Monday, December 6, 2010

Doors, beds, floors, walls

"Well, well, well," she said to herself as she admired the finished work.
That is really a lie, because nothing is ever really finished. This weekend we "finished" the living room, for now. The doors finally got installed on the cabinets and to my distress, the design I thought would just work fine needs a bit of fine tuning. So I ordered two more doors to "finish" it better and now must go get two more handles. This work will be done in January or February 2011.
Then, Eduard finished and assembled the cabinet/secretary that he has been refinishing for a year+. It is in place, but we haven't moved most of the office stuff into it. It will be a working secretary and move the bills file, office tools, and little stuff out of Eduard's desk. This is a good plan because his desk will someday be in his separate office in the pink room. But not yet. So there is no hurry to get the stuff organized into the secretary.
After the secretary project got out of the garage, I immediately claimed the space for the bed that is leaving the Wooly Room. In fact, I started working on it today. I had to find some Ashford information anyway, so I started moving out the boxes. Now the lovely living room is completely full of boxes and looms. I moved the mattress from the bed to the other bed (stacked) so that my princess can sleep on two mattresses this winter break. And the rest will go out tonight into that little space in the garage.
Stuff is shifting. The long table will be in the Wooly Room, with two cabinets and a shorter table. And, of course, all the boxes and looms will go back in. Someday, the rest of the bed will go into the guest room. I am aiming for spring- but my aim hasn't been real good lately.
We started this phase of the living room remodel in March 2010 and I expected it to take a couple of months. December 2010 and we are almost done. So maybe the guest room will take a bit longer. It involves a window redo, carpet cleaning, paint, and closet build ins. I have the furniture already. So maybe it will only take 4 months. I really should start working on it now if I want to get done by summer.
There is only so much of me, and I have so much to do, so it will get done when it gets done. In the meantime, I ordered a cabinet for the dining room. It will be built to match the living room bookcase and will replace two of the cabinets that are in the room now. I will have room for my canning jars, knick-knacks, big tools, and linens. It means taking everything out of the china hutch again so that I can move it out of the way while the work is done. Maybe that job will be done by spring. Regardless, it is going to be a long and busy winter.

Monday, November 1, 2010

The Cheese Stands Alone

I have been busy beyond my wildest dreams. And I have had some really wild dreams lately. My dear sweet dragon and I wandered off to China to visit my son and to have a real escape for the first time since, well, ever. I want to really enjoy the empty nest while I have it. And I have been preparing for and recovering from that for a month. Then we had to do some sharing, and spinning, and then I got sick.
Now I will work the election, recover from that and start again on the cabinet doors (still in progress).
But in the meantime, I have been making cheese. I have started collecting goats milk and making goats milk cheese. This is a new culinary adventure for me, although, I had made yogurt, cottage cheese, buttermilk, and yogurt cheese before. Then I did some mozzarella, yum. And ricotta, yum. And a Feta, which was better on the second try. This time, I am doing hard time. I have a Romano and a Cheddar aging.
I have to wait for 6 weeks before we have any idea if there is good cheese for January. As much as I would like to be organized enough to make these things for xmas presents, I just can't seem to make a cheese in August. Upon reflection though, it really doesn't matter if the cheese is ready for gifts in December, because the people I share cheese with will love it whenever it is ready. My family, on the other hand, gets See's candy.
This brings us to a discussion about Family and Holidays and Gifts, always a tricky subject. I can not send cheese to China, so Scott gets something else. My mom believes I am poisoning her, so no cheese there. My dad and step-mom prefer ingredient labels that say low sodium. My brothers would throw it away after a few months in the refrigerator, when the good intentions wear off. Eduard's mom would sample it but doesn't cook much now.
My daughter will get some cheese. And my friends. And they don't care if it is after Dec. 25. I even have a person who is willing to buy some (under the radar since I can't legally sell food). So that brings me to the question of how much cheese should I actually make for my personal consumption and home cooking use, gifts, friends? Is 10 pounds a year enough or too much? I think if it were just me, 6 pounds a year might be a bit skimpy as I really love to eat cheese, so some of the cheeses don't need aging, like Feta, so they don't have lots of planning involved. But 10 pounds is probably more than we could eat in a reasonable diet. Then I start remembering the ricotta in the lasagna and the spanakopita.... we really do eat a lot of cheese.
Well, it is really stretching my future planning to fantasize over my cheese skill when the first hard cheeses have dried for three days. Let's just slow this bus down and wait for the results. If I am really able to make some good, hard cheese- then we can talk about the future and how many pounds might be in it. But for the present- the cheese stands alone on the cheese board drying as I rub the salt on the rind and turning it every few hours.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Making A Dream Reality

