Sunday, May 31, 2009

Home Chemistry Project

We have lots of silver and silver plate-- a *terrible* by product of a soon-to-be mother-in-law who is a silversmith. Of course, usage or non usage of silver makes it tarnish. As many of us know, polishing silver is so not how one should every spend the day. My dad then read this and tried it. It worked! I did at home too.

You take a glass pan (or something that won't conduct), line it with tin foil, shiny side up, add 2 or 3 tablespoons of baking soda (or baking soda laundry detergent), and steaming/just about to boil water. Drop in your silver and watch the tarnish disappear! After 5 minutes, you should be able to remove the silver, buff it slightly, wash off the baking soda, and you are done. Some pieces might need the process repeated, but since it isn't full of chemicals, the silver won't be harmed and you can set it and forget! So long as after about 5-10 minutes you come back and get the silver out the water.


Silver-plated tray, before


and after!
It's not perfect, but much better than before.

The science behind it --and excuse me if I am a bit vague. I am a historian after all, not a scientist. And my engineer dad did explain it, but was waaay too detailed to really comprehend all the subtleties-- is that the baking soda acts like a conduit for the tarnish, which moves from the silver to the tin foil through the water. Apparently, tarnish likes foil better as it is easier to tarnish. Got that? Good. Glad you all are coming along with me on that one.

The end result: shiny silver without the polishing!

Garden Pi`ece de Re´sistence

Sadly, you can't do French accent marks in Blogspot... such a pity because I have saved the best garden update for last.

No matter what Hurst Street puts up now with regard to her garden, I will be declared the winner. It may be a short lived victory as I stupidly sent her a gift that might be my ultimate downfall, but in the meantime, I will enjoy this game, set, match, win.

We have FIGS galore.

Ahhhhh, victory is mine....

May Garden Update

It's been a while since I have updated the garden (writing thank you notes can take hours) and not to be outdone by the peas over at Hurst Street, here is our end of May update.

We have strawberries, people. Grown from seeds last year, kept alive indoors over the winter, and back outside for this season. They are the small container berries, and delicious.

We have snow peas! Several actually, and since we don't use any sprays, we can eat them right off the vines. Very tasty. And the sugar snap peas are coming.

Our potatoes are out of control. The plants are blooming and are about 4 feet tall and growing. They are, in fact, overtaking the trellis we set up for the green beans. We will need to help the green beans along.

We have volunteer dill. Seeds from last year's plant spread all over the upper garden and we have dill growing like a weed. Everything.
We have volunteer tomatoes, doing much better so far than the tomatoes we planted from seeds. A black zebra cheery tomato fell last year and gave us a new plant.

We have rhubarb! I didn't plant any thing around it this year and it is doing much better.

And we have too many golden raspberries to count.
There are blueberries on the side of the house,
and mint from last year growing out of its own pot.

Personal 'Screen on the Green'

As you know, we live in Washington, D.C. and a summer tradition is Screen on the Green: movies shown on the Mall on a huge screen. The producers are careful to pick a movie from every age of Hollywood, and almost every genre. It was quite memorable, for example, to watch "All the President's Men" there, with all the words of Watergate echoing off the government buildings and Smithsonian museums, near where the scandal occurred. However, because of financial reasons, HBO canceled it this year.

What are a girl & boy to do? Make their own Screen on their Green!

We jury-rigged a movie screen out of a white sheet, croquet hoops, old twine, a tomato stake, a broken ladder, wood bits, and a staple gun. Viola: a screen! Junkyard Wars, eat your heart out!

We borrowed a projector, hooked up my ancient stereo, and sat back to enjoy "To Catch a Thief". Watching Grace Kelly and Cary Grant under the stars in our own garden, with champagne and pizza with my lady friends (all of this started because it was my bachelorette evening): it can't be beat!

On Monday, we are celebrating Kelly's birthday (Breakfast for Dinner!) and we will be showing another movie under the stars. Wanna come over?

Friday, May 29, 2009

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Apron Strings

So, my sister Caroline, with the two babies--so *copious* amount of time. ahem-- made my bridal gift.

