AND FINALLY, THE KITCHEN DOORS ARE SHINY AND NEW

Arthur Poisson, who has worked for us before, does beautiful work. When he is done with a job, it looks finished. He says his goal is when he’s done, it should look like it has always been that way … and it does. There’s not a scrap of garbage around and everything is absolutely perfect. The quality of the doors he put up in the kitchen are so much better than anything I could have afforded and the man said it will never rot, never need painting. And it perfectly matches the front door, probably because he bought it at the same place we bought the front door. He probably checked the records. We have … gasp … matching doors! And the back door has a lock and keys and everything. Like a real door is supposed to have.

He got the whole thing done in a day and Duke helped. Garry things the Duke needs a special sweater that says “supervisor” on it. Both men had dogs of their own, so they didn’t find anything odd about chatting with the dog while they worked. I would have taken more pictures, but it’s a really bad angle from the dark kitchen out into the bright porch and everything is off in a corner. I’ll take a few more pictures in the morning. It was very exciting. This contractor cost about 10% more than the other contractors and boy, is he worth every penny!

As we were finishing up this job, I started to add in my head the work we’ve had done on the house over the past three years. This is NOT counting all the work we had done before then … but it added up to a staggering number and suddenly, I realized why we are broke. Garry pointed out that at least we had something to show for it. It wasn’t like we spent it all eating out or buying fancy clothing. True, but I think by now we’ve bought the house at least twice. We aren’t finished because next, we have to do something with the kitchen — like buy cabinets. Also, we need to replace the deck. And paint and fix the floor. We won’t get it all done but at least the things that were worrying me are done — for now. The house is 50 years old which for a house of this type is quite old enough.

I realize that this may not be your most exciting moment, but it’s exciting for us. The door we’ve had came with the house. A 50-year old dark brown dutch door. I loved the old dutch door, but it couldn’t be repaired anymore. And it leaked like a sieve all winter. So finally, I saved the money from the last government grant and it paid for the doors. It looks great and it matches our front door. It also lightens up the kitchen. I didn’t think it would make such a big difference.

It looks so bright!
From the dining room

And one last one from the kitchen. As you can see, we are a bit tight on space.

KIND OF SQUARE IN A RED-BELLIED WOODPECKER WAY

A RED BELLIED WOODPECKER TAKING A SEED BREAK

Kind of square with feathers. A red-bellied woodpecker taking a break from debugging a tree for a yummy seed snack. The bugs must have had a really serious “go” at the trees this year because they have been very busy stripping the bark off various trees.

Red-bellied Woodpecker

SOMETHING OF THE RED SQUIRREL KIND?

Something like a red squirrel?

This is a mama red squirrel. I can tell because she has teats full of milk, so I guess these cute red squirrels are also breeding. They don’t come out as often as the big gray ones, but they do come when they are hungry. She’s a very pretty one!

A FEW MORE PICTURES FROM OUR (BRIEFLY) COLORFUL FALL

It didn’t last long, but at least it was there, however briefly. I didn’t think I took a lot of autumnal pictures, but between August and September, Garry and I too more than 3000 pictures, so I guess we were busier than we thought. I sometimes take a couple of hundred bird pictures in the morning, before coffee! In between the cooking yesterday, I got some great pictures of the last set of orange-billed Cardinals. Each set of fledglings look different than the others. The DNA in these birds is working overtime.

And I still have bunches of River Bend pictures from both me and Garry. So we’ll just celebrate fall a little while longer. It’s still “fallish” outside and the oak leaves are still green.

AND THEN THE WIND BLEW AND THE LIGHTS WENT DARK

I had a nice set of posts planned for this evening until the wind came up and the lights went out. We got a lot of wind which, apparently brought down some trees and although it is usually dark here at night, it was even darker than usual. A few minutes ago the lights came back. We really do need to get a generator. We don’t need one that will run everything in the house, but it needs to run the well pump, the boiler, the hot-water heater, two refrigerators and a small freezer, and a few lights or maybe the television, though the odds are that if the power is out, the cable is also out.

This was going to be a cooking post. I got myself into kitchen “go mode.” I made soft pretzels and potato soup that is close to vichyssoise, but somewhat less delicate and more toothsome.