It is easy to dream of something. You can chart it out, draw pictures, plan and try to act out the characters. As many of us know, the reality does not always become what we had hoped and dreamed it would be. Sometimes it is really close and we are happy enough. Sometimes, it just misses completely what we expected. But there are a few occasions when it lives up to our hopes.
I have purchased several homes that needed help. Most of them I have fixed up while I lived in them, but never really planned on living there a long time. They were never my "dream" homes in progress. They were just fixers until the next fixer. Buying fixers is kind of a habit after awhile.
When Eduard and I bought this home, it was a fixer. I loved the lot it was on and the overall size of the home. It was right for the two of us. Unfortunately, there were 5 of us, so it was in reality- too small. We made do, though. The first phase of fixing up was the emergency treatment so that we could actually live there. It was really bad when we bought it.
The second phase was to turn it into a dream home. This part took lots of planning and would in time take lots of money. We started with the Kitchen because the kitchen fell apart and needed attention first. We did windows, gutted everything, re-wired, new cabinets, new floors, new ceiling, new lighting, new counters, new layout, new appliances- new, new, new. The Kitchen/dining area was about 1/5 of the house so we were on our way to making a dream home come true.
The kitchen has turned out to be a wonderful dream come true, after a few nightmare moments during the reconstruction. The appliances were not as wonderful as I had hoped they would be, and we are having to replace some of them already, but for the most part, after 7 years, I still love it.
The second big remodel adventure has been the living room. Like all of our projects, we start them and some disaster happens during the construction. The project ends up taking three years instead of three months. In the kitchen, I had a surgery during the remodel and it took me two years to finish the tile work. The baseboards ended the dining room at the seven year mark. I am still doing the touch up painting. So it was not a surprise that we would get the windows into the living room and my mom had a stroke. This took up lots of my time and there was no time to wait for construction people or cabinet people to give bids and return calls. But his year, at the two year mark, we had a bit of time to work on the house and pushed forward with the plans. Half of the bookcase/entertainment/carpet plan got mostly done in April. More of it got done in August. The end of it will probably get done in October. But so far, I am totally loving it. It is the living room I always knew this home would have. It is the dream come true.
I am waiting for the doors for the cabinets. But in the meantime, we have the most wonderful carpet and squishy padding for playing on the floor in front of the fireplace. We have places to put our "stuff" so that it looks organized and neat. It is a joy to keep it clean. It is airy and well ventilated. It is spacious and inviting.
Now that there are just the two of us, the house feels just the right size. And after almost 10 years, I still love it and want to stay here 'till the end.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Marking Time

I was working yesterday with my cabinet installers and one of them had done some work for me when he had just graduated from high school, 2003. We had a little reminiscence moment. But then I started to remember all the things that I have tied to that particular year. It was a really busy year- with surgery and difficult to finish projects. The kitchen started in 2003 and ended, well, yesterday. And that is only mostly done because I have touch up wall repair and painting to do still. But I could actually say that we are 99.9% done. That last little bit being such a small amount of the whole project.
I have other major events that mark time for me, too. My wedding to Eduard is coupled with the purchase of this house in my mind. It is all in the same year. My trip to Europe with my children some how got stuck in that year, but it was really the following summer.
There is a blank area of fuzzy memories which becomes really clear at the Kitchen remodel of 2003-10. Somewhere in this large date, all jumbled together, is a foot surgery, hysterectomy, neck injury, Scott's graduation from college, Bryon's foolish meltdown, the new garden beds, and Lorrie's death. The fact that Sara is starting college (moving to the dorms) and on the edge of her own stupid meltdown is like the punctuation at the end of a very long sentence. When I try to remember anything in that mess, I can't find a foothold for dates and times. Forever, Stefanie's wedding will be the year before the baseboards, instead of 2009.
So this brings me to a very important information point- Always write the date on the lid of anything you have canned. Why? Well, most home canned goods are good for one year (two if you are really brave and it is a high acid item). As we took everything out of the cabinets (so that we could do the baseboards), I found lots of stuff from 2006, 2007 and 2008. I didn't even preserve anything for 2009. That was the year of the wedding and I was too busy with stuff. But now, rather than put all this expired stuff back, I am dumping and washing. I do not want to risk any illness from my own foods when there is so much out there that is fresh and new. So I have dumped 2006 applebutter, 2007 pickle relish and 2008 applesauce.
What happened to those years that I didn't have a chance to cook with these things? I actually can't remember much of those years at all. Somewhere in there Stef bought a house, Scott went to China, and my mom had a stroke. Eduard's dad died. But aside from big punctuations, I can't remember much of the time. We built garden beds and hauled top soil- but I can't tell you when. The seasons came and went, kids moved on, chickens became dinner- but when?
This promises to be a remarkable year for Eduard and I. I will try to remember it better. It is starting with the end of the kitchen remodel and the end of childhood. It is starting with the beginning of Eduard/Jeri with no kids at home and time for each other at last. It is starting with a trip to China and some Thanksgiving Duck.
I think the end of 2010 is going to be the beginning of a very good year (s). I hope I can remember it in 2011.

Sunday, August 8, 2010


Well, that just about says it all- except that it is really Gophers. When Eduard and I returned from Oregon, we had May, June, and July gloom to keep the garden in stasis, but we also had a gopher attack. Gopher(s) got into the raised beds- which I had not lined with wire mesh because we had never had gophers. But now we do and they are terrorizing my garden. In some ways, the tunneling and churning of the soil is good, but the eating of the roots and plants is bad. So we have launched a gopher control program.

First thing in the program was to try to trap them. Failure, dismal failure. This must be a second or third generation intelligent gopher because the traps mean nothing to it. Just covers it with dirt until it snaps, then goes around it.

So in desperation we transferred all the edible plants to an unaffected bed to see what the gopher would do next. There are plenty of weeds and grasses in other areas of the yard, so the gopher just went into another area to wait for something good to eat. Between the weather being cold for a long time and the gopher hovering under the possible vegetables, I decided not to plant anything at all. But this is just too depressing for me.

The next idea was to remove all the dirt from the beds and line them with wire like we should have in the first place. And this we have been doing. Bed one got finished one week ago, and planted with potatoes, beans, onions, garlic, and other small things. It is doing very well. The turning of the soil, with a bit of amendment and fertilizer has made it the wonderful dirt that I loved when it was new. And I am excited to have Chinese long beans climbing up my bean tower. They are the red ones and will make lovely stir fry.

