Sunday, June 27, 2010

2nd post for Sunday: HOT, herbs, fruit, recipes, squash, sewing, yard, hearingaids, you name it....

It's hot. Very hot. Unbelievably hot. Jacques is just about wilting every time I make him stay inside - the favorite place is on a chair in the kitchen under the ceiling fan. And I just found him locked in the shed. Apparently after I was finished doing the yard around noon he snuck in there and I locked him in. How dreadful! Poor guy. I heard him meowing pitifully, barely, and decided to check the shed. Silly kitty. It must have been so hot in there today. Poor baby.
I had a kind of crazy weekend. Shorter than usual. Don Rash is coming on Monday and Tuesday to give a leather restoration workshop at work. I'm pretty excited about that. But I had to go in on Friday and get a bit of a head's up on next week. I've got too much to do, not enough time ... same ol' song and dance....
But yesterday and today were great. I didn't/don't really have any obligations at the moment. I probably should be working on my lesson plans for September, but it's still June for cryin' out loud! Last Wednesday we had a book fair for the Rare Book and Manuscript Librarians conference which was held in Philadelphia this year. It was pretty good, I say that because I sold two books. :) And for now the pressure is off at the moment in that arena.
So with no pressing obligations I dove into the search for my patterns. I knew I had packed some of my favorite patterns when I moved out of my house. I realize now that I didn't keep all of them. Silly me. But I did finally find the good ones, and then I went through fabric like a mad-crazy person trying to match up what should go with what. It brought back tons of memories of all of the things I've sewn before. Dresses I used to have, fabrics, patterns, etc. I know I dumped a bunch of things at the thrift store. Too bad. But I had no one else to give them too, and I wouldn't fit into them now, that's for sure. Oh well.
In my quest for new patterns I went to Chestnut Hill yesterday because it's the closest shop that has patterns in stock. But they only had one brand. And it's terrible when you can see on the models that the pattern just isn't all that. So I decided I would go to Jo Ann's Fabrics on Sunday.
But as fate would have it, I parked outside of an antique shop in Chestnut Hill. Look what I found:
Six champagne, um, schalen, what the heck are they called in English? Well, they are perfect for that, or a desert cup, or my new favorite summer cocktail:
Barefoot Zinfandel
a handful of fresh raspberries (from one's own vines)
a dousing of the lime flavored soda water from Trader Joe's

I really didn't need to buy them, but they were so beautiful and then because we talked she said, 10% off and I said, OK. I love them.
On my way home from Chestnut Hill I stopped by my Amish Farmer. he had some squash that was quite something: they were supposed to be picked quite a while ago, but ahem, "the wife and daughter let them go too long." So it was one dollar and I thought, well, I can experiment. Maybe I'll grill it or something.
My raspberries are still going strong, if you can believe it!
I'm still getting about a cup per week. Today when I was working outside, I pulled them all up and moved some and gave some to a friend - shoots that is. The rest of these will go into Zinfandel cocktails - or ice cream - haven't decided yet. Speaking of raspberries I called my great aunt this morning to see how things were going. Apparently Germany had just beaten England(?) in the World Cup so we're fine with that. However - I had to listen to an earful about the bloody hearing aide. Ugh. And she still couldn't hear me on the phone. I tried to tell her about my raspberries, Himbeeren, and she understood bears, Bären. The funny thing is you all can understand this because it's a cognate in English. Berrys, - you know, and it does sound a lot like Bears (the animal). Same in German. So she thought I had a bear in my yard. And I couldn't understand why she was so worried about what Jacques thought about that. Finally after the third time I shouted into the phone she figured it out. Who's fault? Mine - because I didn't pronounce things correctly. And somehow those two have gotten it into their heads that my aunt needed the hearing aide because I couldn't understand her. !!! I could not convince them that I had no problem understanding her, she couldn't understand me. HA! what a cruel irony.
I also made Apricot Sauce this week. Yum. Recipe:
very ripe apricots
a little bit of water to get them boiling
cinnamon stick
cardamom pods
light brown sugar
Melissa leaves
And of course I fooled around with this recipe the first night and got it perfect. Didn't get it right the second night when I had more apricots. The problem with seasonal fruit is that you'll just have to wait for a more accurate recipe until next year. But if you're brave you can try this one, just taste as you go along. It's really really good. But seriously, do not use dark brown sugar. It's the wrong flavor.
What are Melissa leaves? They are my new favorite herb.
My grandmother always used to use a Melissa oil for her bath and it smelled divine. Then one of my former students emailed to say she had made tea with fresh leaves. They are lemony but not sour. Perfect in all kinds of things. In addition to the apricot sauce, I put them into my rice tonight:
sesame oil
5 green onions chopped
3 slices fresh ginger
1 cup rice
1 ripe tomato
1/2 t. cumin
1 t. coriander
one sprig Melissa leaves
a bit of salt.
2 cups of water.
saute the first 3 ingredients. Add the water and everything else. Bring to a boil. Cook as normal for rice. Enjoy.