It all started because we inherited a 5-pound bag of small potatoes. There are not many things I hate doing in the kitchen, but peeling potatoes is one of them. I’d rather wash the floor. It’s that bad. So, in the end, we moved the potatoes to a new home, bought a few big potatoes and I made potato soup.

SOUP INGREDIENTS:

  • Peel and cut-up into little bite-size pieces about 5 cups of potatoes. IF you are going to cream the soup completely, you don’t have to worry about making all the pieces the same size. If you like chunky soup, you can have process the potatoes and put the rest in as pieces. Or, you can leave it all as pieces. I like creaming the whole thing, but sometimes it depends on what I put into it and how much I want to chew. Also, depending on the size of the spud, you’ll need between three and five large Idaho potatoes. We needed three. The remaining two are going to become potato salad to go with dinner tonight.
  • Chop a medium size ( about 1 cup) of onion
  • Chop up one bright pepper. I went with yellow, but red or orange would have been fine too. Anything but green. They are bit acidy for this soup.
  • 3 cups broth (we used lamb broth because we had some frozen, but you can buy broth in the grocery. Get the low-salt variety. It’s easy to add salt, but hard to make it go away.
  • 1 cup water
  • 2 teaspoons chicken base (powdered chicken stuff)
  • 1/2 pound finely diced bacon. Owen sprung for the expensive stuff that’s more meat than fat. I actually had to add some olive oil because there was very little fat coming off the bacon
  • 1/2 cup half & half or heavy cream or sour cream
  • half a stick of butter
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic

IN A 3 TO 4  QUART SOUP POT: 

  • Fry the chopped up bacon. When the bacon is cooked and nearly crisp, add chopped onions and pepper. Cook until soft.
  • Add the broth, water, and soup base. Bring to a boil.
  • Add the potatoes. Lower heat and simmer from 10 to 15 minutes or until the potatoes are soft to a fork. Try not to overcook the potatoes. Leave a little life in them.

PROCESSING

Set up your food processor — you know, the one in the closet you never use? You might want to let the soup cool a bit. It can be rather lava-like. Pour half the soup into the food processor and crank it up. Pour pureed soup into a big bowl. Add the rest of the soup to the food processor plus the cream or half-and-half or sour cream. Some people use cream cheese. That sounded too sweet for me. Pour it all back into the pot. In theory it needs to be thickened, but it’s already very thick. Nothing liquidy about it, so I didn’t thicken it at all. Any thicker and I could have used it to lay bricks. I turned on the cooker (induction cooker) to very low (simmer is at 2 usually) to keep it warm. It was served with fresh chopped dill and my fresh, soft and salty pretzels. Perfect this time.

Generally you can serve this soup as is. You can also add other spices. I threw in some rosemary for the smell more than the taste and some Za’atar. Salt and pepper are up to each eater. None of us needed any. I chopped the chives to put on top of the soup for decoration. Other toppings include sour cream, shredded cheddar cheese, crumbled bacon, scallions (green onions) or some pretty chopped peppers. You can use whatever you want. We just had it with the chives and forgot about the cheese and sour cream. Oops. We did NOT forget the pretzels.

You can serve this soup chilled or at room temperature. Hot one day, cold the next. This recipe is for one night, four people and it’s really a meal. Very filling. Do NOT serve it before the roast turkey. You’ll wind up with an awful lot of leftover turkey.


SOFT PRETZELS

I’ve modified the recipe a bit. They are softer and a bit stickier. Perfect. The egg “wash” at the end makes the pretzels crisper or softer. I used a lot of egg (and I still had a lot left over). I think ONE egg would be more than enough. The recipe calls for two, but it’s the egg of overkill.

DOUGH

  • 1-1/2 cup of warm (tepid) water
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 packet active dry yeast (2-1/2 teaspoons dry yeast)
  • 4 cups of white flour (down from 4-1/2)
  • 4 tablespoons of olive oil (up from 3). Use 2 in the dough and save the other two to put on top of the dough while it rises

Add the dry yeast (1 packet or 2-1/2 teaspoons) to the warm water, salt, and sugar. Let stand for five minutes until it is frothy. Add everything else into your (I hope KitchenAid) mixer with the dough hook attached. Mix 4 or five minutes on low. It will form a dough and you don’t have to knead it. Leave it in the mixing bowl (why get another bowl dirty?). Use the remaining two tablespoons of oil on top of the dough, then cover with plastic wrap. Leave in a warm place (note that SOME recipes refrigerate the dough which makes it much crispier. I don’t. If you’ve been to Philadelphia, these are classic Philly soft pretzels. Add your own favorite mustard or cheese or (ta-da!) soup!

