Archive for January, 2014

Well the day started out pretty bad

Posted January 28, 2014 By Ruth

We woke up to more frozen pipes this morning.  Not sure why.  Its not in the  same spot, it is infact, in the middle of the house, and it wasn’t even that cold last night…..

 

But then on my way home from work I was able to catch this picture:

Photos update

Posted January 27, 2014 By Ruth

Not much has been going on here, but I’ve gotten some photos to share.

This past Saturday I made a trip down to the local buffalo farm to pick up some meat for us and bones for the dogs.  While I was there their youngest calf (she was born in Oct, WAY late) and her momma wandered up to the fence line and they were kinda enough to allow me to go down to the line myself to snatch some photos.

 

 

 

 

 

And I attempted to get some closeups of snowflakes.  I don’t really have the right equipment for this, but they turned out ok anyway.  If you click through to the big version, and then click to zoom in you can see all sorts of detail.

 

 

 

 

And a sunset from a couple weeks ago.

 

 

 

And the dogs enjoying the snow.

 

 

 

A full moon.

 

 

And this juvi Red-tailed hawk was kind enough to soar slowly over so I could get several pictures.

 

 

 

And more birds at the feeders.

 

 

 

Homemade pizza

Posted January 25, 2014 By Ruth

One thing that Husband and I have been doing over the last several months is attempting to cut back on how much money we’re spending on pre-made foods.  Including ordering pizza (we were spending several hundred dollars a month ordering out pizza, for just the two of us).  It was pretty sad.

So I set about on a quest to make my own pizza dough.  And found this recipe on King Arthur Flour’s site.  I’ve modified it a bit, but I recommend reading that page.  They include instructions for storage of the dough in the fridge (which I’ve done for up to a couple weeks), AND instructions on how to pre-bake the crusts for even faster and easier pizza later.

 

2 teaspoons active dry yeast or instant yeast
7/8 to 1 1/8 cups lukewarm water
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 cups King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
1 1/4 teaspoons salt

My additions:

garlic powder

onion powder

pepper (fresh ground please!)

red pepper flakes

 

1) If you’re using active dry yeast, dissolve it, with a pinch of sugar, in 2 tablespoons of the lukewarm water. Let the yeast and water sit at room temperature for 15 minutes, until the mixture has bubbled and expanded. If you’re using instant yeast, you can skip this step.  Here is where I add in my spices.  A good firm shake of both the garlic and onion powder, don’t skimp!  Several grinds of fresh ground pepper, and good sprinkle of red pepper flakes into the water with the yeast.

2) Combine the dissolved yeast (or the instant yeast) with the remainder of the ingredients. Mix and knead everything together—by hand, mixer or bread machine set on the dough cycle—till you’ve made a soft, smooth dough. If you’re kneading in a stand mixer, it should take 4 to 5 minutes at second speed, and the dough should barely clean the sides of the bowl, perhaps sticking a bit at the bottom. Don’t over-knead the dough; it should hold together, but can still look fairly rough on the surface.

3) To make pizza now: Place the dough in a lightly greased bowl, cover the bowl, and allow it to rise till it’s very puffy. This will take about an hour using instant yeast, or 90 minutes using active dry. If it takes longer, that’s OK; just give it some extra time.

4) Decide what size, shape, and thickness of pizza you want to make. This recipe will make one of the following choices:
Two 1/2″-thick 14″ round pizzas;
Two 3/4″-thick 12″ round pizzas;
One 3/4″ to 1″-thick 13″ x 18″ rectangular (Sicilian-style) pizza ;
One 1 1/2″-thick 9″ x 13″ rectangular pizza;
One 1″-thick 14″ round pizza.

5) Divide the dough in half, for two pizzas; or leave it whole for one pizza.

6) If you’re making a rectangular pizza, shape the dough into a rough oval. For a round pizza, shape it into a rough circle. In either case, don’t pat it flat; just stretch it briefly into shape. Allow the dough to rest, covered with an overturned bowl or lightly greased plastic wrap, for 15 minutes.

