Monday, November 29, 2010

A Question About Deer Hunting

deer hunting: the hunter
by thekevinchang via Flickr

So, being the first Monday after Thanksgiving, it's deer season here in my neck of the woods. We'll wear orange for the next couple of weeks when working outside or taking the daily walk.

SKS : Deer Season in Kansas City
by Brad Trump Photography via Flickr

I'm not really a big fan of guns. I'm not anti-gun and I understand that some folks like to shoot some target on occasion or put meat in the freezer on other occasions. Nothing wrong with that. But I've seen what happens to people when they've been shot and fully appreciate how dangerous firearms are to even a skilled shooter. Background checks and waiting periods are OK in my book. I just wish that everyone were as careful a gun owner and gun handler as my husband. Some guys are, some guys aren't. You would be very disillusioned to believe that just because someone totes an NRA card, they're necessarily safe gun owners. I can make referrals.

Wild Venison Steak Sammie
by testpatern via Flickr

But I do love me some venison. My mom makes it by cutting it into little cubes, rolling it in buttermilk, then flour, and frying it up in a pan. Mmmm, classic.

by markb120 via Flickr

All this rambling leads up to an observation and a question. As I watch my husband get his gear ready each year, I wonder.....

trail mix
by elana's pantry via Flickr

"Why, if you're going to hunt no further than 1 mile maximum from the house, do you need an entire box of power bars, a case of Gatorade, and 5 pounds of trail mix?"

He tells me to never mind. A friend tells me her husband stocks up on snackies as well. That means it's a Y-chromosome thing.

Safe hunting guys.
We love ya any way.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Thanksgiving Centerpiece

We have a nice Thanksgiving meal each year where I work and these pics are of last year's centerpiece. We used five square tables lined up so it looks like a long banquet table. These pictures aren't the best as they were taken with my iphone.

I spray painted some of those foam craft pumpkins from the Dollar Tree silver and cut out some "thankful" phrases from heavy silvery paper using my CriCut.

I borrowed some pheasant feathers from the feather bouquet I had made for my kid's jungle-themed bedroom.

I guess there could be pheasants in the jungle, running around with the parrots. Sure, why not.

I layered lime green tissue paper inside some plain ol' terra cotta pots and added lime green and brown-ish artificial flowers. Some flattened clear glass marbles, also from the Dollar Tree, add a bit of sparkle (since I couldn't actually glue glitter to anything).

I used the white table cloth under the runners to make the centerpiece float separately from the brown-covered tables. The lilies opened up to the nicest creamy ivory with just a bit of lime green. I'm not a table designer but I really liked the color combinations here- sort of a hunting lodge look without being overburdened by dead animal pelts, antlers, and all that rust-colored decor.

Looking at it now I see some things I would change but there's always next year.

Wait, is that this year?

Oh, in that case

Happy Thanksgiving!

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Paula Deen Is Trying To Kill Us

Isn't she so sweet and cute, all smiles and southern charm?
NO- don't be fooled! I don't care how much she looks like my friend Cheryl, Paula Deen is trying to kill us.

But what a way to go.

I came across her recipe for classic pumpkin pie on the Food Network website while looking for pumpkin roll filling recipes. This pie is full of fat and sugar and, of course, butter.

Even though every ancestor in my family tree for the past three generations to whom I am biologically related had, if not died from, heart disease,

and even though every single one of them rolled over in their graves and shouted,
"No! Don't do it!",

I made it anyway. Come on, I'll show you.

You need a whole slew of ingredients:

1 8oz pkg of cream cheese, softened
2 cups canned pumpkin, mashed
1 cup sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1 egg plus 2 egg yolks, slightly beaten
1 cup half-and-half
1/4 cup butter, melted
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp  ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ginger, optional (but I used it)
1 piece pre-made pie dough
Whipped cream, for topping (I had spray in the 'frig so that's what I used)

Pre-heat your oven to 350 degrees F.

I used the pie crust already in the aluminum pan so this part skips the directions for getting the dough into your pie pan. I did cover the raw crust with aluminum foil, fill with a 1 lb bag of beans, and baked it for 20 minutes. (This part is different from our serial killer Paula's directions but you can work it out for yourself. It's just pie crust). There's a thick black bean stew experiment chugging away in the crock pot even as we speak and if it turns out I'll share it with you. Anyway...

For the filling, I beat the cream cheese in my stand mixer (not with a hand mixer as per Paula), then added in the pumpkin, beating until combined. Add the sugar and salt and beat some more. Add the eggs and yolks, half-and-half, and the melted butter.

Call your Cardiologist and make an appointment.

Beat just a bit more to combine. Finally, add the vanilla, cinnamon, and ginger and beat until combined.

