Wednesday, April 29, 2009


I waged war on my garden this evening. It is full of dandelions.
It was a beautiful evening. The heat broke last night, rain this morning, and then post-rain coolness. The sunset had clouds which cast a soft pink light on everything. It was the perfect temperature to be out in jeans, t-shirt, and flip flops.
Between Miss Mary and I, we must have pulled over 50 dandelion plants. Had to - they are about to turn into the fun blowy things and re-seed my entire garden. It's already unbelievable how many I have. I had to put a stop to them spreading. They are so pretty when they are yellow, and lots of fun to blow, but gosh are they a pain . . . literally:That would be a dime-sized blister I got this evening from my spade. sigh

In other news, I'm working on something really great at work. Elizabeth Brown Chew's cook book came into the lab. It is ca. 1860 and has been really fun to compare with Martha Washington's cook book. There are some great recipes and I can't wait to try them out. My dad and Ann are coming in a few weeks - maybe they are willing to sample some recipes. Check out the blog post at

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Workin' in the Garden

What a beautiful day!
I'm not sure of the exact temperature today - all I can tell you is that I was wearing shorts and tank top and sweating, and loving every minute of it.
I should be working on that UPenn book but I will do that tonight. I decided that my garden needed my attention, and since I can work on the book when it's dark and not the garden, the garden got the daylight attention.
And there is SO much that needs attention.
I'm thrilled that I put the tulips in. More next year - and in a better place - but I'm really enjoying them now. They are gorgeous (see the previous post for another image). I have yellow with red streaks, red with yellow streaks, and pale lavender. Quite beautiful.
However, my main focus today was that front hedge. Ugh. It's quite disgusting. This seems to be a catch all for all kinds of debris. Yuck.
I spent five hours today, raking junk out from under the hedge. Five garbage bags later I decided that I'd had enough.
I am hoping that trash will now blow back out onto the sidewalk. At any rate, it will be much easier to see. And hopefully there will be a lot less of it so that it will be easier to manage.
Today's haul of interesting paraphernalia includes:

Two glass bottles
two perfume vials
one button
four cigarette lighters
two pencils
one pen
two hypodermic needles
one condom
one magnetic clothing security device
one baseball key chain bauble (?)
one change making box
one large long chain
one dime

After all this, I went back inside, had a bath, cooked diner, and now I've really got to get downstairs to work on this UPenn book. sigh. not fun.

Tomorrow's main priority includes: the dandelions. They are taking over the garden.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

In Honor of Tara O'Brien (of Fairmount)

I was bound and determined to go for another bike ride this morning, only to be completely frustrated to see that some sort of marathon madness was taking place on West River Drive. This usually makes it impossible to ride. So I went around the museum and rode on Kelly Drive, with the other madness of some rowing regatta. As I got closer to Falls Bridge I could see that the other side of the River was totally empty - so I took my chances and came back on the other side. It was relatively quiet until about half way back - and then there were more and more runners.
As I passed a group I saw a sign on some one's back that said, "In memory of Tara O'Brien". At first I rode past - but then I decided I had to go back and find out more about this.
Tara O'Brien was killed in 1996 at the age of 24 by a drunk driver. She left two daughters behind and donated 7 organs. Turns out this 5K,10K run/walk was to benefit Organ Donor Awareness
If you have not discussed organ donation with your family - please make your wishes known to them. This is not a fun subject to talk about, but if your family knows what you want, it will be so much easier, if, God forbid, they find themselves in a position where it is necessary to make that choice.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Cleaning up the front hedge

