Friday, September 30, 2016

Elegy for a Drywall Screw

Once upon a late night dreary, though we were feeling weak and weary
We had a quaint and curious notion to improve our second floor -
While I nodded, nearly napping, suddenly there came a tapping,
As of my husband gently snapping, screwing drywall past the bedroom door.
'Tis the last piece, I muttered, snapped behind the bedroom door;
Only this last piece, then nothing more.

Ah, distinctly I remember a chill worse than December
As I heard the muffled shouting and the curses that he swore;
Anxiously I called upstairs - was everything okay up there?
Did something need to be repaired - repaired up on the second floor?
With the very final piece of drywall to install up on the second floor?
Silence there and nothing more.

Presently my man appeared; looking worse than I had feared
"Love," said he, "my darling, truly your forgiveness I implore;
But the fact is I was drilling, and that last piece was so thrilling,
That I put a screw into the drainpipe that runs to the second floor.
We'll have to call the plumber - though our budget will be sore -
We must do this, or nothing more.

Now the drywall, though it's fitting, still is sitting, still is sitting
Unfinished and unmoving in the empty second floor;
And unless the plumber calls to tell us how to save our walls,

By fixing up the punctured drain pipe that we tore
Will we ever finish the walls upon our second floor?
Quoth my nightmares, "Nevermore!"

In the immortal words of the Bard: oops.

The closest thing we have to a raven.

Saturday, September 24, 2016


The saga of the plum, installment #2.

So you've dried some plums for prunes, but you still have more. Well, you've earned some dessert, so it's time for cake!

There's a famous plum cake that is equal parts easy and delicious. It was published by Marian Burros in the New York Times in 1983, and was so popular that they reprinted it every year until the mid-90s. I used the recipe as reprinted and with comments as Purple Plum Torte on Smitten Kitchen. You'll find all the details there. But in short:

I mixed up the batter - it seriously only has 5 ingredients. Then I poured it into my trusty springform. 

Then gently press halved plums into the top, cut-side down. 

Then I sprinkled the top with lemon juice, followed by cinnamon and sugar. Smitten Kitchen points out that the 1 Tbsp of cinnamon called for in the Times was a misprint, and the topping was only supposed to include 1 tsp. But I have something of a cinnamon addiction, so I took the mistake as permission to heap on as much as I wanted. 

Bake, let it cool, then unmold. Enjoy the delicious jammy pockets of plummy goodness that have soaked into the cake! And if you can't finish it all, it keeps well and even gets better the second day. 


Saturday, September 17, 2016

Put Him in the Wall

If Brett gives me sass, I put him in the wall. Literally.

Yes, this is a long-awaited update on my very favorite childhood fantasy feature! This space is going to be hidden behind a bookshelf, but it's still going to be usable for storage. So we're drywalling inside the wall. It's a whole trippy new perspective on the universe.

It will be nice to have this as a finished space, both for any stuff we keep in there and/or so it's comfortable for me to hide in when I'm introverting. And definitely don't accept any casks of amontillado in our house.

Hermione is always welcome to come in, though. It is her house, after all.

Saturday, September 10, 2016

Lavender Blue, Lavender Green

That's actually a somewhat odd refrain for a song, since as far as I know, lavender is pretty much always purple.

Or at least, the brand new lavender hedge in our garden will be!

On a whim, I talked Brett into taking me to the garden store over Labor Day weekend. It's our anniversary, so I guess he was more prepared to indulge me in far too much time and money spent cooing over various plants and complaining about the current sorry state of our yard.

We've wanted to plant lavender along the rock raised beds for a long time. It will look gorgeous against the stone, and add color and scent to the vegetable garden. It's a crop in its own right. Plus, lavender attracts bees and pollinators. I've seen quite a bit of it around, so I assume it does well here although it's not as dry and sandy as it prefers.

I wandered over to the lavender plants... just to look, of course!... right. One of the staff members helped us figure out which variety would be best for us, and then let us know that it was all on sale for 40% off. Who could resist? We bought an entire flat of 'Grosso' lavender.

We spaced them about 2 feet apart all the way along the wall. The plants are small now, but when they're full grown they'll fill in most of the gaps between them.

Lavender likes a lot of drainage, and our soil tends towards a heavier clay. So to improve drainage and keep weeds down, I mulched with pea gravel.

Schlepping around literal bags of rocks is tiring, but at least the cool fall weather is perfect for hot, sweaty outdoor work. I love fall!

And so does Hermie. 
I can't wait to watch the lavender fill in.

Monday, September 5, 2016

Plum Job

I promised some posts on what we were doing with our fruit. This year, I tried a couple new things with plums. Both turned out really well, if I do say so myself. (And I do. So there.)

I don't know the exact variety that's growing in our yard, but it looks like some kind of Italian prune plum - small, oblong, and freestone. They grow like crazy around here, and there's a point every summer where people seem to start getting a little overwhelmed about what to do with them all. My favorite kind of problem to have!

First up, super easy (but kinda slow and messy) - dried plums. (Don't call them prunes in front of my husband, or he'll feel old and refuse to eat them.)

Halve or quarter the plums, discarding the pits. The smaller the section, the faster the drying time, and the smaller and chewier the final product.

"Pop" the sections by putting your thumb on the roundest part of the outside and pushing up - basically turning the plum inside-out. The Almighty Internet tells me that this helps them to dry faster, and I figured it couldn't do any harm, so I went with it. I don't know how helpful it actually was.

I don't have a dehydrator, and let's be honest, you probably don't either. No problem! We both have ovens. Set the oven to 135F or the lowest it will go - ours won't work below 170, and everything turned out fine. I saw some sources recommending leaving the door cracked with a fan pointing in to speed drying. However, thanks to the culinary and kitchen design wisdom of my mother, my oven has a convection setting. So we just used that.

Put the plum sections on a Silat or parchment lined baking sheet, or on a tray above a baking sheet for better air circulation. Pop them in the oven.

Not gonna lie, posting this picture makes me identify a little with Georgia O'Keeffe.
Now the hard part - waiting! My trays took about 8 hours to dry. I saw estimates that ranged anywhere from 6 to 36 hours, depending on your methods, so use your judgement. Either way, I highly recommend not getting overexcited and starting this project at 5pm. Not that I would ever do such a thing.

Plum perfect! 
Drying concentrates the sugars, so the dried plums will taste sweeter than fresh. Let your prunes cool, put them in an airtight container in the fridge, and enjoy a sweet healthy snack that will make everyone else's afternoon yogurt feel jealous.