Project Patio: Today’s Mission

(Morning reflections.)

I thought you might want to see something pretty before I start showing off the masonry tools and bricks.  We had a lovely sunrise this morning.  I didn’t get around to taking pictures until the sun was up in the sky a bit as I was enjoying the beauty and the quiet.  It didn’t seem right to spoil it by running around with the camera, looking for the best spot to take photos.

Early today the boss of Project Patio — that would be M — assigned me the task of digging up the bricks from the old patio, scraping them, hauling them over to the brick pile, and stacking them.

Look at the ground in the above photo and you will see the old bricks.  (Feel free to admire the brick wall M built while you’re looking.)  You might also notice that there is some plant growth in between the bricks.  I point this out because another part of my assignment was to get the plants, roots, and dirt out of the area.  This involved the occasional trip to the compost pile out by the garden which seems miles and miles away when I’m hauling a heavy bucket filled with dirt, grass, moss, and an assortment of other weeds/plants.  (Ignore the garden tractor and wagon over to the right.  M was using those.  Any hauling I did was by hand/body.)

When I started, I was in the shade.  I thought the job would be a piece of cake.  The first few bricks came out with no problem and without the use of tools other than my hands.  This turned out to be trickery.  As I moved along, the bricks were more firmly entrenched.  The last five bricks (of course!) were the worst of all as they were buried under mats of grass.

It took about four hours, but I did it.  Sort of.  It turns out there were some bricks hiding under the stack shown in the first photo of the old patio.  I will finish it up tomorrow.  I’m exhausted now and ready for a long nap.

However, I’ll have to leave the napping to Bella up there as I have a few more things to accomplish this afternoon, including doing something about dinner.

Before I head off to do the things I need to do, a few more pics.  Just because.

(View of the timothy grass meadow from northern side of the pond.)

I took a little walk around the pond during one of my breaks this afternoon, just to stretch my legs and back.  I was tempted to give up on the bricks, jump in the rowboat, and spend the rest of the day floating on the pond.  We are having such beautiful weather that it’s hard to resist the urge to play or rest (or do a little of both!).

The deer like to bed down in the grass meadow.  We don’t often see them but we do see where they flatten down the grass to get a good night’s sleep.

I found this dragonfly in the grasses on our sledding hill.  I’m having trouble identifying it.  It might be the common sanddragon.  It might not.  If you have a guess (or you know what it is), please leave a comment or email me.  I’m trying to do a better job of identifying and learning about the local flora, fauna, and insect life.

(Don’t forget you can click on the photos for a larger view.)

Small worlds

(Peering into the wildflower meadow.)

Yesterday was hot and sticky with the occasional storm moving through as the cold front advanced on us.  It wasn’t a total washout.  In between getting caught up with the blog, the blogosphere, and homecaring chores, I went out to see what was happening around the pond.

If you look carefully, there is a whole ‘nother world out there inhabited by small creatures.

(Honeybee and thistle.)

I spent a little time down by the pond, playing around with trying to capture some of the dragonflies as they hovered above the water.  It was not a great success.  Next time I’ll take a chair with me as squatting is not a stable position for me, resulting in blurry pictures.  The dragonfly pictured above was perched on the blade of grass.

The sunset captured me again.  Just prior to that I went out to see what I could do with some of the manual settings on the camera.  It’s about time I learn how they work.  I was aiming for the star effect that is sometimes possible with the right light and settings.  It was too bright but I did get a star-like effect on the reflection of the sun in the pond.  It almost looks like the sun fell into the water.

It was another colorful and changeable sunset, going from golden to red.  And we all know what they say about red at night.

Today is lovely now that the clouds are beginning to part.  It’s cooler and much drier than it has been.  Good gardening weather.  M was out in the garden yesterday evening and he said the weeds are thriving.  We get a good crop of weeds every year.  I’ve been wanting to keep the garden all-organic but there are occasions when I think about using a weed-killer to do the weeding for me.  I wouldn’t get as much exercise and fresh air that way, though, so I guess I’ll stick to hand-weeding for now.  Hopefully some of the other measures I took (using a fabric barrier between the rows of asparagus, for instance) will help.

Chasing rainbows

(Sculpture outside of COSI)

M and I went away for the weekend.  The magic of WordPress allowed me to compose my weekend posts ahead of time and schedule them to publish on Saturday and Sunday.  I bet you didn’t even realize I was gone.

We spent the weekend with our oldest son and his family.  Part of the visit included a Saturday morning play date with our oldest granddaughter, the Exquisite Emma.  Emma is five years old now.   She is great fun to have along on a play date.  We went to COSI in Columbus.  For extra fun we brought along a friend of Emma’s.  Her name is Gracie.

