Saturday, September 29, 2012

A Borrowed Recipe for Rosemary Parmesan Chicken

You may remember my very blackened Spanish chicken from about a month ago.  It was flavorful but not very pretty. Recently, Ann, from On Sutton Place, posted a recipe for a different kind of baked chicken.  I felt a little trepidation, but hers looked scrumptious, so I felt like I should give it a try.  I'm so glad I did.  As she says, it is "truly a one-dish wonder."  Rosemary Parmesan Chicken, where have you been all my life?  Please stop by her blog and check out the recipe (and the rest of her blog, for she is one talented lady).

The recipe couldn't be simpler.  I followed it pretty much to the letter only I used fresh garlic instead of garlic powder. With rosemary from the garden, bread crumbs made from potato rolls, and paired with a salad of mixed tomatoes and basil, it was delectable.  Please click here to go to On Sutton Place for the recipe.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Good-bye Old Friend; Hello Sleek New Friend

Well, I finally did it.  I dumped an old friend.  After nearly 24 years, we'd been through a lot together, but he just wasn't holding up his end anymore.  So it was good-bye Old Electrolux.

Faithful Old Electrolux
My husband and I bought the vacuum cleaner as our mutual gift on the first Christmas after we got married.  Old Electrolux was sleek and powerful in those days.  It was a huge step up from my old round Hoover.  But things changed.  Old Electrolux just wasn't picking up like he used to.  His days were numbered.  I started scoping out hot new vacuums online.  Then Miele caught my eye.  Sleek, compact, and powerful.  I'd found my new friend.  So I put Old Electrolux in the trunk and dropped him off at Goodwill.  I felt a little sad about it.  Still, maybe he can be rehabilitated and someone else will befriend him.

Sleek New Miela Callisto
How do I like the new Miele Callisto?  It has been an adjustment, but so far so good.  It is powerful yet much quieter than my old vacuum cleaner.  I like that three of the most commonly used attachments are stored right in the canister, and I have found the suction control very useful.  I turn the suction to low and am able to vacuum cloth lampshades without worrying about damaging them.  The canister is lighter weight than the Electrolux because it is plastic.  I do wonder if it will be as durable as the old metal machine.

See the hair?
What don't I like?  I wish it had come with two wands.  I would rather snap off the whole wand to change heads rather than reach down to detach the head.  Depending how expensive it is, I may purchase a second wand.  Also, the bags seem a little small. We produce a lot of dirt around here, and I think we'll go through bags pretty quickly. (Yes, I'm looking at you, Alfie!)  My biggest gripe, though, is the plastic canister I just praised for being lightweight.  It develops a static charge or whatever, and dog hair clings to the bottom.  That means I have to frequently spend time vacuuming off my vacuum cleaner.

All in all, though, I am happy with my new friend, Miela.  Which is a good thing, because Miela is pricey.  I just hope he's worth it.

Note: This is my honest opinion.  You all know Miela, the company, doesn't know I exist and did not ask me to review their vacuum cleaner or compensate me in any way.  If anyone from Miele is reading, however, I wouldn't say no to some free vacuum cleaner bags!

Monday, September 24, 2012

Misadventures in Painting

My husband was out of town this past weekend, so I decided it would be a great opportunity to repaint his office and the attached sitting room.  This space used to be an apartment.  The second floor was expanded during the Depression to add on this space which, when you take out the bathroom (I showed its renovation last February), is a kind of funky L-shape.  The section that is now an office used to be a wee kitchen.

Right after the tenant moved out in 1996.  The door beside the sink leads to the tiny bathroom.
After the tenant moved out, we took out the kitchen, stripped some of the woodwork, changed the light fixtures, replaced the linoleum with cork flooring, and put in new (now old) carpet.  For some time, I've been wanting to replace the carpet again, but can't do that until after repainting.  Anyway, this seemed like the time.

Part of the trouble is there is way too much heavy furniture in that room -- a set of three wood lockers we use to store DVDs and tapes, three antique armchairs, two bookcases, a heavy oak desk, an oak filing cabinet, a TV, and a couple of small side tables.  Since I couldn't move all this by myself, especially through the narrow doorway into the hall, I dragged it all to the center and covered it with plastic.  That seemed like a clever idea until I found that there were areas along the perimeter that were too tight to set up a ladder, so I had to paint some parts of the ceiling perched on a ladder unsteadily propped against the wall.

Another way I was being clever was by using paint we already had.  I'm all about saving money when I can.  I had almost a gallon of ceiling paint, which I managed to eke out to cover the whole ceiling.  I thought.  Then Saturday evening as I was taping the woodwork in preparation for Sunday's wall painting, I noticed a good sized area I had missed.  So I scurried off to Lowe's to buy another gallon of the exact same Valspar ceiling paint.  I'll just touch up the missed area and some other "thin" areas, I thought.  The gosh darn ceiling paint isn't the same!  Can you see it in the picture below?  It depends on the light and the angle, but I can clearly see the areas I touched up.  Sigh.  So there is more ceiling painting to be done.