7) Use vegetable oil pan spray to lightly grease the pan(s) of your choice. Drizzle olive oil into the bottom of the pan(s). The pan spray keeps the pizza from sticking; the olive oil gives the crust great flavor and crunch.

8) Place the dough in the prepared pan(s). Press it over the bottom of the pan, stretching it towards the edges. You’ll probably get about two-thirds of the way there before the dough starts shrinking back; walk away for 15 minutes. Cover the dough while you’re away, so it doesn’t dry out.

9) When you come back, you should be able to pat the dough closer to the corners of the pan. Repeat the rest and dough-stretch one more time, if necessary; your goal is to get the dough to fill the pan as fully as possible.

10) Allow the dough to rise, covered, till it’s noticeably puffy, about 90 minutes (if it hasn’t been refrigerated); or 2 to 2 1/2 hours (if it’s been refrigerated). Towards the end of the rising time, preheat the oven to 450°F.

11) Bake the pizza on the lower oven rack till it looks and feels set on top, and is just beginning to brown around the edge of the crust, but is still pale on top. This will take about 8 minutes for thinner crust pizza; about 10 to 12 minutes for medium thickness; and 12 to 14 minutes for thick-crust pizza. If you’re baking two pizzas, reverse them in the oven (top to bottom, bottom to top) midway through the baking period.

12) To serve pizza immediately: Remove it from the oven, and arrange your toppings of choice on top. Return to the oven, and bake on the upper oven rack for an additional 10 to 15 minutes, until the crust is nicely browned, both top and bottom, and the cheese is melted. Check it midway through, and move it to the bottom rack if the top is browning too much, or the bottom not enough.

We usually get two (kinda) circular pizzas out of a batch of dough, which is enough for the two of us to totally stuff ourselves on.  It also divides nicely into 4s for a good sized “personal pizza”.

Also, if you like a thin crust pizza you don’t have to let it rise nearly as much as they say.  I generally get it stretched into shape on parchment papper, and then pre-heat the oven.  Once the oven is pre-heated (along with the pizza stone) in it goes!

Making my own pizza sauce is next on the list of things I want to do.  We’ve been buying a “pizza sauce” sold by Wegmans, its WAY better than any “pizza” or “tomato” sauce I’ve previously tried for home-made pizza, but I’d really like to get this as much home-made as possible….

COLD!!!!

Posted January 22, 2014 By Ruth

2014-01-22_08-07-51_769

 

I know, if there’s any Canadians reading this they’re laughing at me.  I don’t care.  -15 at 8am is fricking COLD by my book.  But hey, the pipes aren’t frozen this time!

Arty thinks this cold was designed just to torture him.

Apollo wants to go roll around in the snow some more and what do you mean you won’t let me spend all day out here??

Gardening

Posted January 20, 2014 By Ruth

The January thaw (ok, the THAW then FREEEZE then THAW then FREEEZE then THAW cycle that we had over the span of a week and a half) has totally pushed my gardening buttons.  

While I had clear, not snow covered, ground, I set up one of the little greenhouses I’d bought and put it in the sheltered corner between the garage and the breeze way to the house.  It’ll get 8+ hours of sun a day there in short order as the days lengthen.  Course, its still to cold to put anything into it……Right now its got three of the smallest strings of incandescent christmas lights in it along with a thermostat plug (to turn them off if outside temps get over 45) and a thermometer in the greenhouse to record high and low temps.  One such string is capable of jacking the temperature up 30degrees in a 2cubic foot insulated cooler in the space of 10 minutes.  Of course, the greenhouse is more like 15cubic feet, and not as well insulated.  So its still not going to keep it warm enough to put plants into it in the near future, but it might allow me to put plants into it a bit earlier than otherwise.  We’ll see.  The lights were on clearance, and I have another 10 strings to use if need be.

In the mean time I’ve started my pepper seeds.  I know, its early.   But I have more seeds if these fail, and I have need of something green and growing in the house….

NYs new animal rights law

Posted January 19, 2014 By Ruth

Text of the bill is HERE.

