Thursday, July 31, 2014

Not my usual zucchini bread

Rather than bake my usual whole wheat zuke brick, this year I decided to try a couple of new zucchini bread recipes.

First up, Glazed Lemon Zucchini Bread, recommended by a friend. I omitted the glaze, as the bread is sweet enough as it is. And, since it is made with cake flour, it is really more cakelike than breadlike.

I fed it to the worker bees yesterday. It disappeared with alacrity. But I doubt I will make this recipe again.

In the eat-more-butter department is Shirley Estabrook Wood's Zucchini Bread, from The Essential New York Times Cookbook. Using lots of butter, eggs, sugar, and walnuts, but no yeast, this recipe creates a loaf of bread that looks yeast-risen. It is a touch too sweet for me, but otherwise delicious and very addicting. One sample bite led to another, and another, and another, until I had to put it away. This would be a good recipe for guests who are not very crunchy.

One problem I had with both loaves is, despite extending the baking times, neither was very done on the inside. I checked my oven with an oven thermometer, and it appears to be spot on, so I'm not sure what the problem is. Perhaps my stainless loaf pans?

Monday, July 28, 2014

After week 1

The total chaos that is currently my home is making me twitchy. I'd like to vacuum the kitchen and family room but the floor is barely visible. At least I can *use* the kitchen, unlike during phase 1 of the remodeling.

The ceilings are nearly done and the walls are prepped, so the messy part is over. (Does this mean no more nightly vacuuming by the crew? Darn.) They are going to work on finishing the two spare bedrooms first, so hopefully by the end of the week, I will be able to clean those carpets and move furniture back into them.

The rest of the house shouldn't be too far behind. The only kink is the bathroom - the tub enclosure won't be here until August 8. I can live without that room indefinitely, although I don't want to.

Remodeling is hard on my psyche, primarily because there are people at my door by 8am and in my house Monday through Friday. That's a tough situation for a "quirky alone". I'm not particularly neat, but the level of disorder is more than even I can stand.

I declared my bedroom a crap-free zone, so there is one room where I can go and pretend that the rest does not exist, and I spend a lot of time outside (the weather has been very cooperative). Although parts may drag out, it won't last forever (I keep telling myself). But I will be glad when it is finished, in more ways than one.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Moka, not mocha

I really like Americano coffee drinks - a shot of espresso with hot water - so when my Mr. Coffee coffeemaker broke a part, I decided to invest $25 in a moka maker. To be straight with you, moka is not the same as espresso, but it is a very cheap alternative for making intense coffee drinks at home. On the advice of Amazon reviewers, I purchased a small model, supposedly good for one or two people.

It took a bit of experimenting to get a drink I like. First, I switched from my usual "Mind, Body, Soul" roast to an espresso roast. For the moka maker, I set my bean grinder to medium (I use a fine grind for the drip coffeemaker). And then, after I brew my little pot of joe, I heat a half mug of milk in the microwave and pour the hot coffee into that. It tastes surprisingly chocolatey.

My drip coffeemaker still works, even with the broken part, which is just as well, as making 5 ounces of coffee at a time would be tedious for a group. And I still like to consume a certain *volume* of coffee, regardless of the strength. However, it is *not* as good as an Americano, IMHO.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

After day 1

The wallpaper guy did his thing yesterday. Having removed all the rest of the wallpaper in this house over the years myself, I was a little jealous over how easy the last of it came off for him. But then I heard him grunting as he was washing the paste off the walls, a chore I remember well. Once again, I am very happy to let someone else do all the work this time around.

Diningroom before stripping

Diningroom after stripping

Bedroom with border

Bedroom sans border

Today the ceiling guy is here, working on the two bedrooms. In fact, he just did the smelly part. Gotta go turn on the exhaust fan in the bathroom at that end of the house. Gak!

Monday, July 21, 2014

Ready, set...


I spent the whole weekend moving many of my earthly possessions out of the closets, cupboards, bedrooms, and other living spaces, mostly into the West Wing, in anticipation of the start of phases 2 and 3 of the remodeling.

Originally, phase 2 included the main bathroom and two bedrooms, while phase 3 covered the livingroom, diningroom, and hallway. I wanted them done separately, because I could not imagine where all my crap would go while they worked. When the delivery time for the new tub stretched out to four weeks, though, I suggested we go ahead and start on phase 3. Between vacations and other scheduling issues, nothing really got going, so now both phases are happening at the same time.

