Thursday, January 31, 2008

Family Memories

I have been trying to put together my thoughts enough to tell you about a very important person in my early life, when I came across these old photographs that I "inherited" when my paternal grandmother died. More on her later once I reconcile the fact that a certain Semi-Homemade TV personality has hijacked my life story.

Without further ado, I present snapshots of a past life. Do not adjust your computer monitor. I control the hues, I control the color. Just live with it.

Now, this might be my father, but I have now way of knowing. I do know that I lived in this house when I was a young girl. I like the old car in the driveway*.

*Disclaimer: I like the idea of an old automobile, but I much prefer the comfort and safety of a modern vehicle.

Hey, it's another old car... and a future model.

Well, I have no idea who this might be, but it's still cute.

My aunt Lois and her younger brother Robert, my father.

My father wonders why he is on this huge animal. Notice my grandfather hiding behind the ferocious beast.

My father is playing with tonight's dinner, er the chickens.

This is my aunt Lois. Don't mess with her!

My dear grandmother Esther and my grandfather Gerald. This is who they were. Nothing more, nothing less. There is something special about that.

I have absolutely no idea who these people are, but hey, it is neat.

No matter what the decade, kids will be kids.

Isn't it nice to know that some things never change?

All I know about this ethereal creature is that her name is Terry, she is 13 years old and the year was 1952. (And I once lived in that house. Several years later.)

I have no idea. I don't know who she is or where this was taken. And as with all the other pictures in this posting, I don't know who took these pictures. But there is still something quite fetching about these old images. Now, if they had only labeled these pictures.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Dinner Accomplished

Since my husband would be home for dinner tonight, I decided to have some fun in the kitchen. I had earlier found Nigella Lawson's recipe for Crispy Pork Chops and decided to adapt that recipe for turkey breast cutlets. As an added bonus, I got to use my new pan. Then, I made rosemary roasted potatoes and croutons for a nice salad. The verdict? I got two (count them) thumbs up from my husband. That's good enough for me.

Do you like my new stainless steel pan with an aluminum core for even heat distribution? I wanted a 12-inch pan, but found this instead. It is actually a 5.5 quart casserole with cover from Cuisinart.

The turkey cutlets have been pounded and coated and are now ready to cook.

Oh yeah. I'm liking this. I'm liking this a lot. The handles stay cool to the touch too.

After washing and cutting the potatoes (a mixture of Yukon Gold and Idaho Russet), I toss them in olive oil, crushed dried rosemary, and kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper.

The potatoes cook in a 375 degree oven for one hour.

Last week I made bread. This week I cubed the remaining pieces, toss them in olive oil and dried Herbes de Provence. I then baked them for 10 minutes in a 350 degree oven. The leftover croutons freeze well. The best part is when we added them to our salads of Romaine lettuce, celery, carrot, sugar snap peas and red onion.

Monday, January 28, 2008

The Attic Retreat, part II

As I reported recently, I am determined to finish the attic retreat soon. Since the weather is decent today, I decided it would be a good time to clean up a bit in the garage and take a car load to the recycling center.

Now I can get up the stairs to the room.

This is the front of the room. The window looks out over the driveway.

And this is the rear wall with the drywall installed.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Midnight's "Friends"

You may remember that Midnight is my cat. My high-maintenance, highly-loveable and highly annoying cat. So this post is for him. Because it would annoy him if he understood. Yep, I'm in that kind of mood today.

An American Tree Frog on the house siding. Several live on my back deck, frequently falling out of the patio umbrella, occupying the seat you wish to fill, sitting in the gutter...

Yes, they are friendly. Even if you do have to wash your hands afterwards, if you catch my drift.

And just because this pic is too cute. Midnight (on the inside) looking at Sam (on the outside). Sam would love to live here, but Midnight says NO!

We came home today to find Sam stretched out on the garden swing, enjoying the sunshine.

Now, have you ever seen a cat laying on his back with his back legs spread out like this? I love Sam. Too bad Midnight doesn't.

Now please excuse me while I go appease a certain part-Siamese black cat.

Thursday, January 24, 2008


It's a bad thing when I am bored. A very bad thing. So I wander around my house, taking pictures. After my daughter reminded me that my camera was in my purse. Good girl.

As I am a gardener at heart, I just had to do a potting shed room box. I just wish I had a life size version of this. Psst: I'm so proud. I made the potting bench. The scene in the window is a picture from my old garden. Why couldn't I take that arbor with me when we moved?

I was 11 years old when I drew this.

I was also 11 when I drew this cat. Yes, I know one ear is larger than the other one. It's that sort of thing that ended my career as an artist.

If anyone is interested in discovering their inner artist, I heartily recommend the book The Artist's Way by Julia Cameron. As a disclaimer, I will say that I went into the book with the idea that I would once again take up drawing, but ended up in photography and writing. Am I upset? No, I am just happy that I have been able to overcome some of my many inhibitions.