After finishing three loads of laundry, putzing around the house, meeting the PECO man, (electricity), changing both of my flat tires - I finally managed to get out of the house for a bike ride at 10:30. It was such a beautiful day today. Everybody was out. Which was good, because I got almost to Falls Bridge and the front tire went flat again. Grrr. So I changed the tube and got half way through changing it when I realized I'd left my pump at home where I'd changed my tires. GRRRRR. So I flagged down some very nice cyclists who had pumps and actually pumped the tire for me - (seeing as I'm a helpless woman and all). One of them gave me all kinds of "advice" about getting new treads, and a new shank for the handle bars so that I would sit up taller. So I took his advice about getting new tires - and am going to ignore the other advice. All in all, it was very nice of him to stop and help me. The ride was great! But I'm going to pay for it tomorrow. I can already feel it.
When I got home the plan was to shower and go to my Amish farmer for milk, eggs, and whatever else might look interesting. I got a bit side tracked. I always need to wind down after a ride so I took some dry laundry down, hung up some new laundry, and started looking at the yard. Two hours later I had cleaned out a little bit of the garbage that has collected under my front hedge for goodness knows how many years. You wouldn't believe the stuff I found. Quite a treasure trove.
In addition to mounds of plastic wrappers of everything from candy bars to drug baggies, today's haul includes: (from left to right - a rusty clamp, a dial knob of some kind, plastic fork, two glass vials for incense, a watermelon bauble, four screws, a chicken bone, two bottle caps, a sardine can, votive candle, a ball point pen, a screw driver, and half of a CD/Walkman. And that was only in the first 10 feet of the hedge! Imagine what I'll find in the next 20 feet. Exciting!
I cleaned and weeded the bricks. Weeded some of the flower bed, and since I'm not quite sure what I want to put in that bed I thought I'd try transferring some of my violets. They are everywhere in my garden and it's a shame to have to mow them when I mow the lawn. So if these three survive the transplant - quite a few more will be joining them.
Three hours later, showered and lunched, I was ready to head out. As I was ready to leave, the drum corps I'd been hearing all morning, and for the past few weekend, marched right down Filbert. These kids are really good. It was fun to watch them.
Now I'm exhausted. I still need to go downstairs and print this UPenn thing. Ugh.

Tulips Blooming

They're Blooming! They're Blooming!
After almost a week of really miserable rainy weather, the sun has been out for the last two days and the tulips are opening. Jacques woke me up at 6:30 this morning and since I couldn't get back to sleep I got up too. We went out and the tulips were still closed, but within an hour they've opened.
I took a look at everything on Thursday evening to discover that those blasted squirrels have been eating the blooms!!! I now understand people to feel very strongly about those critters. I'm about to join a support group. Those lousy things ate just the blossoms off of the back row in this patch. See the skinny stalks sticking up in the top left of the picture? Yeah, those used to have blooms on them. Well, someone told me that they don't like garlic, so I went upstairs and crushed two cloves, put that a squirt bottle with water and sprayed all of the blooms with that. I really hope it's done the trick, I may have repeat it again.

I have a ton of violets as well. They are so cute.
I'm off to do the first bike ride of the year - fixed my tires this morning lets hope it's a while before I get another flat.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Bathroom Diaries Day: Jeff's last day

Jeff's last day. Sad - he's fun. He came this morning to close up the hole for the plumbing, and put in the door latch. He was supposed to take the rest of his stuff with him, but he didn't. Sigh. Oh well, I don't really know what I'm going to do with a bag of "thin set" . Probably throw it out - or offer it to Mr. El. Maybe he can use it.
I decided today that I would break the tub in. :) Oh it's wonderful! Just what I wanted. Problem is - there's not enough hot water in my water heater to fill the whole thing doggonit! So I'm back to my old shenanigans of filling every pot with water and boiling it on the stove. Maybe I've got to go to the tankless water heating systems Brendan and Joe were talking about. My grandmother had a boiler on her bathroom wall. One lit the gas flame and one could fill an entire bath tub with boiling water - aaaaahhhhhh what a luxury. Also - one doesn't waste so much energy keeping a hot water heater full of hot water. . . . some day.
I can't say "Bathroom Diaries: Last Day" yet. I still have SO much to do. I've got to paint the walls and ceilings, fix the grout, clean the tile, spackle, put in the fixtures, (trays, towel racks, etc.) and then I've got to paint the hallway, AND THEN I've go to fix up my bedroom. Sheesh! The contractors are paid and gone - how come I've got so darn much work to do???

