Thursday, January 31, 2013

Google takes StreetView to the Grand Canyon

This is pretty cool.  You can walk down Bright Angel Trail and look at view points.  The video quality is quite amazing.

The comfortable house

I have a book titled "The Comfortable House"  by Alan Gowans.  It's one of those things that I remember a little differently than how the book really is.  Let's just say it is more scholarly than I remember and then let's talk about how I define the comfortable house.

By comfortable house, I mean the everyday houses built in America in the early part of the twentieth century.   They weren't fancy or expensive. Many of them were sold as kits.  They come in different styles...cottages and bungalows and four squares and farm houses and dutch colonials.   They have bead board and built ins and kitchens painted a soft creamy color.  They have upstairs bedrooms with slanted ceilings.  And a front porch and a back porch.  They are simple and lovely and homey.

My very favorite comfortable houses were set in bungalow courts, which are small neighborhoods of houses that faced a central common space.   Everyone sat on their porches and hung out.  Or at least, that is how I imagine it..

Bungalow court

For more bungalow court photos, click here

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Kindred spirits

Yesterday I visited Sharon and Jeff in their wonderful restored house which they blog about here.  They also live in Laurelhurst.  I live in the southern end and they live in the northern end.  I walked there and it was indeed a lovely walk, about a mile and a half.

I am astounded by how much they have done in just a few short years.  I am a sucker for beautiful staircases and here is theirs.  I like the baluster design, with the narrow ones and then a wide one at a regular interval.

Their house is a high class full on Craftsman design with fir wood work.   It's a pretty fancy house with lots of detail.  All the woodwork was painted but they stripped it and shellacked it, which is quite an undertaking.

Sharon and Jeff are kindred spirits but they are kindred spirits on steroids.  Well, not really steroids, but certainly with more energy and attention to detail than we possess these days.  Explore their blog and you, too, will be in awe of what they have done.

Missing the door to summer

So here it is the end of January.  The days are getting blessedly longer.  There are some flowers blooming like viburnum bodnantense and daphne and winter sweet and they smell so good.  But I am missing sitting on the front porch and sitting in the back yard.  I am missing this...

 Where is the door to summer?

Monday, January 28, 2013

Like nectar of the gods

That's how good our homemade chicken broth tastes... like nectar of the gods.  We use the very best chickens we can find, from local farms.  And, yes, it DOES make a difference.  It's twice as good as the best chickens we can get at even high quality grocery stores.  We add the usual suspects... onions, celery, carrots, garlic, ginger, bay leaves, parsley, peppercorns.  And we simmer it in our five gallon pot for several hours (three to four).

Ready to cook


The next day, after it has spent the night in the refrigerator, we put it in containers and freeze it.  I always feel rich when we have a new batch of chicken broth.

Today we used the first quart to make our breakfast which is broth with carrots, Chinese cabbage, Annie Chun's mini wontons,  cilantro, ginger, green onion, and lemon grass.  Oh, so very good.  Mmm mmm.

Breakfast soup

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Strong-like-bull base cabinets

John is making VERY sturdy base cabinets.  He is reinforcing the face frames and drawer slide attachments so they will be very sturdy.  He's always been into sturdy.  I remember when the building inspector came to look at our new deck in a long ago house and asked him if he planned to park a car on it.

This cabinet carcass is done.  It is about three feet wide.  It will have a cutting board pullout, two top drawers, and two big lower drawers.  For the top level drawers, he chose to add a reinforced piece between them for extra support instead of just using slide hangers.  The face frame is reinforced for the middle drawer, just for some extra support. The handles on the sides are temporary to make the cabinet easy to move.

Close up

 Here is the largest of our cabinets which is just over four feet wide.  This picture shows the carcass before the face frame is attached and before all the reinforcement.  It is on its back, ready for the face frame.

Face frame lying on the cabinet.

 The sink cabinet face frame pieces labelled for their purposes.  This cabinet he calls BC3.  I do not know what all the other mysterious labels mean.

Roasted Vegetables

We are in love with roasted vegetables.   Preheat your oven to 400 degrees, coat the vegetables lightly with olive oil, spread them on a sheet pan lined with parchment paper.  Do not crowd them.   Bake about 20 minutes or until they brown lightly.  Take them out and salt them with some nice salt.

Heirloom carrots in the oven

Carrots coming out of the oven

Cauliflower ready to bake

Cauliflower ready to eat

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Sink Cabinets Update

Face frame glue up

The sink wall cabinets are coming along.  A little slowly because we are living a slowed down life, which is very nice.  John is enjoying the pace more than he did the island project.  I am glad of that.  Sometimes I get excited about how it is going to be and I can hardly wait.  But I've learned that anticipation is a fun part of the  process.

The cabinet carcasses with their face frames and supports for drawer slides are nearly done.  There are four base cabinets and three uppers.  After the carcasses, he moves on to doors and drawers and cutting boards.

Here are some in progress photos.

