Monday, April 30, 2012

Plumbing Woes

We had an architect coming today.  They are supposed to finish our plans by this weekend so that we can get started on the B&B.  We have to get permits and bids and we can't do anything until the plans are in.


It was a good thing he was scheduled to come today.  Lee found a huge puddle in the basement.  It seems that our shower, the fancy one with all the nozzles and the aromatic sauna, which we never use, has sprung a leak. 


There is a small access panel.  Too bad it is too small to be accessible.  So they had to cut a hole in our wall in the hallway by the bathroom


If they can fix it then I will have to fix the hole.  It isn't in a place that I can build a shelving unit or cover the patch with a picture or something, so I will have to repair the drywall without any bumps or dents.  That will be the hard part.

We also were not left with any of the interior paint from the previous owners.  I hope I can get it matched.  The good thing is it is a small wall.  I may have to paint the whole thing to keep it from being noticeable.  If you paint a whole wall then you can't see where the match... doesn't.  Just great.  MORE painting.  I wish I didn't hate it so much.

Mother's Day

Mom lives in another state.  She is in an assisted living community and refuses to move closer to me.  She knows and likes her caregivers and is concerned about learning a new place ad getting used to new caregivers.  I call frequently and visit as often as I can, but it is not enough.  I would send her gifts, but she has enough clothes and books and rarely eats the food gifts I send or bring her.

Mother's Day is coming and I have to send her something!  Usually I get the biggest or most elaborate card, but this year I have an idea. Several years ago I bought her a stuffed bear from the Build A Bear Workshop.  She had told me a sad story about never having a stuffed bear as a child, so I got her one.  She will be getting a visit from her two great grandchildren soon, so the gift I chose is a two-fer.  Two "fer" the price of one.

I am sending some new outfits for her bear.  I don't picture her dressing the bear, but I imagine Isabella and Emma will have fun doing so.  It is probably hard for them to think of things to do with "Grandma Judy" and this will give the girls and Mom something to talk about and to do.

My brother Roland is the girl's grandfather and he agreed to "go in" with me on the gift.  It is rare that we think of something to give Mom, so when we do, we call around and see if any one else wants to be a "giver" on the gift.  The gifts weren't pricey, but I hope they will be fun for all.


We got a bathing suit and towel.


And a ballerina outfit with ballet slippers.

I am also sending a few cards I made.  I keep making them and then hoarding them for some future use.  I thought Mom might like to have a few handmade cards to give to friends.  They do nice things for her and she never gets out to shop  for them.  She is in a wheelchair and can't do favors for her friends and I thought this might be a fun idea for her.


I stamped the garden cart and colored it with my watercolor pencils.


Then I made a medallion stamp.  I used glitter glues to add some sparkle and then attached  each succeeding, smaller medallion with some foam tape.

 I hope Mom likes them and will use them.  Chances are they will be in her room each time I visit.  At least she will know that I care.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Lentil Chickpea Chili

I found a recipe for Lentil Chickpea Chili that looked interesting.  I made it and it was good but not glorious.  I added chicken broth and chicken to it, but it was originally vegetarian.  It made a lot for two people and we have had it for two meals and still have a lot left.  I may not make it again, but I have included it in case you are looking for something healthy.  I will probably stick with other chilis in the future, however I made it and took pictures and have nothing else to write about today so her it is!

Lentil Chickpea Chili (with Chicken if you like!)

6 cups vegetarian broth (I used chicken)

2 Tablespoons tomato paste
1 Tablespoon Dijon mustard
2 teaspoons cumin
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 pound red lentils
1 can (14.5 oz.) diced tomatoes
1 cup chopped onions
1 chopped carrot or a small handful of baby carrots, chopped
2 ribs of celery, chopped
3 minced cloves garlic, or used the pre-minced version like I did, 2 teaspoons or so
2 bay leaves
1 cup chopped cooked chicken (if desired)
2 (15 oz) cans of chickpeas (garbanzo beans)
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
sour cream

This can be cooked in a slow cooker for 8 hours, but I did it on the stove in about 1 hour.


