Blog Archive

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

New Microwave!

Hooray for devices that cause the water molecules in food to vibrate with such vigor so as to heat my food in seconds flat. Hip-hip-hooray for such devices that also take up zero counter space. Yes, I love my new under-the-cabinet microwave.

We spent most of Saturday at Mike and Bernie's house where I finished my latest book, Little Heathens and dead-headed flowers in their garden while Dave worked on their computers. (Bear's computer monitor was on the fritz so Dave disassembled it and re-soldered some stuff until it was working again. Then he installed anti-virus software onto Mike's new computer.) We'd left our dogs at home, in the yard and as the day wore on I was getting nervous that they would be too hot outside like that, despite that I'd left them a big bowl of water. Luckily they were fine, just very thirsty since they apparently didn't touch the outdoor water. I discovered that my darling Ruby had dug herself a shallow hole in the moist dirt under my recently-planted rose bush. The bush looks fine...I just wish she wouldn't dig holes.

Sunday we went to REI to buy a tent and other supplies for my soils class trip. I'm thrilled to report that I still fit into little girls' size pants; I bought two pairs of the pants-to-shorts conversion camping pants from the girls' section for a fraction of the cost of the same style in the women's section. Booya!

Then we headed to Home Depot to figure out what we'd need for the new microwave project. When the contractor remodeled this kitchen to sell the house, he was lazy and didn't bother to connect the vent pipe on the new range hood to the existing (but not aligned) exhaust pipe in the attic. The old stove and the new stove (I think) weren't in the same place so he just sheetrocked over the original pipe penetration. So the range hood ventilation was of the not-so-effective recirculating charcoal variety. For houses that have no way to vent greasy kitchen air, this is the only option and we could have installed a new microwave using the same recirculating vent. But why would we do that when we could have it vent properly, to the outside?

All we had to do was buy some flexible vent pipe, a few connectors, a giant role of metallic duct tape, and a keyhole saw to cut a hole in the kitchen ceiling. We hadn't intended to actually purchase, much less install, the microwave this weekend...but once we realized that it wouldn't be a lot of work we decided to go for it. So we did.

Old range hood and intact ceiling above:
Old (but nice) microwave that we inherited after college graduation from a friend:
We started by removing the old range hood at about 3:30pm and by about 9pm the kitchen we totally cleaned up and back to normal (less the metal pipe coming out of the ceiling which we'll eventually hide behind a sheetrock box). The old hood was hard-wired into an electrical box under the cabinet while the new microwave simply plugs in. So how we have an extra, working electrical connection to which we can install under-the-cabinet lights later on. (Yippee!!!!)

Me in the sweltering attic (donning pants and long sleeves to protect myself from that horrible glass fiber insulation):

A video of me in the attic while Dave is underneath me in the kitchen. You can hear Ruby barking through that piping:

I was going to christen the new microwave by making a bag of popcorn before we settled down to watch Dan in Real Life but we didn't have any bagged popcorn and I was too lazy/hot/sweaty/tired from being up in the so-hot-it-is-almost-like-being-in-Egypt-in-July (but who in their right mind would do that?!) attic messing with the vent pipe rearrangement to bike over to the dollar store to get some. Plus, we have "real" popcorn that we made on the stove. So I ended up testing the microwave by heating up a mug of boring. It worked, though!

"Completed" project with exposed vent pipe: The old microwave is now in the garage and I've gained a few more square feet of beloved counter space.

Monday, June 23, 2008


We babysat Rudi for the past week, this time while his parents went on their belated honeymoon to Tahiti. He and Potatoes had a grand time romping around the yard, play fighting, and slip-slidding on the new laminate floors. Unlike his last visit when Ruby was indifferent to his presence, this time she put him in his place by snapping at him when he bothered her and mounting him several times. Some people think dogs mounting each other is vulgar but that's just because they don't understand canine dominance dynamics--dogs of either gender will mount each other to prove who is dominant. And if that doesn't work, then they will fight until one of them backs down. Well...we all know that Ruby is Queen of our house.

