Monday, November 30, 2009

Non-Turkey Meal!

We have made it through the leftovers and so time for a lighter fare: cherve and pear galette!

It is a variation of a savory crepe, actually. I made the dough with wheat flour (basically a pie crust recipe), adding for the middle bit of 2 cups ricotta, 2 cups goat's cheese, 3 eggs, fresh rosemary and thyme, and a bit of kosher salt. You then pleat the edges of the dough up around the cheese, using an egg wash to hold the pleats into place, freeze for 30 minutes and then bake at 375. I probably should have made the opening a bit smaller (and the dough not so thin, as it spread out in baking) so you could see the pleating better. After 30 minutes, I added the Bartlett pears, which I had previous grilled on a cast iron grill. Bake another 15 minutes, let cool for 20 minutes, garnish with parsley and fresh pomegranate seeds, and serve warm!

Served with a cup of soup and a nice mixed green salad, it was a lovely way to end the weekend after a whole lot of turkey, stuffing, and mashed potatoes.

We then thought of all the stuff one could have in the middle (prosciutto! mushrooms! butternut squash!) and determined that when his parents come for their visit in December, we will make this again.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Dormer: Before and After

The dormer is now done! All the windows have screens. The ladders and the old slate have been removed from the yard. It looks great and like it has always a part of the house.

We are really pleased with the results and phase 1 of house redux is complete. Don't ask me about phase 2 or just how many phases there are...

In the meantime, here are some before and after photos!

And here is the street view with it done. Doesn't look out of place at all!

Friday, November 27, 2009

Black Friday

I am sure that everyone else who went out for Black Friday got the super great deal on the new flat screen hd tv, or Guitar Hero, or several new cashmere sweaters. We, however, got the best deal ever.

Will and I went to one store-- our hardware store. Yup, that is what our Black Friday consisted of: driving down the two blocks (hey! it was rainy) at 1:00 pm and going in and buying at more than half price a 5 gallon shop vac. Returning to the house by 1:20 pm. Regularly $50, but we got the shop vac for less than $20. What a deal. And it is a "Quiet Plus!" Not really sure what that gets us, but hey, for the price, we don't care!

Now, all that shopping has tuckered us out. We are going to lay on the couch and watch a movie.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

A Captiol Thanksgiving to You!

Our table is laid, our guests are on their way, our bird is almost done! The only left to do is,

Wish You and Yours a Happy Thanksgiving!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Dormer Windows: Done.

The builders put in the windows in the dormer today and finished their part. We now have a complete 12 foot dormer in our roof. The roofers need to finish up the shingling on the outside (that is for tomorrow) and then they, too, will be done.

It is pretty fantastic the space and the light that the attic now has. Whenever we get it together to redo the space as a master suite, it will be so lovely and cozy and bright! The windows face the southern side and so the morning light will simply be wonderful. I am sure that Will is already thinking of all the plants he can grow up there.

Monday, November 23, 2009


I got an early Christmas present today. Early because Will cannot resist keeping presents from me, but that is another story.

Anyway, my present is a bubbly water maker from It comes with a bottle of CO2 and two 1 liter water bottles. Once the CO2 canister runs out, you return it, and the company refills!


One button, pushed three times, and the tap water is carbonated! It is better than San Pellegrino, because it is free!!

Sunday, November 22, 2009

You Scream, and I scream!

We all scream for ice cream.

Unless you are Will, and then you are too busy licking the ice cream maker's beater like you have never had homemade ice cream** before in your life, and after tonight, you never will again, and so you can't be bothered to scream!

** Yes, we now have an ice cream maker that makes ice cream in 25 minutes. Thank you Mike & Heather!! It is awesome. We tested it out last night with a raspberry vanilla ice cream. And while we gained about 4232 lbs. eating one scoop of the stuff because it is so rich with real cream, it was pretty tasty, as evidenced by Will, who not only is licking the beater but using a spoon to get some of the ice cream out of the bowl.

And yes, that is ice cream on his sweater, on his glasses, and in his beard.

Fresh Ravioli

We made homemade, handmade fresh ravioli last night (the things we do to entertain ourselves when the tv dish doesn't work since they are redoing the roof). We used a mold that you lay one piece of dough out on, indent, fill the indentations, and the cover with another bit of dough. You then roll a rolling pin over the mold, and it makes ravioli, 12 at a time.

We learned a few things about making ravioli from fresh egg pasta. We are passing these lessons on to you.

1. The egg in the middle of the flour: The instructions are to create a well with the four and add your eggs into the well. You take a fork and beat the eggs, incorporating the flour on the sides until all the flour combines with the eggs. Yeah, that doesn't work very well. 4 eggs do not fit into the mini well that 2 1/2 cups of flour make and instead you have a volcano of yolks and whites cascading down the side of the flour, onto your mat. It becomes very messy very quickly.

