Wednesday, March 25, 2015

A New Project

It's not like Lee doesn't have anything to work on.  He could work on any of our trucks that need some maintenance.  My car needs some work and a detailing.  But, he sold the 1954 GMC truck he restored and now there is space in the shop. 

 

That is, there WILL be space when the parts for the tractor, that are currently in Korea, get here. 

 

It was leaking like crazy and so it sits in the bay with the lift until they get here.

 

So, of course Lee went on a 10 hour round trip to West Virginia to get this truck.  It is a 1962 Corvair ramp side pickup.

 

They only made these things for about 4 years.  The engine is in the rear and pretty small, so they don't have a lot of power.  Because the engine is in the rear, the steering is a little squirrelly. And you sit right up in front.  If there is an accident, it is your body that gets hit first, kind of like a VW bus. 

So it is underpowered, hard to drive and dangerous.  Of course we want one!

 

They have this really cool ramp door on the side of them so that you can wheel in stuff. 

 

That would be great for deliveries or if you had a gardening business.  You sit right up in front so you can see where you are in relation to your surroundings.  No silly hood to get in your way.

 

Because they didn't make a lot of these, so the value is coming up.  Not too many people have ever seen one, so it would be a real conversations starter.  Things like, "What the heck is THAT!"

It is pretty small and light, so I assume the gas mileage would be good.  And that is going green and good for the environment, said the people with three trucks, and SUV, a car, a Mule, a tractor that is currently on the injured reserve list, and a 1974 Camaro that may or may not be for sale and needs to be in a few car shows first. None of which are newer than 10 years old.  We should rename ourselves Shenandoah Gateway Farm and antique car lot.

On the bright side, the truck runs, sort of.  And there isn't a lot of rust.  Although, there is some. Lee thinks it will be fun to fix up and I hope he can find the parts he needs, as they didn't make many and most of the ones they did make have rusted away.  Lee knows this, as he has gone to see a bunch of them and has come home disappointed.

 

I guess I shouldn't be surprised about the many projects he already has, when taking on a new one.  I have one quilt I am working on and two more that I have in the queue.  I have a fabric bowl I want to make and the book I checked out to help me is coming due at the library.  I just bought a Cricut machine and am trying to fix an issue with that that has me tearing my hair out.  But I can't get to it because of the aforementioned quilt.

And our first guests since we opened up for spring, are coming on Saturday.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Spraying Time Again

Well, spring has sprung.  Or at least spring has started to think about springing.  In the starting blocks.

 

For us, this means it is time to start spraying.  We have been plagued with Fire Blight in our apples.  And in our one pear.  At first I didn't know what to do about it.  I went to the county extension agent and learned what it was, but they had no help as to combating it.  All they said I could do was to cut off the infected branches.  I did that.  And pity the poor trees.  We had to cut off whole branches and then burn the cuttings.

 

The next year it came back.  I was all over the internet and no help.  Then I spoke to the person in charge of the plants at Southern States.  She told me about Fertilome. 

 

Fire Blight is a bacterial infection that withers the leaves and branches in the infected trees.  Fertilome is basically an antibiotic that can fight off the infection.  The only time it helps is to spray the tree just when it starts to bloom and all through the blooming season.  You stop spraying when you see the fruit.  You have to spray every 3 to 5 days.

 

Because you are spraying way up into the tops of the trees, if there is any wind, you get the stuff in your face.  The package has dire warnings about washing up with water for 10 to 15 minutes if any comes in contact with your skin or eyes.  I got a bit on my face and washed it off with a wet paper towel.  I guess I should do it again.  And maybe run it over my hair.  I didn't get a lot so I hope that is sufficient.  I'm hoping the warnings are an excess of caution due to our litigious society.

This is our second year of spraying and I hope it does the job.  The trees are getting to the age when we should have a decent crop.  If I hadn't cut off most of the branches on some of them.  And if we don't get another blighted year.  I have been fighting it for about three years and I am getting tired of seeing the poor trees looking so bedraggled.

One of the arborists I called to help me suggested removing the trees.  I'm not ready to give up.  I want some fruit off my trees!!!

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Chocolate Baked Donuts

Yes, I know I am supposed to still be on my diet.  But I have been making progress and so I allowed myself another treat.  I just finished reading the latest Joanne Fluke murder mystery, The Double Fudge Brownie Murder. 

 

These books come with some amazing recipes.  This one has quite a few I will be using.  The first is the Chocolate Baked Doughnut recipe.  I made a few not critical changes and they were delicious.  I had a friend over for breakfast and will send some home with her.  Who cares if I sabotage HER diet?  Not ME.  That is the kind of wonderful friend I am...she said smugly.

 

Chocolate Baked Donuts

2/3 cup cocoa powder
1 and 3/4 cups flour, I used Swan's Down Cake Flour, but all purpose flour is what Ms. Fluke uses
3/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
1/2 cup milk
1/3 cup sour cream
2 teaspoons vanilla
1/2 cup melted butter ( I used 1/4 cup or 1/2 of a stick)

1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips.  I chose to leave these out.  The rest of the chocolate was sufficient chocolate for me as I was going to make some chocolate icing.  If you want to go for major chocolate, then add them just before baking.