Pour some EVOO in a large soup pot on medium.  I used cilantro and roasted onion flavor.  Then put in the onions, carrots, celery and cook for about 4 minutes, until the onions turn translucent.  Add the spices and garlic and cook until aromatic.  Add the broth, tomato paste and the mustard. 


When everything is mixed in add the red lentils, the chicken if you are using it and the bay leaves.  Let it simmer for about 1 hour or until the carrots are soft enough for you.  I like them with a bit of bite.


Remove the bay leaves and add the chickpeas and the cilantro.  Cook for a few minutes to heat through.


Serve with a dollop of sour cream on top and some chopped avocados.  If you are a vegan, you can leave out the sour cream, but in my opinion the sour cream and the avocados REALLY made the dish a lot better.  It added some creaminess that the chili needed and the avocados did, too.


Friday, April 27, 2012

Almost Finished

It stopped raining last night.  Today is beautiful and clear.  It seems that Buchanan will have a good turn out for the Civil War weekend.  We are going to go to the breakfast fund raiser.  We also hope to put up some fliers in town for the horses.  Maybe a cavalry officer wants a new horse!


After the long boards were secured, we took the Mule to the shop and collected all the 2X2s.  The bed was muddy so they got to ride shotgun. 


We had to determine how much space between each board and how much the overhang would be.  Then Lee cut a board to use as a guide.  It is a lot faster than using the measuring tape over and over.  Plus you could push the boards against it and it would hold them in the right place.

We started in the middle and then worked to one end.  Then we went back to the middle and worked to the other end.  The sun was coming in at an angle, but I could still find a nice shady spot.  I think it turned out pretty good for a couple of amateurs.  And no, you can't hire us to make one for you.  We would have to charge you more than someone that knew what they were doing!



There are a few spots that will need a touch up on the paint and we still have to paint the posts.  It shouldn't be more that an hour for primer and an hour for paint.  So, parts of two days.  I may wait until Monday or Tuesday.  Lee will be gone most of Tuesday, so that and starting the garden will be a couple of good projects.  Lee is the library courier next week so I requested a bunch of books from the library.  Library books delivered to my door.  How special is that?

Thursday, April 26, 2012

A Rainy Day in Virginia

It rained most of last night.  Hard , loud rain that woke me up from time to time.  This morning was a bit overcast, but reasonably warm and reasonably dry.  We started to work on the shelter.

We first has to determine which was the shortest post and we had to take in consideration the slope.  After that we had to figure out how far down to put the cross pieces to leave room for the long boards and the caps for the posts.  It was wet and a bit muddy, so RJ "helped" by jumping up on the seat of the mule and leaving muddy foot prints.  Then it started to sprinkle making a huge mess. 

We managed to get up the two supports on the end and one long board across the back before it got too wet.  It wasn't particularly cold, but no sense in working in the rain on ladders.

Now it is raining quite a bit harder and I have the excuse to go eat some popcorn and be a slug.  We can finish tomorrow.    If we don't finish by then we will have to wait for Tuesday.  This weekend in the Buchanan Civil War Weekend.  Buchanan is a very small town and there was limited fighting during the Civil War, but they do a good job here.

We have cavalry and infantry come here from many states in addition to the local troops.  They set up tents and even have a sutlers tent.  There are many speakers at various venues to learn about the people and the times.  Or you can just wander and enjoy the sights.  There are a few skirmishes on the main street through town and a larger battle in a field with cannons and sword fights on horse back.  It is a fun event.  .  We plan on going and will have to put off finishing our project.

SPOILER ALERT!    The Yankees win the war every time.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

I Hate Painting

The lesson in this story is to not get good at that which you hate to do.

Our father had rental properties when we were young and he used slave labor to keep them up.  By slave labor, I mean we kids.  We were required to do it and didn't get paid.  But we were fed and clothed. 

I have been painting since I was 10 years old and I am pretty good at it.  I am too good to pay someone to do the job I know I can do, maybe even a better job.  Plus, I am cheap, so there you go.  I paint.