The dogs, chowing down on some pigs' ears. Yummo...
During the day we crated little Rudi and our dogs were left to their own devices in the rest of the house. As long as the bathroom doors are closed and the recycling bin is up on the counter (so Potatoes can't get into them) they do just fine. Every afternoon I would ride my bike up the driveway to see two darling little faces peering out between the curtains at me. Oh my goodness, they melt my heart!

How much are those doggies in the window? The ones with the wagging tails?

Friday, June 20, 2008


Growing up I was always a little jealous of those kids in school whose parents would reward them with money or gifts if they made good grades in their classes. Probably because my friends and I all had nerdy Lab parents, we were never given tangible incentives for doing well in school. The satisfaction of doing well in school was supposed to be our reward for doing well in school. (Blah, blah, blah...) Somehow over time that did become our motivation (that's why we're all nerds ourselves, now, just like our parents).

I have never been very good at math. I can understand equations and what they mean physically (if there is a physical application) and likewise, I can usually figure out what mathematics is dictating some physical phenomenon. But my fault is that I don't have that intuitive sense for numbers and mathematical functions. My brother and dad have it, but that gene must have skipped over me. They are able to memorize derivations and "rules" of trig, geometry, and calculus--I have to write everything down and go through a function step-by-step and often need to look up the "rules" before I can solve anything beyond a simple problem. (Actually, I tend to log onto Gmail chat and ask Edward how to do it. I love technology!)

In seventh grade I was degraded from "high" level math class to "middle" level math class. This made my dad upset so he finally broke down and motivated me to do better in this class so I could be bumped back up to "high" math. He promised me that if I ever made an A in a math class that he'd buy me a solid maple chair for my desk in my bedroom. This wasn't going to be some super fancy chair--just a normal, no-nonsense chair that cost about $50 at Target. If you know my dad at all, you know that he is admittedly "frugal" (for some things you could say that he is actually secretly "cheap"). He wouldn't buy the chair for me since he'd just built me two solid wood stools for my desk using the wood salvaged from the shipping crate of his newly purchased darkroom sink. (Salvaged wood from a shipping crate...I wasn't kidding about his frugality...). These stools were (and still are, I have them both at my house here in Davis) very nice and beautifully made with rounded edges so as not to hurt my butt while sitting at my desk struggling with my stupid math homework every night. My only complaint about using a stool for my desk is that there wasn't any back support like a chair has. He said he understood that back support is really important so I'd better get crackin' on those math problems if I wanted that chair. Well, that same year I got an A in my math class and was bumped up to "high" math once again. He bought me the chair, as promised, and I still have it.

When I checked my grades this quarter, I quickly emailed my dad to show off that I'd received an A in my food physical chemistry class and an A+ in my statistics class. Any scientist will tell you that physical chemistry is a dreaded but highly interesting and useful subject. Many, many people struggle with this course because it is all math, math, math. There are bumper stickers that say "Honk if you passed pchem" not "Honk if you got an A in pchem."

When I signed up for the foods class I hadn't realized that it was a physical chemistry class at all--I just thought it was a food chemistry class. During the introductory lecture, the professor said something like "well, this class is really physical chemistry of foods..." I was thinking to myself "WHAT?! I don't want to take more pchem....I'm done with that! I've been TRICKED!" But I stuck it out because I needed the credits and I love food and I love chemistry. It turned out to be the best class I've ever taken. (Strange how that works...)

My email to my dad said, "You said you'd give me a chair if I received an A in a math class...what do I get if I get an A in a physical chemistry class?"

His response was, "A new equilibrium constant?"