Today the wallpaper remover arrived, after first going to the wrong house. Once he found my place, the cops showed up. Apparently, the lady at the other house was spooked by his unexpected appearance on her property (she never answered the door). A couple of weeks ago, a personable but pushy lawn service guy was canvassing the neighborhood, and since then, people have been questioning anyone who appears to be loitering. Last week, my neighbor across the street confronted the wallpaper remover's boss who was sitting in his car in front of my house. Glad to know the neighbor (who is the best neighbor in the world because he blows my driveway in winter) is looking out for me.

NERD ALERT: Buried in that mess is over 20 years worth of computer equipment, including two Gateways, a Dell, and a Canon notebook. One of the Gateways was my "utility" computer: four serial ports (necessary for debugging serial communications between devices), two parallel ports, a 5.25 drive, 3.5 drive, and a Bernoulli drive. I had to talk the guy selling me the Canon into putting 8 megs of memory into it instead of the standard 4 because my Turbo C compiler would need it (I was right). Since there was not enough storage on the Canon, I used a Zip drive to store the software I developed. That was back in the day, when programming was fun.

A few items have been winnowed out, destined for Goodwill or Habitat's ReStore. I am eyeing the remaining and weighing what stays. Like the London Fog winter coat that I have not worn in years (decades?) But it's a LONDON FOG and they don't make them like that anymore. Maybe I will start wearing it this winter. If it still fits. And what about my wedding gown that I sewed myself, tiers of polyester with flowery lace trim? I should be allowed to keep a few things for sentimental reasons, right?

Monday, July 14, 2014

Kitchen orgy

I thought when I retired, I would have more time for blogging. That has not happened because now I have more time for *everything*. I knit more, I garden more, I sleep more. Yesterday, I decided to cook more.

Cooking from scratch is not all that uncommon these days, but I sometimes take it to extremes. Thus baking pizza can turn into making mozzarella (recipe from Home Cheese Making), pizza sauce (recipe from Preserving by the Pint), and dough (recipe from Smitten Kitchen Cookbook). The dressing for our salad was a raspberry version of this strawberry balsamic basil one. There was already homemade vanilla ice cream (from Jeni's Splendid Ice Creams at Home) in the freezer, and it was served over this galette.

Even though most of the cooking was done by noon for our evening supper, things did not go all that smoothly. The mozzarella turned out nice and shiny, with that characteristic squeak when bitten, but I didn't get all the whey out. After cooling in the fridge, the cheese looked kind of funky. Still perfectly edible, just not so pretty. Milk from my herd share.

My Italian herb mix is rather ancient, so I used almost twice what the pizza sauce recipe called for. Also, my old eyes sometimes mistake a 1 for a 3 when the 1 has a serif, thus I used 3/4 of a teaspoon fresh ground pepper instead of 1/4. Very tasty just the same. Instead of tomatoes, I used tomato sauce from last year's garden.

The yeast for the dough was also ancient. Saturday night, I tried proofing it, twice, just to make sure it worked, with two failures. Maybe the water was too hot or third time's the charm, because I tried one more time Sunday morning (anything to avoid a trip to the grocery store) and it worked well enough to add the flour. The dough went into the fridge until mid afternoon, when I popped it into the oven with the oven light on; two hours later, it had doubled and was ready to become pizza.

For the salad dressing, I had tried substituting raspberries for the strawberries before but the result was too seedy. This time I ran the berries through my saucemaker, using the berry screen, thus turning a very simple recipe into a lot more work. The dressing turned out less creamy but just as tasty. Raspberries and basil from my garden.

The dough for the galette was also started Saturday night, with better success. The recipe warns about oozing and ooze it did, but not very much. Raspberries from the garden.

Salad fixings purchased at a farmers market and mild Italian sausage from a local farm rounded out our supper, plus beer. A very satisfying meal, plus I think I have got the cooking bug out of my system. For a while.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Prepping for phase 4

Phases 2 and 3 of the remodeling might actually get started in a week or two. Meanwhile, I have started the process of garnering quotes for a deck. I have an idea of what I want - something simple! low or no maintenance! - but I'm open to suggestions, as long as they don't cost a lot of money.

Deck guy #1 came yesterday. Unfortunately, he is the front man, not the designer. He tried pushing for railings and benches (more expense but they would reduce the likelihood of falling off the deck), then he fretted over the potential pergola (how to fit it under the eaves, whether it would need its own footings, etc.) And for a while, he detoured into the topics of inflation and how the government just prints money when we should go back to the gold standard.

It is going to be about four weeks before this outfit can even get a quote back to me. I'll call some other places; maybe I will discover this lag time is the norm. I hope the topics of conversation are not.