Monday, December 31, 2012

Tying up loose ends..

Well, I can't say I'm sorry to see the end of 2012. It's been one hell of a year. Ups and Downs in the extreme... but on the eve of 2013, I'm still here.
This is also probably the first year I can say I made New Year's resolutions and actually kept them! Weight Watchers and Yoga. Still doing both. With excellent results. I have some new resolutions, one of which includes keeping last year's resolutions.
Also on the eve of 2013 I have a new tenant. Thank goodness! He seems very nice - let's hope that is an accurate impression. Lease is signed - deposit is received. As long as he is quiet - all will be swell!
On New Years Eve we have all treated ourselves to shrimp - although only two of us ate any. I put two plates of raw, chopped shrimp down, but I think only one kitty ate all of it - Swee'pea. Jacques went into the bedroom and pouted. It wasn't what he expected. So I fried up some bacon hopeing that to do the trick. Well, he did come out of the bedroom, but wasn't interested in eating any of it. Which I suppose is healthiest.
My last goal for 2012 was to post the same number of blog posts as last year. And with this one - I've manage it! While I've been working on it I've listened to this amazing project that Ann introduced me to: A virtual choir. This is a project done by choral composer Eric Whitacre. This was one of those coincidence things. This piece, Lux Aurumque was sung by Chorale Bel Canto at their Christmas Concert that I was invited to. I remember wishing I could find this piece to listen to it again - it is so beautiful. When I came back from Kauai - the pieces fell into place. I think Ann mentioned it, and we googled the project and found it. The TED talk can be found here. It's much better explained on the TED talk, but the gist of things is:  people from around the world sing the different parts into their computers, send him the final piece and he edits them into the Virtual Choir. If you are the kind of person who looks for hope and peace in the world you should check this out. He is working for the fourth incarnation of this project through kickstarter.There's another video there too...

With that I wish you all a very happy and healthy 2013!

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Happy Holidays!

Happy Holidays everyone! This time last Saturday I was camped out on a beach getting a royal sunburn. Now I am back home in Philadelphia where it snowed most of the day and I am freezing! All that sun and 80° temperatures spoiled me. Ah well, it was worth it. In between sunburn and frostbite, I spent the week with my dad and Ann in California. It was the perfect stop over and there were wonderful get-togethers and lots of family time. So nice not to think about any of the madness of my Philly life. I also got to spend a bit of time spoiling the cat Bubb - who is now 17! and not quite as spry as he used to be - but he can still tell you all about it. 
There was also plenty of knitting to be done for Christmas gifts -  or in this case felting. I knitted Ann a pair of slippers that needed to be felted down. Here they are before felting, as knitted.
Then they were felted!... uh, into fish, apparently.   
What went wrong?
Turns out I hadn't finished reading the instructions which said to sew up the back. Hmph. My excuse is that the instructions were in German and I was so glad I'd made it through the actual knitting instructions (they were not quite right and I needed to adjust a lot) that I missed the heading where it said "finishing".
But the front parts fit perfectly, so I improvised:  
 I just sewed the sides forward and now Ann has some very toasty slippers. We want to get some non-skid stuff for the bottom. I hope JoAnn's carries something along those lines. 
Aren't they cute? I want a pair....But first there are Daddy's socks to be finished.
Poor Daddy. There was lots of trying-on needed with these. I found a great sock pattern, but without the actual foot and never having knitted these before, it's tricky to get the size right. The first sock was too long in the foot so it was a little loose. I knitted the second sock 1/2" shorter and now the heal is just right. So then the first sock needed to be taken apart and re-knitted.
So Daddy only got half a pair of socks for Christmas - I suggested we could leave them as booties - even tried to sweeten the deal with pompoms for the back. But that suggestion was not met with enthusiasm.

Now I am back home trying to adjust to "real life" and all of those responsibilities. But I took a red-eye - (gosh those are miserable flights) arrived home and got about half an hour of sleep. I still feel like I'm on the plane and its going up and down... so it's been a slow day.

My wonderful tenants are moving out today as well, which is very sad. They were really great. We had a nice talk and got caught up on all of their plans. Things seem to be falling into place nicely for them. Let's hope the same happens for me with a new tenant!