2. When rolling out the dough to be translucent thin, it helps if the dough is held by someone so it actually stretches and doesn't move with the rolling pin, and 2b. it is imperative that the table be completely clean of any sticky bits, as that will tear the dough, which will lead to other problems.

3. Keep the filling in the indentation; don't get the filling on the outside of the indentation, as the pasta will not seal together.

4. It is very important to cook the ingredients first. We used spinach, tomatoes, cheese, and garlic. No meat, so I didn't think that we needed to pre-cook them. But the pasta was really wet when cooked because the water coming out of the spinach.

On our 4th dozen, we finally had mastered the ravioli mold and set about cooking and consuming. They were delicious (though a bit moist) and we have plenty of leftovers that we can freeze and have anytime!

Friday, November 20, 2009

I know Where I'll Be for 4th of July

On my new roof, with amazing views of the Capitol Building (to the left of the tree in the middle) and the Washington Monument (to the right of the same tree). It makes going to the Mall so passe!

And turn around, and you have the National Cathedral!

As sad as I am to see the slate go, these shingles are nice looking and will last. We had a downpour last night and for the first time in ages: no water in the house!

Here is the dormer all wrapped with two openings for windows. There will be four (and much bigger) when it is all said and done, but we have a hint of what is to come. The windows will be here on Monday or Tuesday. Everyone is saying that this will be done by Tuesday!

And pretty new gutters on the dormer!

Flower Power

We interrupt the constant photo stream of building works to bring you:

(and mini ones at that)

plus, regular sized ones:

And for good measure, white and red Christmas Cactuses, getting ready for Edward & Sylvia's holiday visit:

Lastly, but not leastly, the bulbs from Fiona for Will's birthday, which will be beautiful variates of amaryllises:

We now bring you back to the regularly scheduled tour of the progress of our 12 foot dormer.....

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Under Wraps

Here is the latest on the dormer. Work quite early today because we don't have the 4 windows in yet (they are still on their way here), so the roofers and carpenters were only able to wrap the outside and then clean up the inside.

From the outside of the house:

The view from directly across the street. The dormer isn't that odd-looking at all!

Inside views are next. Here is what is left of my office (located in the back of the house), looking towards the new dormer. That diagonal wall is the original divider to the two rooms up here. And that pole (part red, part yellow) is the stack that we will eventually move.

The view from the front room of the attic.

In the dormer, looking back into the two rooms. The carpet is the hallway to the stairs down. You can sorta see the doorway into the former office, just a little bit beyond the white door.

Tomorrow: windows and the roofers will put the roof on the new dormer! Weather forecast: overcast and misty, just like today. They don't seem to care though.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

We've Been Framed!

They are moving pretty fast, as the clouds start moving in!

Street View of Our Hole

The Hole from the street:

The attic ceiling that has us thinking....

Off with the old,

and on with the new:

More Open Sky

View for the attic stairs:

The full view opening where the
dormer will go
(standing in the back of the attic):
Note the old metal second boiler
used for overflow. We have removed
it as it wasn't working.

Front attic room looking towards
the back of the house:

The back room (my former office) view:
Note the terrible discoloration of the chimney--
that will be fixed next week.

You can see duct work run along the eaves of the house, which was added later to the house, as the house was built before air conditioning. Also, when the roofers were removing the slate, the wood underneath was so rotten that they would have had to cut out the wood beams if we weren't having them do that anyway. So, in a way, we just saved ourselves and the builders a huge headache from having to replace the wooden beams!

They are back at it already (been for an hour actually-- yes it is only 7:40 a.m.) and I will be here "working" and will keep you updated. Today's goal: framing the dormer. Maybe even get the windows in! Exciting stuff over here.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Nothing But Blue Skies

I have that song in my head for some reason.

Oh, wait, could it be because we have a 12 foot hole in our roof where the dormer will soon be built. Yeah, that *could* be the reason...

Monday, November 16, 2009

Guess Who Came for a Visit?

This Lovely Lady:
We had a lovely late morning cup of tea, a nice bowl of homemade beef stew for lunch, a quick view of the progress on the roof, a great bargain in the mall, a beautiful tour of wooden furniture, a lovely glass of wine pre-dinner, and a grass-fed burger for dinner.

Today was a quick peek at the Library of Congress before being dropped at Union Station for her to continue on to BWI to meet a colleague to get work done.

Just a bit more then 24 hours but a lovely way to spend a Sunday and Monday Morning.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Ida Hates the Roofers

This is preventing our roofers from coming and getting the scaffolding up to remove the old roof and put on the new one:

Dave, our roofer, even commented that DC hadn't had a hurricane come through all season until *we* decided to get the new roof put on before the bad weather hit. So, I guess, this means that this rain is *our* fault as the remainder of Hurricane Ida comes sauntering her way eastward.