We bought the wood to finish the arbor/gazebo and it has been drying in the shop.  Lee laid it out on boards for air circulation and yesterday I ran out of excuses (it's cold, it's raining, I HATE TO PAINT) and put on the primer coat. 

Because all four sides of the wood will be exposed, I have to paint all four sides.  Because it is raw lumber I have to paint a primer coat and a finish coat.  Because you can't paint the wood and then set it down on something that it will stick to, I had to paint three sides of the lumber.  Then I had to wait for it to dry and flip everything over and paint the fourth side.  Then start all over again the next day with the finish coat.  This basically means I have to paint four times.  Did I mention that I hate to paint?  Yeah, I thought I did.

Here is a tip for lazy, cheap painters.  In between coats, while you are waiting for them to dry, wrap the brushes and roller with foil.  That way you don't have to either clean them or toss them and you can just quit and then start up again with ease!

I have an antique, irreplaceable jacket that I use for working at the barn.  It is antique because I have had it since I was in my early twenties.  It is irreplaceable for two reasons.  It is a Federal Express uniform jacket that was for employees.  I am no longer a Federal Express employee.  It was before Federal Express changed the name to FedEx.  So they are no longer made with the Federal Express logo.

It was cold, so I wore this work jacket.  The spaces between the 8 foot 2X2s were small and I had to squeeze in to reach the middle with the roller.  This is what I did to the jacket. 

I said I was good at painting.  I never said I was NEAT at painting.  So now it is ruined.  I should have worn the jacket next to my skin and used my horrible work shirt that I bought at Dollar General for about $5 as a jacket.  Then my priceless jacket wouldn't be ruined, just the shirt.  But I didn't think of it until I noticed the mess I was making and then I just wanted to finish.

To be fair, the jacket is old and worn and frequently has horse pooh on it.  But now it is UGLY, too.  Good thing I don't obsess about THINGS!  Even better that no one sees me but the horses and they have no fashion sense.

Another good thing is that we can install the boards on the next sunny day.  The bad thing is that I STILL have to paint the posts and I am not looking forward to it.  Did I mention that I hate to paint?

Creamy Garlic Cauliflower Bake

I have been enjoying trying new recipes with the Philadelphia cooking creme.  I went on the Kraft website and played around a bit with one of their recipes.  It was good and it used up a bunch of what I had in the fridge.  Should I call it Bits and Dabs Cauliflower Bake???

Creamy Garlic Cauliflower Bake

1 big head cauliflower
1 small can corn.  I had 1/2 can left over and used that.  Frozen would work.
1/2 cup chopped onion
1/2 bunch asparagus, cut into 1 inch pieces.  You could use a whole bunch, but that is what I had in the fridge!
1 cup ham, diced
1 tub Philadelphia Savory Garlic Cooking Creme
1 cup shredded cheese.  I used 1/2 cheddar and 1/2 Horseradish cheddar

Heat oven to 400

Cut the cauliflower into small florets.  Place into boiling water in a sauce pan for 3 to 4 minutes.  This will lessen the baking time and make this a quick meal.  Drain the cauliflower and put it into a 13X9 baking dish that you have sprayed with Pam

Scrape the cooking creme into the saucepan.  The warmth will "melt" the creme and make it easier to work with.  You can heat it for a few minutes if you need.

Add the corn, onions, asparagus and ham to the dish.  Mix in the cooking creme and make sure it is evenly coated.

Cook for 20 minutes.  Then remove and add the cheese.  Place back in the oven for 10 more minutes.

I served this with some pineapple and strawberries.  I toasted some whole grain bread with a bit of Olive Oil on top.

Vegetarians could leave out the ham.  Vegans could....well vegans would find this dish boring and should probably not make it.

 I had some avocados (I bought 5 at Sam's Club!) so I put them on top.  I will be eating avocados at every meal!  Good thing I love them.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Jes' Knittin'

It has been cold and rainy and overcast.  We have done errands and inside things.  I have had time to do a bit of knitting.  I like that I have no timeline to finish it.