My kitties are also glad I'm home. I didn't get the cold shoulder but Jacques did pee right on my shoes - so maybe that's was his "welcome back" gift. 


Swee'pea got a belated Christmas gift he was very excited about - a sheet of newsprint paper! A sheet of paper on the floor is the best. It must be because (as AnneMaree put it) he is now half a millimeter higher than the rest of the floor.
All Jacques wanted for Christmas was to GO OUT! So in spite of the snow, I let him out and he was so happy he didn't even complain very much. He stayed out for about an hour and when I let him back in and he seemed happy to follow me around the apartment purring. 

And finally, yours truly turned another year older. Ann and Daddy took me to my favorite Mexican restaurant, El Cholo and you get to wear the birthday sombrero. Thought you might like to see the silly picture. I need to find the picture from my 18th birthday. It might be the same sombrero.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

The day the world was supposed to end....

I spent it in paradise. It was a beautiful day - hiking, beach, ahi tacos, more beach, sunset, farmer's market.... it was a good day.
Some images from the last few days: 
Tuesday: Abalone Shells Christmas Tree in Poipu

Wednesday Morning early: The No Name Beach.
Very rough surf, but beautiful sun and waves. I saw a sign for hiking so I thought I'd follow the trail. Not really a trail just a walkway down to the beach. 

Thursday: after second kick-ass yoga class, a hike to a view of Hanalei valley.
While the hike was pretty short - only 2 miles up, then 2 down, this was a very muddy, and therefore very slippery, and therefore not an easy hike. A walking stick was much needed. But it was worth it to get up high enough to see the entire valley. Those are taro fields below. Incredibly picturesque, like walking in a National Geographic magazine.  

Today: (The day the world was supposed to end) A hike over Kuilau trail.  This image is a little dark because it was about 2 seconds before the heavens opened up and poured on us - as it does every half hour or so around here - but you can see the trail across the little valley in all of the lush greenery. 

Then I had lunch in Kapa'a, looked at shops, sat on a very windy beach because it was actually sunny and there was no guarantee that it would be sunny in Hanalei.
Then I decided to go all the way to the end of the road - to the start of the Na Pali Coast. And I caught the sun set.

 I couldn't decide which image I liked best, so you can decide for yourself. But I do think my blog may need a make over. I want to be able to show larger images and this old (ancient! in fact) blog template doesn't let me do that. So - you've been warned - my blog may get a face lift towards the beginning of 2013.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Kauai, 2012

I'm in the land of a thousand rainbows. And it must be true. I know that December is the rainy season so the north side of the island where I'm staying is kind of miserable. Well - okay WARM - but still just rain. I thought I'd go to the Kauai Coffee Company on the southwest side of the island,  to buy my favorite coffee - Blue Mountain Roast. They were out. Humph. Well I guess I just have to come back. When I looked north I saw this unusual rainbow - so low to the ground. It was quite lovely.
I ventured on to Kekaha to the beach there. It was bright and sunny but windy. I sat there with a handful of other tourists who, like me, were desperately determined to have SUN on the December vacation to Hawaii.
What a shame that I have to come all the way back. I'm hoping that it will be just as sunny. :)

Friday, December 7, 2012

A pretty picture I took

Hello Everyone -
I've been wanting to post for a while, but there is so much stuff going on that's NOT postable - and besides, because of all that, I haven't done anything anyway.
I have been writing recipes up for our blog at work and I took this beautiful picture for that blog and wanted to share it here:

Isn't that gorgeous? Those are blonde beets from my CSA share in one of my blue bowls.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Inching along

Yes I am - inching along. Tackling the porch slowly but surely.  Its tough because the weather proofing actually need 72 hours to cure, 24 hours with no rain. Well - it has been hard to coordinate that with time to work on sanding the wood. I hope to be finished, ahem, this year. 
Last weekend I managed to get to the corner. 
Today I got a little further. 
And this is what's left. Let's hope that's only a weekend or two. We'll see if I can work on it tomorrow.
  Baseboards also needed to be painted. 
So  I did.

