Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Silversmithing with Stones

I enjoyed my Silver Saturday so much that I signed up for a second class at Glen Echo: Silversmithing with Stones.  In this all day workshop, made even more dramatic as we watched the rains swirl into town from Hurricane Irene, we chose a stone, made a bezel, made a piece of jewelry, and then attached the bezel to the piece.

I picked a purple agate stone-- admittedly, this was my second pick.  My first choice of a green stone that was circular was not working out for me.  I decided to make a simple cuff bracelet, because we paid for the material by weight and so not wanting to break the budget by getting a sheet of silver, I opted for 12 gauge silver wire.  I annealled, shaped, filed, soldered, and hammered my bracelet-- though it took me 4 times to get the two wires to stay soldered together.  

Making the bezel cup to hold the stone was a simple process of wrapping the stone in a thin sheet of silver, measuring the correct length, and then soldering that together.  The next step is soldering that ring onto a flat piece of silver sheeting, which proved a challenge as both pieces have to be touching all around in order for the solder to seal it together.  Once that was done (second time was the charm there), there was cutting and filing of the sheet to make its edges line up with the bottom edge of the silver ring.  The teacher was able to whip this out in a matter of minutes.  For us newbies, it took about an hour. 

The final soldering is attaching the bezel cup to the jewelry piece.  Again, you have to make sure that there is no daylight between the two pieces you are trying to attach together.  It took me 4 times again to solder the bezel to the bracelet-- one side was not as flat as the other! 

Then buffing the bracelet and finally, adding the stone into the bezel and pressing the top edges of the bezel wall into the stone to hold it in place. 

All day to make one piece of jewelry, start to finish.  I am sure if that I had my own studio I would get faster.... Hey!  Since I have no job at the moment, maybe I need to start making jewelry and stuff to sell! I wonder how many rings and bezelled bracelets I would have to make just to get my money back from buying the torch....

Sunday, August 28, 2011

DC Weather

crack in the newly painted main guest room
It has been a crazy week weather-wise in DC.  First the earthquake and then the hurricane.  ON Tuesday, I was home for the earthquake, on the phone with Fiona, who was lived in California.  Basically, she is an expert in earthquakes.  She was laughing at me as I was experiencing my first earthquake (that I was awake for-- apparently there was one during the night in Kentucky when I was 8.  My 7 year old sister was the only one who felt it.)

Stirling had been barking at me for about 20 minutes and when it started to come closer to us, she darted outside.  Fiona said to get to a doorway.  I did-- but kept right on going to the outside.  Apparently that is exactly what you are not supposed to do.  Ahem.  The super intense shaking last about 3-4 seconds, but the whole thing last about 45 seconds.  At first I thought it was jack hammering from the neighbors next door doing home improvements.  The floor was all wavy, and then the walls started to shake-- the noise was incredibly loud.  I was shouting into the phone to Fiona the whole time so she could hear me over the rumbling, "Ah, Fiona, I think that we are having an earthquake!"  I think that, as she was giggling at me and my reaction, agreed with me.   

After 45 seconds, it moved on-- and of course, damaged the finials at the Cathedral, two blocks away.  Afterwards, I inspected the house.  We had several new wall cracks appear.  Brick houses don't take to shaking very well.  The most frustrating thing: new cracks in both of the newly painted rooms!  Mainly around the windows and easily fixed.  But we were so close to being completely done with those two spaces.  *sigh* 
For the hurricane last night, we were fine.  Lots of rain and huge wind gusts, but for the most part the gusts were not sustained.  I think that some of them were about 85 mph. Some areas of DC got over 10 inches of rain.  We certainly have over saturated ground, but I don't think that we accumulated more than 6 inches of rain here.  Our barrels are certainly full!  Not to mention that our yard is mess: full of leaves and other tree debris.  We manged to keep power the entire storm and went out about 11 pm (for Stirling's final walk of the night) and noticed that most of the neighborhood still had lights.  A relief for many here, since when Hurricane Isabelle went through in 2003, our street alone was without power for 8 days.  

Anyway, we are fine, if not a bit soggy.  Fingers crossed that we are done with the wild weather for a while: record heat in July, an earthquake and now a hurricane.   Secretly, however, I am hoping that come winter,  we will have massive snowfall like two years ago.  It will make for one bizarre weather year!

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Progress Report: Down to the Trim

dark primer, lighter paint
 We are at trim, people.  We have finished the ceilings, the primer coat, the first coat of paint, the second coat of paint (in the case of the office), and now we are down to the trim.  And there is a lot of it: around the windows, the perimeter of the rooms, inside the closet. Yes, inside.  Whomever built the house in 1926 trimmed out the closets, including framing the inside of the closet doors.  So, there is a lot to do before we are finished with these two rooms.  Then, there will be a lot of clean up.  We aren't the neatest of painters, even with drop cloths spread out over the entire floor.
Will painting primer in guest room   /  office with most of the trim painted

guest room: still needs trim done

shift supervisor.  She let's us know when it is time to take a break-- to let her out for a walk
from the hallway

Monday, August 22, 2011

Time to Make the Jam

 This is the fig haul over two days, and there are more on the tree that I failed to pick because the trug was too full (not to mention that I was being swarmed by mosquitoes and couldn't take it any longer).  I have made about 7 half pint jar of fig jam and will be making more tonight--once I go get more jars and lids.  We are going to have expand our circle of friends as we have already passed out the first round of preserves to them. 

