Friday, October 23, 2009

Been a tough few weeks

My sister-in-law's mother had been living with her, my brother since they bought their house over 13 years ago. Docs didn't think she'd survive to see them married 6 months later, but she defied the odds and lived long enough to see my bro & SIL bring home and start to raise not just one but two kids, who doted on their Granny. Granny finally succumbed to her many serious health problems a couple of weeks ago. My poor SIL is having a really rough time of it, given that as a nurse, she was the primary caregiver and for the last year or two, had made it a full-time job. Worse, she buried a beloved aunt the day after her mother died. Pray for the family, please.

And after not having much time to follow FB or friends' blogs, I started getting caught up tonight and learned that a friend lost his girlfriend's mother, then the girlfriend herself, barely a week apart! They say what doesn't kill you makes you stronger, but given this kind of double whammy, who wouldn't prefer to be a weakling! Please pray for G, too.

But life goes on. L&D became grandparents again yesterday morning - bouncing baby girl, 7 lb. 10 oz and "long" (the beaming grandpa didn't say how long, just that she's tall).

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Comfort food

Yesterday the remainder of the Jonathan apples became applesauce (too long on the counter instead of in the fridge had them getting a bit mealy) - oh, how wonderful the kitchen smelled! It was a team effort - I cored the apples and threw 'em in the pot with some cinnamon, nutmeg & ground clove (no need to add sugar), and the Chief ran the results thru his food mill to sieve out the skins and most of the seeds and things I missed when I was prepping the apples. Yummy stuff!

Today our errands included a fill-a-few-holes grocery run so I could make chicken tetrazzini. Now we've got a big pot of the stuff in the fridge, all ready for tomorrow's dinner. We also picked up a big slab of salmon on a big, fat sale, so dinners this week will probably alternate between the salmon and the tetrazzini.

The tetrazzini takes a while to assemble, even if you don't count the time to cook the chicken or turkey for it, and the cream it calls for (I substituted half-and-half) isn't exactly heart-healthy, but after all the raw weather we've had lately, I really wanted some comfort food, and the Chief isn't big on soup.

Oh, and I bought my very first bottle of sherry for the tetrazzini. I had no idea there were so many options - very dry, medium-dry, cream... I haven't tasted the stuff yet, but I suppose I'll do that eventually, if only out of curiosity piqued by reading so many novels that mention the stuff.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

New front-loader

Tuesday the Chief & I ended up ordering a new washer & dryer from Sears; front-loading washer, so we splashed out on the pedestals for them so we don't have to bend over quite so far when loading & unloading them. The new items came today; with the pedestals, they don't clear the ductwork by very much at all! (Our basement has a low ceiling, which means the ductwork is so low that a 5'6" person can't walk under them on tiptoes.) We were told that the doors for the washer & dryer would swing in opposite directions so you don't have to work around the doors to transfer laundry from the washer to the dryer. Well, yes, they do open in opposite directions, but because of where the water & gas hook-ups are in our basement, we'll now "get" to work around both doors. Ah well, it's not as though we're doing laundry for a big family; we usually do only a couple of loads a week.

The old dryer is still in place because today's deliverymen aren't certified or authorized or whatever to do the gas disconnect/reconnect. They did do a great job of getting the 27"-wide machines down the stairs and into the basement thru the 29 1/2" doorway with nary a scratch, however, so we're happy.

The new machines, like all the machines on the market these days, have electronics running the show, so they chirp and sing as they go about their business. Until we have a chance to put them thru their paces, though, we won't know whether we'll be able to hear all that upstairs, nor whether we'll find it annoying, soothing, cheery or just different.

The Chief just put a "test" load in the washer to see how it works. We may have to relearn how to do laundry, since everything we've read says a front-loader takes longer to run, but spins out so much more water than a top-loader that you don't need to run the dryer nearly as long. As long as it does the job, though, I'll be happy.

Monday, October 12, 2009


The Chief & I just got back from a lovely long weekend with friends in the Outer Banks of N. Carolina. I now understand why it's such a popular vacation spot - it's lovely, and not as heavily commercialized as so many of the popular beach towns along the Maryland/Delaware/New Jersey shoreline. We got to see lots of pelicans, herons & egrets in flight, as well as the usual shorebirds.

Our friends have a place down there which they rent out during the high and shoulder seasons and which is nice and airy. Not on the water, but you can see both the ocean and the sound from it. The Chief has always wanted a place near the water, and while the cabin had satisfied his wish for a vacation place, now he's talking about selling it to finance a beach place. As always, he picked up a few real estate magazines, and we'll probably contact our friends' agent. Friends of ours at church also have a place down at the Outer Banks, so we'll be asking them a few questions about their experience too.

