Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Blogging and Bogging

Tonight the cooking will begin. 

Pumpkin pie
Green Beans
Mashed potatoes
Sweet Potatoes
Cranberry sauce

Here is the kitchen sink cranberry bog from a few years ago:

How many different colors of red.  Lovely.

I made the pie dough last night.  Pie is first on the list tonight.  I always make the pie first and I always buy enough ingredients to make them twice.  Just. In. Case.  If something goes wrong, there is time to start over. 

What could go wrong?


This is me. 
This is me in the kitchen.  You don't get good at cooking without a few mistakes.  Ok maybe dozens of mistakes.

Let's see, there was the time I tripped carrying the tray of toasted party mix from the oven to the counter. 

I saw it all happen in S-L-O-W motion. 

Cereal, pretzels, and nuts all up in the air and all landing on the floor.  I have no idea what I tripped over.

Most recently there was the Pistachio cake. Walt Kowalski was there to witness that fiasco.  A lady at work requested I make a Pistachio cake for her party.  Just after the cake cooled, Walt Kowalski asked what it looked like.  I tilted the cake towards him and it slid right off the pan and onto the floor.  I landed perfect.  Not a single crack or crumble.  I flipped it back on to the pan, dusted it off, and put a layer of icing on it.  Everybody raved about it.  (I wasn't prepared to make an extra.)

Ohhh how about the wedding cake that had to be delivered the morning of December 31st.  It was an afternoon reception.  No biggie, except that the night before was an ice storm and the roads were less than terrific in the morning.  It was a good thing I brought extra icing to hide Grammy's fingerprints where she held onto the cake so it wouldn't tumble as I drove on the icy roads.  

Then there were the sweet potatoes.  Technically, this story gets credited to my Pap.  He and Granny were coming to Grammy's house for dinner.  Granny made the pies and sweet potatoes.  I love the sweet potatoes.  When they arrived they had pies.  No sweet potatoes.  The sweet potatoes had an accident.  Pap was trying to turn the knob of the basement door while holding the hot casserole and the casserole slipped to the floor. 

This past summer, one warm summery evening Walt Kowalski and I were grilling burgers.  I brought a container out to the grill to store the extras.  After Walt Kowalski transferred the food from the grill to the container, I intended to place the container on the side board of the grill and missed.  Burgers and hot dogs all over the ground. The raccoon ate well that night.

Let's hope it goes well this evening.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

I'm dreaming of a white


All is well at the Cat Ranch.  All guts are feeling better and a night full of good sleep cures a multitude of problems.

Here is a few artsy-fartsy photos for you on this snowy morning.

There is a tree on campus with beautiful red berries.  They are even more pronounced today.


I got flakes on my camera lens. The hazards of the job.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Plumbing and Poisoning

Saturday was a day full of plumbing and a full day of plumbing.  At both houses.  We started at House #2. Last month when it got cold only got the boiler up and running.  We never finished replacing the stolen copper that supplied the radiators in the living room.  It wasn't freezing in the living room, but it was noticeably cooler than the rest of the house.
Couple fittings, couple of pipes, a couple of valves, and a trip back to the hardware store, solder, solder, torch, torch.  Heat! Walt Kowalski makes it look so simple. 

House #1 wasn't as easy.  The main water line onto the house had a drip on the other side of the water meter.  It was a small drip that was easily controlled with a small bucket placed under the pipe. Last week Walt Kowalski hooked up a hose bib for me to get water.  The water pressure is great.  So great that turning the water on and off turned the drip into a geyser!

A call to the water authority shut the water off at the curb.  Now we had the opportunity to fix the pipe, but why stop there.   We had the opportunity to fix the entire pipe. 

The main water supply runs through a hole in the block foundation under the front porch, through the old unheated coal cellar, through the stone foundation of the house, and into the basement.  None of it was insulated. None of it was heated. 

Walt Kowalski fixed all of it.  He added a new main shut off valve, insulated the entire pipe, and added a self-regulating heat cable. 

The coal cellar looks dark and scary.  It is dark.  The previous owners partitioned the room to keep the coal on one side.  It wasn't support, just a divider.  Removing the divider made the room less scary. 

Walt Kowalski made it all look so easy.  
   The shadows were cool, but it confused my camera and I had a difficult time getting it to focus.

