Caveat: Looooong post

Being a compendium of my Live Journal posts on life at the Villa for the last few weeks.

July 17th — I’m hanging out in the sunroom, playing on the computer and doing a bit of cooking-type stuff. I zested six lemons, then froze the zest in little ice cubes for future use. I’ll probably do some orange zest later. Then I juiced the lemons and made a lemonade syrup which is now in the fridge. I made a glass of lemonade right away since I couldn’t wait, and it’s pretty good. There’s a bit of zest in it which intensifies the lemon flavor. I’m thinking of juicing the other ten lemons and freezing part of the juice for later. For sure I’m going to juice my oranges because I totally forgot to order any orange juice this week. I may do the grapefruits too, though I won’t save any of that zest.

Today’s shuffle has been very much World’s-Best-Jukebox material. Currently listening to the Kronos Quartet and some Tuvan throat-singers from the Lachrymae Antiqua album. I’ve also heard some Gabrielle Roth, Gerry and the Pacemakers, Screamin’ Jay Hawkins, Beethoven and Alan Stivell.

July 18th — I was just about to take out my garbage and water the garden when it started to rain. So I thought, “Good, that’s one less thing I need to do today and I’ll do the garbage later.” Then I sat down and started to play on the laptop only to discover that apparently Vista’s service pack 1 now prevents me from changing my user pic. Well that sucks, thinks I, and then I notice that not only is it no longer raining, the sun is back out.

Rather than sit here and be annoyed, I schlep out the garbage and start watering. Let me tell you, that sun is HOT. And then, I notice that my Meyer lemon tree which is supposed to set flowers in winter is now getting ready to bloom. Okay. The sunflowers, which a couple of days ago were just squirrel-chewed knobs, are now in bloom as are the day lilies and the foxtail lilies. Tomatoes getting bigger, basil everywhere as are the weeds, the most invasive of which of which I’ve finally identified as common pigweed.

Then I decided to go water in front and wrestle the new composter to the back. And lo, what did I find out front? We not only have no sidewalk from the main walk to the curb, we are now missing the segment directly in front of the stairs, which means that there would be no large box wrestling today, at least not in that direction. Every day it’s something new. Just one thing, and never enough to actually finish the job. Just one more inconvenience.

Finally I filled the bird feeders. The McTwittersons all flocked to them as if they hadn’t eaten in days, which I know isn’t true because we have the fattest birds on the block hanging around here.

July 23rd — It’s been coolish for the last couple of days. Not that I’ve accomplished much, though I have had a couple of energy bursts. Mostly the last couple of days I’ve managed to clean up the kitchen and dirty it again with my fledgeling attempts at no-knead bread. The first one is a basic recipe very much like the raisin pecan one given to me by Barbara. It’s currently sitting in the oven getting all bubbly. I’ll bake it tomorrow. The second batch is the basic recipe from Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day This last one is a big batch, four loaves worth. It stores well in the fridge from what I gather, getting a sourdough-like quality as it ages. We shall see. The two batches used up the bulk of my flour so I need to order some more. But if this works, I can make bread just about every damn day and not really work very hard at it. If that isn’t cool, I don’t know what is.

I’ve also been transcribing recipes from stacks of torn-out magazine pages. I keep a digital recipe book which I shall add to my Kindle as soon as I invest in one. Since they take SD cards, and I just bought three 2Gb ones on Woot for almost no money, I can store a ton of recipes on one tiny card and plug it in only when I want to cook. Someone suggested sealing the Kindle in a plastic bag in the kitchen and I think that’s a great idea.

Friday night was Girls’ Night as usual, but I didn’t feel like cooking since it was so hot, so we ordered out again. Alas, nothing tasted good to me, a side effect of too much heat and humidity, and I ended up throwing a lot of food away. I’ve also gotten turned off to meat to the point where even thinking about cooking it makes me want to urp. I’ve discovered an organic produce delivery service I want to try out, too. It’s substantially cheaper than the last one I was using, and I can get dairy and other groceries, including milk in glass bottles. I think I’ll sign up next week and see how it works out.