The second bed got finished yesterday. It had some onions left in it, but I haven't had time yet to plant. It needs some amendment and fertilizer before I replant the onions and start the next set of plants. I am hoping for a short season pumpkin, kabocha, and some cucumbers. If we get any warm weather at all, it will be between now and November, so I am attempting some seeds that are from short season areas. Russian melons. New England pumpkin. And a Japanese Cucumber and squash. It is possible that the nights will stay dry enough that the mildew will hold off. But if not, at least I have tried.

Bed three has been dug out, but not lined with wire. That will happen over the next week and the dirt will be returned to the bed next weekend (or sooner). In the meantime, the gopher burrowed over to the herb garden that is near the patio. Must be the same guy, because the traps are useless. But I am hopeful that we will be able to corner the bugger and flush him/her out.

I hate to resort to poison, because gopher is low on the food chain and will kill the birds of prey that eat it. I am not really too concerned about the coyote who also eat gopher, rat, squirrel, rabbit, cat, dog, small children, and garbage because they are not endangered and drink the beer that I put out to kill the slugs and snails. They can eat all the poisoned rats they want.

In the meantime, I am sorting through my seeds and giggling like a child at the thought of having some vegetables again. I needed this moment in the dirt to make me feel alive.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Weary and worn

I was looking through my clothing so as to make a donation to the thrift store, and I realized that most of what I own doesn't look nice enough to go to a thrift store. It all looks very worn and tattered. In fact, I would say they look like rags. And I have worn every hole and tear into them with hard work. I am pretty worn, too. So how does one revitalize oneself. Can I purge something to make myself more allert and energetic? Is there some special food that brings glow and perkiness (without crossing the danger line)? Do I just need to spend a few hours at the spa, a game of tennis, maybe a stroll on the beach? How do I shake off the fatigue of a lifetime of work so that I can feel that Joie d'vivier.
I have found ways to escape and hide from stress. I can meter out my remaining energy for high priority needs. But how do I get that special bounce back, that spring in my step, that little float that comes with my head in the clouds.
I am feeling weary, and looking like my tattered old clothes.
I think I need some time off. Real time off. Away from people needing stuff. I am giving this some serious thought.
In a conversation today, I realized that I am the one who continues to say yes to other people taking up my life and energy. I have realized this before, but I always slip back into the roll of - well, mother superior. Maybe it is time to just slip out the back of the cloister and let them take care of themselves. Or better yet, take care of me. Maybe I could just stay in my room in bed all day and play games on my cell phone, talk to friends, and polish my nails. I wouldn't need any clothes for that, at least nothing nice. Maybe I could just read and knit something for myself.
Well, it is a very nice thought, selfishness. I think I feel a headache coming on. Maybe, when it goes away, I will go buy some new clothes.
I actually know that I won't do this, but sometimes just imagining it helps me feel better. Now I am off to bed for real. Tomorrow, I have a lot of stuff to do.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Old Dogs

Sometimes, you have to re-tool. That means learn a new skill in today's market. But it also means getting some new tools, like a new washer and dryer. OR it could mean a new computer program. Maybe even some new industrial equipment for an antiquated plant. But for me, it is a new washer and dryer and all the mental re-tooling that goes with it.
I bought some new appliances- a brand I have never used before. The room needed to be remodeled first, so I tooled up and laid down some tile. I painted, too. Then, after properly exhausting myself, I attempted to use my new washer without reading the manual. This is not a user friendly machine. It is not intuitive. When you actually fill up the machine with clothing, it is way over full. You can only really use 1/2 of the capacity. Not so super large as it was said to be.
Then, having over stuffed the washer, I needed to dry this damp stuff. Again, 2 1/2 hours of dryer time and still damp- over full. We had to take about 1/2 the clothes out to get anything dry. Did I read the manual? Of course not.
It is hard to imagine needing to mentally re-tool in order to do laundry. What is so hard about it that I have to read up and study? Still, this is a new system and I am an old dog with many years of simple machinery. I kind of expected to push a button and have my washer do the rest of the job, just like my old machine.
But, I think I am not so old that I can't figure out how to do this. I will read the manual and practice until I am able to wash clothing and dry it in a reasonable period of time. Even if I have to wash one piece at a time until I find the correct size for the washer and dryer. Eventually, I will become friends with these new GE help mates.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Winter Thoughts

For the middle of July, I am deep in Winter Thoughts. You know those dark, cold places where old issues sleep and old fears shuffle around waiting for that vulnerable moment when they can steal just a bit more of your warmth. It doesn't help that our weather has been more winter than summer, too. Today there is no drizzle, but it is overcast and cold again. The fruit is rotting on the trees and the trees are starting to go dormant. There has been no sun, no warmth and they are thinking winter thoughts also.
My dark places have been stirring and it is hard to keep them quiet. This is because of events during the last couple of days that have turned some of our world into a strange dance full of tears and sadness, confusion, and rushing to try to figure out how to re-arrange things. Sara's mother died.
Sara is my step-daughter and now she is a partial orphan. Eduard has stepped up to be a full time dad, but Sara's step-dad is having issues with this. It is hard for him to let go of the control of Sara he has had for the last 8 years. And it is hard for Sara to let go of her mom's house, stuff, ways of doing things, routines. She is trying very hard to figure out who she is and what she needs to do. All of this stress and confusion has created that moment of vulnerability that encourages those dark moments to come forward.
But we are pushing back and trying to keep the world moving toward "functionality". So as I look out on another gloomy, cold summer day, I am thinking about Sara starting school in 6 weeks- College. Dorms. Holidays. Hustle and bustle. I am thinking about my room remodel in stasis, my garden in dormancy, my laundry that died, my wool that wants washing, my various appointments and projects. It is keeping me busy enough to ward off much of the darkness.
But sometimes, when I am alone, I hear the dark thoughts calling me. I have decided to knit them a pair of socks- Winter Thoughts socks. At least their feet will be warm while they whine at me.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