It was a long day.  We were both dressed in multiple layers and I didn't have a problem with the cold until the very end of the day.  Walt Kowalski just wanted to finish.  I just wanted to go home.  I was cold and tired and hungry.  I can deal with cold and tired or cold and hungry or tired and hungry, but cold and tired and hungry was too much.   

When we left House #2 at 1pm, Walt Kowalski asked if I was ok and if I needed a snack.  I was fine.  At 7pm, I joked 'could I have that snack now?' 

I know there are going to be some rough days.  I'll be better prepared next time. 

Here's a cute picture of Oreo.  She loves baskets.  She doesn't like rides in the baskets.  I even make car noises, but that doesn't help.  Pepper doesn't mind the rides. 

Sunday morning we did a few neglected chores around the Cat Ranch.  Walt Kowalski took all of the clothes to the laundry room and I washed the shower curtain and liner.  How can soap be so dirty?

Then we attended a benefit for the local K-9 unit.  It was a lot of fun.  They had a DJ, the football game was on a big screen TV,  there was a little gambling on the side, and lots of food catered by the restaurant.

It was a nice afternoon and evening.  Walt Kowalski got to catch up with an old friend and we even got to know our neighbors a little.  They also approved of our improvements around the Cat Ranch.

And then it went downhill fast. 

I'm blaming the meatballs.  They were good.  Larger than golf balls.  Baked in sauce.  Tasty. 
I should know better than to eat ground beef.  Forget should, I know better.   I didn't think. 

I made it home.  I didn't make it inside. I did make it out of the truck.  I have to find some positive in the situation. 

We pulled in the driveway and when the cold air hit me after I opened the truck door, I knew I was in trouble.  My coat is going to need a good washing. So is the bathroom.

Walt Kowalski blamed the chicken.  He wasn't feeling so great either.

Fudge was the only one that benefitted from the situation.  After everything, I just wanted to lay down and sleep.  I forgot to close the bedroom door.  He took advantage and sucked up the free heat by sleeping between us.  Something he hasn't been allowed to do since we got the new bedroom furniture last year. 

My guts are still yucky today.  The worst part is that I had planned to do a few things when we got home, before bed.  Lunches were not packed. Coffee wasn't ready.  There wasn't even coffee in the fridge upstairs.  The shower curtain was still in the washing machine (at least it was clean!) Gym bags weren't packed.  Calling off sick was very tempting. 

It's not my first case of food poisoning.  I hope it will be my last. 

Don't eat the meatballs.  We are not going back to that restaurant.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Sweet Sweet Heat

It's gonna get cold outside. We can't stop that. We can stop it from getting cold inside.  We have light. We have a toilet. Now all we need is a little heat. 
Hello new furnace. Right now it looks more like arms and legs should pop out and it will transform into a robot. 
Walt Kowalski looked at the forecast for the weekend and decided the last nice days before winter were slipping away quickly. Nobody wants to be drilling holes in the side in the rain, snow, and cold. He did that at the Cat Ranch when he installed the flue for our new furnace. The thought of that night still makes us laugh.  He spent hours - hours - outside in the rain and cold, wearing my old hooded, yellow rain jacket, drilling holes through the brick and concrete. 
It looks very scary in the photos I take in the basement.  It really isn't as bad as it looks.  Nothing a good sweeping, a little white paint and some 60-watt light blubs won't fix.  

Thursday, November 21, 2013

We missed what!?!

Walt Kowalski and I have a great fire pit.  It's also got a beautiful view of sunsets.

Every time we sit out there watch the traffic speeeeeeeed down our road we always comment that one of these days we are going to see an accident happen right on the curve.

Well wouldn't you know, the one day we aren't home sitting by the fire pit we miss all the excitement.

Thanks to Mrs. Mayor for the photos. 


This was at the bottom of our driveway.  This all happened yesterday at the bottom. of. our. driveway!  We missed all the excitement. 

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Then there were none

The kitchen chimney was the last big dirty project in House #1. We've still got a LOT of dust and piles of plaster in the corners, but the dirty work is almost finished.   Every day we work I'm running the shop vac to pick up more piles.  We are really close to being done with the dirty dirty dirty work.

Hello down there.

Walt Kowalski has been patching the holes in the floor where there were once registers and chimneys.  Don't step backwards without looking first. You could end up in the basement real quick.