Go sit for a few minutes. Your ankles are probably swollen by now.

BOILING

  • 1 beaten egg for washing the pretzels before adding salt and baking. More eggs means softer pretzels. If you want a little crisp, leave off the egg wash
  • Coarse (Kosher) salt
  • Large pot of boiling (rolling boil) water
  • 2/3 cup baking soda mixed into the water. I have no idea what the baking soda does but I assume it does something.

About an hour after you leave the dough to rise, dump it out of the mixing bowl onto a flat surface, knead a few times (you might need to add a little bit of extra flour) and cut it into 8 pieces. Pretend it’s play dough and roll it into ropes. If you feel creative, you can try to make them look like “real” pretzels. Personally, I gave up and just twist them a bit for decorative purposes. It’s easier to get the twisty ropes onto a big tray. When the water and baking soda are boiling, boil each pretzel into the boiling water for 30 seconds, then lay each piece on the try. When you’re done, paint with the beaten egg and add a lot of coarse (Kosher) salt. We like them very salty, but if you don’t, use less salt. Some people put sugar and cinnamon on them, but if you do that, add a little extra sugar into the dough — at which point you have dessert.

BAKING 

  • 450 F (230 C) (Preheat your oven if it requires preheating) for about 15 minutes. I had to turn the tray so the pretzels browned evenly. I use a countertop oven that run a big cooler than the big oven, so it needs the fifteen minutes. In the big oven, closer to 10 or 12 minutes.
  • Bake for 10-15 minutes. Mine need 14 or 15. I also turn the tray around so they come out evenly browned all around.

I made the pretzels first because they needed more time for the dough to rise and also, if I turn on the induction cooker and the countertop over at the same time, the lights go out. Who knew the lights were going out anyway? Dinner was great and we have leftovers, but not a lot. This recipe is for 4 people and can be doubled or tripled. It’s filling — the essence of comfort food.

KIND OF MUSICAL: THE SQUARE CIGAR BOX GUITAR WITH ITS OWN PHOENIX

THE SQUARE COMMUNITY

It’s kind of musical around here. I have my guitar, ukulele, two penny whistles, a small xylophone and a tiny electric piano. I had a very different idea of what to do with today’s pictures, but the lights were out for hours.

A square musical treat!

If the wind had calmed down, we’d have had a little more time to write. Sadly, we also got a very small amount of rain … just another dribble.

KIND OF FURRY: A SQUARE AND FURRY GALLERY

THE SQUARE COMMUNITY: SMALL AND FURRY

It’s kind of hairy at home. I just forewent black pants because someone mentioned they are lint snaggers. I won’t wear anything I can’t easily dust off because dog hair is a condiment here at home.

 

 

PARENTAL ORANGE CARDINALS AND A BIG TEENAGE FLEDGLING

The things that go on in my backyard. My word. The birds have relationships! And babies! My wounded three-legged squirrel is beginning to look healthier, albeit one of his rear legs is not working. He does seem to be managing, though. He climbs all the way up to the deck where he gets good eats, usually twice a day (early in the morning, just before dark in the evening) and water to drink. His tail is regrowing. I’m sorry his rear leg is not healing better, but it does not seem to be infected. There was also a patch on his coat that had been torn out, but that’s growing back too. It’s the bad foot that worries me, but I’m glad to see that he is able to climb all the way up to the deck for a couple of meals a day. That may mean he will survive the winter. And maybe the winter won’t be too bad.

Mama Orange Cardinal – From the feather-color point of view, she looks like a boy, but she is much smaller than the boys. And she hangs out with the fledglings and does motherly bird things.

When the wounded squirrel took off and the tiny chipmunk left, the Orange Cardinal family came for a visit. I’m not actually sure which of the adults is male and female. I’m assuming the one I saw today was Mama because her baby was almost as big as she was and she was doing motherly things to her I’m sorry to say this, but ugly gawky baby. Of all the baby anythings, baby birds are the least adorable. They grow up to be lovely, but my oh my, what plug ugly fledgling. I can only hope this is a “baby swan” thing and one day, this baby will plume into a gorgeous adult.