On Saturday we (Dawn, Taylor, Christ, Karen and I) went to Can’t Stop the Serenity over at the Portage. I’ve been to two of the three events and have enjoyed them both, so I really recommend them to locals. Yeah, the whole thing is pretty loosely run, and there are a couple of things I think they need to address (I’ll be making some suggestions.) but hey, it’s a great excuse to sit and watch Serenity with a bunch of fans. We also had dinner at Meisa Cafe, and it’s definitely a keeper. Nice people, good food, very reasonable prices, and close to the theater. The only problem is that the six corners area is pretty much a pit right now. Businesses are just hanging on and derelicts are starting to camp out around the empty stores. It’s all sort of sad when I think of what that area was like when I was a kid. I do think, though, that if the economy improves the area will boom. It’s a great location. Of course then there’s the inevitable push-pull between gentrification and maintaining the old neighborhoods. I hope it doesn’t end up like Lincoln Square, which, though I love shopping there, is not a place I really want to live. I realized that when we were property shopping.

Adventures in Bread-Making — My bread makin’ mojo? Not at the top of its form. The first batch looked great when I pulled the paper off the bowl. Just exactly the way it was supposed to look. And then I turned it out onto my floured work surface and discovered that I had bread dough soup spreading across the counter. I added as much flour as I dared, and managed to scoop it back into a clean, oiled bowl where it’s getting bubbly again, and looking surprisingly sinister.

The second batch more than doubled in size, and looked drier, so I decided to make one loaf of each in spite of not having any cornmeal to dust the bread stone with. I’ll find an alternative. I don’t think I pulled off enough dough though since the loaf is kind of teensy, and was difficult to work with. Not so bad as the bread dough soup, but not simple. It’s risen a bit so far, and since I have about half an hour more to go before I throw everything in the oven, that’s a good sign. I think.

Later: Batch 2 has a superbly crispy crust and a soft, almost creamy crumb. I’m watching butter melt into it even as I type. It does, however, point up the single biggest problem with baking bread: Trying not to eat it all within minutes of removing it from the oven.

Batch 1 tastes great in spite of its awkward beginning. Crust is very hard and not particularly flaky. Interior crumb is very creamy. Flavor slightly better than batch 2. Both well worth eating. Go me.

After baking the bread, I stemmed and pitted between 4 and 6 pounds of cherries, freezing half and dividing up the other half for eating and baking. I’m having my own Firefly marathon this week, so it wasn’t really much of a chore. Then I made a slap-up cherry galette which is now cooling on the stovetop. I say slap-up because I lacked anything to thicken the juices and so was baking with all fingers crossed. So far so good, but I don’t know how the crust will do once it’s been standing for a while.

I just fin
ished cleaning out the fridge and freezer. It’s been needing some attention for a while, especially the drawers. The ice tray had a build-up where water had apparently dripped out of the glasses that were being filled. And I threw away a lot of stuff. If I looked at it and thought, “Oh God, I’m going to puke.” it went out. Now I have a refrigerator and freezer filled with fruit, veggies, cheese and a bit of fish. I feel healthier already.

What I really want to do is take a nap, but I have to finish the laundry first, and the kitchen looks like God came along and shook it. That’s never the best look for a kitchen.

July 25th — I think I have fleabites. Dawn and I did a couple of hours of yard work this evening and now I have three itchy red bumps on my left leg. I just hope that if it’s fleas I didn’t bring them inside. I know, I know, but I can hope.

We did a lot of trimming of the verge, dead heading and weed pulling, and then we watered and refilled the bird feeders. While we were sitting on the bench, musing about life, a mourning dove came and sat on the feeder post, not more than five feet from us. I said “Wow, aren’t you brave?” and it was like he suddenly thought “OMG, what am I DOING?” and took off. After that, three or four others flew towards the post with the clear intention of landing, and then peeled off at the last minute. One big fat pigeon watched us from the electric line and a whole flock of McTwittersons were gathered on the roof of the garage next door, hopping around and looking anxious. It was like “The Birds” but funny. Dawn and I laughed ourselves sick over the show, but finally came in because it was getting late after all, and they were on the clock. It was a nice way to end a day which had been, up to that point, pretty rotten. Since Tuesday I’ve had several computer problems and at least three pieces of mail that reduced me to tears, mostly of frustration and anger, but one which made me downright despair. Fortunately there’s an upside to being moody, the moods don’t last long.

I’ve been cleaning out my bookshelves. I’m going to give stacks of books to the senior center at Portage Park for their September sale. Alas, I have to wait until next spring before I can get myself that Kindle I covet so madly. I’m trying hard to adjust to the downsizing (By about half) of my apartment. It’s true there’s a lot of stuff in the basement now, but most of the rooms are smaller than what I’m used to. The biggest issue has been kitchen and bathroom storage, and of course downsizing on the book front won’t make a huge difference there unless I replace some of my cookbooks with Kindle editions, which I don’t particularly want to do.

