In these last couple weeks we've kept busy with the usual holiday trappings. We started by opening a variety of advent presents each night.
Wednesday, December 30, 2020
Sunday, December 13, 2020
Last weekend we made an appointment to get our tree and yet again find ourselves debating whether or not to find a new place to tree shop next year. We managed in the end to find a decently tall tree for a more reasonable price, so it worked out. But I've heard good things about a tree farm that runs a local lot not far from us; I think we'll check them out next year rather than going to the nursery again.
We had a good time putting on the lights and ornaments. Every year the kids find more burnt out lights - I'm surprised we haven't run out of replacement bulbs yet. These lights are at least 5 years old, so are probably reaching the end of their reasonable lifespan. Maybe next year I'll get around to getting some LED ones. Both kids still can't resist clumping multiple ornaments into a single area of the tree.
Sunday, November 29, 2020
Monday, November 9, 2020
We've had two companies come to give quotes on the basement now, and generally positive news there - doesn't sound like the wall is actively damp and both companies sounded hopeful that the mold problem isn't widespread. Just overall hopeful that it will be a pretty quick and relatively inexpensive/painless fix.
One of the companies is a general contracting company and, on a whim, I asked if they also can fix dry rot. Our inspector noted some on an exterior window sill when we bought the house. This issue has been in the back of my mind since we moved in - one of those things that you're terrified to start getting fixed because it can suddenly become a much bigger issue/repair than you thought it would be, but you also know that by putting it off you're increasing the odds that it'll be a bigger repair. So figured while we had a company that could deal with this out, we may as well have them take a look.
The news on the rot was not good, unfortunately. Apparently the compromised part of the window on old windows like ours you can't just easily cut out and replace. Or if you tried to it'd be super expensive. They said we'll be spending about the same money to just replace the entire window. There's a beam above the window that he was particularly worried about because it has no protection from the elements but is a support beam for the house. So if that's gone bad it becomes a big job. Now, if we're very lucky, all we'll need to do is remove and replace the window (they might even be able to save the mahogany window trim). If they pull it out and discover the rot has spread, then we're likely to have asbestos in the walls and that becomes the nightmare increasing costs scenario. They won't even quote for the asbestos abatement because we can't predict yet if it'll be needed and cost would depend on the extent of the rot, so is highly unpredictable. So the whole thing is rather terrifying to think about. Silver lining is getting a couple new (less drafty) windows. And I'll have some peace of mind once it's done.
At least I've finished paying off student loans before we're doing all of this house work?
Saturday, October 31, 2020
Day 4: Made some calls to a couple places to request quotes on fixing our basement (remember our first fall when we discovered water leaking in? We got the external drainage issues fixed pretty quickly (we think...), but are pretty sure there's mold in the wall and it's taken us until now to be ready to fix that). Hopefully we'll hear back soon and be able to move forward on that work. It'll be so nice to have the full basement useable without worrying about what horrors may be growing in the wall.
Also did some more baking, with some cinnamon star bread. This is one I've been wanting to try out for a while. Turned out to be quite easy, but looks and tastes amazing. Our house isn't exactly warm, so my proving times definitely took longer than called for in the recipe, but that's okay.
Day 5: Honey Popcorn. Several years ago we planned to make this a Halloween tradition and then..didn't. Guess we got busy with other things. But since we aren't doing costumes or trick or treating this year, decided we should bring this back.
Halloween: Headed to Emily and Daniel's place to sit distanced around the firepit, enjoy our popcorn, and roast some marshmallows. Mal declared it the "best night ever". Uncle Daniel introduced the kids to roasting Starbursts, which they both loved. All in all, a great weekend evening and one we'll have to repeat soon.
Wednesday, October 28, 2020
I have to take two weeks of furlough over the next few months and was able to get this week as my first one - which, after the past few weeks, turned out to be even better timing than I had anticipated.
Day 1: House cleaners came, so we hung out outside for a couple hours. Unfortunately, it was quite cold here earlier this week, so this wasn't so pleasant. Once the kids hit a school break, I placed our bagel order and had everyone get in the car while I picked up the bagels. Then we decided we should keep ourselves warm a bit longer by driving by Daniel and Emily's house. Ryan was the only one who had seen it up close before, so that was a good excuse to drive by.
But the big afternoon activity was the exciting one - I hung up the artwork! Huge thanks to my mom and sister for their long-distance assistance in thinking through where and how to hang these. Ryan and I had thought about spreading them out through various rooms and I was a bit worried about having them all in the living room (would it make the whole room feel like it has a "theme"?). Partly because we have so many walls and so little to go on them. And even when thinking about the living room I was thinking they'd have to be spread all throughout the room. Then realized they work so much better all together here, which prevents the room from feeling like is themed around this one thing, but also tells the story so much better than they would spread all over. Having some art on those walls also helps this little corner feel less disjointed from the rest of the room. This is why I have my mom and sister help with this stuff - I'm terrible at visualizing things like this and they're not.