This is the news story I woke up to this morning on NPR.
Background: It is not possible to purchase any alcohol in grocery stores in Pennsylvania. Two Buck Chuck? ... is a myth at Trader Joe's in Philadelphia. This is a pain when you have to got to two different places to get all of the things you need because the Wine and Spirit stores are conveniently located nowhere near any other stores you want to shop at.
Here's the story:
The state liquor board would like to try a pilot program of selling wine in grocery stores. The program involves a kiosk where patron will have to insert their driver's licence, then stand in front of a camera for verification. A state liquor board employee will monitor the kiosk from a remote location to verify that the driver's licence is really you. The kiosk is also equipped with a breathalyzer to be sure no one is drunk.
Said a spokes person for the state: "We feel that jumping through a few hoops for the convenience of being able to purchase wine easily located next to the cheese shop or butcher, is a small price to pay for being able to match your wines with nice foods." (I'm paraphrasing - a bit - but not much.)
A couple of things spring to mind here:
1. 1984?
2. I'm not convinced that people who are going to the grocery store to match their fine foods with wines are the ones we really need to worry about, and anyone will to jump through those hoops is really not someone to worry about.
3. Actually, the liquor store is the closest thing to my neighborhood - the grocery store is three blocks further. (but let's not get into that issue in this post.)
4. Why can't I buy cooking sherry, or vermouth in the grocery store!? If I'm going to be matching nice wines to what I'm cooking, how about making it a bit easier access to some of that stuff.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

The things you notice - because of your Dad...

New Pennies are being minted! For reals! This would have just been some mundane fact had it not been for my dad. My dad collects coins. Pennies too. He gave me one of those penny collecting books when I was about 9. We had lots of conversations about pennies, which years were hard to come by because of the war, shortages of copper, and the change in the design. I remember asking him if it was hard getting used to switching from the wheat stalks penny to the Lincoln Memorial penny. Thinking at the time that I would never EVER experience such madness as redesigning money. I mailed one of the new ones to my dad for fathers day - he seemed excited about it.
Thank you Daddy for teaching me to pay attention to the details of life. Happy Father's Day!