What can I even say about a response like that? All I could do was laugh. I was hoping he'd buy me some new windows for my house or something. I guess those motivational gifts for good grades stop when you get to graduate school...phooey.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Genesis, Chapter One, Verse Ten...and a Half

I found the following verse in my New Revised Non-Standard Bible. This is a verse of the Bible you may not know about yet:

'Then God said, "Let there be a conveyance to again separate the domestic waters from the municipal waters. So God made strong sluices and supple green channels. And it was so. God called the sluices Ball Valves, and the green channels Garden Hoses."'
Genesis 1:10.5

While I spent Sunday applying thick layers of mulch to the gardens, Dave and my dad worked on installing a water faucet in our "utility yard." This is one of our three, triangle-shaped back yards that has our garden shed, boat parking area, and clothesline. Until now it was a pain to water the honeysuckle vines and roses in this yard since there wasn't a hose on this side of the house. When it gets hot I'd end up with a long hose stretched across the driveway and under the fence to water my plants. It was so tacky and annoying. Especially since I often needed to water the front yard, so I'd have to drag it back across the driveway. (Not surprisingly, Dave didn't see a problem with this hose-dragging method; of course, he wasn't the one getting all muddy doing the dragging every morning before school.)

So Julie said "Dave, let there be water" and Dave made it so. And it was good. It was very good, in fact.

For some reason there was a hose bib on the inside of our garage, with a line running off to the side to an outdated water filter/softener tank. We decided to remove this unknown tank thing to make more room for all our cabinets of canned food and workshop tools. My dad figured out a way to run a new water line from here, up and over the garage door, and then down the other side of the garage wall where they drilled a hole in the stucco for my fancy new hose bib. All it took was some clever cutting/fitting/soldering of about 30 feet of copper tubing and assorted accessories. Too bad for the boys it was about 95 degrees in the garage and they couldn't open the garage door for some air because it would block where they were working.
Towards the end of the day I dusted the composted horse manure (yum, yum) off my clothes and headed inside to make a hearty, Southern meal for Father's Day. I baked two loaves of braided rye bread, collard greens with smoked ham, black eyed peas with more smoked ham, melon salad...and a hickory smoked honey ham. We would have had mashed sweet potatoes but I was too busy to ride my bike to the store to get some in time to bake/mash/mix/re-bake them for dinner. After all that plumbing and garden work in the hot sun, we were all ready to dig in. It was super delicious. For dessert I had made another upside down plum cake (well, pluot cake).
Once we'd digested and snuggled the dogs for a while, we decided to get busy enhancing Global Warming:
Yep, that's right. We busted out the tank of the much-feared global warming gas, carbon dioxide: we made two bottles of homemade soda. One was lemon and the other was raspberry-lemon. Both were refreshing and delicious.

I must have been in high school when my dad first introduced me to the wonders of making soda pop at home. He was able to buy all the supplies at a local brewery supply, including the rootbeer and raspberry flavorings. He even bought a bottle capper so we could seal glass bottles. We can use beer bottles and sparkling apple juice bottles for this. I love being a homemaker and making all sorts of things from scratch, so my dad brought all the soda supplies to our house so I can make soda for us and our friends.

When we first made soda we weren't sure how much sugar or juice to add to the 2 liter bottles of chilled water. (Like other gases, the solubility of carbon dioxide increases with decreasing temperature so you need to use cold water to carbonate it.) We looked at the ingredient list on standard 12 ounce coke can. I don't remember exactly what it contained, but it was on the order of 30 grams of sugar. That's like 1/4 cup of sugar in ONE single can of soda! Geez! We tried that amount in a two liter bottle along with 1/4 cup of lemon or lime juice. It was perfect. So our homemade soda is much healthier and is much more refreshing.

Adding the sugar, raspberry flavoring and a drop of red food coloring:
We've experimented a little in the past, carbonating various beverages to see what they'd taste like. Orange juice and iced tea are terrible (there is a reason you don't see those choices at the supermarket). Fizzy coffee wasn't too bad. From the pharmacy we bought a bottle of cola syrup (Coke--the beverage--was originally marketed as an upset tummy medicine) to make our own cola. It wasn't very good. A few weeks ago my dad made ginger ale by adding a few teaspoons of simple syrup simmered with some sliced ginger to a glass of soda water. It sounds yummy; I think I will make that next.