Face frame glue up

Face frame glue up

The big guy...about four feet wide

The middle sized guy... about three feet wide

Face frame parts...stickered milled poplar

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Four weeks post cast

It's four weeks since my cast came off and ten weeks since my fall.  Here are the goals I had two weeks ago:

  • write longhand, even for a short time, without pain
  • write/draw with smooth motions instead of small jerky motions
  • sleep through the night without pain in my arm waking me up
  • drive without it hurting when I turn the wheel for a corner
  • cut up a raw carrot
  • peel potatoes

I am happy that I HAVE seen improvements in the last two weeks.  I can write, draw and sleep through the night but I am still having issues using a knife.  I just have so little strength in my wrist and using a knife causes me pain.  I don't know about driving because I haven't driven in the last two weeks.

I've been doing some sewing and I have a very hard time using my iron (because it is too heavy for me to pick up) and using scissors.  Cutting with scissors causes tingling even though I am careful to cut for very short times.   It took me days to cut out the shirt I am making.  And I can't use my rotary cutter at all.

My arm/wrist/hand still gives me pain from time to time, especially if I over use it.  I don't mean to over use it.  I don't know I am over using it until it begins to complain.

I still get that asleep feeling in various parts of my hand.  I find that very annoying.  The tingling is like having electricity going through my hand,  and I hate shocks.  The chiropractor made the tingling better with an adjustment last week.  He tells me I am doing very well and that I should be patient.  It generally takes six months to heal from the trauma of a wrist fracture (tendons and ligaments are especially slow to heal).  The chiropractor seems confident it will heal completely.  I sure hope so. 

All in all it is enough better that I sometimes forget I broke it and when it hurts me, my first thought is "why does my arm hurt?"... oh yeah, I broke my wrist.  

Monday, January 21, 2013

The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel

The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel

This is one of those movies that has a dream like quality and yet tells a
story so well and so clearly.  It has some great actresses as well.  Judy Dench.  Maggie Smith.  It took me to another place and reminded me of how to live.  Can't beat that.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

The birdhouse

The birdhouse I ordered on Etsy came.  I really like it and enjoyed decorating it a little more.

You can see what it looked like before here

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Two Perspectives on our weather

According to the National Weather Service, we are going to be living in black and white the next several days and the sun is not going to come up.

But according to KATU this is our upcoming weather....

Pretty different, huh?

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Two Weeks Post Cast

I am more or less a two armed person.  I can do my wrist flexibility exercises with more ease.  I can do more cooking tasks but still all too often need assistance.  I am still a limited two arm person.

Here are some things I want to be able to do and still cannot do
  • write longhand, even for a short time, without pain
  • write/draw with smooth motions instead of small jerky motions
  • sleep through the night without pain in my arm waking me up
  • drive without it hurting when I turn the wheel for a corner
  • cut up a raw carrot
  • peel potatoes

This week my arm has been bothering me a lot at night when I am trying to sleep.  It's actually been worse, not better.  I wonder if it is because I have been working more than I should, assuming that I want to sleep at night.  And I DO want to sleep at night.   It doesn't hurt like that when I am awake.  Last night I had to get up because that was the only way to get it to stop hurting.

Here's a link for wrist physical therapy exercises with good directions and photos.  Best ones I found, anyway.

Update: It IS bad for me to work.  I was told to back off.  And I am sleeping through the night now.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

My overall overalls history

I've been wearing overalls all my married life, which is most of my adult life.  I've been wearing them and dyeing them and modifying them and even making them from scratch.  I have quite a collection from all those years, even though several pair are no longer with me.

I even wore a pair on my wedding day, not during the wedding but when we went for a romantic walk after the wedding.  They were over dyed railroad stripe overalls and they happened to be my first pair of overalls. It was pretty much love at first sight.

Overalls on my wedding day

From then on, I wore overalls.  I wore other kinds of clothes as well back then.  These days I hardly wear anything except overalls.  They are the ultimate comfort clothing.  I like having my pockets in the bib where objects are handy but don't bother me when I walk.  I've grown to dislike waistbands and tight clothes.

For years I wore OshKosh overalls but they stopped making adult sizes years ago so I had to switch brands.  These days I wear Dickies that I modify to suit my needs.  I cut off the hammer loop which gets caught on things.  I remove the front zipper which serves no purpose for me and is uncomfortable.  I remove the adjustable strap hardware and sew the straps to the length I prefer.  I take a tuck in the front bib, sort of like a bust dart.  I open up the crotch seam so I can use the toilet without taking them down (this is a great modification).  I also shorten them.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013


Wintersweet (Chimonanthus) flowers smell better than anything.  It blooms in winter and there are some of these shrubs in our nearby park.  The shrubs are big rangy things and the flowers are quite small but their scent is very powerful.

Tangy Spicy Green Beans

One of my very favorite dishes is tangy spicy green beans.  It's a Chinese dish.  The original recipe calls for deep frying the green beans in the wok.  Recently we started roasting the green beans in the oven instead of deep frying them.  Makes the dish taste even better and is easier to do as well... a win, win.

green beans drying on towels after washing

Putting a little olive oil on the green beans before roasting

Ready to eat... yum!

Monday, January 7, 2013

Sink Cabinet Progress

John has been working away on the sink wall cabinets.

The three uppers stored in the corner....

