Thursday, November 29, 2012

Aha, gotcha, you critter, you!

So the last couple of days have been occupied with household stuff, mainly a leak in the bathroom under my studio, which the HOA maintenance people assured me, after tramping about and cursing for quite a while up on both sides of the inner roof, was not the roof, was probably the vent pipes in the roof leaking, and was certainly not their job.  Sigh.  Meanwhile, drips kept on coming down from the ceiling, removing parts of the ceiling board, so my friend the HandyLady agreed to come and see what it was, since all the HOA people said was what it wasn't.

She climbed into the roof through the entry from the studio -- which was right over the leak, and which the men had assured me would need the wall torn out to find it, but it wasn't their job-- and moved insulation and generally crawled about the confined space, and concluded she couldn't find a leak up there.  So we went back down a floor, and she pulled out a bit more ceilingboard then thrust her hand up into the little hole in the ceiling, and instantly found the trouble: a hole bitten into the PVC piping by some critter, like a squirrel or chipmunk, with which we are infested, causing condensation, instead of traveling along the vent pipe to the exit, to exit quickly down my wall and ceiling.

and here's a closeup, so you can see the toothmarks. Gah!

So we now think a simple application of plumber's putty and duct tape might do it.  It's a small pipe, a tributary to bigger ones, none of which can be accessed from above in the roof, since joists and other pipes intervene, which is why it wasn't visible from above, despite my shining a flashlight through the hole downstairs, light never penetrated,don't ask me who designed this and who ran the phone line like a tripwire over the entrance to the roof.  Meanwhile, since a trip home, three houses down, established that after a lengthy search, she concluded that her son has apparently abstracted the putty, she came back and put up a temp. fix of duct tape so I can observe the patient and see if the problem of dripping stops. 

If so, we'll go to Stage Two, the cutting of the ceiling board back to good board.  Then the Stage Three, the app. of the putty and duct tape, and Stage Three, the replacement of new ceiling board and taping thereof.  Stage Four, repainting, can wait a bit, I think.

Meanwhile, if you want a job properly diagnosed and inventive solutions found, get a woman to do it. Preferably a highly skilled friend who likes to rescue the likes of me from the likes of this problem.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Fifteen seconds before this shot

there was a cheerful crowd of birds noshing at the seeds, courtesy of Heather, and the leftover turkey bits, courtesy of Boud. Then that bigbeaked chickadee gave the warning and they all flew for cover as I opened the door.

Sandy has carried many species way off their normal tracks this year, and I wouldn't be surprised to find a few unusual species showing up on the patio.

Already the juncoes arrived weeks ahead of schedule, probably blown north ahead of their plans, since they landed here two days before Sandy. Many species were trapped behind the storm and needed to set down anywhere to find food after being blown hither and yon in the skies.

 This morning's haul of birds at the feeder, at the seeds, flying off with sunflower seeds and cracking them on the nearest branch, then chucking the shells down for me to sweep up, and nibbling on the leftover turkey net and chunk of fat,great for insulating little birds in this bitter wind with snow in it, anyway today's haul included the following participants:

 Juncoes, several,varying colors and ages
Carolina wren, probably one bred and born on this patio,and I hope they'll nest again next year
Cardinal, Mister only, Missis usually waits to see if he keels over from the food before deciding to try it Chickadees, too hard to count, they move like little rockets, and they're always the first adopters of new food
Mourning dove, one advance scout shuffling around the deck checking the pickings
Tufted titmice, or titmouses, pair arguing as usual
Sparrows, various, including red breasted house finches

This was the breakfast crowd, all jostling at once, even shoving the squirrel out of the line. I wonder if we'll get woodpeckers and nuthatches and tree creepers this year. They have so much Sandy-downed timber to forage in that they might not need to come closer to houses.
They like the insects you find in rotted wood, a good argument for not keeping woodlots too neat and tidy.
However, the tendency of unpruned trees to get top heavy and crash down on your house in autumn gales is a very good argument for spending the money to keep them pruned and open. My little cherry survived because it had windows opened in its foliage ahead of the winds.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Happy Thanksgiving from us all to you!

