Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Little Bits of This and That

Well, this is our testing week of our third quarter! Yippee! How exciting! After this week, we're onto our fourth and final quarter for the 2006-2007 school year. What a great feeling. Spring and warmer weather ... flowers ... and the end to the school year as we know it!
Meanwhile, Maggie has been diagnosed with an auto-immune disease. Because of all her stomach-sensitivity issues, she also has to take several pills before the real pill to "coat her belly," as the vet explained. (EW! I've always hated the words "belly" and "tummy." It used to make my skin crawl when a teacher would ask a fellow student, "Do you have a tummy ache?" AACCKKK How creepy!) All in all, the kids have agreed it's all too complicated for them and there's no way they are having a pet of any kind when they're on their own. That's kind of a sad realization, but I guess after seeing all the care that goes into Maggie, it does tend to make one think.
On another note, I've started to collect toy patterns to knit. I have so much to say on this subject, I'll have to save it for another post!

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Cookie of the Month for March

Here is a photo of the Chocolate Sugar Cookies featured in the March Martha Stewart Living Magazine. The recipe calls for using an ice-cream scoop to make 8 giant sugar cookies. Well, no one in our house likes GIANT cookies, so I adjusted this and used a regular-sized cookie scoop and baked them for 15 minutes, checking after 10 minutes. I ended up with about 24 of them. The first half, I rolled in granulated sugar. These are AWFUL! Way too sweet. The second batch I left plain as in the recipe. Much better. Kent says, "They taste like I'm eating a crunchy brownie."
As you can see, mine did not flatten as much or end up with as many crinkles. I just used Hershey's Cocoa, as that's what I had on hand; not an expensive brand of Dutch- process cocoa. This may be why mine are a bit more pale, as well.
The recipe claims you can use butter and shortening for a softer cookie and all butter for a crunchier one. I used the half butter/half shortening version. The outsides are crunchy, but the insides are softer, though not super soft. Very interesting. I think maybe they'd be better with a chopped walnut in there! Give them a try and tell me what you think.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Hot-Water Hiatus!

Our house is an old house. Not old enough to be of historic value, mind you, but old enough to need constant attention. Being built in 1974, there were many things that were outdated (like the wallpaper and the appliance colors, for example). We moved into it in 1992. Since then, we've had to replace the roof twice; the furnace twice; the dishwasher twice; the stove/oven once; the duct work and air conditioner once; we had to have a new water line put in; have a sewer clean-out put in, etc., etc.

Some things have been irritating, like the 23 bats in the attic that had to be removed in a certain way because they're "special." Or the HUGE bird that had taken up residence in our chimney ... no, not the usual chimney sweep, but, as the chimney cleaner exclaimed, "It's one big bird, ma'am. Really big!" After it was removed, we had to have a chimney cap put on top to make sure it wouldn't be able to get inside again.

It was frustrating when a plumber told us that our ceramic floor had to be replaced because our upstairs toilet was sinking and would eventually fall through the floor. We hurriedly hired people to fix the floor. Only, when they chopped up the ceramic, they uncovered a cement floor underneath. "WOW," the men exclaimed, "this floor wasn't sinking! It was cracked because it hadn't cured when the tile was put down. There was nothing wrong with this at all."

Great. Because it had been about two inches of cement, we had to have carpenters build and lay two subfloors to bring the floor up to the doorway. Then, we had to have a plumber come and put a flange extension (don't ask me what that is!) on the toilet. Oh, yes, by the way ... the carpenters couldn't lay the floor, only the subflooring ... and the fellow who laid the linoleum floor couldn't replace the toilet ... so all in all, we had to spend over $800 to repair a floor that didn't need repairing. Sigh.

We've had other little disappointments, too. Like having to get a new water line when the city increased the water pressure. One by one, we saw water spouting like geysers from our neighbors' lawns. We knew it was going to happen to us, too. When ours went, well let me just say, we would have preferred spending that $1800 on something more visible (like new carpets or new paint and wallpaper). But we did need water, so of course we went ahead and said, "yes, please put in a new line and a pressure-reducer valve." (Don't I sound professional? "Pressure-reducer valve?" Pretty impressive, aren't I?)

Well, when the fellow dug down to the water line, he knicked the gas line that fed our little gas grill in the back yard. We later learned that the city will mark utilities only on city things, but not on private things like gas grills or gas driveway lights. Ah! I nodded when I learned this from the gas company. How interesting no one mentioned this before! Now, it would cost upwards of $4000 to run a new gas line (the codes having changed), so consequently, we have no gas grill. We do have water, though!