This may be a fair trade after all...

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Memories Found

I came across these while searching through my low-tech, high-mess, easily-torn-and-lost-and-shuffled photographs the other day. Old memories surfaced and past adventures were recalled. So here is my daily treat to you.

The falls at McCormicks Creek State Park.

I have absolutely no idea where I took this picture. All I know is that I took it and it was taken several years ago. Now, where was I?

Dark Hollow Falls, Skyline Drive, Virginia

And here we are again a year later.

The vegetable gardens at Monticello.

Barn in The Smokey Mountains.

Barn near Bloomington, IN.

Guess this guy's still hanging around. Near Bloomington.

This barn has since been torn down. Near Bloomington.

Another old barn near Bloomington.

Are you noticing a pattern here? Perhaps it is because my grandparents were farmers and had several old barns on their property, but I am fascinated by these structures.

The Bloomington area has many barns.

And here's my favorite old barn. This view is from my back deck. Obviously it's fall here.

This picture was taken a couple of days ago. I hope they don't tear this barn down when they build the homes just to the left of it. Where will the turkey vultures live then?

And here's my favorite tree again. Now if I can just figure out where that dry stream bed from that earlier photo is...

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Building a Dream

Reading one of my favorite blogs by Rosie Hawthorne about her recent kitchen remodel has put me back in the mood to work on renovations in my own home. We have many plans for finishing spaces, but alas, money (or the lack thereof) has delayed this much anticipated construction. My husband would like to add a lower deck on the back of our house; my daughter would like to finish the basement, adding a bathroom and kitchenette; and I would like to finally finish the room above the garage.

The attic room is above the garage.

When we bought our house almost 10 years ago, we had every intention of finishing the room above the garage, turning it into a spare bedroom. Over the years, that vision has altered, and I have laid claim to that space. In that spirit, I have decided that I want to do most of the work myself, so that I will truly own the end result. The room is 11’ x 22’, with a ceiling height of 7’ in the middle while the knee walls are 5’ tall. There is a window that faces north and I have plans on putting a closet in on the other end of the room, which will shorten the room by 2 or 3 feet. Thus far, I have put dry wall on the end walls, added 2 ceiling lights to the stairway, moved one of the ceiling fixtures in the room, rewired the lights, moved an outlet, and laid out where the closet will go. In fact, the only jobs I anticipate needing help with are moving the door to the house from the garage (so this room will actually be inside the house), cutting the door to the room, hooking the heating and a/c ductwork to the system, and the carpet installation.

Getting ready to drywall the end wall. The closet will go here later.

As I have rewired lamps and changed out light fixtures in our house before, I was not intimidated by the prospect of doing the electrical work myself. It took an afternoon to install the stairway lights, with the only problem being a loose wire that was easily found and corrected. Adding a new light switch for the room’s ceiling lights was a bit more problematic. After several frustrating attempts to correctly wire the switch, I finally realized that I had been trying to wire it as I would wire a light fixture. Wrong. A light switch is wired all together differently. (Read: I finally read the directions. Yeah, I can be so masculine in that. Instructions are for wimps!) So now I know. Moving the light fixture and the outlet were more a matter of brawn than finesse, so that went easily. Although, I do seem to remember the hammer bouncing off the ceiling fixture and hitting me in the forehead…

The new light fixtures. The stains on the ceiling are from when a can of cola exploded during a cold spell several years ago.

I have hung drywall before, so that too was relatively easy, if not heavy. While the side walls are still open, I took the opportunity to install spacers behind the existing insulation in the sloped ceilings. Believe it or not, those spacers will help protect the roof and prolong the life of the shingles.

Now I need to purchase more insulation and get back to work. Then I need to get drywall, 2x4’s for the closet, doors and wood trim. Oh well, one step at a time.

And just what do I plan to do with this room? It will be my own personal retreat from my family and the world. I have already told my husband and daughter that they will not be welcome there. I have no hope of keeping the cat out of there, so he will be allowed access. This room will be my refuge when the weather is too cold, too hot or too rainy for me to sit out on my back deck.

I plan on installing cable so I can have my own TV and watch Anthony Bourdain’s No Reservations and snark away on Sandra Lee and her faux food to my heart’s content. A daybed will allow the room to be used as an occasional guest room or just as a place for me to nap, while a library table will hold my laptop computer and bookshelves will house my garden books. I also anticipate my dollhouses moving up there (much to my husband’s delight) and will likely decorate the room with a garden inspired theme.

Sigh, yet another home improvement project that is on hold.

This doll house only needs to be wired for lights. The sign reads "Rose Cottage Garden Shoppe".

I made all the furniture in this shop.

Let’s see: first I’ve got to clean off those stairs so I can actually get up there. Then I need to buy a few rolls of insulation… I can hardly wait.

Houston, we have problem.