My Discoveries, finds and prizes

I am back and tired and still unpacking. I had a wonderful time. I want to do it again in about a year.
This year, again, we found the lovely honey lady- Jackie Vandersys- and bought some delicious honey from Bear Mountain Honey. Yum. Always a high light of our trip. The honey is part of our constant reminders of our trip as I make granola, bread and desserts from it all year.
And of course, there is fleece- three part fleeces this year. I bought fleece and split it with people for the first time, so that I could have more than one color. I had determined that I could only have one fleece this year and it was all so pretty. So I have 1/2+1/2+1/3= 1 because the gray one was very small.
Then I did some shopping for friends- roving, roving, buttons, sparkle, roving, roving. I spread a bit of joy in Oregon and some down here. So now I am sprinkling the gifts out a bit at a time as I find my friends.
I also did some unusual shopping in Eugene. We had an opportunity to visit a thrift store where I found a yarn score for $1.50! But that was just a little diversion. The big fun was the fiber swap. We scheduled it for 5ish and it was over by 5:15p. People came with fiber rejects and left with a new toy. I put some alpaca, Shetland, mohair, white weaving yarn, Wensleydale curls, and misc. stuff out on the table and a pound+ of cotton roving with a bundle of possum snuggled itsway into my bag. Now I have a bunch of fun to play this summer. Well, to be honest- many summers before I even get half way through it. I truly have a fiber overload. But that is not all the fun we had.
After we left Oregon, we headed to the Big Tree. The redwoods were calling us to visit, so we camped in Prarrie Creek State park and walked with the giants. They are so beautiful. I wish I had managed to get up there earlier in my life. I would love to be able to hike more in the trees. We saw elk and slept next to a babbling stream. It was just the beginning of mosquito season so we were able to sit out for part of the evening without too much distress. It was cool and overcast most of our trip, but very pleasant anyway. We walked through some of the trails, saw bannana slugs, examined lovely wild flowers, then wandered on. Humbolt. Eureka. and eventually Petaluma.
Petaluma was quite a find in itself. I never realized how lovely that little town is. We went into the old part of town to the Seed Bank- Baker Creek Heirloom seeds west coast store. I just love their seed collections and I found some lovely short season items for my weird weather. They turned us on to a great yarn store and Thai restaurant, Knitterly and Sea, two separate locations. But the thought of a yarn store/restaurant is appealing.
At Knitterly, we found some size 0 bamboo circs on sale, a lovely glass button to match my thrift store yarn, and some sparkly stuff for my spinning projects. While we were there we chatted about their roving collection (mostly for felting) and that they were having a dye workshop that weekend. They clued us in on a great hotel nearby.
Then we ate some of the best Thai food I have had at Sea. A black noodle dish with pork was probably my favorite. It was a bit like Pad Thai, but with wide noodles that were made of Wild rice. Lots of vegetables too. Everything was very fresh and home made tasting. Yum- just from the memory.
On the last day, we hit a few wineries in the Sonoma/Carneros region. We snagged a Pinot Noir or two, and a couple of bottles of California Olive Oil. Best find- Fig Balsamic Vinegar. Now I know what is going to happen to this year's fig crop.
Then we came home and, LO!, there is a pile of stuff on the floor. The laundry is done. The bulk of stuff is put away, but there is still a pile waiting for some attention. And the yard is screaming for some weeding/mowing and fruit picking. Work. more work. and a moment to remember the fun parts. But I have to say that I am really enjoying those fun parts. Every time I sniff the fleece, I drift back to the trip. It was really nice.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Happy Trails to you

Fluffy is about to go on the road again. It is time for the annual pilgrimage to Oregon for wool and honey. Oh yes, I know, there is wool here and honey, but that misses the important point- Oregon, trip, not home. I am running away with my friends to a fiber festival and three days of fuzzy goodness, spinning, demonstrations, wooly smells, camping and cooking out. This is followed by 4 more days with my sweetie in the woods and trails wandering back home.
Lots of driving, lots of filming, lots of sightseeing. Pretty soon, after living here for 55yrs, I will actually have seen most of the state of California. I think there is a little corner up in the right top end that I will probably miss, but the rest of it will be pretty well known by me.
I have seen most of Arizona and I don't live there. Probably been to 2/3 of Nevada and New Mexico. I have seen the top half of Texas, all of Missouri, all of Mississippi and a bit of Indiana. I have explored all of Hawaii, too.
Why has it taken so long to really get to know my home state? Could it be that the state is so long and 50% boring? I think it is because of the desert. A big portion of California is desert or near desert. And now that the water is turned off, most of the growing area is returning to desert. That makes for a really long boring drive up the middle. It starts to get interesting after the first long day- when you have left SanDiego/LosAngeles behind and have passed Sacramento heading north. The northern valley is a bit nicer/less desert than the southern end. The mountains start and then you are in Redding- Mt. Shasta, and fishing lakes. Trees become a natural occurence. Along the coast, I start to fall in love right about the north side of Santa Barbara all the way to the Oregon coast. For me, there isn't much interest in the middle so a trip through the state is a multi-day adventure. It can't be done on a weekend.
The fact that California is so large and divided has made it difficult for me to really get to know it. I have gone to SanFrancisco/Oakland a few time, but when you fly- you don't really explore. Need a car to get out and about. I have gone to the wine country north and loved it, but I only got a couple of days before having to run home.
A really important thing to note here, is that this is the same problem for people who live in the North half of the state. They don't get to see the south part much. Our state is really two separate states joined by a desert with very little population. It is hard to know and respect the needs of each end. I think, though, that my trips north to Oregon give me an opportunity to get to know the whole state and meet the neighbors in the north. I am looking forward to the Redwoods and Humbolt. I want to know you better, Siskyou.
But right now, I need to pack my bags and stuff them in the car. See you soon.

