Saturday, January 14, 2017

Healthy Soup

Yesterday I made a big pot of "Weight Loss Vegetable Soup".  It was really yummy, and naturally gluten-free.  I left out broccoli simply because I forgot to buy some, and I made it with veggie broth instead of beef broth to make it vegan.  I only used four cups of veggie broth (contents of one aseptic container).  I added some Himalayan salt to taste along with the other spices (it needed a little).  I did freeze some, since it made a lot.  But have been subsisting on it as I fight off the start of a cold (along with Chinese herbs and Dr. Dunner's Sambu-Guard).  I really enjoyed the cooking, even all the chopping.  It just felt nice to create something live-giving and healthy.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Fireplace Shenanigans

Two weeks ago, in my Christmas post, I had mentioned how we needed to get our fireplace repaired.  I'll tell you how it all came about: 

Way back in 2011, we had a chimney company come out to clean and inspect our fireplace flue. They noted that the chimney was in need of tuck-pointing, and that placing a stainless steel flue insert would be in our best interest for safety, etc.  We would also likely need a fireplace fan to assist with prevention of smokiness.  The trouble was - the estimate was extremely expensive, we simply did not have the money.  So we put it off, hoping our fortunes would improve and thought "a year or two perhaps".  Wellll, maybe not.

Then about two years ago, I would sometimes notice a "sooty" smell in the parlor.  It often happened when it was raining.  It made me nervous about even lighting a fire.  I imagined large gaping holes in the chimney, allowing airflow and sparks to move past any holes and possibly start a fire in the walls.  I also had visions of the chimney collapsing in on itself à la "The Money Pit" (video clip here, advance to minute mark :35).  

From "The Money Pit"

This moved fireplace repair into "take care of soon" queue, but I remembered that awful estimate. Two years went by ("...that rusted grate knew no fire..." Rebecca, by Daphne DuMaurier).  
(The gate to Manderley)

Paul suggested that we try putting the missing chimney caps back on to see if that would at least help the sooty smell when it rained.  I had a different company come out, and while they were here asked him to give us an estimate.  The company was well-rated and the estimate was less even than the one from five years before, so I told Paul I would pick up extra shifts at work to make it happen.  

So, all was set, they put in the liner.  It was the smallest size they had due to the small opening of our flue, so of course we did need the fan.  The electrician came to wire it.  We did a test fire.  But, you see, the new flue opening mechanism was opposite the old one, so we started the fire with the flue closed instead of open.  Disaster!  The electrician came to the rescue and fixed it.  The house smelled like a campsite for several days after that.  

We thought we were set.  We had one fire with a commercial "log".  There was some smokiness, but barely, so no biggie.  But then we made a roaring fire with actual firewood. Gradually our eyes began to burn, and upon leaving the room and coming back, there was a haze.  We also felt that the fan did not sound as loud as it did with the initial test fire.  Oh dear, what went wrong??  We emailed both the chimney company and the electrician.  

It turns out that the fan control is German-made, and is set up a little differently than one would expect.  It actually made a whole lot of sense in retrospect.  When you first turn on the fan, you hear a click, and after about a minute the fan is running full force.  Then you can turn the dial to the right and decrease the speed of the fan.  This makes a lot of sense when first starting a fire: you want that airflow to be going full blast, then once the fire settles down, you can reduce the speed.  So from left to right on the dial the order is: Off, High, (gradual decrease), Low.  We had incorrectly assumed that the far right would be full blast, had turned the dial all the way to the right immediately. Hence, our problem.  Now we understand!

Fireplace Fan Control

I also got a special (improvised) thermal harp cover.  I don't want heat from the fires to adversely affect my harp, so I got a welder's thermal blanket to protect it.  The only exception might be if I have Tea ladies over, have a fire, and want to play harp at the same time.  A small amount of time exposed to the heat won't be so bad, but in general it should be protected.  

Now that we've got it straight we've had two lovely, non-smoky fires.  I am in love.  

Monday, January 9, 2017

Epiphany - Chalking The Door

Chalking the door is a tradition that I had never heard about until this year.  The wonders of social media introduced me to this.  Here is an explanation (with the year adjusted for 2017) of what this is all about from the website One Peter Five: "Epiphany marks the occasion of a time-honored Christian tradition of “chalking the doors.” Take chalk of any color and write the following above the entrance of your home: 20 + C+M + B + 17.  The letters have two meanings. First, they represent the initials of the Magi - Caspar, Malchior, and Balthazar - who came to visit Jesus in His first home. They also abbreviate the Latin phrase, Christus mansionem benedicat: “May Christ bless the house.” The “+” signs represent the cross, and the “20” at the beginning and the “17” at the end mark the year. Taken together, this inscription is performed as a request that Christ to bless those homes so marked that he stay with those who dwell therein throughout the entire year."