Sunday, October 25, 2020
Well, had a nice roll of fairly consistent posting there until September hit. September meant the start of school and ramping up preparations for an organizational go-live at work (we changed our electronic health record, a process that's been in the works for over 2 years). I was a superuser for that, which meant I had to assist others in our department before, during, and after go-live. Basically, worked many 10-12 hour days, 6 days a week for the past few weeks. But got to be on-site again, which I've missed so much! I've also moved into the ketogenic/biochemical genetics cohort at least through the end of the year, which means at the same time as go-live I was also training in keto (ugh, no you shouldn't do keto to lose weight, it is only evidence-based for intractable epilepsy and is actually quite dangerous if not monitored carefully). It's been stressful, but I'm really enjoying being in a stable place.
Our weekend baking has dropped off considerably with all this. But I did make up some mini donuts one day! And had serious issues making the glaze. Not really sure why. The chocolate chips I had on hand were Nestle; not sure if they changed something in their formulation recently, but every time I tried to melt them they just became a semi-melted, semi-solid gloopy separated mess! Never had that happen before. I finally just pulled out some baking chocolate squares and that worked immediately. So bizarre, but enough of an issue that I'll likely stick to Ghirardelli chocolate chips in future. Had recently had those and melted them without issue. Donuts were oven-baked and just from a KAB mix and were delicious. It's tempting to get a couple regular-size donut pans, but we don't really have room for them so we won't.
And we tried some new teas! We needed to replenish our MarketSpice (cinnamon orange) tea anyway, so also grabbed some Princess Grey while I was at it. Got a very small amount of their Egg Nog as well. Ryan was not a fan of the egg nog tea; I didn't mind it, but definitely not one I'll sit and drink a lot of. Princess Grey, on the other hand, is delicious. I enjoy Earl Grey typically and also enjoy a good London Fog now and then (if I get it at Starbucks I request they use waaay less sweetener than they typically put in - they make both their chai latte and their London Fog super syrupy and cloying - yuck). This has some of those London Fog flavors (lavender), but without the sweetener. I think we're rapidly approaching the need to clear out and dedicate a whole cupboard shelf to our tea supply.
|Isn't that gorgeous? Earl Grey + rose + lavender|
Monday, August 31, 2020
Malcolm and I were hoping to make a fougasse this weekend, but the GBBO version called for bread flour and the King Arthur Baking version called for dry milk, both difficult to find. So that will have to wait for a future bake. Instead I decided Millionaire's Shortbread would be fun to try.
The shortbread portion was easy enough. We got that in the oven and baked then started on the caramel while that was cooling. The kids and I all took turns stirring, though some of my control/anxiety comes out on things like this and I was constantly itching to take back over the stirring since I really wasn't confident in the kids' ability to actually stir properly and avoid burning. I was so worried about it burning and about following the instructions exactly (which just talked about getting it to thicken and not so much about the color), that I forgot to use my brain and previous knowledge about what color caramel should be. And didn't really make that realization until it was already poured on top of the shortbread and in the fridge. But it at least seemed thick enough!
Sunday, August 23, 2020
The kids were supposed to be at Camp Quest this week, but that is, of course, cancelled this year. They did get camp shirts still though!
Lots of leafy green, very little carrot! We had a good laugh about it, but it still tasted good. And we have several others growing that will hopefully get a bit longer than that!
This weekend's bake was the classic Bakewell Tart. The combination of flavors is mentioned/used so frequently on GBBO, that this became a must-try. We used a King Arthur Baking recipe again, but switched out the raspberry jam for cherry. We'd decided we wanted to try out frangipane and this particular combo of frangipane-cherry flavor. This bake also gave me the opportunity to try out the ceramic baking beans I bought with some of my birthday gift cards, so I was excited about that.
I threw in my pie chain weight (that was never sufficient on its own) as well, just for good measure. I think the ceramic would've been plenty though. And this is the first time I've tried a blind bake where the bottom of the pastry crust didn't bubble up! So already pleased with this purchase.
It's tasty, but the almond extract is the predominant flavor by far. This looks like the typical proportions based on pictures on the internet, but I still wonder if we needed more jam and maybe less almond extract. I looked up a variety of frangipane recipes, and some use almond extract while others use vanilla (and rely on just the almond flour for the almond flavor), others use a combination of almond and vanilla extracts, while still others don't use any extracts at all. So lots of future experimentation that we can do with this recipe to determine what our preferences are.
All of us enjoyed it, except for Mal. He wasn't much of a fan day of, but tried it again today and decided he did like it after all. This was another one that was pretty easy, so we'll have to make it again. We also have custard tart on our "to-do" list, which is one I'd really like to get good at since I love custards, pudding, mousse and such things.