Years ago I sent her (and Rebecca) fabrics from Repot Depot Fabrics. It was funny, vintage, random fabrics. They both were learning to sew. Apparently, I sent this fabric to Caroline, she saved it, dug it out, and in her spare time, made me this awesome apron. It was the first of my shower presents to open and it is hilarous and very well-made. The pattern is "How to find a husband".

Some of the sage advice on the fabric is:
Show him you love housework!
Cook him delicious foods!
Don't play the field; focus on one man.
When you meet his mother, Smile!
Show him you have a lovely singing voice.

It is absolutely priceless! Will loves it too.

Bridal Shower: KY, part I

My sisters hosted my bridal shower in Kentucky with weekend, with Rebecca surprising me. She was *supposed* to be in Switzerland for work, but came here first. We are modeling the viels that were made for me to wear on the day of... yes, they are constructed out of toilet paper and pipe cleaners....We are making the fashion statement to be sure.

Been Busy

Too much going on! First there was thing, and then the other thing, and dropping off the other thing at the place.... I tell you, I just wanna sit down and drool....

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Bicycle culture - part deux

It's amazing what one can do on a bike - take these six examples.

- Drive through banking/post office - how convenient!
- Cycling past outdoor toilet (top right) while feeding your child.
- Taking the ladies out for a drag down the strip
- Staying warm (she was 80 or so tho in her defense) on a 70 degree day.
- Going shipping - note the heels (I guess if you look as elegant as that on a bike you don't have to wear the mandatory boots - see earlier "Amsterdam Style" story). Oh - just looked at shopping girl again - she's also on the phone.

(oh and that's something like 6 posts today - so all you folks who come and visit better scoll down and check them all.)

Sights of ye olde Amstel Dam

So many posts - but there is just so much here to blog about....
Here were some other things I saw today that I enjoyed and wanted to share.

Bridges - Tulips - amusing t-shirts - magnets - canals


I ran in - wanting a Big Mac - cos it said "Mac House" and that's the first thing I think of.....

brother, was I disappointed!

Bicycle culture

So if you're not aware Amsterdam has copious numbers of bicycle riders. In a population of 750,000 there are well over a million bikes kicking around. People don't let anything get in the way of riding to and fro. As a result the city is wonderfully calm and free of traffic. My workmate Mike, Mr California Dream, was, I think, quite taken by the place.

For anyone who wants to stay trim and look cool - ride your bike!

Amsterdam Style

So finally got out and about here in Holland - went exploring, shopping and people watching. The place is just enchanting with its canals winding throughout the city.

Turns out I'm a fan of the local style out here - hey it's not conservative America! To be a woman in this place you have to dress in one of two fundamental ways.Boots are seemingly just about mandatory. One can then either put on blue or white jeans (tucked in of course) or wear a tiny mini skirt with tights/legging thingies. Generally there's a light jacket with a scarf on top.

Oh, and you have to be a minimum of 5'8". Short is out.

House to Travel Ratio

So, we have been having issues with the alarm for the upstairs (burglars, be ware: there is still a functioning alarm on the house).

We had an issue with the upstairs alarm and the panel since we think the house was hit (or nearly hit) by lightning last summer. In an attempt to get it all ready for us to leave in June and have occupants in the house for that time, we decided to get it fixed. One alarm dude has already been here to check out the panel, suggesting we just merge the two panels into one. He then came back after wires were run and set up the key pad and the functioning alarm. I was here for that day and the dude was here for 4 hours, having to call for back up.

All was kosher until last Friday. With the alarm set, I come back into the house in the evening. Upon opening the door, there is no noise. Silence. But I know the alarm is active. I run to the key pad and the key pad doesn't work. And then the alarm starts to sound. The company called me and I was able to get it turn off. But the rest of the weekend I am watching the control panel like a hawk. It beeps at me. Several times in a row. It says "OC" on it. Then it says its ready. Then it says OC again. I call and that means open circuit, something isn't communicating. They will send out a dude.

The same dude arrives and of course the alarm is functioning. He runs a test up here: fine. He runs a test downstairs: fine. Only he didn't put that alarm in test mode. So, he says, maybe you have mice gnawing on the wires. Um, yeah. Doubtful. He leaves. 30 minutes later, the cops show up. Wanting to know if I live here, etc. I tell the cop everything is fine. I call the company. Oh, we didn't realize that the downstairs alarm was being tested. We dispatched the cop. I ask if they didn't notice there there was a test mode upstairs and a technician scheduled to come out here to check on the alarm? Yes, they say, but that is for the upstairs alarm and we dispatched the cop to check out the downstairs alarm. Fine, they apologize and they clear the alarm.