I can’t get Charles to send someone to fix the damn roof, which means that we may be getting mold growing inside that back wall. Not good.

Later: I have a house full of workers, a fridge full of fruit and vegetables, and a rope just snaked past my back window. Yes indeedy, all is right with the world. Dawn’s boys are in the office. They wouldn’t get off the cat tree so I moved it in there with them on it. Then they got off one at a time and ran out of the room. Goofballs.

July 26th — Moving things around and around until you get it right, that is. It’s all part of moving into a new place, at least one you plan to stay in for a while. Yesterday I moved all the stuff off the kitchen island, and today I used it as workspace for shaping my bread loaf instead of getting flour and cornmeal all over my counters. And it was good. So now my coffee maker is in the sun room and the water heater is back on the counter where it was. Much more efficient use of space, methinks. And yeah, all part of the process.

And suddenly there’s this intense garlic scent wafting into the house on the breeze. WTF? It actually smells like someone just burned some garlic.

So last night the girls were over and we had salad and baked potatoes which were awesome. Dawn made baked peaches with chocolate and walnuts for dessert and they were awesome, too. A really nice combo of sweet, tart and slightly bitter from the walnuts. We watched Buffy and Angel, and the last ep of Firefly because Taylor got here a bit early. It was a Joss sort of evening. Relatively simple cleanup, too, which is of the good.

And then I slept like the dead. I don’t remember even getting up to use the bathroom in the night. I went to bed about one and didn’t wake up until I heard someone bashing around outside. Turns out it was Charles and Abe come to finish the work upstairs. Charles brought me a big bag of plums because I’ve asked him not to bring whole cakes anymore. The problem is that I eat them. When I make baked goods, I tend to give all or part of them away and so never get quite the concentrated effect. Besides, he always brings the best chocolate-whipped cream cakes ever, and those are just deadly. When I took Abe upstairs Dawn gave me one of the peaches she’d bought at a downtown farmer’s market so I’m having a plum and a peach for breakfast. I am totally going to that Farmer’s Market this week to get more peaches. And the plums are excellent, too. Charles told me he got them at Sam’s club. Now I don’t shop at the outposts of the Evil Empire, but as I have nothing to say about where other people buy their food, I have no problem with the plums. But now I have so many plums I really do need to make a cake. I have to look for a good recipe.

Charles also picked our first tomato, which is still sort of orangey, so it’s on one of the shelves in the sunroom — currently all but overtaken by ripening produce; mangos, heirloom and campari tomatoes, avocados and bananas — getting nice and ripe. It’s really heavy for its size so I expect it to be an excellent tomato. Once it’s fully ripe, Dawn and I will share it as a tribute to our gardening skills. *g*

My next door neighbor is outside doing some yard work. He’s a nice man if a bit taciturn. The ones on the other side are big talkers, great laughers. I have the Beatles to keep me company, and I’m about to put the bread in the oven and mix a new batch or two. And then I’ve set myself to cleaning out the bathroom. I have too much stuff. I need to carve it all down to manageable levels.

The next block is having their block party today and I must say they really do it up. About noon, the fire department showed up and let the kids run under the spray from their hoses for about an hour. There was some crazy, over-the-top dance music playing and I half expected a big mirror ball and a rain of colored balloons. The music has barely let up since then — pretty much only during a drawing for raffle/door prizes — but it has gone from techno to what I fondly think of as “Pepe’s Bierstube” music. When I worked at the bead store the people upstairs loved that stuff, but all you could hear through the ceiling was a beat and the accordion, which made it sound vaguely Bavarian.

Anyway, it’s still going strong with a wild mambo, though there does appear to be a neighborhood rule about music ending about ten. The partying may go on longer, but I’ve never known it to go on past midnight. And other than the screaming kids this afternoon, it’s been pretty darn quiet. People from other blocks have migrated down there with their beer coolers but nobody has gotten sloppy or nasty drunk that I’ve seen. Someone has strung a lot of colored lights at the far end of the street and there are a few people dancing, a bunch of kids playing basketball, and toddlers pedaling their little cars furiously up and down the street, safely blocked by the cars parked across the intersection. And lo, there are disco lights where the DJ has set up. People are sprawled on lawns and porches, seemingly having lost the rest of their energy. Our block party was nothing by comparison. If I had the money, I’d hire a DJ and serve grilled hot dogs at a future block party. Not because I wan
t people to like me because lord knows I haven’t gone out of my way to get to know more than my immediate neighbors, but because it seems like a nice thing to do. Who knows? Maybe next year or the year after.

