Thursday, April 28, 2011

Maybe I'll Become a Plumber... Nah.

Two and a half hours later (some of the time spent running to two different neighbors looking for a pipe wrench big enough for the job) I have clear pipes.

I took the little "U" shaped plastic pipe off, ran baking soda and vinegar with a chaser of boiling water out the pipe that comes straight off the sinks. Thinking that all was clear, I put the plastic pipe back in place, ran some water, and immediately had plugged up sinks again. Which of course meant that the plug was in the pipes that lead into the wall. Off with the plastic pipe, again.

Luckily, I recently learned how to use our plumber's snake (in the bathroom, another unpleasant but ultimately successful adventure in plumbing) so I ran it up the pipe. Four times. Each time I pulled it out, I had cucumber peels and potato peels embedded in the head. Gross. I brought the snake out to the front lawn to clean it out (with a shish kebab stick, no less) each time, and each time I had a little less vegetable matter to poke out of the coils. I'm sure the neighbors really wonder about me now, squatting on the front lawn in my rubber boots, picking at a plumber's snake.

After the fourth snaking I decided I'd had enough and wasn't pulling out that much anymore anyway. Put the plastic "U" shaped pipe back on (I'm pretty certain that is not the official term for that piece of pipe, but there it is), put more baking soda and vinegar down the drains, panicked a bit when there occurred a little back-up. But with some seriously hot, fast flowing water, the plug finally burst free and now I have clean pipes.

Saved us probably a couple hundred dollars and have earned my plumber's bragging rights for today at least.

I've learned two valuable lessons here:

1) if using the garbage disposal, I must run water for a lot longer than I have been to make sure everything is flushed away;

2) this is probably a sign that instead of using the garbage disposal I should try to resurrect my compost pile and put all the veggies in there, instead.

And Then There Are Days Like This

All other projects have temporarily been put on hold while I figure out how to unplug my basement sink. I have been kindly coached by my father-in-law on what I need to do next. Now I just have to put on the knee-high rubber boots, find the great big wrench, and get cracking on that pipe under the sink.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Postscript on the Day

Quiz is written;
Homework is graded and recorded;
Pot roast cooked and consumed with much pleasure;
Banjo not practiced for second day in a row;
No practices, games, or horse riding today--blissful family time filled with basketball, reading, eating, and general hanging out together, a rarity nowadays;
and one picture of the local wildlife:

Potted Fluffy and a regal Henrietta

Exactly What the Doctor Ordered

A bit of beauty in the world. Thanks to Home Hum for posting it and bringing it to my attention.

The List of "Shoulds"

As in, I should be:

**writing a quiz on passé composé
**getting the pot roast ready to put in the oven for dinner
**watering the yard
**running another load of laundry

Instead, I took the dog for a long walk.

Spring is hanging on hard here. I know I shouldn't complain because we really do have terrific weather, all things considered, but after a while the wind, the rain, and a constant diet of 50-60 degree days (when by now we are usually up in the 70s) starts to wear on a gal. I am exhausted from the weekend (Granny's 95th went swimmingly; Easter goodies and company wonderful), exhausted from carpooling (and thinking about the gas prices), exhausted from sitting out in aforementioned yucky weather for hours at a time watching baseball and/or soccer games. There is no end in sight of the busy-ness and really, that is how it should be, right? For without all that goes on, I would be lonely, uninspired, and bored.

Faced with all the shoulds and feeling weighted down by the wind, again, I decided to embrace it all, put off the shoulds a little longer (why not prolong the anguish?), and headed out into the weather with the dog. And all in all, it was a good decision. I cleared up my head a little; listened to wood doves, red-winged blackbirds, geese; saw four little goslings battling to make it up river with nary a parent in sight; sat on the beach and watched the clouds roll over head while the dog sniffed at the grass and gulped river water.

I came home to find my new book by the authors of the Root Simple blog had arrived (thanks Mom!), the chickens had left me three eggs (we are having some egg issues--a couple of the girls are laying eggs with rubbery shells a couple times a week--not suitable for collecting, to say the least), the dirty dishes were still in the sink, and dinner is still to be made. Oh, and the quiz is to be written.