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Bathroom Diaries Day: So close

On Tuesday Brendon came and installed a new toilet. He called right before my classes to talk about it and said that this one is much closer to the wall. Yes it is. This is one they picked up, and he approved of this toilet much more anyway. I had bought a Jacuzzi to which he said, "They make great tubs but their toilets, nah - this one flushes much better." Okay then. I think it's a good idea to go with what the plumbers recommend. He also put in the show fixtures, and I'm sure there is a whopper of a bill on it's way in the mail to me. And they even put the toilet I have to return in my car for me. What a great bunch of guys, eh?
You also get a good idea of my beautiful baseboards in this image. I think once everything is painted and the fixtures are in, it's going to look really great.
Tonight I grouted the last of the shower. Finally - it's done. I have to say - I think grouting is one of my least favorite things to do. Not only is it really messy and sticky but it dries your hands out like crazy. I'm not sure what I did, but I also ended up with deep holes in each of the fingers on my right hand and really hurt. I've got a band aid on the end of each finger tip. This has not been an easy blog to type.
Jeff's coming tomorrow morning to patch up the wall with the plumbing, and hopefully he will put in the lock on the door, but that's it, it will be his last day.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Bathroom Diaries Day: and on and on and on

Talked to Jeff and Eric this morning (Eric is the plumber) Jeff was understandably appalled that I didn't sand the base boards before staining them, "That must look like hell!" Yeah well, I fixed it. He doesn't understand the toilet business either.
Later when I talked to Eric, I had already called Lowes and had been assured by someone, that a)it was no big deal to get the part for me, and b) no worries that I didn't have the receipt - just bring in the credit card statement. Yeah, well . . .
I showed up at Lowes about 7:30, with the part/box/left over part for the shower as ordered. Not only did I not deal with the nice guy from the morning, but he was replaced by the most amazing south Philly broad you ever met in your life. The skinny smoker kind with the raspy voice and the fake finger nails, and the short too-dark-red-hair-dye-job that needs a touch up. And she was exuding that Philly charm I love so much. Oh boy. But since I've learned to deal with it, I fought back and came out unscathed. However it took about 45 minutes just for them to prove that I had actually bought the blasted shower contraption there and that she could give me the part I needed. This is because - I cannot find the receipt for these things anywhere. Good Grief. At least it ended well, but I tell you, I'm not going back to Lowes, it's just too much of a three ring circus there. I still needed more grout, grout de-hazer, light fixtures, and clothes pins. And rather than hang out at Lowes any longer I went over to Home Depot. Promptly helped by a nice south Philly man who over explained everything. Better that than the "Charm". I didn't get home until 10.
Up at the top is what I decided to put on the light fixture. I didn't like any of the little glass cover thingies that were available, so I was looking for bulbs for something else and saw these beauties. I think they are nice, a whoppin' $4/each.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Bathroom Diaries Day: Making Peace

Woke up in a better mood this morning. I knew I had too much I wanted to accomplish today, but I really wanted to accomplish all of it. So I tackled the big things.
I started off with grouting the tiles. Got the back wall grouted and wiped. Looks okay - from far away:Then I started on the side wall of the shower, and of course, I barely had enough grout to finish that wall. Sigh. It just can't go smoothly, can it? I still have to do the front wall now. As I was working on this wall, I kept getting cat hair in the grout. I couldn't figure out why - until I turned around. He just had to watch. Apparently this is fascinating stuff - grouting.

I was toying with the idea of going to Home Depot for more grout. I need a few other things as well, but I really just wanted to nest and work in my house. I didn't want to have to change and my was hair sticking up in all directions because of how I slept on it. I didn't want to have to clean up to go out. Bottom line: still need to go get grout for the last wall.
I kept working on the baseboards. I did something stupid yesterday; I started staining the baseboards without sanding the extra wood filler off. The result was big swiping pale spots that could not be excused away as "the nature of the wood". I pulled out the electric sander today and took care of that and re-stained the baseboards. Still have to wait for 8 hours before I can polyurethane them. I did start on the one baseboard and the threshold. They look beautiful.
I couldn't face any painting today. I think that really will be one of the last things that will happen in there.
Then I decided I had earned a little break. The weather was spectacularly beautiful today. Slight wind, and very warm in the sun. I took a book, cup of coffee, chair and self out to the back garden. I sat for two hours in the sun, even took a little nap and got a nice little sunburn for my trouble. It was so nice.
Invented something new for dinner as well. This is a little wacky, but it was so good, I'm writing it down so I know I have the recipe for the future. I defrosted a tenderloin from Trader Joe's when Rachael and Ben were here - but we didn't get to it. It really needed to be cooked so I took a look in the spice cabinet and went to town. I cooked two pieces, it will need to be slightly adjusted if you are cooking more - not spices so much as water etc.
Pork Tenderloin ala Tara
1 pork loin cut into serving sized pieces (2 - 3 inches)
olive oil
5 cloves garlic cut in half
5 whole all spice
3 whole cloves
3 whole cardamom pods
1 2inch piece cinnamon stick
2 t salt
3 1/4" slices of lime
Heat the olive oil in a sauce pot. Add the garlic, (this may not have been a good idea because it burned - maybe add it later?) and when oil is hot, brown pork on all sides. Once browned add all spices and enough water to reach a third of the way up the pork. Bring to a boil, then turn heat to low and allow to cook 30 minutes.
In the mean time I cooked little red potatoes and heated up my left over collard greens from last night. When pork is done, remove pork and set aside. Remove spices and discard. Make gravy with the cooking water. Super yummy. The lime is really great.
I did manage to finish one thing today - a potholder based on one I inherited from my grandmother. I crocheted it with cotton, but I don't think it was thick enough. We'll find out soon. What I love about these is that they can be thrown in the washing machine when they are dirty.
Did talk to Melanie
Didn't fix bike tires
Did call Lowes - the guy I talked to was completely unhelpful. Finally he said I can return the toilet. Will call plumbers tomorrow.
Didn't do tax stuff
Did figure out what I still owe Jeff. :(
Still wish I had more hours in the day.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Bathroom Diaries Day: Irritation

