Friday, August 29, 2008


I'm always a little sad as summer starts to fade. But it's softened by the beautiful change in light and the bumper harvest of things I wasn't sure would make it a month ago. Though my tomatoes look AWFUL, they're still producing, and I've frozen lots of sauce. The zucchini and melon have caught powdery mildew, but they're still growing. The green beans offer up new pods every other day, and the bell peppers are finally doing something other than dropping their flowers. (I hesitate to say they're producing peppers...I don't want to jinx them.)

I made a roasted root vegetable side dish tonight that outshone the grilled steak we had by a mile. (And the steak was good...) I highly recommend the recipe (from The Roasted Vegetable by Chesman).

3-4 pounds of root vegetables (I used 4 medium carrots, 3 large beets, 1 kohlrabi, 2 medium parsnips); peeled and cut into approximately 1-inch cubes
2 medium onions, peeled and quartered, root end left intact to hold layers together
head of garlic, cloves separated and peeled
2 tbsp chopped fresh thyme (could also use rosemary or sage; can substitute dried but cut down to 2 tsp.)
3 tbsp olive oil
salt and pepper
1/4 c chopped walnuts (optional, but I highly recommend)
chopped parsley to add at end

Spread 1 tbsp olive oil in baking dish (I used a 13 x 9 glass dish). Preheat oven to 400. Add all ingredients except walnuts and parsley to dish; drizzle with rest of oil. Mix to coat evenly, spread veggies into as flat a layer as possible. Roast 20 minutes, stir. Roast 20 minutes, stir. If veggies seem close to done, roast 15 minutes and add walnuts, stir. (If veggies don't seem close to done, start stirring at 10 minute intervals.) Roast 5-10 minutes more. Sprinkle with parsley, serve. You don't really need anything else, but it's a nice accompaniment to grilled steak or pork tenderloin. :)

Wednesday, August 27, 2008


First day of school: done.

I don't know if it's the same for other teachers, but the first day of school is such an adrenaline rush while the kids are there (Is my dress tucked in my underwear? Is there food in my teeth? Have I rubbed my make-up all over my face? Have I just said something stupid? Who are these children?) that when they leave, I'm DONE. It's like someone sticks a pin in me and I deflate almost instantly.

Strangely, it's not a bad thing. It just is. And obviously it lessens as the days pass.

It's early to say, but I'm going to put out there that I LOVE my new 8th grade administrator. She's a teacher and learner. What else needs to be said? :)

Friday, August 22, 2008

Excitement All Around


So much for not having enough to do during the summer. I'm making up for it this week.

Larry says one day last week, "I'm looking at Jeeps online." This is good, because I've wanted a Jeep Wrangler since I was 12, and I told him that if we got a boat I wanted a Wrangler to pull it. He was listening! (We don't have the boat yet. We're doing this in stages.)

On our fourth test drive, we found a used Wrangler with hard and soft tops and acceptable mileage. The dealer met our price, and voila! We own a Jeep.

Today we took said vehicle (we take turns driving but both would happily drive all the time) into Boston. Larry found a Boston Harbor Lighthouse tour, and we both love the harbor and islands so we jumped at the chance. The day was BEAUTIFUL--92 by the afternoon, but when we went it was about 75 and crept up to about 85.

The tour meets at Moakley Courthouse, which is a very cool building; the wall that faces the harbor is all glass. It sets some kind of record, but I can't remember what. Anyway, we boarded and left at 10 a.m. and it took about 45 minutes to get out to Little Brewster Island, which is where the Boston Harbor Light is; it's the only keepered light left in the U.S. (Keepered instead of manned because the keeper is a woman. She's the first appointed female keeper--at least of this light. She may be of all of them; there were other women who took over after husbands died, but the park ranger said he thought she was the first ever appointed to the job.)

We had about 1 1/4 hours on the island, so Larry and I walked around and spoke to some of the rangers on duty. The other two lights, Minot and Graves, are both visible from Little Brewster; they're automated. We can hear their fog beacons at home.
We were able to climb to the top and see the light itself. It was made in the 1850's, and I'm not 100% remembering, but I think it's called a Frenel (Franel?) light. It was amazing. The day was clear so we could see approximately 25 miles out to sea--we could see further if it weren't for the curvature of the earth. All around us were the other islands, and in the distance we could see Boston. She looked like a toy city hovering on the water. If you're ever in Boston, I highly recommend the trip. As soon as I figure out how to make the files small enough, I'll post some pictures.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Sure, why not?

I signed up for Facebook. I'm not convinced of the value of these things, other than as ways to reconnect with people I used to know. That's a good thing. I'm not so sure about the option to play games, etc. Although I don't have to add them, so that works out just fine.

Interestingly, my husband's Facebook account doesn't seem to show him as married. Hmm... :)

Back to work in a week and a day. I hauled supplies and materials from my office to the car today, and it's remarkable how great my office looks. It has been a running battle to keep the room from turning into a first floor storage closet (since so many older New England homes don't have closets, ours included, this seems to always be an issue...or maybe I'm just a slob). Once I get the second window in here painted, I can set up the bookshelf again and it will be even better. It only took three years to make it workable!

Montana has just joined me. He's growing so much. At the vet's a week ago he was 40 pounds! He's still just as rotten; his newest thing is pooping on the brick walkway up to our house. What, our grass isn't good enough? Luckily for him, he's still darned cute and has a great personality. We'll keep him.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

The sun is back! It has shone on our little yellow house for two days in a row, and it is remarkable how much better I feel. The dogs and I took a nice long walk today, and I did some potting up of coleus cuttings. (Okay, how cool are those plants? Rip a piece off, stick it in water, and soon you have roots. Put in a pot with soil, repeat.) This is a photo of the house from the day we decided to buy it--there's a garden and fence out front these days. And no Christmas decorations, but only because Larry makes me take them down. I'll have to take a picture to post.