We had our first Thanksgiving at home since Handsome Partner left us(last year it was too hard, and we went out to a restaurant and enjoyed it, no memories hanging about there) and now we can say we did it.  It was great, and Handsome Son and agreed that from now on we either celebrate at my house or go out, now that we have a choice.  Fine by me, and Christmas will be at a restaurant.

Despite the cut finger, amazing how often you need that exact digit to move things, open things, balance things on, etc. we did fine.  I appeared in usual holiday garb for the cook: 

best cashmere sweater, good pearls, apron! HS provided cheese and cracker hors d'oeuvres, here organizing them

while I fussed about with other food,
He brought the beverage and pie and cream, I provided all the bits in between -- turkey, farmshare squash, corn, broccoli, and, in the stuffing, farmshare red pepper dice, cranberry jelly, gravy, baked potatoes, roast potatoes. 
I managed to remember to serve everything I'd cooked, some of which appears here, a first for me.  Duncan was happy with his official little square of turkey,

Marigold maintained a calm indifference to the whole day, posing briefly

before retiring to her bathing,

and the Dollivers drew up to the candles in the fireplace, claiming they were exhausted after all that work.

A good day was had by all, as the parish bulletins used to say, among other hilarious comments.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Blog not happy!

The previous post unaccountably flooded its banks, must have been watching too much Sandy coverage. Sorry.

Thanksgiving Eve

Up with me: excitement this morning, which it's too bad
 nobody filmed,because it was a Three Stooges morning in the kitchen.
 To wit:

Got up as usual, humming happily, put on kettle, sprayed pan
with olive oil ready to put on homebaked slice to
 fry before breaking egg
over, favorite breakfast, put on burner.

Then while I had the bread out I thought, ah, why don't I slice and
cube it ready for the stuffing tomorrow.  Whip out the breadknife,
eyes probably not fully open,knife slips off the bread and buries
itself into my finger.  Much blood.  Rush to downstairs bathroom to
staunch blood, clean, apply dressing, interrupted by sound of kettle
whistling loudly, joined by smoke alarm on all three floors, it
doesn't mess around.

Run back holding up hand, to realize pan with olive oil is now smoking
merrily.  Whip open window, turn off kettle, put oven fan on high, wave newspaper at
smoke alarm to quieten it down.  Return to bathroom to redo entire
hand and get bandaids in place, then a latex glove over the lot in
order to cook.

continue with breakfast as originally scheduled.  Later, while
organizing turkey, realize poor thing and I have more in common than
usual this year, as I rinsed off the turkey blood from the dish.

The dressing, my own recipe, first time of trying, using homebaked
bread cubes, farmshare red pepper diced, Granny Smith apple diced, big piece
of frozen sage pesto, kosher salt, black pepper, chicken stock
(storebought this one), looks as if it will work out nicely.
I'm hoping for a quieter day from now on. 

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

A morning well spent at the Honda dealership

So today my Honda, should I name her Rhonda, informed me that I better check into why her check engine light was on. I'd fiddled with the gas cap already,often a cause for this, but it didn't work. Sooooo, in we went to spend the morning waiting. Really it's simpler to stay and wait than mess about getting home and back, and renting or loaning, all that.

Especially now that they've finally finished rebuilding the entire place around them and are no longer operating with open walls to all weather, winds whipping through the waiting area, painters and other workmen moving the clients around all the time to get at the next bit they needed to work in. I can't imagine how the workers there managed. Even the repair area was under siege.
But now they have a new building, complete with good complimentary coffee and bagels and a nice lady to serve them,
and assist with the serious choosing of the bagel and despite the otherwise testosterone rich environment,
a reasonable place to do your email, your needlepoint,
your Freecell,

catch up with the newspaper, do a lot of what you might have been doing anyway at home. As a bonus, I have reached the official age at which all the men treat me like a nice if dotty old grandma, much teasing,great fun.