However, I am grateful for it all. I'll grind up some coffee beans, put on the kettle, make myself a mean cup of joe, and get cracking. Maybe I'll even find a corner of time in which to curl up on the couch and peruse my new book.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

One Big Reason for Going to Alaska

Every fall I get a freezer full of this.

As always, I forgot to take a picture after cooking because we were hungry.

Tough Decisions

What I should be doing today...

What I want to do today...

Monday, April 18, 2011

Manic Monday

In order of appearance, my super-packed Monday. Some days are like this, most are not. Something must have been in the air:

**taught my French class
**walked the dog 3 miles
**baked pot bread
**mowed the little-old-lady-next-door's big, wet, really-long-grass lawn
**watered my yard the old-fashioned way, moving the sprinkler around every 30 minutes since our sprinkler timer fried out last week
**practiced my banjo for half an hour, even though I really felt like I don't know what I'm doing
**watched a bunch of YouTube videos of very experienced musicians playing the same song I'm practicing--didn't even recognize the song I'm trying to play in the ones I saw on YouTube (heavy sigh)
**planned out my class for tomorrow (but didn't grade the homework they turned in...ran out of steam)
**baked two loaves of pumpkin bread in a fit of trying to get more fiber into my son (the vegetable-phobe)
**made lentil/spelt/barley/kale soup for dinner, to be accompanied by the pot bread
**wrote this silly post

Tomorrow I have to run out to Walla Walla to take goodies to the grandmas in preparation for great-granny's 95th birthday party on Saturday. And I have a baseball game in the evening. In between these two I plan on lying on the couch, eating bonbons and wearing my fuzzy pajamas while reading a really good Swedish murder mystery. I'm tired.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Revolutionary Happenings Brewing

After years of nagging Dave about our backyard--what's the point of all the grass? no one uses it but the chickens and the dog and cats--why not put in gardens for food?--his desire to do "something different" has converged with the recent push among people to grow their own food. Thanks to "On Point" on the radio, Dave is listening to an interview with a guy who lives on Vashon Island and he's decided that this is for us. I work this summer in Alaska and then start ripping up the yard next winter. Next spring, the gardens go in. Happy chickens, happy vegetables, happy me. I'm so excited!

Now if I could only have that milk cow....

Thoughts on Bread

This past week has absolutely flown by. Last I wrote I was in the midst of preparing my birthday eve dinner... And from that nice, quiet, lovely meal, the week just sped past in a blur of games, practices, injured thumbs from an overexcited horse jumping (luckily, Grace was wearing a helmet and hung on tight to Kid's mane), a 103 fever for my Sam who is never sick, and more games.

And all week I've been thinking about bread. It started with a couple posts in a row at Knitting the Wind where I tried in vain to post my comments on thoughts and questions raised there. Each time I wrote up a long, thoughtful comment and each time my comment disappeared as I tried to post it. Who knows why, just happened. I was more sad at the fact that I didn't let the blogger know how touched I was by her words than upset at losing my response. In any case, I've been thinking a lot about bread this week.

I love making bread. I love feeling the dough, I love the smell of the flour and yeast, I love the magic that takes place every time the dough rises, every time it turns into a crusty, golden bit of nourishment. I love this and at the same time I'm experiencing a lot of resistance to my bread--on the part of the almost 12-year old, that is, no one else. My bread doesn't come in a bag, it doesn't look like bread on other people's sandwiches. To my son's credit, his preferred bread is also a serious seedy, nutty, whole-grainy type of bread. Thank goodness. Of course, over and beyond that, his favorite is the white stuff, artisanal, but white nonetheless. The older I get, the less interested I am in white. I want depth of flavor, I want staying power, I want character in my bread.