Emma and Gracie have both been to COSI numerous times so we let them lead the way, taking M and I around to the things they wanted to do.  M and I have visited COSI numerous times as well.  In fact, you can find a picture of us with our two sons in the Einstein Photomosaic.  I don’t remember what year the photo is from but I think it must be 10-15 years old by now.

After exploring some of the hallway exhibits (such as the hot air balloons, one of which is pictured above), we went to Little Kidspace.  We played Go Fish in the room for the first graders, where Gracie (who is a year older than Emma) will be able to hang out when she starts first grade in the fall and then moved out to the main area where Emma, Gracie, M and I had a blast playing in the houses and with the puppets and other toys.

(Little Kidspace)

When we finished there, Emma and Gracie took us to the Ocean exhibit where they were able to explore and sit in a small submarine.

(Gracie & Emma waiting in line for the submarine.)

The Ocean exhibit is dark in places with red and yellow lighting in other places.  It makes for some interesting photographs.  I’d like to go back sometime and check out the other areas in the exhibit with the new camera.  We didn’t make it all the way through because time was flying by and before we knew it, the girls were hungry and it was time to go to lunch.

(Part of the Ocean exhibit)

We had lunch at the Banana Bean Cafe.  I like the name of the place.  It sounds like fun, don’t you think?  I did check out the reviews to make sure that they had good food to go with their fun name.  Some of the reviews complain about slow service.  In our experience, both food and service were excellent.  It’s true the food doesn’t arrive pronto but it’s not a fast food joint where the food sits under a heat lamp.  They have to prepare and cook the food.  Our drinks (iced tea for M and I, chocolate milk for Emma and Gracie) arrived quickly and the waitress did a good job of checking up on us throughout the meal so when the need arose for fresh napkins or refills on the tea, she was there to do it.

We started by sharing a plate of the fried plantains.  Emma and Gracie had never had plantains before and both were willing to give them a try.  They seemed to like them at first and then wanted the outer part removed so they could eat the sweet inside without the fried outside.  For entrees, both girls had pancakes.  M and I picked from the Brunch House Specialties menu.  I had the Lobster Hash (“griddled lobster & red bliss potatoes, two poached eggs, green chile Hollandaise, and a simple salad”).  It was scrumptious.  Emma and Gracie were fascinated by the lobster tail that was a little more than a decoration on the plate (it did have some meat in it).

Following lunch we took Gracie back to her parents, rounded up the rest of our crew (Emma’s parents and sister Maddy) and we went to Zoombezi Bay Waterpark where we all had fun in the water.  It was a good day for it since it was hot (in the 90’s) and very humid.  Around 6:30 or so thunderstorms started moving in.  Emma and Co. took off for home while M and I spent a little time walking around the park in the heavy rain that preceded the thunder and lightning.  It’s been a long time since we’ve walked in the rain like that.  It was fun.

As we were leaving the park the sun came out in the midst of the storm, creating a big, bold, and beautiful rainbow stretching out over the park.  We followed the storm for a while, the rainbow always just a little ahead of us.  At one point it looked like we had caught up with it and were going to drive through the colors touching the ground.

I did not capture the rainbow with my camera but do have it in memory.  Taking the camera to the waterpark seemed like a bad idea, as did leaving it in the trunk of the car on a hot and steamy day.  So the camera stayed in our hotel room while we went out to play in the sun and water and rain.

We spent Sunday with the family at their house.  I played with Emma, Maddy, and their mother while our oldest son and M worked on a few home repair projects.  We started home around 2:30 or so and arrived at our house in time for the first of the big thunderstorms of the evening.

(This morning’s deluge)

The rains continued throughout the night and into this morning.  We’ll probably get more storms today as a cold front moves in.  I’m looking forward to the drier, cooler weather that is supposed to follow the front.

(Monday morning rain)

Sunday serenity

(Reflections and ripples on a partly cloudy day.)

Rest is not idleness, and to lie sometimes on the grass on a summer day listening to the murmur of water, or watching the clouds float across the sky, is hardly a waste of time.

~ John Lubbock

State of the rut update

On Tuesday I picked a recipe out of the Colorado Cache Cookbook, made my grocery list, and went off to the store to pick up what was needed.  Not a lot as it turned out, because I made my decision based on things I had on hand that needed to be eaten.  One of those things was a big package of corn tortillas.  Someday I’d like to start making tortillas at home but for now we use the store-bought variety.  The Colorado Cache Cookbook has a chapter titled Mexican Food which includes all sorts of enchildadas that are made with corn tortillas.

