Sunday, November 18, 2012

Sandy Sandy-y Why-y-y-y-y

Truth be told, we were extremely lucky during Superstorm Sandy. Being quite distant from a major body of water helped immensely, and being in a town, as supposed to a more isolated subdivision or rural area, afforded us a power loss of only a matter of seconds. Overall, we lost a few shingles and one non-major branch off our largest tree. Mind you, I imagined much worse as I drank a restorative while trying to concentrate on an episode of Sherlock, mostly because the wind was blowing directly at the wall we were facing and it surely sounded as though the wall was coming down or the roof, off.

Anyhow, before the storm came, I tried to take a few photos of the fall scenes around our property that were shortly going to be, forgive me, gone with the wind, for the most part.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

The Table Comes First

I haven't read this book – The Table Comes First: Family, France, and the Meaning of Food – but I heard an interview with its author in which he said that one of its (and his) most basic sentiments is that the first thing a newly married couple should buy is a dinner table.

Well, it wasn't our first thing.

But we soon realized how much we needed one.

We had two very small tables from our respective apartments, but they didn't inspire regular dining room use or serve much of a purpose when people came over.

A few weeks ago, we went to the annual chili pepper fest a few towns over and met a woodworker named Roy Martin who specializes in dining room furniture. We had planned to go to a furniture chain store after the fest, but an hour of talking to Mr. Martin (or as he has inexplicably become known in our house, Ladies and Gentleman, Mr. Roy Martin), we were ruined for commercially produced tables. That combined with C's late, furniture-store-owning father's voice ringing loudly in her ears, saying "No veneers! Whatever you do, no veneers!", led us straight back to the Martin workshop in a matter of days.

It was a bit frightening to order something so custom. We're used to picking from a selection, not picking which leg goes with which apron with which chair with which stain...anyway, it was a heady and nervous-making experience, but Mr. Martin made us feel confident. And the table came Monday.

We'll add some better photos as we can, but here's some initial ones because we're too pleased to wait:

Do what you can to ignore the detracting surroundings. I think we did all right, don't you? Plus, we were fortunate – the maple Mr. Martin bought included pieces of tiger stripe maple, which has a particularly pretty grain. He lucked out, so we lucked out – he didn't charge us any more.

Edited to add this note/correction from Wikipedia:

Flame maple (tiger maple), also known as flamed maple, curly maple, ripple maple, fiddleback or tiger stripe, is a feature of maple in which the growth of the wood fibers is distorted in an undulating chatoyant pattern, producing wavy lines known as "flames". This effect is often mistakenly said to be part of the grain of the wood; it is more accurately called "figure", as the distortion is perpendicular to the grain direction. Prized for its beautiful appearance, it is used frequently in the manufacturing of musical instruments, such as violins and bassoons, and fine furniture. Another well-known use of the material is its use in guitars, especially the venerated Gibson Les Paul. The Gibson Les Paul "Standard", initially manufactured from 1958 to 1960, sported a flame maple top finished in a cherry-red sunburst on a mahogany body. Today, these instruments are some of the most prized on the vintage guitar market, and as such are unaffordable to most musicians.

"During the westward expansion of early settlers and explorers into the lands west of the Appalachian Mountains, curly maple was often used for making the stocks used on Kentucky rifles.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

House of C and E Recipe Exclusive!

The tomatoes are coming in faster than we know what to do with.  Taking a recipe from C's mom, N, we've came up with this simple little recipe that's great for using up the torrent of tomatoes (and any other goodies from the garden that you'd like to use up) that occurs this time of year.