A case in point about this move away from uninteresting flavors: I just bought a wonderful cookbook called Super Natural Every Day by Heidi Swanson. In three days I've made: Multigrain Pancakes, Oatcakes, and White Beans & Cabbage. All wonderful. Beyond wonderful. I need to come up with a synonym for wonderful, clearly, but you get the point. Vegetarian, though this is not necessary for me, flavorful, unrefined, simply yummy. Granted, only I ate the last of the three recipes, but the others went over well with Grace (Dave not being around this weekend). Sam refused to eat the pancakes and when he tried an oatcake he said "It's dry," to which I replied that it's an oatcake, not a muffin. Whatever.

I put so much time and energy into making out a menu every week so I can shop ahead of time (cheaper and I hate grocery shopping). I balance out meat dishes and vegetarian, plan for meals eaten at the baseball fields, think about days when Dave can cook. In other words, I am very conscientious about what I'm putting on the table, three meals a day. Unfortunately, not everyone embraces that love. I can't worry about it. My love is there in every meal and it gets eaten or not, the love is still there. I get a lot of satisfaction out of the planning and cooking of our meals.

I get the most satisfaction out of making bread, whether the kneaded kind, no-knead pot bread, biscuits, soda bread. And so I'll keep it up, making it as flavorful and unrefined as possible, so at least I can eat it and enjoy it. Two out of three of the other members of the family will enjoy it, too. Have to be at peace with that.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Birthday Eve Dinner

Twelve eggs for tonight's dinner

Tomorrow I'm turning 44. This isn't a particularly momentous birthday, and I am amazingly uninterested in the fact that I can no longer deny the fact that I have entered "middle-age." Amazingly, because I always thought that once I hit 40 I would be plagued with graying hair, wrinkles, and a sad, uninteresting life. So I do have the graying hair and the emergent wrinkles, but life is so very far from being sad or uninteresting. I am lucky to be married to a wonderful man, I have two lovely children (even if I do sometimes want to pull said graying hair out by the roots over their shenanigans), a beautiful, safe, comfortable home, stability, and the drive and curiosity to continue learning. What more could one possibly want? I am so grateful for all of it, the good and bad, ups and downs. How's that for cliche? But true, nonetheless.

This said, I still have to admit that my birthday evening will be spent organizing a baseball home game (as "team mom" I have to make sure all the duties are covered), shuttling back and forth from the game and my daughter's soccer practice, ending in what will probably be a cold, windy game. Dinner will be take out pizza from a local pizzaria, cake from the sweet little old ladies at Desserts by Kelly, because this year I just am not interested enough in making my own, and all eaten either at the ridiculously early time of 4 or as late as 8. Not my idea of a relaxing, quiet birthday dinner.

And so, I made my dinner tonight. An asparagus and goat cheese frittata, a romaine and spinach salad, a bottle of Maryhill Winemaker's White. I'm waiting for the boy to come home from baseball practice, the girl to come home from soccer practice. Once they're here, we'll have the birthday dinner I wouldn't want to have any other way, any other place, with any other people.

I will never tire of the color of my yolks.

Happy Spring Feet

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Weekend Images

The week flew by so quickly and now here it is Sunday afternoon. In the past week I taught my first four classes of French--a lot of trial and error, figuring out how to use the textbook, learning my students' abilities, adapting this one more task to my busy schedule--made a quick run to Walla Walla to see the grannies; and drove to Seattle and back in one day to deliver comfort goods for the Alaska barge.

A couple images from the week:

As Samuel calls it, "The First Injury of the Summer" happened while I was in Seattle. Playing whiffle ball with the neighbor boy, Sam fell into a bunch of wood, causing a huge splinter to wedge itself into his knee. First time ever--he asked Grace to bring him tweezers, he pulled out the splinter himself, dabbed up the blood, and went back to playing. I guess he's growing up.

Daily banjo practicing. Fluffy immediately jumped up behind me when I sat down to practice. Still trying to make "Old Molly Hare" sound good and now trying to learn "Sugar Hill" which asks for a lot more skill. Considering having another banjo sent up to Naknek--when I think of what I'll make in the 6 weeks there, maybe another banjo isn't a bad idea. Sometimes a gal just needs more than one banjo.