In the interest of full disclosure, you should know:

  • M and I are mostly vegetarian.  We don’t eat meat often.  The occasions on which we do eat meat are when our carnivore family and friends are visiting us or we are visiting them, and when we’re traveling (usually the trips back east where we both grew up on Philly cheesesteaks and hoagies and other unhealthy things of that nature).  This “mostly vegetarian” status limits the number of recipes I could pick from in the Colorado Cache Cookbook as many of the recipes involve meat (even many of the recipes in the Vegetable chapter).
  • I have made enchiladas before so I’m not sure this is getting out of a rut.  I have a favorite chicken enchilada recipe (“Suzi’s Enchiladas”) — given to me by a friend, Suzi — that I have made many times, with chicken when I’m making it for carnivore family and friends, and with grilled veggies for those (of us) who prefer just veggies.

I decided on Cheese Enchiladas.  The sauce for the enchiladas was different than the sauce I make for “Suzi’s Enchiladas” so I thought that would qualify it as getting out of the rut I was stuck in.  I’m used to making enchilada sauce with lots of tomatoes and spices, then cooking it down to thicken it.  The recipe in the Colorado Cache Cookbook uses chicken broth, tomatoes, and chiles, with flour to thicken it.  There are no spices to be found in this recipe.

Another admission:  I added spices (cumin and chili powder).  I used tomatoes with hot chiles.  I added vegetarian refried beans to the cheese stuffing.  Less cheese, more beans.  If I’d had some freshly cooked beans available, I’d have put them in there instead of the canned refried beans.  The addition of the refried beans was tied to using what I have in my pantry as well as cutting back on the cheese.

I’ve always thought of recipes as a general outline that I can fill in to fit my tastes.  This one was no exception.  To be honest, I’m not sure we would have liked the enchiladas without the addition of the spices.  The sauce was a little odd, perhaps because it was different than any other enchilada sauce I’ve tasted.  It wasn’t bad odd.  Just different odd.

I did not take photos of the plated food as they were a mess to get out of the baking pan.  They fell to pieces and looked like a big pile of mushy stuff with cheese.  Not attractive or photogenic.  I should have taken pictures right after I rolled the enchiladas and placed them in the baking dish.  They were lined up and ready for their close-up.  In my haste to get them into the oven (it was late and they took longer to make than I had anticipated), I forgot.

They tasted good, especially with the addition of the called-for garnishes of avocado slices, chopped green onions, and sour cream.  I could have spiced them up more as they needed a little more flavor and heat.  Putting jalapeñoes into the cheese and bean mixture would have worked well.  I also think using whole beans rather than the canned refried beans would have made them better, too.

Next week I’m going to pull out a vegetarian cookbook and take OmbudsBen’s suggestion:

I get stuck in ruts, too, so empathize with your dilemma. As far as trying new things: Make it really challenging. Pick out a cookbook with an index, open the index without looking, and point to find the nearest recipe.

That will make it fun and exciting.  Thanks, OmbudsBen!

Studying the daylilies

I have a confession to make…

Sometimes I take pictures of the same things over and over and over again.  Regular, long-time visitors to Life in the Bogs might remember the sunflowers that I was absorbed with during my mother’s illness and death.  The daylilies are fascinating me lately.  Perhaps it is the color orange grabbing my attention.  Perhaps it is the lighting in the afternoon (which, as I understand it, is not the best time of day for photography but it seems to be working well with the daylilies).  Perhaps the sky and clouds are drawing my attention with the daylilies pointing the way.

Whatever the case, they have captured my attention.  These three photos were taken this week with no real conscious motivation other than I was out there at the time.  “The time” happens to be somewhere between 4:30 and 5:30pm when I go out just to breathe some fresh air and see what’s happening around the pond before I start to work on dinner and settle in for the evening.  (As always, click on the photos to see the larger version.)

Since there is plenty of sky in all three photos, I decided to make this a SkyWatch Friday post.  To see beautiful skies from around the world, click on the badge/link below.

Note to you Blogspot SkyWatch Friday folks:  I’ve been visiting quite a few of you but if you don’t have the name and url option, I am unlikely to leave a comment since I don’t like the other options.  There are some gorgeous skies out there!

(Yesterday’s view of the pond when the storms were just moving in.)

Traipsing down the garden path

It has been hot and steamy here in the Bogs for the past few days.  I thought this might be a good time to travel back in time (via photos) to a rainy day in May when M and I visited the Cleveland Botanical Garden so we can enjoy the coolness of the greenery and the garden paths while I ramble a bit.

Yesterday I had to (force myself to) do some of the ironing.  As usual I have procrastinated and let it build up again.  The bar where the to-be-ironed hangs and waits was looking a little tired of doing its job.  It wasn’t bending in the middle yet but you can see that it wants to.  I have written about ironing here at ye olde blog before so I won’t dwell on it for too long.  You can read about it here if you really want to know how I feel about the ironing.