Now the latest plan/pipe dream is to retire to somewhere between Williamsburg and the Norfolk area, with a beach place at the OBX. However, if we vacation someplace else appealing, all that could change again...

Go to Plan B?

I just learned that auditions & callbacks for the show I want to do next will be held while the Chief & I are on vacation. I've already e-mailed the director & MD about scheduling an audition, but I might end up having to sit this one out, or just doing chorus (since I've done shows with both of them before, they'd let me do that without auditioning). I know I could get into the ensemble, but I want to do more than that. It would be ever so much fun to get the character mezzo role, but now that I won't be able to audition alongside the other contenders for that role, well, let's just say I don't fancy my chances.

On the bright side, though, if I don't do this one, that frees me up for other shows running at about the same time.

Thursday, October 08, 2009

Spending too much money on the house

We got new, casement windows installed in the blank wall in the kitchen last week, and replaced the narrow little sash window over the kitchen sink with a larger, casement window. The lovely thing about casements is that when you open them, you get the benefit of the full window opening, not just half of it, so they bring in all kinds of wonderful breezes. We also had the same contractor replace the siding on the back of the house (the addition the previous owners had put on). Looks much better now.

The painters started scraping old paint on Monday, started priming yesterday, and the first of the actual paint went on today. Even though they're still priming. I'm not sure what they're methodology is, but as long as they do a good job, we aren't going to worry about it too much.

As if we weren't spending enough money, the transmission in the washing machine died on Sunday. I went down to transfer the first load of wash into the dryer to find that it was still sodden - the spin cycle no longer spins. Monday a repairman came out and diagnosed the bad transmission. The machine's too old to make it worth the cost of the repairs, so last night found the Chief & me in Sears checking out washers. Such a romantic date! :p

Avoiding duties

... and catching up here. Another apple cake just came out of the oven about half an hour ago, so the house smells pretty darn good. The Chief made chicken soup with the carcass from the roast chicken from the other night, and he whipped up a batch of Moroccan carrots with a little coaching (and some cumin-hunting - the bottle had fallen off the spice rack).

Got another audition, for G&S's The Grand Duke, in a couple of weeks, trying to pick something to sing. One suggestion, the fan song from Mirette, is reminiscent of one of the 2 big songs of the role I'd like, but a) I only heard it for the very first time last night and 2) the song doesn't really grab me. Ah well, I have a few other possibilities and 1 or 2 more lessons between now and then.

Got some nice feedback at panto rehearsal the other night. We were going over all the chorus' music (I really like a couple of the original songs - well written both musically & lyrically), one of which starts with us rather than the accompaniment. The MD said we'd probably need it led by a chorister with a strong ear - looking & pointing directly at me. Some of the music has some tricky syncopations and intervals, really testing whether you're paying attention. I was sitting close to the piano, where I could hear the accompaniment readily. Apparently our accompanist could hear me, too, because as we were leaving, she said as she passed me that it was nice to work with "real musicians". I don't usually consider myself a "real musician" as my only music education has been what I've picked up in choirs and voice lessons, but I guess it's enough that I can hold my own in these rehearsals.

Saturday, October 03, 2009

A new recipe and an old favorite

Made an apple cake this afternoon with some of the 1/2 peck of granny smiths the Chief brought home last week. Didn't make the house smell as good as usual only because it's a gorgeous day and we have all the doors & windows wide open.

I also tried Beth's Oatmeal Cookies. The batter was rather liquid, so after the first 2 cookie sheets when into the oven and I saw how much the cookies spread, I added probably 1/2 c. of flour to the remaining batter. I wasn't thrilled with the results but they aren't bad, and the Chief thinks they're just fine. However, I also have an Outrageous Oatmeal Cookie recipe I cut out of the paper this summer which it says was adapted from a Starbucks recipe. It calls for a variety of dried fruit - regular & golden raisins and dried cranberries. The Chief is a purist about his oatmeal raisin cookies, so if the first attempt turns out otherwise OK, I may be asked to omit the cranberries in future.

Part of the cake will go across the street to a neighbor whose birthday is coming up on Wednesday and who loves this recipe as much as the Chief does. The cookies will go to the beach with us next weekend, to share with the friends who will be letting us share their beach house for the weekend. I'll also make another apple cake for the weekend - I went ahead and cut up the necessary apples while I was prepping them for today's cake - especially as she's the one who gave me this version of the recipe, which has become my favorite of the 3 versions I've tried.