Sunday, November 15, 2015

Self-Created Pre-Holiday Project Frenzy

We have several family members coming to visit this year.  We will have more house guests than we have ever had, excepting a slumber party or two.

I guess I am into creating extra pressure for myself. In preparation for the family coming I have been pulling out my "To Do" lists from the past 3.5 years and doing all of the stuff I have avoided, for various reasons.  Most of the items will have no effect on our guests. They probably won't even notice the difference, but their visit gives me a deadline and motivation.  I have been playing "Beat the Clock" for a few weeks now. I was slowed down at bit by adding "rearrange the garage to fit ladder",  "sand garage ceiling"  and "2 coats of paint on garage ceiling" to the list, but things seem to be moving along well now.


I have re-painted a table and two chairs. It was time. The table had been hidden by a table cloth since my daughter's preschool art projects went wrong  and this evil stuff that never came off the table a decade ago. 

The robin's egg blue chairs are now teal.


The hidden under the tablecloth white table is now green like our dining table.  This picture makes the color more yellow than it really is.














Now the days are shorter, and we need to see the pellet stove to adjust it, we need more light in the living room.  I went to the thrift store nearby and spotted a lamp that had an interesting shape and pattern.  It was off-white and dingy, I'm guessing by the cord it is from the sixties. The cut outs reminded me of plants, so I bought it for three dollars and the shade for three more. I had just done the table and thought that a little more green might do the trick. With the addition of a little gold paint on the bump pattern and an LED bulb, I brought it up to my version of the 21st century. Did I need to do this? No, but it was more fun than grabbing one off the shelf at Home Depot.


I then painted the bedroom  and closet doors and trim, a project I started and stalled on a year ago. It looks so much better, I wonder why I never finished. I touched up where some of the wall colors meet to straighten the edges.  I remembered why I started buying better quality paint, as I had to paint two coats when I should have only needed one.  I also remembered that sometimes the paint leaks under the tape making it still uneven.  Oh well.


I bought a cabinet for the bathroom about two years ago, but it was so heavy I didn't dare hang it from the 1970's era fiberglass panel walls. I am making a table/support for it.  It should help clean up a couple of areas that keep getting cluttered.  The glass doors will help keep our little wild thing dog from snatching odds and ends, which leads to why I really bought it--for the previous thieving dog. I started priming the pieces yesterday, but it was chilly and the primer took a long time to dry, so I will finish priming the back sides today and will paint it tomorrow. The assembly process will occur possibly on Tuesday.

I've been picking up, sorting, cleaning along the way, but we are living here and any progress I make can soon be undone.  I'm trying to figure out how my pets have any hair at all from all the fur I sweep up, by my calculations they should all be bald.

Then there are the projects that I was planning to do this fall, that still aren't done. The irises have been dug up, and divided, but not re-planted.  



Then I was to rake the leaves into the flower beds and garden to protect the soil and add organic matter. The pine needles need to be raked around the blueberries to acidify the soil, but maybe I'll delegate that one. Today is supposed to be in the sixties with less bluster than yesterday, so maybe today after I prime I'll get these things done.

All this along with cleaning and prepping for a houseful of guests, I am hoping to sneak out for a day to see the new and improved Smithsonian Renwick Gallery ( It was one of my favorites before the renovations, I hope it still is!  That may have to wait until afterwards though.

No sound track this week, I'm hopping all over the place and doing things that are too messy, plus the quiet can be meditative in my self-created project frenzy.

Friday, November 6, 2015

The Fruitcake Soundtrack, a new tradition

I'm glad so many of you read my last post, the only thing that disappoints me is that usually something dangerous or tragic has to have occurred to get more readers!  Some of my more everyday life blogs are better written and frankly funnier than the, "OOOOh jeez, she fell through the ceiling but didn't hit the concrete floor!" or "the chicken coop burnt down" posts.  I can see why, "If it bleeds, it leads." became the standard for local news stories.

Mostly, suburban life is pretty I guess I'll have to spice it up a bit.  I had planned on writing a blog on making fruit cakes using my grandmother's recipe a few days back, but ended up relating my gravitational/deconstruction issue, so now back to the fruitcake with a few (true) details to spice it up.

This is the second year that I am making Mimi's fruitcakes.  Many thanks to the two friends who lent me vat sized bowls to accomplish the task. I need to get them back to you very soon, I miss my counter space very much.

