Monday, December 31, 2012

Making Tamales in Ten Easy Steps

I'll walk you through our process:

1.  We walk out our door and head to Martin and Anna's place.
2.  We munch and talk to friends while Martin and Anna finish up the tamale fixing stuff.
3.  We watch carefully as Martin demonstrates the proper way to assemble a tamale.
4.  We ask for another demonstration.
5.  We thoroughly mess up the tamales we assemble. Apparently the trick is not too much corn stuff. Ernst puts in way too much corn stuff.
6.  Certain people get tired of making overstuffed tamales, and soon it is just myself and Judy slaving away at the tamale table.
7.  Martin takes away our humble attempts to the kitchen to be steamed in big scary looking pots.
8.  We sit down to freshly steamed, homemade tamales.
9.  We eat them.
10. We eat some more and then we say, Roll me over to the dessert tamales!

Martin was kind enough to make us some yummy vegan filling with mushrooms and zucchini and onions. Understuffed, overstuffed, leaking out the side and oozing out the bottom, even tamales made by amateurs are yu-u-um!

Not ready for their close-up

Inner beauty is so important

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Iron deficiency? Not here!

When we officially got the new house, one of the first decisions we made was to put a fence around the pool. It was a bit of a shame to do so, because the pool is such a great focal point in the yard. But we just didn't want the worries that come with pools and children. Plus, our dog Molly dive bombs anyone who is splashing in the water. So for the safety of all the kids who will visit our home, we made the call to fence the thing in.

I was in charge of getting the bids and I got four of them. The estimates were all over the place, but the one thing that kept coming up is that putting in a black chain link fence is not that much cheaper than going with an iron one. Since it was such a shame to fence in the pool, I was heavily leaning toward the iron option. I leaned hard enough and I got my iron fence. We went with Bill's Fence Company 916-332-5568. Molly soon got used to the two guys with welder masks in her yard. She's not too happy about having to run all the way around the fence now to chase the squirrels in the back. This new addition really interferes with her critter chasing. And she gets really annoyed when her ball rolls under the gate. The neighbors probably do too because she thinks barking will make it roll back.

Until warmer weather arrives, the pool will have to wait. But inside it's cozy as can be because Ernst really wanted a Regency fireplace insert, He thought it was a such a shame to have all this free firewood and he leaned heavily on me to get one for the house. I had bad memories of the one we had up in Tahoe. That thing drafted terribly and all I remember is the house being smoky and me being cold. This one is great and it is so efficient at burning we can use it even on no burn days. We got it just over on Fulton at River City Fireplace. Love love love it! So I got my iron fence and Ernst got his fireplace insert. As far as sort of expensive heavy black objects for the house, we're done for now.

"If you ask me, it was a waste of good money"

"If you ask me, it was money well spent"

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Molly and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day

Confession of the Week - our dog has a heated dog house. That would be the dog house with carpet on the floor and big cushy dog bed. The one that has the nice shingled roof. Yes, the one we plan on painting the same color as our house and the one I'm looking for dog house-sized shutters to match our shutters.

Even with all that, she is not happy. She wants to be inside. All the time. She sits out on the back porch and whines to come in, ignoring the backyard full of squirrels to chase. Of course this all goes back to her days of  being a little homeless pup on the streets of Bakersfield. (Cue up the tiny little violins - I'm a sucker for making excuses for her being a little, shall we say, attached to us.)

We had to leave her for two days in a row in some drenching rain while we were up at our assembly in Yuba City. We thought of sewing her a little service dog vest and taking her with us, we could say she's there to keep Ernst's blood pressure down. But if she ran into another service dog and went into her usual Molly-must-attack-all-breathing-things-with-four-legs, that would probably raise even my low BP. So we loaded her up with warm words of encouragement, made sure her dog house heater was working and hoped for the best.

Saturday went fine. She was quite wet but her amazing fur with the Teflon qualities cleaned up nicely and she spent the evening in with us. Her bed by the fire seemed to make up for a day left out in the rain. So today, we headed off again to Yuba City feeling all would be fine. Our first hint that it stormed really badly here was that our jade plant "Landon" on the front porch was knocked over and lost a big branch. I planted it the day my friend gave birth to her son by the same name. Lesson learned - don't ever name a plant, especially a plant that can freeze or fry or get knocked over and lose branches. There is way too much pressure to keep it alive.

The dog was a mess - a wet muddy mess. The sliding glass door had streaking wet and dirty paw prints all over it going up quite high, telltale signs of a dog that had been desperate to come in. I called the neighbor to ask how bad it had been. Horizontal rain, fierce wind and thunderstorms. I think Molly pulled a Marly and went a little nutty with the storm. She's all dried off now, lying in front of another fire. So much for our street-wise tough rescue pup; the heated dog house now needs a rain guard, calming music and a fireplace insert.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

We found the light

How do you misplace a big bathroom light with three glass fixtures? We did and it "turned up missing" as they say, until just the other day.
The roof and the bathroom were the first rooms to get attacked in our remodel. The roof was easy but the bathroom was scary. Big holes where wall should be, dry rot, mold, window replacement, tub out on the lawn - I never knew quite what to expect when I peeked in. And then there were the stories I heard after, about the actual mushrooms growing on the wall in the past! I wonder why Ernst didn't tell me that before it got fixed? Fungus among us - lovely.
Being that the light was one of the first things removed, it made its way around here looking for a safe place to hide until the dust settled. But after the dust settled, we couldn't find it. For weeks. We had a construction light/electrical extension cord lighting up the room. Wow, that did wonders for my makeup application. But The E finally looked in the place it actually was - in the master closet, behind his suits, hiding out from all the ruckus.
That officially closes the remodel of the bathroom. Except for when I repaint, because this turned out a wee bit more ballistic yellow than I imagined.

