Take the Bartolini Challenge

Playing with your heads again, gentle readers. It really is already Thursday.

So he says, Here’s my recipe for vodka-infused pasta sauce.

So I says, I don’t do vodka. Got one with root beer?

So he says, You come up with one and then we’ll both know.

So I says, You’re on.

This one’s for you, Chicago John!

Ingredients. Just one dried chilli, the fresh peppers are bell peppers. Greenery is from shallots growing on the windowsill. The blue cheese, a bit of a snoot, avoided the photo.

Ingredients. Just one dried chilli, the fresh peppers are bell peppers. Greenery is from shallots growing on the windowsill. The blue cheese, a bit of a snoot, avoided the photo.

I decided against including garlic in this recipe. I wanted to caramelize the onions in the sorta-fennel-flavoured sugar-water, aka root beer, and didn’t want the garlic confusing the issue.

Soften the onions in olive oil over medium-low heat. You want the pop, not the heat, to brown them. Pour the tinful of pop into the pan, and let it reduce till it looks like this -- about ten minutes, I think it was.

Soften the onions in olive oil over medium-low heat. You want the pop, not the heat, to brown them. Pour the tinful of pop into the pan, and let it reduce till it looks like this — about ten minutes, I think it was.

The rest of the job was even easier. Empty the tomatoes and paste into the pan, stir in seasonings in their usual amounts, chop the peppers and toss ‘em in, and turn the heat way down to cook gently till you’re satisfied with the look of it. Mine simmered for two hours till E.g. arrived home.

The snooty blue cheese gets its comeuppance.

The snooty blue cheese gets its comeuppance.

E.g. described the sauce as “rich” and “dark”. We don’t normally put sugar in our pasta sauces, which may be why she thought it tasted more like prepared sauce from the grocery aisle than usual. I thought it was fine.

I had planned to serve it with leftover bbq chicken bits, but forgot, so the blue cheese was deployed instead. Nice salty-sweet contrast. Minced shallot tops for colour.

The next day, the leftover sauce went into a batch of Weight-Watcher Zero Soup rescued from the deepfreeze, along with the chicken bits and a leftover cupful of CJ’s black-rice risotto. I called the concoction “Zero-Plus Soup”; E.g. loved it!

Guess Who

Happy dance.

Happy dance.

My old iPad — the one I’ve continued to use since receiving the new one for my birthday, waiting for E.g. to finish her busy season at work before pestering her to help me set up the new one — has gone senile. I had two ideas for posts yesterday, but no dice, my internet access was frozen solid.

So I’ve lied, and backdated this post to yesterday.

Yesterday [Sunday], Merrilee came out of the closet at church.

The age closet, that is. She let everyone know it was her birthday, and exactly how old she was turning. Later that afternoon, when we were chatting on the phone, I could hear more strength in her voice, an increase in self-confidence and self-worth, and the absence of some habitual squashedness-producing pressure.

Pride. It comes with the fresh air found outside the closet.

Today [Monday], as I was finishing the framing of the final wall of Maud’s Place, E.g. came to take some photos. I had just figured out why an inside stud wouldn’t fit — the frame wasn’t square — and had tapped a corner with a hammer until the stud could slip in between the top and bottom plate, when E.g. snapped the above photo. The hammer is offscreen in my left hand.

I don’t suppose you can guess the emotion on my face?

Pride. It comes with the shift from “I can’t” to “Well lookit that, I did!”

To Work Like a Dog

Wall B of Maud's Place, pulled together with the help of Tony Dvorak, Frank Poulenc, Ella Fitzgerald, and the Flying Bulgar Klezmer Band.

Wall B of Maud’s Place, pulled together with the help of Tony Dvorak, Frank Poulenc, Ella Fitzgerald, and the Flying Bulgar Klezmer Band.

I’ll have you know, gentle readers, I work like a dog.

I dig in the dirt. (It’s called “gardening”.)

I sleep on the ground. (It’s called “camping”.)

I howl to my fellow pack members. (It’s called “singing”.)

I sniff out an interesting trail, and follow where it leads. (It’s called “learning new things”.)

I play with sticks. (It’s called “playing recorders”.)

I eat just about anything. (It’s called “leftovers”.)

Yep, it’s a dog’s life, all right.

I’m one lucky dog.

Cai demonstrates his expertise in the labour of waiting for the rain to pass.

Cai demonstrates his expertise in the labour of waiting for the rain to pass.

It’s a jungle in there (a letter to Grace)

Plant with mold issues is in lower left corner.

Plant with mold issues is in lower left corner.

Dear Grace,

How is your visit going? I hope you and Howard are nestling in a sturdy shelter as the nor’easter rolls in. But then, I suppose Cape Breton houses are used to bearing the brunt of storms. With all that rain, you must be enjoying lots of cozy talks with your sister.

You’ll be happy to know that the four overwintering new guinea impatiens from your garden have now been joined by eight more from Tucker’s. That way, if the one poorly impatiens doesn’t make it through the winter, there’s a chance one of the others will and you’ll still get four for the spring.