I never thought I'd admit this, and I know I won't get sympathy from my non-teacher friends or friends that work through the summer...but I'm ready to go back to work. It seems I'm not very good at keeping myself busy enough to keep from getting tired of myself. It would be better if there were people to "play with" but most of my friends actually have lives and did things this summer. Granted, I cooked and baked up a storm and did gardening when the weather permitted, but mostly I read or invented reasons to leave the house. I knew I was in trouble the day I was excited about going to the grocery store.

So I don't sound like a total whiner, there were some great things this summer: learning more about guided reading in the class I took with Kelli, day trips to farms and museums and quaint towns with Larry (UNBELIEVABLY cool toy store in Newburyport called Eureka), a few weeks where I read two books a day, the time with Beth and Rebecca, and with Mom at the beginning of summer. And I did finally go to Walden Pond, which was lovely and a little bit spiritual. And I drove in the city twice without directions without getting lost! Okay, the summer wasn't a total waste.

I'm just used to being busy and on the go. So I know what to do differently next summer (in fact, if I don't work I'll definitely find a place to volunteer). And there's still a week left of this one and I have plans, so it will go out on a high note.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

A Good Weekend

I got a gift this weekend: two days with my husband, no baseball. (Not the Red Sox, but the team he plays on.) He skipped yesterday's game so we could go pick peaches, and today's was cancelled because the other team forfeited. While I don't mind him playing, this was nice.

We pick peaches at a place in NH called Applecrest Orchard. It's still early, so all they had were white peaches; they're good, but not as sweet and "peachy" as I like my eating peaches. That's okay though, because I turned a few pounds into freezer jam, and a few pounds will be turned into smoothies, and a few pounds will be turned into cobbler and barbecue sauce and... :) I'll just cook with these and we'll pick yellow peaches later. Those I eat over the sink, dripping them everywhere and smiling. Definitely my favorite fruit.

Today we went to the South End Open Market; it's a combination farmer's market and craft/stuff market. We got yummy bread and some vegetables (if I can't grow my own darned tomatoes this summer to make sauce, I'll buy them...), and picked up a gift for my sister-in-law. Then we walked to Flour, a bakery with the most amazing sticky buns I've ever had in my life.

After breakfast we wandered around the South End, which is quite a thriving community. It's an interesting mix of wealthy, middle class, and poor. For a long time, the area was primarily home to projects, but people started moving in and rennovating old buildings and it has yuppified in the last decade. The projects are still there, right in the middle. Every time we head into that area of the city, I wonder how the "people who were there first" feel about what has happened. Is it a case of being glad that the area is well-kept and bustling, or is it a case of "white people moving in and making things unaffordable." I suppose it's a mix. The only thing I know for sure is that Larry and I really like walking around the area.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

A Warning

I don't know how useful this post will be, since I don't know if anyone other than four of my friends reads it, but it might make me feel better...

Last spring Larry and I contracted with Boston Green Building to replace nine of our windows. They said it would take a day, and quoted a price (plus time and materials for trim). The estimate had a "10-15% contingency overage clause" which allowed that there might be things out of the contractor's control and costs could go up that much. We chose the company because they're "green" and we want to support that, and the price seemed reasonable.

The actual work took five days, and the final cost was almost 50% over what the original estimate stated. The company's stance is that they informed us that things were taking longer than they thought. Well, duh. The guy was here five days instead of one, so we might have noticed that. What they DIDN'T inform us of was that costs had spiraled so high. Naively, we thought that the work was still within the contingency clause. We thought that BGB would be honest enough to say that they'd hit the estimate ceiling, and they'd hit the clause ceiling, and that costs were going to be considerably over both.


Stay away from this company. We now suspect them of under-representing the time/money it would take so they could get the job. We also suspect them of using our house as a way to up their income: it was never clearly shown to either of us why the job took five days instead of one. All they'd say was, "The house is old and old houses have quirks." Sorry, but this old house and its owners aren't okay with "quirks" that cost us almost 50% more than we were quoted. I'm going to spread the word any way I know how.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Out of the ashes...

Well, okay, maybe it's not that extreme.

After discovering yesterday that pressure canning was not in my future, I began looking for recipes for the overload of beets I had (prematurely) ordered from our CSA. I found a recipe for "Harvard Beets for the Freezer," and used 8 of the beets to make that today. The recipe was very easy and fit nicely in a 3 cup container, which I slid into the freezer. I have to say, though, that it took a lot of willpower not to eat them immediately. They were fabulous, even without the butter that is added when reheated. And that! (If you're interested, the website is ) I'm thinking that even if you don't like beets, you might like these!!

I also found the perfect stainless steel crockpot to use for a boiling water bath on my stovetop, so I'm still in business for high-acid canning. And, I got 20% off of the pot!!

I've also lost another pound! (I know, that doesn't sound like much unless you've been "plateaued" for awhile.)

LeeAnn, it was a pink stone day!

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

The Best Made Plans

My canner arrived today. It was heavy and solid...and on the side of the box it said, "Not for use on flat or glass topped stoves."
Funny, Amazon said nothing about that in its product review. Back in the box, back to Amazon. Back to the drawing board.
It turns out, you can't use any pot on a glass-top stove unless the pot has a flat bottom. This rules out most pressure canners (Presto makes one, but I can't find anywhere locally that will test the gauge, and I'm not willing to risk that) and boiling-water bath canners. I am now in search of a large, flat-bottomed, heavy-duty stock pot. I may not be able to pressure can, but at least I'll be able to put by tomatoes and other high-acid things, like chutneys.
Anyone have a lot of great recipes for beets? I bought a few pounds to pressure can...