Tomatoes - as many as you can use
Garlic - several cloves
A pasta
Fresh basil
Olive oil

In a baking dish, add a couple tablespoons of olive oil, to coat the bottom of the dish.  Add whatever pasta you prefer, covering the bottom of the dish to form about a half inch layer of pasta (we've used Barilla's tortellini - in a bag, not frozen, in the pasta aisle).  Add as many tomatoes on top of the pasta.  If you're using larger tomatoes, chop each into a few pieces.  We've been using the small sun sugar tomatoes (like cherry tomatoes) from the garden so we just add them whole.  Fill up the rest of the dish space (and even a little over the top) with the tomatoes.  Scatter several cloves of garlic over the tomatoes (seriously, we usually use 5-7 cloves).  If you have it, break up some fresh basil over the tomatoes (again, I don't think you can add too much).  Salt and pepper to taste.

Cover the baking dish with a snug-fitting sheet of aluminum foil.  Pop it into a 425 degree oven for about 30 - 45 minutes.  Ultimately, the tomatoes will disintegrate into a glorious soup of tasty tomato goodness, a lot of which will be soaked up by the pasta as it cooks.  Once the tomatoes have transformed into the sublime sauce and the pasta is soft, you're ready to eat.  Enjoy!


Saturday, September 8, 2012

House Miscellania

We've done a lot and not that much at the same time this summer. Sports had a little to do with that – Euro Cup, Tour de France, then the Olympics (see specialized house flag below, displayed for the opening ceremonies:)

We are slowly but steadily advancing on the dining room.

As reference:

We bought, stained, and assembled some all-wood bargain, adjustable, AND foldable adirondack chairs (always wanted some – pictures to come) from our friendly neighborhood hardware store.

More to post as the reinvigoration continues...

Fruit of the Vine, Work of Human Hands

Well, a long overdue garden update, then? You've got it.

This is a shot of the bounty's beginnings in late July:

Some lovely onions, Sunsugar tomatoes, and serrano peppers.

And then there were these in early August:


These are Yukon Golds, and they are delectable. E has been coming up with ways to cook as many things as possible on the grill, and he's taken to chopping these up and roasting them in foil with olive oil, butter onions, salt, and pepper. As a person of Eastern European and Irish background, I delight in this. I also delight in digging up the potatoes – it's like being a kid again, digging for treasure.

You'll note some onions here too. They were fine, but didn't do much, possibly due to underwatering. I'll have to give some thought as to whether I'll do them again next year, or perhaps just do a second row of tasty potatoes.

And from today:

Yes, it's a party out back to be sure. More tomatoes, now adding Opalkas and Mr. Stripeys to the mix, as well as various bell peppers, more serranos, mole peppers, poblanos, a few scallions, and, for the first time ever, tomatillos. Our tomatillo plant (shrub? tree?) is a good five feet tall, and has yet to produce much of significance, but has grown so tall that we had to get two large stakes to which we lashed its tomato cage to keep it from toppling in thunderstorms. If nothing else comes from it, it's the only plant in our whole yard on which I've seen honeybees, so that's something. There are plenty of fruit husks, which precede the actual fruit, but some of them never produce and simply fall off. But now that we've gotten a few, I'm hoping perhaps we'll hit high gear before the frost comes.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Painting News Now!

Posting and painting have been slower-going for me this year.  Here's a chance to make up some ground for both.

As mentioned in an earlier post, we've decided to paint the dining room grey.  Not just grey: Woodlawn Silver Brook.  Fancy!  The dining room has been primed and ready to go for some time, so now that we had the color picked out, the painting should go fast, right?  Oh, mice and men...

As some of you may know, for somethings in life, I tend to live by the adage: If it's not a right angle, it's a wrong angle.  And that goes doubly true for painting edging.  In the dining room, we have both crown moulding at the top of the wall and a chair rail on the lower half of the wall.  When we painted the green (family) room, I used an edger to get great straight green lines along the ceiling-wall edge.  It was a snap!  But then again, there was no crown moulding and chair rails.  Short story: I wouldn't be able to properly use the edger along the crown moulding and chair rail in the dining room.  I tried doing the edge work by hand using small brushes: wobbly lines.  Masking tape: the grey just bled underneath.  No good.  I gots to have the straight lines!