I’ve sorted a bunch of books and searched for public domain replacements online. I hope to fill up a bunch of boxes, but am rethinking my notion of giving them all to the senior center. We’re supposed to be having a garage/yard sale on this block next month, and I would dearly love to get a bit of money out of what I’ve got sitting here. But that means I really have to put on some speed and get things sorted and stored well before then. I don’t think it’s going to be possible. I think the sale is too soon.

I’ve also been reading more in the current book-for-review, “The Black Tower” by Bayard. It’s good, though so far not what I’d call great. Interesting, not riveting. And well written. Kind of fun. I want to finish this weekend so I can get that review out of the way.

The loaf of bread was somewhat underdone at one end, but it tasted good enough. I’ll get better at this. I made myself some black bean soup for supper (out of a can; I’m not that ambitious) and it tasted wonderful. It’s been a very long time since I had any. I ate and watched “Reaper” which Dawn got me hooked on, and marked up a couple of catalogs with notes about what I could use here to make life a bit simpler. Mostly cleaning or organizational stuff. Also watched “Midnight” a wonderful screwball comedy with Claudette Colbert, Don Ameche, John Barrymore and Mary Astor.

Hee, the DJ just started playing “YMCA.” I have the wild desire to dash out and go dancing. LOL. The very end of the party turned into a medley of every song I ever heard at a gay bar from YMCA to Dancing Queen to I Will Survive, and all points in between.

July 29th — Two days ago I mixed up another batch of no-knead bread based on the Bittman recipe, which is baked in a Dutch oven. All went well until Dawn and I got invited to our next door neighbor’s birthday barbeque, and our evening plans had to be pushed back by a couple of hours. (Totally worth it since Grace makes the best rice with pigeon peas ever and they’re super nice people.) We did finish the yardwork, but by the time we got indoors, it was late and we were both tired. We collapsed in front of the TV with bottles of fizzy water and the last Design Star challenge (Yes, I hate reality TV, but honestly this thing is like crack. I start watching because I just loathe one or two of the challengers from their commercials, and want to see them eliminated, and then I get hooked.) So rather than leave the dough out for another night, I threw it in the fridge. I figured it doesn’t do any harm to the Hertzberg/François bread dough.

Well…I went from a nicely raised mass of herb/garlic dough to a wet herb/garlic pancake. So I took it out of the fridge and warmed it up. It remained deliberately flat. I turned it out onto a floured work surface and shaped it, but it stubbornly refused to hold the shape. I kneaded more flour into it because it was still really wet, and it vindictively spread out and stuck to the unfloured areas. “Evil bread!” I shouted. “You will pay for the misery you have brought upon this house.” And I flung it into my Dutch oven now heated to 450 degrees. “aaAAHAHAHAHAHAHA!” I said, feeling a bit like the witch from Hansel and Gretel. “Bake or perish; I care not.” Then, turning my back upon the carnage, I strode resolutely into the living room to watch “The Closer.”

45 minutes later I had a nice, high herb/garlic loaf with a crust that could be used as building material. I don’t much mind a hard crust myself, but it was hellish to cut. However, the crumb was really nice, proving once again that in spite of any mistakes you might make, and whatever abuse you wish to heap upon it, this no-knead bread recipe is a pretty darn good one. I hesitate to say it’s fool-proof because as we all know, fools are particularly inventive. But it’s darn close, IMO.

And the Bread Gods seem to have smiled on me today because I got my Amazon Associates payment today in the form of an Amazon gift certificate, so I treated myself to a banneton (those beehive-shaped baskets used for raising bread) a pastry scraper, a good bread knife, a pastry brush (how can I not have a pastry brush???) and a baguette pan. Between the gift cert and the 4 -for3 promotion on household stuff over there, I made out like a bandit! I essentially got everything but the banneton for free, and then only paid about half price for that.

But hell, it was deserved. Not only do I intend to devote (part of) my life to the Church of Bread, last night at the very stroke of midnight we had a big damn power outage. One minute I was getting ready to turn off the TV and go take a bath (I’d just watched my DVR’d “Barefoot Contessa” and “House Hunters International”) and the next, I was plunged into darkness so deep I could not find my glasses. Well, okay it turned out that I’d left them in the bathroom, but the point was that it was really, really dark. I did find my cell phone and using its light I got to the front door and went outside. I met Jesse, another of my neighbors, who seems to always be prowling around at night, and he said “Power out in your place?” which was exactly what I wanted to hear. There were people all over our block and the next wandering around. It was sort of zombieish, truth be told. People walking slowly in the dark, me trying to see the cell phone without my glasses so I could report the outage. Apart from Jesse, who I recognized because I know him, I could probably not identify anyone else I spoke to last night, more because of the weirdness of the situation than absolute darkness since the streetlights were still on. It was only the south side of the block that was out.