I bought my first bunch of local asparagus today, the first of the season. We'll have roasted asparagus with leftover chili tonight and for tomorrow night, an asparagus & goat cheese frittata for an early birthday dinner (complete with a lovely bottle of Maryhill White). The actual birthday on Tuesday will be spent at a baseball game, of course.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Busy Life, Crazy Life, Good Life

I am happy to say that my ability to play "Old Molly Hare" has gotten a lot better since the video I posted yesterday. This does not mean that I have it down, not by a long shot. But at least it sounds a little more like a cohesive song. It's amazing how 1/2 hour of practicing or more a day can really help. The crazy thing is that I really love playing the banjo and don't mind spending 30 minutes playing the same thing over and over and over again. (I even woke up for about an hour last night and instead of worrying about the first day of school I thought about playing "Old Molly Hare" repeatedly, moving my fingers to be more claw-like.) And even more crazy? A musical renaissance has blossomed at our house: Dave is playing his guitar again, Grace has pulled out her mandolin and is plucking out chords, and Sam has picked up the guitar for the first time. The fiddle? Languishing in the closet. Maybe Grace will get interested in it, maybe not. For now, I'm just happy that instead of everyone grousing at the end of the day, tired and short-tempered, we're all trying to create a little music.

I also taught my first day of French at the college today. It's been about 6 years since the last time I taught there. Back then I had a toddler, then I was pregnant, then I had a toddler and a brand-new baby. I have to say, it's a heck of a lot easier planning and giving classes now that they are 11 and 9. Funny how that works. Of course, I still am stressing out, worrying that I'm not going to deliver a good, instructive, entertaining class. I guess there's no point in worrying about that, though. I know the language so I am one up on the kids; they are good kids who have been taking French all year; and I'm just trying to finish out the year for the previous instructor. Next fall it will be all my own, my own text and lots more students.

The kids are on spring break so after my class tomorrow we'll go visit the grannies--73 and almost 95. I just don't know how much longer great-granny will be around. We all cherish every moment we can spend with her. Maybe I'll even take the banjo to show her what I've been up to. She used to love it when Sam played the fiddle for her. Now she can't see at all--sound and shadows are all that are left to her. She won't see me blushing as I make mistakes and because she's grandma she won't be too hard on me, so maybe I will bring it after all.

It's raining, my newly planted hollyhocks and rhubarb from last year are thriving for now. Once the super hot weather hits, who knows. The silly chickens can't stay out of the rain--the desire to stay dry has given way to the temptation to eat every bug and little bit of green that sprouts up or crawls out of the dirt. Grace is worried they'll get moldy overnight. Do chickens get moldy? There's an interesting thought.

And finally, I'm hurrying to get boxes together for the barge which is leaving for Naknek, Alaska at the end of the month. I've finally got my act together enough to gather some things that will make my 6 weeks up there a little easier: 6 pounds of coffee beans (no, this is not overkill--I work 16-20 hours a day, 7 days a week for 6 weeks--you'd need that much coffee, too), a "down-alternative" mattress pad for a little pampering in the four hours I get to sleep, Clif Bars (my lunch while working nights, since midnight meal is scary), nuts, dried fruit (same reason as the Clif Bars), a decent pillow, extra sheets, a case of Deschutes beer (after a bazillion years working up there, I have finally graduated to having a refrigerator in my room). I'm sure I'll find a few other things to tuck in before I take it all over to Seattle on Friday. I hate to have to think about Alaska so early in the spring but June will be here before I know it and I'm tired of living on the edge there. I mean, a nice pillow, a mattress pad, and a beer before bed isn't going to really make it any easier, but at least the illusion will be there.

A busy, crazy, good life. And even better, baseball season is back in full swing. The Mariners aren't predicted to do any better this year than last, or the year before that, or the year before that (you get the idea), but I do love listening to baseball on the radio. Hope springs eternal during baseball season.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

What to Do When Totally Stressed Out?

How about make a video of oneself trying to play "Old Molly Hare" on the banjo?