This has been a hard project for me.  I tend to watch TV while knitting and if I forget a stitch I can usually fix it.  The pattern calls for added and deleted stitches.  That gives it a scalloped and holey appearance that I like, but it took a long time to figure out how to take out stitches and fix them with a crochet hook.  I had to take out a BUNCH of rows.  And each row has 275 stitches.  There were a few days where I spent the whole time taking out the previous day's work.

The really sad part is I have done this pattern before!  I should not be having this much trouble.  My excuse is that I did it about 20 years ago.  That's my excuse and I'm sticking with it!

Rubber Stamp Medallions

I ordered some medallion stamps from Holly Berry House.  They are really cool.  You stamp the medallion four or five times on cardstock.  Then you cut out smaller and smaller portions of the stamp.  You then reassemble them in a tower for a neat 3D effect.

I got two stamps and I stamped a few of each one on plain and colored card stock. I also tried different embossing colors.   Holly Berry House sent along a cutting guide and I used it.   I cut out one of each pattern with an Exacto blade and then my hand got tired!  I'll do the others at a future date.

I took one and played around with markers and water color pencils.  I used the pink card stock and the Heart Lace pattern.  I separated the layers with foam glue dots.  It is a bit high for mailing, so I hope the post office doesn't smash it.

I Love Birds, But...

One year we had a pair of barn swallows build a nest and raise a family in our barn.  I even blogged about them.  They were kind of cute, but messy and I lamented about this to my brother.  He warned me that they would ALL come back next year.  Now, he is very smart and even worked with raptors and other birds way back in his early days.  This was long before he became a high mucky-muck in the DOE, and NO he didn't have anything to do with Solyndra, but still I hoped he was wrong!

Each year we clean off where they nested last time and put wood blocks or nails or something to encourage them to go else where.  We have about 10 acres of trees.  They are not limited to our barn!  But my brother was right and each year we get more and more.  Once again my main complaint is the mess.

I LIKE hearing them whistle when I get to the barn in the morning.  I am amused by their antics as they fly out of the barn and try to lure me away from their young.  I am grossed out by the droppings EVERYWHERE.

This year they were particularly inventive.  One nest is between the open barn door and the wall of the barn.  I can hear them in there and see some of the hay they used to build it, but I can't see the nest itself.  Of course this means I can't close the barn door until the babies hatch and fly away.  I don't want to crunch up some wee babies.

There is another nest that I can hear and not see.  It seems they have gone between the sides of the barn and the roof.  there is a small gap.  And then they have built the nests on top of the soffits on the eaves.  I can hear them up there peeping away.  I can see the parents fly around and convince me not to look behind the curtain (Wizard of Oz reference), but I can't see any of the babies.  And they are all where I can't get to the babies.  So I can't even get a barn cat to get rid of them or to convince them not to return.

And then I'll have to talk Lee into using the pressure washer next time they leave.  No point in it now.  This is from just a few days

Oh, well.  They are cute, I guess.

Lee..Don't Read!

SPOILER ALERT!! SPOILER ALERT!! I don't want Lee to read this because it is about a gift for him. A gift that he will get in a few weeks. I had to wait until he went out of town for a car swap meet. That way I could work on it without letting him see. But I wanted to blog about it and get the pictures off my camera!

So, if he reads this far, it is HIS fault that it is not a surprise. Part way through making my first quilt I was surprised that it did not suck. It wasn't particularly good mind you, but it wasn't terrible. Then I was trying to figure out what to DO with it. It is a sampler and not big enough for a bed. I didn't want it on the wall for people to go up to it and find any flaws..of which there are some and I don't want to discuss it further. It is a throw type of quilt and I thought Lee might like it when on the couch watching TV on a winter's eve. Our anniversary is coming up, so I decided to give it to him then.

Many people have told me to label the quilt. There are lots of ways. I thought I might back stitch the information on the back of the quilt with floss. Then Doris told me about this fusible fabric that you can print in your computer printer. My handwriting is atrocious, so this sounded good to me! I bought the fabric and went to the website for the templates and I was in business!

I love modern technology! Well, you know, except where it doesn't work for me and I get frustrated and want to hurl things around the room.