Jointing wood (making it square)

The first lower cabinet.  It has its slot for the cutting board and it has drawer slide supports.

Closeup of cutting board slot


Yup, this is how work makes me feel....

Just Peachy Photos

Just Peachy is a great local photographer.  I first ran across her photos on Portland Hikers.  She also has a Flickr site and she just posted this beautiful photo.  Have a look!

Just Peachy winter photo

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Colder than a well digger's butt

That's how cold our recent weather feels.  How cold is it?  In the thirties with a mean gorge wind that makes being outside unpleasant.

Yes, that is how much of a weather wimp I am.  But YOU may not have felt the force of that cold gorge wind.  The Columbia river gorge is a wind tunnel and our neighborhood is in its path.  And I hate the wind.  it makes me crazy.  Well, crazier...

New ideas for breakfast

We are expanding/changing our idea of what breakfast foods to eat.  Right now we are exploring Asian noodle/broth dishes... like pho and mini wontons in chicken broth.  Today John made a breakfast sort of soup using our homemade chicken broth, Annie Chun mini wontons, bean sprouts, with some cilantro, green onion, and chili paste for garnish.  It was pretty easy and quick and very good.  We ate it before I thought to get a photo.  Sorry.  Next time.

We really like the Annie Chun mini wontons.  John also pan fries them (to brown them), steams them with a little broth and makes a dipping sauce (soy, white wine, red wine vinegar, grated ginger, cilantro, green onion, sesame oil and hot sauce).  It's one of my favorite meals.  Annie Chun products are available in all the grocery stores we shop in.

The view over the fence

Our neighbors took down their camelia bushes.  They talked to us first to be sure we were okay with it (we have the best neighbors EVER).  We were in favor of it because it means more light for our teeny tiny back yard.  But the view over the fence to the neighbors next to them is less than ideal.

The fence is ours.  We will remove the horizontal pieces.  I want to put some whimsical birdhouses on top of the fence to give the eye something to focus on.  I don't want to block all the light.  And if some birds move in, all the better.

I found and ordered this from Etsy.  It's got a nice whimsical shape.  I intend to add a shingled roof, a decorative door and maybe some other decorative elements.

We also plan to build a few ourselves and  use this one as a prototype design  starting place (they won't be the same as this one)

You can order one here if you like.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

One week post cast

It's been one week since my cast came off.  The physician's assistant (at the orthopedist office) said to measure my progress in weeks, not days.  It's much improved in a week.

the bump

Pain in my arm woke me a lot in the first week but finally last night it didn't.  Yea!!!  My wrist is not as stiff though it has much further to go.  The pain mostly comes from the outside of my wrist where there is a bump but the bone that broke was the inside (radius) bone... there was a small bone fragment noted in the original x-ray.  I always imagine that is what hurts but who knows.  The wrist has lots of ligaments and tendons and joints and bones and complexity.  It hurts like something is being stretched, so probably not a bone fragment.

At least it is getting better.  And it feels good to work it.  Sometimes by the end of the day it complains that I've used it too much but I just love using it!  I really do.  I can use a dust pan.  I can cut my nails.  I can  use a knife some.  So many every day things.   I can only work with a keyboard for a fairly short time but it is getting longer.

The sidewalk where I fell is on one of our regular errand routes and today the people were outside.  It was nice to talk to them.  They were very glad to see me doing better.  It was sweet.

Back to playing with my silly putty...

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

What to eat

In the past few months I've been working on improving our diet.  Our mainstream American diet and the foods that we can buy at the supermarket make it difficult to eat wisely.   Our food production is about quantity, not quality.  Our food makes us fat and unhealthy.  In my household, we are moving to a more plant based diet.  It's good for us, good for the animals, good for the planet. 

My reading plus several documentaries have made me painfully aware of how bad America's food industry is for us.  Personally, I am most horrified by how the animals are treated.  I am not against eating meat.  I am against abusing animals.  And the meat you can buy in the supermarket comes from truly abused animals. 

Chickens get their beaks trimmed off and are bred to have so much breast meat that their legs can't hold them up.  They are kept in horrible conditions.  Pigs are abused.  Cows are abused.  Everything is abused by big business.   The animals.  The land.  And us. 

Dairy is also an issue for me.. my middle name is better-with-butter....  I think dairy food isn't very good for me but I do love the taste.  I've also faced the fact that dairy cows are pretty mistreated.  Their calves are taken away when they are 2 days old.  The calves mostly become veal, a terrible life for them.  The dairy cows are fed a bad diet that makes them produce more milk but is very hard on them.  Like us, they are made fat and miserable.  

So, what to do?  I plan to cut back on dairy and am working on getting my dairy products and meat more directly from farms that treat their animals humanely. 

I am looking for Step 5 animal products. Whole Foods has a great explanation of the Steps.

And, guess what?  They taste better, too.  Our current American diet is based on making food cheap and convenient.  I think we are paying a terrible price in quality. 
If you want to learn more, check out these documentaries, which are available on Netflix instant play.

Forks Over Knives
Hungry for Change
Food Fight
Food Inc is good, too, but not on instant play.

May we all eat better in the New Year.