Monday, May 17, 2010

The Process of Change

I think the process of change is like carving a mountain into a statue. Or maybe it is like the slow and constant errosion of a sandy bluff. You either need big equipment to make even a dent or you need constant nagging pressure until there is a great collapse.
We have been changing our living room. The big equipment of doors and windows, cabinetry and electrical work have been the earth movers reshaping our environment. The nagging, well, I think that has been me. Constant pressure to get a little done at a time until it is time for a big push.
This week we saw a partial slide in the bluff. To do the final electrical work, we needed to remove some old wall unit parts. We have been emptying it for some time, but that sucker weighed a ton and we had to move it out. To where? Right now it is on Craig's list as it sits on the side of the house under a tarp. I think I hurt something. But we got it done and I believe that I am healing now. We also moved a large coffee table, a decor piece in the dining room, and all the other furniture slid around the room a few times while we worked. The last piece (for now) went into the wooly room to become a wall unit for the wool collection. There is one more piece to match it. That will go to the wooly room in time, but right now, it is holding the stereo system in the living room.
After the electrical work was done, I patched holes in the wall, textured and painted, cleaned up dust and crud, and did a touch up paint on the fireplace front. Things are looking rather spiffy, if I do say so myself. Then we had a stereo/tv/speakers wiring test- Failure, danger Will Robinson, Failure. Arms flailing, sad face.
The picture quality on the tv, with the expensive cables and extensive wiring was crapola. After some thoughtful trouble-shooting, my main man found the problem. The connection between the vcr and stereo was causing interference and making storm surf in the picture quality. This was remedied with some high tech optical wiring. Now we have great picture, great sound, and tv antenna. Yes indeedy, no cable here. We almost never watch the tv so some of this may have seemed silly, but sometimes we watch the news or a movie. We want things to work when we decide to actually use them. Antenna is good for us, and cheap too. So now for the first time in years, the antenna is connected to the high definition tv.
Little bits are getting done. And in the wake of the landslide, there is clean up to be done. Today, I was organizing the wooly room into the new cabinet. Well, of course, things had to get all tossed around in order to get it into the room and things must get reorganized after the move. So part of today was reorganization. And part was a temporary/permanted settlement location for the boxes from the farmer's market. Since I won't be there for two months, I need to put stuff someplace and stop tripping over it. And I need to be able to get to all the wooly wonderful stuff for my business and work. This has now left a large gap in the living room floor. And in the dining room wall. Space to walk with out tripping and room to move around the chairs.
This is change- open space in an organized style. Not clutter and piles. Not stacks. Not dust. Part of me is determined to keep it this way and part of me wants to fill it up with new stuff. There is still a long way to go before all the work is done. The new baseboards and wall cabinets, carpet, front door, bookcase doors, thorough cleaning, new light fixture are still on the list. Much nagging still to do before the next land slide.
But the change in the room is moving forward. And the change in me is struggling to keep up. I am working toward an organized, clean living room that is easy for me to take care of. Where I can do a bit of work, entertain friends, exercise on the floor, and control the chaos. Now I have to make me fit into that room. Much nagging left to do there, too. But I have promised this to myself and I am indeed working on it. As this year progresses, I am cleaning out clutter, cleaning deeply, and keeping it clean after it is organized.
Now, I want you to picture a scene in the movie, Wall-e. I am cleaning this little spot and the camera pans out to show the entire planet covered in trash. This is the great landslide that hangs over Eduard and I for when our parents have to "let it go". The amount of stuff that will try to find a home in our house is overwhelming. We are practicing saying "no" and holding the door shut. This is also a process of change. Instead of incoming, we are working on deflection. I give all the world fair warning. The beanie babies/barbie dolls and collector plates are coming to get you.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Remodel part deux