This was messier than the other chimney.  This chimney was in better physical condition, so it took a little more effort with the sledge hammer to remove.  It was also still full of coal dust.  Black, filthy coal dust, which is now covering everything.  But that's nothing a broom, sweeper, and some soap and water won't fix. At least the coal dirt was contained to the basement.   (Yes, Grammy I wore a good dust mask.)
Walt Kowalski and I shoveled all of this out the backdoor into the yard.  We'll deal with it another time.  

Take a peak in the's a toilet! We removed an old one from the corner of the basement and salvaged this one from the upstairs bathroom.  It has been sitting on the front porch ever since.  Classy.  Although, that did make seating for three on the front porch. 

We finally got it in place this week.  The water isn't connected, but we have water in the other room in the basement and bucket to transport the water to the toilet.  This, along with the lighting upstairs, means we can work longer in the evenings and on the weekends. It's a girl thing.  Really, it's the small things in life.   

Finally, the last photo for today just makes me chuckle.  Walt Kowalski has a stand for the circular saw at home in the shed, but we keep forgetting to bring it.   We were using the saw on the floor and kneeling, but that gets a little rough on your knees.  Here is Walt Kowalski's ingenuity:

One piece of ply wood + one garbage can = table for the saw.  It shakes a little when you turn on the saw, but it is much easier on the back and knees.  The stand is on the "Bring to House#1" list for Saturday. 

Tuesday, November 19, 2013


Sous (pronounced like Sioux or Sue) means under.  Most commonly Sous-Chef.  The shortened version of Sous-Chef de Cuisine.

The second in command.
The direct assistant.

A very important job.

The kitchen is not the only place that has Sous-Chef.  Remodeling has a Sous-Chef. So does wood chopping.  So does tree trimming.

I am the Sous-Chef.

It's a very important job.  Although it often includes a lot of holding things, it's more than just a "hold this and stand on this" job. 

The most important role of the Sous-Chef, or assistant, is paying attention.  Not just paying attention to details, but also paying attention to the task at hand.  You can't get bored, even if the task is boring.  You can't let your mind wander to what is for dinner or the grocery list.  You can't get distracted by other people in the room or the television or the telephone or the cat.  You must pay attention to the play-by-play and be prepared for the next request.

A knowledge of equipment is very important, but the terminology is learned over the course of the career.  Crescent wrench, pipe wrench, Philips, vice grip, channel locks, impact driver. 

You also have to have a good memory for unusual things.  Most important is the last place an item was located. 
"Do you know where the basin wrench is?" 
"The last time I saw the basin wrench, it was in the bottom drawer of the toolbox in the game room."

An understanding of the language is helpful. 
"I need the thing for the thing." 
"This thing?" 
"Yes, that thing."

A good Sous-Chef has the next tool ready for action, not unlike a surgeon asks for an instrument. 
"Hand me a crescent wrench."
"Crescent wrench."
"Hand me the pipe wrench."
"Pipe wrench."

Lighting provider is also a key role of a Sous-Chef.  A good case of rigor-mortis is helpful at times, too.
"Hold this flashlight right here."
"Right here?"
"No lower.  Right there. Don't move."

A Sous-Chef not only assists they can think on their feet. 
"That's a good idea.  It won't work in the kitchen, but it's a good idea for the hallway."

A Sous-Chef is also good at clean up. 
"Quick grab a towel!"  
"How about a bucket?"

I am an excellent Sous-Chef.  I still have a lot to learn from the Executive Chef Walt Kowalski.  

Monday, November 18, 2013

Saturday Successes

Saturday was an great, productive day (and looking back we're glad we didn't put it off until Sunday, otherwise we would have been working in the rain.)
So here is the check list of everything we accomplished on Saturday:
  • all of the clean laundry put away
  • house trash emptied
  • dishwasher unloaded and reloaded
  • washed the windows in the kitchen
  • several loads of laundry washed (where do all of these dirty clothes come from?!?)
  • Walt Kowalski split and organized all of the wood in the woodpile
  • old wood from House #1 burned
  • leaves blown and raked and raked and raked and raked
  • log rack moved and reloaded
  • sensitive papers burned
  • litter boxes emptied, scrubbed, and refilled
Here's Walt doing the splitting.
It's cherry and it smelled so good as he was splitting it.  The fire inside smells just as good.

My pile-o-leaves.  It doesn't look like much in this photo but by the end I had 2 piles that were shoulder deep. With piles this big, the leaf blower was useless at this point.