"Practicing traditions like the chalking of the doors helps us to live our Faith more concretely and serve as an outward sign of our dedication to Our Lord. Our homes are also the place where many of us will make the greatest strides in our spiritual growth, through observance of daily prayer, spiritual reading, and work offered as an oblation to God.  The chalking of the doors of a home encourages Christians to dedicate their life at home to God and to others. Seeing the symbols over our doors can help to remind us, while passing in and out on our daily routines, that our homes and all those who dwell there belong to Christ. It also serves as a reminder of welcoming the Magi gave to Jesus. We should strive to be as welcoming to all who come to our homes to visit us!"

So, this year we decided to do this.  After this Sunday's Mass, we came home, got the chalk, our bottle of Holy Water, and a printed-our prayer.  I lit a "Jesus, Mary, Joseph" stick of incense, and we went outside to our front porch and chalked the door.  Paul held Tyler up on his shoulder so Tyler could chalk the door.  We said the prayers and sprinkled some Holy Water.  I like this ritual!

Little Boy's Baseboards

Tyler's bedroom has been missing baseboards for more years than I care to admit.  Other projects budging into the line have prevented this project.  Time and money have also been in play.  Over the years we have put up the window woodwork, and his closet woodwork and doors.  But the baseboards have been patiently waiting to be installed ever since we found them on a great sale ("Such A Deal!") and refinished them.  I am chagrined to admit that it has been almost seven years.  How is that possible?!!  Here are some of the work-in-progress photos, from those two "warm" days this month, only two more small pieces until all is complete:

Long piece, ready to be cut to size

Paul loves this saw - a Delta Compound Mitre 
- he has gotten so much use out of this saw

Southeast corner, note the window woodwork above it

Shaping the profile to fit - intense work with a Dremel saw

Northeast corner with shaped profile to meet properly in the corner

Sunday, January 8, 2017

Winter Produce

We had some abnormally "warm" days at the start of this new year (i.e. 40 degrees).  We were outside working on Tyler's baseboards, and I saw some lovely oregano that hadn't frozen, so I harvested a bunch.  Then Paul reminded me that we still had carrots in the ground. Fortunately only the top part of the ground was frozen. I was able to dig beneath and got about a dozen carrots total once I had completed the harvesting.

Lovely oregano

Carrot peaking out

First batch, in need of a good washing

Friday, January 6, 2017

Little Boy Tries Something Healthy

By his own request, Tyler wanted to make tangerine juice yesterday.  This came out of the blue from a little boy who is not always on board with healthy eating.  He found using the juicer to be fun.

Thursday, December 29, 2016

This Christmas Season 2016

Christmas this year was/is unusual.  It was very musical choir-wise, not harp though (at least - not played by me, we did a special piece with choir and a professional harpist).  I was on the "bad list" at work, so was scheduled for all of Christmas, other than a small window of time later on Christmas Eve. Robert is in Portland, and Julie and Tyler went to Michigan since I was stuck working.  So our big family dinner is yet to come.  But I will give you the highlights so far, starting from early December.

Early December: 
Handel's Messiah, a new church for us, with a new choir.  
I was asked to sing a "O Thou That Tellest", my first solo.  
It was nerve-wracking, but all went well.

Our fireplace needed extensive repairs: 
Tuck-pointing, chimney cap, a stainless steel liner, and a fan.  ($$$)  
But all is well, and I love being able to use the fireplace again.  

Before Christmas frivolousness:
Christmas red toenail polish!
(And a kitty who likes to rub his chin on toes!)

Christmas Eve Choir Music:
Multiple pieces, including selections from Britten's "Ceremony of Carols".  
We had Ben Melsky as our harpist (awesome, playing the difficult harp accompaniment).  
I practiced long and hard on this piece.  
Musically it is difficult, but also the text is Middle English and Latin.  
(Here's a sample: "Wolcum Yole!" Voci Nobili with harpist Willy Postma)

In a nice surprise, we have been slow at work.  I had to go in from 11 AM to 3 PM, but then was downstaffed for the rest. Paul, Kristin, and I had a nice Christmas Dinner together - enjoying each other, but missing the rest of our family members. But we will all be together next week.  Julie and Tyler are home, and Robert will be visiting from far away Portland.  
(I haven't seen the lad in four whole months!)