I made the call and was told that they expected to restore power in two hours. Then I went back in, figuring I could sleep on the sofa, and when the power came back on, and all the lights woke me up, I’d phone Dawn and get her to reset her clock so she wouldn’t be late for work. Then I lay there, listening resentfully to the sounds of someone else’s a/c unit. Fortunately it was resolved in about 45 minutes, so I alerted Dawn, got my bath and went to bed. This is what passes for adventure in my life.

July 30th — I just finished rearranging the desk area in my office. The original arrangement had been bugging me for some time now, but I’m the sort of person who has to think about stuff for a while before she can wade in and start shifting the furniture. My desk now faces the bookcases, and I can see most of the room from where I sit instead of seeing mostly one rather dull wall. I’ve also fixed it so I can put the laptop on the desk to use in tandem with the desktop if I want. One of these days I’ll figure out how to network the two, but right now it’s enough that I’ve got the wireless internet access working.

The desktop is currently all tied up with an installation. Before I moved I got a review copy of CorelDraw Graphics Suite X4, and have been meaning to install it ever since I got here. Once I finish, and work with it for a while, I can do the review and then be all caught up on my Amazon Vine requests. I did request another book today, and will probably ask for more soon. It’s kind of fun, especially since it’s not all books or media. I got a tea infuser the other day. I guess there are perks to being the sort of person who obsessively offers her opinions.

Speaking of which, my opinion of the latest loaf of bread is that it’s gorgeous. It has a chewy crust and a creamy crumb. I can’t wait to try different flours, and I just got a bag of light rye, one of multi-grain and one of hazelnut flour which is actually more for pastries, but you never know; I could throw half a cup of it into the mix just to see how it turns out. I also got some tart cherries for snacking, as well
as two kinds of edamame snacks. And in the “Gee thanks, FedEx” dept., apparently they delivered my package to the right number on the wrong street today. *headdesk*

I made melon balls this afternoon, and have four mangoes that need to be peeled, cut and frozen because they’re starting to look funky. Also a huge mixed berry compote to throw together and freeze, cherries to pit for a clafouti (how long has it been?) and more rice to soak. Maybe some quinoa, too. Supper looks like it’s going to be grilled veggie tartines. Mmmmm.

Oh, and some new tee shirts that I got on sale. Now I can get rid of some of the old ones. Wheee!

Still much too hot out there. Too hot even to go out and chase the ice cream guy.

August 1st — Those of you who were surprised, even stunned that I was making bread in this weather can relax. Today I’m making ice cream. This new ice cream maker is damn noisy, though. On the menu for today: Lemon ice cream. Mostly because it’s the easiest recipe I know. Sweetened condensed milk mixed with lemon juice until you’re happy with the flavor. Then freeze. Nobody tell Dawn, though. I want it to be a surprise. *g*

I’m nearly finished rearranging my kitchen cabinets. I just have the spices left for later. Also on the list for today: Get rid of the garbage, clean kitchen and bathroom. Melt.

Listening to my Old Dead Guys soundtrack on my iPod; makes me want to write more about them. I love those boys. Come to think of it, I’d rather be writing about them than schlepping garbage or mopping floors. Hmmmm…

We ordered out from a new Chinese place last night and it was a winner. Lots of bang for the buck, and good food. Amazing egg foo yung, to which I am a late convert, so a bad batch could toss me right back into the I-HATE-egg-foo-yung camp. The gravy with this was just delish. Since Taylor won’t be coming in tonight — It’s her birthday and she wants to spend it with her husband. Hmph, the nerve! — I’m thinking leftovers and a movie will have to serve for girls’ night this week. It’s too freakin’ hot for much else. And of course, lemon ice cream.