Back-tracking to Saturday, I made East Indian chicken curry from the Joy of Cooking with yellow jasmine rice and toasted almonds and a side a raita. Holy crap was it ever good. Since we were hungry before the curry was done, we ate dessert before dinner, which was an crisp made with home grown apples, raisins we made last summer, and walnuts I picked from campus. Along with vanilla ice cream it was yummy, but not crispy at all since I made it in the crock pot.
Earlier that day I finished sewing new curtains for the living room. Back in January Joann's Fabrics had a 40% off sale on all their custom orders of interior design fabrics. I wanted to add a bunch of color to the room (it has butter yellow walls) and I found this irresistible, bold floral print that has every color of the rainbow. Dave isn't so fond of it (neither is my dad) but I loooooooooooove it. The curtains coordinate well with the Craigslist area rug and redwood burl and will look really good once our door is finally painted dark red. I also bought some striped fabric to make new throw pillow covers but I didn't have time or patience to make those. I admit, the curtains look sorta "old lady" but I guess that's just my style. As long as they don't smell like old mothballs. (My smart-alec Daddy commented that all I needed in the living room now are some of those plastic slip covers for my couches...har, har, har.)

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Playing in the Dirt (er...Soil)

If you ever talk to a soil scientist, don't EVER refer to soil as "dirt." They get really offended. Dirt certainly isn't the technical term for that brown stuff we grow vegetables in and track through the house; to a soil scientist, that word is almost derogatory. Personally, I don't care what you call it. All I know is that really "good" dirt (with lots of organic matter in it) looks, feels, and smells so good to me that I want to eat it. If you think that's weird, consider that I also like the smell of composting horse manure.

For those of you who don't know, I work in a soils lab and my thesis research focuses on soil organic matter chemistry, specifically the stability and composition of yard waste compost amendments to denuded, sloped soils to aid in revegetation success. If you didn't understand that, I'm basically a chemist who is trying/learning to be a soil scientist also. Simply put, I'm a big-time nerd like all great Levies. =o)

From June 23-July 10 I will be out in the boonies of California, digging soil pits and learning how to analyze soils and classify them. This is the first year Davis is offering the course at the graduate level, which is good for me because I still need 4 more graduate level units. This is an intense class and may be only 3 weeks long but it is a 5-unit class! That means it will be a lot of work.

The class will be camping at many locations throughout northern California. They offer a northern and southern loop alternatively each year. Thank goodness this year is the northern circuit. If I'm feeling up to it next summer I will take the southern loop through Death Valley and Joshua Tree. Here's where I will be: 3 days in Davis, 1 in Vine Hill, 1 at Silver Lake, 1 in Tahoma, 1 at Pyramid Lake, 4 at the Eagle Lake Biological Field Station, 1 in Susanville, 1 in Day Bench (no idea where that is...), 1 in Redding, 1 at Black Butte Lake, 1 in Hopland, 1 in Van Damme State Park...and finally back to Davis.

After all that work and travel, we have to take a final exam, submit a GIANT report, and us grad students also have to submit a big project (which hasn't been explained to us yet...I hope it isn't too much more work!).

Part of me is really looking forward to the class (the part of me that loves learning) and part of me is sorta dreading it (the part of me that wants to be at home with my husband to make sure he's eating well--not Taco Bell every night!--and keeping the house livable). This class isn't a requirement for me but it will fulfill my lacking units. There are lots of people in my department who are going so I know that it will be fun. One of the professors, Dr. Singer, is an amazing guy who literally wrote the book on soil science. Rumor has it that he will be retiring next year so I wanted to make sure to take the class from him before he's gone.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

What's in a Name?

For the past school year I have been one of two social chairs for my graduate group, Agricultural & Environmental Chemistry. For next year I was voted in as one of two student representatives--so I will work with my friend, John (Rudi's daddy), as a liaison between the students in our group and the faculty. I really enjoyed being the social chair because I got to cook all the food for the major events and schedule happy hours and fun field trips.

Last night we had our last happy hour event for this school year at a trendy restaurant called Bistro 33. For most happy hours we get 1 or 2 faculty to show up and maybe 8-10 students. At the big annual group meeting last week I called attention to the fact that we don't have a lot of faculty involvement in our group and that ALL students (not just me and the other officers) really want more faculty to attend our social events. Well...last night we had 24 people come! And 1/4 of them were faculty. It was really fun!