ALL it does is allow local municipalities to enact stricter punishments than the state law.  Seriously.  After reading it I didn’t  understand why all the Animal Rights people were jumping for joy over it.

Then I read THIS article.

Money quote:

“I think any police officer should be able to pull over and say let me see your license and paperwork. And if that dog is not spayed or neutered, it would be wonderful if they can fine that individual,” says McNeely.

Christine McNeely is the executive director of the local Humane Association of Central NY.

There are SO MANY things wrong with that statement its not even funny.

First off, can you say HUMAN rights violation, for the cops to be able to stop you and ask for “your paperwork” just because you happen to be with a dog??

Then lets look at the stupidity of mandatory spay/neuter laws, which do NOT work.  If you have a decent low cost spay/neuter program then the only folks who haven’t spayed or neutered their dog or cat either aren’t going to anyway, or don’t know about the program.  All the law does is fine them, force them to give up the animal when they can’t afford the fine, at which point they go to the BYB down the road and get another puppy.  Meanwhile the dog they gave up is sitting at the local pound and probably getting put down for “space”.

And then there’s recent research on the fairly serious negatives of spaying/neutering dogs at an early age, with some research pointing out negatives for spay/neuter at ANY age.  Seriously, we’ve known for a long time that the removal of hormones does bad things to HUMANS, why we ever thought it wasn’t going to do bad things to other animals I do NOT understand.

And, basic fact of life here, if you legislate out all the responsible hobby breeders by making it so incredibly expensive to breed, the only ones left breeding will be the puppy mills who can afford to pay for whatever permits are needed, and the BYBers who don’t care or don’t know about the law and slide under it for various reasons!  Yup, laws like this just make it MORE possible to find a puppy from a puppy mill.  Not less.

If they REALLY want to put the puppy mills out of business then they need to forbid the selling of cats/dogs in petstores or other retail settings, and they need to forbid the selling of them online.  The GOOD breeders don’t sell online, they list their litters planned, and show pictures of the pups, but no transactions are done via the website.  

But of course that won’t happen, cause the folks behind the puppy mills have money, and money talks when it comes to politics!

….insurance…..

Posted January 17, 2014 By Ruth

Just put lots of impolite words where those dots are please!

So I’ve talked before about the fact that I have arthritis in both hands and wrists.  I was diagnosed before I turned 30.  At that point my right hand was so bad I couldn’t turn a door-knob with my right hand, my left was better, but I could already see the progression.

When I originally went in to see my doctor for it the xrays of my right wrist made her think that I might have damaged the ligaments there (at that point my left hand wasn’t hurting yet).  She referred me to an orthopedic surgeon.  Who couldn’t fit me in for another 4 months and who’s office was quite rude about it.  I puttered along for another month, during which time my right hand got ALOT worse and my left started hurting, at which point I went back into my doctor and asked for a different referral.  She was horrified at the wait time to see the orthopedic, and I was referred to a plastic surgeon’s office.

Yes, a plastic surgeon, or more correctly termed a “reconstructive surgeon”.  What wasn’t obvious till I got there the first time is that although they do all the normal “plastic surgeon” type surgeries, they specialize in hand and nerve reconstruction.  Cool!

He quickly determined that the problem wasn’t the ligaments (ThankYouGod), that it was arthritis (to which I responded I was too young to have and he laughed at me), but that it wasn’t anywhere near needing surgery and they’d just put me on a maintenance regimen and keep an eye on it.  Depending on a variety of factors that weren’t predictable it was possible that in the worse case prediction that it would continue to get worse and I’d need surgery in 10yrs or so, but it was also possible that it would just maintain or even fade away till I was in my 50’s or so at which point I might need additional help with it.

I could live with that.  Especially since with the right regimen the pain almost completely disappeared except for some weather related flairups, with the only lingering issue being a weakness of the fingers and thumb when it comes to thinks like opening cans /jars etc.  I now have a lovely collection of “jar opener” type things.