Friday, August 19, 2011

Painting Update

We have the walls sanded and washed, the floors cleaned of plaster dust, the ceilings drying with one coat primer and one coat paint, and we have the rooms (mostly) taped off.  I say, we are ready for priming and painting these two rooms! 
For the front room, or, as we call it "the office," I tested the primer.  I was too excited to see the color!  The primer seems to be darker than the actual green we will be using-- which pleases Will.  He thinks that this color is too dark, and therefore not neutral, at all.   For the main guest room, we tested a patch of primer on the walls; however, it is too hard to tell since the walls underneath are that turquoise color.  I think for that one, we will all just have to wait and see!

Thursday, August 18, 2011

The Price is Right: Baby Edition

My youngest sister, Becca, is pregnant with her first baby. My other sister, Caroline, and I hosted a baby shower in her honor.  When she was a child, Becca loved "The Price is Right" with Bob Barker and so Caroline came up with the best baby shower ever: making Becca be the contestant on the show!

We organized four games: One Right Price, the Grocery Game, Hole in One, and Cliffhanger. All the products that Becca had to play with were, of course, baby products! 

I was "Bob Barker" and Caroline and Korey (one of Becca's friends from high school) were the Barker Girls.  As I read off the product description, Korey would demonstrate how to use the product--quite funny when I was reading the benefits of Medela Tendercare Nipple Relief.   

For the "One Right Price", Becca was shown two products and she had to decided which product was the displayed price.  

The next game was the "Grocery Game." We had four baby products, including Rice Cereal, what I called the "San Francisco Treat"  because Rice-a-Roni was always on TPiR.  Here, she had to purchase the products, getting between $20 but not over $21.  Becca was made it with $20.71 with 4 No More Tears shampoo, 2 baby powders, 2 rice cereals, and one jar of baby food. 

Next came "Hole in One"-- Becca had to put in order from least expensive to most expensive five things.  She got three out of the 5 products in the correct order.  She made the hole in one and "won" a new!
The last, and in my opinion the best game, was Cliffhanger.  She was shown three products and had to guess what the cost was.  However much she was off the climber moved the appropriate amount of spaces up the mountain. And of course we had the yodeling music!  The best part, besides the music, was our "mountain climber": a pregnant lady waddling up the slope.

Becca played each game for a lucky member of the audience, each name drawn out of a bag. The presents were renewable, reusable, recyclable gifts.  We are saving the world for the next generation.

Becca had a wonderful time; the "audience" has a marvelous time; and, dare I say, Caroline and I threw a great baby shower.  Just remember to spay and neuter your pets!

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Happy Birthday Kristie!

Happy Birthday Kristie! 
I hope that Jeremy and the girls treat you well! Not to mention that there are apple martinis for you all day--- or at least at dinner!

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Chan Tart

My family has a dessert that is our favorite and it can only be made in the summer, with fresh fruit. It is the best dessert ever and we guard the recipe, though I have been known to let it slip out.

Originally, it's a dessert from Austria called "schaumtorte."  But we, here in Kentucky, call it "chan tart."  Say both out loud and you can understand how we have Kentuckyized it.

This dessert is basically sugar.  and egg whites.  Very similar to a pavlova, it is soft meringue, fruit, whipped cream, and then hard meringue on top.  It is absolutely delicious.  The fruit must be juicy fruits, like strawberries or raspberries.  For our family, we prefer peaches.   

A regular chan tart serves about 8 people, sparingly.  We are having a party and with 40 guests coming, we had to make four tarts.  Mom borrowed a spring form pan from my sister, but otherwise her kitchen is already outfitted for 3 spring form pans (without the tube, so we can have more tart).  In order to not mess up the tarts, I made it four separate times; no trying to double the recipe-- that could lead to mistakes.  But, I will tell you that four tarts = 24 egg whites. That's a lot of leftover yolks!

I separated the whites from the yolks, dumping the whites into a mixing bowl.  One adds a bit of this, and some of that, making the egg whites stiffen.  (Really, it is a secret family recipe, I am not about to tell teh interwebs the ingredients).  Once the whites start to stiffen, you add the two cups of sugar.
Once the whites are very stiff and glossy, you pour the batter into the spring form pan.  It is better to have the peaks and valleys of the meringue. Plus, the whites stick to the spatula or your finger, and darn it, if you don't have to lick them clean! (Don't judge me for eating sweetened egg whites-- they are delicious!)  And then into a slow oven for about an hour. 

