28 June 2006

what about the rainbow

It's Day Four of constant work for the sump pumps. We've had no rain since a slight drizzle yesterday, and the back yard is but a shadow of its former pond, but we're expecting rain and severe thunderstorms tonight. The basement is mostly dried out, and I really don't want it to get wet again! But in thanks to the two things that have kept us from far worse problems than we've had, I've decided it's high time we named the sump pumps. They have been chugging since at least Sunday night, but probably since sometime Saturday afternoon, and I feel like they need a little credit! I also feel like since I have been going down there and talking to them (as if they were plants and my expelled breath would be somehow constructive to their continued strength) I should go ahead and fully anthropomorphize them so as to not feel crazy.

Meet Maximus:
Maximus is an attractive, well-built machine. He enjoys home improvement projects, especially those involving plumbing and foundation maintenance. In general, he keeps to himself, though he's loud enough to let you it when he's working. For at least three days now, he's been in charge of the wettest section of our basement. Not a complainer, Maximus just likes to keep on keepin' on.

I'm still working on a name for the second one. Anybody have ideas for a name with a meaning something like "quiet immortal warrior?"

26 June 2006

R.I.P. thermal carafe

Our coffeepot has left us. It makes a threatening crackling sound when you load it up and press the brew button. Hence I am curled up with a cup of tea this morning attempting to wake up sans coffee...don't think I've done this since the 80's. I have nothing against tea and enjoy a cup as a pick-me-up now and then, usually in the afternoon. I'm just a coffee person. I really hope this cup of tea gets me all the way to Starbucks.

Also, while we were in Alabama over the weekend at the incredibly lovely weekend of our friends, God sent storm after storm to DC until he remembered the whole rainbow promise. So I'm home from work to start figuring out the basement. All the (now soggy) boxes must be emptied and they (and maybe their contents) thrown away. All the other boxes must be put on shelves (which I must construct). And I have to go buy a new coffeepot!

22 June 2006

karma balances things out

Normally you have to live in a major metropolitan center to have places this cool to visit:




Alas. For now, I will have to console myself with The Manolo:

20 June 2006

"i think it's in my basement...

let me go upstairs and check." - M.C. Escher

For those of you out there who are concerned that you're missing out on the joys of home ownership, I have two words: leaky basement.

Though we feel lucky that we have had only a few problems since buying our house in March, it does seem that all of our mini-crises have been related to water...the clogged sink, the dripping pipe, now the puddled basement...I do hope no Jumanji-style floods are in our future.

Fortunately, last night's interior waterpark could be measured in towels soaked (eight) instead of inches. And the rain that caused the puddles was nearly of the flash-flood variety, not some wimpy morning dew. Perhaps the best news, though, is that we managed not to freak out about it! Yeah, us! We investigated, evaluated, and then ended up in the back yard dragging pipes around to extend the sump pumps' outdoor piping.

Oh, yes, I said sump pumps. (We have two. Alexandria is low-lying. Fortunately, we're not in an area that floods so frequently that we have to hook ours up to car batteries!) And I was out there without shoes on, people -- this exercise did not seem worthy of a shoe-ruin. I also stepped on one bug and picked up three flower pots that had other bugs in them. *shudder.*

If old age ain't for sissies, then home-maintenance certainly ain't either.

14 June 2006

trouble with much gusto

I should say first that I do not speak Spanish. French, oui. Spanish, notsomuch. I want to learn, and I do try, but I have trouble with mucho gusto. It's supposed to mean (i.e. means) "It's nice to meet you," or "Pleased to meet you." Unfortunately, while in Ecuador and Argentina a few years ago, it was my typical response to, "How do you like the food you were just served?" I probably seemed like some bumbling 19th century poet in ankle-length skirts, trying to brave a jungle expedition. It seems the best interpretation I can hope for would go something like this:

Ecuadorian Host: How is the scrumptious homemade pancake covered in eight kinds of the freshest fruit you've ever seen in your life?