And not 10 minutes later the alarm starts beeping. And so I called again and they came back out between 3:00 pm - 5:00 pm. 5:15, the second dude shows up. At least this time the alarm is actually malfunctioning when the tech is here. So, the dude takes off the key pad panel and says oh I know what is wrong: and he replaces the bits that hold the wires together, saying that they come loose every once in a while. He replaces them, and the panel is fine. And then he leaves.

And about 4 minutes later, the panel starts showing OC again and beeping every 10 seconds. I leave, walking down to Georgetown. Upon my return, the key pad really is beeping every 3 seconds. So, I call the company again. And they call me back with an appointment for first thing in the morning today 8 am -12 pm. Now, I have so much stuff to do at work, so this sucks. This is not the week to have the alarm beeping every 3 seconds.

The dude on the phone says let me tell you how to power down the system. Go to the panel in the utility room and unplug the battery. Ok. I do and unplug the black wire. It still is beeping upstairs every 3 seconds. I unplug the red wire, and the alarm starts to sound
upstairs. I run upstairs, plug in the code, and it is silent. Only to start beeping every 3 seconds. I hit the star key, and it seems to silence it.

Then I call Fiona. We are looking for head gear for the wedding.

And the alarm company calls me.

Ah, we are showing a low battery in the basement and we have been trying to call such-and-such a number. Um, What? I explain to her that I was instructed to unplug the battery, that they were twice today and they will be back out tomorrow since the alarms aren't working. Ohh, she will change the phone number to call to this house number and put it in the system that the panel downstairs is on test until 12 noon tomorrow.

And then the alarm, which is supposed to powered down and/or off starts beeping every 3 seconds. Through the night.

So here is what else I am thinking: Will goes out of town and the house starts to flip out.


Will goes to Barcelona last year, and the electricity in the kitchen goes out/stays on for days at a time.
Will goes to Florida, and the radiator breaks.
Will goes to Kuala Lumper, the boiler pump fails.
Will goes to San Jose, we get mice.
Will goes to Amsterdam, the alarm system goes berserk.

So, as I sit here waiting for the third visit of the alarm company, I am a little bit irritated about the work travel to house breaking down ratio. And I am beginning to think that the house doesn't like me.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Bridal Shower: DC

Yesterday was my bridal shower with my DC Family here. As you can see the spread was amazing! Tasha made everything--including the trifle-- from scratch! It was awesome. She can come and cater any event I have any time. I also got to take home the leftover chocolate dipped strawberries.... delicious! Dena made me my ribbon bouquet. I will take it home next weekend for bridal shower #2. So far, no ribbons are broken!

I also received some lovely presents, including the wedding night outfit, kitchen/entertaining/baking stuff, and garden stuff. It was such a lovely day tea and Prosecco, good food and great company!

Thank you my ladies! You are all wonderful!

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Garden Update

The garden as of May 13:

The potatoes: now another foot high with rain we been having.
And roses are in bloom

The Garden Helper

The Upper Garden: fig tree is bursting!

The Gardener: annoyed at the sprinklers
(because annoyance at the photographer is not allowed)

Tomatoes, Beans, and Raspberry bushes


I'm a coffee drinker-- and though I am about to marry a Brit, I will always be a coffee drinker. For Christmas, Will's brother and sister-in-law gave us an *awesome* coffee maker that also makes espressos and lattes.

Now, I can make a goooood pot of coffee. My espresso ain't bad. But when it comes to making the lattes, I am pretty terrible. Because it takes longer and you have to pay attention to lights blinking on, the amount of espresso in the carafe, and me trying to do 80.1 million things at once, I constantly screw up the latte making process. Ask Jen, Bryan and Maddalena, who witnessed the forgetfulness first hand when they came over for breakfast.

This is where Will's years as a Starbucks barista comes into play. He makes the most delicious lattes: right amount of espresso, sugar, and foamy milk for a perfect weekend treat.