When we had the new roof put on this past year, we had ridge vents put in and our old attic fan removed. Funny, after the fan was removed, we had no light up in the attic anymore, either. This still presents a bit of a challenge when searching through boxes. Makes a trip up there to find Christmas decorations a little scary.

Well, through it all, the one constant we've had ... the one thing we could always rely on ... had been our trusty hot-water heater. We noticed it was installed seven years before we moved in ... back in 1985. (Hey, we weren't even married yet!) That hot-water heater gave us really great hot water. Every day. Through many showers, many baths, many loads of both clothes and dish-washing. Sigh. Yes, it was a great hot-water heater. I often thought about how long it had lasted and I'd get a little shiver. I knew the day would come when it would die. Like most things in life, I just didn't know when.

Well, Monday night, after Amelia took her typically very long, very hot shower, Kent complained there was no hot water left. Randy and I suggested he wait awhile, but when an hour went by and still there was no hot water, we simply told him to go to bed without a shower. We guessed Amelia had used it all for the night. Well, Amelia had used it all, all right, but no one presumed she had used it all FOREVER. The next morning, Tuesday, when Randy went to take a shower, there was still no hot water. He checked the hot-water heater and discovered the thing we feared most. Yes, it had died. It wasn't hot.

I can't blame it really. It tried its best. It lasted 22 years! Sigh. Well, Randy stayed home from work early Tuesday to buy a new one at Home Depot. Everything was set! The installer would come around 2 p.m. And he did! Boy, he was on time! But when he went to check out the old one, he pulled out the wires and revealed ALUMINUM wiring. Yes, these old houses built in the '70s are famous for aluminum wiring. "I can't install it," he politely informed me as he twisted the wires back onto themselves. "This isn't up to code. You need to have an electrician come and rewire it with copper first."

That was the bad news. The good news is that the circuit-breaker box is in the same little area as the hot-water heater, so it will cost less than if it were somewhere else. Of course, it will cost lots more than we thought!

Well, the electrician has come and given the estimate. Seems it will cost a little over $900 to get the wiring done. Of course, I've added in the special stuff that gets squirted on aluminum wiring in the breaker box to prevent the wires from corroding ... and yes, I fell for the whole-house surge protection, too. It sounded so good! I guess we could have gotten away with about $500 instead of $900, but I figured since he's out there already, he might as well do it all.

When I called Randy and told him, he said cheerfully, "Happy Valentine's Day!"

Friday, February 9, 2007

Mom's 81st Birthday Celebration

My Mom and Dad both loved the cake! Happy 81st Birthday, Mom!

Tuesday, February 6, 2007

My Mom's 81st Birthday Cake

I received the Story Book Doll Cake Pan from Ebay in today's mail! Yippee! With a lot of prayers, it came out right! I'm so excited. My Mom will celebrate her 81st birthday on Thursday (Feb. 8) and she really wanted a "doll" cake! I thought I'd have to cut the pieces, but then on Sunday, I noticed this old Wilton pan from 1971! She loves Raggedy Ann, so I hope she will love this, too!

Monday, February 5, 2007

Hedgehog Is Finished

I stopped into a couple of yarn shops on Friday to purchase the green sock yarn for Randy's socks, but I saw this really cute Hedgehog pattern as I was checking out. I just couldn't resist it! I knitted it up Friday night/Saturday and then felted him Saturday night. It took a couple of days to dry. This morning I needle felted the eyes from some BFL roving I had dyed this summer. I think he came out pretty well!I went back to the yarn store and bought enough to make another little guy in blue. (As an aside, Randy asked, "Hey, what about my socks?" Yeah, yeah, I'll get to them!)
This pattern is Fiber Trends 228 "Huggable Hedgehogs." You can find it at their website: http://www.fibertrends.com

Thursday, February 1, 2007


Here's Maggie with her boots on running into the hydrangea bush. She loves to get under scratchy branches when it snows. Who knows why?
I awoke just before 5 a.m. today, ready to watch the news to see if Amelia's community-college classes had been cancelled or not. Yes! They were! We don't cancel "school" on snow days. That's one of the many perks of having school at home. (We are keeping our eyes on May 11 as our 180th day of school. We're not taking ANY unnecessary holidays between now and then, believe me!)
It's mostly turned to rain now. Unfortunately, I'm too concerned about tree limbs snapping and power lines going down during the night to really enjoy the day! (Why do I always think the worst?)
Now, it looks like everything will just be rain ... and I cancelled my hair cut for Saturday (which took about a month to get)! UGH!
I'm going back to knit my experimental sock!