 

Heat the oven to 350°.

 

Spray the donut wells in a Wilton pan with Pam.  I don't know of any other donut pan other than Wilton.  Set aside.

I chose to sift the Cake Flour with the cream of tartar, baking powder and the baking soda.  Add it and the cocoa powder to a mixing bowl, with the salt and sugar.  Mix on low speed.

 

Add in the eggs, keep mixing.  Then add the milk, sour cream, and vanilla and mix until combined.  While the mixer is still running, drizzle in the melted butter and mix until smooth.

 

Use a rubber spatula to give one last stir.  This is also the time where you can fold in the cup of chocolate chips, if you like.

 

I like to use a 1/4 cup measure to fill the donut wells.  In fact, each one takes about 1/4 cup.  You should fill them a bit more than 3/4 of the way full.

 

Bake for 12 to 15 minutes.  Test with a toothpick in the middle of the baked part of one of the donuts.  If it is clean, you are done.  If not, bake a few more minutes.  Mine was done at 12 minutes.

 

Set the pans on a rack or a cold oven burner for 2 minutes to cool.  Use a plastic knife to loosen all around each donut.  Tip them over a cooling rack.  Not all mine came out easily.  Some I had to work at with the plastic knife and gently tugging at them.  Let them cool completely before icing.

Chocolate Icing

1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
2 Tablespoons butter
2 Tablespoons cream

1/4 cup peanuts, chopped coarsely, Optional

 

Place all the ingredients except the nuts in a heatproof bowl large enough to hold a donut.  Melt in the microwave for 1 minutes.  Let sit in the microwave for another minute and then stir.  If chips are not completely melted, return to the microwave for another 30 seconds.

 

Once the chocolate mix is smooth, dip each donut and then place on waxed paper.  While the icing is still warm, sprinkle the chopped peanuts on top, if you are using them.

 

Let the chocolate set for a bit and then enjoy.  These are best served the same day.  If you can't finish them all, or give them away, place them in a covered container.

 

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Creme Brulee

I put my diet behind me for a day and invited some friends for a meal.  I made my favorite chili and cornbread combination.  I decided to make crème brulee for dessert.  You gotta have dessert with company.  Even if you are mostly on a diet.  ESPECIALLY if you are mostly on a diet!

I use Emeril's recipe that I printed out years ago.  It is pretty easy, but it has to cool and then chill, so start early in the day and don't wait until the last minute.

Crème Brulee

2 cups heavy cream
1 cup milk
1/2 vanilla bean
6 egg yolks
1/2 cup granulated sugar, plus 6 Tablespoons

 

Heat the oven to 350°.

 

Vanilla beans are really pricey, but they add a richer flavor than just using vanilla extract.  They also leave teeny black spots in whatever you are cooking so people KNOW you splurged on the good stuff.  Use a paring knife to slice through the top of one half of a vanilla bean and then scrape down the bean.

 

Heat the heavy cream, milk, and the vanilla bean and the seeds you scraped off over medium heat.  Watch to make sure it doesn't boil.  You just want to heat it up.

 

While the cream is heating separate the eggs and place them in a heat proof mixing bowl.  Add the 1/2 cup of sugar and whisk until the mixture is a pale yellow and all the sugar is dissolved.

 

Then you have to temper the egg mixture so the eggs don't curdle and turn into scrambled eggs when you add the hot cream.  To do this you add a small amount, about 1/2 cup, of the hot cream mixture to the eggs while simultaneously whisking vigorously.  Then add a bit more while still whisking.  At this point you can drizzle in the cream from the pan to the egg bowl while whisking, until everything is in one bowl.  Make sure to scrape out all the vanilla bean seeds into the bowl.

 

Place a strainer over a heatproof container with a lip for pouring.  Pour the cream and eggs through the strainer.  Then pour the mixture into ramekins.  Once again scraping out the vanilla beans into the ramekins so everyone will know of your splurge on the vanilla bean.

 

The ramekins go into a roasting pan or baking dish and then pour very hot water halfway up the sides of the ramekin.  Don't get any water in the ramekins.  I do this next to the oven so that I don't have to carry boiling water across the kitchen.

 

Bake in the middle of the oven for  30 minutes, turning halfway through to cook evenly.  To test for doneness, jiggle the pan a bit to see if the custard is set.  It will jiggle a bit, but not much. Remove and let cool at room temperature.  Then remove the custard from the pan and cool on the counter.  When you can easily handle them, chill in the refrigerator for 2 hours to completely cool.

 

You still have to melt the sugar on top, so spread about 1 Tablespoon of sugar on top and use a cooking torch to melt the sugar.  I bought a fancy new torch and it did not work worth a darn.  Don't waste your money on a Bonjour torch!  About $30 dollars on Amazon, down the drain. 