 We are now in our fall Crop Share and I got something really fun. Strawberry popcorn.
 Isn't it beautiful?
 So I shucked it and it is ready for popping.
 I'm getting lots of root vegetables as well. Yams, sweet potatoes, turnips, giant radishes and a cauliflower. And what do you do with all of these veggies?
Well you roast them of course!
 Little olive oil, rosemary and salt go along way.

Monday, October 29, 2012

And the rain came sideways...

I couldn't sleep this morning. Wide awake at 5:30 am. And since it didn't seem like the storm had hit yet, I thought - well heck, I'll go to the grocery store! Yesterday I had settle for the milk as that was essential, but I had wanted:  celery, lemons, and onions - for reasons I will explain in a bit. But let me tell you - 6am the morning of a big storm is the day to shop. Only me and a few other half awake poor souls. Got everything I wanted and walked right up to the self check out. In and out and home in 15 minutes. 
I got home and thought I better check on my handy work. Good thing I did.
Look at that! There is so much water in that tube it collapsed. It needed some serious prepping up so that the water would run out.

Problem number 2 - there wasn't enough slope for the other drain to drain properly away from the house.
The water was just running right out into the biggest problem spot for the basement!

So to work. After half an hour of trying to fiddle with things as they were, bonking my head on the railings in the corner a few times, I got the bright idea to switch the contraptions. This worked much better.  
Although it's not draining at the end of the black thingy - it's draining out in the lawn which is a plus. 

 There is so much water coming off of my house - it is unbelievable!
It's just pouring off in a steady stream. I'm going to have a big mud puddle there on Wednesday - but that's better than the water running down directly in the ground right beside the house. This was about all I could do. I went into the house and hoped for the best. I've kept an eye on these drains all day and so far they haven't blown away.
And what do you do on a hurricane day? Just marvel at how the world shuts down. Work was closed today. There was no public transportation operating and the radio was full of doom. But I decided to make the most of my good fortune and do a bunch of things I've been wanting to do for a while. First on the list - put a pot of split pea on the stove and let it simmer all day. That's what the celery and onion were for from my shopping excursion.

And then a glorious studio day! What a luxury to spend so much unbroken time working. I have an exchange due next Saturday for the Guild of Bookworkers. I'm very happy with what I ended up making. While the soup was simmering I got everything prepped and printed and had two long chats on skype with Melanie - the birthday girl :), which ended when her power went out. I really hope our power doesn't go out, but if it does I have plenty to do tomorrow. My exchange still needs to be folded and a tab glued on. None of that requires electricity.

And what do you do with the rest of your evening? Have a cooking and taste testing evening of course. Yes really. I've decided The Cookbook needs some hype so I'm going to post some blog posts on our blog at work. I've been choosing which recipes to feature. This is tough because some of the best ones don't sound so great. But they are delicious! Not to mention super easy. The first one I really want to post is the Cauliflower with White Sauce. Mostly because I got two heads in my CSA share last week and it needs to be eaten. The sauce is - (well, Mrs. Emlen calls for cream - but I used whole milk which worked just fine) - cream, butter, flour, a good deal of white pepper [sic], nutmeg and a bit of salt.

 Next I made Mrs. Washington's lettuce tart. This is a Thanksgiving standard of mine, but I need to take pictures for the blog post. So I whipped one up. This is super easy. Cover the bottom of a pie crust with chopped prunes which have been sprinkled with sugar and cinnamon. Blanch chopped cabbage and put on top of the prunes. Cover the whole with another crust. Bake for 30 mins. 350°F. Don't knock it 'till ya tried it.