For the walls, well, I found an almost full gallon of Sherwin Williams paint in the basement clearly marked "office."  It looked a little different to me, but I figured it must dry a bit darker.  After seeing how the ceiling needed more than a gallon, I knew I'd need more paint, so on that trip to Lowe's, I also stopped at Sherwin Williams, paint in hand, to ask for another gallon of the same thing.  They no longer make the EverClean paint the young man said.  He was amazed that the paint was still good.  In fact, all three employees (it was dead in the store) came over to look at the paint and discuss the options.  I asked for a comparable paint in the same color.  No problem, and the paint was 40% off, my lucky day -- until he rang it up.  $44 dollars for one gallon of paint (at 40% off!) and an edger.  So Sunday, I cracked open my extremely valuable Dover White paint from Sherwin Williams and, after edging, realized it was the color from two paintings ago.  I'm thinking the paint was from 1996.  No wonder the guys had been amazed that it was still good; they were hardly more than toddlers when that paint was mixed.  So the paint is now not the warm, pale-butter-white I wanted, but a generic white-white.  Oh well, at least it will be clean and fresh.  If I ever get the room completed, I'll show the end result.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Like Traveling Pants, Only Not Wearable

Late last week I received a large envelope in the mail.  Inside was a notebook.  It was the Traveling Notebook from Chantal Loves Vintage.  Chantal is a wonderfully wacky Brit who, well, loves vintage and blogs about vintage goods, classic movie stars, as well as other things, like her travels to France.  A while back, Chantal got the idea for a notebook that would travel around the world being filled in by bloggers and others.  "Sign me up," I said.  And then the notebook arrived, a blank page waiting just for me.  I'm not going to lie, there was pressure to do something creative and awesome.  Not being a creative, awesome gal, I settled for doing the best I could.  What a surprise -- my page involves yarn and food.  Here's a little peek.

To read more about the Traveling Notebook, check out Chantal's blog.  I can't say for sure, but it might not be too late to get in on the fun.  As for the notebook, I put some traveling pants on that baby, and it's on its way to the east coast of the U.S.  Happy trails, little notebook!

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Vintage Photos

My daughter and I were sorting through old photographs during her recent visit.  We had a drawer full of photos from my husband's family that needed to be identified and sorted.  That led our daughter to decide to "borrow" a few old family photos and scan some others to create a photo wall in her apartment.  I thought I'd share a couple of the photos that she scanned.  There's something about the utter seriousness of vintage childhood portraits.

This picture is of my grandfather with his sister and older brother.  His brother looks so intense it makes me wonder what the photographer had said to them.

The second photo is of my husband's great-grandfather and his sister.  There were two portraits made the same day. This is the "fun" photo of them with their toys.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Late Summer Rambles

This morning, Alfie and I went on one of our rambles around the prairie and the countryside.  I've written about the prairie before (here and here), but today, rather than our usual circuit, Alfie and I went to the "dog prairie."  The dog prairie is the section where dogs are allowed off leash, in contrast to the main prairie where everyone lets their dogs run illegally.  The dog prairie is a much newer section which is being restored to prairie from corn fields.  It shows.  It's basically a flat field with mown paths.

Views of the dog prairie
Still, Alfie had a good time, running and sniffing, wild and free.  And while many plants were still in bloom, like goldenrod and sunflowers, there were others beginning to go to seed.  I love the texture of the dried seed heads.

Coneflower and Black-eyed Susans (I think)
Driving home, we took a roundabout way down country roads through the fields.  Around here the main crops are corn, soybeans, and wind.  There's something great about driving down a gravel road on a cool, sunny morning, windows down, through acres of corn with huge wind turbines stretched out like a row of sentinels.

And then a gorgeous red barn before turning for home.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Can This Tree Be Saved? Yes!

One of the benefits of living in an old (and I mean old) neighborhood is the mature trees.  When we bought our house eighteen years ago, one of the reasons was the settled feel of the neighborhood with its huge trees and established (and sometimes shabby) shrubs and landscaping.  Sadly, since we've lived here, three immediate neighbors have lost large trees.  Two to storms and one to a garage addition.  We have two large trees in our front yard -- a pin oak and a hackberry.  The hackberry, while not a particularly gorgeous tree, shades the front of our house in summer and provides a visual anchor for our yard.

Quite a few years back, our hackberry lost a large limb that grew toward the house.  The limb was as big around as many good sized tree trunks.  It did a little damage to the gutter around the porch, but nothing serious.  It was a bad loss, but we knew the tree could survive.  My husband was pretty militant about it in fact.  The tree must be saved. Then in 2008, another gigantic limb came off, pulling much of the bark from the side of the tree.  I figured the tree was a goner.  How could it survive with large chunks missing on two sides?

The man from the tree service came, cleared the limb, and cleaned up the wound.  He said we didn't need to take the whole tree down right away.  I think he was afraid my husband would start weeping openly if he said the tree had to go. We decided to leave the tree and see what happened.  What happened?  A little regrowth around the wound and ants. Periodically my husband would drag me out there and say, "See? It's regrowing."  Yeah, okay.

The current state of the 2008 wound, with a
climbing hydrangea about to overtake it.  The
first wound is completely covered by the vine.
This summer I noticed some fungus growing at the top of the wound. This was a couple of weeks after a tree at the end of the block came down and knocked out power to the neighborhood for a whole day.  I started to worry about that darn hackberry.  I suggested calling in an arborist.  The husband resisted.  He was reluctant to hear that the tree would have to come down.  That it was a danger to passersby and the front of our house.

But one day, I went ahead and called an arborist in a nearby city.  He came by very early on a recent Saturday morning.  We prepared ourselves to hear the worst.  But lo and behold, he said he did not recommend removing the tree or even any of its branches.  Maybe a little trimming in a few years to take out some dead wood if we wanted to.  I was very surprised and also relieved.  My husband?  It was the best gift he ever received, to hear that his beloved hackberry was spared.  At least he had enough dignity not to do a happy dance right there in the front yard.