The meringue starts to rise up and brown on the top, forming a hard crust.  Once out of the oven, it is best to let it sit overnight in the pan in a cool place (not the fridge).  The soft meringue will fall, leaving the harder crust cracked into pieces.  This is what you want, I promise.  You can serve the tart in the spring form pan, but we combined two to make one large one and placed it into a prettier glass bowl.  Once it has thoroughly cooled, the meringue is easy to get out the pan.  The foamy, soft meringue forms the base of the dessert.  

Now, here is where my family recipe differs from the ones I have found for schaumtorte on the internet:  We put a layer of peeled, cut peaches directly onto the soft meringue.  We scrap the sides of the spring form pan on top of the peaches-- none of the meringue is wasted!-- and then we put a layer of whipped cream.  The tart is finished by replacing the hard crusty meringue on top.  Put the entire dessert into the fridge, so it cools and the peaches have time to get juicier-- all the sugar will draw out the liquid.  Let it cool for a couple of hours and then serve.

It is fantastic.  Delicious.  Sweet.  Melts in your mouth.  Lovely.  Amazing.  Tasty.  The Best Dessert Ever.  I think you are getting the picture.  A Public Serve announcement: it will not last! Once people have had a taste, it disappears quickly!    It is relatively easy to make, it just takes time, and the end result is heavenly.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Carried Away....

We may have gotten carried away with our scraping, plastering, and sanding.  We finished replastering my office and while we waited for the compound to dry so we could sand, we *may* have started on a second room....

Yup, we moved out the furniture in the main guest room and started to scrap those walls.

We knew that this room needed some work, but we really weren't ready for a basic replaster.  The ceiling is, thankfully (and amazingly), is fine.  All the prep work for this room is in plaster repair.  We do have a lot of Spackle in our future.  Not to mention sanding....
We plan on doing all prep work for both rooms--then painting! 

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

At It Again: My Office


We are at it again: more home improving.  This time, we are starting to freshen up the first floor (or second floor, depending on what country you are from).  The bedrooms are in desperate need of some renovations: fresh wall and trim paint, fixed plaster, filled-in nails holes.  We are starting with my office, since it is the smallest of the rooms.  
I spent the majority of the time today scraping off the ceiling, walls, and window frames.  There is some major issue in the closet that we are going to have to deal with, but that is typical in this old house.  We picked out a nice soft color for the walls.  Will, not wanting to have a kaleidoscope of colors in the rooms upstairs, has insisted that I keep the colors to a minimum. So, the color of my office will also be used for the second guest room, which is quite dark. 
I am sure that many of you will be just shocked (shocked!) when I tell you that the color I picked for my office is a nice, bright, but soft, spring green.  It will be a couple of days before we are able to get color on the walls-- as you can see, we have a lot of Spackle (i.e. filler) to sand and plaster to repair. 

 We have our work cut out for us, that is for sure.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Rhubarb From the Yard Crumble

Nothing says summer to Will and I like rhubarb crumble.  We absolutely adore it. I love seeing the stalks in the grocery store-- it is a sign that summer really is here.  So, we planted rhubarb three years ago and finally it is ready to cut to use.  We have been waiting this moment for a very long time.   The plant needs to establish itself before one starts cutting stalk off, and in the third year, can one really starts harvesting.   The anticipation of having our own rhubarb at any time versus waiting for the store to stock it, has caused us to grow more than several plant, in case one doesn't make it.  With this DC weather, it is better to be safe than sorry, so we have two plants now and are working on a third.

the plant in the upper garden
freshly cut stalks, carried into the house with our trug

I decided that it was finally time: both plants were established enough that we could harvest of bunch of stalks and make rhubarb crumble.  I cut several stalks-- the kind we have isn't the super red variety (that one is called Victoria, and that one died last year.) Ours has some reddish bits at the base of the each stalk, but for the most part, the stalks are green.  I trimmed off the leaves--they are poisonous, apparently-- washed it and cut into pieces.  
When I make any crumble, I butter the dish with salted butter.  I dunno why, but I prefer to use salted butter (a European variety, as well),  I just do.  I throw the cut rhubarb into the pan, and for this time,  some strawberries that needed to be eaten--strawberries are a nice compliment to rhubarb.  I supplement the sweetness of the fruit by sprinkling in light brown sugar.  As it bakes, the sugar caramelizes, and it helps sweetens the sharpness of the rhubarb.  Strawberries add much needed moisture, which also helps to break down the stringy rhubarb.  

For the crumble top: flour, white sugar, and more brown sugar combined into salted butter.  I add the crumble on top, making sure to shake it down into the pan.   Into the oven (please, no comments on how I need to clean it!) for 350ºF, for about 45 minutes-- until the top is a nice golden brown and there is liquid bubbling up on the side. 
Voila! A delicious, easy to make, dessert that is from our garden (mostly).  Serve warm with vanilla ice cream and that, my friends, is one tasty way to end a dinner.  Plus, the rhubarb was home grown and I can brag about that for a long while to come.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Where Did I go?

I have been a bit busy, please forgive me.  I have had this, and that.  Oh, yeah, that thing too.  Not to mention that other thing.  So I have been absent.  I promise to do better in August.....