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Catch up

It has been a crazy week.
Monday started me off in the emergency room of Wills Eye Emergency Room in Center City Philadelphia. Believe me this is not where I wanted to end up. Last Thursday I developed something in my eye. It was red and then on Friday it really started to hurt when I blinked. When I looked at it it seemed to have some sort of infected blister on the white of my eye. My theories were 1. some more sumac attacked me (because I seem to have a plantation in the back yard), or 2. when I was stripping the window, I had a reaction to something.
I had an appointment to see my doctor Monday night. My eye was completely bloodshot, painful, and looked teary. People couldn't talk to me without saying, "what's with your eye?" . The doctor in family medicine took one look at me and sent me over to the eye emergency room saying she couldn't do anything for me. "Don't worry," she said, "it's not like a regular emergency room, you'll see someone right away."
I walked in and there were at least a dozen people in the waiting room. I registered and it took an hour and a half to see a doctor. I finally got in the door and a nurse took my vitals, etc. and then sent me back out to the waiting room with a fancy bracelet with all of my specifics. An hour after that the other registrar took all of my insurance info. I asked her what the timeline was like and she told me it was hard to say. There was a teenager who wouldn't let anyone touch him (I'd already seen him come out into the waiting area cussing a blue streak about people not touching his f***ing eye!) and then a little boy had been admitted who needed emergency surgery.
Finally, four hours later, I saw a doctor (who I have to say was very good - completely stressed out it was obvious - but she was good because she was still very personable.) She didn't know what was going on, looked at my eyes, told me I had a freckle on the back of my eye ("did you know that?") then decided to dilate them. Oh yeah. And then she started poking my eye with a Q-tip. "Does that hurt?" Yes! dammit!
After that - she decided she didn't know what the problem was. She thinks I have "scleritis" - an inflammation of the sclera (doesn't that clear things up?). She said they didn't know what causes it. The treatment is an enormous does of ibuprofen and then because the dose is so enormous, (which might cause stomach bleeding), another dose of something else to deter the stomach bleeding. This is modern medicine? I didn't take the prescription.
At about midnight on Monday, in center city Philadelphia, I was released from the emergency room with my eyes completely dilated. Yay. I caught a cab home, thought it was safest. And it was. Except that I couldn't see the credit card machine to swipe my credit card. I gave the guy a big tip, told him what was up and asked him to watch me get into my house. He did.
And then, there is always icing on the cake....
I had let Jacques out before I went to the doctor and didn't put him back thinking I wouldn't be gone so long. Watsuki must have let him in at some point in the evening which was great. However, she didn't' have the key to apartment so Jacques was stuck in the stairwell. Poor guy. I was so relieved to be home, even though I could barely see and I made it almost to the top of the stairs... when I stepped right into the poop Jacques had made 2nd stair from the top. sigh. One can only laugh at this point. I didn't even see it. I let him in - fed him and then went back out trying to see out of the corners of my eyes to clean everything up. I did the best I could.
I've been trying to recover since Monday night. The junk the doctor put in my eye seems to have helped. The infection started going down by the next day. The redness was quite reduced, and today it's very minimal. I was supposed to go to the doctor on Friday, but then they said I had to have a referral from my regular doctor. (?) Which I tried to take care of but you all know how bureaucracy works. So I postponed the appointment until next Friday. Hopefully I can get the referral - I just really want then to check on things and make sure everything is as good as it can be.
Needless to say, I've been recovering from that evening ever since.
I'm still working on my window sills. I tried using my heat gun but after I burned the wood I decided to stick with the liquid paint stripper. I did try to use the super fast stuff - and promptly burned my arm with that crap. From now on- the Orange Stripper is the only stuff for me. It might be a bit slower and smell funny, but it does the job, it doesn't burn my skin if some accidentally gets on, and yeah, well, that's enough.
This could possibly be the summer project. It will be worth it once it's done. I'm sure it will be beautiful! Plus I'll be able to close shutters. I'm pretty excited about that.
And lastly, while I should have been making a graduation gift for a friend of mine's daughter, I worked on a dress. I feel a bit guilty about it - but I think I really needed a break from my "to do" list.
The dress sewing was prompted by a co-worker, who has been trying to sew an apron dress for a while. I found the pattern she was looking for in my stash-o-patterns when I was cleaning my studio. Ever since then I've been craving the chance to sew my own. I know it has been at least two years because the last time I sewed was in my apartment. And if I'm right - the last time I sewed any clothes was even on South Street which was back in 2003. Oh, no, I did sew some blouses for myself on Spring Garden St. But that was back in 2005-6. So at least four years since I've sewed something for myself. And with this co-worker talking about it quite often - I was feeling the itch to cut some fabric.

This is what I made.
It's a dress I've made once before, with ultramarine raw silk. Backless. But I was 22 at the time. When I tried this on without the yellow addition, I realized, that I can't go backless anymore. For one thing - I still have the tan-line from two years ago when I was wearing a tank top in the garden and got a sun burn. This doesn't look too good backless. So I added the golden piece which covers the rotten tan line, and that part, I think, looks okay. But I did also do some "inventing" on my own and made the skirt a bit wider than the pattern calls for. I'm not sure it looks great. Hmm, We'll have to see. I'll have to try it on for someone I trust to give me an honest opinion.
This week is the Rare Book and Manuscripts Librarians Conference in Philadelphia. There is a big book fair on Wednesday. I should be working on things for that. Instead I'm sitting in front of the fan trying not to sweat too much. There is only so much a person can do in one day.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Jeff's back! Fixing the dormers on the 3rd floor