I am so glad our basement stays at an almost-constant 66 degrees no matter what the temperature is outside.  In the winter months 66 degrees feels chilly.  A fire in the fireplace, a blanket, or someone to cuddle with on the love seat while watching a movie warms the basement to a nice, toasty and enjoyable temperature.

Because it is a walk-out basement with large windows, it doesn’t seem gloomy or cave-like the way basements can and often do.  However, it doesn’t get full sun at any point either, and that keeps it feeling nice and cool during the summer months.  Cool enough that I can do the ironing on a sweltering 90 degree day when the humidity is up near 100%.

(Can you find the bench in this picture?)

When we bought the house it had been a rental for a long time.  The woman who was living here before we moved in was the granddaughter of the original owners and she told us a little about the place.  M gathered a little more information by talking with the elderly gentleman who owned it.  It was the elderly gentleman’s wife’s death that allowed him to break up the acreage and sell it in parcels the way they are doing with farms all over the country these days.

Once upon a time, there used to be a large farm here that at some point was known as Breezy Acres.  The old farmhouse is across the street from us and is about 100 years old (possibly older).  This house was the new house, built back in the 1960’s and it was owned by the husband of one of the three sisters who had inherited the farm and the land that went with it.  It was the first all-electric house in the county (for which it made the local newspaper in a two-page spread with photos).  While building the house the owners were told by the Electric Company that they would never have to pay over $100/month for electricity no matter how much they used so they installed electric heating coils throughout the house.  The problem with the electric heating coils is that they are in the ceiling.  Heat rises, but that must have escaped someone’s attention.  I understand why they did it that way, I think.  Instead of installing floors they put down plywood with wall-to-wall carpeting all through the house.  I’m not sure you can (or would want to) put heating coils under carpet.

M and I have tried heating the house during the winter months using the electric heat in the ceiling.  It is slow to warm up the house and it is very costly.  The original owners must have noticed the same thing as they eventually installed forced-air gas heat.  This was a fortuitous decision for us as the future (now present) owners.  (It should be noted that the advantage of the ceiling heat is that each room in the house has its own thermostat and controls so you can heat one room without having to turn on the heat in the rest of the house.  This came in handy when my father stayed with us last Christmas.  He was always cold so we turned on the ceiling heat in his room and it was almost like a sauna in there.)

There was no air conditioning in the house back in the day (the 1960’s).  When M and I moved to northeast Ohio we were told by a few folks that we would not need air conditioning here because it stays relatively cool throughout most of the summer with only a few days of hot temperatures in July and/or August.  This turned out not to be true.  Global warming?  I don’t know.  All I know for sure is that it can and does get quite hot here.  Add in high humidity and it can best be described as oppressive.  Our first summer (spent in another house, over in Kent) was hot, humid, and uncomfortable.  The house had a whole-house fan which helped but it did not cool us off the way air conditioning can.

I’m digressing.  Back to the original owners of the house.  Because they did not have air conditioning, they moved to the basement during the summer months.  In the basement there was a second kitchen, a bathroom, and plenty of wide-open living space.  The bathroom was a campground style bathroom with cinder block walls, a cinder block shower, a functional toilet and sink (in other words, they work but there ain’t nothin’ fancy about ’em), and an enclosure of plywood that did not come all the way to the floor.  It was the kind of enclosure where your feet and lower legs can be seen when you’re in there.  Bathroom “stall” might be the appropriate word for it.

According to the granddaughter, the kids (and grandkids when they came along) spent summers swimming, fishing and hanging out by the pond.  Having a campground style bathroom makes perfect sense.

M and I had central air (conditioning) installed just before our first summer here at Breezy Acres.  (If interested, explanation of the name Breezy Acres can be found here.)  We both grew up without air conditioning in places that were a wee bit warmer than it gets in northeastern Ohio.  We both know what it is like to go to bed on a hot, sticky night and spend the night tossing and turning and looking for the cool spot on the bed or pillow.  And we both became spoiled as adults, learning to like the comfort of cool, dry nights inside while it is sweltering outside.  The ductwork was in place from the installation of the forced-air gas heat and that made it easier, less messy, and less expensive to have the air conditioning installed.

I don’t run it during the day when I’m the only one here.  I try to spend most of my time in the basement when the weather is as hot as it was yesterday.  To make it a productive day, that usually mean something to do with the laundry.  Such as — you guessed it — ironing.

It’s nicer today, now that the cold front has moved through.  The air is a little cooler (80’s instead of 90’s) and drier.  A good day for working upstairs and for hanging things on the clothesline.  I’m glad we don’t live in one of those communities where clotheslines are banned.  Nothing makes the clean laundry smell better than fresh air and sunshine.