It was a beautiful day.  There was very little wind, so it was perfect for a fire and the evening was cool, but not cold.  It's not often you get to outside until 9:00pm in the middle of November.

It's good I got so much done on Saturday, because the only thing I did on Sunday was take down a chimney. :)

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Chim Chimeny

Here are the chimney pictures, as promised.  My camera was right where I left it.  *sigh*  Thank goodness no aliens landed nearby today that needed photographed.
Walt Kowalski was on the second floor knocking down bricks and creating dust.  Everything we do at this point creates dust.
 It looks like ghostly dust. 


Chimney before
Chimney after (during)


My students go nowhere, nowhere, without their phones.  On a regular basis, I find a phone someone left in the ladies room.
I have a 100% return rate.  Once I even called the number listed as "mom" to find the owner of the phone.  Telephone karma. 

The last phone I found was a professor's phone, so it's not just students.

I don't have this phone addiction.  I do however, have this addiction with my camera and I take it with me everywhere. 

I forgot it at House #1. :(  I remembered it when we got home, but I was cold and hungry and didn't want to go back.  Walt Kowalski was so kind and even offered to go get it for me.  It wasn't necessary.  We'll be at House #1 tonight.  Let's just hope aliens don't land before then.

I have pictures of the removal of the second chimney.  We are almost down to the ceiling of the basement. 

Last night we did some online research about laminated support beams.  We are going to use a laminated beam for support on the first floor instead of a wall to the living room.  We're also going to use one in the basement to correct the sag in the house. 

Walt Kowalski has done this before so he has excellent ideas.  I, however, only had a general idea of what he's talking about, but needed to see more pictures.  We didn't just find pictures, we found videos, instructions, and a whole lot of what not to do when removing a wall. 

Ahhhhhh it makes so much more sense now. 

I'll have lots of pictures.

When I remember my camera. 

P.S. Don't call me from the ladies room and use some sanitizer on that phone every now and then.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013


Today is November 12, 2013.


I'm first in the office in the morning.  I have to turn the alarm off on the main lab, two classrooms, and our office.  I always know the date (until I need to know the date and then I've forgotten.) 

I never noticed the word Gemini until this morning. 

Also fitting on 11/12/13 is the first snow.  A harsh contrast of the first snow is a lovely bloom on the hibiscus in my office. 

Monday, November 11, 2013

Leaves schmeaves

I love leaves.

These kind of leaves:
Or these kind of leaves:
Ohhhhh.  Ahhhhhh. Pretty.

Not these leaves.
Or these leaves:

Blah rakey rakey.
I'm going to be here a while, even with my leaf blower.  *sigh*

Last tree standing

Last Saturday was too windy.  This Saturday was the day. 
This Saturday HAD to be the day.  We are all tired of looking at the last tree.  The maple needs to stand alone.
At first we had concerns about the wind, but as the afternoon progressed, the wind calmed.
Chain Saw Johnny and Walt Kowalski put the ladder as high as they could.

32 feet of extension ladder in the air is high.  Walt Kowalski is always so fearless.  If he is fearful, he never lets on.  (You can see the Mayor and Mrs./Girlfriend Mayor in the background.  She's not often seen outside in the yard.)
Walt putting the straps on the tree. 
We exchanged the ropes for wires. 1,200 pound pull capacity wires.  We also have a backup plan, a Hobbit rope. 

The Hobbit rope was just a rope, but it was shiny and soft and strong.  Walt Kowalski said it looked like Hobbits made it.  Hobbits are a good backup, thus the name.
The truck will provide tension and motion on the wire through the wire guide pulley. 
It wouldn't be a day on the Cat Ranch if something didn't go wrong.  In retrospect, we should have put the wire guide pulley behind the tree, then we wouldn't have needed the strap.  As a backup we chained the wire guide pulley to the tree.  We are all thankful we did.  Every time we get out the saw we learn a better, safer way.   
The last tree on the front hill is down! 
Here is the before and after comparison. The cherry tree was twice as tall as the maple.  The wood was beautiful. The house is going to smell so good when that burns.  No evidence of ants and Walt Kowalski is going to make sure the English Ivy doesn't attack the last maple standing.

Now the maple tree will have room to grow.  It is a lovely tree, even with half of the leaves on the ground.

(If you look close in that last photo you can see part of the brick rip rap by Chain Saw Johnny.)