My professor, Vic, came along and we got to chatting about people's names and what they mean. There was a girl at the table named Marisol, which means sea and sun. How nice, I thought. I told Vic that I dated a guy in high school who once commented that my name, Julie, is "almost like beautiful" in French, jolie. Almost like beautiful?! Gee, thanks. Vic laughed and asked if that guy was Dave, who was busy chatting up a storm with one of the atmospheric professors at another table. I laughed and said no way would I marry a guy who would call me "almost beautiful."

So I got to thinking...what does my name actually mean? I searched for it on Apparently it means "downy and soft." I assume that is supposed to be a personality attribute but I don't think my personality is "soft." I can be abrupt and am very to-the-point. Downy means soothing but I'm still not convinced that my name describes my personality. That high school boyfriend was probably closer at describing me. Which is actually fine, because I believe there is always room for improvement. Maybe some day I can justify changing my name to Bella or Nefertari, both of which mean beautiful. (Eh, who am I kidding? I don't care how I look! A better name for me would be Jarla, a feminized version of Jarl, which means Man of Control. Haha! I couldn't find any names that meant "organized" but I swear, I did look for one.)

Under my name someone posted a list of all the songs about Julie. I have to admit, the only song I've ever heard is the Shaggy song:
  • Big Julie - Jarvis Cocker
  • Hey, Julie - Fountains of Wayne
  • Julie - Jens Lekman
  • Julie - Prism
  • Julie - Shaggy featuring Ali G
  • Julie - The Levellers
  • Julie Christie - Lorraine Bowen
  • Julie Christie - Stephen Duffy
  • Julie Don't Live Here - Electric Light Orchestra
  • Julie With... - Brian Eno
  • Julie Written On The Fence - The Lilac Time
  • Julie's in the Drug Squad - The Clash
  • Julie, Do Ya Love Me - Bobby Sherman
  • Oh, Julie - The Crescendos
  • When Julie Comes Around - The Cuff Links
Incidentally, I looked up the meaning for David: the beloved. (That's a smack-on definition of my Davie!). I also looked up the meaning of that high school boyfriend of mine. His name means "supplanter" which means to take the place of (another), as through force or scheming. I guess we know why I married Dave instead...


Monday, June 9, 2008

Relaxing weekend

What a great weekend! The hotel spoiled me with the vaulted ceilings, the in-room spa and fireplace, the loud waves crashing on the beach below, and a WHOLE bed for just Dave and dogs. Ha! I'd forgotten what it is like to sleep with only people in the bed. It is amazing.

Us on the balcony of our hotel room:
We hung out with family, fixed Dave's windshield washer fluid sprayers, washed his car and his dad's truck, talked about national politics, ate some really good ribs, and I read a lot (as usual). My newest book is Marley and Me by John Grogan, about a family and their completely crazy golden lab. I don't like the writing style since it isn't as clever as folks like Mary Roach, Anthony Bourdain, and David Sedaris (who I love).

Michael, John, and Dave behind the hotel:
My brother-in-law put too much garbage in the dumpster so the lid wouldn't close. So he compacted it with the excavator!! It is the best trash compactor I've ever seen...

Friday, June 6, 2008

Yummy Dinners

Dave and I had some really yummy dinners this week. Tuesday night I made falafel ball pita pockets with cucumber-and-dill yogurt sauce. Wednesday night I made these Mediterranean-style chicken things baked in puff pastry--each pastry shell was stuffed with fresh spinach, pesto, feta cheese, and homemade sundried tomatoes. They were sooooooo good. Last night we had a very colorful dinner: grilled corn, broccoli with spicy cheese sauce I made with sharp cheddar, purple (!!) baked potatoes with that cucumber-dill yogurt sauce, and grilled chicken sandwiches with homemade BBQ sauce. I was so full from last night's dinner that I had a hard time studying for my final.

