Category Archives: the shop

Potato Time

We have some sort of Amityville Horror going on out in the shop. A couple of days ago I saw a few big hairy flies in there. The next day there were a ton of big hairy flies. I swatted and swatted.

The next day there were a ton of big hairy flies. More swatting.

A few hours later there were a ton of big hairy flies. At least they aren’t attacking big hairy flies.

I did some research and I’m going to guess it’s the result of having a warmer than normal summer and not a haunting. The pest control website noted that it is *extremely difficult* to deal with this on your own.

I think I can handle it.

I mentioned that early in the year I took all my wilted potato bits and buried them around the yard and I now have my very own potato farm.

One of my most successful recipes is this potato salad recipe although now that I look at it I realize I don’t follow it other than to add vinegar to the potato cooking water. I’m not sure what potato salad recipe I use. Maybe I look at this and then just do what I want. People at potlucks love it.

Serious Eats Classic Potato Salad Recipe

I still had a ton of potatoes so I searched for more recipes and this was a big hit plus it got rid of the rest of a giant head of cabbage we had. Bob said it was the best potato cabbage casserole he ever had.

Serious Eats Polish Cabbage Potato Bacon Casserole

I still had tons of potatoes so I thought I’d try another recipe. But then when I went to make it I realized I didn’t have as many potatoes as I thought so I ran outside to dig up another plant. I thought I was being punked. Every time I touched the dirt another potato would pop out. I think I harvested another 3 pounds.

So potato cooking continues. This recipe was a tad fussy for me. Next time I would come up with some short cuts. But we liked the result and it made a ton.

Mexican Potato, Kale and Chicken Casserole

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Bulbs Are Taking Over The World

Remember last time I dug dahlias? It was 2005, you might have not even known me then.

It was a terrible, terrible job and I vowed to never do it again.

But I lost my mind today. I have a few major bulb mounds out there and we’ve had a freeze. It’s been dry and a balmy 50 degrees. Come on, how bad could it be?

Urgh. What was I thinking “dry?” Sure, water is not falling from the sky but the dirt is a robust mud. I don’t know how they do it at the dahlia farm but I fought a giant mass out of the ground and then tried to break it apart. I tried to shake the dirt off.

I got them in smaller pieces and then put the hose on them.

By the end I was wet, cold, my hands muddy little icicles. My pretty shop that I busted ass to tidy this summer/fall had dirt and mud everywhere.

I only dug two plants. The pink.

And the white. If they make it through, and last time I lost a lot due to my terrible care, I will have about 100 to share. Of each. If you live near me I’ll give you some.

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Crows

Last weekend there was a strange sound like scraping on the roof.

Bob called me and I went out to the shop.

There were crows partying on the skylight.

There’s a hazelnut tree between our house and the house next door.

At the end of every summer the squirrels go insane.

I find hazelnut husks and buried hazelnuts everywhere.

I’m guessing the crows maybe found a squirrel stash? Today I noticed a squirrel nest in the tree.

It was a little creepy having the crows trying to crack the nuts on the skylight.

After watching them from inside, I went through the house and out the front door to see if I could get a picture of them on the roof.

Meanwhile, Bob had done the same thing out the back door so right as I went outside, a bunch of crows came swooping off the roof.

I was traumatized by The Birds as a kid so I covered my eyes with my hands and stumbled back into the house as fast as I could.

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The Door Knob Fixer

I thought I had an ongoing tale about the door knob but I can’t find it using search. Oh well, it’s so interesting I’m sure you won’t mind hearing it again.

Our front door knob started disintegrating awhile back and co-worker said door knobs are super easy to do yourself so I decided to try.

I stopped by the lock shop to ask a few questions and the nice man told me to bring it in. I figured out how to take it off and I put all the pieces in a box and drove back to the lock shop.

The nice man said I could probably get by without a whole new door knob and he sold me a widget. (Latch? Hasp? Shackle?) I went home installed the widget and put the door knob back on and couldn’t get the door to close.

These all sound like simple steps when I write it this way but they actually involved having to look for tools and wrestle to make the tools work and get the screws in the right way. Plus I had other things I wanted to do with my day besides drive back and forth with a shoe box filled with door knob parts.

I called the nice man and begged him to come down and fix it. At that point I would rather have paid money than deal with it one more second. He said it sounded like I had the bevel hackle knuckle upside down and to just turn it around. So I took it all apart again and spring bolted the tumbler around and he was right it worked!

Fast forward to a couple of weeks ago and the door knob disintegrated again. My husband, who is a prince but is perfectly happy to leave problems like this to deal with later if there is an acceptable alternative, thought we should just not use the front door until we got around to dealing with it. I did not find that an acceptable alternative. However, I also didn’t want to be in charge of calling the locksmith since I had already handled round one of this problem.