Its been a couple years since I was last in to see him.  Nothing major has happened, but some of the weather related pain has gotten worse, and I think that my finger strength has decreased again as well, so I decided it was time to see him again, just to be safe.  Unfortunately I’ve changed insurances since then.  And that meant getting a new referral.

My doctor had no problem with it.  Her office gave me hell (no, I am not going to explain to the referral clerk why I need a referral to a plastic surgeon for arthritis, ask the doctor), but I finally got the new referral sent in.

My new insurance company just informed us all that there was no way they were going to approve a referral to a plastic surgeon for arthritis…..

*beats head into wall*

So, I’m debating between agreeing to see a new doctor.  Which I don’t want to do, I really like this guy, among other things his “no need to open you up to take a look” attitude was a relief.  Or just going to see him and paying the office fees myself.  Which I can afford, the downside being that if something DOES require additional scans (xrays, MRIs, what have you), much less surgery, likely the insurance won’t cover that either…..

We have water!

Posted January 10, 2014 By Ruth

Actually we had water as of about 1pm yesterday, but I was in TX for my Grandfather’s funeral and so wasn’t able to post.  The section that froze is where the meter is on the pipe, and below that where it enters the ground.  The meter was shot, split right down the back.  The water guy agreed that it looked like the heat tape thats supposed to keep that from happening had failed (it was old when we bought the house).  So new heat tape was bought, and after the new meter was put on a propane torch was applied to the lower section of pipe (which required doing some digging *sigh*), and water ran!  

The pipe was wrapped with new heat tape, and additional insulation to hopefully prevent it from happening again…..

…….And……….

Posted January 7, 2014 By Ruth

We have frozen pipes this morning.

Waiting for the 3rd shoe to drop

Posted January 6, 2014 By Ruth

Saturday morning it was cold in the house when I got up.  Thermometer said 54 inside.  I made a face, started the fire, started coffee and huddled under a blanket to read my morning comics.  Half an hour later my brain suddenly kicked me and I realized that if the house was 54 inside then the furnace wasn’t working (we keep it set to 60).  A check of the thermostat confirmed it was reading the same temp, and that the furnace was indeed not kicking on.

While we were waiting for the repair guy to show up for the Saturday emergency call I got a phone call from my mother.  My grandfather had been in the hospital since before Christmas with pneumonia (which I’d known), but he’d taken a turn for the worse and his lungs had shut down.  The family doesn’t believe in extra ordinary measures, so he’d been given two days to live.

A check of every airline and travel site I could think of netted me 0 tickets out of Syracuse on Saturday, and 1 on Sunday….to the tune of $3k.  Maxing out the credit cards was certainly an option, but with unknown repairs needed to the furnace $3k was out of the question.  Tickets flying out Monday were much more reasonable, but still not plentiful.  My mom called me back to say that the earliest they could get out of Boston was Sunday.  I told her that when she got there to take an evaluation of what was going on and I’d decide what to do then.  If they were saying he was holding on well and might last another couple days I’d get a ticket out then.  If not, well, I’d arrange to come down for the service.

The furnace repair guy arrived, turns out that the only thing wrong was us being new to home-ownership and furnace maintenance.  The furnace was fine, the feed line from the tank is just short enough that it won’t pick up fuel when the level in the tank drops below about 7 inches…..fee for the repair guy $120, and another $100 or so for kerosene from the local gas station to get us through to our scheduled delivery next week.

I took a deep breath and went back to looking at flights out.  Called my work to give them a heads up that I might be calling out with no notice at some point this week due to a family emergency.

About 6pm Saturday my mother called to say that my grandfather had died.  Even if I’d been able to get a flight out within an hour of her first call I’d have likely still been in the air when she called the 2nd time.  So now I’m waiting to find out when the service will be.  He wanted to be cremated and did NOT want any huge service or ceremony, so likely it’ll be quick.  Its still up in the air as to whether I’ll make it down or not.  Planes are flying, but with the cold sweeping the country who knows how long that’ll last, and what it’ll do to the ticket availability……