The bookcase is in, well except for the doors, but the handles are in. It took two tries to get the handles in, but finally they are perfect enough for me and I have picked them up. And the doors have made it to the cabinet guy who is suddenly busy beyond his wildest nightmare and hasn't gotten a chance to work on Part Deux- the entertainment unit.
But somewhere in there, I know I asked him to do the baseboards for the dining room and finish the living room to match- 80 ft. Finally the dining room would be finished- 7 years. Then, I actually looked at the dining room.
I have lined one wall (14ft) with cabinets for dry and canned goods, a bookcase, and a china hutch (full to the brim) with stuff stacked on every top. I have stuck the no-longer-needed living room cabinet in there for storage. I have stacked my boxes of jars and meat slicer, meat grinder, pasta maker. We have a little table against the window.
OH SHIT! I have to move it all out so that I can have baseboards. What was I thinking?
Today I have spent three hours packing the china hutch and filling a little niche in the wooly room. I have managed to extricate a small box of stuff for charity. I have identified several more boxes of stuff to go to charity. I have not done anything with the stuff on top of the cabinet or the dry goods. I am currently overwhelmed and need a break. I have collected so much shit, uh, stuff over the years that I just like to look at, that I can't stand to look at it. Stuff must go! Soon.
So that brings me to my other collections. I have been discarding wool that I don't want. Some to the trash, some to other spinnners, some to the market- some of it I used as packing matterial for the china. I can now find the bed in the wooly room. What about in my bedroom? Well, I did go through my clothing and pulled out two bags full of stuff. And in the pantry I tossed a bunch of stuff that had expired.
I was thinking about all the stuff at my mom's house, and how I don't want any of it. I started thinking about my stuff and about my kids (and Eduard's kids) and how they won't want any of it. Is there anyone out there who really wants any of it? I know the thrift stores are full, the landfill is full, the storage units are full, the cars are full, the houses are full. When the boomers go, where will all the stuff go? The entire country is full. We don't actually have to make any more stuff here because there is enough stuff for several generations- except computers for game playing, of which there is never enough.
So, as I contemplate my next step in the remodel- I am going to oust stuff rather than gather it in, so that my children don't have to deal with all this stuff. I want to live a cleaner, less cluttered, more organized life. I want to actually use some of my (5 sets of china) dishes, (7 tea sets) (200 Japanese little bowls and specialty sushi trays)
serving ware, and (2 16 place stirling silver sets) utensils.
I am going to sell a spinning wheel, too. I have embarrassed myself by exposing my clutter and really need to get rid of a few things.

Thursday, April 8, 2010


April and the spring cleaning bug has hit me really hard. It seems to be spreading to the whole family. My brother wants me to help clean stuff out of my mother's house. She doesn't want to do that, but the bug has gotten to my brother. I think he should clean out his own house. Or maybe he has and there is nothing left to organize. But for me- my house is a mess and I have got to get some control really soon.

We have been working on a Living Room remodel for the last two years. We are finally making some progress toward getting it "done". I have done the tile work, repaired the wall from the electrical work, and had the 10 foot by 10 foot book case unit built and installed. I cut the carpet (temporary measure until new carpet is in) and we started putting in the books last night. That is 7 giant boxes of stuff and three piles off the floor and out of the way. The bookcase is almost full and we haven't even started on the garaged books. Or the DVDs. That means some things have got to go. If they can't fit in the bookcase, they can't stay.

To make sure that the sorting was equally distributed, I have claimed 1/2 of the bookcase as my space. I will have a section for crafts and resources of interest to me. My favorite casual reading books will have a place, too. My music, my dvds, my my my....Just the thought of having all my stuff in an organized single location is getting me really excited. Last night, I found a book that I wanted to get rid of. I am sure that I will find many more that won't get to stay. But just knowing that I can put them all into a single location where I can use them and put them back has me in a twitter. And I want to design the space so that I can also display some of my favorite KnickKnacky things. Not much, just little bits of personality leaking out. But I haven't had much room for any of that and I want just a tiny bit.

So that brings me to the next phase- Cabinet Number 2 (3 and 4) on the TV side. The other side of the room will have a TV area, with some low shelving for pillows and blankets, a doored cabinet that is also a window seat, and a shelving unit for the stereo (and other stuff). That part will be in around the beginning of MAY and then the carpet will go in. I am beginning to believe that there will someday be an end to this room remodel.

Just so that you can have some perspective on my patience, we started the Kitchen/Dining area in May 2003. Most of it was done in May 2005. But the last part- baseboards for the dining room- languished. Now with the new cabinets getting done in the living room, I requested baseboard for that room and the dining room. The dining/kitchen remodel will be complete in 2010. Only 7 years. After the carpet, the living room will still need the new front door (with new hardware) and entry way light fixture, a small electrical outlet, and the antenna cable re-route before it is "done". I will be sewing some new pillows and a seat pad for the window seat.

I am hoping that the living room remodel is done sooner than 7 years from the start date. But in the mean time, I will be dedicating myself to cleaning out some stuff and getting the room organized. At least until the spring cleaning bug wears off.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Remodelling is not Cheap

Well, we started this right after we bought the house. New roof, carpet in most rooms, paint all the inside, plumbing repairs, and general overhaul. Two years later, we did the "Kitchen" and dining area. New windows, cabinets, counters, appliances and tile flooring and stripped the popcorn ceiling. There was some basic maintenance along the way too, but mostly, a remodel. Finally, in 2008, we started the living room- FIreplace insert, windows, side door,... delay... Life sometimes gets in the way so now it is 2010 and we are continuing the remodel of the living room. Bookcase cabinetry, wall unit/window seat, maybe a library ladder, custom handles (in Pewter), really nice carpet, a bit of tile work, new front door, lighting adjustments, and some paint touch up. But there has been some "maintenance" along the way, too.
Each of these remodeled rooms are running about $40,000. I admit, the cabinetry is something more like furniture, but these are big ticket items to do these rooms. We have also got some landscape work planned for a patio remodel and patio addition at the new door. And some additional fencing, a new garage door, and windows in the rest of the house. About three more years down the road (hopefully less), we will do some bathroom rework in the master bathroom.
Overall- the remodeling will cost about 1/2 of what we paid for the house. And I am not sure that it will add all that much to the re-sale value if we decide to move someday. But it will add a great deal to the comfort value of the home we are living in. I think livability is the most important thing about a home- not just re-sale value. Already, the fireplace insert is paying for itself in comfort and warmth in the winter. The new windows keep the outside noise out and the temperature more constant. They are a dream to maintain and use. I think Eduard and I will really love the finished living room.
And the rest of the house? Well, we will get there sooner or ? well sooner I hope. But the living/entertaining areas are what I want to finish and live in first. So we will look at the other things as time and money permit. Just for now, I am loving the newness of our living area and the excitement of having it get done, sometime in the next 2 months.
And I feel a bit pampered with some of the "specialty" items we are getting. I just want to thank my sweetie for letting me have the expensive, custom, sculptured handles for the cabinet doors. Smooch. And I didn't buy the most expensive ones, either.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Out with the Old