Falafel pitas:

Puff pastry chicken:

Multi-color dinner:
I just packed our little suitcase because once Dave gets home (any minute now...) we'll be driving up to Gualala to see his family. My mom will also be up there until tomorrow because she's attending our nephew's high school graduation tonight. Dave and I couldn't go to that because I had a final today and my graduate group's huge annual meeting this afternoon so we couldn't make it up in time. My mom-in-law isn't feeling well these days so she booked all of us at the hotel they own for this weekend. I am sooooooooooo looking forward to staying at the hotel--no dogs are allowed (they'll stay up at their Grandma's) so it'll be like a little getaway vacation for Dave and me. And the hotel gives you a free bottle of chilled champagne with cute little glasses...that'll be so nice.

This quarter has been so insane for me--classes were a lot more work that I'd anticipated and my graduate group officer position took up a lot of time, too. Then there was all the work we did on the house. I was very organized and efficient with everything I had to do but it was still exhausting. This weekend will be so nice...

I just heard Dave pull up....see you all on Monday!

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

LA Face with an Oakland Booty

I've read in fashion magazines that women with a lot of junk-in-the-trunk should be careful with short haircuts--the shorter your hair, the larger your bum looks.

Given that my trunk is as large as an airport taxicab's, I'm not sure cutting 7" of my hair off was such a good idea. You wouldn't know it since I wore an out-of-my-face ballerina bun everyday, by my hair was actually pretty long. So 7" isn't that much.

A few weeks ago I arrived late to my statistics class and had to sit a row closer to the front than I usually do. After class, my friend Rebecca looked totally shocked to see me. After searching the classroom without seeing me, she assumed I was absent--she didn't recognize me sitting right in front of her because my hair was down that day. God, I'm so boring. (I know my dad is shaking his head as he reads this and thinking "Tisk, tisk, what a shame. Long hair is so nice." Like most men, he really likes long hair. I like long hair, too, but not when it is clinging to my sweaty, sticky neck and getting all tangled while I ride my bike.)

I gave the hairdresser only two guidelines. 1) I must be able to put it up into a ponytail (even a stubby one is satisfactory) or I will go completely crazy. 2) I never do anything to my hair other than wash it and let it air dry--so whatever cut she gave me must look okay without a curling iron, blowdryer, or even a fancy round brush. The hairdresser looked at me like I was from outer space when I told her this. Then her eyes bugged out when I admitted that my hair hasn't been cut since September. My excuse is that I'm a cheap/married/graduate student/tomboy who doesn't socialize with people who judge her based on appearance (thank goodness!). At least now I look like someone who cares a little bit about how she looks...for a few weeks anyway. (She put some yummy coconut-scented goop on the tips of my hair to make it look more "choppy" was so delicious-smelling that I might try to buy some. Mostly for the good smell, not the style aspect.)

Dave saw me out the kitchen window when I rode up the driveway tonight after my haircut. He gave me a thumbs up. He likes my new 'do!

...I love Sir Mixalot...

Sunday, June 1, 2008

I'm Pampered

Dave and I just got home from a great party at his brother's house. Our sister-in-law, Bernadette, had a great Pampered Chef party where we got to make some of the food using the consultant's stuff (micro-planner, mandolin, fancy measuring spoons, etc.). We made artichoke appetizers in wonton wrappers and pizza. Both were superb!

