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...

Friday, October 26, 2012

Moving Forward

To sum up from the last post - the guy who cut the tree down did come and clean up my yard. I got a message that evening to that effect along with, "you are better off anyway the tree was growing in the retaining wall" and  "oh what a cool beehive" (yeah - I'm glad nothing happened to it), and "stop by the garden, I'll give you some turnips." Turnips. He thinks he can placate me with a bunch of turnips?  
I'm wondering about the tree in the retaining wall too - the wall is/was fine while the tree was there. Better than the other end with no tree which has completely washed out. What is going to happen now that the tree is dead? He's not going to remove the stump (it looks like) and so what will happen when the thing rots? I'd like to know. Not to mention that the view has been completely disrupted. I hate looking out the back window now.  It is very depressing. And there is no quick fix to this. Who knows how many more years that house will stand there vacant? Even if I decide to grow my own tree there it will take years to fill in and cover things up again. Most of the time I can forget it - until I go outside. Even Jacques looks forlornly in the direction of the lost tree. Then he looks at my as though I could do something about it.
Well, life does go on, and so does house maintenance:
I had a few hours today to do a bit more on the porch. So I did another little section of it. Things go much faster with an electric sander! But I'm running out of sand paper...

And because he's so cute... I'm including a picture of Swee'pea. I've been working on my Guild of Book Worker's exchange project. While I was trying to photograph my bathroom floor, this little ham came in. He's not usually this photogenic. Maybe because the radiant heat was on and the tiles were a cozy 85°F?

Friday, October 19, 2012

Update to homecoming

As it turns out the person responsible for cutting the tree down didn't own the property where the tree was growing. When I talked with him on the phone, he lied to me, saying that he came every year to trim the tops (not in the last four). And he said that the tree was rotten on the inside. I looked. It's not. He did say he'll be back to pull the wires back in shape. Let's hope. But what a jerk. I don' t know why he felt he had to take the tree down - or why he was entitled to without talking to ANYONE! He doesn't live anywhere near there - nor does he now have to look at the ugly houses the tree was hiding. But there is nothing I can do. The tree wasn't on my property.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Unpleasant homecoming

There used to be a tree there. Right there. Covering those ugly houses. Back in the corner. I can't find a before image except when it was snowing. So I can't show you how lovely it used to be. The tree was not in may yard. But of course, people had to get into my yard to a) cut it down and b) clean up after themselves. Turns out it I know who it was. Now I need to call them and say a) let me know before you help yourself to my yard and b) clean up after yourself!

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Front Porch Work

 The morning glories are finishing up their run for the year and yes, I know they are weeds, but they are just so pretty. This one crawled up one of the columns on the porch and I can only see it when I go outside. Which with the 36°F we've been having in the morning will not be for much longer.

I've been wanting to work on the front of the porch for a long time. The tenants were out of town for two weeks and that would have been a great time to do the front porch. No need to worry about letting them in or out and hopefully no one stepping on it while it was still wet. But I didn't get to it. The other thing to ponder is how to remove the paint from the granite block there under the door. It looks terrible. 
I tried some of the orange remover and Goo-Gone and they sort of helped but didn't get all of it. It also left some grey patches on the granite. There must be some other way to clean this stuff. I'll have to make a trip to the Home Depot. I probably also need filters for the heater anyway. 
After trying to remove the paint I started sanding the wood to prep for the staining. I should have done this back in April when the porch was finished. Now I had to sand out the stains and sun burns and some of the weathering that had already happened. But I was successful.  
When you spend time with something, that's when you really get to know it - as I taped up the edge of the wall so that I could patch that paint, I found proof that Andrew did lower the pitch of the porch by about an inch. So, Daddy, when you come again, you won't have to work on such a giant step to get in.
And there is the finished (first) portion. Now at least everyone (tenants, me, mail carrier, Obama stumpers) can all step on the porch. I'm pretty happy with it. Now I just have to do the rest of it! Sigh. I'll get there but it might take a while.  

My dad asked me on the phone tonight if I had painted the columns and I realized I haven't posted about that. Yes, I did paint the columns along with the back steps. The thing is, all of the porch needs a fresh coat of paint. But that is a lower priority... and it will be easier when all the plants are dead and I cut cut them down. 

When I got cold last weekend I picked all of the tomatoes, green and red.

I have miles of tomatoes and there are only so many fried green ones a person can eat - no matter how yummy. Many of them have turned red and I made more tomato sauce last night.