And today, in the course of doing a bit of catchup on needlepoint, a lady leaned over and asked me about it. And no, she blessedly did NOT say, oh I have no time for that, while waiting just as long as I but doing nothing, she did say she likes embroidery, wanted to know where to buy materials.

So I seized the day, as future President (one of three, it's a big job (!))of my embroiderers' guild chapter, and did a brisk selling job of joining us at our meetings and going on shopping trips with our members. I'm useless at shopping, but her eyes lit up when I mentioned that some of our members are great at finding the right stuff. So who knows, maybe I recruited a new member. Wonder if I'll get a toaster...

The only small downside was that I noticed when I retrieved my car, that the clock had been adjusted to reflect the time change. I was sorry to see this, because the reason I don't change it is that when you do, it loses all my preset radio stations, and it's a lengthy and annoying process to set them all up again. But I think the mechanic thought oh, poor old grandma, she doesn't know how to change the clock, I'll do it for her. Another instance of the boy scout forcing an old lady across the street when she doesn't want to go.

Rhonda the Honda is happy now. She needed a new oxygen sensor, imagine how that must have felt. So, with oil change, new battery, she's all set for the winter. At least that's the plan.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Three great movies to see at home

If you're in search of really good movies, on DVD, all of these were at my local library, my latest moviegoing in the living room has been:

My afternoons with Margueritte (well, I saw this at the movies ages ago, and it's good enough to see again, Gisele Casadesus is worth everything, aside from Gerard Depardieu)

 The Diving Bell and the Butterfly

The Hedgehog (aside from other great actors, Gisele Casadesus is in this one, too, very small part)

 It just happens that they're all French, not planned that way, I just found them and thought I'd give them a try. All subtitled, for them as don't speaka da French,and all perfectly wonderful, well acted, just so worth seeing. So that's my movie review time done.  I don't want to ruin them by explaining the plot, since what happens isn't really the point of any of them.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Freecell and Freecycle

So, what with one thing and another, I decided I needed to do some pointless activity, to recover from last week's trauma, rather than the endless goal oriented activities I usually get enmeshed in. It's all very well getting things done and goals met, but I sometimes forget to just play and do silly stuff.

Freecell has rescued me from this terrible path of achievement. I am probably the last adopter in the free world of this version of solitaire, loaded on my Ipod touch.It will tell you something when I say that I have no games whatever loaded on my netbook, never have. It's strictly about doing and working and not just sitting there. So this is my new fun thing. I have to watch it, though, otherwise I'll start scheduling an hour of Freecelling right after the tapestry in the studio and the stitching in the living room and the drawing and cooking in the kitchen, and the gardening on the patio, and I'll be thinking gosh, everything's work..

One endless source of amusement, though, is our local chapter of Freecycle. I admire the folks who freecycle, I'm one of them, and it's great to pass on good stuff to a new home. But entries do tend to veer toward the comic now and then. Like the bride last summer, looking for items for a garden wedding at home: candles in glass holders, paper goods and -- garden rakes! was it for shoveling out the last of the revelers?

Then today, another nice one: Offering three Barbie dolls (could be knock offs) and a black horse. Loose, no box, decent condition. From early 80s. When responding indicate when you can pickup. I mean, do you need a trailer to pick up Black Beauty or what? do the Barbies gallop off with you on the black horse? See, I can be frivolous, I just have to plan my spontaneity.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Cooking the harvest

Now that eggs are back, in one store, anyway, and the last farmshare is in the kitchen, and yeast was once more obtainable in the store, all these happy events triggered a wild frenzy of cooking. Yesterday it was four loaves of wholewheat bread, one big loaf of squash bread, a pan of roasted french fry sweet potatoes (these can freeze), and today it was curried squash soup.

 I checked the Silver Palate cookbook for a soup recipe (Soup Suppers declined to offer one, why, Arthur, why) and after noting that of the requirements of the SP I did not have: a food processor, apple juice, whole apples, and chicken stock, I concluded I was on my own.