First the sound track, I hooked my tablet up to the speaker system and told it to play songs randomly and turned the volume up just a little too loud. Be sure to click on the youtube links and have the volume up, so that you get the true feel of the mood while I was at least the third generation preparing the family's fruitcakes. The tablet could have played anything from Mozart to folk to pop to punk and this is what it chose to set the mood for this traditional activity:

First I gathered all of the ingredients to An A Bomb in Wardour Street by The Jam.  I chopped up the dried fruit into smaller bits, dumped all of it into a bowl to macerate with orange juice stirring to the tune of Sunday Morning by No Doubt












Next for the eight eggs from my crazy chickens, cracked to the tune of  Broken by Jack Johnson.  (I didn't plan that, it just happened)  Creaming the pound of margarine (a recipe change due to a milk allergy) and sugar into a mush with a wooden spoon, then once the chunks were small enough switched to a whisk to Supervixen by Garbage, it took a bit of work, so it led into Dangerous by Depeche Mode. At this point, I really started paying attention to what music was playing, after all someday my daughter might want to participate in the family tradition and she'll need to do it properly. I may have snorted when I laughed.


 I stirred up a cloud of flour, baking powder, and salt and alternately added that and almond milk to the  egg mixture to E-Pro by Beck. 






I finished up that song while pouring the bowl of fruit and nuts into the wet ingredients. 



Cleaned it up a bit for the photo!

Then, I crashed the Pyrex dishes around in the cupboard to get the right loaf pans lined them and  smeared them with margarine and made a total mess to Building a Mystery Sarah Mclachlan. 














 I filled the dishes and put them in the oven to Stand Down Margaret by The (English) Beat.


Mimi would have had one of her headaches. 


When they were thoroughly cooled I poured a little something on them that Mimi didn't write into her recipe, but we know she used and wrapped them.  I'll open them periodically between now and the holidays to check on them and moisten them a bit more. 

A friend gave me Emily's Dickinson's Black Fruit Cake recipe, it looks interesting, especially since all of the fruit is just dried, not psychedelically colored in a factory.  Maybe that one will have a sound track too!

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Little Common Sense and Gravity a Bad Mix

Apparently the previous owners of my house made a few adjustments up in the attic.  Two days ago I went up there to check on something, quickly, because I don't trust it up there I wanted to get it done before my daughter's bus came in five minutes. I stepped on the plywood to peer into a corner and suddenly the floor beneath me gave way.  I stepped back further onto the plywood and it slipped right between the joists and hit the concrete garage floor twelve feet beneath me.  It all happened in slow motion.  Next thing I knew, I was hanging with my hips wedged between two joists and my daughter was below freaking out. 

I was dangling half in the attic, half in the garage.  I hoisted myself up onto the joists, while assuring my daughter that I was quite okay.  She wasn't convinced.  From the joists I stepped over to the attic fold-down ladder, and returned to solid ground.  My daughter thought that she was about to lose her mother, her face was blotched and she was shaky and now her bus was due in three minutes.  She was in no state to be by herself in the wilds of a pre-k to 8 school bus. Luckily, the bus doubles back down our street and picks up kids on the other side about 15 minutes later, so I drove her across the street (the road has a 50 MPH speed limit and at commuting time 65 seems pretty standard, and cars just pop over the hill and surprise you, especially the Prius') and she caught the bus in a somewhat calmer state.  The bus driver inquired if she had overslept and she replied, "No. I wish."







I asked a neighbor  at the bus stop if he had a ladder tall enough to reach a 12' ceiling and he said he thought he had one at work and that he would take a look.  He showed up a few hours later with the ladder offering to help fix the hole.  First, I had to move 79 forty pound bags of wood pellets out of the way to make room for the ladder. I relocated the bags to the other side of the garage on top of another pile of pellets, making a giant tower of pellets.  I then dragged the pallet out of the way and swept up the debris, which contained a couple skinny broken screws.  I won't write what my husband said when I sent him the photos at work.

The Tower of Pellets

Back to the recalcitrant flooring, it turns out that someone had installed the piece of plywood that was a bit too small by screwing in a few #6 screws halfway and using them as supporting pegs to hold up the plywood.  Of course, I didn't know this, and when some of the screws broke beneath me, then gravity did its thing, sending the plywood and then me through the drywall ceiling. For a bit there I thought I must have done something really stupid, but then realized that it was the person who used the #6 screws who did something really stupid, but I just don't have the ability to see through 1/2 inch plywood...#10 screws might have held or maybe they could have used a couple pieces of scrap wood screwed in place to hold the board up like a shelf...or something!!

My husband stopped at Home Depot on his way home to get the new dry wall, so we could start the repairs the next morning.

Much better!

Our neighbor has come a couple of times, fit the drywall in, taped and mudded the joints and voila, it's ready for a skim coat!


I baked a garlic-rosemary focaccia for him this morning.  It smells too good, I may need to make another this afternoon for us.