir of angels) PEACHES. Beautiful, fat, juicy peaches. You could smell them when you walked in the door. And so I took my time choosing the two best peaches I could find and then I wandered. Bad idea, my friend.

Canteloupe .49 a lb. Yep, needed one of those. Ooh, Honeydew same price. No idea how to pick out a honeydew, but the farmer running the place was more than happy to educate me on melon-picking-outing and he even tossed a couple of the melons deeming them "pig food", so he wasn't out to sell the shoddy stuff. Thirty minutes later I walk out with melons, sweet corn, grapes (1.99 a lb but I have to say they are definately worth it), bananas (obviously not Idaho grown, but I was out), a dozen lemons to make Lemoncello (again, not made in Idaho), beautiful Ranier cherries and of course, my peaches.

I didn't even get to the other shelves in the store sporting local jams and jellies and honeys and what not. I would like to point out that I gave one of my peaches to Anthonys sister, because her eyes glazed over and she began to drool when I showed her my wonderful peaches, and I'm a nice person. Mine is chilling in the fridge for desert tonight and very specific threats have been made against anyone who touches it. But I made a fantastic salad to fend of the fruit fiend in my house. Super easy and tasty.

Green Monster Salad

Chopped Honeydew
Green Grapes
Couple of diced up Kiwis
Drizzle with a little bit of simple syrup
Chill and eat