The artichoke appetizers were made by filling pre-baked wonton wrappers with artichoke and spinach dip, then backing again until it gets all melty:
It was a potluck and I told Bernie that I'd bring a pizza; since the idea is that we'd all work together to make a pizza I just brought the supplies: risen dough, sauce, shredded cheese, and some of our sausage for a topping. Mike and Bernie supplied garden fresh basil from their yard. In addition to all that pork we bought at Costco last weekend, we'd also purchased a huge carton of Chilean plums. To get rid of them before they went soft, I made a fantastic plum-upside-down cake. To make this, you put 1/2 cup of butter and 1/2 cup brown sugar into a greased cake pan and place it in the oven after it preheated until the sugar is bubbly. Then you arrange the sliced plums (or blueberries, peaches, etc.) on top of the sugar mixture then pour a half recipe of yellow cake batter on top (from scratch or a box). You bake it until done (duh) then flip it over onto a plate after it cools for about 15 minutes. I added a teaspoon of lemon zest to the batter to balance the tartness of the plums. It turned out very pretty and was sooooooooooo good. In fact, I think I'll have another slice after I finish this post...
Right when I got up this morning I made the plum cake, then I defrosted a few jars of my daddy's marinara sauce to make it into pizza sauce. To make the pizza sauce I let the marinara sauce simmer down for about 30 minutes, added a small can of tomato paste to thicken it, and added a few teaspoons of oregano leaves, thyme leaves, and garlic powder. And a few packets of chili pepper flakes from the pizza restaurant. My dad's marinara sauce is phenomenal. It is sweet with honey and chalk-full of so many vegetables but so saucy that even the most picky vegetable-haters will eat it. It is low-fat, high-fiber, high-flavor. We use it for sooooooooo many dishes because it can be adjusted to work as standard pasta sauce (or mixed with a jar of frozen basil pesto for a jazzed-up sauce), eaten as tomato soup, used as pizza sauce (or modified like I did), etc. The possibilities really are endless. Every few months I have to restock our freezer by making a large batch...using those giant #10 cans of tomatoes from Costco. I will include the recipe at the bottom of this post--just beware that it is scaled to use those giant cans of tomatoes!

Later on I browned some of the Creole-style chipotle sausage we'd make earlier in the week. When we tasted it, it was sorta bland--not super flavorful or hot (I guess all the spiciness was used up on my hands...). We still brought it to put on the pizza, though, as it added protein and good texture. How could something so colorful taste so boring?
Around 3:30pm I bagged up all the stuff we were supposed to bring--which also included 6 aprons for us party-goers to wear while cooking--thinking I had it all together. I finished cleaning up the tools and painting supplies outside before giving Dave a haircut in the stifling garage. Then we jumped into the shower to get cleaned up for the party. And...oh crap! I realized I totally forgot to make the pizza dough. You need to let the dough rise for at least an hour before forming it in the pan and letting it rise again for about 15 minutes. By this time it was already after 4pm and we were due at Bernie's house by 5.

After dressing I bolted into the kitchen to make 2 batches of pizza dough. To make up for lost time, I used very warm water and doubled the yeast in the recipe. To make sure it would be able to rise at least a little before we got to the party, I filled a Nalgene with boiling water and stuck it and the bowls of dough into a cooler. Ta-da! Instant bread-rising chamber. It totally worked, too. The extra yeast and warm box caused the dough to rise so well that it was practically bursting through the plastic wrap by the time we arrived. (And we were able to use the 1 liter of hot water for washing dishes later on.)

The wine flowed while the appetizers and pizzas were in the oven. I'd forgotten just how good a cool glass of white wine can be while chatting with friends on a hot evening. They were all Mike and Bernie's friends from work and school, but we see them often enough that we are really getting to know them all well. Mike's lab partner has a 3 year old little girl, Ariel, who helped me make prepare the wonton wrappers. She had her birthday party last night and wore EVERYTHING she got as a gift: a princess crown, lime green jelly shoes that are large enough to fit me, an old designer purse Bernie gave her, and a global warming t-shirt (because she complains to her mom that she's "sooooooooooo wooooooooooooooorried about global warming!"). She's a doll and has quite the personality.

Ariel is wearing my old Boston Market apron from my first job:
I am wearing my maternal great grandmother's apron and Dave is wearing my paternal grandmother's apron:
Davie sauteed onions for the pizza:
At the end of the party you can order stuff from the catalog. Under Dave's watchful eye I was a good girl and only ordered two small things (for me and Allison...don't worry Allison, it is small and won't take up much room in your kitchen!)

Other than the party, we had a pretty productive weekend. On Saturday Dave dug a pit underneath the gate where Potatoes tried to dig himself out while I was at school one day. (Silly us, we thought we had built a border collie-proof fence. Nope!) He filled the pit with concrete to deter our little boy from escaping. I went to the hardware store and bought some more pretty plants for the front yard and some cucumbers and peppers for the vegetable garden. While cleaning up the garage, I discovered some bags of bulbs that I never planted back in the spring (I hope they are still viable): peonies, foxgloves, and a sunflower-type thing.