Well wouldja lookit that! (Compare the left one with the right one). The left one has brand new aluminum capping on it, the right one is still the rotten wood. I've got to see if Jeff will paint the blue stripes back on there - of if he'll let me do that on Friday while the scaffolding is still up. I'm pretty sure I still have some of the paint in the basement.
Jeff talked me into the aluminum siding. He said it would be less expensive than wood and the wood just won't last as long anyway. He said I'd have to replace the wood in 10 - 20 years anyway. He's seen that happen on some of the work he did on houses 10 years ago. The wood just doesn't last long enough. "Wood just isn't made the way it used to be" (huh?) Well, lets hope he's right.
Short post because I have to go to work and still put out the spray foam which I forgot to get for him yesterday.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Back to workin' on the house

Ever since my fabulous real estate agent said, oh look you might have shutters painted shut here on the first floor in the bay window, I've been dying to strip the "molding" around the first floor windows and find out. I decided my summer project would be to strip the paint around the bay window. Even if I don't have shutters back there, having the real wood show through would be more beautiful anyway. What a mess. I don't understand why anyone would paint 15 layers of paint over such beautiful wood. This house must have been amazing back in the day. Everywhere where I find the original stuff, it's gorgeous. Remember the banister? Beautiful Mahogany.
After two evenings of lots of orange stripper stuff, lots of scraping, then sawing, because the shutters were actually nailed opened at one point, my hard work paid off:
I do indeed have beautiful shutters stuck in the walls there. How could anyone ever! paint these open!? The insides haven't been touched - there are cobwebs and a little dust, but I think if I just wipe them down they will be as beautiful as they were to begin with. I also found a lottery ticket from 1983. Wonder if it's still good - or even worth something. Would that be terrific!? And another cool thing is that the shutters are in two halves. Top half and bottom half. So the top half could be open for light, the bottom half closed for privacy. I can't tell you how excited I am about these.
But before I can really enjoy them, I have to finish stripping them. That's going to be a lot of work. At lease now I know there will be a big reward when I'm finished. Yay!
In other news, I finished my other sock. Yep, on Sunday in 90 degree sweltering humidity I sat here knitting. But now, I am all set for November. Problem is, I don't know what to knit now.
Oh, and by the way, I did buy the gold shoes.
What do you think... are they me?

Oh and PS: Jeff's back. (of the fabulous bathroom). He's going to fix the leak on the third floor and pull rotten wood off everywhere and make things look good and be airtight again. Sigh, I don't have enough to pay him for everything that needs to be done, but at least its a start. I've got to look into that lottery ticket.
And then next week that lucky duck is going backpacking through Yosemite. I haven't been to Mammoth for too long. (that's the back side of Yosemite - our summer family vacation place) I should go back.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Home again

Oh boy, home again. Glad to see the cat - he's clearly glad to see me. Had to wake me up every two hours to be sure I was still there. Now he's lying in his basket, snoozing. Poor guy - I have to give him flee stuff today. He's not going to be thrilled.
To sum up the last of Germany, I guess some good things happened. The hearing aides are happening, and my aunt should have them sometime next week. She seems to be excited about them. She keeps turning to my uncle, pointing her finger at him and saying, "you just wait until I can hear again!" I also managed to have a good talk about meals on wheels with both of them. So I hope that happens as well. It would be good for them. It was clear to me by the end of the week that my uncle is not eating enough. When I first got there, he had no energy. Everything was extremely difficult, he really didn't want to do anything and there was no fight in him, like there usually is. I cooked all week, he ate everything I put in front of him, big plate of food, cake, torte, strawberries with cream (he's not supposed to have cream according to my aunt - well, what she doesn't know....) So by Thursday he was happily explaining everything my aunt was telling me as usual, even though I understood everything in the first place. I really hope they get that meals on wheels, they need it.
In the meantime, I'm home, it's really hot and humid in Philadelphia, and my garden needs some serious reigning in. The grass went wild, weeds too, but the tomatoes grew a bit and my raspberries:
Here's my first serious crop of raspberries and there are still more. They are so sweet! I have no idea what to do with them, pancakes? ice cream? preserves? muffins? Or maybe I'll just keep eating a few every time I pass the bowl. I also have a billion potatoes still, I think I'll make potato salad today. That will keep for a while, and will be super yummy.
And since I have to go to market anyway..... maybe raspberry ice cream? Hmmmm :)

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

The roller coaster ride from hell

Well, lets start with something positive, shall we?
I may actually like knitting socks.
I forbade myself from purchasing too much yarn this time around. However, I did buy this stuff - and knitted these. I'm finished with one now I have to start the other. But these are FUN! They twist! and then when you use the recommended yarn (Regia - designed by Kaffe Fasette) The twists turn the pattern into diamond boxes. I can't wait to finish the other one... which shouldn't take to long....

