31 August 2010

Bargains


I've decided there are few things that I like more than a bargain.  My paternal grandmother, Audrey, was a legendary and dedicated garage sale-er . . . perhaps I inherited this gene. In any case, last weekend, I managed to find a couple doozies! 

Honestly, I wasn't even looking for a garage sale, but on my way to water at the p-patch, there it was.   I rescued -- for free -- an entire box of old canning jars, which are perfect to hold dry beans and grains, and, well, other important stuff I need to keep around.

I also bought an entire 20-piece set of flatware for $2.50 -- this will be perfect for camping, picnics, and the like.  I nabbed a working, Sunbeam plug-in ice cream freezer for our friends, who have been lusting after ours all summer.  Serious bargain at $2.00!  And, the ultimate find, a Sears-brand band saw on a stand for $12.50.  Byron is pretty excited to add this to his growing workshop collection of power tools.  It works fine, although it will need a little clean up and maintenance. 

Maybe all my bargains will make up for the full-price maternity clothes I just ordered on line . . .

27 August 2010

Harbingers of fall

The spiders have arrived.  They are everywhere in my yard.  Which means that I inevitably walk into a new web just about every time I turn the corner.  It's quite unpleasant when you get a web across the face, and then wonder where, exactly, the spider in the web ended up . . . 

Unfortunately, they are showing up inside the house already too.  (This may have something to do with the empty egg sack I found behind one of the toilet tanks.  Argh.)  Good thing I have a new vacuum -- by November, they will be just too big to squish. 

In any case, I always know September is just about here when they appear. Although I find them a bit creepy, I can't help but admire their lovely brown and black markings and appreciate how artistic and resilient they are.  Nomatter how many times I walk through their webs, they immediately rebuild!

For the most part, I think the ones in my yard are European Garden Spiders.

What kind of spiders have you started seeing?

22 August 2010

Half way

The little guy -- who we've affectionately dubbed "Grover" -- has been our pea in the pod for 21 weeks now.  If I were to predict his career at this point, I would definitely say he's going to be an acrobat.  Grover has been quite busy in there lately -- not sure doing what exactly, but there's been a lot of activity.

At our last ultrasound, shortly before 20 weeks, they took some pretty good pictures of him.  Here are a couple.

Turns out there's really a little baby in there!


19 August 2010

Behold, the broiled tomato


For most of us, tomatoes usually go into a salad, a sandwich, or a sauce.  But here's a great way to eat them as the main attraction.  They are super easy and quite irresistible. 

Broiled Tomatoes

The topping:
Crush Saltine-type crackers as finely or coarsely as you like.  (I used stoned wheat crackers above.)
Melt a few tablespoons of salted butter and drizzle over the crumbs.  Mix with a fork until all the crumbs are moist.  You may need to add more butter depending on how many crumbs you have.
Add a pinch of salt and pepper.  Grated Parmiganio is a nice addition too, if you have it.

Assembly:
Slice medium or large tomatoes in half and place cut-side up on a baking sheet.
Mound the tops with crumbs.

Bake in a 350 degree oven for about 8 minutes, until the tomatoes just beginning to soften.
Turn on the broiler to brown and watch carefully!
Serve warm or at room temperature.

15 August 2010

I love summer.

It felt like it was 1000 degrees today.  And by that, I mean it got up to at least 96.  But I'm not complaining. 

My tomato plants absolutely love it.  So does the fig.  My zucchini plants are growing fast due to the heat, and I think it's totally killed what grass we had left, so that gives us less to mow or water.  A win-win all around.

On such a warm evening, we had no choice but to seek out the breeze on the deck once the sun went down.  Inspired by the box of beefsteak tomatoes that friends recently brought us from Walla Walla, I made a simple panzanella for supper.  Tomatoes, Walla Walla sweet onion, garlic, basil, lemon juice, olive oil, stale ciabatta, salt and pepper, and Parmigiano Reggiano.  Just right.


We sat on the deck as it got dark eating our supper, looking at venus, saturn and mars through binoculars, and feeling very lucky.

12 August 2010

Persian herb and cheese platter


I first discovered this wonderful combination of flavors at a Persian restaurant in the Bay Area that our friends Jill and Mark took us to over Memorial Day weekend.  I've been making it at home ever since!

We ate it tonight as part of our dinner, and the combination of flavors and textures was again so delicious that I just had to write about it.  Even if the combination sounds weird to you, I encourage you to give it a try.  You'll be amazed how fresh and tasty it is.

To serve it, I put all the ingredients in piles on a large plate.  Then we devour it as the warmed bread comes off the grill.  It makes a good appetizer for a crowd, or we've enjoyed it as a light meal all its own accompanied by grilled chicken skewers. Suit yourself.

Persian Herb and Cheese Platter

A generous pile of mixed, fragrant fresh herbs -- cleaned and spun dry. (I like to combine cilantro, mint and basil.  I think tarragon is also traditionally included.)

Two bunches fresh, small radishes, cleaned and cut in pieces (Thick slices or chunks are fine, but we like them whole as well.)

Good quality feta cheese, sliced (I prefer Israeli feta.)

Walnut halves, lightly toasted and cooled

Good quality flat bread, warmed.  (You can use pita bread if that's what you have on hand.  But my favorite is whole wheat chapati that's warm and straight from the grill.)

How to eat it: Wrap a piece of the feta, a radish, a couple walnuts, and a small bunch of the herbs in a piece of the warmed bread.  Devour.

07 August 2010

Our house is losing weight


Our house has been a zone of dust, black mold, broken tile, and drywall this week.

We're trying to complete at least half of the basement remodel by October, in preparation for Byron's dad to live with us.  (I know, good luck!) And to get started, Byron took the week off to tear out walls and replace studs in preparation for the next phase: replacing a lot of old plumbing with Pex.

Although I'm not wielding a sledge hammer myself, I'm trying to be helpful by pricing, sourcing, and looking for ways to stay within budget.  My lucky find was a liquidation sale at a local plumbing company where we picked up enough Pex to complete all the plumbing for $20.  I love a bargain!

In all, including the demo of our master bathroom upstairs (plumbing must be replaced there as well and there has been a nasty moldy smell emanating from that room ever since we bought the house), Byron has taken a ton and a half (yes, 3,000 pounds) of junk to the dump.  Bear in mind, a lot of it was broken, moldy tile and drywall, which is heavy stuff.

Demolishing our master bath was definitely the right move, as it turned out the floor had such rot in places near the shower that we can see straight to the basement through the sub floor.  It's a good thing nobody fell through!

Here's a bit of the progress so far.

Downstairs bath before -- well shortly after beginning at least.

And after the walls and tile have been removed.

The master bath before.

Check out the moldy studs around the shower.  It's so rotten it looks like it was burned in a fire!


Master bath after -- same two angles as in the before shots above.