August 2nd — I mopped myself out onto the sun porch. Yes, it was deliberate. I’m tired now, having vacuumed several rooms, wet mopped two, and cleaned the whole bathroom. I also got down under the bathroom sink to see if I could possibly swap out the faucet myself. I think I could, but from what I saw under there, it’d probably take most of the day and I’d end up looking like a pretzel. I also noted that a lot of the… what are they called? In jewelry-making it’s “findings.” Fittings? You know, the stuff that holds stuff to other stuff? Gizmos. Freebistats. Connector Fribble. Anyway, a lot of it is very old and much is rusty, as are some of the pipes. I’m thinking that I’d much rather just get the whole thing taken care of at once. New sink, storage, faucet, etc. For some reason — we say that a lot around here because so many of the things about this place seem to have been put together by a committee of fractious gnomes — for some reason, though, the sink and vanity, like the toilet, have been moved off the most logical spots. The sink has been moved about eight inches to the right, which seems kind of pointless to me because there was more than enough room for it in the right place. And the toilet is about six inches away from the wall. I realize that there had to be some adjustment for the baseboard heating, but that only comes out an inch, and is nowhere near the base of the toilet.

I said to Dawn the other day that I’m not really minding that I have far less space in there than in my old bathroom, but I do sort of mind that it’s so weirdly put together. The floor tile is badly spaced and everything in here is on some sort of strange angle, like Hill House. Only it’s not an evil, crazy house, it’s just sort of amiable and goofy. Honestly, I think I could’ve done a better job of laying the floor tile. And the grout has dropped completely out of the spaces between several of the wall tiles. The shower shucks back and forth into and out of the wall. *headdesk*

However, I have accomplished a lot thanks to cooler, drier weather. I baked the other two loaves of bread this morning, and mixed up a new batch. Then I let it rise and made a third loaf. Like the first two, it’s got regular, unbleached white and European artisan flour. But it also has a good, healthy dose of 10 grain flour. It’s good, though I like the last batch a bit better. But it’s exactly the sort of bread that would be fantastic with jam.

Dawn is out at Ikea with Jim, getting some furniture, and good on her, sez I. She needs more. Jim also brought a stack of old frames, and a wonderful old mahogany (he thinks) secretary which has seen far better days. We’re guessing it’s over 100 years, but lots of it has been broken, and the whole thing has been painted a nightmarish shade of green. He figured we could practice on it, but I think that if we put it back together again, and decorate it as beautifully as I think we can, we may well be able to realize enough of a profit on it to pay for a goodly chunk of what the front windows will cost us.

I had an unexpected guest today. I was out in the back hall, getting the mop and bucket when a big, orange fluffball raced past me into the apartment. It was Dawn’s Tommy who had somehow managed to get the back door of Dawn’s apartment open and had gone exploring. Thank goodness he didn’t choose to hang a left once he came inside because if Caddy had seen him, things might’ve gotten interesting. He was very insistent upon exploring but I propelled him back out through the door, and yelled “YOU GET UPSTAIRS NOW!” at which point he seemed to think it was time to take me seriously. By the time I got up there, he was lying on the floor, cleaning his feet, and Buckaroo was standing in the doorway looking like “Why U yellin at mah brudder?” Tommy’s response was “I know nothing about this.”

August 4th — The rain has been coming down on and off since at least 7 this morning. I know this because when I stumbled out of my bedroom I hit the wind tunnel that is the hallway between the front and back parts of the house. It was fierce! It was also almost nighttime black outside. I ran around and closed or lowered my windows, then fetched the keys and ran upstairs to do the same for Dawn’s windows. It really had been my intention to stay in the apartment until the weather got too oppresive and then run for the basement where, even if the a/c isn’t doing the job it should do, it’d be better working down there then up here. Only marginally, but still. Well it’s 2 pm and I’m quite happy to be sitting here on the sun porch, watching the rain, eating pancakes, and doing research for my fantasy universe. I was, in fact, up until three this morning doing much the same thing, minus rain and pancakes.

Yesterday was also surprisingly pleasant in spite of the forecasts — was spent in our usual Sunday way. Dawn and I have brunch together between ten and eleven, talk about what needs doing, and then about noon or so we actually get up and start doing it. Yesterday it was putting together a Hemnes chest that Dawn and Jim bought at Ikea on Saturday. The chest itself took us about three hours to put together during which time we cursed cam bolts unto the seventh generation of bolts. Then we schlepped the drawer stuff over to her couch and watched this week’s Reaper, and the “Blink” episode of Dr. Who as we worked. I have to admit that by the time we finished with Blink, I was wanting to see more Who.