I wrote my name and Lee's name and the reason I made the quilt. It was my first quilt, so I put that down, too. When I am famous for my quilts...or infamous for some misdeed...people will want my quilts and the numbers will be like VIN numbers on vehicles and they will be collectible. OK, THAT won't happen, but future generations can tell when and where they were made...if it matters to them!
After I printed it I let it dry and then cut it out and pressed it on the back of the quilt. It is a bit stiff so I may try to label the next one by hand. I MAY do it before I finish and then it will be easier to put it on the quilt. I can't decide.
Anyway, Happy Anniversary, Lee!

Monday, April 16, 2012

Maple Breakfast Souffle

We had overnight company and I always like to serve a B&B type breakfast. I wasn't sure about trying a recipe that I had never made. Especially after getting distracted TWO times last night and over baking the shortcakes I was making for Strawberry Shortcakes. They weren't burned, but too brown for me! The first time making this was not a disaster and it was light and delicious!

Maple Breakfast Souffle

Pam cooking spray
1/2 package of King's Hawaiian Sweet Rolls, cut into cubes
1/2 package of Philadelphia cream cheese
1/2 stick of butter
1/2 cup maple syrup

I only had the light/fake version of syrup, so I added some maple flavoring, about 1/2 teaspoon

5 large eggs
1 1/2 cups milk. I didn't have whole so I used some 1 percent and a bit of half and half
1 teaspoon cinnamon
powdered sugar

Spray a 8X8 oven safe pan and place the cut up bread in it.

Soften the butter and cream cheese in the microwave for about 20 seconds. I swirled it around with my spoon until smooth, but you may use a mixer. It was too small of an amount for my Kitchen-Aid to handle well!

Add the syrup and the flavoring and mix until smooth. Using a spatula, spread the cream cheese mixture over the bread cubes.

Mix the eggs and milk in a bowl and pour over everything. Sprinkle with cinnamon, cover tightly and refrigerate overnight.

Heat oven to 350. Remember to remove the cover, especially if it is Cling wrap! Bake for 50 to 55 minutes. I did it for 55.

Remove from the oven and let it sit for about 5 minutes. Then serve with powdered sugar sprinkled on top. I also used a bit more syrup.

Please forgive the quality of the pictures. It was late at night when I made it and early in the morning when I cooked it and I had a hard time getting the lighting to be adequate. I will someday buy a better camera that will make up for my shortcomings as a photographer.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Are We Done Yet?

It seems like we have been working on this project for a long time and we are not even half way through. I am not looking forward to painting the raw lumber. First I have to paint a primer coat on 3 sides of the wood. When that dries I can paint the 4th side. Then I have to wait for that to dry and paint most of the wood with the regular paint. Wait, yet again. Do to do to do. (That is me singing while I wait.) Then I paint the last of the wood. Then we install it and paint where we wrecked the paint. You know we will.

There is no point in taking shortcuts. The wood will be out in the weather and I do not want to get up on a ladder and paint this thing any time soon. So I have to do a good job the first time. That doesn't mean I am going to like it. At least I can be in the garage and listen to music or something.

We dug the holes and "planted" the posts. Each hole had to be progressively bigger to be able to move it around to make sure everything was square and even. We probably should have run a string to make sure, but for two posts on each side, we just decided to wing it.

We have installed a couple of hundred posts, but these four wore me out. The ground had a few rocks, but mostly it was just HARD and compacted soil. I would use the heavy metal bar and Lee would use the post hole digger. The bar is about 20 pounds and solid metal. It is about 4 feet long and flat on top with a wedge on the bottom and it is invaluable for breaking up rocks and loosening inch at a time. I don't know what it is called but we need it for post hole digging. Even though we have done a lot of these it still took us 2 hours and we are sore once again.

We have a technique for pouring in the concrete. We learned it from the guys that built our barn. One of us holds the post up using the small level. The other one dumps in a small amount of concrete and a bit of water. Stir to mix and then add more concrete/water. It works great and you don't have to mix up bag after bag in a wheelbarrow. Anything that involves less clean up when I am tired is good by me.