So the roller coaster started last Thursday evening, when I got to see a friend of mine whom I haven't seen in almost 10 years. So we sat on the patio, it was cold, we talked until 1 in the morning, and I caught a cold. Yup. I was miserable on Friday. All my fault.
Friday. I try to get ahold of the hotel I'm supposed to stay at in Kissingen. (where my aunt lives). We finally get through to a very strange lady, who, when I asked for directions say, well you come to Kissingen and before you come to the bridge you turn right, right before the bridge!! I asked if there was a sign - yeah yeah! call me when you get there, I don't stay there, but I live very close. Me: I don't have a phone - I'll call you this afternoon when I know when I'll be there. Okay Okay - I'll be waiting for you then.
No. First of all, it was left, and second no where near the bridge and third I would only have seen the sign if I were coming from the other direction. It's nine when I get there - and 10 when I finally get out of the car, and ask another hotel where this place is and find it. Oh, says the waitress, it's hidden, and she gives me directions. Hidden is not the word, and it was completely dark. No one anywhere. I find a pay phone - the phone number she gave me answers with something to the effect of, "this phone number doesn't function" Now what. I have no money because I didn't think I needed any - I try call the booking agency with my last three euros, no help. Finally out of money, and completely frustrated, I walk across the street to where there is a beer sign hanging on the door and there is a sign that says, rooms available. I know it's 10:30 at night. I ring the bell. The nicest people I've ever met great me - take care of everything I zonk out.
Saturday - I wake up and I'm feeling much better from my cold and I get myself to my aunt and uncle. All I have to say is that old people should not take care of other old people. Just imagine the smell. It was overwhelming. I ran around opening windows, tried not to freak them out by being upset, but of course by the afternoon I lost it and fell apart in tears. I tried to talk to them about people who could help, nurses who could help. Nope - they don't need that - every thing's been going fine, and it will still be fine. It was horrible.
Sunday - same thing but worse. I fell apart again because I found out some more horrible things about about the way they were functioning that made me so upset. My uncle and I argued, I couldn't hold it together and said I would leave. Then I was forbidden to leave - I finally manage to get out... and it may not have been such a bad thing.
Monday - I run errands. 1. Reading glasses for my Aunt. 2. new house shoes for my uncle (his toes are peeping through the others. 3. other unmentionables 4. talk to someone about a hearing aide. 5. Introduce myself to my uncles nephew whom I've never met - find out he is a great guy, and he's been having the same conversation with them for years. We are all just banging our heads against the wall. Make my peace with the fact that I can't do as much for them as I wanted. Go back to them, they are happy to see me,I find out my aunt almost fell this morning and it scared the crap out of everybody. Their ears are a bit more open now.
Today - the hearing aide guy is supposed to come. Talk about an exciting day. Good lord. What will my aunt wear? This is a two hour conversation. Trying to convince her to get in the wheel chair to move her to the kitchen - forget it. The guy comes - she has 20% hearing in one ear at 105 decible. (that's practically nothing) and 60% in the other ear. The one ear is pretty much blocked, the other is okay. She likes Mr. Müller because he speaks properly, the rest of the people can't speak properly anymore, they all just mumble. Mr. Müller tries to explain that everyone speeks just fine, she just can't hear, she doesn't seem convinced. After an hour of checking things out, my Uncle is exhausted - he can't handle all of this, the hearing aids are going to cost 900 and something Euros each. The best part of all of this is? Mr. Müller recommended some which are self adjusting. She just has to put them on. My uncle the "optimist" says this will never, never work - we can't do this... blah blah blah. My aunt says, "When do I get them?" Now I've got to work this out with the nephew and hopefully my uncle won't manage to sabotage this. It would be so good not to have to scream at her everytime we need to talk. Even though its pretty comical.
"Where is he?" in "Porto"
I'm trying to get them to have some meals on wheals - I'm trying to think of the best place on the wall so that I can start slamming my head against it.
Oh, and I also had the nerve to bring flowers - my aunt loves them, my uncle ... well - it might have been better if I'd have brought cow pattys. He walked around all afternoon muttering and I finally heard him say, "scheiss Blumen" - (basically f*** flowers) Poor guy.
Alright - bedtime, one more day.