Then, during one long night of insomnia I remembered that we have the same door knob on the door between the garage and the shop — a door that we never lock. When I had time I swapped the doorknobs. Genius.

Except that didn’t work either because the widget part was still stuck — where this entire problem started — so one more time I had to go back, take both door knobs off, swap the widgets putting the new widget back on the front door and putting the craptastic old widget in the garage.

In sum, front door locks again and I know how to deal with basic door knob repair.

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Whiter Shade of Pale

Sadly I don’t have a before photo of this. I wish I did because this looks so much nicer.

This is the rest of the shop clean-up project I started in the summer.

There was a crappy built in cupboard that we didn’t use because it was dusty and had spiders in it. I tore that out and I had someone come in and put in that light fixture and fix the wiring because it was weird. That project together with the cupboard destruction made a bunch of holes in the wall.

I patched everything up and painted it and it’s finally done. I keep going out there and admiring it because it looks so nice.

Today we went to the mall and bought a new refrigerator which will be delivered in a week. Then the old fridge goes in that corner.

In another 6 months there will be spider webs and dust but right now it’s beautiful.

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Summertime

This is a photo of the shop from 3 years ago. Long story about how hard it is for me to get to major projects omitted. I wrote about that round of the project here.

This was my marathon project I worked on yesterday.

These before and after pictures aren’t very representative. I cleaned out the shed in the backyard, too.

The scrap metal guy hauled off a load and we took a load to the dump. It costs $28 to take a crammed-to-the-top truckload to the dump. A couple weeks ago I phoned the garbage people to ask about tossing two plastic chairs. The kind that are super cheap and look like crap after a couple of years. She said if I tied them together they could consider it one item and they could schedule a special pick up for $13. Rip! Glad I waited.

Still to come: electronics recycling, Goodwill and hazardous waste disposal.

I threw away stuff that has been sitting around since we bought this house.

We also tore out this crapily built-in cabinet thing that we didn’t use. That’s going to make room to put the old fridge when we finally buy a new one.

This is the shop yesterday.

There’s still some stuff to do but I’m feeling there should be a parade with fireworks in my honor.

I finally saw Bridesmaids.

Oscar attention? Really?

I thought there were funny scenes. Was it just the novelty that women can make a gross-out comedy, too?

There was a point where I thought maybe the movie had something interesting to say about female friendships and competition. Or maybe taking a risk and how to come back from failure. But it never did. I get it as a funny movie and I *love* Melissa McCarthy but I don’t get the AA nominations.

I finally wrapped up the dental saga that started last month with a root canal. The dentist gave me a temporary crown when I returned from vacation and I broke it after a few days. I wasn’t even eating anything crunchy.

The new crown was installed this week it so fun to eat with a full set of teeth. It was a back molar that used to be crooked but she shaped the nubbin somehow and made it look straighter so now if I smile at you with my mouth wide open and my chin down you will see pretty straight teeth in the back.

Let’s hope I don’t have any more dental adventures for a while. That was expensive.

My sweetheart has been out of town for a week. Last weekend I made a bunch of salads thinking how easy it would be to grab salads and not have to cook. Of course after the third day, I hated salads. Plus when you eat healthy foods you’re hungry every two hours. I’m still trying to finish up what I made but a Burgerville run sounds pretty good at this point.

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Use Your Eyes Birds

At the end of last summer I found a sunflower filled with seeds that hadn’t been torn apart by the squirrels and birds and I stuck it in the shop to deal with later. My thought was that I’d have my very own sunflower seeds to snack on.

Like many things that I stick in the shop to deal with later, I never got around to dealing with this.

At the beginning of January when I was still fresh and optimistic about getting things done, I brought it in the house and looked for a YouTube tutorial that would tell me the easiest way to get the seeds out. The tutorial told me that when the sunflower was ready, I could just shake all the seeds out.

I wrapped the sunflower in an old bedsheet and shook it around like crazy and no seeds came out.

That was enough of that project. I threw the sunflower back out in the garden and figured the birds and squirrels would find it.

That was over a month ago.

No birds or squirrels ever paid any attention to it until this weekend when I saw all these creatures rioting over it and chasing each other off and taking turns dragging it around the yard.

So animals don’t notice food sitting around until another animal notices it? Which animal noticed it first? I wanted to go out and yell at them that they could have been gorging on sunflower seeds a month ago if they’d been paying attention.

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Stand in the Place Where You Live

This morning I watched this woman take every single piece of salmon out of the display at Trader Joe’s. She was a customer. She had to lean down and reach back with her entire arm to get them all out. And she studied them side-by-side. Then she shoved some back into the display and left others sitting in the refrigerator case below with her empty cup of tea. She didn’t buy one.