So, thanks to C's mom who told me about this technique using masking tape, we succeeded in getting razor-sharp straight lines and further enabling my specialized form of OCD.  And I now humbly submit for your consideration the m├ęthode exceptionnelle:

Step 1: Paint the wall color (grey) down onto the chair rail (white), especially making sure to paint the wall color farther down than where you want it (in this case, onto the chair rail).  Let the paint dry:

Step 2: Mask off the grey paint to the edge where you want the wall-chair rail line:

Step 3: Paint a light coat of the wall color (grey) along the masked edge.  Don't worry if you get more wall color (grey) onto the chair rail (white).  The key here is to let the grey paint bleed under the tape (and onto the grey paint underneath) and in the process seal up any openings where paint could bleed through later.  Let the paint dry:

Step 4: Paint the chair rail color (white) along the masked edge as well as covering any wall color (grey) that has gotten onto the chair rail:
Paint as much chair rail color (white) as you need to make sure you cover up any wall color (grey) that may be on the chair rail.

Step 5: Remove the masking tape.  I didn't even wait for the chair rail paint (white ) to dry.  With the paint still being a little wet, the edge is even smoother:
(chair rail)

(Crown moulding)

I couldn't believe how amazingly straight the edges came out.  Unbelievable.  Once the edges were done, the rest of the walls took no time at all.  Here's the room almost finished (still need to finish the white under the chair rail):

Next: Living room!

Friday, July 13, 2012

Getting Fired Up

E's friends Miguel and James were visiting a few weekends ago. Miguel James are E's friends from grad school and they all try to get together at least once a year to watch movies, eat copious amounts, etc. These guys also know how to get things done. E casually mentioned we were thinking about getting a grill (fairly inexpensive, quality but low-key, since we are not the biggest grillers in the world; well, at least, not yet.) Once they arrive, laptops were pulled out, Consumer Reports was consulted, negotiation calls were made, and in less than 24 hours, they had borrowed Mom's PT Cruiser to pick up our new beauty:

Thanks, guys!

Hot Fun in the Summertime

Has it really been more than a month since I posted? Good heavens. Summer does that. Just yesterday, June was beginning, and now we're halfway through July.

Here are some garden pix, but they are, again, rather dated. I'll try to get some new ones this weekend:

Here are just three of the many black raspberries we were able to enjoy from our out-of-control bush this year. The berries are finished now, but the plant is still growing like a weed. We need to take the bird netting off so it's free to be. Said bush can be viewed here:

The Yukon Gold potatoes are dying back a bit now, but at their peak they were a healthy and bushy two-feet tall:

The tomatillo plant is now overflowing out of the approximately four-foot tall tomato cage we placed around it. But you can get an idea of its enthusiasm for growth here:

Peppers, all of which now have offspring:

The tomatoes are now near the top of their cages, too:

And because I don't have enough outdoor crazy, I thought this was a good idea:

Our shmanciest local garden center had it's annual summer sale in late June. It started at 6 a.m. on a day I happened to have taken off, so I thought I'd go for a few minutes and see if there was anything. I expected to be home shortly. Two hours later...

This sale was a madhouse, by the way. I rolled in at 6:30 and the parking lot was packed, with people with fully stocked carts already headed for their cars.

So the damage came in at: two boxwoods, two Scotch brooms (one for Mom), a foxglove, a Sweet William, a St. John's Wort bush, an evening primrose, and my prize find, a dwarf lilac. I've wanted a lilac since we moved in, but never got around to it, and turns out, when I did, it was on sale! Love a sale.

I've been slowly putting these in the garden and containers. Pictures to follow.

And finally, there is house news. We're going with gray for the dining room and blue for the living room. The dining room is underway, with the living room to follow. Here's a color preview:

The darker gray on the right will be the dining room, and the blue the living room. We'll have white from the chair rail down in both rooms. And with that, we have a trifecta of National Trust for Historic Preservation colors on the first floor – La Fonda Jalapeno for the family room, Woodlawn Silver Brook for the dining room, and St. Francis Spirit Blue in the living room. I love that it worked out this way.