Thursday, August 30, 2007

Our House is Naked!

Here is what our house looked like on the day of our inspection in March. Look at all that nice snow!

On the day we closed, in early May, our house looked like this. Wow, the lawn was really green!

Then, in late June, I planted some annuals by the front door. All pinks and purples to match the door.

Yesterday we had the 2 big boxwoods removed. They were completely taking over the front steps! We also had some stumps removed from some bruning bushes that D had taken down, and had the stumps and roots of the scraggly low bushes taken out (D and I had hacked those down). Now our house looks like this (note, the lawn is still nice and green!):

Don't despair about all those nice annuals being gone. D transplanted them all yesterday morning at 6:30. Most of them are in pots on the deck, and some are in the wheelbarrow.

Pardon the format of this post. I'm still getting the hang of this!!

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Ice cream!

Last night D and I made our first batch of homemade ice cream using our new ice cream maker attachment for our KitchenAid mixer.

We started with a French Vanilla base I had made on Sunday night, and then added Reese's Peanut Butter Cups.
Guess what I had for breakfast?Posted by Picasa
The inspiration for making ice cream came from 2 sources. First, I read a blog called Desert Candy written by a woman who has posted a new ice cream recipe a few times a week in the month of August. She's got some pretty crazy avocado, olive oil, and beet (not mixed together) and also some more conventional flavors.
The second inspiration was in Christopher Kimball's Letter from Vermont email in which he talks about making ice cream and has a link to America's Test Kitchen's review of ice cream makers.
I guess there was a third inspiration too...the KitchenAid Ice Cream Maker attachment was on sale at Macy's for 20% off!

Monday, August 27, 2007

Got Bugs?

With the exception of spiders, I've always had a fondness for insects and other backyard critters. I used to love to collect caterpillars, inch worms, and other bugs that wouldn't bite or sting. I also loved pollywogs, frogs, and toads. In fact, one summer in elementary school, my friend Amy and I had a toad circus in her backyard.

I still like bugs (and still am somewhat terrified of spiders, but am now able to get within 3 feet of them). Our backyard has been terrific for bug scouting---you don't have to look very hard to find all kinds of bugs. On Saturday morning I discovered something eating my parsley... and it wasn't a Japanese Beetle for once. There were 3 Black Swallowtail caterpillars in my parsley. I wished I had a cage to save them in so I could have watched them become butterflies. If I had kids, I'm sure I would have jury-rigged something. Instead I gently plucked off the parsley springs with the caterpillars and relocated them into another part of the yard.

What amazes me is that these caterpillars (also known as Parsley Caterpillars) were able to find my parsley plants which are in pots on the railing of the deck. They must have an amazing sense of smell and a huge determination to eat their favorite food. Let's see if they come back to visit again. If they do, I might just have to surrender the parsley to them and wait to see them return as butterflies next spring.

Friday, August 24, 2007

fall like weather means.....knitting!

I went to the Fabric Place very innocently last week just to "browse" and they happened to have a great sale on yarn. I grabbed a hand basket and started piling yarn into it...there were so many great colors and textures and I kept thinking about all of the things I could make. Then reality set in...I already have a partially finished baby blanket, a barely started hat, and the cuff of a tiny mitten on my needles. So, instead of loading up on lots of fabulous colors of cotton/wool blend (a whole rainbow of colors), I chose just a few. I also chose some lightweight wool in candy corn colors, and some super soft merino in my sister's favorite color. The candy corn colors are already taking shape into a simple project from my knitting daily newsletter (after I had unravelled another project I had started with them). I've made a promise to myself that I'm going to finish the projects I start...stay tuned for photos of the candy corn colored knitted thing I am making!

Friday, August 10, 2007

Casualty Count

Mercury is definitely adapting well to life in the suburbs. She likes to spend as much time as possible outside, though we keep her in at night just in case there are any predators. On Tuesday night D didn't get much sleep as he woke up 3 times worried about the kitty who hadn't come in for the night.

One thing I don't like about Mercury being outside is her newly discovered instinct for hunting. So far she's gotten 2 mice, a vole, and an oriole. She just leaves them in the lawn for us to discover at a later time (which I guess is better than bringing them into the house). She has a jingle on her collar which should alert the wildlife that she's coming, but I guess it hasn't. I'm not that surprised at her ability to get the mice and vole, but the oriole was a shock! It must have been one dumb or slow bird. I guess that's how survival of the fittest works.

Thursday, August 2, 2007

Flora, Fauna, and Food

It's been a busy couple of weeks in Suburbia and the outlying areas. First, the weekend of the 21st D and I went to Western MA for our friends' wedding at a place called Bucksteep Manor. It was a whole weekend affair beginning with a rehearsal and BBQ on Friday night and ending with a brunch on Sunday morning. The bride and groom glowed throughout the entire weekend, and surprised everyone with a fabulous waltz for their first dance (the groom really surprised us). I took the camera while D was getting ready with the other groomsmen and shot about 300 photos...mostly of the grounds and chapel, but also of the bride and bridesmaids. I would say I'm much better at photographing plants than people! Here are a few floral pics from that weekend:

Last week was calm for the most part, though I've been having a little frustration with recipes lately--finding them, not making them! First, on Thursday I had taken some halibut out of the freezer because I remembered I had seen a recipe for halibut with new potatoes and rosemary. When I came home Thursday evening (hungry), I couldn't find the recipe...I thought it was from Everyday Food, but it wasn't. And then I couldn't find it online either. Maybe I dreamed the recipe?? Anyway, I was so fed up that I bagged on the halibut for the night, but did find a recipe for it the next night.

I made a poached halibut with pepper oil and fresh polenta from Jacques Pepin "Fast Food My Way". The fresh corn polenta was really fabulous--just zip the corn off the cob, puree it in a blender, and simmer with some butter. Because we didn't have any chilled white wine, D and I decided to break into a bottle of champagne given to us by the former owners of our house. Delicious!

My next bout of recipe frustration came on Saturday. In the "Notes from the Test Kitchen" email I receive from Cook's Illustrated/America's Test Kitchen there was a link to a video for blueberry cobbler. It looked so good, so I went to find the recipe on the site. Turns out that the recipe is from a past season so you can't access it without a paid membership. I was really disappointed because the cobbler looked so good! D suggested I look in the America's Test Kitchen cookbook we own, and lo and behold, there it was! I baked it on Monday night when our friends from Long Island came to visit.

In addition to spending time in the kitchen this past weekend, I also spent time in the yard. On Saturday am, I walked around the yard taking stock of everything. Our 2 Rose of Sharon are blooming. One is a purply-pink and the other is white with a deep pink center. They're really beautiful. Then D and I cut back the overgrown rhododendron that was impeding the sprinkling of the back lawn. I also organized my garden shed, and we planted a hydrangea. As we were planting the hydrangea it began to pour, so we went inside and had some lunch. Then Mercury and I lay on the couch and watched PBS cooking shows together--just like we used to do on Saturday afternoons in my old apartment. That made her one happy cat!

Later that afternoon I noticed something slowly making it's way across the mulch in the backyard. It was a turtle that had come out of the wetlands (e.g., swamp) behind our house. D took some pictures of it and then I used a Vernal Pool guide written by Dave's old high school teacher to identify it as a juvenile snapping turtle. He was really cute! I love that we have wildlife in our backyard, especially the dragonflies that eat the mosquitoes!