I really wanted to make some churlish passive-aggressive remark except that she looked like one of those women who has had so much therapy she’s self-actualized to the point of psychosis. She probably went home and wrote in her journal about how empowering it was for her to examine every piece of salmon and not settle for a piece that didn’t have special meaning for her.

Today was a classic two steps forward three steps back. Which seems to be the theme of everything lately.

I’ve been wanting to get another shelving unit for the shop. The shop is an extra outer room at our house that isn’t garage but is unfinished. It’s where the lawn mower, bicycles, camping equipment, garden stuff and oodles of junk live.

I found a shelving unit at Freddie’s and I’m pretty sure that’s where I got the last one so after much indecision I decided to buy it. Then I took all these “before” pictures of the shop because wasn’t it going to make a fantastic post, showing how I transformed our shop from a wretched hive of scum and villainy to an amazingly organized rainbow-filled magicland?

Except I couldn’t get the *&^%$#[email protected]#$%^&* thing together. Assembles in 30 minutes my fat ass. Plus there were parts missing. I’m not a person who returns things. I know I just returned something to Ann Taylor and I almost talked myself out of that one, too. Except I spent a lot of money on those pants and it seemed unlikely that I could lose a half pants size while going into the holidays. Ever since it turned cold last week all I can think about is Tater Tots and melted cheese.

But I didn’t want those shelves in my house. I disassembled the three pieces I’d managed to get to hold together and threw all 57 pieces of shelving back in the box. Taped the box shut and I am returning that thing. I should have returned it today except my method of dealing with my frustration was to have a Pumpkin Ale and a handful of Halloween candy. Then I took a nap.

It wasn’t a wonderful day. Plus while at the same Freddies, I bought a “warm” save-the-planet light bulb to replace the space ship light bulb that’s out in the garage. I got my step ladder out and put the new one in and trembled a little as I flicked the switch. It stuttered a moment and went dead. That was the new light bulb. Normally I would have thrown it away and not bothered but since I’m returning those shelves, I want a new light bulb. Fancy Hwy 14 Fred Meyer: you have really let me down.

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Reorganization

One of the things I did this weekend was organize the area we call the pantry annex. (Oops, first I typed panty annex. What is my subconscious up to?) Our house was built in the 40’s with a dinky kitchen and in the 50’s-ish they built an addition. I have no idea who “they” are but I have some issues with the way they did things.

The good part is they opened up the back of the house and made a giant dining room and kitchen with an island and a giant laundry room with a half bath.

I’m guessing that’s when they built the shop, as well, and this is a giant unfinished room with all our junk: camp gear, boxes we haven’t thrown away, boxes we’re keeping on purpose, paint cans, gardening stuff, deep freezer, Pam’s 80’s hairband novel in a box, etc.

The bad part is that the kitchen was designed by monkeys. No human being would have thought that this set-up was adequate. The cupboards and drawers seem endless but when you start actually using them you notice that after you put a spatula and a wooden spoon in one drawer, you can barely close it. One saucepan and the shelf is full.

There is no real pantry or broom closet. We keep pantry type items on some shelves in the kitchen and more in the laundry room.

The annex is usually where we just throw stuff and cram it in and then when we’re looking for something we hope we can find it back there.

I took everything off the shelves, wiped it all down and then categorized. We had 8 cans of pinto beans and 7 cans of fire-roasted chiles. But only 1 chicken broth, 1 red kidney bean and 1 garbanzo bean. We have two jars of applesauce that I canned in Fall 07 and a can of bamboo shoots that I bought for a particular recipe and have since decided I don’t really like bamboo shoots. I guess I could give them to the foodbank but that just seems cruel.

There are tons of other items I’m not mentioning here. While I was doing all this I wanted to show Bob where I’d rearranged a few items because he’s not good at looking for things. He was surprised to see the box of oatmeal and the two boxes of granola bars that had been out of sight and he’d totally forgotten about.

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Everything I Cooked

SR 500 East

I just finished my cocoa. I haven’t been in the mood for cocoa in weeks and this morning I saw the gray fog out the window and my feet were ice cubes and it felt like the perfect moment.

I have been so busy the past couple of days, that “I’m working as fast as I can yet seem to be running in place” feeling.

On Friday I did my Trader Joe’s run and finally managed to get to Target which was a completely unsatisfying experience. Every year some developer comes along and razes a farmhouse and paves over acres of open space and builds a new complex with a Target, Grocery Store, Office Supply Store, Electronics Store, Linens Store, Dollar Store and a Subway. I can walk out my front door and throw a rock in any direction and hit one of these complexes.

And whatever complex was built last year is then abandoned. Right now, the Target by the park and ride is the favored child and where I would normally go except I just didn’t have a chance last week. So instead I went to the Target that’s on the way home from Trader Joe’s and this is now the derelict Target where merchandise goes to die. I was in the Valentine stuff and it looked like they were putting it away. I had to stand for a second and count on my fingers until I was sure we hadn’t had Valentine’s Day yet.