Every year at this time I find myself wanting to air out the house, do some heavy cleaning, and throw stuff away. Ok, maybe just move it to the garage. But the items will eventually find their way to the thrift stores around town. Sometimes, though, I actually throw things away. This is a remarkable thing for a compulsive hoarder like Fluffy.
Today I was in the kitchen when the "urge" struck. I looked at the pantry and thought about all the interesting things I had wanted to cook but lost interest before I cooked them. Or the spices I tried but didn't like all that much. Stuff that I just had to have, but then forgot about. And what about all those canned goods that we just never got to (from 2006). I firmly believe you should not keep your canned goods longer than your tax records. So I am cleaning out the panty.
Today, I filled the gray dumpster with unloved, uneaten, and unremembered things. Unfortunately, I am not done. There is at least one more dumpster full to go. Because I have three pantries and I am a compulsive hoarder, this mood better last for at least a week.
But there are other old things going, too. I went into the garage and got rid of a pile of Old. And we are getting new carpet- that will be lots of very old when they are done. Our living room carpet is at least 15 years old. And then there is the old paint that has dried in the can. Old spackle and drywall compound. Old tiles.
What about those old clothes? I did buy some new stuff right before the wedding. There must be some old stuff to go out. And a couple of pairs of old shoes. Old slippers. Old pajamas.
We got rid of the old blinds last week. How about some old towels, and old sheets and old...
Umm. I actually use those old towels and sheets for projects, so maybe not them.
Damn! I think the urge is wearing off.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Gummy Mousse

So this blog entry is in chocolate brown type, because we here at the garden have been experimenting with Mousse. I have made many Moussi? Miesse? Mousses? in my cooking life. Some were the Atkin's high fat, no sugar, no carb type. And the regular Melted chocolate and whipped cream type. What I wanted was one with flavor, texture, some sugar, mouth appeal, aroma, and moussey appearance and lower fat, but not fat free.

So, I will start with the failures. Gummy Mousse. My first try had coffee, milk, chocolate, sugar, whipped cream, egg yolks, egg whites, vanilla, and gelatin. A whole tablespoon and a half of gelatin. This was due to a mis-print in a recipe that I took to alter. Jeri's test kitchen suspected that this was going to be a problem at first glance, but the use of gelatin has been spotty in my life, so I wasn't sure. Then the mixture started to get rubbery while it was still kind of warmish. That should have been a real red flag. But after mixing stuff together, it set up as a solid mass with a distinct bounce -- almost a boing sound. It had great taste, though. The color was right, smell was good, mouth texture -- way off. We ate it anyway, because we are brave and foolish. But we were sure that it would not be a success even in the little kid world. So we went on.

The second failure was the chocolate soup. I repeated the recipe with 1 "teaspoon" of gelatin instead of the 1 1/2 tablespoons. Even after chilling the mix before adding the final ingredients, it would not set up or even get thick enough to tease me. After blending in the whipped cream and whipped egg white, it was syrupy. After chilling for hours, it was soupy. Chocolate flavor was good, like melted ice cream, but the texture and eye appeal was a total loss. It is hard to toss the ingredients out. We sampled a bowl full each and washed the containers.

The third try got me what I wanted in texture and eye appeal (and of course flavor). I will continue to work on the carbs and fats, but we are on the right track.
Here is the recipe:
3/4 cup cold coffee sprinkle on top 2 teaspoons plain gelatin to soften for about 30 minutes.
1 cup milk and 3 1/2 oz semisweet chocolate ( I used Trader Joe 72% dark). Heat this over med/low heat, stirring constantly until the chocolate melts.
Continue heating and add
1/2 cup sugar, stir until dissolved.
Continue heating and add
Softened gelatin in coffee, stir until dissolved.
Continue heating until mixture reaches about 130 f. Nowhere near boiling, but hot to the touch. I use a meat thermometer. Reduce heat to low.
Separate the yolks and the whites of two large eggs. Place the whites in a whipping bowl with 1/8 teaspoon salt. Leave on the counter to come to room temp.
Take the 2 egg yolks and stir them gently, adding a couple of tablespoons of the hot chocolate mix to temper them. Then stir the egg yolks into the hot chocolate mix stirring constantly for three minutes. Turn off the heat. Let this sit for 10 minutes, then refrigerate until it starts to thicken (20 minutes or so). It needs to be cool to the touch or cold, but not too solid. Like a thick syrup.
Beat the egg whites with the salt until stiff peaks form.
Using the same beaters (don't need to wash them yet),
Beat 1 cup of whipping cream until soft peaks form, then add 2 tablespoons sugar and 1 teaspoon vanilla. Continue beating until stiff peaks form.
Gently fold the chocolate into the whipped cream until well incorporated, then fold the whipped egg white into the cream mixture until well incorporated. Pour all this into a 2 quart pretty serving bowl and chill for three hours. If you are not going to eat it right away, put plastic wrap over it to keep it from drying out.
Now I need to find the calorie count on
2 eggs, 3 1/2 oz chocolate, 1 cup milk, 1 cup whipping cream, 2/3 cup sugar, 2 teaspoons gelatin. This is divided into 4 or 6 servings depending on your diet.
My next plan is to try it with fat free whipped topping or a sugar substitute. And I want to see how it works with Agar instead of gelatin for my vegetarian buddies. Not all at once, but over a period of time I will test out these different ingredients.
Ok, so you have guessed the truth. I am just having a chocolate craving and I want any excuse to eat lots of chocolate mousse. No really, I am trying out these recipes to see if I can make something that tastes really good and doesn't trash my blood sugar. I think I am getting the texture part down and will be moving to the lower sugar and fat part soon. Wish me luck and try the good recipe if you are in the mood for a chocolate treat. It really is lower in sugar and fat than straight mousse, already, and it is quite tasty.