When I was in high school I worked at a magical place: Alden Lane Nursery. I was a salesperson/slave for the bedding plants and vegetable department. My fantasy was to buy one of each plant of the unusual plants to grow at home. That way I'd actually know what each plant looked like at maturity. Plus, I love variety. When I suggested this to my dad, he didn't seem to go for it. Instead he suggested that I draw-up a landscape plan and choose a few select plants for a unified theme. Since then he's loosened up on the "gotta have a defined plan" attitude--in fact, I think he likes a little bit of randomness in his life these days. Anyway, my one-of-each plant dream is coming true. The way I choose plants for a given area of our yard is to walk through the garden section and pick the weirdest plants I can find. Really...who wants a yard full of boring pink petunias and red roses when there are so many unusual plants available? Whenever I see a chartreuse- or purple-leaved version of a plant I already have (like geraniums, mint, dead nettle, or coleus) I buy it.

We also set up the automatic irrigation for the vegetable garden this weekend: we have black soaker hose loops on each bed, linked together with green garden hose and controlled by electric valves and pressure regulators. The value/regulator assembly is still at little leaky so I set it on top of a big flower pot full of flowers...if it is going to drip, at least it will water a plant! The front yard is watered with two sprinklers that are connected to garden hoses. Once we replace the fence we will install all the irrigation underground using PVC is a long way off so I'll just have to put up with ugly hoses and electrical wire draped along the house.

Today while I was rototilling two new garden beds in the vegetable garden (for strawberries and melons/cucumbers), Dave removed the front door and applied a coat of white primer. He picked out a nice dark reddish color for the door but he didn't have time to put the paint on. It takes 4 hours to dry before you can put another coat on! I suppose we'll have to spend all next Saturday painting the darn door, which we rehung complete with newspaper covering the glass. (We still have our Christmas lights up and the newspapered door makes our house look very classy, let me tell you!)

It was really hard to keep track of Potatoes while the door was off. I kept forgetting that here was NO door. He took off for a jaunt in the park twice. Whenever he leaves he's surly at the park, staring up at one of two trees looking for squirrels. The second time, though, I went to the park to bring him home but he wasn't there. I looked in his two usual spots...but no Potatoes. I asked a couple having a picnic if they'd seen a black and white dog pass by but they said no. Finally I got on my bike and rode around the neighborhood asking around. No one had seen him. Then Dave hopped on his bike and helped me look. Dave kept asking me "Didn't you look at the park at his trees? That's where he usually is..." And I kept saying "Yes, I looked and no, he's not there." Boy, we must have been a real sight: running around the streets yelling "Potatoes!" into people's front yards like crazy people. People always giggle when I tell them our dogs' names: Rhubarb Pie goes by Ruby and Sweet Potato Pie goes as Potatoes. Anyway, wouldn't you know it, my baby boy WAS at his favorite tree in the park when DAVE rode over there. At least we never have to worry about Ruby getting away. She remains wherever I am, without question.

Daddy's Marinara Sauce
  • 3/4-1 cup olive oil
  • 1 chopped medium onion
  • 8 cloves garlic, pressed
  • 1 bunch finely chopped celery
  • 6 finely chopped green bell peppers
  • 6 medium shredded carrots
  • 2 teaspoons dried thyme
  • 2 tablespoons dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 6-8 Turkish bay leaves
  • 1 #10 can tomato puree
  • 1 #10 can diced tomato
  • 1 cup honey
Heat oil in a large pot, then sautee the onions until nicely browned (about 10 minutes). Add garlic and cook for 2 more minutes. Then add each of the other ingredients--let simmer for at least 2 hours, longer if you have the time, until everything is broken down. You can just chop everything really small so it will cook faster if you want. Make sure to stir it often to prevent it from scorching on the bottom. I pour this into 1 pint freezer mason jars or small Ziploc bags.