I couldn’t find half the stuff I wanted and that made me too mad to wander around with my cart dazzled by all the pretty things and buy the stuff I didn’t need.

When I got home, tree pruner guy was over. Our orchard is one apple tree and when we first moved here we knew these people who had tons of fruit trees and they talked us into working with their pruner and now all these years later, we still have our apple tree pruned every year. The other people have long moved and to make it worth his while to drive down here, he also prunes the tree out front which is a weeping cherry (possibly made-up name) and it looks a million times prettier since he’s been pruning it.

While pruner guy was working I started my baking projects. I haven’t had a chance to restock my cookies since before the holidays and I like to bring homemade chocolate chip cookies to work with me. I started on that and mixed together the dough for my no knead bread. I make this almost every weekend. Don’t be impressed. It’s insanely easy. I recommend substituting a half cup of whole wheat bread flour.

Meanwhile, the writers group met yesterday and I had been intending to make Keetha’s Sweet Potato Cake. The recipe is on my fridge so I would remember that I need to buy the rum. But since I was already making the cookies, I thought I’d share cookies with the writers and try making these White Bark Balls instead and save the cake recipe for next time.

I originally save the Bark Ball recipe because it said peanut butter and chocolate and those are among Bob’s favorite flavors of all time. I started pulling together this recipe as well.

Also, it was getting near dinner time. I had grabbed some potatoes and leeks at the store thinking I’d make some potato and leek soup since we haven’t had that in ages. But I had already cut out a recipe for Quick Clam Chowder because it had the word “quick” in it and Bob loves clam chowder. That recipe didn’t call for leeks but it called for a bunch of green onions so this wasn’t a huge leap of creativity.

So now I have these various bowls and piles of ingredients gathering in different corners. For some reason, starting everything at once (yes, I have a lot of counterspace in my kitchen) seemed like a good idea. Then tree pruner guy came in and commented on the hedge between our house and house next door. The hedge has been completely neglected for years (well, we’ve made a few stabs at hacking it back but it makes your arms really tired and I’m afraid my husband will clip off a limb if he does it by himself) and he thought this might be something we should give some attention to. “Can you recommend someone?” I asked. I was thinking they’d need to bring in a team with chainsaws and a big truck and rakes.

“I can do it,” he said. And he started right then.

When I got back to my cookies I couldn’t remember whether I needed baking soda, salt or both. I was pretty sure I had added one but wasn’t sure which so I added the soda and not the salt and ended up with salt-free cookies. They’re edible but not magically delicious. They’ll keep me at the office until I get around to making some more but I was burnt that I made a mistake.

The Bark Balls was an aggravating recipe because the first step is to take crispy rice cereal, peanut butter, butter and powdered sugar and mix together and press into balls. Visualize those ingredients. It didn’t mix together at all. I had big blobs of butter that I tried to break up with my fingers and only the cereal that got stuck into the peanut butter would make a ball and wouldn’t pick up more cereal. I kept adding peanut butter to the dry stuff in the bowl and melted some butter and added that, too until I’d managed some crumbling balls. The next step is to refrigerate but who has room in the fridge for that? I covered them and set them out in the shop.

The chowder came out splendid. The bread was only dough and we had no bread product so I whipped up some biscuits which ended up like everything I bake, ugly but tasting good. But by the time we’d eaten and I had all my messes cleaned up and dishes put away, it was bedtime.

Yesterday was time for step 2 of my Bark Balls. I melted some chocolate and rolled my peanut balls in it and this was the highlight of my day. I was glad Bob wasn’t around because he wouldn’t have been able to keep his hands out of it. I was melted chocolate up to my wrists and I would have bathed in it if I had the chance. I set the chocolate covered balls back out in the shop to chill and a couple hours later brought them out for the writers and our eyes rolled back in our heads. Really fabulous and worth all the trouble. I will make them again. There’s got to be a peanut butter FAQ somewhere that will help me master this thing.

After the writers left I did a few chores and baked the bread from Friday. Then I started dinner which was this Red Lentil Soup with Lemon recipe. I still had bacon left from the chowder recipe so I decided that would add a nice flavor and cooked the onions with it. I don’t like tomato paste so I threw in a can of fire roasted tomatoes and I added a turnip with the carrot because I had one that had lost its crispness. I didn’t add the water and was too lazy to puree anything and I totally forgot the lemon which is sad since that’s in the title of the recipe. Even Bob liked it and he’s not a lentil fan.

Today I don’t have to be anywhere or do anything so I’m writing an epic blogpost which if you are still here, thanks for reading. Now I’m going to bathe and then goof off some more.

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