Then we went outside to do a bit of work in the front, and buy ice cream from one of the guys who cruises the neighborhood every evening. Unfortunately my back is acting up like mad, and it’s hard for me to stand or walk for very long so I fear that I let Dawn do most of the work and buy me the ice cream. I do pitiful pretty well.
Saturday was pretty quiet since Dawn and Jim were out shopping, but they showed up in late afternoon with beer and wine as well as furniture and the spray bottles and storage jars I’d asked them to find for me. Karen and Gene showed up about eight and we went to McNamara’s for supper because Gene was jonesing for shepherd’s pie. I really wasn’t very hungry and knowing that ice cream was inevitable, I stuck to a dinner salad and one of their stuffed baked potatoes. Then we went to Borders where I made out like a bandit with a coupon for 30% off any item plus the money I’d earned for past purchases. I snagged “Barefoot in Paris” which is a compilation of Ina Garten’s French recipes which I just adore. Also scored a handful of great magazines including a copy of Dirty Linen which I haven’t seen in years. It was up at the checkout area, obviously dropped by someone who thought better of how much s/he was spending, and I chose to take it as an omen. DL was one of the seminal resources for what I wrote about in White Rabbit. Yup, it was an omen. I came home and sat right down at the computer, and started making notes.

And yes, ice cream was gotten. We pulled right up to the Chocolate Shoppe and discovered Dawn and Jim sitting there, finishing their ice cream. This place has started to loom large with my crowd, apparently. I took Barbara there last time we were together, and suspect we’ll do the same whenever we have visitors (with cars.) But there’s a good reason for that, and it’s not all the Zanzibar chocolate.

Later: Huge storm! Sitting here watching it, I’m reminded of the scene in Lawrence of Arabia, post-Derra, when Ali and Lawrence are seeing the sky light up from all the artillery fire, and Ali says “God help the men who lay beneath that.” That’s just what it looks like here. The sky lights up every few seconds, bright as day. Brighter, even. And the patches of near white are framed by banks of black clouds. The wind is picking up now, and a fork of lightning arced down just to the southwest.

Aaaaand the storm sirens went off just as I was typing, so Dawn and I packed our boys up and took them all down to the basement. They were not amused, but to their considerable credit, they did not fuss at each other at all. I think they were more concerned with why they were in the Carriers of Calamity that routinely take them to Dr. Doom’s House of Horrors. We spent about fifteen or twenty minutes down there. Things have calmed down considerably though it’s raining like a son-of-a-bitch and there’s still a lot of electrical activity going on, but it’s not a Big Damn Storm the way it was when we headed on down. Now it’s just an occasionally quite loud storm worth watching.

August 7th — I’m sitting here with sheets of unbaked cookies waiting their turn to be baked into great big, scrumptious breakfast cookies. Some of you may recall the last time I made these, though I barely do. The first batch has spread out into cookies about four inches across, which isn’t exactly what I’d had in mind, but hell, there are still going to be 28 of them, so it’s not like I’m putting half a batch in each cookie. This batch includes: Tart cherries, semi- and bittersweet chocolate chips, walnuts, almonds, coconut and lemon zest along with all the other good flavorings and stuff. I forgot that I had rolled oats in the freezer so I just used steel cut. I’m sure it’ll be fine, although rather crunchy. And this could also explain why they spread so far instead of puffing up more.

I hesitate to say it’s been a DAY because I have accomplished a lot. I put a shelf and a pair of hooks up in the bath area so I can keep my shampoo, conditioner and scrubbies close at hand. And the cookies, of course. And I did a bit of cleaning. But I’ve got the bronchial crud again, and nothing, NOTHING worked right for a while. In fact, I was reduced to tears by my corded drill because the chuck was stuck so hard I couldn’t get the bit out. And of course the cordless was out of juice, and anyway wouldn’t have had enough torque to drill tile. That, and the fact that every time I try to sleep I end up coughing and choking. You can imagine my fury at life.

But I got the new Ikea catalog, and a copy of Mother Earth News. And I’ve been reading a wonderful book called “The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society.” I recommend it unreservedly to anyone who loves to read.

First batch of cookies are out. They’re sort of flaccid, but they taste good, which is the important thing. The thing I like best about them is that they’re not particularly sweet. Just nice, flavorful cookies filled with things that are actually sort of good for you.

I just want to straighten up the kitchen and run a load of dishes before I go take my bath. That’ll give me a head start on tomorrow. After I finished the up-putting of shelf and hooks in bath, I put my coat hooks up in the front hallway, but I did it with industrial strength Velcro because I was out of screws and screw anchors. It worked just fine so I put the stuff on the back of my Cocteau plates and will probably get them up on the wall tonight, too. Dawn came by and had a cookie, and we agreed to meet outside after Olbermann and do a bit of yard work. I’d mixed up a bottle of my green weed killer, and used the whole thing on the masses of pigweed growing all over. She cut down the sunflowers that had been decimated by the squirrels, and watered. I filled the bird/squirrel feeders and took out a whole lot of garbage and let her cut back the wisteria because ewww, that’s a nasty job.