 Just using (farm) onion, chopped, with several teaspoonsful of curry powder and a dash of turmeric, extra to what's in the curry powder anyway, cooked gently for about 25 minutes, then a big butternut squash, chopped, three cups of broccoli water (from the steaming pot when I cooked the b., waste not, want not)added, to the boil, then on low heat, then to cut the rawness of the curry, some plain unsweetened fatfree yogurt, well from all this came out a stop-the-presses good soup. You do need an immersion blender for this kind of soup, so as to get exactly the consistency you like. At least I do, not being trustworthy with pouring hot liquids in and out of blenders.

 And with sizzling croutons from the bread I baked yesterday, in olive oil with plenty of salt and pepper and garlic crushed, just served right on top of the soup, this was really really good. And there are now two containers of it in the freezer.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Reassuring notes on nor'easter

The nor'easter came, dumped six inches of wet snow, no wind, and departed. Some poor people who'd only just got power restored lost it again. They must be thinking longingly of warmer climates. But we were lucky, no further damage done. By the time I looked out, my neighbors had already cleared my car and the snow removal people had shovelled the walkways. I only had to trot out and bang the cherry tree on the patio with a broom to knock off snow so that it wouldn't break after all it's been through, and that was my restoration complete. I had to make a medical appointment, and noticed no further problems between here and there,and got a good medical verdict. So all is well chez Dollivers and Elton, Duncan, Marigold, me, and Uncle Tom Cobley and all.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Happy Day, the day after the election...

The Dollivers collapsed along with the rest of us, that finally it's over, we know the results.  Which were very very similar to the results last time around, which makes me wonder couldn't we just have pushed the button for copy?

Great relief, that it did not come to a Supreme Court fight,that even the small areas of contest and still uncounted ballots, don't affect the outcome, that we don't have one of those bitter drawn out squabbles that follow contested vital states.  That there's no doubt of the winner.

And huge props to my fellow New Jerseyans who trudged through bitter subfreezing weather from their unheated homes, searching for the new polling places, the old ones either being under water or destroyed, some who could find a place with internet access  figuring out how to vote via fax, new emergency method, many waiting hours to vote in person in freezing unheated tents.  And waiting and waiting for newly printed and rushed in emergency affidavit voting forms and paper ballots to arrive after the polling places repeatedly  ran out.  But still voting. 

Props to state government for once, for rapidly acting to change the voting methods and putting in place in hours print runs that would normally take months to design, execute and deliver, in this normally electronic voting state.  Preserving the franchise.

Elton broke out into song about this, and gave us a charming rendition of Bruce's Born to Run, then America the Beautiful, Louis's What a Wonderful World, and serenaded us out with Mozart's 21st piano concerto, aka the Elvira Madigan theme.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Bringing in the -- squash!

The last of the farmshare today.  Over till next Spring.  We have a sparkling day of sunshine between storms -- a nor'easter due to arrive tomorrow.  But meanwhile, here's the harvest of the day. 

Duncan examines all incoming produce with care, and usually tears into the green leafy stuff, but he can't quite figure out these squash. 

And Dolliver Nation, all organized by the kitchen radio to listen to the election returns, have hedged their bets.  As Call Me Michelle explained "whichever way it goes, il faut cultiver notre jardin."  She's been reading our French blogistas' comments!  so since guarding the crops is the nearest they get to cultivating a garden, this is their best shot.

Wise group.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Ladybird, ladybird, fly away home...

This little orphan of the storm arrived in my house on Sunday, ahead of the hurricane, and has hung about since, strolling around the houseplants in search of aphids, which she didn't find, I guess, because now that she's been warm and dry for a few days, she's decided to try to get out of here and she's trying to figure out how to get through this glass window.

 In vain I explained that it's freezing out there, better sleep in here for the winter,she points out that she always winters outdoors, she knows what she's doing. So tomorrow I'll wait till there's a bit of sun and open this patio door she's battering on from the inside, and let her fly away home.

