Saturday, September 29, 2012

Clean Up: Part 2

Some more fall clean up is happening this weekend, and Bert got very dirty. We spent the morning pulling weeds and plants that are done producing, dead-heading some perennials, removing tomato cages and stakes, and burying all that vegetation to help speed along its breakdown. Bert played in his sandbox and pushed his wheelbarrow around for awhile, but when we headed for the garden, we put him right in with us. It was one large, dirty playpen and we could go about our work without worrying that he was making a break for the alley.

The last of the tomato crop

Bert thought it was hysterical when I wiggled the stakes back and forth to get them out.

Doing a little stake wiggling of his own!

American Gothic: Quarter-Acre Style

A Bert-sized pumpkin

I guess he doesn't understand that there is a whole process to making pumpkin pie.

"Dad, how about you dig a hole and I'll sit in it?"

I shouldn't be surprised that the lens got dirty.

Good thing kids are washable. It was so funny to watch him set loose in the garden. After a summer of telling him not to pull the tomatoes that hung over the fence, he was thrilled to pull and dig and squish to his heart's content. And we are glad he likes to get dirty. Because there are lots of garden chores in store for him in the coming years!

And can I just say I am in love with his little raincoat? They go for about $40 new but my mom and I found it at a kids' consignment shop for $3. I was so excited. 

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

A Scrappy Job

When we started talking about having our roof replaced, my dad said, "Be sure to have them leave the aluminum shingles. They're worth something as scrap." As we talked to different companies and got prices, we mentioned to each of them that we wanted the shingles to be left behind. One contractor kind of scoffed at us and told us we would only get seven or eight cents per pound at a scrap yard. We knew this wasn't the case, and decided not to go with him in part because as he spoke to us, it was clear he had been counting on cashing in on the scrap metal. The company we decided to go with was more than happy to accommodate our request, and the men who did the actual work were great about stacking the shingles as neatly as possible on our patio.

We weren't sure how many trips it would take to haul all of it away, and we managed to get it done in three. We might have been able to do it in two, but we erred on the side of caution, not wanting metal flying off the truck as Keith drove down the highway. Keith strapped each load down before setting off.

The scrap ended up going to two different recycling centers; the first two loads to one place, and the last to another that was a little farther away because the first closed before Keith could get back with the last load. It ended up being over 600 pounds of aluminum, and the places paid $.60 and $.56 per pound, so we recouped about $370 of our roofing cost. We were hoping for closer to $1 per pound, but my dad tells me that if there were still nails and such in it, it wouldn't have been considered "clean" aluminum and therefore brings a lower price. So we could have spent a day going through it and yanking the nails out, but I think hauling it off "as is" was the better option for us. For a morning of loading and driving and a few gallons of gas, I'd say it paid off.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

The Roof Over Our Heads

When we bought our house, we expected to make some repairs and do some renovating. It is, after all, nearly 90 years old. We've puttered along, doing mostly small, cosmetic things, usually doing them on our own and only occasionally calling a professional in (plumbing, tree removal, and concrete pouring were left to the pros).

Then one rainy morning awhile back, I went into my closet to get dressed for work and found that water was coming through the roof and into my closet. Eventually, the plaster got so waterlogged it came right off the lath, leaving a soggy mess in the back corner.

 We hemmed and hawed about what to do. Our roof was made of aluminum shingles, so it wasn't as simple as having someone come and fix a leak. The structure was such that they weren't even supposed to be walked on. We had a roofer come by and look at it. He admitted he didn't know how those roofs went together but was nice enough to try caulking a few places. We thought we were good. 

A few rain storms came and went, and for the most part, things were ok. No leaks, no problems. Just when we thought we were in the clear, we would get one nasty, windy storm and the water would be coming in my closet again.

We started looking for companies that deal with this kind of roof. We tracked down the company that bought out the manufacturer of these shingles, and asked them for names of local contractors that work with their products. The two closest ones were still over an hour away and after numerous calls, it was pretty clear they were not at all interested in repairing a roof they hadn't installed. 

So, we finally came to the conclusion that our best option was to have a new roof put on. We weren't particularly happy about it; it seemed that we shouldn't need a whole new roof for one leak. But we got a couple quotes, chose a company, signed a check and got it done. 

On Monday, they came and took final measurements.

On Tuesday, a big truck with a forklift crane came and plopped shingles up on the roof. Bert was a big fan of watching the crane.

On Wednesday, three men scurried up the ladders and got to work.

It was nice to see those shingles go.

The roofers were great about covering up the garden beds to protect them and picking up after themselves.

They really kept at it too; on day one, I only heard them break for about twenty minutes. Thursday, they were down for a little while with an air compressor problem. Friday, they were done and out of here by a little after 1:00.

It was loud in the house as they pulled off the old shingles and scraped off the tar paper underneath. Then their nail guns made quite a racket too. For three days, Bert didn't nap until after they left. Three long, noisy days of keeping Bert happy without a nap (we did head to the park and to a friend's house on two of the mornings). 

Now it's all done, and it looks great. (They are coming back to do a little touch up work on the flashing around the chimney.) The front and back porches used to have different shingles than the main roof, and now they all match so that's an added bonus of having a new roof. We are really happy with the color, which has a little red to it, thought it is hard to see in these photos.

And the biggest perk? We had several inches of rain and lots of wind earlier this week and my closet is completely dry.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Proof is in the Pudding

Last week, we were in need of something sweet, preferably something chocolate. Since we had resorted to eating chocolate chips straight out of the bag, I decided I should bake something. I started flipping through my cookbooks and settled on this:

Brownie pudding. Uh huh. Brownie. Pudding. Yes, we'll take some of that. Amazingly, I had everything on hand and it was really easy to make.