We have a lot of tomatos approaching ripeness, so we agreed to use them on Saturday when, whether Jim comes by or not, we will barbeque burgers for ourselves. I’m also thinking of making a bowl of Mildred’s mac & cheese to go with it, and a lovely salad. And we have beer! Lots and lots of beer. There will be much enjoyment. And if Jim would rather do yard work than hang with us, well… his loss is all I can say.

Did I mention the beer?

Why is there always so much to do?

August 9th — I’ve spent the last three hours working on the bathroom. My day so far:

Remove old, ugly, polished brass doorknob. Replace it with new, pretty, rubbed bronze one.
Strip screw installing it. Cannot now fix problems with plate.
Install strike.
Discover that door will shut but not catch, so that it can be pushed open from outside. Thank goodness it sticks.
Install door pulls on vanity cabinet.
Install first new knob on vanity drawers. Discover bolt provided not long enough.
Rescue old bolt from garbage. Threade new knob onto old bolt.
Hide thoroughly chapped by turn of events.
Install second drawer pull. Have sudden horrible realization.
Try to close bathroom door. Door hits new knobs and will not close.
Uninstall new knobs.
Think.
Think some more. Figure out two places to put knobs where they should not interfere with closing of door. Choose more symetrical one which will also allow use of new bolts.
Try to drill hole. Discover that drill bit sticks while chuck revolves madly.
Try several times to adjust bit and tighten chuck. Finally succeed in drilling hole.
Put bolt through old and thread knob onto it.
Discover that because of new position, bolt is now too LONG instead of too short.
Curse colorfully.
Try to drill second hole in drawer. Same problem with drill bit.
Curse colorfully.
Try to put old bolt through hole. Hole not big enough.
Curse very colorfully.
Change drill bit. Bit sticks, chuck revolves.
Place very potent curse on Black and Decker and wish I’d had the foresight to charge my cordless which never gave me this much trouble.
Finally enlarge hole. Put bolt through it. Thread knob onto it.
Test with door. Door will close.
Call Dawn and suggest that she might not want me and my power tools work
ing on her new furniture today.
Dawn laughs. The gods do not love hubris. I fear for her bookcase.

I need cake or a drink, I don’t care which.

Later — Knobs are installed on bathroom vanity. No fingers lost.
Ikea shelf assembled in Dawn’s office. No fingers lost. There were a couple of close calls, though.
Mac and cheese made. Results so-so. Burgers not made as Charles arrived bearing barbeque. He admired my handiwork before he left, which is what a friend does when things are a bit, well, off. We gave him a tomato from our vine and a bouquet of slightly long-in-the-tooth flowers for his wife. I observed that she deserved a gift, too, but that she did get a terrific husband. Charles agreed far too quickly and was gently chided for lack of humility.
Peach lambic quaffed.
The Fugitive watched with Dawn
Ice cream eaten
Long, leisurely bath taken during which I finished The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society. I have to say that I am wholly in love with all the characters, even the awful ones, and the only criticism I can level is that we never do get Juliet’s opinion of Potato Peel Pie. I, for one, would have enjoyed knowing how it tasted with its festive topping of cocoa and marshmallow.
Have begun writing like Juliet.

There is a party going on a few yards down. Much hilarity amongst both adults and children. Makes me smile to listen to them.

As soon as I locate my colored pencils, I’m going to start sketching out the mosaic I’m going to overlay on the bathroom tile. This is reason enough to get back to emptying boxes.

August 10th — And a busy one. Dawn is outside firing up the grill so we can have burgers. She’s done her laundry and gone to Petco already today. I was a slug and slept until about 10:30 but I needed it I think. Once up though, I made us coffee and we talked about what needed doing. The upshot was that while she was gone I hung pictures and more pictures. Then she helped me with the front windows which needed cleaning and tweaking to make sure all the screens were down properly and all the storms up properly. She also took down the hideous vertical blinds in the hallway, and we hung up some crystals and beads on the door. I also moved the bigger cat tree to the living room.

Now I have to go make some onions for the burgers, slice a tomato (from our vine!) and reheat the mac and cheese.

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