Breakdown of what we did:
dry rot and mold removal
new tub
new window
new flooring, a great Tarkett remnant for cheap
updated electrical
paint - walls, ceiling, door and new baseboards
new shower surround

Where the wild things grew

Great big window, but not good for a shower
After - that Target shower curtain looks better in person, I hope.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

The Lost Weekend

While Ernst continued to plug away at our ever-shrinking punch list, I was not good for much of anything after Friday. The news of the school shooting hit me hard and it all seemed like too much to even help him paint trim.

My mom and sister live very close to Newtown, and hearing their initial reactions was difficult. When we visit back there, I'm always a bit bummed to come home because it's like leaving Perfectville for Normalville. Last time we were there, I was looking for a parking place in Westport, one of Connecticut's idyllic towns on the seashore. I was thinking how different it is than where we live, a city that does not exactly ooze with charm. Then I saw a seemingly nice looking man walking down the street. He was wearing a t-shirt that said F___ Obama. Such an ugly bit of reality on an otherwise beautiful day. I wanted to say something snarky to him but it would have just been a case of pearls before swine. There are no Perfectvilles.

With three teachers in the family, my job as a school dispatcher, and the facts that this tragedy could happen anywhere are part of what kept me so numb this weekend. The worst things I've had to report at work so far have been a missing child (found), attempted copper theft (caught), and broken windows and graffiti too numerous to recount (repaired at the tax payer's expense). Mostly my job consists of watching people using the school grounds for the good and the bad, taking calls from alert neighbors keeping us posted, and communicating with the custodians and teachers, who call in to say they're putting extra time in their classrooms. Ernst was understanding as I cocooned these last few days, but it's time to get back to life here in Normalville.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Doisprezece Doisprezece Doisprezece

It's December 12, 2012.
Twelve Twelve Twelve.
In Romanian, for me, it's just another tongue twister - doisprezece doisprezece doisprezece. There'll never be a Seventeen Seventeen Seventeen, but that would be șaptesprezece șaptesprezece șaptesprezece. The funky "s" is a "sh" sound, causing the need for kleenex and some apologies if I say that really fast.
In Romanian, when people are rattling off a series of numbers, this is what I hear: SHPSHTSHIPSHPTSCHSHSHES. Like real people between the ages of 11 and 19, teens are difficult in the Romanian language.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

The new sewing/guest room - before and after

The artistic space formerly known as The Pink Room is finally finished. This room's fix-up list was not too long, but it took until now to get completely done. Here is the run down:

TSP the walls, primer and paint twice plus paint the ceiling and inside closets
Remove ceiling fan and replace with a simple light
New wiring to electrical outlets
New windows
Scrape, sand and paint the peeling trim paint and door
New window coverings.

The comforter on the bed is the same one I got at my wedding shower twenty-one years ago. It was a gift from Wendy, AKA "Grandma" from Binkies & Burpcloths. I would call that a winner in the gift department. I got the window shades at Grocery Outlet for ten dollars each and with that we are calling this room done.

I used to sew in the little room off the kitchen, so the goal here is to not let it get too out of hand with quilt fuzz and threads all over. And I need to get all my quilting stuff organized - right now my fabric is in opaque plastic tubs and I can't keep track of what I have. Sometimes I finish a quilt and then find the cutest little scrap that would have been perfect in it. My next project is a memory quilt for a woman from Washington. She's mailing me the fabric from her husband's clothes. And after that one is done, I am finally getting to the quilt for my little friend in Connecticut. Our hope is that by January all the house stuff will be completely wrapped up and we can get on with our previously scheduled programming.



Sunday, December 2, 2012

Doing laps in the pool house

There is a children's song that I have sung many times through the years. It has fun hand gestures that include first a nice strong fist and then the international sign for SPLAT!

The wise man built his house upon the rock
(repeat 2 times)
And the rain came tumbling down.

The rains came down and the floods came up
(repeat 2 times)
And the wise man's house stood firm!

The foolish man built his house upon the sand
(repeat 2 times)
And the rain came tumbling down.

The rain came down and the floods came up
(repeat 2 times)
And the foolish man's house went SPLAT!

A foolish man built a pool house in our yard years ago. This morning, the rains came down and the floods came up and our pool house went SPLAT! Oh, if it were only a pool house. It is to be Ernst's office and had a desk and bookshelves and semi-important stuff (still in boxes, thank goodness, and up on the shelves). A trip to Emigh Hardware for Insta Foam, a new trench around the little building and some drying out and we should be OK. The stuff? We shall see. What a fun way to spend our Sunday. Our former house flooded too in the little room off the kitchen and a tree limb came down on their car, so either way we were sitting ducks.

The trench dug to alleviate the flooding

The ants were crawling in the freezer and dying , it was such a bad day.