 

We ended up using the torch Lee uses to sweat pipes when fixing the plumbing.  As a last resort, my plan was to heat the broiler and melt the sugar that way.  You have to watch closely and remove the pan as soon as the sugar melts.  Then I would have had to re-chill the custard some, as in the past this method has resulted in the custard becoming liquid.

 

When done properly you will end up with a silky, delicate custard with a crunchy sugar topping.  It turned out great, even with the torch issue.  Maybe I need to get my own plumber's torch for the kitchen!

Friday, March 13, 2015

Quilt Top

It was time to put the quilt top together.  This is a fun step.  As you go, you get to see the whole quilt come together and get an idea of how the finished piece will look.  It is also scary if you find something you hate.

I placed all the quilt squares on a bed to make sure they were all going the correct way.  I took all the ones in one row in to the sewing room and started sewing them together. Then I did the next row.

 

Once I got all the strips sewn, I started to sew the strips together. 

 

It is important to line up the seams.  I pinned the sections together at the seams and worked my way out.  If there was a spot that didn't quite work I would try to pull and pin to make it work.  After sewing each strip together, I ironed the seams open and flat.  There will be places where there are many layers of fabric, so it is important to limit the layers when you can.

 

After ironing the seams open, it helps to turn the project over and iron the top as well.  This is an important step.   Once you sew all the strips together the quilt top is done.  But you aren't finished.

 

The next step is to put the quilt together.  Some people hire this next step out.  I completely understand it if you do.  Who wants to ruin all the work you have already done?  But for me, it is part of the process.

I have basted a quilt together on the floor, but it is very hard on my back.  The local library has large tables and they allowed me to put several together and baste the quilt on them.  It took me several hours and I don't think I could have survived doing that on the floor!

 

First you place the fabric for the back of the quilt wrong side down.  Use your hands to smooth it out and then tape it firmly to the table.  Place the quilt batting on top of the backing.  Press it with your hands.  Then place the quilt top, right side up, and smooth it out.  It helps to have someone to assist with this.  This is the first time I did it by myself.

 

The object of this exercise is to baste the entire quilt together to keep things from shifting.  You can baste it with thread or use pins.  I use pins.  They make pins with a bend in them to dip down and come up through the three layers.  There are large pins and small pins.  I bought the small ones first and hate them.  Now I have a lot of the large ones, but I ended up having to use the small ones, also.  I will buy more large ones and discard the small ones before the next project!

 

Try to place the pins every 3 or 4 inches all over the quilt.  If you know how you intend to quilt the project, avoid placing pins where you will be stitching.  My plan is to quilt through all the stitch lines, at the very least, so I left these areas without pins. 

I now have a quilt sandwich and the next step is to spend many hours and days doing the stitching.  Any one who calls and invites me out for a drink or coffee will be my very best friend.  I will need a few breaks in this process!

Monday, March 9, 2015

Hidden Gem

I was in South Pasadena recently.  The weather was sublime.  The traffic was horrible.  While there I managed to visit an old acquaintance from when I lived in Pasadena, a long time ago.  Before I was married.  Oh, my gosh.  In the 70s.

He is a businessman with many interests, but more importantly he is an artist.  He paints landscapes and then he builds landscapes!   Many years ago he bought a fabulous property in South Pasadena and began what may prove to be a lifelong project.

 

He paved the driveway with bricks.  Not just bricks, which is a chore all by itself, but a collection of manhole covers in artistic shapes. 

 

I can't imagine he had a pattern to go by, so I can just see him surrounded by bricks and manhole covers and setting and resetting them in delightful designs.

 

He lined the entire, very long and steep, driveway with retaining walls that are pieces of art. 

 

There are designs and mosaics and pieces of rock and bricks and tiles in fabulous shapes.

 

 

He built in benches to enjoy the views of his fabulous gardens.

 

The most amazing thing is the dragon. 

 

He built it using tiles, bricks and rock and I don't know what all.

First imagine the work that it took.  Then imagine the artistic eye that could collect all these things and put them together to delight the eye.  And be functional, all at the same time.

 

 

 

There are stairs built into the sides of the hill that go to places he built just for someone to visit. 

 

He is still working on it. Like I said, a lifelong project.

 

And then there is his house.  A Craftsman?  Perhaps Greene and Greene?  I don't know, but it is fabulous, also.  The walls are covered with art and everywhere you look, you can see something extraordinary. 

 

You say you like crown molding?  How about this?  Can you imagine what it would cost to reproduce today?

 

 

Can you imagine building a form to pour the concrete and then breaking up tile to make the perfect mosaic?

 

His home is in the middle of a bustling city, yet it is private and serene.  It is truly a hidden gem and I can imagine future generations of people marveling at his talent and vision.  It is a future museum in the making.

 

The gardens are lush.  They filter the sunlight and perfume the air.  They are also a lifelong project.  Gardens like these take a long time to perfect.

 


I want to take my sister there as this is the kind of thing she would love to do, on a much smaller scale.  I would like to take everyone to see it.  But then he would never get anything done and I don't think he would like that.

He has a lifelong project to work on.