Pour the filling into the pie crust and bake for 50 minutes or until the center is set. I will interject that I made little aluminum foil collars to go around the pie crust so that it wouldn't burn, taking them off for the last 15 minutes.

Cool to room temperature.

Top each pie with whipped topping.

Or ice cream.
Always consider if ice cream is an option.
(I was out, alas, and the lime sherbet didn't seem right.)

It looks harmless enough, doesn't it? Is it good? Oh yes, it's good.

Paula's Killer Pumpkin Pie has a creamier taste and texture to it than the Libby's Pie recipe with which most of us are familiar.

I personally prefer a more dense pie with a stronger pumpkin taste but this is a pretty good pie and most likely none of your pumpkin pie-loving guests will object. We managed to choke it down.


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Saturday, November 20, 2010

Turkey Cookies From Outer Space. Or Some Where.

OK, yes-- I'm probably the last person in the world to see these cute little Turkey Cookies. Click on the link under the photo to go to Pillsbury's page for the instructions and recipes.

Anyway-- Zippy and I decided not to be the only people on the planet who missed the Turkey Cookie Boat so we gave it a go. Confession time- we used store bought sugar cookies instead of using the dough from Pillsbury. Sorry Pillsbury guys but time is limited and I didn't want a big flock of turkeys wandering around the house.

Even though I accidentally got gel frosting I think our little guys came out just fine.

Things were going along just fine and then our little turkeys got all Tom Selleck and grew moustaches.

Once that happened, things, um, progressed.

I ditched the legs and went spiky punk rocker.

The Zippster went all three-eyed alien.

Gloves off.

Just a couple of guys. They're certainly happy, aren't they.

Zippy's "Angry Penguin"

I named this guy Sputnick but couldn't tell you why. Of course it was an opportunity for an instant history lesson.

First satellite put into orbit, Russians, 1957. I know some of you kids are younger than I, so click here to visit NASA's history page- you'll learn all about it. We love history at our house.

Anyhoo- back to the issue at hand.......

Here we have my "Suspicious Guy" on the left and Zippy's "Saber Tooth Turkey" on the right.

After that, The Zip pretty much went for maximum sugar.
The "Bull's Eye Cookie" on the left, the "Exploding Daisy" on the right.

And the grand finale, Zippy's "Whirling Vortex of Doom".

Zippy observed that my cookies looked more calm than hers did. Guess I've already done the Whirling Vortex of Doom once in life- no need to revisit.

Silliness reigned at our house that afternoon and we had a good time giggling, which is what the whole thing was really about. Zippy looked at me, sugar crystals forming over her eyes, and said,

"I can't wait for Gingerbread Men."

Have a fun day.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

I've Got Gas & I Couldn't Be Happier !!

Oh wait-- let me explain...   I've got propane gas and couldn't be happier.

Our home has had natural gas service for decades. Once we replaced the original boiler, we've had little to no problems. Why replace the boiler, you ask?

Prior to purchasing our home we had a home inspection done. The inspector took one look at the boiler and laughed. Apparently this old McKeesport Furnace boiler was close to 75 years old. According to the inspector they were meant to last 30 years. The pilot light on this big girl was at least 6 inches high. Not really a "green" boiler. We could either replace the boiler or start roasting hot dogs.

So my husband and his brother chop her out of there, loaded her on the truck, and took her to the scrap yard. She weighed 500 lbs. We got 50 bucks.

We filled in the mysterious well she had been resting in (probably from when cement was originally poured in the basement), moved some pipes and the expansion tank (which was on the third floor), and installed a new furnace. No more flame-thrower pilot light.

She hides behind a screen from my pre-marriage girlie house. It was a temporary screen meant to last only "until we find a nice one." Apparently, things in our 200 year old house mysteriously last a long time. Hope we do!

Things went along fine for the next 15 years. In September, when the gas bill came, my husband said, "How could we have used more gas in July than we used last December?" We obviously don't heat in July and to be honest, we rarely use the stove in the summer. We grill.

When you have gas service, the homeowner is responsible for the gas line once it leaves the meter. Most meters are on the house or someplace like the edge of the lot by the road. To get to our meter... go to the end of the driveway and walk up the hill past the cemetery.
Never mind the scid marks in the road, that's another story involving deer and speeding teenagers.

Then you head on out the flat stretch...

... "for a piece" as they say around here...

 ... and cut down to the right when you get to Mr. B's driveway.

Go on down the hill ...

... take that first hard left,

...and go down the hill past where the trees and weeds are up against the guard rail. When you get to that open spot, stand by the rail and look down into the sheep field.

You see that little white thing sticking up way down there? The one on the left, not the right.

Yea, there it is. That's our gas meter. Our line comes up that hill and under the road. That nice little walk we just had? We walked right over our line.

Half a mile.