Friday, November 2, 2012

The new normal in NJ

Gradually getting news of friends who are okay but without power and internet connection. This is such a relief.  And I got a work order number from the HOA indicating that my chimney is on the fixit list, a three digit number, though, however, not a huge repair. I can wait till the people without roofs are taken care of.

Meanwhile, at the ATM, I could deposit a check, sorely needed in my account, but could not withdraw cash. The branches are all physically closed, probably their employees can't get there anyway.  So, hurried consultation with other customers in the lobby, and one knowledgeable person told us where there was another branch where she had got cash, but could not make a deposit.  So some people went off there.

Across to the street to the Asian foodstore to see if they had eggs, a scarce commodity right now, to find it locked but with the lights on and the manager on the phone.  Evidently the food inspectors had to check before allowing them to open, and they were not through.  I'll try later.  And the same group as in the bank lobby, now at the Asian foodstore, conferred further about where to get gas at all (literally miles of lines waiting for it), and the need for cash, since the gas station electronics are down and they can't process cards.

I emailed my regional paper to ask them if they would kindly give a shoutout to the carriers who have never failed to bring the newspaper, on time, on the right front path, and without whom it would be a waste of time to do all this great coverage in the paper!  let's see if they listen.  Today we got today's paper plus the Tuesday one which was all set to go when the power failed and I guess they were determined not to waste it!

Very thankful I voted by mail weeks ago!  many of our polling stations are either without power or have been demolished or are under water.  This will be tricky. Military trucks have been commandeered to be at where the polling station was, set up with machines, etc., so people can vote if they can get there.  There are many races aside from the Presidential one (NJ always goes Democrat in Presidential elections, it took a major hurricane for us to get a President here on other than a fundraising trip), and some of them might be close.

And, wait for it, a nor'easter is forecast for Tuesday. Another storm.  This time with snow.

However in my immediate area, we are all endlessly telling each other how lucky we have been.

And I have to give a shout to those wonderful convoys of utilities trucks and crews from as far as Texas and Minnesota, trundling in and getting to work.  And the phone company which restored landlines to this area yesterday, despite being underwater with a lot of their connections.  And everyone I meet, who is resolutely cheerful and doing what's needed and taking care of each other.  Many visitors in this development, taking showers and powering up computers and phones for work, at friends' houses.

But I need to ask people who plan on trying to send helpful items please not to.  The delivery services of all kinds are totally stressed out already, trying to sort and deliver on impassable routes.  Better to donate online to the Red Cross (our local one is very much on the ball), the Salvation Army, Homefront, (NJ org. to help the homeless and unemployed and employed but still homeless), and anyone else you know of who makes good use of donations.  And donating blood wherever you are is helpful, since those donations do travel where they're needed.  And the pictures of the entire east coast of this state is very reminiscent of Aceh after the tsunami.

Handsome Son and I have decided not to look at any more pictures, too traumatic.  Time to start recovering now. So I'm sparing you pix in this post.

On to more cheerful things:

I  have a new toy, Handsome Son's old Ipod Touch, an early version, but quite modern enough for me. He's moved on up to something much newer that I don't understand at all, but I love my Ipod. It took my mind right off the weather while I played with the Doodle app, which I claimed was all about art planning,but was in fact nothing of the sort.  And I set up access to everything on there in pocket form, to carry with me where there's a wifi hotspot.  And discovered that if I accidentally delete an email on the tiny screen, it's also gone on the netbook, ohhhhhh. Oops.

And, back in the studio, I carved a linoleum cut which was not very successful, largely because my lino piece was too old and dried to carve.  Repeated the attempt on a softcut block,and that went better, so I will perhaps get more of that.  Easier to carve than big erasers, which are quite good, though, if a bit small.  I made a carving of that bird I stitched in black on white lawn.  This is part of the pairs series I'm working on.  But I should be banging on about that in my art blog.  In fact I think I will.  Wait a bit till I write and pic it, then take a look at