And finally I tried something new. This will need a bit of perfecting but it is going to be a new favorite as well. Rice Dumplings call for apples peeled and cored, abit of rice for each apple, grated lemon peel and a thick wine sauce - wine, flour, butter, sugar, and nutmeg. So you put the rice in the middle of a thin cloth, put the apple on top and the grated lemon peal in the core. Wrap the whole thing tightly put it into cold water.  Bring alto a boil, then cook 20 minutes. Wine sauce - boil wine (I used what I had - a shiraz (very strong flavor but tasted great), adding the sugar and nutmeg. Smash the butter and flour together, and when the wine is boiling whisk in the butter/flour mixture. Stir until thick. To serve, somehow you are supposed to remove the apple/rice dumpling from the cloth without the rice breaking apart (or apparently off of the apple). I was not very successful.
 Who helped me eat all this food? My tenants, who are such lovely people. We were all off today and when I bumped into them this afternoon and asked if they were up for some taste testing they said sure! We had fun thinking about how to correct the rice dumplings. Maybe I should have used sticky rice - maybe the fabric has to be removed immediately - maybe it has to be cold - dipped in cold water? Or maybe the muslin I used was too thick. Maybe I need to use cheesecloth. The bottom line is that this dish was so good, it really won't be a chore to perfect it.

The storm really rolled in while we were eating. And now as I'm typing my standard leak over the window is back. At first it was just a few drips. The strong winds have been coming from the North all day. Since I am the south side of the twin - the other house has been taking the brunt of the weather. But I think the storm has turned somehow. The wind is now hitting me straight from the east. This is pushing the water into the gap between the window sill on the third floor and the roof. I'm kind of hoping the storm will turn again and lay off on that. But as long as the electricity stays put, I will be a happy camper. Cross your fingers.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

The calm before the storm

Well, I give in - it seems that Frankenstorm really is serious. My work will be closed tomorrow and I probably will not have to go in as long as the roof doesn't blow off. If it does... I hate to think.
Anyway - I realized I was almost out of milk and as this is essential to a decent cup of coffee, I thought I would make a quick trip to the grocery store.
Quick? Nope. It was utter bedlam. It seems that the entire student body of UPenn decided to stock up as well. I decided to bypass the regular grocery store in favor of the Indian/Pakistani store two blocks over. Wise choice - there were less than 10 people in the place. So I got my milk and treated myself to some Samosa's.
Some of us seem to be able to handle the anticipation of the storm better than others. I returned home from my 20 minute excursion to find:
And the guilty party showing the portrait of innocence: 
But since he was just so cute (curled up IN the basket of yarn) when I got home from my bike ride this morning, there is never a doubt of forgiveness.  

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Battenin' down the hatches

Well! Apparently the mother of all storms is barreling down on us. They are calling it Frankenstorm. (groan). So we'll see. Just in case it really is (snort) Frankenstorm, I took care of a few things - with Jacques' help of course.
The first thing that needed to be safely stowed away is the Obama sign. Recycled from four years ago, this one is out in the yard. The other one is in the window on the second floor - for those who look up! 
I spent the morning running around the neighbor hood campaigning. I don't know about this Saturday morning stuff. There are a lot of people still in bed at 10am. Doing this campaigning has been very humbling. I've been walking around some of the poorer neighborhoods of Philadelphia and yes, well, let's just leave it at very humbling.
One of the nicer things happening is this vine that has started growing up the El's wall. I hope it goes unnoticed for a while and next year can take over more of that ugly wall. I'm sure if Mr. El was here he'd yank it down (not good for the plaster), but it will be beautiful if it covers that whole wall.
Matt came this morning and strapped the bees down. I'm also wondering what will happen since the big tree is gone. I'm sure it did some protecting of my property. We'll have to see... 
 The next order of business was to try to get as much water to run away from the house as possible. I don't know if I've mentioned this before but my yard is some of the only ground for several properties around - so all the run off water from my house and the El's house lands in my yard. Which of course makes the ground around my basement very wet - so - guess what? My basement will probably never by dry. I'm hoping I can get some of the water to run as far away as possible. Here's the first setup. And yes, that is the Hello Kitty duct tape because I couldn't find any of the other ones I've got flying around here somewhere.

This is the downspout that gives me the most trouble. I was trying to get the water to run away under the porch but that doesn't seem to be working. With Jacques' help I'm directing it way out into the yard. 
 I have a feeling this is not going to solve the problem either.
I'm sure I'll have to come up with something else.
 Not sure what yet.
While I was at it. I cleaned up all of the pots that used to have bulbs planted in them. They were perfect lunch for the squirrels. I found about five bulbs in 20 pots. I also re-potted the Night Blooming Sirius. It hasn't bloomed in two years - but maybe next year. Here's hoping...