Wednesday, November 26, 2014

What's Cookin'?


Regular blog readers may have noticed that Robb and I both appreciate the way maps can convey information.  The current trend for "infographics" hits a real sweet spot with us.

This week, the New York Times published a fascinating map, examining the Thanksgiving foods.  They teamed with Google to see what regionally distinct recipes were being researched around the country.  (Click here for the full article -- it's fascinating.)

So what do you think, blog readers? Does this map make sense?  There was a another recent New York Times article,  looking at regional Thanksgiving recipes that stirred up a bit of controversy.  I'm not clear what the hub-bub was about, but you can click here to compare.  Interestingly, both articles produced sauerkraut as the regionally unique food for my home state of Maryland. But I wasn't apparently from the right part of Maryland (and didn't have Marylanders as parents) to have ever had sauerkraut with turkey.

Where are you from, and are you going to be eating any of the foods shown on these maps?

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Not Ready for Prime Time


After spending more time than I care to think about restoring the plaster wall "tiles" we're almost ready to prime our bathroom.  I've begged Robb to help me with the sanding, because I'm so sick of it all.

Oddly, both the projects we're painting at work involve some kind of fake tiles.  I'm on vacation today.  And what am I doing? Working on fake tiles.

Every time I think I've fixed all of the "tile" I find something else that needs work.  I guess that's just business as usual with an old house.

I'm taking the time to do this properly, but it is driving me a bit insane.  A painter who was less of a perfectionist freak would have had this project finished ages ago.  Sigh...

Monday, November 24, 2014

Monday Garden Update


While other parts of the country were shivering, Northern California finally got a bit of meaningful rain.  I took the opportunity to transplant three baby pomegranate trees to better locations.  (There's no point moving plants around in dry, dry soil.)

I also picked up two car-loads of compost from my semi-secret municipal source.  Typically, they have mountains of wood chips, but at the moment they have beautiful well-seasoned compost, free for the taking.  Since we got this house, I've been digging organic material into the soil, again and again.  Un-ammended soil around here has the texture of concrete -- it's a dense silt with no drainage at all.  One of the holes that I dug for the pomegranate tree was in soil I hadn't worked much.  Even after two days of rain, the dirt was bone-dry once I dug down four inches.

This is probably the point at which I have to admit to myself that I've run out of room in the back garden, as far as fruit trees are concerned.  Sure, they're all babies now.  But they're going to become actual trees on day, and if I keep adding trees at the rate I've been going, Robb and I won't be able to walk through the back yard.  

With the winter time change, I don't have any opportunity to get anything accomplished in my garden when I get home from from work.  Tasks pile up. I'm ashamed to admit that I only just got my garlic and parsley starts planted this weekend.  Oh well, better late than never.

If you want to read what serious gardeners are up to, click here for the link to Daphne's weekly garden-party.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

"Great architecture has only two natural enemies: water and stupid men."


Robb has been slowly but steadily working on our house.  He's painted many of the exterior doors, replaced the screens in the screen doors, and has been reglazing our windows.  His current project involves undoing some of the work that was done by the contractors who worked on our house when we first got the place. 

When we first moved in, the front porch needed work.  The contractors replaced all the boards on the landing, and also replaced many of the stair treads.  Five years on, all of these boards -- every single one -- have "cupped."  They are no longer flat, and because of that water accumulates on them when it rains.  In addition, none of the contractor's nail holes were caulked.

Robb is working to fix all this.

He sanded the landing boards, and we'll be re-priming and repainting the porch and stairs.

On Saturday, his plan was to carefully remove the worst stair tread, and flip it over.  Sounded simple, right?

It turns out that the cupping of the boards -- combined with the uncaulked nail holes -- created the perfect conduit for water. Water seeped through the nail holes, and rotted out the supports for the stairs. 

This was part of our stair risers.  Robb and I sawed the riser apart, and then Robb removed it entirely.  It was bad.

There was only one member of our household who was excited about this discovery. Building Inspector Smog had a great time, jumping inside the stairs and running around under our house.  Our postal carrier may have been amused by the roped off stairs, as she chucked a package on to our porch with great gusto.  Good thing it didn't contain the vintage cocktail glasses we'd just bought.