I remember looking around and wishing that Roz or Dad would send me a sign. It was getting warmer and the gnats started to fly around my face. One went up my nose and I had to snort it out. I decided that this was a sign from Roz. She was my little sister and we had some knock down, drag outs when we were kids. It might appeal to her sense of humor.

Then I saw the first ladybug of spring. So I decided the gnats were from dad and the ladybug from Roz. But I could be wrong.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

RJ Is Not Lassie

I knew Lee had gone up the hill to get the tractor. Then I heard RJ barking and barking. He likes to chase away all forms of wildlife that encroach on "his" territory, so it didn't bother me.

I went in the garage to get some tools and he came running down the hill to me. RJ usually stays with Lee. I started to worry. (It is one of my best skills.) What if Lee had something go wrong up there on the hill? It was to far away to hear him if he called.

You know how Lassie would go barking to the farmhouse and they would know that Timmy was in the well? What if RJ was trying to tell me Timmy, I mean LEE was in the well, I mean under the tractor?

So I went and looked up the hill.

Too far away to see or hear anything. See the tractor way up there? Can you see Lee? Me, neither.

I got in the Mule and drove up there, with RJ following along ahead of me. You know. The way cats do when your hands are full and it is dark?

Lee was fine and just putting the bush hog on the tractor instead of the scraper. I was a little miffed at RJ for crying wolf! But maybe he was just coming to say "Hi!" I wish I had taken doglish in school.

I am sad to say that RJ is not Lassie. Limited communication skills.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Now We Have To Buy The Wood

I spread the pine mulch around the blueberries, but the hay I need to spread to keep down the weeds will have to wait until this wind dies down. It has been blowing like crazy for three days. My hair is a rat's nest and my nose is bright red from sniffing and blowing it after the morning spent working in this wind! Don't I sound gorgeous?

We finished leveling the frame. Because of the slope one end was up in the air and one was level with the ground. We have a plethora of rocks around the farm and gathered some to firm up the frame and to place around the exposed edges to hold in the gravel and sand. This is so appropriate for my father's portion of the memorial. He LOVED to collect rocks. Small rocks and giant rocks. I remember one time when we were on a trip and he pulled over to the side of a road. He told two of us kids to go get the rock he had seen and to put it in the trunk. It was huge and heavy and we argued, but he always won those types of arguments. I think it was a rose quartz and I KNOW that taking it was illegal.

The small rocks he would place in gardens and the big ones were for lining our various driveways. Our house in Altadena had a long driveway and it was lined on both sides by Dad's "finds". We also had a weekend home in the desert that had a very long, lined driveway. I assume they are still there and the original owner, or the State of California, is welcome to go get them back. Especially as our family no longer owns either property. And I no longer live in the state. And I am sure the statute of limitations applies. I hope.

So, while the shelter and the garden is for Roz, the rocks are for Dad. I smashed my fingers good a few times, so I hope he appreciates it.

Then Lee "stole" some gravel from the road to the barn. He used the front loader on the tractor and we used the gravel to fill in any gaps under the frame and then raked an even layer over the whole area. Last we dumped out 7 of our 8 bags of sand and raked that smooth.

Lee built a quick screed to make sure everything was as level as two amateurs could get it. This is a board the lies upon the sand with a top piece to ride along the frame. As you slide it back and forth it levels and smooths the sand to then lay the brick.

I figured out the pattern and then we CAREFULLY placed the brick inside the frame. I was worried that we had measured wrong or something and that we would have to cut the bricks. The frame was wedged in with rocks and sand and pounded into place with short lengths of re-bar. It wasn't going anywhere.

But Lee is good at what he does and it was perfect. He left a bit of room in each direction so that sand could be swept into the joints. This will really tighten things up and keep everything in place. One or two bricks rocked a bit, but sweeping the last bag of sand into the joints over and over made them firm.

Maybe we should take tomorrow off to buy the wood for the shelter/arbor. Both of our hands are sore. My back and arms are sore. I am too old for this stuff.