My husband had shut everything off at the house before we left on our walk. When we got to the meter the little dial on the lower left was still turning.

hundred stack again
by Daniel Scally via Flickr

You know that sinking feeling, right? That gaping darkness that opens up somewhere between your stomach and your heart? You feel yourself trying really hard not to panic but all you see are dollar signs flying in front of your eyes.

So we called the gas company,
               who sent out the boys,
                         who didn't find anything wrong.

                                  On a Friday afternoon at 4:30pm they didn't find anything wrong.


They shut the gas off at the meter. They said.

The next day, the little dial was still making its trip around the world. My husband took a wrench and shut the meter off.

Fortunately, my husband knows a good guy from his biker days who is a heating and plumbing guy and he came out to see what was going on with our gas. Old Tailpipe Tom did a bunch of head shaking that day. His quote to my husband was, "I can't believe this house hasn't been blown off the map."

We declined to elaborate on some of the the wiring we found when we were tearing out walls. Scary stuff, man.

Yes, regulations have gotten tighter in the years since our gas line was put in but let's just say that the fella we bought our house from was resourceful. A child of the depression, he knew very well how to make do with whatever was on hand.

He didn't need no stinkin' inspector.

So do you know how much it costs in our part of the world to replace a half mile of gas line that goes under a state road (in a culvert for cryin' out loud!) and the neighbors driveway?

One Million Dollars
by JBlaze B via Flickr


Yes, that's right- a fair chunk of Zippy's college tuition.

We could have paid a mere few hundred to find and fix the leak but given the undetermined age of the line it would just be a matter of time before another leak sprouted. We know that the old cast iron line was replaced with plastic sometime in the 30 years prior to when we bought the house but no one could vouch for just how much of that line was actually replaced.

So we went with propane.

Late September we started digging.

First the trench for the line from the tank to the house.

Hope my rhododendron survived.

Yes, under the sidewalk. You hammer re-bar through with a sledge hammer and then run the conduit through to the other side.

Then the hole for the actual tank. Guess what we discovered? No, not the buried treasure.

A second gas line.

Surprise !

Our neighbor fella, who does this sort of thing for a living and who replaced the first line, then started remembering that they had to re-do the line for some reason but he couldn't remember why. It was that long ago. Probably something to do with a stinkin' inspector.

Let me just say that it's really handy to have neighbors who dig in the dirt for a living. They have super cool toys, several of which my husband put on his Christmas wish list. I'm proud of him--- it's good to dream big and have high aspirations. I wish him all the luck with Santa this year because he got a 500 gallon tank of propane for his birthday.

Then we ran the line, filled that in, hooked up the inspector-approved gadgets, covered the tank hole so deer and dogs wouldn't fall in, and waited. For several weeks. We grilled, we microwaved, we ate salads. We snuggled under the electric blankets on those 27 degree nights. We managed.

One day last week I came home from work to find my husband shovelling sand in around our new tank. Now all you can see is the top of the access port at ground level in the middle of what was once our garden.

The weather turned warm again once we got the propane hooked up to the furnace and it has only come on once. But now we can use the stove. I've been keeping an eye on it and propane seems to run about 15 to 20 degrees warmed in the oven.

The last hurdle is the ventless gas fireplace we put in the living room about 7 years ago. It needs to be converted to accept propane. There is only one radiator on the first floor and it is in the hallway. The hall and utility room stay nice and toast-y in the winter but the living room- not so much. The fireplace really does the trick for us and is the primary heat source for the space where we spend the vast majority of our time.

But, of course it couldn't be easy. The company that made our fireplace was purchased by another company and this line of fireplaces was discontinued. Regulations, changes in sizes, inspectors, can't find replacement parts or inserts, blah blah blah.

When my husband called me last night, I was in the parking lot in front of a large home remodelling store. He tried to gently tell me that we can't get the parts we need and could I please look at new fireplaces. More dollar signs flew past my eyes.

I admit it- I finally broke down and cried. After 14 years in our antique house, one surprise and misadventure after another, and still waiting to find the buried treasure, I finally cried. Like a baby, as a matter of fact. All night. In the store looking at fireplaces (none of which were the right size to avoid cutting out carpet and all of which were incredibly ugly), in the drive-through at McDonald's, waiting for my kid to come out of basketball practice, in bed with the covers over my head. I cried and prayed all night because seriously, 14 years is a long time to hold your breath.

And this morning, the first thought in my mind when I opened my eyes was,

"It's still less than $20,000."

So if you have an insert for a 10 inch deep vent-less propane gas fireplace, let me know quick because otherwise we'll need to go with the entire new fireplace before it gets cold again. The one that will fit the base is a different finish than we have so we could stain it, or paint the whole thing. And then it's a good time to up-date the fireplace mantle decor so maybe some nice candles and a painting ............

It's not so bad.