But. What do I do when Will is out of town, say in Amsterdam?

Well, yesterday I attempted my latte on my own and it wasn't that bad--my milk wasn't very foamy. But this morning. I watched it. I paid attention. I stayed put. Well, sorta. I did run and get the towels to fold while the milk was foaming, but that is at the end when all the lights of blinked on and off.

And the result:

A perfect latte. You can even see the left over steam.

I do think, though, that once Will returns from over seas, I will promptly forget how to make a good latte and return to the established weekend routine: I wake up, I get up, I go get the paper, I lay on the couch, and Will brings me my latte. I drink it. I read the paper (or catch up on my Jon Stewart's), and then Will brings me a second one. It is a perfect way to start both days of the weekend.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Magnum, P.I.

Who knew that my nephew had already chosen his profession: secret agent man.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Der Amstel Dam Burst

Got done at a reasonable hour so Mike and I decided to go for a jaunt downtown.

Turns out as we were just approaching the red light district the great dam in the sky burst and we were caught in a somewhat biblical downpour.
I was sensible enough to borrow a brolly from the hotel but as Mike didn't we ended up pretty soaked. Dove into a restuarant for dinner then made our way back to the hotel.

The city despite the rain is just enchanting.

Hey, what you doin' in bed? We're only tryin' to get us some peace!

I'm in the Netherlands right now on my latest gig. So far so good, long day yesterday but things are generally going smoothly.

It turns out the hotel I'm staying in has an interesting history.

From the exterior it's a bit stuck in the 70's but the interior was apparently designed by Ralph lauren! I'll explore a bit more thoroughly over the next week and see what interesting features I can find. So far honestly it's just a pretty regular hotel at first glance.

There have been some notable deaths in the area - the most famous being a local rock star who jumped to his death from the roof in 2001.

Most importantly however was John and Yoko's: Bed-In

Feeding on the coverage of their marriage they spent their honeymoon in the presidential suite - room 702 - promoting world peace. The press were invited and covered them while they spent the the week in bed. Lennon's subsequent song - The Ballad of John and Yoko - makes a number of references to the event.....

Drove from Paris to the Amsterdam Hilton
Talking in our beds for a week
The newspapers said
say what're you doing in bed
I said we're only trying to get us some peace.
Might provide inspiration for our honeymoon.....hmm - I wonder.......

Monday, May 11, 2009


Will is always wanting me to go camping. He swears it is great outdoor fun and that since I love to garden, I should love communing with nature whilst camping.

No. No way. I will not camp. The one reason: bug bites.

When I garden, I basically have to dip myself in DEET and liberally reapply every hour in order to prevent mosquitos from eating me alive. That is a lot of bug repellent poison being soaked into my body. That is why I love gardening in the early spring: the mosquitoes are not out in full force and I can be in the back yard, pulling weeds for hours with nothing but sunscreen on. And clothing. I am not *that* kind of girl.


I forgot about the spiders.

I have 13 spider bites from this weekend. To be fair, one spider did bite me 11 times while I was sleeping. Across my chest, where my pajama top hit. Apparently, I rolled on him during my sleep and he had to bite me 11 times for me to move and him to break out of my camisole. The other two bites are on my left elbow and the right side of my neck. See here:

You can see the raised welt and the redness on my neck from the bite, the scratching, and the applying of liberal amounts of Cortisone cream. It seemed to be getting better and then the one on my arm started to swell a bit. It is about the size of a 50¢ piece. And slightly warm to the touch. I finally called my doctor's office this afternoon and after she said that spider bites were serious-especially 13-- she was sorry to say that she couldn't squeeze me in and I should go to the emergency room. I decided to just skip the 7-8 hour wait in the ER and reapply the cortisone cream.

I think I made the right choice: no ER for a prednazone shot and no camping ever. If I can't survive the back yard, how in the world will I survive the deep woods?

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Sundays: What A Drag

Literally, A Drag. For Jen's birthday, several went to Perry's, a local sushi restaurant more know for its Sunday Drag Brunch. Interesting way to spend a birthday AND Mother's Day. All you can eat buffet with some of the best queens in the city. Can't beat that!

note the handful of singles in photo 5: an impressive haul for the morning.