At this point, my sister, involved in conversation across the table, would hear me in that little reverberation chamber in the back of her brain, reserved for an alarm signaling that she must rescue a flailing family member on the verge of committing cultural atrocities.

My sister: What? What did you just say?

Me: *wincing* I like it?

Ecuadorian Host: Does the altitude bother her terribly? Has she been bitten by a mosquito?

My sister: She likes it very much, thank you. She says the fruit is very fresh, and the crisp edge of the pancake is perfect.


So today, I met this guy in my building. He's on the cleaning crew and must be new to the night shift. I said hello. He offered a tentative reply. I smiled. He shyly asked if I spoke Spanish. I shook my head and gave him my best, "como estas?" He smiled and nodded. Since I also know "me yamo," I introduced myself. He responded, and then before I could stop myself, I said, "mucho gusto!"


I sure hope I got it right.

some color in my cheeks

I'm back! I think I scared some people with the last post. Sorry about that. Sinus infections are terrible, horrible, no good, very bad things, but so far I've always made it back after glimpsing the dark side, despite my threats that it is 'sure to be consumption this time!'

So now I'm back at work, which is not very exciting since I'm not in love with my job right now. But I am also back to getting stuff done around the house, which is very encouraging and somewhat overdue. We meant to put the new slipcover on the couch last night...will try to get around to it again tonight...and we bought some paint for the living room. We're trying a test patch first, but I think we're gonna like it. After much deliberation, we chose "Adriatic Sea" from Sherwin-Williams. It's a deep blue with just enough green in it so that once I choose a red for the dining room, the house won't look like it was done in primary colors. (I hope.) Pictures coming soon!

09 June 2006

chez maladies

I have not put on makeup since Monday morning. For those of you who do not know me (or many other Southern women) well, this also means that was the last time I left the house.

While Coquette was the sickest last week -- we are so sorry, Mademoiselle Fourmont, and hope you are all better now -- CurlyHairDay is the sickest this week. I had a sinus infection a month ago, gave it to my lovely husband, then I got better, then he got better, then he got sick again, then I got sick again. I usually get two or three bad sinus infections a year (bad allergies) but not in a row. I mean, really.

Since my head is pounding, sleep is but a fond memory, and I cannot speak without being interrupted by a violent coughing fit, I have been home from work since Tuesday morning. In my time off from work, I have realized several things:

1. The last time I missed four consecutive days of work due to sickness was January 2002. This was after a trip to France, where I developed a sinus infection and subsequently became convinced my brain was going to explode during the flight home. (In case this ever happens to you, antihistamines are your only hope. In my experience, their basic effect will be to make you slightly less convinced of the possibility of imminent brain explosion.)

2. What I thought was my new phone's crazy and amusing ring and laser light show is actually a torture device for those with pressure-filled eardrums and eyesockets.

3. There is a lot of free stuff on our On Demand cable. Why just this morning I watched Anthony Bourdain go to Peru. He is very funny...though I haven't read one of his books, since I like food and have been told I'll be wary of anyone else preparing it once I am privy to his insider's take.

4. My cat Maggie sleeps a LOT. She is a good nurse, though. She wanders around after her naps and meows and checks on me and sometimes wants to be petted and then goes off to sleep again. Maybe I am just jealous because I cannot sleep right now due to the sickness.

5. Plumbers are expensive. We had a clogged kitchen sink and despite previously mentioned efforts and new tools, were not able to solve the problem ourselves. One plumber, plumber's assistant, and new pipe in the basement later, everything but our checkbook is better. I will not be complaining, though, because there are no longer dirty dishes in the guest room. (Do not be alarmed, there were only a few fragile glasses there while the plumber was plunging -- you read that correctly, plunging -- the sink. But still, no one wants dishes, much less dirty ones, in their guest room. ick.)