At some point, our entire porch is going to have to be restored. But for the moment, we're stabilizing the structure, and choosing to deal with it later. 

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Tiles and Denial


Right after Christmas last year Robb and I embarked on the Sisyphean task of repainting our bathroom.  We had previously painted the ceiling and walls above the wainscoting with a buttery yellow color.

We set about stripping the paint from the woodwork and the 1920s plaster wall "tiles."  This was a tricky, and rather disgusting task.  We had decades of paint to remove, but we had to be careful not to destroy the layer of plaster that was at the bottom of it all.

I spent hours with my head wedged behind the toilet.  It was grim work, and the process of removal made the whole room look like a Dive Bar.

Once the loose paint was removed, I masked off individual tiles and delicately re-surfaced them with a custom made "schmoo" mixture.

We primed the repaired plaster "tiles" as well as the woodwork that we stripped.

And then it happened:  I oh-so-carefully removed my ridiculously expensive fancy painters' masking tape above the wainscoting.  And in doing so, I ripped the yellow paint right off the walls. The only part of the room that actually looked decent and finished was destroyed in an instant.

I'm a professional painter.  I have been for years.  I actually do know what I'm doing.  But this house is going to make me insane.  Every single paint project we've tackled has been a process of fixing decades-old messes.  In this case, some long-ago painter used incompatible paints on the bathroom walls and ceilings, and the bond between layers was so weak that I could pull it off with masking tape.

What did I do to fix this problem?


Nothing at all.

I was so disgusted that I let the project languish for almost a year before I found the emotional energy to face it again.  During this time, I painted numerous gigantic stage productions, and stripped and repainted our neighbors' peeling wooden garage.  I did all sorts of work, but ignored the bathroom, because it depressed me so badly.

Well the time has finally come to return to this project.  There's lots to do, and I'll be taking loads of pictures, because seeing the progress keeps me motivated.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Home and Garden


Another Wonky Panorama. Aren't the teenaged chickens huge?

This weekend was all about tidying and organizing.  I tackled a project that has long been nagging at me:  organizing our bookshelves.  At the moment, we have significantly more books than we can fit into our home, so something had to change.  I've currently got two stacks of books in the kitchen to give away.  Whats impressive is that we had a huge Book Purge prior to buying our house, and another one when we left Connecticut to move to California.

I'm also flirting a Wardrobe Purge.  I have too many clothes that I never wear.  I need to pull every garment out of storage, try everything on, and then ruthlessly edit what I own.  At the moment, there are too many aspirational clothes, clothes of good intention.  if I'm never going to wear something, why is it cluttering up my house?

The truth is that I have a bit of a problem throwing things away.  I need to get over my weird guilt, and just set these things loose in the universe. Books will go to friends. Clothes that don't fit will be donated to charity.  It shouldn't be that complicated.

After stirring up all the dust in the house, I moved on to the garden.  A friend had ordered a load of mulch and offered me some of the leftovers.  There's nothing like mulch to make a garden look tidy and intentional. 

This winter's crop of fava beans are coming along. They're a bit sprawling at the moment, and some are falling over. I'm not sure what that's about.  In the past, we've grown un-named fava beans.  They were amazingly vigorous, but neither Robb nor I were particularly fond of them. Eventually I realized that I was probably trying to eat something that was intended more for animal feed, and sought out an actual culinary variety of beans.  We'll see if this kind (Windsor) is any better.

If you're interested in reading what other gardeners are up to, mosey on over to Daphne's blog for the weekly garden jamboree.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Chicken Shenanigans


 Our persimmon tree is ripening. And I recently noticed this.  Hmmmmmmm.....

This particular fruit is about three feet off the ground.  Our hens are utterly fruit-obsessed.  Visitors to our house may have seen Isabella leaping for grapes.  She's completely insane when it comes to grapes.  We cut them into tiny pieces, and she launches herself into the air to get them.  She seems spring-loaded, as she jumps for grapes. Her wings flap uselessly at her side.  Robb and I find this hilariously funny, which is Reason Number 4,927 why it's good we never had children. We can't refrain from laughing at her indignity.

As for the hen-pecked persimmon, can't you imagine something like this?  Only with chickens?

Dignity? What's that?


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