This isn't funny anymore and I'm tired of it.
The UPenn book I wanted to tackle this weekend has another hiccup. The text won't print. My partner in crime on this project is in LA, he can't get me the correct font until Thursday. So I get to do what I really wanted to do this weekend, work on my bathroom - except that I wasn't mentally ready for that so I didn't plan very well. . . and, I just want this bathroom done already!
Before we get into that though, the sum up from Friday is: I now need major electric work done. PECO - our electric company is going to have to dig up my underground line to my house and repair it. Great.
I came home on Friday to find that I only had electricity on part of the first floor and the third floor. Called PECO - 60 people in my area had been affected and my power would be back on by 5pm. By 5pm, no electricity and mucho frustration in trying to print out the UPenn project - I gave up and went outside and yanked up known weeds. We'd had rain, thunder all day and the ground was nice and damp. I did some good clean up - disturbed about 40 earthworms, and generally made a new mess of a pile of twigs. A tiny dent in the HUGE project which will be my garden some day. It was a lovely evening though. There was a brief downpour at about 6 which left two brilliant rainbows in it's wake. And at 6:30 as I walked out the back door I just about had a heart attack when the PECO man walked up in my yard.
We went to the basement, he discovered the issue, made a quick fix and said that someone would be by to fix everything in the next two weeks, but that I'm fine until then. He said this sort of thing happens all the time in big down pours. Lovely. Now I'm dreading what will happen next. Are they going to go under the porch? Are they going to dig up my brickwork? How does this work? Oh woe to me - I don't even want to think about it.
This morning I had a few false starts, laundry, yard, and then resignation - I've got to move forward on this bathroom. It was an incredibly windy day - a perfect day to hang laundry out and have it dry in two seconds.
First frustration, the guard for my tile saw is MIA. What the heck happened to it??? I looked everywhere and it's gone. Maybe Jeff packed it up accidentally. I did get the bullnose tile up on the side of the shower. I can finally put the grout down tomorrow.
Speaking of grout. . .
You all know Jeff is fabulous but - second frustration - he made my life really difficult by putting all the woodwork in first. If I could have stained it separately and installed it myself - oh, life would have been much better. Even with that stupid blue tape the stain is seeping underneath and staining the beautiful white grout. ARGH! Plus the stupid toilet is installed and I'm crawling around it - (third frustration) and (fourth frustration) the plumbers nicked the vanity when they were working. Not badly but I think I'm going to sick Jeff on them - they still have to come back because . . . (fifth frustration) - why in the heck did they just leave everything as it is? The toilet doesn't fit right and there is a piece missing in the faucet of the shower. And if there were problems why did they call me immediately?! - I left my phone number on the faucet. Grrrr. :(.
The staining (when I manage to do it well) is at least quite beautiful. Here is the unstained threshold:
The stained threshold:
Tomorrow I need to:
fix the tires on my bike so I can go for a bike ride.
polyurethane the baseboards/threshold
paint the ceiling
there's no point in painting the walls until everyone is done - they are too careless and there are scuff marks on everything.
call Lowes about the toilet and shower problems.
finish up tax stuff
lesson plan
call Melanie
and goodness knows what else, including wishing for more hours in a day.