Thursday, November 12, 2009

We Spoke Too Soon (Or Why Does Our Boiler Hate Us?)

That is our boiler: a Raypak Raytherm (R) Atmospheric Residential Boiler. As Raypak's web site says:

Quit struggling with bulky, heavy, out-of-date cast iron boilers. Raytherm copper fin tube residential boilers are low-mass and have high recovery rates. They’re small enough to fit almost any space and fuel-efficient for utility savings. With five sizes to choose from, there is a copper fin tube Residential for every home, apartment or condominium.

Seems like a nice little machine, doesn't it? According to the specs, it has two firing modes, and our's is the 2-stage firing mode. Meaning that there is a two-stage valve system that restricts the gas flow so we don't waste any. That restriction in the 2nd stage can be eased if we crank the temperature, but for the most part the first stage of the valve allows enough gas through, making the boiler super efficient.

Unless that valve breaks, which, of course, is what is happening to ours. Well, it isn't breaking, but, rather dying.

Adding the new thermocouple the other day seemed to hasten the death. We turned on the heat yesterday, only to hear a loud, constant, buzzing. Like a kitchen buzzer on an old stove going off, all the time that the boiler is on, and getting louder with each successive turn-on. Now, the boiler is still heating, so we do have that going for us. It is just protesting extremely loudly every time it kicks on. Poor Kelly, her ear drums were bleeding by the time we figured out was going on.

The valve, of course, has to be special ordered. And did I mention that it costs $802? *cough, cough*. It has been ordered and in one or two days it will be installed and once again we can heat the place without the head-splitting buzzing noise. It is the least we can do for our lovely tenant.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

The Last Carrot Harvest of the Year

We picked our last carrot harvest for the year. We had a good crop of not only traditional orange carrots, but white, red, and purple carrots. The photo is a combo of white and purple carrots-- though the white carrots still have a purple outer skin that you can rinse/peel off.

A freshly grown carrot has a lovely peppery taste that you just can't get with the store bought carrots. They don't take of much space and certainly no real work in growing. I would heartily recommend growing your own!

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

The Roof! The Roof!

It isn't on fire, it is just being replaced. Dave, our roofer, was here yesterday and dropped off some of the stuff that he and his crew will need to strip off the old, worn-out slate and replace it with three-tab shingles. It is a sad thing to have to remove the slate, and not to replace it with slate. But we don't have $80,000 laying around for a roof.

Dave will continue to deliver stuff and the shingles should be here next Monday. We will have scaffolding put up with a walkway so we can walk around the house at roof-level.

We will also have part of the roof ripped off on the Southern side and we will have a window dormer put in. This is only part of the Grand Master Plan, which includes a new chimney (coming at the end of November), a new kitchen, new windows, new insulation, and maybe something else. Franky, the list is so long that I never quite remember what is on it.

The important thing: we will have a new roof by Thanksgiving and so no more water in the house!

Monday, November 9, 2009

Monday Morning Rush Hour Sucks!

At least my carpoolers brought me coffee for the way in. Now, I am jazzed and can handle whatever the roadway throws at me.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Per ardua ad astra

After assessing the options I decided to finally get underway. A visit to the hardware store provided me with a rented angle grinder, some new plastic piping and a couple of couplers. Oh and some fashionable goggles so I could look all cool and WWI aviator while 'at it'.

In its usual unforgiving way the house of course had some surprises. The area I was working on turned out to be directly above the electrical outlet driving the overhead kitchen lights. The positioning continues to astonish me. It is just so remarkably inconvenient and thus meant I had no margin for error in terms of allowing water to escape as I worked.

Of course we only discovered this when I was about 2/3 of the way through when we found water dripping around the outlet (causing a pleasant clicking sound) onto the kitchen floor. I hadn't let much escape but regardless it was enough to give me another 1 step forward, 2 steps back moment. Having dried out thoroughly we seem to be in the clear tho - phew.

So - goggles on chocks away and all that - it was time to play Biggles

Cutting copper it turns out is easy - I'd highly recommend it. Quick and satisfying. Cast iron on the other hand was somewhat more challenging particularly coupled with an antisocial location. Eventually however I was through and able to access the decades of repulsiveness that lay inside. It was an odd feeling to be honest. The euphoria of getting that pipe off was rather quickly replaced with a queasy feeling as I got my hands dirty.

Finishing up was fairly straightforward - connecting pipes and using the rubber couplings to go from metal to plastic just requires a bit of jiggling to get everything aligned and leak free.

All told the casualties were minimal - hands have a few cuts, wallet is about $35 lighter but look at the simplified piping that's now behind the tub. Water now drains in a timely fashion and I can easily access everything in the event of a future blockage.
"Through adversity to the stars" - Priceless.