Brownie Pudding
Better Homes & Gardens Cook Book


1 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 cup granulated sugar
2 Tbsp. unsweetened cocoa powder
2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 cup milk
2 Tbsp. cooking oil
1 tsp. vanilla
1/2 cup chopped walnuts (I left the walnuts out because Keith doesn't like them)
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 cup  unsweetened cocoa powder
1 1/2 cup boiling water
Vanilla ice cream (optional, but highly recommended)

Grease an 8x8x2-inch baking pan; set aside. In a medium bowl, stir together the flour, granulated sugar, the 2 Tbsp. cocoa powder, the baking powder, and salt.

Stir in the milk, oil, and vanilla. Stir in the walnuts if you are using them.

Pour batter into prepared baking pan. In a small bowl, stir together the brown sugar and the 1/4 cup cocoa powder; stir in the boiling water.

Slowly pour water mixture over batter.

Bake in a 350 degree oven for 40 minutes. Cool on a wire rack for 45 to 60 minutes. Serve warm. Spoon cake into dessert bowls; spoon sauce over cake. If desired serve with vanilla ice cream.

You would expect the sauce to stay on the top and the brownie part to be on the bottom, but the brownie rises to the top and the gooey pudding sauce is all left underneath. Yum.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Skirting the Issue

Remember back in July when I showed you a photo of my mom and I knitting in Maine?

And I didn't tell you what I was working on? Well, I was working on this:

And before any of you start getting excited, thinking that we are expecting a little girl, we are not. I repeat, we are not having a baby. But our good friends just had a sweet, sweet little girl (whom I got to meet today!) and as soon as I found out they were having a girl, I wanted to knit something. Something girly. Something with some of this adorable ruffle.

Because I've been told by the male figures in my family that Bert does not need a ruffle. Or a skirt.

And here is a random shot of me sewing the elastic together in the waistband. This might be the first actual garment I have made. Excluding my swimsuit cover-up, but that didn't involve tricky things like elastic waistbands.

And before you think that I am oh-so-talented (but thanks if you jumped to that conclusion), the yarn is actually made to come up with those cute little flowers when you knit it. So I didn't do anything fancy to wind up with that pattern in the skirt. (The yarn is Bernat Baby Jacquards Florals in Orange Blossom and I found it at AC Moore, if you are interested.)

I found the pattern on, and then it ended up being printed on the label around the yarn when I bought it. I made the 3-6 month size, though it looks a little bigger than that! The pattern was pretty simple, mostly just knit and purl. When I got a little confused by the ssk (slip slip knit), I headed to YouTube and found a video showing me how to do it. The waistband was made by just folding over the top inch, sewing it together with the yarn, and sliding the elastic through. I did let my mom walk me through that part though because I didn't want to screw the whole thing up on the final steps. But it turned out just fine. Very cute, but not nearly as cute as the little girl it's for!

Monday, September 10, 2012

Clean Up

It finally feels like summer is winding down, and the garden with it. Our flower beds were looking overgrown, the garden was weeding, the grass was long, and the bushes were, well, bushy. So yesterday we finally got around to some much needed clean up around the yard.

I started by pulling all of the sunflowers and zinnias and such out of the bed around our bottle tree. And completely forgot to take a picture of it before it was all cleaned out. And realized as Keith drove the truck away, full of yard waste, that I should have had a picture of that too. So all I have is a shot of the empty bed. I swear we haven't seen the bottle tree since June, the flowers were that full. We liked all the color and all the healthy bee activity, but the sunflowers were much to big so I think we might do a variety of herbs here next year.

Then I pulled out the broccoli plants, which had gone to flower. The Hungarian wax peppers are still producing though, so we'll let them go for awhile yet.

Then I tackled a patch of the yard that had a strange little purple weed growing, creeping further into the yard as the summer wore on. It came out pretty easily so hopefully we have seen the last of it. We aren't really ones for a high-maintenance yard, but we at least like our weeds to be green...

Keith tackled the hedge out front (there's some vague talk of removing it permanently) and some of the bushes along the side of the house. Bert and I helped clean up the branches.


I weeded the garden, ripping out the biggest of weeds before they went to seed. We still have some tomatoes and green peppers coming on, as well as some squash. (We think it might be butternut, but it was a volunteer plant and might be a weird hybrid. We'll see when it matures.) We'll keep the cornstalks to decorate the front porch for the fall.

Keith made two trips to the town's yard waste dumpsters, and weed-whacked and mowed the yard. Things still look a little ragged as the last of the vegetables finish up, but at least it doesn't look totally unkempt. Oh, and I did remember to put some spinach and lettuce in the other week and they have started to sprout so we are looking forward to enjoying some greens into the fall.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Bert the Ripper

Does this look like the face of destruction to you?

If you happen to be a board book with flaps, watch out!

Bert is on a tear (haha) lately, ripping the flaps out of his books, exposing poor, unsuspecting critters that used to have haystacks, bushes, and barn doors to hide behind.

We have a pile of pieces to reattach to his books, though I'm pretty sure he's eaten a few of them before I've gotten them picked up.

Of course, if you try to catch him in the act of vandalizing his books, he sits and very gently lifts flaps and turns pages. 

I guess we'll just say his books are "well loved," because he does often sit and page through them, lifting flaps and pointing at things, babbling at the animals on the pages. He'll even bring one over and sit on our laps when he wants to be read to. I don't think I'll be putting out any book that isn't a board book for awhile though...
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