Monday, February 8, 2010

New Children in the Garden

It is always exciting to have something new happen in the garden. Whether it is a new plant, shrub, tree, or flower- even a new bench- it is exciting to me. Last fall, we ordered a couple of Pecan trees. I am unsure whether they will do well here, but the write-up on them indicated that the climate would be acceptable. And we have good drainage in the soil. That is important because Pecans don't like wet feet or wet leaves. We found one that could deal with the coastal fog well, so we are pretty confident.
Our soil is compacted sand. You can eventually dig a hole in it by scraping away 1/2 inch layers, but it is not very fertile or chemically rich. So, we dug as best we could. Other trees around us- Macademia, peach, apricot, pine, citrus- all have found a way to get a grip on this soil. I have great hopes for these pecan trees and their ability to tap a way into this soil. But just in case, we amended heavily. That way the roots have a reason to grow and it will seem easy at first.
That was the bulk of our weekend work. We had two new babies for the orchard. There was some other work too, like harvesting onions and turnips, gathering wood and debris from the last rain, but for the most part we have been relaxing with the trees and garden. We did most of the pruning a few weeks ago. Put out a bit of fertilizer for the avocados and citrus. Then we just closed our eyes and forgot about them.
So imagine my surprise today when I found the first PEACH BLOSSOM. Yes! Pink and pretty and that means- fertilizer, raking, and no time to spray for curl. How did the time get past me? Is it really blossom time already. Well, the apple is in bloom, but it blooms year round so I haven't really counted it as a time piece. But the peach is my Spring alarm clock. And it went off just as we were planting the pecans.
Nap time is over and the garden is getting exciting with new trees, new fruit, new leaves, and new energy. I think I am about to wake up from hibernation, too. I am ready to have lunches outside and barbequed dinners. But I have to admit that I don't yet have the urge for spring cleaning. Maybe next month.

Friday, January 15, 2010

The Fluffy Addiction

I am washing the last alpaca fleece this morning while I get ready for my spinning group, and I am thinking about my fluffy addiction. I believe in my heart that I can in fact spin the wool I have within my lifetime. I am in control of my environment. I have a grip on it. Yet, there is a sneaking suspicion that I may be deluding myself. I just tagged a 4oz skein for the market and realized that I have not spun anything else for sale in 4 weeks. I have only been spinning about 4 oz a week lately and at that rate, 1 pound a month, it will take me a year just to spin the alpaca- nothing else. And what about the other stuff, baby camel, or Yak/merino, or more of that lovely white Cormo-ish stuff. Plus all the other fun fibers that have come into my life- Wensleydale, Shetland, Merino, AnnieFannie Columbia, Beauty Berries, etc. I have colors, I have textures, I have silks and soy.
I have tools and bags of stuff, and they have escaped from the wooly room and invaded the entire house. Everytime I try to herd them back into the room, they start playing with me and I lose my conviction. I want to just sit and play with them all day. They know they have me whipped, too. Just peaking out of their bags they call me to play and the day slips away from me. If I made a slip cover and stuffed all the bags into it. I could make a wall-to-wall bed of bags of wool.
So how do I stop buying? How do I get myself to keep my conviction that I have enough fleece? This is the plan- I must spin 2 pounds of wool products a month, at least 1/2 of it for the market. And it must be from the bags of fleece, not the pretty prepared stuff. Then, I must make at least one item for the market and one item for me (or family) per month from the yarn. This way, I will in fact spin the wool I have, within my lifetime, and not drown in a pile of yarn.
This is the new year's resolution. It started with washing the new stuff, which is almost done. And I will send out some of the old stuff that still needs washing to be processed at Z. Then I will identify all the projects that I am going to make from the yarn. Then I will plan an attack on the spinning work so that it matches the stuff I need to make.
That means I will be spinning Shetland and alpaca this coming month, making a couple of apples and a rug. But what I really want to do is spin the baby camel. So maybe just a little bit of that, too. And the baby alpaca silk blend. Just 2 oz. And maybe I will get a couple more bobbins. Then I could start some weaving, too. That project is already spun and ready to warp.
I can see that this is getting way out of control already. The yarn and wool is calling me and confusing my helpless brain. Must fight the urge. Must, maintain, contro.....