6. It is hard to choose the right blue to paint your living room. More on this soon.

7. I treat Kleenex as if they are rationed, I am out of coupons, and I have only begun the first blizzard of the Russian winter. One blow and throw? Oh, heavens, no. Those puppies get turned and twisted and folded before they get trashed. Gross? Not something you wanted to hear about? Well it's not something I really wanted to think about either, but given the scope of happenings in my life this week, I am trying to be positive and I therefore see this as an eco-consicous behavior on my part. *curtsy*

8. ALSO, our friends at Kleenex make this new antiviral kind! Don't believe the hype? Well, all I can say is they are wonderfully soft and yet by 2am made my nose tingle a little...so there must be somethin' in there. I have the green box.

9. Per my mother, each instance of her catching me sans socks was quickly followed by sickness during my childhood. I have informed my lovely husband, who immediatly agreed to pester me into putting on a pair whenever necessary. He is tired of this too, clearly.

I am going to go eat a popsicle.

06 June 2006

it is what it is

So yesterday morning, I washed my hair, scrunched it, ran the blowdryer in its vicinity, pulled it back from my face with a barette and a few pins, and left for work. All day I kept thinking, "but it's not a real curly hair day." I saw myself as happy, patient (at least as much as I ever am), optimistic, and polite. Alas, the curly hair prevailed. By the end of the night it was whipped back into a ponytail, I'd been to Lowe's wearing jeans and a tank top to buy a plumbing snake, and I managed to speak not-so-nicely to my lovely husband, who even used the word "thusly" (*swoon* we love a good vocabulary!) and tried to help with the clogged sink despite being sick. *sigh* Like I said, the curly hair prevails.

It was Kate who first named the phenomenon, from her desk on the other side of the bank...she would know within a few emails whether my hair was its natural, unruly self or had been tamed and smoothed that day. Evidently I'm much more refined when I bother to hot-roll.

01 June 2006

wash your hands before you read the book (or don't*)

Well, the curlyhairday explanation will just have to wait, since I have discovered a recipe for some wonderful muffins. I was craving Morning Glory Muffins and had searched high and low for a recipe...and then I remembered this fabulous cookbook my sister gave me for Christmas:

And the index (every non-fiction book...well, even some fiction books...should have one) had the very recipe I wanted (see page 642)! They're from the Morning Glory Cafe on Nantucket. Tasty goodness.

Morning Glory Muffins

makes about 30 muffins

4 cups all-purpose flour (I used half whole wheat flour.)
2 1/2 cups sugar
4 tsp baking soda
4 tsp ground cinnamon
2 tsp salt
12 carrots, peeled, coarsely grated (4 cups)
1 cup raisins
1 cup pecans, chopped (4 ounces)
1 cup sweetened flaked coconut
2 Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored, and coarsely grated
6 large eggs
2 cups vegetable oil
2 tsp vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Generously butter (or spray with nonstick spray) muffin cups.

Whisk together flour, sugar, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt in a large bowl. Stir in carrots, raisins, pecans, coconut, and apples. Whisk together eggs, oil, and vanilla in another bowl, then add to flour mixture and stir until just combined.

Spoon batter into muffin cups, filling them to the top. Bake muffins, in batches if necessary, until springy to the touch, about 30 minutes per batch. Cool in pans for 5 minutes, then turn out onto a rack and cool to warm or room temperature.

These muffins keep, stored in an airtight container at room temperature, for up to 2 days. (Or freeze 'em. I mean, gracious, you have 30!)

I halved the recipe with excellent results (if I do say so myself) and made 12 large muffins. If you're not a coconut person, I'm sure you could substitute with extra carrots.

On the back of The Gourmet Cookbook is a quote from Ruth Reichl, the editor, "Our goal was to give you a book with every recipe you would ever want." Well done, Ruth.

* "A book reads the better which is our own, and has been so long known to us, that we know the topography of its blots, and dog's ears, and can trace the dirt in it to having read it at tea with buttered muffins." - Charles Lamb

Quotes. I love quotes. They should have been on the original list.

Happy baking!