I waited until the soil in the poorly plant dried out, and then watered it from the bottom. I’m hoping that if I don’t water the top of the soil, the mold that covered it will die out. That plant is in its own roast chicken tray where I can keep an eye on it.

Three stick-figure impatiens, tiny but tenacious.

Three stick-figure impatiens, tiny but tenacious.

I’m so glad you told me about cutting back the plants to keep them from getting spindly. That’s something I didn’t do with the three that survived last year’s housing, and although they’re still alive and bloomed all summer, they pretty much looked like a child’s drawing of pink blotches on sticks. Am still deciding whether to bring them in as well, and see if I can get them to branch out.

Mother and daughter dracaenas, dressed in designer cache-pots.

Mother and daughter dracaenas, dressed in designer cache-pots.

I’ve also brought home the dracaena spike from Tucker’s windowbox planter. I was surprised when potting “it” to find two, not one, dracaena. They were growing so close together that I’m guessing they’re mother and daughter plants. The pretty gallon pots I placed them in almost look too big for them, whereas the dracaena coming inside for its second winter needed potting up.

The rootbound dracaena has been moved from a gallon container to this bigger, beige model.

The rootbound dracaena has been moved from a gallon container to this bigger, beige model.

The oldest dracaena, in for its third winter, should take some time to outgrow its purple pot. Anyway, if you’d like a spike come springtime, you’re welcome to it.

Have a good visit with your family, and safe home.
– Dandyknife.

Pause Without Caws

"Wait for me, Philbert, just a few more..."

“Wait for me, Philbert, just a few more…”

I was studying my shed plans in the living room when these two crows landed in the mountain ash that grows on the far side of the parking pad. Hard to miss them, really, the slender branches under their heft providing a midway ride along with the snack.

The crows were kind enough to wait while I grabbed the camera. Just one quick snap before Philbert, now bored with the berries, flew on and Dennison followed. Two doors up, a maple tree blazed the news that Autumn is well underway.

Why whispering during choir practice doesn’t work

I just can't decide: hook and eye, or cup hook?

I just can’t decide: hook and eye, or cup hook?

Last night at choir practice, I sat beside one of the better-behaved altos. Sheila and I both try not to be disruptive while our choirmaster, Tucker, works with the other sections. We try not to talk aloud or shift around in our seats or flick elastics or do anything else that might distract the work going on around us.

No sense being unfriendly, though.

So when Tucker started going over the tenor and bass parts on a new Christmas anthem, I slanted towards Sheila and informed her, triple piano, that Carl had been over in the morning and sawn up all the 2x4s that I had marked with cut-lines this past week.

Sheila signaled her rejoicing with me by widening her eyes, smiling, nodding gently, and mouthing the word “Good!”

At about that moment, the paving on our road of good intentions started giving way.

First, Sheila said something I didn’t catch one word of.

“Sorry?”

Sheila tried again, carefully enunciating each word.

“I had 2×2 bras today.”

What???”

“I never knew those would shrink when losing weight.”

Well, they certainly might warp if they aren’t kiln-dried, but…

Hang on…

I started convulsing with silent laughter. Yanking a sheet of paper out of my choir folder, I scribbled what I had understood in the context. I was talking about 2x4s, and you said you had 2×2 bras.

By that time, of course, I had figured out that she had said, “I had to buy two bras today.”

So much for behaving ourselves.

Forever Rafter, or, Measure Twice, Think Again

So. A windowsill and a header. Three pieces of two-by-four (two for the header, one for the sill) cut to the same length. They run horizontally between the 16″ stud and the 64″ stud, so that’s 64 minus 16 would be… umm… yeah, forty-eight inches.

WAIT!!!!!!!

Make that forty-six and-a-half inches. The studs are 16″ and 64″, respectively, on centre. A stud is one and-a-half inches wide, subtract half the stud width from each end of your erroneous forty-eight inches, that makes forty-six and-a-half.

Now that you, dear readers, understand how good my math is, not to mention my prowess in carpentry, you won’t be surprised to learn that it took me a mere two full days to make a prototype rafter.

After all, how hard could it be? One chunk of two-by-four with slanty ends and a notch. And all the measurements and angles are calculated for you on a webpage.

How hard could it be? Below you will find a pictorial representation of how hard it felt.

Simply calculate the angles and lengths of these 23 pieces of wood, mark the lines with a ripe banana, saw the pieces with a nail file and fasten them with quarter-inch dowelling, and voilĂ ! You're done.

Simply calculate the angles and lengths of these 23 pieces of wood, mark the lines with a ripe banana, saw the pieces with a nail file and fasten them with quarter-inch dowelling, and voilĂ ! You’re done.

On the other hand, the task having been that difficult to begin with made me all the prouder when I finally got it right. See how the notch perches so nicely, and the higher end rests flush (enough) against the wall with nothing else holding the rafter up?

Shiny, happy rafter.

Shiny, happy rafter.

The rafter is spending the night in the mudroom. It’s that special.