Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Woodpeckers, Sapsuckers and Nuthatches, Oh My!

We have kept several dead trees around the Goochland yard to attract more interesting birds. This has been a VERY successful endeavor, and I have gotten fleeting glances of at least three different kinds of Woodpeckers, and a few little Nuthatches recently. The Sapsuckers have also arrived and are drilling holes around all the Maple trees (much to my irritation, but what can you do). There are even a pair of woodpeckers nesting in a tree in the back yard; I have been enjoying hearing them making their home for the past week. They are all starting to get used to me, and I have loved watching them go about their day...

Stupid Birds!

Recently a flock of blue birds has moved into the Goochland yard. My mom loves blue birds, so I have been trying to take pictures of the little guys since they got here. They have proved to be very wily targets and fly away whenever I come out with a camera. I can get fairly close without the Canon in my hands, but as soon as I grab the camera they woosh out of sight (how DO they KNOW)! Talk about frustrating! BUT, I got a few snaps that I might be able to work with for now, but I will keep trying. Wildlife photographers say that half of their job is persistence, so I have hope that I will get a good shot before they move on...

The roof is done!

Joe finished the roof last week, and Kelly is working on the siding again (the two of them could not fit all their trucks and equipment up there at the same time, so they have been tag-teaming the house). He got a pretty good days' work in before the rain started yesterday, and he should be close to getting done by next week if the weather allows!

Mike has been working on trim, paint, porch supports, stairs for the side porch, getting the back room ready to be a bedroom, getting a heater working in the downstairs bathroom, new lights and new ceiling fans! I am loving the red trim he is putting up-it is so rustic AND bright.

The progress is speeding up nicely, and I cannot wait to see the progress on our next visit. We have more furniture to deliver, and that should finish up our larger deliveries to the house. There will be so much more to take pictures of then, too!

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Foodies BEWARE!!!!

I consider myself a "foodie". I love to cook (we will not discuss my failures at this juncture, people! That will come soon...), I love food, and I love cookbooks. But some cookbook are just scary. I have been eBaying some of my collection of cookbooks in order to make more room in the house, clear out clutter and make a little money.

In going through those cookbooks I have found some pretty frightening things... many of these tomes were gifted to me by those folks that know how much I enjoy roaming through culinary temples to find new "nummy" ideas; some of those books can be more like "The Temple of Recipe Doom" than the "Ankhor Wat of Wonderful Tastes".

One of my favorite items up for sale is:
Meat, meat and more meat. If you put this book up to your ear, you can hear the sound of arteries clogging coming from within its greasy pages! I especially love the endorsement from Home Economics Teachers. THAT just seals the deal for me. Ironically, even though the binder is damaged and it is older than me, this volume was the first item to get a bid from the batch of books I posted. I was going to ask the bidder why they wanted this book, but you just do not want to risk insulting someone about to give you money... 2000 recipes for meat. I had no idea...

It beats out the whole cookbook on Jello that I am keeping, or the book that suggests if I have leftover hot dogs that I microwave them until they get crunchy and use them as dog snacks (the SPCA may actually consider this cruelty, so beware)!

I love to zoom around that old information superhighway to get recipes too, and even there you can uncover untold horrors. Today I found something that completely tops and puts my meaty meaty cookbook to shame.

If you have not eaten yet, you should go here and enjoy the recipe cards that this web author found:
Weight Watchers from the early 1970's. Be afraid, be very afraid. I may not be able to eat again after looking at the card for "Fluffy Mackerel Pudding". Ughhhhhhhhh!

Friday, February 15, 2008

Making Molten Lava, AKA Hard Candy

I have been having fun finding new recipes for yummy things to make, and sweets are my favorite. I tried a new cookie recipe yesterday and sadly ended up with little white bricks. The hard candy worked like a charm, though, once I understood the "rules" about making it.
1) When still liquid, it is like sticky molten lava. Do not get tricky or cocky, those burns hurt.
2) If you are going to use molds, be sure that they are hard candy molds. Otherwise they will melt, and the mess is unholy, and really hard to clean up.
3) Non-stick spray is your friend. Use it on ANYTHING that comes in contact with the candy. You will thank me for this.
4) Unless you intend to make lollipops, make the pieces smaller than you think. They will fit in mouths much better.
5) If you do not have molds and intend to break up the candy after it has cooled, beware. Once cooled, it is HARD (thus its name), and it is also as sharp as glass. You should score it into small cubes when it is almost cooled, and use a clean towel between you and the candy to break it apart. No one likes blood on their candy...

The recipe comes out much like old fashioned barley candy if you flavor it right, and it is scrumptious. I used to love getting those barley candies in my Christmas stocking every year, but now they are getting harder and harder to find, so now I make them myself!

Hard Candy
2 cups sugar
2/3 cup light corn syrup
3/4 cup water
Flavoring (amounts depends on type-some may require a few drops, others a teaspoon)
1 drop food coloring, optional

In a saucepan, combine sugar, corn syrup, and water. Cook over high heat until mixture boils and reaches 300 degrees F. Remove from heat and allow to stand until bubbles have settled. If desired, add your flavoring and coloring once the bubbles have settled down. If you are going to pour it into a sheet, I recommend using a cookie sheet with parchment sprayed with non-stick spray. Do not pour on a surface that cannot take the heat- you can make your table's varnish bubble if you are not careful!

Pour into candy molds sprayed with cooking spray. Keep mixture warm on a double boiler. If mixture begins to harden, and becomes thick, it may be warmed in a microwave for a few seconds. ONLY handle the candy once you are SURE it has cooled.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Getting there!

So much is happening all at once at the Floyd House. The sider has made great progress putting up the siding on any space that is not logs, the roofer is finally getting to it (cold, rain, cold, rain-poor guy hasn't had a good time this winter), and the carpenter/handyman is really whipping the whole place into shape, inside and out.

I am just so excited about the final results now that I can see the changes. While all the plumbing has been replaced (and given its own heating system so it cannot freeze in the cold months) and the insulation on the bottom of the house is wonderful, you just cannot "see it". The siding and the roof are a whole other thing- they are easily seen and enjoyed!

I picked a barn red and cream color scheme- it feels so warm and inviting to me. I hope it turns out as pretty as I hope! It is bright when there are no leaves, and I think it will look even better in the summer with all the greenery. There will be the warm barn red on the inside as well, and Mike is working on the trim and making it match up nicely! He has been working on finishing things like the trim, paint, drywall, electrical, and whoo, lots of other things.

I expect that when it is done, it will hardly be recognizable. We will be checking in on progress again this weekend. I am sure that I will be surprised by the changes yet again. It is living up to my expectations so far. I am dying to see it in the green of spring-how could it not be awesome?


My big sister came for a visit a few weekends ago. Our lives have been so full and so busy that we had not seen each other in person for a long time. It always amazes me that when we get back together it is like time has not passed; I always feel so comfortable with her. We are very different people, and our ages are not very close, but none of that seems to matter. She introduced me to Tolkien, took me for long nature walks, sang me to sleep, and never made me feel left out (even though I was so much younger). How lucky could I be to have a big sister like that?

It is interesting to me that even though our paths in life not alike, and we are very different in personality, we still enjoy so many of the same things. We also seem to have convergent ideas even though we are hundreds of miles apart. I often wonder what part genetics plays in that, and what part our upbringing did.

I hope that we will get to spend some more time together this summer at the new house. We both love the outdoors and the beauty of the woods so much. I am looking forward to exploring with her; we just seem to find the same things interesting, and enjoy them together. I have my gore-tex hiking boots down there just waiting...