This may be the second set of fledglings because there were some other very young babies about four or five weeks ago. My current thought is that the current mom of this set of fledglings is daughter of the original big male Orange Cardinal and she bred back to him to produce these eggs. This isn’t unusual with Cardinals since big males collect the ladies and try to keep them to himself. They are highly territorial and one of the interesting things to see are two male cardinals who have accidentally or intentionally flown into the others’ territory. They fight in the air like the airplanes of World War I. It’s quite amazing to see.

I didn’t see Orange dad today, but this is the first day I haven’t seen him. He comes and goes every day. He has a knack for vanishing as soon as I find my camera, but one of these mornings I’ll get him. Time is on my side. Dad has become more red than orange, but his offspring — and I think the current new mom is one of his offspring from earlier in the season. Birds interbreed these days. Maybe it’s lack of a larger flock. I got some interesting pictures and in a few of them, you can see the development of color in the feathers. The Mama Orange Cardinal doesn’t look like a normal Cardinal female. She is a much more solid color than the ladies usually are.

THINGS THAT GO BUMP IN THE NIGHT – BY ELLIN CURLEY

I live in the woods so I’m no stranger to the little woodland creatures I share real estate with. So when I entered my bedroom the other night, I wasn’t totally surprised to see that something was off. A vase that is usually on a lamp table in the corner, was now on the floor. And next to it were two, fresh, green acorns. Something, or someone, was clearly afoot.

We’ve found squirrels scampering around other parts of the house before. It presents a problem because we don’t want to hurt the cute little guys but we definitely want them out of the house. Once my husband chased a baby squirrel out of our powder room and straight out the front door. Another time he caught one hiding in the fireplace in a large Tupperware container and deposited him outside, away from the house.

So we assumed we were looking for another squirrel. We searched the bedroom and hallway as well as the second floor laundry room. We found nothing. So we went to sleep.

Around 2:30 AM, we were startled awake by the two dogs leaping off the bed and charging down the hallway, shrieking at top volume. The dogs were in an unusual frenzy and we were on immediate squirrel alert. We turned on the lights and searched the whole second floor but again, found nothing out of the ordinary. So we got back into bed.

Remy

A few minutes later, we clearly heard scratching and scurrying and the dogs went crazy again. We got up and went through the squirrel search routine yet again to find the source of the animal noises we had heard. Nothing. By the third time this happened, we decided to stay in bed and leave the police work to the dogs. This went on for a solid hour. Just as we would start drifting off to sleep, we’d hear scratching and/or stereo dog hysteria in our ears.

Lexi

I wish I had a satisfying ending for this story. But the next night, and every night since then, have been quiet, so maybe the dogs scared our nocturnal guest away and he’ll find another house in which to store acorns. I hope so, because I’m not looking forward to another episode of nighttime drama!

Our two dogs in a quiet moment together.

A GOLDEN DAY IN AUTUMN

Autumn came weeks early because of the long summer drought that is not over yet. We had a normal spring, but then the rain stopped falling. We’ve had a bit of rain and too much wind and autumn flew away. Very early. At least we almost had autumn this year, which beats out last year when we pretty much nearly missed it completely.

Our house is not normally an area that gets a lot of color, but we did this year. But we did get outside a bit. I was hoping to get one more trip down to the river … maybe down to the river in Rhode Island.

I have reached the outer edges of my political process. It’s not that I’ve changed my mind. I think Trump is the worst president America has ever had and god forbid we should give him another four years at the helm. I do not believe we would have a country anyone would want to live in.

 

CHRYSANTHEMUMS – CEE’S FLOWERS OF THE DAY

FOTD – October 4 – My Mums

It occurred to me that I too have mums. Not recently mums, but mums nonetheless. In the memory of mums that were and the foreshortened autumn that burgeoned brightly and ended almost before it began …

BLACK & WHITE – PETS AND FARM ANIMALS

Cee’s Black & White Photo Challenge: Pets and Farm Animals

Pets and farm animals, all in black and white. Well, it’s a pretty black & white world we seem to be living in, so why not?

Cee's Black-White